Long couple of days here in the Bay. Lots to cram in. Lots crammed.
Saturday morning, and it was impossible to find a place for breakfast that didn’t have a queue out the door. The queue for Sear’s and their tiny pancakes nearly stretched back to the corner of Powell and Sutter. What is it with America and breakfast? I know it’s supposed to be the most important meal of the day, but this is bordering on the obsessive. We make do with a coffee and pastry in the coffee shop at Borders, and head south of Market to find the Cartoon Art Museum. After a false start thanks to my godawful sense of direction, (but which led to Clare getting a photo-op outside the San Francisco Chronicle) we find the place just as it opens. Just as well we weren’t too efficient then.
The place is a little gem celebrating the great ignored art form. The five galleries that make up the exhibition space give a decent chronology of the American development of comics, from the Yellow Kid up to the small press boom. This modern offshoot is especially well represented, with cartoonists in residence and works in progress from some of the best that the Bay Area has to offer. There’s an great retrospective of the cute, sharp and often moving work of Lark Pien currently, and a good overview of US foreign and domestic policy through the eyes of political cartoonists. But it’s the archival work that really does it for me. Seeing original Tom Palmer pages for The Avengers or even *swoon* a Will Eisner Spirit page from 1963 really brings the grit and the craft that goes into a single page of funnybook is quite something. I won’t say I had to be dragged away. Clare knew full well I was at church, and not to be disturbed.
Back up to Market, and the F trolley to the Castro. These are great fun, although not in the same wind-in-your-hair, life-in-your-hands way that the cable cars can be. They’re rattly and drafty, but a good way to see the city for a buck fifty. Plus, design classics, or what? Buck Rogers, anyone?
The F terminates at the top of Castro St, and in case you weren’t aware you’re hitting a free-expression zone, there’s a honking great rainbow flag at the entrance. As clear a statement of intent as that evinced from the high concentration of gentlemen in leather shorts and extravagant moustaches.
I sneer without reason. Castro Street is chilled, happy and friendly. Loads of good bars and cool shops, and a rock-ass comic store called Whatever that nearly tempts me with the Green Lantern beltbuckle in the window. Yeah, geek pride, baby. Geek pride.
From Castro St we hook south, and down to the Mission. Valencia St is the place for lunch, with crepes at Ti Cuz, a recommendation from Dr. Jones. Big buckwheat pancakes with intensely savoury stuffings. The couple next to us have a crepe suzette so loaded with alcohol that it nearly takes the waiter’s eyebrows off when he sets light to it. The joint is funky, charming, and the perfect place to let the ache in our feet mellow down to a twang.
Post lunch is a slow amble round the Mission, the Spanish/Latino quarter of the city. Valencia St is the posh bit, boho and designer, and any tattiness is decidedly on the surface and elaborately hand-crafted. Mission St, one block north, is the real deal. It’s littered with the dead husks of old cinemas, proud but useless, ignored by all but the geeks with cameras who see a photo op and think they can make a point. Mission St is what it is, poor, but vibrant. Real, and therefore a little scary. We move through it quickly, pausing only to snap photos, ignored as we slip on through, taking a taste and moving on.