Colorful companion to my memoir The Incompetent Psychic
A lucky bonus to my downtown building were five bars within easy walking and staggering distance. That alone probably saved me from a devastating string of DUIs in my final six years of boozy excess. While pondering possible future careers, I considered following Jack London’s example of being a great author. It seemed like too much work, so instead I settled for telling colorful stories and lies from barstools, and kept painting. — From Chapter 8
Half the bars over 100 years old within fifty feet of the San Francisco Bay shoreline are celebrated as being watering holes of the famous author Jack London. Many have plaques commemorating his prodigious patronage. The building in this painting is half the original Lido Saloon. Jack got sloshed here, too. As one story goes… Jack fell in the drink drunk, got carried away by the current and was fortunately rescued by some local fishermen. This gave him the idea for Sea Wolf, where the protagonist was not so lucky, and was fished out of the water by a departing whaler captained by a cruel despot.
When I moved to Benicia the big, Victorian Lido Saloon was mired in its original location by the waterfront, next to the Gold Rush era train station. Both buildings had been boarded up and abandoned for decades. Being lower in the marsh mud, the Lido was moldering to mush. The lower floor was rotted to the point of collapse.
An enterprising couple bought it for $1. They built a new first floor on a lot further up First Street. They capped it with the still-intact second floor and roof, rescued from the brackish marsh. The Lido now lives a new life in Benicia’s vibrant, historic downtown as a storefront boutique with upstairs businesses.
The venerable old train station was refurbished to become the home of Benicia Main Street — organizers and promoters of lively events, tourism, the weekly Farmer’s Market and Ghost Tours. Few small California cities either have or maintain roots in the 19th century. This may be why so many artists, writers, musicians and historians have made Benicia their hometown. It is also magnanimously dog friendly, which helps any town to be extra special. I got to live smack in the middle of it all for thirty years.
A signed copy of Mernie’s memoir is available at www.etsy.com/listing/839838936
Unsigned copies can be ordered wherever books are sold.