Frisco Beat: Secret San Francisco

How about a couple of pics from the panel last Sunday in Jack Kerouac alley? A trifle in front of the stage, to the your left is Vesuvio’s Bar and to the right City Lights Books. At the back Grant Avenue — and Chinatown.

L. to r. on that micro stage is Don Herron, Ruth Carlson, and John Law.

Top image: Don and John both gesturing wildly to display copies of Ruth’s new release Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Cool book. Covers Doggie Diner Heads (John Law) and Hammett Tours (me), and surviving earthquake shacks as well as sewer walks and pretty much everything you might be interested in. And here’s the trick: it’s up to date. 2019, baby. The off trail and esoteric that’s still around.

The talk covered a lot of territory in a half hour or so, from me recounting a small fraction of my meeting William Forsythe when he was in town shooting The Rock, to Suicide Club adventures in North Beach bars, to poet Gregory Corso getting 86ed from City Lights. Someone mentioned, accurately, that he finally got 86ed after trying to rip off the cash register — while I conflated that incident with another one where someone broke into a side window (next to where we were seated) and made off with the tiny safe. My bad. You’ve got to watch out for info delivered in the hot and heavy of a rocking panel.

So much info, so little time.

I will say that Gay Pride Day was a perfect time to slip into North Beach. Easy parking, you could get into the bars and restaurants. Cool day, but sunny. Perfect.

I did notice lots of empty storefronts, though — not one or two, lots. North Beach has endured changes for decades and the main places seem to be holding their own. But I can see the day that the neighborhood gets changed to the point of no return.

Baseline for me: San Francisco will maintain as long as you have the hills and the views. But on a smaller scale, if North Beach and Chinatown are ever plowed over, the city is done. You can call it San Francisco, but it won’t be San Francisco.

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