2002 - Volume 33, Issue 2
By Erik Hanson
One Friday night last month, I was sitting down in the Whaley House garden along with my family and many others to view our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Five minutes before curtain time (had there been a curtain); I was tapped on the shoulder with "someone tried to torch the Red Roost." My mind switched from anticipation of a show in which I knew what was going to happen, to dread of a situation which I had known would happen. Several of us board members left the show and zipped up to La Jolla to survey the situation and to give our comments to the media. The damage was less than we imagined, substantially less than the damage fostered by the owners during their decades-long, slow motion, spite demolition. We left.
We arrived back in Old Town, having missed all but the last of the comedy, to hear the immortal Bard's words:
This man, with lime and rough-cast, doth present
Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall's chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper. At the which let no man wonder.
As we applauded, unbeknownst, the arsonist had returned to strike again, his second fire and threats were caught on tape by the news crew we had just left.
At the arraignment on the arson charge a couple of days later, it was the sort of a Mid-Summer fantasy that a serious preservationist might have: to see an alleged violator of a historic building in shackles and cuffs, and in a shirt stenciled 'SD JAIL'.
We try to win, and we sometimes do, but it rarely gets this dramatic.
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