San Francisco, Citroen SM

SAN FRANCISCO -- 1983-85:  One of my favorite places to go was a place called Dancers, located on Harrison and Second Street.  Dancers was a large, dark place with many colored lights flashing around as an industrial-beat of music kept breeding an inescapable aura of sexuality. At least this is what it felt like after a second beer.  At Dancers the libido was liberated and celebrated, and girls were dancing everywhere, including on top of the bar.  And it was at Dancers where I would finally meet my first girlfriend, Brionna.

Before meeting her that night, I had already been rejected by a dozen other girls.  I had walked up to one-after-another, requesting a dance but the response was always “No Thanks.”  Part of it had to do with my Dutch disco outfit, white jeans, green Acosta shirt and white leather dress shoes.  Perhaps I was overdressed since most of the clubbers were wearing torn jeans and torn t-shirts.  But more than not getting the fashion right, I had noticed that most clubbers were dancing by themselves, and only communicated in the form of body language.  I quickly realized that I was out of tune with the American club culture.

But just as I was about to become discouraged, I saw an attractive female standing near the dance floor in a white jump-suit, leaning against a pillar with her arms folded, seemingly judging the crowd from afar.  She appeared out of place as her presence was that of a worldly woman, not of a girl. Her posture had the confidence of a trial lawyer winning final argument. I found her confident demeanor very attractive.  She appeared slightly overweight but that was her natural body type, and I found that attractive as well.  She looked Mediterranean with her long and curly, dark brown hair flowing over her bare, plump arms.  Her eyes were large, brown and aware; awnings over them were thick, manicured eyebrows.  But she too would decline my dance proposal with a “No Thanks.”

But refusing to be dismissed, I had asked her a follow-up question, the standard: "Do you come here often?" in the hope of receiving a more responsive answer, albeit a negative one -- anything to keep her attention.  Luckily, she answered and a conversation ensued after discovering we had something in common.  It turned-out that she too had worked on the highest floor in San Francisco.  She had worked as a hostess at the Carnelian Room.  Moreover, we knew some of the same people.  And yes, then we danced.

But as we danced, she kept looking passed me, everywhere it seemed except into my eyes.  The one time that she did make eye-contact, she laughed and quickly looked away again, trying hard not to laugh.  I couldn't help but wonder if it was because of the way I danced or because of the way I was dressed.  She later told me it was a bit of both.

After dancing together, Briona wanted to leave the club and asked me if I wanted to come along. It was an invitation I immediately accepted.  But before we left, she told me to take a seat and wait for her.  It appeared that Briona was looking for someone to say goodbye to, as she made her way into the crowd.  But ten minutes later, Briona still hadn’t returned and I was starting to feel foolish, just sitting there.  In the past I had been told numerous times by attractive females: “Wait right here and I will be right back” only for them never to return. Luckily, Brionna did return and said “Let’s’ go.”

As we left Dancers together, Briona confined in me that the person she was looking for was a guy she had met earlier that day in a bakery on Union Street.  The bakery was called the Peach Cobbler and it sold pies and pastries.  Briona was seated at a table when this guy came over to her and introduced himself.  Then when he returned to his table he told his friend in a deliberately loud voice that he would be going to Dancers that night, while looking at Briona.  Hence, Briona had regarded this as an invitation, which was the reason she had gone there that night.  It was an interesting story, so infatuate and mysterious.  Even more mysterious was that he hadn’t show-up, but this turned-out to be good for me.

Briona’s car was parked right outside under a bright street lamp, which this car richly deserved: Briona drove a Citroën -- my favorite car.  I was surprised to see one in the US and had never seen this particular model before.  It was a golden Citroën SM.  The nicest one I had ever seen.  I was in awe and so was Briona: I with her car and she with me for knowing about Citroëns.  And this knowledge seemed to have connected us in a personal way. Not only did we know the same people at The Bankers Club -Carnelian Room, we were both loved with the Citroëns.

The nicest one I had seen in Holland was a Pallas.  My friend's father had one, and drove us to a tennis tournament once at about 180 km per hour (110 mph) over a country road.  The car would cut through the wind like a space ship, as its hydropneumatic suspension automatically lowered the car at higher speeds.  The Citroën was one of the first aerodynamic cars, and first to have front wheel drive.  And it had many other ingenious inventions, such as the brake-pedal that was in the shape of a mushroom and only a couple of sensitive inches above the floor, allowing the foot to slide directly from the gas-peddle down to the brake pedal -- not like all other cars, up off the gas pedal and then down to the brake pedal.  This design could save the driver perhaps a fractured second in brake-time, but that could mean the difference between life and death.  

For me the most ingenious invention were the swiveling headlight. The inner headlights of the Citroëns would simultaneously turn with the steering wheel, shedding light ahead of a sharp turn, allowing the driver to see in advance the road he would be turning into:

It was slightly past midnight when we entered Briona’s car. But besides entering a new day I felt like I was entering a new world.  Instead of walking home to my basement apartment on Larkin Street or having to take a trolley bus home, I was now sitting next to a beautiful woman who was driving me down the streets of San Francisco in a Citroën.  While Briona’s eyes were on the road, mine were on her.  It seemed that with each passing moment Briona was becoming more glamorous and regal as the fast bypassing streetlights on Van Ness Avenue seemed to be taking snapshots of her, as if there paparazzi everywhere. I felt I was sitting next to a movie star, back when movie stars were elegant and gracious.

Briona was a good driver, relaxed and aware.  She was worthy of her car.  The Citroën’s leather interior was hugging us in comfort as its Maserati engine softly purred, pulling us forward.  At some point Briona glanced over and asked me: "So, where do you want to go?"  I decided to take a chance and said: "Let's go to your place."  Perhaps this was too obvious, but it was a truthful answer.  Briona smiled and blushed simultaneously while looking at the road ahead of her.  She then made a sharp left turn on Pacific Avenue; moments later a garage door rose as the Citroën dipped under it into a large pool of darkness.

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