More Tales of the City (Tales of the City Series #2)

More Tales of the City (Tales of the City Series #2)

4.7 10
by Armistead Maupin

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The tenants of 28 Barbary Lane have fled their cozy nest for adventures far afield. Mary Ann Singleton finds love at sea with a forgetful stranger, Mona Ramsey discovers her doppelgänger in a desert whorehouse, and Michael Tolliver bumps into his favorite gynecologist in a Mexican bar. Meanwhile, their venerable landlady takes the biggest journey of

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The tenants of 28 Barbary Lane have fled their cozy nest for adventures far afield. Mary Ann Singleton finds love at sea with a forgetful stranger, Mona Ramsey discovers her doppelgänger in a desert whorehouse, and Michael Tolliver bumps into his favorite gynecologist in a Mexican bar. Meanwhile, their venerable landlady takes the biggest journey of all—without ever leaving home.

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Mary Ann Singleton was twenty-five years old when she saw San Francisco for the first time.
That's the opening of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, a collection of stories from the 1970s about the fictional residents of 28 Barbary Lane: Mary Ann the midwestern naïf, Mona the free spirit, Michael the romantic, and Brian the swinger, all of them looked after by the benevolent landlady Mrs. Madrigal.
A late bloomer, I was in my 29th year when I first saw San Francisco.
Well, there was that daylong stopover one family vacation. Not that there was much to remember, except the crowds at Fisherman's Wharf and when Dad, at the wheel of the rental car, terrified Mom as he tore down Lombard roaring, "It's the crookedest street in the world!"
I was a teenager and determined not to be impressed by anyone or anything, and I was too busy rolling my eyes the whole time to see much of the place.
Fifteen years later, however, I landed at San Francisco International Airport, alone this time and sick of New York, intent on seeing as much as I could—in particular, what of Maupin's San Francisco might have survived the rise and fall of roller disco.
Tales is a soap opera, but it's not merely Melrose Place in bell-bottomed pants. There's something touchingly familiar about these characters navigating contemporary urban life and the onset of adulthood. They may have rotten jobs, too little money, and too much heartbreak, but they have a family at 28 Barbary Lane. And if The Mary Tyler Moore Show (to invoke another '70sicon) taught us anything, it's that family-where-you-find-it is what keeps you going when you're going it alone.
You're gonna make it after all, Mary Ann Singleton.
It was a sunny, warm August day when I arrived, though my friends in town kept insisting that the fog would roll in, any minute now, really. But I wasn't having any of it, and neither was the Bay. I had rubber-soled shoes (those hills, you know) and directions to the "real" Barbary Lane, or rather its alleged inspiration.
It was on Russian Hill. Finding the street, Macondry Lane, was a challenge for a New Yorker used to a consistent street grid and generally horizontal movement. I finally found a shady garden path lined with paving stones and branches of long green leaves, small houses on either side.
I was astounded. This was an oasis, an impossibility in the middle of the modern city. It was something out of a storybook. It was quiet and peaceful. It smelled really good.
There was no real street there, not in any sense of a street as I'd ever understood it. It was nothing like my block in Manhattan, where buses rumble by and car alarms whoop it up. You couldn't fit a Yugo onto Macondry Lane, and that seemed just perfect. This was the street where you live, not the street where you drive.
I wondered briefly how anyone could be unhappy there, even Mary Ann while she was having her disastrous affair with the heartless Beauchamp Day, Michael while he was nursing a heart decimated by a handsome gynecologist, or Mona when she was freaking out over being, well, Mona.
I knew I was being naive. San Francisco was still a city with traffic and garbage and poverty. And I knew that troubles still find their way even into the most picturesque place. I just have this habit of thinking, when I'm somewhere extraordinary, that maybe this is just what I need. Why do I subject myself to New York?
But something about Macondry Lane did make me think: Maybe I can live like this. Maybe it's not an impossibility after all.
A real-life resident wandered out of his house to water his miniature garden, and I shyly hid my camera, feeling like an intruder. I walked the length of the block and down the long wooden steps at the end, back into a more typical urban scene.
I left San Francisco determined to come back as soon as possible, maybe to stay. I returned halfheartedly to my life in New York, my job, and my noisy street.
Autumn was beautiful in New York this year, unusually warm and sunny. My friends were here, and I found myself maybe a little more relaxed after my trip than I had been before. Something from that moment on Russian Hill must have stayed with me.
As the months went by, I thought less and less about moving. It would be more hassle than I really wanted, hauling my belongings across the continent. But it also seemed to me, after a while, that Barbary Lane might be wherever you happen to build it.
—Kristen Mirenda

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Tales of the City Series, #2
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 5.26(h) x 0.87(d)

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Chapter One

Fresh Start

SHE WAS NOT MOVING BACK TO CLEVELAND. SHE WAS NOT running home to Mommy and Daddy. She knew that much, anyway. For all her trials, she loved it here in San Francisco, and she loved her makeshift family at Mrs. Madrigal's comfy old apartment house on Barbary Lane.

So what if she was still a secretary?

