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Stateside With Rosalea: Off with her head!

Stateside With Rosalea: Off with her head!

December 8 marked the third anniversary of me and my luggage spilling on to the footpath outside one of the most expensive hotels in San Francisco. The Amtrak bus, which had come across the Bay from the Coast Starlight LA-Oakland train, was supposed to have taken its passengers to Amtrak's San Francisco terminal by the ferry building, but the driver said it was too scary there at night, so he took us to the nearest brightly lit taxi stand instead.

Much water has passed under the Bay's many bridges since then. For one thing, I just had to type over "pavement" with "footpath", so I must be getting somewhat acculturated. They say it takes a new immigrant 10 years to completely settle in their new home, so I've got a ways to go yet, but already I'm fond of many Stateside things. It came as a shock to me, therefore, last Friday night to find myself referring to New Zealand three times in three different contexts in as many minutes - the STV election win in Wellington, 'The Lord of the Rings'/'Die Another Day' and the America's Cup.

I was at a party at San Francisco's City Hall. One of the Supervisors has a different artist display their art in his offices each month and invites people along for what amounts to an opening but with nothing for sale. Furthermore, he gets a couple of people to critique the work before the artist gets a chance to say anything - in this case it was an art reviewer from Texas and some wanna-be local art cricket with a particularly juvenile POV. It's a brave artist who hangs with that crowd around, let me tell you!

It was my first visit inside City Hall, though it's right near the library so I've often had it in view. The municipal offices of San Francisco have been housed in many different buildings over the years, and you can even stay in one of them! Between 1909, when what was left of the fire-ravaged building that had survived the 1906 earthquake was demolished, and 1915, when the present City Hall was opened, the municipal offices were housed in a brand new building, whose eventual purpose was to become a hotel. It is the Ramada Inn on Market Street.

There is a museum in the present City Hall, in the south "light court" and it was here that I met my favourite person in all of San Francisco. Well, her big old head, which detached itself from her body when she was being carted off after the old City Hall was finally demolished. She had been standing on top of it unscathed, her uplifted torch often causing her to be referred to, erroneously, as the Goddess of Liberty.

She is the Goddess of Progress and you can see a photo of her, complete with light bulbs in her hair, at Also, in the photos at the base of the head in that picture, you can just see how she stood atop the dome of the old City Hall, and did so until she was wrangled down in 1909. Many of the famous photos of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire were taken from within the sphere on which she stood.

For a look at what City Hall looks like today, go to or to

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