Here I am sitting outside a café in North Beach just like a regular normal person! -- with my close ex Jessica who has come to visit me from New York.
Jessica flew across the country to comfort a dear friend who was in great pain, but I don't need comforting any more! I have been taking gabapentin, building up one pill at a time every three days. At six pills a day, which was last Thursday, I started feeling better! What an amazing experience after three months of getting worse.
Then on Friday I felt even better. I went to an appointment with an old Chinese acupuncturist in Chinatown.
I think Dr. Ng could understand everything I said. But I could not understand everything HE said. He had a very thick accent. The main thing I understood was that there was a fireman from Sebastopol who had similar symptoms to me and was helped by Dr. Ng. He was very cheerful and calm and old. I felt comfortable there -- way more comfortable than I felt in the sleek modern office of the much younger Noe Valley acupuncturist. I’m not sure if Dr. Ng helped my painful leg, because I was already starting to feel better. But when I left after his cupping and needling, I felt an amazing flowing energy, which I am certain was the result of his treatment. It was kinda like being 21 and not having a scintilla of pain anywhere in your body and just FLOWING in the world. I'm definitely going back to Dr. Ng.
Then Jessica and I explored North Beach. It is very very fun to take somebody to North Beach for the first time. North Beach is the old Italian neighborhood. Of course it is greatly changed, and we can grumble about that. But it is still really different from other places in the U.S., with its cafés and Italian restaurants and bakeries and gelato bars. It is true that there are many places now that have a lot of cafés. But North Beach has had them since the 50s. And it was the stomping grounds of the Beat poets and home to jazz musicians and lesbians and gay men, and all the misfits of the last half of the 20th century.
Allen Ginsburg wrote the ground-breaking "Howl" in his apartment at 1010 Montgomery. "I had a secondhand typewriter, some cheap scratch paper. I began typing, not with the idea of writing a formal poem, but stating my imaginative sympathies," Ginsberg said of the poem's genesis. Truly, cultural history was made in North Beach.
It is wonderful to take Jessica anywhere because she always talks to people. Here she's conversing with a woman in a beautiful coat. You've got to figure if a woman wears a coat like that, she's open to conversation.
And not only is Jessica chatty, she absolutely adores everything about San
Francisco and is completely thrilled to see anything new.
And that is why we need people to come and visit San Francisco. Those of us who live here take all the beauty and variety for granted. We're jaded. We need outsiders to remind us of how absolutely wonderful our city is.
Below, the entry to the Stinking Rose, a restaurant devoted to all things garlic, and the renowned Molinari delicatessen, offering SO MANY different kinds of salami.
Here we are on Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard, named after the show that appeared in Club Fugazi down the street. Beach Blanket Babylon delighted visitors and locals for 45 years, until it closed in 2019. I'm sorry to say I never saw BBB. It was something I was always going to get around to. The one time I made an actual serious effort, my friend and I arrived at the theater, only to find out her credit card had been rejected and the show sold out. On the right is Cub Fugazi, the cabaret theater, that is now happily occupied with "Dear San Francisco," which is clearly different from the over-the-top insanity of BBB's costumes and satire.
Above is the iconic San Francisco chapeau for the finale of the BBB
show. And below it, a plaque in honor of John Fugazi, who must be the creator of Club Fugazi. I love plaques, don't you? I've always known of Cub Fugazi, but it never occurred to me there was an actual Fugazi who built Casa Coloniale Italiana, which became Club Fugazi. Thank you, Mr. Fugazi. Who knows if there would have been 45 years of Beach Blanket Babylon if you hadn't built a home for it in North Beach?
Not too many bars get an award from the Betty Ford Clinic -- let alone #1 for their Happy Hour! Very impressive.
But I find it sad to see the little popcorns escaping from the blue tape. Clearly, they were once available at no cost during the #1 Happy Hour. A reminder of a joy that is no more.
And on to Columbus Avenue, where we find this gorgeous huge mural celebrating the jazz clubs that used to fill North Beach. It's got a flock of books flying in front of it. Click here to learn more on the history of jazz in North Beach -- "When Bebop filled the night."
We arrive finally at City Lights Bookstore, a destination devoutly to be wished. I knew Jessica would love it. She's a poet, and a damned good one.
There's a little section of the front window that's devoted to an altar to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, renowned poet and founder and owner of City Lights.
He's sometimes described as "the poet who nurtured the Beats." He died last year at 101. One would
think that nurturing the beats is the kind of work that would lead to an early death. But apparently not.
City Lights not only sells books. It also publishes them. Ferlinghetti famously published Alan Ginsburg's "Howl" in 1956, when no one else would touch it.
You see these signs above the door as you walk into City Lights.
I'll end with a photo of Jessica's encounter with a waiter at the Mona Lisa -- an excellent Italian restaurant -- and the classic North Beach view of the beautiful blue-green Columbus Tower. This building housed the first hungry i night club in its basement, where stand-up comedy was born in 1953 when Mort Sahl entertained the audience by commenting on the news. Now it houses American Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's production company. "The Godfather" came to life in this building. A powerful place indeed.
Dear Bloggelinis: That was my first outing in three months! Admittedly, I overdid it a bit and had some pain afterwards -- BUT NOT THAT MUCH! Mostly, I'm living with