Mighty redwoods I have known

Marina Times - Enter Stage Left: A New Coast
By Evalyn Baron
February 2012

Richard Laurence Baron would have adored living in San Francisco. He might actually have considered moving here from Houston with his beautiful wife Barbara, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay my new hometown. He’d never have moved to New York City. Visit every now and then maybe, if business necessitated or I was in a play he wanted to see, but live there? Not a chance. NYC is a violent place, and my brother was a gentle man.

Had they visited here, though, they would have been as enchanted as Peter and I are by everything San Francisco offers to people who are smart, engaged in life, enthralled by natural beauty. They would’ve been as avid as we are about discovering the City’s hidden treasures, unique neighborhoods, wondrous cultures, because Richard adored exploration. Of new places, new people, new beers, new books, new adventures. My dear brother was fascinated by life, and San Francisco is a town filled with it. Brimful, in fact. A quality Richard would have immediately recognized, relished for its pace, and embraced in his wonderful arms.

That is, when he managed to pull himself away from the many richly laden, independent bookstores he’d have located first. Books were important to Richard. I never knew a man who loved even just the smell of them as he did. When his dear Barbara finally does come to see us here, our first outing will be to the bookstores. We will discover them together, the ones I love, the ones I’ve yet to find. The ones Richard would have led us to.

Also, whereas New York City has its heights, its figurative mountains to climb, their steely artificiality represented to Richard man’s striving for things he never thought to be important: money; ambition for its own sake; grabbing for, getting and keeping all one could, no matter how useless; and all the pushing and shoving it took to get those things. San Francisco’s natural heights, on the other hand, its glorious hills, would have matched Richard’s idea of what soaring truly meant. A city like San Francisco exists in the sheer, magnificent space it takes to contain a man with the spirit the size of my brother’s. He would have felt good here because of that alone.

We’d have taken a bountiful picnic up to the Marin Headlands and sat on top of one of the old army bunkers – which Richard would have been able to tell me the story of, since military history was another love of his. He’d have stood tall – he was 6-foot-5 after all – stretched out his long arms, and included the Pacific Ocean in his wide embrace.

“My name is Ozmandias, King of Kings …” he’d have recited out loud. “Look upon me, ye Mighty, and despair!” Shelley was one of his favorites.

New York City would have hemmed my brother in too much for him to have lived comfortably there. When he did visit, he’d spend time in the darkest corners of the Natural History Museum and the Egyptian Wing of the Met.

He’d attend his required business meetings, then snuggle down in front of our fireplace to read, planning his next museum jaunt. But nowhere in that city would he have felt like reciting poetry out loud. Here though? I can think of many places that would have inspired him to burst into spontaneous recitation. At full voice.

And he’s the only person I knew who’d have made a dent in the enormous height of the trees in Muir Woods. Those trees would have felt his remarkable hug, and Richard would have felt as if he was among honest friends in the presence of those awesome redwoods. Tall things understand each other, and my brother was tall in every way.

My darling brother passed away a few days before the turn of the year.
But it gives me enormous joy to visualize him and Barbara living here with us. Enjoying the great cafés, getting to know the local wines. I soothe myself with imagining he’d have loved that.

I do know that Richard would never have wanted to live in NYC. Though he visited when he needed to, it was never a city congenial to his spirit and heart. It was too hard, too fast, too selfish. And Richard was none of those things. I was the selfish one. He was the patient, the kind, long-suffering older brother, and now that I have an entire new and wonderful city to share with him – to give him with my whole heart – he is gone and I cannot.

I will, however, think of him every day and imagine him here, in this town I love so much.