Re: RARA-AVIS: visiting the City

From: Karin Montin (
Date: 18 Oct 2010

  • Next message: Brian Thornton: "Re: RARA-AVIS: All Across the Nation, Such a Strong Vibration..."

      Wish I'd read this before I left. Some great advice! I was a flâneuse for many hours and have the sore feet to prove it.


    On 13/10/2010 9:45 AM, Frederick Zackel wrote:
    > Some months ago I decided against Bouchercon in San Francisco. I lived there
    > for twenty years, wrote three PI books about it, and have lots of family and
    > friends still there. I could either visit my old haunts in San Francisco or
    > I could hang onto the brass bar rail at the lobby bar at the Hyatt, but I
    > couldn't do both.
    > But I can help some people's visit there.
    > You are going to San Francisco. Fantastic! Everybody’s Favorite City. No,
    > that’s not just a marketing slogan. In fact, a few years ago the top 500
    > global movers& shakers were asked where they wanted to have their annual
    > get-together, and everybody’s first choice was their usual vacation spot.
    > But San Francisco was everybody’s number 2 spot. Oh, yeah, San Francisco,
    > great!
    > This list is not a complete one. But it’ll give you some places to get
    > started. Dump the list when you start having fun. Oh, and I assume you are
    > old enough to drink. In California the legal age is 21. OTOH, every joint
    > listed will let you in for a good cup of coffee.
    > San Francisco is a great walking city. Be a flaneur! The term flâneur comes
    > from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of
    > "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer"—which itself comes from the
    > French verb flâner, which means "to stroll."
    > The naughty French poet Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of
    > flâneur—that of "a person who walks the city in order to experience it."
    > On the other hand, go ride a cable car. The California Street turnaround is
    > out front of the Regency. Shake the hand of your grip man. He's the guy in
    > front pulling the lever. No, really, shake his hand. As an occupation, grip
    > men do one helluva muscular job, and their handshakes make the Governator
    > look like a girly man. If the grip man (the guy in front) is named Randy,
    > ask him how the Grateful Dead are doing. Then say hi for me. Do not go
    > anywhere with him for a drink after he gets off work. You will wear out the
    > knees of your jeans crawling back to your hotel.
    > If you are surrounded by crowds, watch for pickpockets. Locals bust them
    > when they see them, but a few do slip through. Watch your wallets and your
    > purses.
    > Special treat: get off the cable car line at Powell street, at the top of
    > the hill, walk downhill two blocks to Bush Street. Turn left on Bush and
    > walk down to Burris Alley, above the Stockton Street Tunnel. Sam Spade’s
    > partner was murdered at this location, and a large metal plaque that
    > celebrates his death is here. Notice the plaque is bolted into the wall of
    > the alley, about eight feet up; people kept trying to steal it. Notice the
    > plaque says whodunit.
    > Don’t tell people who killed Miles Archer!
    > Across Bush Street from the scene of that fictional crime is a doorway with
    > another plaque: Robert Louis Stevenson stayed there. He was on his honeymoon
    > (with a hot young American divorcee. They went up to Silverado for more good
    > times. Oh, and he wrote a book at those times, too.)
    > (To digress: out on Sacramento Street, oh, maybe a dozen blocks west of
    > here, around Laguna, is another doorway that says, Arthur Conan Doyle …ah …
    > I’ll let you go look, ‘k? Oh, and the park across the street is called Dog
    > S… ah … Dog Poop Park by the locals.)
    > Climb back up the hill, up to California Street. (You’ll see the cable car
    > line.) At the top of Nob Hill are the big hotels: the Fairmont, the Stanford
    > Court, and the Mark Hopkins. Yes, the hotels are named after the Big Four
    > railroad guys.
    > Go to the Top of the Mark in the Mark Hopkins for a drink at twilight.
    > Lovely. Look at the streets below. See all the taxicabs working these great
    > hotels. When they have passengers, their top lights go out. When they are
    > empty, their top lights are on. Around the big hotels, all those cabs, their
    > lights go on and off.
    > Fireflies in the night!!
    > Because of the term's usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous
    > thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of
    > the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for
    > understanding urban phenomena and modernity.
    > Which means it’s time for a literary-style drink. (Stick out your littlest
    > finger as you sip.)
    > Go to North Beach. Visit Lawrence Ferlingetti’s City Lights Bookstore on
    > Columbus. Across the alley is Vesuvio’s. Go have a beer in a great beatnick
    > joint. If the bar is full, go upstairs and voyeur, another lovely
    > French-based word. The martinis are killers.
    > Directly across Columbus Street is Spec’s in the Alley. A lovely bar. Go
    > play dominos over a beer. Look for Jack London Alley.
    > Across Broadway and uphill from there is North Beach, the Italian section.
