The Man Who Knows Just Enough likes to talk where no one can eavesdrop. That is, where no one who could possibly understand what he has to say, could listen. Thus, you usually have to meet him in some spot like the corner of Jefferson and Mason, down near Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’re certain to be surrounded by surrounded by birds, sea lions, and tourists. Not one of whom would have an inkling of what he’s saying. And all of whom are babbling what amounts to cover noise anyway. … But he’s droll. He sometimes likes to talk where it should be busy, but where fate has intervened. So yesterday afternoon, he set a rendezvous for the loneliest, quietest spot in town: McCovey Cove. He had a view on the madness of Wednesday, and an insight into the mayoral campaign:
“Chris Daly’s putting on weight,” he said. “I mean, he’s really getting tubby. It’s the most significant thing about him.”
“It’s the hundred-grand salary. He eats like a St. Louis alderman now.”
“So?” The Man looked at me as if I were dense. I said, “Look, maestro, it’s cool to telegraph the language … to make your points in koan, but I don’t satori this one. What’s the point?”
“So,” he said, “It means he’ll never want to leave the Board. Where else is a confrontational guy like that going to make a hundred-grand? … What I mean is that he’s a lifer, he wants to be lifer. He’ll do anything to stay on the board. In five years, he’ll be as stuffy as John Molinari, but he won’t last as long. He’s just another pol. He can be dealt with, and he can be dealt.” The Man insisted we walk along China Basin. Empty China Basin.
“Well, that’s comforting,” I said, “but what about the current crisis?”
“It’s happened before,” he said.
“This is the guy who tried it before,” The Man said, pointing out that the wide strip of pavement mid the acres of asphalt we had started walking on was Terry Francois Blvd.
“Terry Francois once tried the Daly ploy."
" Yes, when Terry Francois was on the Board, John Shelley left him as Acting Mayor. Then Acting Mayor Francois fired old man Cahill.”
“The Chief of Police?”
“The very one. … I forget where Shelley was, but dammit he grabbed something like a B-52 and flew back like – like a B-52.”
“And it was rescinded?”
“Oh, yes,” said The Man, “but then Shelley had appointed seven of the supervisors. Willie doesn’t have that luxury.
STOP BLOG!!! [Angela Alioto checks in Friday morning with this post-publication emendation: "PJ, your man in the know...is embarrassing...it was Mayor Alioto NOT mayor Shelley... Dad was in DC as the head of the mayors conference......Who is your guy and when did he move here?????? Angela" Thanks, Angela. Well who is The Man Who Knows Just Enough? Fallible, obviously ... but I've seen you give him a big kiss. Sigh]. RESUME BLOGOLUMN, where PJ was asking TMWKJE:
“So what’s the outcome here with Daly?”
“Give Chris an alderman’s lunch down at the Tadich: lobster Newberg and a baked Rome Beauty apple. That boy likes to eat more than anything. … And by the way Jake McGoldrick is another who digs that new fat paycheck. The boys in Rm. 200 should lean on him. …
“But the real lesson is ‘watch who you leave in charge.’ Some one should have told Willie what Earl Warren used to do when he was governor and was going out of state.”
“Earl locked up all the unsigned commissions, blank commission forms, gubernatorial time stamps, seals of office, in the safe whenever he took off. Earl did not trust Goody Knight, his lieutenant governor, with a pencil. … Chris better hope that all the paperwork on his nominations is in order. He may wake to find Johnny Cochran’s been appointed Special Counsel and that Johnny objects to the appointments being stamped in the Supes’ Clerk’s office, not the Mayor’s. Not to mention what Johnny could do with inkblots. The paperwork may not be in order. When guys pull a smarty maneuver and think they’ve got the papers all lined up, it often turns out they misspelled somebody’s name or stamped it with a parking validation stamp. I’m sure the documents are being scrutinized. But enough of him, I have news of the future. …”
“Susan Leal is coming up. … Doing much better. Thing is it’s getting to the end of a campaign in which none of the field excite any one, and scare many - many reasonable people. So a lot of votes that Angela could have counted on, that Matt might have had, and that Tom thought were his, are going to drift as people look, listen, and gulp. … Leal might actually be able to govern. Gavin’s big problem – aside from the society image – is that he’s been so marginalized by the other members of the board; he may not be able to get any of them to work together with him. Unless. …
“Balboa Café!” I shouted.
“You’re catching on. Balboa exactly. Just put Chris and the rest of the lads on the comp list and feed ‘em. They’re in the Life now. … That’s how it was done in the old days, and then they fed at the trough on the taxpayers’ dollar. … Can’t do that now, Open Meeting and Sunshine laws. Yes, there used to be a wonderful line in the City budget labeled “Ice and Water for the Committees.” That bought a lot of stuffed steak down at Herbert’s Bachelor Grill.
“I’m going to look at some steak on the hoof now,” he said, preparing to wander off. “At the Cow Palace. The Rodeo. The Grand National. Haven’t missed one in 59 years, except for the Big War. I named it you know…
“No, the Cow Palace.”
“Really!” The Man Who Knows Just Enough always surprises.
“Yep, it was built for the Grand National. They wanted to build it in Butchertown, about where we are now.”
Indeed, we had walked over to that whimsical intersection where Third Street crosses Fourth Street, and where in the very old days the vaqueros drove the steers from the trains to the abattoirs. Cowboy country once.
“But there was no room then, all factories. So they built this huge edifice for the rodeo in South City. I was just a cub and my editor sent me out to do a story. I called back and he said ‘what’s it look like?’ I gave a detailed description. ‘Shorter,’ he said, ‘in a phrase!’ I thought and said, ‘they’ve built a place, looks like the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel, for cows.’”
“ ‘Too long!’ he said, “ ‘two words!’
“ ‘Cow Palace!’ I said. … ‘Maybe you can write,’ he said.
“Or spin a yarn,” said I. …