The Day We Escaped The Convention

While our Papi was barricaded in his hotel room, we had a San Francisco-style parranda

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: September 9, 2012

The Day We Escaped The Convention

This was not our first family visit to San Francisco -- a city my whole family loves. But it was the spiffiest one. I'll explain more another time. Suffice it to say, we got to stay in a nice hotel, not a Mo-tel, all of us divvied up in rooms. The younger three with my parents. My brother, sister and I next door. But with no ADJOINING DOOR. THAT was the key to our absconding.

For the most part, we behaved, the three of us in my room. Except my brother kept smoking ciggies out the window, which opened all of two inches. I am certain that the hotel had deliberately installed the windows in this manner, so no one would jump. Or, if someone or something jumped, it had to be teeeeeensy-weeeeensy. And if it were that tiny, I am certain it would not have been a voluntary leap. Like a worm, or a hamster, or...well, you get the idea. Fortunately, no tragedy of that nature occurred during our stay. (Again, I hearken back to the teensy-weeensy chalk marks on the sidewalk. Ay, Diosito Santo!)

So, from twenty floors down, it must have looked as if a steam engine locomotive was chugging to a destination from our room, but not going very far. And when a knock interrupted my brother's ciggie, he threw the remnants out the window, and my sister and I hid our "Tiger Beat" mags.

We were supposed to be reading edifying and appropriate literature for young ladies, not fantasizing about Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum in "Man from U.N.C.L.E.", now seen on NCIS as the quirky coroner) ??????Ayyy, my Ilya---que te paso??? or that guy who used to sing, "I Think I Love You." (David Cassidy? My sister had a thing for the Partridge Family.) I suppose it could have been worse--it could have been the alleged love fest that was "The Brady Bunch." (Yuck)

Sometimes the knock on the door was one of the younger ones, alerting us to dinner time. Or that we were all piling into the ubiquitous faux paneled station wagon with no safety belts to visit some tourist spot. But everytime we walked past our parents' room, all we could hear from inside was " MISTA CHAIRMAN! MISTA CHAIRMAN!"...and then the door would slowly close again.

We heard no chortles of delight from my younger sisters, no fun playing board games or even throwing unlit ciggies out the window. No. It was absolutely quiet, except for long, drawn-out speeches and my Papi shushing any one who dared to utter a sound during the roll call. This was serious business. And my Papi was not even an American citizen yet!

But the political process and all its ramifications were important to him. And if it was important to him, it was important to us. We learned that we, as American citizens, had the right to vote our conscience. And no one could stop us. That it was a proud and, indeed, majestic privilege that we held when we reached the age to vote. And that we should always, always vote in every election, large or small.

Until one day, my roomies and I decided to bust out of the hotel. We had had it! Era el colmo! (Not Colma, which is where all the cemeteries are just off the freeway south of San Francisco, take the Serramonte off ramp. Go left, you are in the land of the deads, go right, you are in the Serramonte Mall, enjoying the yummiest Piroshkies I have ever had in my life. But that is yet another story.)

We made a phone call next door, which was very subdued. "Hi, Mami, aqui estamos. We're going to sleep early tonight. Okay, Buenas Noches." And no sooner had we hung up the phone, did we run for the cable car stop at the top of California and Van Ness. I had cash and my spankin' brand new credit card. (Down the road to perdition I went with that thing.) We hopped aboard the car and rode all the way down to the Embarcardero.

There, the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, with the revolving bar upstairs awaited us. (That is where they filmed "High Anxiety", with Mel Brooks -- whom I almost ran over behind Junior's Deli in Westwood, as he balanced his deli platter. He REALLY had High Anxiety then. But that is yet ANOTHER story...) As my roomies and I have put together the snippets of memories from that alcohol laden parranda, we promptly went upstairs to the carousel-like bar.

It was there that we broke in my credit card, drinking really expensive (AND I MEAN IT) girlie drinks and becoming quite inebriated. We were told our table would be ready for our dinner in a bit, so we decamped and went downstairs to some food place in the lobby called something like, "Mrs. Cutesie Wootsie's Diner." I mean--does it really matter?

There, we continued our wild escapade and decided we were no longer hungry. We were nauseous. And I had maxed out my stupid little card. Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!! So we did our best to stand up without toppling anything or anyone over, went to the bathrooms, then hopped the cable car back.

I have an image of my young brother, leaning out the back of the cable car, the lights of Chinatown looking particularly brilliant and stunning, and yelling out, "GRANT AVENUE, GRANT AVENUE, SAN FRAN-CIS-CO!"

The conductor on the car glared at him for usurping his big line. (See "Flower Drum Song.")

We managed to get back to the hotel--it was like three yards from the cable car stop--took the elevator up, and heard: "MISTA CHAIRMAN. MISTA CHAIRMAN." All was well. Until my Mami said, "I think you all smell as if you have been drinking!" And then THAT is another story. Be calm, Mi Gente, we all survived.

Guadalupe Gonzalez(c)2012

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney

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