The pope isn't coming to San Francisco. Too bad; a few of us have a few things to say.
When the last pope, John Paul II, came here in 1987, it felt kind of like a circus. The dude loved theater, and there was plenty of it to go around he made a point, for example, of meeting with Clint Eastwood, who was then the mayor of Carmel, which gave my friend Victor Krummenacher of Camper Van Beethoven the chance to make up "Monterey Pope Festival" T-shirts. A few enterprising sorts made photos of Eastwood with a gun in his hand telling the Holy Father: "Go ahead, bless my day."
When JPII showed up at the Mission Dolores, some jokers who lived across the street hung a huge banner that read: "The pope is a wanker."
I, of course, didn't want to miss the show.
It turned out that getting a press pass for the pope's visit was a little tricky, especially for a reporter for an alternative newsweekly who made no secret of his disdain for the local Catholic hierarchy. But I went to Catholic school and have a good old Irish name, and I wasn't going to let this one get away.
So I filed my application with the locals, and had it rejected. The day before the pope was due to arrive, I called the archdiocese headquarters to ask who was really in charge of papal press. After a bunch of squirming, they admitted there was a special monsignor in a downtown hotel who made the final decisions. I got his name; I called the hotel and got the suite, where his secretary told me he was seeing nobody, that the deadline had passed, and that, in the vernacular, I was SOL.
But my father taught me well: priests drink bourbon, monsignors drink Scotch. So I picked up a nice single-malt and made my way to the holy press room. I pitched a fit of sadness to the secretary (my poor sainted mother, who was praying for me even now, would be in tears if she thought I'd missed the chance to see His Holiness) and that got me through the door.
The monsignor looked up and told me there was no way anyone was getting credentials the day before the visit and he'd never heard of my newspaper anyway. I pulled out the bottle, and he smiled.
"Bless you, my son," he said. "I think we can do business."
So I got the special Pope press pass, and saw the Popemobile, and saw the big wanker banner, and had a grand old time and other than the fact that the city tore up all the bushes along the papal route so nobody would plant bombs, the city was pretty quiet.
That would not be the case today.
The new pope isn't just a wanker he's pissing off all sorts of people, including his own believers. Queer groups, women, people who believe in stem cell research, people who believe in sex education for kids, people who think that wiping out family planning and prenatal programs for third-world women to avoid even the slightest mention of abortion ... they got a beef with this guy. And they're more active than ever.
So Benedict, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, won't make it to SF. Damn. Despite Mayor Newsom's embarrassing hide-the-ball game, we did a pretty good job on the Olympic torch. And the pope would be too big to hide.