So what if she had not met Mr. Right ... or even Mr. Adequate?

So what if Norman Neal Williams, the one semi-romance of her first six months in the city, had turned out to be a private eye moonlighting as a child pornographer who eventually fell to his death off a seaside cliff on Christmas Eve?

And so what if she had never worked up the nerve to tell anyone but Mouse about Norman's death?

As Mouse would say: "Almost anything beats the fuck out of Cleveland! !"

Mouse, she realized, had become her best friend. He and his spacy-but-sweet roommate, Mona Ramsey, had been Mary Ann's mentors and sidekicks throughout her sometimes

glorious, sometimes harrowing initiation into the netherworld of San Francisco.

Even Brian Hawkins, an oversexed waiter whose advances had once annoyed Mary Ann, had lately begun to make clumsy yet endearing overtures of friendship.

This was home now-this crumbling, ivy-entwined relic called 28 Barbary Lane-and the only parental figure in Mary Ann's day-to-day existence was Anna Madrigal, a landlady whose fey charm and eccentric ways were legendary on Russian Hill.

Mrs. Madrigal was the true mother of them all. She would counsel them, scold them and listen unflinchingly to their tales ofamatory disaster. When all else failed (and even when it didn't), she would reward her "children" by taping joints of home-grown grass to the doors of their apartments.

Mary Ann had learned to smoke grass like a seasoned head. Recently, in fact, she had given serious thought to the idea of smoking on her lunch hour at Halcyon Communications. Such was the agony she suffered under the new regime of Beauchamp Day, the brash young socialite who had assumed the presidency of the ad agency upon the death of his father-in-law-law, Edgar Halcyon.

Mary Ann had loved Mr.Halcyon a great deal.

And two weeks after his untimely passing (on Christmas Eve), she learned how much he had loved her.

"You stay put," she told Michael gleefully. "I've got a valentine for you!"

She disappeared into the bedroom, emerging several seconds later with an envelope. Mary Ann's name was scrawled on the front in an assertive hand. The message inside was also hand written:

Dear Mary Ann,
By now, you must need a little
fun. The enclosed is for you
and a friend. Head for some
place sunny. And don't let
that little bastard give you any trouble.

"I don't get it," said Michael. "Who's EH? And what was in the envelope?"

Mary Ann was about to burst. "Five thousand dollars, Mouse! From my old boss, Mr. Halcyon! His lawyer gave it to me last month."

"And this 'little bastard'?"

Mary Ann smiled. "My new boss, Beauchamp Day. Mouse, look: I've got two tickets for a cruise to Mexico on the Pacific Princess. Would you like to go with me?"

Michael stared at her, slack-mouthed. "You're shittin' me?"

"No." She giggled.


"You'll go?"

"Will I go? When? How long?"

"In a week-for eleven days. We'd have to share a cabin, Mouse."

Michael leaped to his feet and flung his arms around her. "Hell, we'll seduce people in shifts!"

"Or find a nice bisexual."

"Mary Ann! I'm shocked!"

"Oh, good!"

Michael lifted her off the floor. "We'll get brown as a goddamn berry, and find you a lover-"

"And one for you."

He dropped her. "One miracle at a time, please."

Now, Mouse, don't be negative."

"Just realistic." He was still stinging from a brief affairette with Dr. Jon Fielding, a handsome blond gynecologist who had eliminated Michael as lover material when he discovered him participating in the jockey shorts dance contest at The Endup.

"Look," said Mary Ann evenly, "if I think you're really

attractive, there must be plenty of men in this town who feel the same way."

"Yeah," said Michael ruefully. "Size queens."

"Oh, don't be silly!"

Sometimes Michael was sensitive about the dumbest things. He's at least five nine, thought Mary Ann. That's tall enough for anybody.

Widow's Weeds

FRANNIE HALCYON WAS AN ABSOLUTE WRECK. EIGHT weeks after the death of her husband, she still dragged around their cavernous old house in Hillsborough, wondering bleakly if it was finally time to apply for her real estate license.

Oh, God, how life had changed!

She was rising later now, sometimes as late as noon, in the futile hope that a shorter day might somehow seem fuller. Her languorous morning coffees on the terrace were a thing of the past, a defunct ritual that had failed her as surely and swiftly as Edgar's diseased kidneys had failed her.

Now she made do with a languorous afternoon Mai Tai.

Sometimes, of course, she drew a glimmer of comfort from the knowledge that she was soon to be a grandmother. Twice a grandmother, actually. Her daughter DeDe—the wife of Halcyon Communications' new president, Beauchamp Day— was about to give birth to twins.

That had been the latest report from Dr. Jon Fielding, DeDe's charming young gynecologist. DeDe, however, begrudged her mother the simple indulgence of even discussing her new heirs. She was downright sullen on the subject, Frannie observed. And that struck the matriarch as very strange indeed. "And why can't I dote a little, DeDe?" "Because you're using it, Mother." "Oh, piffle!" "You're using it as an excuse to—I don't know-an excuse to keep from living your own life again." "I'm half a person, DeDe."

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