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Alive in Colma 

Wednesday, Jul 29 2015
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Colma may not have a slew of tourist destinations, but it does have a sense of humor.

"It's great to be alive in Colma," is a city motto, perfect for a town with fewer than 2,000 aboveground but more than 1.5 million below.

As SF Weekly reported in a January cover story, the 2-square-mile town is best known for its 16 cemeteries in a diversity of faiths — the Serbian Cemetery is particularly spectacular at night. Colma also has the big-box stores San Franciscans have NIMBY'd out of town, including two Home Depots across the street from each other.

A day excursion to the City of Souls should start, but hopefully not end, at the graveyard. Amid the gorgeous none-more-Goth mausoleums and stone angels, there's a dirt-nap edition of the old Hollywood star maps. It includes the famous — like San Francisco's proto-eccentric Emperor Norton (whose tombstone at Woodlawn rightly declares Joshua Abraham Norton emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico) and outlaw Wyatt Earp (buried in the Jewish cemetery at Hills of Eternity Memorial Park). There's also the infamous — characters like William Randolph Hearst, the real "Citizen Kane" and godfather of yellow journalism (spending eternity in an imposing, column-flanked mausoleum at Cypress Lawn) — and sad stories like that of Abigail Folger (Holly Cross Cemetery), the coffee heiress slain by the Manson family in Los Angeles in 1969 along with Sharon Tate.

While the graveyards make for a beautiful Sunday stroll, Colma's extracurricular activities are slim, especially since the Olivet Memorial Park tree, where an image of the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared in 1997, has lost some of its good looks. (One high point, so to speak: A 2001 edition of Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute's magazine recognized F Street's 18 percent grade as one of the steepest in North America).

The dead do not eat much (although when the inevitable zombie apocalypse comes, Colma is ground zero), so dining options within city limits are also limited. The consistently packed Sizzler's that shares a strip mall with Target might not suit highfalutin cityfolk, although the management did put the chicken wings back in the all-you-can-gorge buffet. Conveniently located in the same Target strip mall, the Valencia Street of Colma, Momiji's has solid ramen.

A more interesting choice is the 24-hour restaurant inside Lucky Chances Casino. On a recent night, my friends and I shuffled wide-eyed past rows of pai gow and poker to the Colma Cafe, where the American diner fare is meh and the Filipino breakfast is excellent. Any day that starts or ends with longsilog — a meal of fried eggs, garlic-fried rice, and sweet longanisa sausage — is a good day.

For a postprandial tipple, the best choice is Molloy's Tavern, an unpretentious pub that's been in the Molloy family for generations and even had a cameo in the city's celluloid love letter, 2006's Colma: The Musical. Molloy's is also the only choice for a bar in Colma, which proved unfortunate when a member of my party vetoed it for fear of running into a pesky ex.

After seriously discussing the possibility of heading to BevMo (located, of course, at the Target strip mall), my party adjourned to Lucky Chances' lounge, Renee's.

It wasn't the most glamorous end to an evening, but the good company (around the table and at the cemetery across the street) did make me feel pretty good to be alive.


About The Author

Giselle Velazquez


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