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Nope nope nope won’t do it can’t make me

San Luis Obispo is a really neat town. Small (except for all those Cal-Poly students). Charming. Friendly.

Pig's_liver_with_sauteed_onionI mean seriously friendly. I watched what was nearly a disaster after lunch today. A driver started to make a right turn on red without looking and came within about a hair’s breadth of taking out a pedestrian. He actually did make contact with her, just not enough to knock her down.

And she smiled and waved him on.

Now come on. Consider where I live. Can you imagine someone in the Greater New York Metropolitan Statistical Area (or whatever it’s called these days) smiling and waving at a driver who did that?

Oh, the pedestrian would be waving at the driver, all right, but only with one particular digit… and not with a smile.

So it has to be something about California.

A place where I lived, briefly, as a child.

And where I have both the best and worst of memories.

You see, there was something about California that turned my mother into a complete lunatic for a period when I was in second grade. She was fine when we were in New Jersey both before and after our six months in San Rafael, a lovely town across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

No, it was only in California that she decided, for heaven only knows what reason, that it was time my sister Diana and I learned to eat… liver.

I was six years old that year when my father accepted a temporary assignment in California, but I remember so much about it.

I remember that we rented a house high on a hill and I remember walking down about a kazillion steps on hillside sidewalks to get to the Short Elementary School… and I remember choosing to walk up the roads on the way back because it was easier than climbing all those steps.

I remember that it was winter much of the time when we were there, which means the rainy season. I remember keeping a change of clothes at school because, often as not, we’d arrive drenched to the skin.

I remember being taken out into the backyard to watch that newfangled miracle of miracles — a satellite passing overhead in the night sky.

I remember visits from my Uncle Bill, who was in the Navy. I remember he always brought us presents. I remember the huge dolls he brought us with articulating elbows and knees and wrists and ankles.

And I remember the liver.

Oh, the liver.

Now as far as I’m concerned there is absolutely no redeeming social value to liver.

I am informed by my oldest brother that having one inside my body is good for me, and I’m willing to believe him: he’s got a medical degree and I don’t.

But on my plate? No. Nope nope nope won’t do it can’t make me.

And that, as I recall, is basically what both Diana and I told our mother when she decided we had to eat the liver.

First she tried bribery. If we would eat the liver, we could go for a ride on the San Francisco cable cars.

Hey, I’m six years old. I’ve lived six whole years without cable cars. I figure I’m good for at least another six without cable cars. I’m not taking bets on living til morning if I eat the liver.

Next she tried disguise. Yeah, sure. Considering the… um… how to put this delicately… stench that cooking liver makes, disguising it is not really going to work very well with a pair of grammar schoolers.

And then she put her foot down.

We would get nothing to eat, she decreed, until we ate the liver.

We held out for three days.

She gave in.

And that is beyond a doubt the worst memory I have of life in California. (Well, maybe the biting, pinching, hair-pulling brat of a cop’s kid who lived down the road would come in as a tie, but…)

What’s that? The best memory? Oh, yeah. That.

Well, some 20 or so years after we left California, I returned for a visit. I went to San Francisco. I rode the cable cars.

Now I know San Francisco. I know its diversity and its tolerance of the eccentric.

But I am also reasonably confident that there are still people who were there that day whose own memory is occasionally stirred. And I’m sure that they smile when they remember the nearly-six-foot-tall woman riding up and down the streets on the cable cars, grinning from ear to ear and screaming into the wind:

β€œAnd I didn’t eat any liver either.”

Nope nope nope won’t do it can’t make me.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, user Steve Walling.

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