Carmen in the Morning


Born in San Francisco, nineteen forty-two
First thing my Daddy say was, “Son,
that Carmen O’Shaugnessy gone make a fool of you.”

uc hospital 2

Whenever I think about getting born, I think of UC Hospital, where they dragged me from my mother’s womb one rainy morning, and whenever I think of UC Hospital, I think of how it looks from Children’s Playground in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco,

DCF 1.0

and whenever I think of Children’s Playground, I think of Carmen O’Shaughnessy.

margaret o'brien

Carmen was more beautiful than Margaret O’Brien, the famous child star, and she wore her honey-blonde hair in braids like Margaret O’Brien did. They streamed out behind her when she got going on the swings, which was the only way she ever swung, getting higher faster than any of the boys and laughing with joy and pride. Except sometimes she let her hair blow free. Then I couldn’t look away, even when she made faces at me.

1948 rabbitville childens' playground

In my memory, it’s always Saturday morning. Chickens are running round the playground because they haven’t been scared back into their safe little barnyard yet. Carmen is wearing brown corduroy bib overalls with a striped tee-shirt under it, and Keds. In those days, Keds meant black high top basketball shoes.  They were for boys only. Girls were supposed to wear white lace-ups or black patent-leather Mary Janes with a strap across the top. But if you tried to tell that to Carmen, she’d grin at you and run away. So I didn’t say anything. Who would want Carmen to run away?

I dreamed about Carmen again last night, for the first time in years. In the dream I spent long hours inventing carefully nuanced speeches so sincere she would finally love me and never leave me anymore. I spent night after sleepless night like this when I was twenty-three. But I’m old now.

I woke alone in the darkness with my mother’s voice in my ear. “Chris! Watch out!” She was trying to wake me up. That was part of the dream too. But I did wake up, and I was too spooked to go back to sleep. I was sure I’d heard her.

Carmen, why won’t you leave me?



Rabbitville photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.


4 thoughts on “Carmen in the Morning

  1. Uncle Pig-

    It’s wonderful to hear from you, even if it to report your sleepless torment.

    When I was a delinquent student of Polytechnis High School, in the shadow of your birthplace, my incorrigible friends and I would wander Golden Gate Park at night. There were no bullies, no suspicious merchants, and it was a magical place without people. We got to know the regular police patrol routes and often had fun at their expense. Sharon Playground was a regular hangout, and we’d drag wooden barricades and hutches into the wide, asphalt walkways that the police cruiser travelled on. Then we would hide in the old steam engine or the cable car that used to pass for play equipment, back when fewer lawyers had better things to do than make the world safe for litigious children. The cops would have to get out and move the barriers, and they would wander around with their flashlights, looking for little vandals.

    Yes, we were very clever and funny.
    Thanks for the wonderful photos!



  2. Love your website – always have. It’s nice to be back. How’s the book coming, and where’s yer’ facebook page? We’ve corresponded (a long time ago) about Chet Helms etc. Here’s hoping this finds you well.


    • Hi Chimpy. Wait, is that your real name? I’m kind of a suspicious guy. Makes me think of Chip ‘n Dale, even tho that would come out Chippydork. Thanks for asking about the book, I am getting so close I can taste it and I will soon be sweeping out the old pigsty and getting ready for a new day in the sun, maybe I’ll even give it a fresh new look, something people can read on their smartphones. I just gotta get the cover finished and we be rockin’!


      • Great. Please be sure to post when it’s done so I can snag a copy. If it’s anything like this website it’ll be great.

        Do you have a facebook page that you actually post on regularly? Just curious. Thanks

        All the best
        Chimpus Dorkus (beats the hell out of Biggus D^#*us)


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