The savage crack of a nine-ball rack at the Palace Billiards after midnight; The Dead and Airplane jamming through GG park pre-ticketron; warm Laundromats whirling and doughnuts cooking in the wee hours out in the Avenues; dishes crashin' at Sam Wo's while Edsel Ford Fong chased ya down 2 flights of narrow stairs for a bigger tip. The laughter of the baggy pants comic, Peckerhead Muckenfuch, at the 16th/Mission Follies and the drop dead, drop pants, silence that ensued when the Band struck up the first chords of "Harlem Nocturne" and a flash of flesh undulated across the stageplanks. So quiet, you could hear the lights dim and the cigarettes explode from heavy breathing.
But for real romance, go listen to the passionate kiss of two bocce balls at Aquatic Park, serenaded by the Italian street opera conducted with an old stick waved with meticulous precision; a concert baton in the hands of so many seasoned maestros debating micrometer diffentials and harmonics like the Original Enricos, Caruso and Fermi.
Yet what sound can ever surpass the ding-dong of a green Muni pull cord. As a kid, long before Disney Land instituted height requirements, reaching for this life line was a rite of passage (or get-offage) that put the world in the palm of my hand. For a 50 cent punch card and a tug on a cord, I could actually stop a bus and parachute out to worlds as new and foreign as anywhere the Enterprise dared to voyage. It was a rip cord and a lifeline to the heart of a City that always moved us to a place upbeat rather than a place to get beat up. These days, maybe we all need to reach a little higher, rather than just reaching back further, to recall the sounds of our younger heartbeats.