My friend Jane died a few Fridays ago. She went peacefully as two of her sons, Jim, David and I sat with her. After such a momentous event is over it is hard to know what to do next. It seemed odd to just say good-bye to each other and to go our separate ways. We had witnessed a life passing. It seemed appropriate to find a way to celebrate her life in a way that she would have enjoyed. It was David who suggested the Top of the Mark. Of course. Very San Francisco. Very Nob Hill. Cocktails with a view. I could almost hear Jane’s husky laugh at the thought of it.
It is not easy to find a cab in Pacific Heights on a Friday night at 7:00 p.m. so we hopped on the #1 California bus and climbed Sacramento Street to Nob Hill. Somehow arriving at the Mark Hopkins by public transportation helped to add another surreal element to the already ‘out of body’ evening. There is a very convenient elevator in the lobby of the Mark Hopkins Hotel marked “Top of the Mark” which whisks you to the 19th floor. The Maitre d’ greeted us as we walked out of the elevator at 7:45.
“May I help you, sir?” he asked.
“Yes”, said David, “We would like a table for three for just a drink”.
“Well, sir, as you can see we have a dress code after 8:00” he told us as he glanced down at my athletic shoes and Jim’s jeans.
“Our mother has just died this evening” explained David “and we would like to toast her memory. We will not stay long.”
“I will see what I can do” the Maitre d’ replied and disappeared into the next room.
Less than one minute later he returned and escorted us to the best table in the house. We had a perfect, unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the City and the setting sun. David and Jim ordered big martinis. I ordered what Jane and I would always drink together over steaks, a double Jack Daniels with a water back. With our cocktails in hand we started to reminisce about some of Jane’s favorite things to do in San Francisco. Shopping at I. Magnin’s in Union Square, getting her hair done at Mister Lee’s on Jones Street, drinking cocktails in the Redwood Room of the Clift Hotel, attending the ballet. Jane lived in Northern California and thought nothing of loading her four children into her navy blue Volvo and driving down to the City for the day so that they could see what her favorite city was all about. She instilled a love of San Francisco in Jim and David and it seemed appropriate to watch the sun set over the city she loved so much on the day she passed.
When we asked for the check we were told that the drinks were on the house. Jane would have loved that.