“Secluded one-bedroom apartment on Russian Hill. Apply 28 Barbary Lane. You’ll know if it’s right for you.” —Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin
28 Barbary Lane would have been right for me. I knew as soon as I saw Mary-Ann Singleton climb the wooden stairs, and open the lych-gate to the dreamy three—tiered ‘painted lady’. When Mrs Madrigal summed her new tenant up via Tennyson (“You have that look about you. You can’t wait to bite into the lotus’”) I searched out the poem (The Lotus Eaters) and copied the lush lines into my writing book:
and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses,
girdled with the gleaming world
In my post-high-school existence, the gleaming world was to be found in TV and books. I liked to read about dreamers and drop outs in unconventional living arrangements, like the characters in Michael Hornburg’s Bongwater and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. But it’s Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City that most readily whirlpools me back to that time of freedom and possibility.
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