Friday, September 15, 2006

No, not that sort of tea room

Sometimes I wish that I DID have a one-track mind. Coming back from a business lunch at the new downtown location for Samovar Tea House in Yuerba Buena Center, I got to thinking about how I sometimes think that gay men fall into two types -- those who enjoy these types of tearooms and those who enjoy the other kind of tearooms that in Britain are called "cottages." I won't go into details except to say no thanks, gross, yuck, I'm a hygiene freak. I'm all for sex between two men of consenting age, but not there.

Actually to prove my true nerd-dome, I spent three hours at the tea museum when I went to Hong Kong a decade ago, the only reason to be there more than 24 hours. (Actually, an Englishman named Jeremy, but that's another story of the other tearoom variety....)

But I could write volumes about tea and teapots and the good kind of tea rooms. Writing the earlier post about my first love in first grade and buying a fancy card at the downtown store of Halls got me to thinking about going to various tearooms with my grandmother and other women in the family in the Midwest. In fact, there is an online tearoom guide (no, not that kind), that I find quite interesting. I've sometimes heard that three places in the western hemisphere come the closest to being a replica of Victorian England -- Victoria, British Columbia (duh, with that name, yes); Buenos Aires (at least certain neighborhoods, and the fact that it has a branch of Harrod's) and Kansas City (there was a Merchant-Ivory film – Mr. and Mrs. Bridge set there, after all). I very much remember and miss the tearooms of my childhood with the tall women of my family, something I will likely write about in more detail someday. Kansas City reportedly is second only to Rome as the city with the most public fountains, has more Henry Moore statues than London, and a few more “mosts” that I can’t recall at this moment. I am sure tearooms of the doily and lady finger variety is up there.

All of this got me to thinking about Halls, the local department store I mentioned in this post about my childhood. There used to be many local, city-specific department stores before the days of the Dayton-Hudson and other chains that homogenized the whole experience. If you go to the tearoom of the former City of Paris, now Neiman-Marcus of SF’s Union Square, you still get a bit of it. That’s why I included the link to Halls in the above mentioned post. Just opening that site and hearing its harp strumming entrée gives you a sense of this very local, very old department store unique to Kansas City. I have strong memories of the old, now departed downtown store, and even the Crowne Plaza and Country Club Plaza stores. The sound of those harp strings makes me think of women in hats who in just a couple of years would be the ridicule of the opening line of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Venture into the tearoom of Halls, and I bet you’ll get an affirmative response to the question Elaine Stritch so desperately needed to have answered 36 years ago: “Does anyone…still…wear….a….HAT?”

All that having been said, I must admit certain things that I have more than a few dozen of -- books, ex-boyfriends, shoes, CDs, DVDs, plants, ties, blazers, samples of foreign currency, pants, shirts, sweaters, cuttlery, cotton swabs...teas pots. I must admit my most favorite acquisition is this one that I got in Antigua in February. I also must admit that my favorite tea is the black rose tea from Red Blossom Tea Company on Grant Street. Though in
the middle of cheesy tourist shops in the heart of Chinatown, this place is my favorite spot for tea in SF. Good service and no pretense. Okay, just a little, but it's good value. Put those two together, and I can forget however many dozen shoes or ex-boyfriends I've ever had or want again...

Okay, this entry just proved my advance years...so be it. I'm heading off for a
tearoom with hats and doilies...And, yes, I promise no Fiestaware, Roseville pottery or Frankhoma pottery on this site...unless you insist on seeing my vast colllection...

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