    > Take Fresno Street for the Fresno Street Saloon, which has a very
    > distinguished reputation as one of the wildest saloons in San Francisco
    > history. Weekends are nuts. If you dance on the safe to the loud music, you’re
    > following in distinguished if unsteady footsteps. (I deny that they are
    > mine.)
    > North Beach has fabulous restaurants and great bars. It has fortune cookie
    > factories and Old Country bakeries. This is a great hang-out. It is busy day
    > and night.
    > Stop and eat wherever you are. Trust your instincts. If you see a gelato
    > store … go buy a cone now. Also, while you are there, get a loaf of
    > sourdough bread, some Gallo salami, or maybe See’s candy. Gorge yourself in
    > your room later. Have fun. Get some red wine or Anchor Steam beer,
    > If you rented a car -- and why would you do that? -- drive up through
    > Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. (Or walk straight west from Laguna and
    > Washington. When you read PresidioBlvd., call a taxi to get you home.) See
    > the grand mansions. Eat at the Filmore Grill. Is Jack’s Jazz Club at Geary&
    > Filmore still there?
    > If you have time, drive through the Presidio, by the way. Go to the end of
    > Pacific Street and turn right. You cannot miss it. Once this was an army
    > base. The most beautiful army base in the world. It was given back to us
    > civilians!
    > Once you get into the Presidio, look for the signs to Crissy Field. They
    > will help you discover how to get underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Go
    > there when the weather is nasty. Bring all your cameras. A nasty picture
    > under the Bridge is much classier than the same old same old.
    > On your way back from the bridge, go to Union Street. At Perry’s, all the
    > bartenders’ names are Michael. (Tradition.) The front bar is known as
    > Divorce Row. On Union Street, shop until you drop. The Balboa Café is
    > wonderful. The Mauna Loa at Union and Filmore has a slick pool table. Watch
    > out for hustlers. Ask if they remember me.
    > Nightlife in San Francisco can be bizarre, and if you think you can handle
    > it, the bizarre happens at a couple, three spots. South of Market is the
    > biggest area. SoMa is huge. Look for Slim’s as a starter. (It is Boz Scaggs’
    > nightclub; great music almost every night.) Follow the crowds. You may enjoy
    > the Stud, for instant.The Stud may have the weirdest bar crowd you have ever
    > seen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! But it is safe and it thrives! Ask the
    > gay leather bikers leaning against the bar and they'll tell you other great
    > joints in the neighborhoods. And yes it is safe.
    > The Hotel Utah is forever changing; check it out.
    > and is built like a bear, it might be Dave himself. Give him my very best.
    > More nightlife is in the Haight Ashbury and in the Castro and a few other
    > spots. Minnie’s Can Do is an old haunt of mine back when she was up in the
    > Filmore. If you see her, give her my best. She won't remember me. But I love
    > her.
    > If you get squemish about the prices at the Regency, go see Dave, the
    > bartender who owns the joint at Dave’s between Mission and Market on Third.
    > Dave works days (he owns the joint) and he has a great white beard Downtown
    > and tired of shopping at the great stores?
    > John’s Grill is at 63 Ellis at Powell Street, where the cable cars turn
    > around. Have the Sam Spade Special (pork chops& tomatoes) or try the
    > scallops (my favorite.)
    > Kuleto’s is around the corner, if you don’t want a sit-down place.
    > By the way, there are speakeasies under hotels on the streets around here,
    > yes, left over from Prohibition. Now the bartenders on the first floor use
    > these basement rooms to store the hotel liquor. (Don’t ask me how I know.) A
    > bunch of us guys used to go below the floorboards and drink until the
    > sunrise. Dave may remember. He may not.
    > When you walk Market street, check out the Garden Court at the Sheraton
    > Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street. President Harding of Ohio died
    > upstairs. He may have been murdered.
    > Chinatown is special after midnight. Oh, go there first in the daytime, too.
    > Go walk Grant Avenue, which is the touristy spot. But walk uphill from Grant
    > Avenue to Stockton Street and the neighborhood markets. See the real daytime
    > Chinatown scene. The Chinese culture demands absolutely fresh food daily.
    > This includes … live fish … and live duck … and live pigeon. (Minced squab
    > is a Chinese delicacy, by the way.)
    > Buy something cheap and kitschy on Grant Avenue. It’s okay. Everybody does.
    > I have this bright yellow T-shirt with a flaming red dragon. Lovely.
    > Go eat at Sam Wo’s which is uphill at 813 Washington between Grant and
    > Stockton, a classic, a real San Francisco treat. The food at Sam Wo's is not
    > great, but the ambience is. Going right through the kitchen to get to the
    > stairs to the upstairs dining room, ah, that's SF!
    > But Chinatown after midnight is open all night, and after the bars close
    > everybody goes to Chinatown for its all-night restaurants. Jackson Street
    > and Washington Street are your best bets. The Far East has clams in black
