The annual celebration was begun in Sausalito in 1887 by early Portuguese immigrants in southern Marin County. The festival honors Queen Isabel of Portugal who in the 14th century fed the poor during a famine.
“You gotta report every incident,” says Kyle, while on his 5:00am to 2:00pm shift as the security guard at the San Rafael Transportation Hub. “I can’t do much with the dealers here but ask them which bus they intend to be on soon.”
To me, this place, at times, can be a nexus for drug dealers, prostitutes, trannies, and people who just show blatant disregard for the place. Like the homeless guy who took a crap on the waiting room floor, last night. Kyle has a more enligthened attitude. He tells me he’s working on his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice at Sonoma State and that he's also on the waiting list for the CHP Academy. “I figure I’m learning stuff I can use later. When it’s slow and there are no buses here, I’ll just sit in my booth and read through every report and have a good laugh.” I imagine that’s not a bad a way to cope.
Quick sketch of happy wine drinkers at the Tiburon waterfront. Chauffeuring them back to San Francisco proved lucrative.
I’ve made it a point to learn a few phrases in Spanish. Sometimes it seems like half of Marin County is Spanish-speaking. “Derecha aqui, senor?” is the one I use most often. Also,”El viaje costará 10 dólares, por favor” is a biggie. Not as much call for French (“Bienvenue sur mon cab”) and Italian (“come stai, gli italiani”), which I know a little. The young couple from Paris I drove last weekend to the L'Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires on Bush at Grant spoke fairly fast, but I understood enough to know they were on vacation and they wanted to go eat dim sum in Chinatown, right after. Taxis are as ubiquitous in the world as Starbucks. Which is why the reality show travelers on The Amazing Race depend so much on us. Every Sunday morning, I drive Millie, who was born in the Fiji islands to the San Rafael Mission Church. I always greet her with, “Bula Vinaka” ("Hello" and "Thanks")? I’m an immigrant myself (from Canada) and I’d appreciate a little native tongue from my taxi driver. Well, you know what I mean.
I’m driving the dude from downtown Sausalito, a little further up the Bridgeway to Le Garage. Matt’s going to have a nice Sunday brunch on the waterfront. Just as I make the turn onto Liberty Ship Way, we both set eyes on the young woman pushing her one-year-old in a stroller. She has copious and well-formed bosoms. “Wow”, I exclaim. I wouldn’t normally do that but for the fact that they are extraordinary and I sense Matt in the back is a comrade and appreciates the female form as I do. “The nice weather brings out the breasts", he says. "Yup", I agree. "That Mom is nurturing the world.” He adds,” It’s a beautiful thing.” I drop Matt at the restaurant. He gives me $20 for a $6 fare. That’s a moment worth savoring, I think.
The Marin City bus that whizzes by me is known as the whale bus for the large-scale humpbacks painted on the sides. My friend George Sumner painted them. He and I have an art space in the same building in Terra Linda. His is more of a gallery where he showcases his paintings of whales, dolphins and other sea life. He’s passionate about the subject. Marin's Golden Gate Transit commissioned George back in 1993 to create his bus mural as a way to send a message about preserving underwater species and their environment. George is the original master on this theme. He’s mentored others like Wyland, who’s gone on to much success. George earned a measure of fame back in 1990 when he gave a painting of twin dolphins circling the Earth in space to Mikhail Gorbachev at the opening of his Peace Institute in the Presidio. It also carried an ecological message. In a way, the world has caught up with George. There are now others like George finding creative ways to save the planet. The message is an important and beautiful one.
I picked up Marilyn at her vintage Arts and Crafts home (with restored tower) in a beautiful section of San Anselmo. She’s an antique dealer who needs to go to the San Rafael Auction Gallery at 5th and Hetherton. Oddly enough, I’d been at the same auction house earlier in the day. I was eyeing a beautiful Hokusai print and a pair of Eames chairs. I dropped in again with Marilyn. She’s an expert at this and shares with me the process of online bidding, absentee bidding and in-house bidding. I find out the bidding for the chairs I wanted has ended. They went for $600, which is twice what I could spend. Marilyn loves Stickley furniture and pewter but she has proxy-bid on an American Impressionist painting once owned by Louis Comfort Tiffany. I had to go back to work and would probably miss the auction of my prints, as well.
A few hours later, I return for Marilyn. She missed getting her painting but scores some jewelry. She’s ecstatic. This is her passion. As I take her and her booty home. She tells me how important it is to be pragmatic about this business and that it’s important to know in advance what your cash limit is. People get caught up in the adrenalin that pumps in these events. I’m ready to go at it again in a few months with Marilyn as my mentor.
Unjun has come up from the city by bus and wants me to take her to a meditation workshop at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in west Marin. For Unjun, it was her first venture into bucolic Marin. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning as we glide up Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through San Anselmo and up onto the hills, past a parade of Little Leaguers in open trucks decorated with balloons. She tells me about her meditation practice and how much she’s looking forward to her experience today.
I give Mara a ride every Sunday morning from the Canal district to the old San Rafael Archangel Church at the San Rafael Mission downtown. Mara likes the community and the sermons. Sometimes her teenage son joins her. The church and mission was built in 1817, the 20th one built in the California chain of missions. It took a lot of faith to build a church in the wilderness.
Most of us seek support and renewal through some kind of faith-based practice. I’ve never been much to run to a church for salvation but I find a walk in the woods or hearing the life lessons from the right spiritual guide helpful.
Marin is ready to provide a service or satsang with it’s plethora of religious and spiritual centers. One just needs to make the time and for many it's Sunday morning.
I'm back at the San Rafael Bus Terminal and it’s almost 10:00am. A Latina jumps in my cab. It’s a short run to the First Presbyterian Church on E Street and Fifth Avenue. I drop her there just as the clarion chimes the start of the service. I close my eyes and listen a few moments till the bells stop ringing and I head off. This is my time to let the faith in.
I get into a conversation at Vista Point, at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge with an Irishman who’s walking from Santa Cruz to the Oregon border. His name is Major Finbar O’Shaughnessy of Hollywood, Ireland, which is just outside Dublin. Even though he’s sweating up a storm after five days journey with a heavy backpack and camping outdoors, I offer to drive him into Sausalito for free. He’s fallen behind his pack of hiking buddies and I don’t think he’ll break any rules in order to catch up. I ask him about the soldier camouflage he’s wearing, so he tells me he’s on a furlough from a 4-year tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Mounted Rangers. He’s going back into service after this adventure. The guy’s in shape and looks about 40 years-old but he tells me he has seven grown kids back home and a (knowing) wife. He’s lived a full life and he's a lifer with a few weeks of independence to call his own. After the drop off, he insists on sending me a bottle of Irish whisky when he returns home, for the favor I provide. Cheerio, mate.