Babble-On By the Bay

by Catherine Bigelow

Hey, wait a sec, 2020 — where do you think you’re going? As one of the worst years on record, at least in my lifetime, come the stroke of midnight on December 31, you’re now just going to slink out the back door? And dump your steaming pile of wreckage on the spanking-clean swaddling wrapped around Baby New Year 2021?

Not so fast, mister. On New Year’s Eve 2019, I went to bed giddy over the arrival of 2020 and its attendant hashtag #roaringtwenties, thinking, “Oh, won’t that be fun.”

Hah. By February 2020, a deadly virus had enveloped the globe. Swept up in “America First” fervor, some citizens assumed the United States would escape its lethal grasp <insert eye roll emoji here>.

Then loved ones died. Jobs were lost. Mom-and-pop businesses were broken (possibly permanently). For those fortunate to WFH, cubicle denizens emptied Fi-Di high-rises — and their overpriced condos — like water pouring from a broken fishbowl. Our hospitality industry workers (restaurants, museums, sports stadiums, pubs, concert halls) are COVID-19 crushed. The raging wildfires in August … and September … and October … decimating homes and vast climate-challenged acreage up and down the West Coast rendered our 2020 nightmare more tangible: The ash raining down was sacred — powdery remnants of burned-out dreams, hopes and livelihoods.

2020 was, in fact, so odious that for the first time since 1988, the freaking Dodgers won the World Series. Good riddance!

Hear me roar: A bright spot shone late in 2020 for young girls everywhere, inspired by possibility as they witnessed Senator Kamala Harris, an Oaktown native, join President-elect Joe Biden onstage to accept her role as our nation’s first female vice president-elect. During her prosecutorial career, Harris built a loyal base among Bay Area supporters of all stripes.

“Everyone describes Kamala as the first female, woman of color vice president. But I don’t see color: I either like you or I don’t,” purrs social lioness Denise Hale. “Kamala is exciting, brilliant and possesses all the traits I admire: She’s a successful daughter of immigrants who embraces her heritage. She’s dignified and elegant. I have an allergy to fakes, but Kamala is always authentic.”

New edition: On October 20, Cameron Phleger and her husband, Michael Horwitz, welcomed their second son, Atherton Macondray Horwitz. Clocking in at a healthy 8 pounds, 14 ounces, “Athy” is a seventh-generation Californian and 4th-gen EssEff native, named in honor of Phleger’s late father, whose family was early Peninsula settlers, noted attorneys and conservationists.

Phleger is also assisting her big sister and brother-in-law, Kelley and Don Johnson, scout locales for the actor’s reboot of Nash Bridges, the popular mid-’90s SFPD cop show that Johnson filmed here while wooing Kelley. The revival, with Johnson’s original co-star, Cheech Marin, will debut on the USA Network.

“I send D.J. the latest posts from Nextdoor. He’s delighted by the neighborly debates [about the crime-strewn state of our city], seeing it as the new color of San Francisco,” explains Phleger. “If the virus dies down, Nash will be back this spring, roaming our streets and protecting our city.”

Bottoms up: Rye on the Road, the mobile craft cocktail catering company founded by bar owners Greg Lindgren and Jon Gasparini, has created laugh-out-loud, election-themed cocktail gift packs. Regardless of your party, these clever concoctions are available online: Biden Thyme. I’m Speaking. Pence-icillin. Trumpkin Pie.

Fare thee well: Even though she was 100, the entire cuisine scene was gutted by the death of Mandarin restaurateur-chef Cecilia Chiang. She was revered by her culinary brethren. But the real secret of Chiang (always elegant and adorned in exquisite jewelry)? She was lots of fun. Even in her 99th year, Chiang continued to help other immigrants establish new businesses, all while tending her roses, enjoying a cocktail or dishing out a delicious, yet discreet, morsel of gossip.

Forever young: On December 13, former Secretary of State George Shultz, a distinguished diplomat, author, loyal Marine, Medal of Freedom honoree and dapper dancer, celebrates (and, “Ooh Rah”) his 100th birthday!

The Hoover Institution plans a week of tributes. And the Bohemian Club will toast-and-roast its stalwart member.

His devoted spouse, protocol chief Charlotte Shultz, shares that her husband cherishes a commemorative challenge coin recently given to him by the U.S. Department of State engraved with the phrase “Trust is the coin of the realm.”

“That’s a value George lives by and has guided his illustrious career. Well that, and a predinner old-fashioned which has served him well to 100, and beyond,” she says, fondly. “George remains in demand around the world, with statesmen and governments seeking his advice. But I’m the lucky one, sharing 23 wonderful years with the man I love and adore.”

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