Carl Nolte: The Only One Who Does What He Does

The legendary San Franciscan Jerry Garcia said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”


Carl Nolte. Photo by Mike Kapka, Courtesy SF Chronicle

Ladies and Gentlemen, Carl Nolte.
Since the passing of Herb Caen more than 15 years ago now, Carl Nolte has been the only one who does what he does — tell San Francisco stories with a unique combination of personal knowledge, style, and grace.
These are the kind of things that get said in an obituary, but what a waste to wait. Carl’s not going anywhere for a long time, we hope, except perhaps on more of his Magical Muni tours so wonderfully described in last Sunday’s paper. (Clearly, the Chronicle thinks Carl’s Native Son columns are premium content; it’s about the only thing from that paper they still hold back from website posting until Tuesday.)
Another reason we’re posting this mini-tribute now is because the Chronicle recently put one of Carl’s classic accounts on line for the first time: a 1984 story entitled “How to talk like a San Franciscan.” We natives of a certain age can attest to its accuracy as we shed a little tear for how much that true San Francisco verbal style has waned in the 18 years since Carl wrote that.
I guess we should say something to keep this on topic. When the F-line opened, Carl told me he wasn’t a big fan of the PCCs. He liked the original Muni streetcars, like No. 1 better. Of course. Unlike the PCCs, Car 1 was built in San Francisco!
Carl, thanks! Just a little note of appreciation from your friends at Market Street Railway.