• Fred R. Kline

SOUTH PACIFIC HEIGHTS

FRK-3.11.2019-Notes for a Memoir SOUTH PACIFIC HEIGHTS Copyright ©Fred R. Kline 2019

[FADE IN. MONTAGE. THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. SAN FRANCISCO BAY AND SKYLINE. SEAGULLS FLYING OVER SAN FRANCISCO BAY. CARS GOING UP AND DOWN THE HILLS. A CABLECAR ON THE EDGE OF A STEEP HILL STARTING TO GO DOWN, ITS BELLS RINGING. A WIDE-EYED PASSENGER ON A CABLE CAR. A HILLTOP IN PACIFIC HEIGHTS OVERLOOKING THE BAY….]


Scary first ride downhill on San Francisco Cable Car

At the beginning of 1965, age 24, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and newly married, Fred Kline and his wife moved to the unknown city of San Francisco. It was either there or New York City but San Francisco rose up in his mind as a poet’s city, a romantic Xanadu, and drew him easily from the snowy sidewalks of Manhattan where he stood considering the choice. It was no contest. He began singing, “California here I come” and repeating a variation on Coleridge, “In Xanadu did Kubla Kline a mighty pleasure dome decree…” .

During the trip to California, Fred Kline read the scandalous satire "Candy" while his wife was driving, and he watched the movie "South Pacific" at a Holiday Inn.


Now, having driven cross country and arrived in San Francisco for the first time in his life, Kline found himself navigating the terrifying rollercoaster hills of the city in his standard shift car, a trick requiring practice and nerves of steel, a skill not yet acquired by the driver.

Somewhat in shock and lost in Pacific Heights, Kline pulled over to a curb and called out to a passerby for directions with a bemused “Where am I?” A fair question, having just literally shifted into that surreal geography. This was the first person in San Francisco he had ever spoken to.


The man stopped and laughed and walked over to the car. It was none other than John Kerr, the actor, actually one of Kline’s favorite actors, whom he recognized immediately, having recently seen him in a rerun of "South Pacific" at a Holiday Inn along the way . A neon “Far out!” blinked on and off in Kline’s brain. But Kline didn’t ask, “Aren’t you…?” He already knew.


“Where am I?” Fred Kline asked John Kerr. “You’re in Pacific Heights,” John Kerr said, laughing. He walked over to the car and peeked into the window. Everyone said hi. “This may be a silly question,” Fred Kline said, “but is this North or…South Pacific…Heights?”. He was playing it straight. John Kerr laughed and looked around directionally, and acted like Kline didn’t get it, but he really knew Kline got it.

It was a beautiful day, clear and cool, a few white clouds in the blue sky and a few white seagulls gliding in circles. Kline could see that John Kerr had sky blue movie star eyes when he looked into the window again and they now had a twinkle like white seagulls.

“I guess you would have to say that this is South Pacific Heights,” John Kerr said, kind of smiling. “You can tell by the seagulls flying over Alcatraz.” John Kerr pointed out to the Bay.

Fred Kline got out of the car to look. “So that’s Alcatraz!”, he said, struck by the exotic sight of the island prison, his first glimpse of that anti-Paradise weirdly centered in the idyllic Bay. “Wow! So that’s Alcatraz.”


Alcatraz Island Prison in San Francisco Bay

“No one ever escaped,” John Kerr said, with a sad note in his voice. “I think there’s only one prisoner left.” “The man in the iron mask?” Fred Kline said quickly, looking directly at him. “Yes,” said John Kerr, smiling with the sun in his eyes “so you know our little secret.” They had played their humorous scene and John Kerr wished Fred Kline good luck and they shook hands and the movie star ambled off into the surreal daylight of South Pacific Heights which of course is only a mythical place like Xanadu.

Kline’s wife, who had been studying a map, did not perceive what had transpired. When he told her, she thought he was joking.

“No, no,” Fred Kline said, “it was really John Kerr from South Pacific. I promise you! I swear! It was totally amazing!”

“If you say so,” she said, dismissing the miraculous occurrence.

[FADE IN. A WIDE-EYED PASSENGER ON A CABLECAR. BELLS RINGING. FADE OUT.]

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