Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday in North Beach

One of the top tourist destinations in the world and the sixth most-visited city in the U.S., San Francisco drew some 16.5 million visitors last year. The streets here are particularly busy on a weekend day in August, but today I went out anyway. It’s been awhile since I played tourist in this fine city.

This morning when I settled in with the Sunday paper (a chronic(le) habit), I read about A Fair to Remember, a small neighborhood arts and crafts festival in Jack Kerouac Alley in the North Beach neighborhood. Jack Kerouac Alley is next to City Lights Books (, a favorite place, so I tossed aside the paper and set off on the 50-minute bus ride to North Beach.

Fortuitous signs at the bus stop: Three wild parrots circling overhead, chattering, and a local helping a man clutching a crumpled map of the city. People here are helpful and friendly -- I appreciated that when I first moved here, and now I offer to help when I see a map-clutching visitor. Plus, on the bus, I encountered five young people heading for Outside Lands, a renowned music festival. They were from southern California, and had bought the package tickets for the three-day event. One fellow showed me a video on his phone of Paul McCartney performing Friday night. Ah, Paul!

Once in North Beach, I popped into Reveille Coffee Company ( for a decaf, nonfat latte, my personal vice. Then I headed across the street. The art fair was just the right size; an alley’s worth of vendors with great stuff and live musicians setting the mood right in the middle. I have been to big street fairs here and I will go again, but this was so much more inviting in so many ways.

At her Heart’s Desire booth, Ann Marie Hodrick ( was selling lovely earrings, including some made with luminous yayin beads made form German glass, and also a gorgeous chunky lapis lazuli bracelet. Ironically, Ann Marie was interested in my Up band, Jawbone’s fitness bracelet that I wear to track how much I walk!

Next I spotted a great T-shirt that showed a narwhal surfacing next to an iceberg. The shirt reads: “Narwhals are real.” I asked the woman staffing the Dawn Kathryn Studio ( booth just who(m) doubts that narwhals are real. She said a surprising number of people doubt the whales’ existence. One customer asked her whether a narwhal was a character from the Harry Potter books! We decided that was insulting to narwhals and to Harry Potter as well. Loved the totes and felt masks at the booth as well.

Elizabeth Ashcroft ( makes artistic collages and jewelry from words and other bits of books, and she also sells acrylic paintings that leap off the canvas. Her image of the Buena Vista Café was particularly inviting (Cheri, come back to San Francisco!). Somehow, I managed not to buy the book-as-wall-art covered with ginkgo leaves.

Back out on the street, I saw something I really needed – an adorable block print shirt, size 2, depicting a fanciful hippo -- in the window at YeahYeah!PonyPrince ( Bought the shirt for Milo and also got a tip about where to eat lunch: Giordano Brothers (, where the sandwich meat of your choice comes smothered with coleslaw and studded with fries, all tucked between two pieces of fresh Italian bread. The Giants game was on, so I enjoyed half a beer (Widmer’s hefeweizen, to be exact) with my Italian sausage sandwich.

Some Sundays, it’s great to stay in, but this was a fine day to meander in San Francisco!

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