He said that he knew that apartment building, because he’d once been abducted there.
Bruce was several years younger than I, and was mostly seen during family get-togethers at the farm. He’d been a young active boy with red hair and a mischevious nature, alternating between brashness and uncertainty, with just a dash of yearning.
He told me years later that, at the end of a visit, when his family was ready to leave, he would slide a red rubber band around the knob on the bannister of the pine staircase in the hall, so that he was leaving something of himself in that place. And when they returned in a year or so, he’d run to the house, to see if the rubber band was still there.
Sometimes it was; sometimes it wasn’t.
In college, he’d become fascinated by video, and seeking his video fortune, he arrived in San Francisco, and spent the first night at a cheesy hotel on the corner of Columbus and Grant. Perhaps you’ll recognize the spot as a strip joint called the Condor Club, where the famous Carol Doda put on floor shows. It was in this club that her piano killed a man.
Here’s what happened: A waitress had picked up a boyfriend for the evening, and they stayed late, after the bar closed. Carol Doda had a white piano which descended from the ceiling, as part of her act The drunken pair wondered what it would be like to make it on the famous piano, and while engaged in exercises there, triggered the lever which sent the piano returning to the ceiling.
The two were pinned in missionary position when it reached the ceiling; the fellow had a heart attack and died. The waitress, trapped beneath the dead man, was quite sober by the time janitors arrived in the morning light.
At the corner of the building was a two-story sign with a huge plastic Carol Doda posing, in black plastic panties and bra. On the upper floors we find the cheesy hotel, and Bruce’s window was five feet from this gargantuan bra. Being drunk enough, he leaned out to pull that bra off Carol Doda. It wouldn’t come free, though he broke off the strap, and for years after I felt a certain surge of pride whenever visiting North Beach. Our family had left its mark.
Bruce was looking for an apartment the next day, when suddenly an older guy, grizzly with a dirty grey beard, grabbed Bruce’s arm, and shoved Brude through the doorway of my apartment building. The fellow was much larger and stronger than Bruce. Grim-faced, the man said nothing, and dragged Bruce up the stairs. Bruce figured he was about to be killed. So he stumbled to pull the guy’s arm, then straightened, then launched himself straight backwards into the air. The fellow had to let go or fall down the stairs.
Bruce dropped six or seven feet to the landing, ran out, ran away up the street, moved to Berkeley, and never learned what it was about.
But of course, like the curious couple in the bar, there are some things a person just doesn’t need to know.