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A San Francisco Treat

In December, I snuck away for a long weekend in San Francisco to research settings for my next book in the Riley Mystery series. Having begun my writing life in non-fiction, I feel compelled to experience a place where I’m going to have action unfold. I could make up the locations, but this feels lazy. Ok, fiction is, well, fictional, I believe that readers can discern whether an author knows a place in a deep and authentic manner. So here are some of my (abridged) field notes that complemented a huge set of digital photos…

Potrero Hill: along 20th between Missouri and Connecticut is Good Life Grocery (since 1974), and nearby are Billy’s Dry Cleaners, Bloom’s Saloon, Golden Gun Investigators (really!), Hazel’s Kitchen (there for 23 years) and We Chong’s Bean Sprouts and Cake warehouse.

Haight-Ashbury: shady, inviting enclave boasting head shops, tie-dye fashions, veggie café, tea shop, and stores featuring beadwork, occult, metaphysics, crystals, and Tarot reading; psychedelic building art reflects a fascination with gurus, peace, love and Mother Earth; neighborhood with apartments in 70s style and classic residential architecture with bay windows jutting over sidewalks.

The Castro: wildly eclectic houses; street lined with clothing shops, cafés, and salons (gotta love “Bruno’s Hair Design” and “Hand Job Nails and Spa”) along with a Walgreens in pink; the Castro Theater (a centerpiece of the neighborhood) has sing-along “Sound of Music.”

Hotel Whitcomb: aging somewhat ungracefully, crystal chandeliers and woodwork in the entryway and lobby, ballroom with sweeping staircase; electric trolley runs up Market St. with struggling trees every 30 feet and businesses such as Club 93 nightclub, grungy pizza joints, Orpheum Theater, Sam’s Diner, dingy motels, and a not-pink Walgreen’s on the corner (always seem to be on a corner).

North Station of SFPD: once called “Club OC” (out of control) by the cops; replaced former North Station at 869 Ellis which is on a hill, next to red brick building, with lots of pigeons, garages, barred windows, and graffiti with mazes and tangles of power lines overhead.

McAvoy O'Hara & Evergreen Mortuary: run by four generations of the O’Hara family (met the lovely and friendly current owner); Irish were persecuted in 1800s but allowed to operate funeral business (lots bodies thanks to violence and disease in SF); down the street is, rather incongruously, a Russian deli, Korean grocery, tire store, cocktail lounge, cheap motel, bars, and massage parlor.


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