    > bean sauce, while the Golden Dragon is more sit-down. Speaking of the Golden
    > Dragon, across Washington from its main restaurant is its take-out store.
    > Char sui bow is barbecue beef. Delicious. Oh, and try the duck.
    > Good food outside of Chinatown? Tommy's Joint on Van Ness& O'Farrell. Or
    > try Original Joe's downhill from the Hilton. There, order the house burger
    > and the steak fries, but save half of it for later, once you get home.
    > Try the deli across the street from the Geary theater. Almost like New York.
    > (Or parts of west LA.)
    > Check out the Castro; it’s the gay neighborhood and unlike anything you will
    > ever see in the Midwest. Great stores, great restaurants, and great saloons.
    > And the street scene is perfect safe for anybody. Do not let your
    > preconceptions sabotage a great time. The people there are fine wonderful
    > people. And they have a wicked sense of humor! (Thirty years in the closet
    > and you came out wearing THAT!!??)
    > At Fisherman’s Wharf, do try the crab from the sidewalk vendors. Oh, if
    > you're going to San Francisco, bring a fall jacket, or a hoodie, or ... Take
    > a sweatshirt or hoodie with you before you go to the Wharf; it’s cold on the
    > water! Oh, and that horrible smell! That's low tide (for all our
    > Midwesterners.)
    > You might want to skip the touristy restaurants and have more reasonably
    > priced San Francisco seafood at …
    > Any bar& grill in the city. A bar& grill caters to business lunches,
    > mostly, so each place has to have great steaks, salads, seafood, pasta,
    > everything, because so much of their business is done on expense account for
    > clients. A secret tip? The best steak on the menu is the loss leader in
    > almost every bar and grill. The restaurant has to have it on the menu, but
    > never can price it what it realistically should be priced.
    > Best bar& grills? Moose's 1652 Stockton in North Beach. Taddich’s, of
    > course. The Financial District or near the big hotels by Union Square. Union
    > Street (which is not the same as Union Square) which is also called Cow
    > Hollow and is in the Marina District.
    > Take the Hyde Street cable cars from downtown up and over the hills towards
    > Fisherman’s Wharf. Get off at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the
    > world. It was constructed that way so that horse-drawn wagons could get down
    > off the hills. Notice the sidewalks are … stairs. Walk down Lombard Street.
    > Then do downhill into North Beach, north to the wharf, or go climb a street
    > back toward downtown.
    > If you don’t want the crookedest street in the world, check out Filbert
    > street, two blocks south of Lombard and Hyde Streets. That is the steepest
    > street in the world. Notice the stairs instead of a sidewalk. It is a 31.5%
    > grade. Unless you know what the hell you are doing, DO NOT DRIVE DOWN
    > FILBERT STREET. Your cab driver will do it, though, for no extra charge.
    > If you have time, and do take the time, take the Sausalito ferry (the
    > terminal is by the Ferry Bldg at the foot of Market Street, sort of behind
    > the Regency) across the bay, passing the Rock (aka Alcatraz) and go have a
    > sexy drink at the No Name Bar at 757 Bridgeway in Sausalito. The sign
    > hanging outside on the Bridgeway has nothing written on it. Hence, the No
    > Name Bar. Try the Anchor Steam Beer or the Ramos Fizz. And on Bridgeway, buy
    > a souvenir for yourself.
    > In Sausalito, go visit the houseboats. Yes, the houseboats. They are north
    > of the downtown. I lived on one for three years and I still miss the sound
    > of seagulls pacing up and down on the roof, the smell of low tide, the great
    > house parties where at dawn everybody on the pier saluted the sunrise
    > through the bottom of the brandy bottle ….
    > A word about the homeless. Ignore them. Do not give them money. You can do
    > nothing to change their situations; even the City& County is most often
    > powerless. Statistically, half of them are mentally ill drug or alcohol
    > abusers. They can be dangerous. They are not harmless.
    > Use common sense. If it’s late at night on a street deserted except for the
    > homeless, get the heck out of there as fast as possible. If you find
    > yourself in a questionable environment, go inside the nearest bar – whatever
    > kind of bar it is – and ask the bartender to call you a cab.
    > Cabs are the secret treasure in San Francisco. If the city ios busy, cabbies
    > are 'way too busy to bother ripping you off. Stick with Veterans Cab, Desoto
    > Cab or Yellow Cab.
    > Be careful, be cautious, and realize you are in a very big city, and bad
    > guys are not just in the novels we read and write.
    > Trust and verify. Most of all, enjoy.
    > Have an Anchor Steam for me. I do so miss my City by the Bay.


    RARA-AVIS home page: Yahoo! Groups Links

    <*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

    <*> Your email settings:
        Individual Email | Traditional

    <*> To change settings online go to:
        (Yahoo! ID required)

    <*> To change settings via email:

    <*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

    <*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Oct 2010 EDT