After a brief hiatus, our friends at the Tenderloin Geographic Society return this week to take a look at that other serialized novel of the 70s-era Bay Area life. As much as we love Armistead Maupin, it's always nice to see the well-to-do up in Marin all done up in satire.
Recent events find us seeking out meaningless diversions, and there's no finer fluff than late-70s satire à la Tales of the City. How much easier to forget the hard edges of the 21st century through inward-gazing, sprouts-munching comedy that has lost much of its bite thanks to the maddening imperative of the characters to, above all else, stay mellow.
A few months ago, we picked up this spiral-bound oddity at the library's bookstore for the price of a happy hour cocktail. Cyra McFadden's The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County was serialized in country's second-oldest alternative weekly, Marin's Pacific Sun, in 1976; the book appeared the following year, while the movie (Martin Mull! Tuesday Weld! Christopher Lee?) premiered in 1980. Attempts to track down the film have proved fruitless (it was released on DVD in 2008, and is available...just not for free), but there is a clip online.
The storyline operates in that fragile epoch between the fade of the hippies and the triumph of the yuppies, and shows a rather ugly side of finding one's self. Note to self: stay hidden.
The book can be consumed in a couple hours, but you can save yourself the Reading Rainbow angle by taking in the text on the back cover and marveling at the illustrations by psychedelic poster great, Tom Cervenak. Granted, you'll miss the opportunity to parse some heavy 70s-era cultural anthropology, the meaning of MCP, and the realization that nostalgia for an era not your own is time misspent.
You've got about two months until A.C.T.'s Tales of the City premieres, now is the time to impress your friends with how much you know about this misunderstood era by making your apartment over into a fern bar stocked with impressive import beers like Heineken. In the meantime, we'll continue to hold our breath until big glasses and high-waisted pants die a cruel fashion death.
The Tenderloin Geographic Society is San Francisco's home for colloquial cartography and citizenship services since 2006. Stay tuned for the Tenderloin Report.