Fellow Book Benders
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    This is the 20th edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly online newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco, the Russian River and beyond.  In an attempt to get into the Christmas spirit, here are a few City & River holiday traditions.  Cheers.

December, 2017                                               Vol. 2, No. 12

         There's no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than Santacon in San Francisco.  It's like a red-suit-colored-light-bedecked version of the movie Bad Santa, replete with Billy Bob Thorntons (photo upper right) and zany costumes.  Think holly-strewn stormtrooper does battle with Frozen's Elsa. There's nothing like seeing 8,000 Santas parading down Lombard Street while getting a little cheeky (photo lower right).
           There are a few rules to follow: Rule #5 states that if elves dress in green they are to be spanked; Rule #10 states that if you do intend to get drunk (duh), it is recommended that you get into a fight with another Santa, get arrested (photo lower left) and video it for the evening news; and Rule #15 states that all are to bring one new, unwrapped gift to be donated to Toys for Tots.


          zip down Powell Street on a cable car to Union Square and partake in the festivities on and off the ice rink.  The X'mas tree in the middle of the plaza is 80 feet high, festooned with 21,000 twinkling LED lights.  If you can navigate the maze of shopping bags, have a tasty treat at one of the Square's cafes. 
           Across the street you can enjoy the many gingerbread structures inside Macy's.  Dave Stallings tells the story of acting on a dare and eating twenty pounds of the decorated pieces before being hauled away by a security guard whom Dave used as a disposal for his new friend, Mr. Upchuck. 
           You may want to take a short stroll to the rotunda of Neiman Marcus, but the visit comes with a warning--don't throw stones (or stoners) in a glass house.  As a kid, my favorite venue was the window display at F.A.O. Schwarz. The snow-clad villages took you away to a land absent of loose dentures and cartoon-like hairdos (sorry, donnie, I couldn't resist)
      The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was formed in 1978 in part due to the effort to come out of the closet and protest such anti-gay events as Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign.  The first public performance of SFGMC was during that same year on November 28th at an impromptu memorial at city hall for Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone who had been assassinated earlier that day by former Supervisor Dan White.
        Being an openly gay organization presented several challenges.  In 1981, Superior Court Judge Ira Brown ruled that the Jesuits could prevent the group from performing at St. Ignatius Church.  A civil suit, however, later awarded damages to SFGMC.

        The chorus, 275 men in red suits, will perform this season at Davies Symphony Hall and the Castro Theater. The singing and hilarious hijinks will whisk you away from your couch all the way to the North Pole. 
           On Christmas eve, 1944, the audience at the War Memorial Opera House experienced the premiere of The Nutcracker.  An instant sensation, the ballet launched a national tradition. 
              As the lights dim, the music soars, snowflakes swirl and flowers dance, a little girl dreams about a whole new world.  Her favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, takes her away to a magical kingdom of dolls.

The War Memorial Opera House was constructed in 1932 and is a 3,100 seat structure dedicated to all those who served in World War One.
            The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is a story written in 1816 by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann.
               This author's mother was featured in the 1937 issue of Life magazine as the youngest member of the S.F. ballet (age 15) who later performed in the premier of The Nutcracker.
          Enter the winding lanes of old London at the historic Cow Palace.  The enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts fill the air as you salute the parade of royal guards escorting the king and queen.  The little ones can also meet Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim as well as Mr. Punch and his lovely wife Judy. 
              You dashing gentlemen out there may prefer something a bit more saucy. 
I would recommend Mad Sal's saloon where you will be greeted by the affection of naughty ladies and the high-kick of the can-can.  Afterwards, saunter over to the Dark Garden and have a pint to wash down an order of rat's tart (photo far right).

  The Dickens Christmas Fair has been a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970.
                Over 800 characters are featured from the world of Charles Dickens and the Victorian Age.

        The Parade of Lights in Guerneville has been a Christmas tradition along the Russian River since 2003.  It is a three-day event starting with the tree lighting ceremony followed by the Prince and Princess crowning ceremony and dinner.  All culminates in the grand parade under the stars.  Horses, ancient hook & ladders, dump trucks, drag queens and more  are lit up with colorful lights and perhaps a taste of God's nectar. 
         This year's theme was "Storybook Holiday"  The Celebrity Judge was Alison Arngrim.  The following is a partial list of the winners: High School division--El Molino cheerleaders (center photo on left); antique car/truck--Bank Club; youth organizations--Guerneville School Ballet Foklorico; non-commercial float--Druids of Occidental.

Alison Arngrim was Nellie on Little House on the Prairie, which ran from 1974-1982.
         Penny Rivas was recently featured on the Good Morning America t.v. show for her volunteer work with the Parade of Lights and other local events.
            Since God and Christmas are still remotely connected, let's have some fun at the Church's expense.  In advance, I apologize...sort of.   The following sentences actually appeared in various religious bulletins:
 1. "The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind.  They may be seen in the basement Friday afternoon." (top left photo).
2.  "The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday...I upped my pledge--up yours as well." (top right photo)
3.  "
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. this Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church.  Please use the large double doors at the side entrance." (lower left photo)
4. "The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast." (lower right photo)
             Dine with John McCarty and other authors at Gaia's restaurant, 1899 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa next Monday, Dec. 11. at 6 p.m.
                   If you have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon would be appreciated. 

Next Time:
     In January, we will visit  favorite eateries of the past.  If you have a story pertaining to your local restaurant of yesteryear, I would love to publish it in next month's newsletter.  You can reach me through my website or email me directly at  Thanks and stay tuned. 

Where to purchase my latest novel:
        Don't Stop the Music is an action/adventure story that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love.  It is a wild ride through the streets of the Haight and Fillmore Districts of San Francisco culminating in the historic Grateful Dead concert in Rio Nido along the Russian River in 1967.
          The paperback as well as the kindle version are available on Amazon.  If you want to save on shipping and handling charges, you can purchase a signed copy through my website at

Buy Now!

If you would like to buy a signed copy directly from the author:
Click here to buy Don't Stop the Music


Reviews are trickling in for Don't Stop the Music:
        “For those who remember the era (Summer of Love), Don't Stop the Music is a delicious summary of memory.”
         San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
        "John McCarty has put together a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love (1967) that is cheerful and entertaining and even pays tribute to the beauty of west Sonoma County..."
          Sonoma County Historical Society

        "Somehow McCarty manages to build sympathy for his motley crew as they embark on a classic road trip from San Francisco to rural northern California."
          Northern California Fulbright Association

       "Familiar folks, home-grown scenery, and candid attitudes will put you happily in the middle of all the action."
          Stephen Gross, The Press Democrat

       "All along there is danger, excitement, budding love and a number of unrighteous brawls.  The author knows what he writes about.”

          Bob Jones, Sonoma West Times & News

Attributions & Asides:
       A special thank you is due to anonymous subscribers for sharing their memories of the October fire.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Dave Stallings, Patricia Morrison, Marsee Henon, Friends of Rio Nido, The Press Democrat, Card Cow Vintage Postcards, Sonoma County Historical Society, Russian River Historical Society, San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and Wikipedia.
                To subscribe a friend to this newsletter (Fellow Book Benders) or to discover more information regarding John McCarty's novels, go to
                 Your privacy is important to me.  Be assured that I am not sharing your email or any other personal information. As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."   JMc
Copyright © 2017 John McCarty, All rights reserved.

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