To get to the other side

Pub date July 3, 2007
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS Florentina Morales Espanola, 88, is going to pray for me every day for the rest of her life. She showed me where she goes to church and told me the name of it, but I forgot. She has 63 grandchildren in the Philippines.

I came down for the weekend with Mr. and Mrs. Mountain, and we did everything on "Indian time," which means you get there when you get there, according to Sam. And sometimes not even then, according to me. You take the scenic route, the coast, the trees … places where time turns into time. Sidewalks.

Missed the trans march completely, threw down our blanket anyway in Dolores Park, and sat there being bumpkins in our straw hats and ponchos for about 10 minutes, then went to eat hamburgers.

Mountain V’s new favorite restaurant is BurgerMeister, at Church and Market. Mine too. The bacon cheeseburger was so good I forgot to even put ketchup on it until it was almost gone. And the garlic fries were so generously garlicked I could have gotten a to-go container and made spaghetti for a week.

Late and alone for the big parade, I cruised the banks of the bedlam for beautiful people. Which was like trying to find hay in a haystack.

You know how every now and then, against all odds (like lack of sleep and garlic breath), your radar is just … on? I didn’t know where I was going. I willy-nillied my way toward Market and practically straight into the arms of Florentina Morales Espanola. She was standing about four feet high, staring into the backs of, say, 10,000 people. On the other side of the street there were 10,000 more.

I have no idea what I’m talking about, mathwise. But I’m pretty small too, so I looked at my new favorite person and smiled. She was wearing a pink wrap and a colorful scarf.

"I can’t see anything," she said. Tiny voice. Accent. She looked more like a feather than a bird, and I fantasized about hoisting her onto my shoulders, wearing her like jewelry. Instead, I offered to clear a path to the front row.

"I’m just waiting," she said, "to cross the street."

This information floored me. Just waiting. To cross the street. "I’m a chicken farmer," I said. "Where is it you’re trying to get to?"

Her son’s house. Minna and Natoma.

"You’re not here for the parade?" I said. "You have to go around. You have to go down to Van Ness and cross over there."

She looked at me like I was crazy. "Too far. I’ll wait," she said.

I looked at her like she was crazy. "Do you know how long that will be?" I asked. She didn’t. "Hours," I said. "What’s your name?"

"Florentina Morales Espanola."

I had to bend down and lean close to understand all this, and I took her hand. I took both of her hands and looked into her eyes. "My name is Dani," I said. "I’m a chicken farmer. My specialty is why, not how. But if you wait here, Florentina, I’ll go see if there’s any way we can get to the other side. OK?"

"I don’t hate anyone," she said. "All people are good."

"I get that," I said. "You have a beautiful name. Me, I love everyone."

"OK," she said. "Me too. Thank you for helping me, Dani. I was praying. God pushed you to me."

The first sober person I found was a BART cop, who said the only way was to go down into BART and up the other side. The escalators were not working. By the time we got down and over and up, I knew about Florentina’s grandchildren. I knew she lived alone. I knew how old she was, and she laughed when I said, "Eighty-eight? You don’t look a day over 87!" We had told each other, "I love you," several times, and on Seventh Street between Market and Mission, we hugged and kissed and hugged good-bye, and that was when she promised to pray for me. I said I’d pray for her too, and I was totally lying!

Back in BART, I wrote her name in my journal and cried a little, then went and found my mountains and told them, and now I’ve told you too so that, God be damned, Tom, Dick, and Harriet now know about the miracle of Florentina Morales Espanola. So maybe that’s like a prayer. Or maybe I’m just bragging about helping an old lady cross a street.

Or maybe it’s just another thing that happened to happen while I was kinda paying attention. *


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138 Church, SF

(415) 437-2874

Takeout available

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