Articles from the "Dark Stories" Blog.
San Francisco in Context.
A Visual History of San Francisco
The Camp Fire covers San Francisco in smoke.
View from Outside the Golden Gate
Double Parking, San Francisco
High Noon on Market Street, San Francisco
Outdoor Dining, San Francisco, 2020
Boarded-up Windows, San Francisco
New Street Art, San Francisco
San Francisco Shut-down
Steiner Pedestrian Bridge, San Francisco
Cable Cars in San Francisco
Ninety-degree Parking in San Francisco
Pine Street, San Francisco, CA
Sea level rising on the Embarcadero
Christmas, 2018, San Francisco
Curling, San Francisco style.
Christmas comes to Danielle Steel's House
Stairway to a story.
Museum of the City in the City
I think that I shall never see . . .
Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial, San Francisco
Cliff House, San Francisco
Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Land's End, San Francisco
Fog on the bridge, San Francisco
Art on Alcatraz, San Francisco
July 4th, San Francisco
Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
The Graveyard of Ships, San Francisco
Mini Parks in San Francisco
At the foot of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco
Ferry Building, San Francisco
City Hall, San Francisco
Brutalist Has Been, San Francisco
The Cadillac Building, San Francisco
Crocker Galleria, San Francisco
The Old Mint in San Francisco
St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, San Francisco
Apartments, Dogpatch, San Francisco
The View from Potrero Hill
Japantown, San Francisco
Russian Hill from Cow Hollow, San Francisco
Presidio Heights, San Francisco
Inner Sunset, San Francisco
Black Houses, San Francisco
That Black House, San Francisco
A Pair of Victorians, San Francisco
A Flatiron Building in San Francisco
A Petite Victorian, San Francisco, CA
The Petit Trianon, San Francisco
Eating, Drinking, and Reading
Coffee Roastery, San Francisco
Sam's Grill, San Francisco
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco
Coffee made by robots because . . . ?
Argonaut Has Old Books and a History
Smallest Bookstore in SF
Former Movie Theaters
Lumiere Theater, San Francisco
Bridge Theater, San Francisco
Alexandria Theater, San Francisco
Clay Theater Closes in San Francisco
Balboa Theater, San Francisco
Metro Theater, San Francisco
In the Footsteps of Dashiell Hammett
Elevator to Sam Spade's office?
Scene from "The Maltese Falcon," San Francisco
Golden Gun Investigations
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (sort of) lived here.
Out of Town
A Day at Morro Bay
As you can see in the foreground, Potrero Hill is a traditional San Francisco neighborhood with attached houses, small apartment buildings, and street trees. It even has a neighborhood bar with hard-boiled, private-eye vibe. It's less dense than many places. Here, people park in front of their houses.
As you can see in the background, Potrero Hill has a commanding view of downtown, or at least the newer part, south of Market street. Most of those big buildings went up in the last ten years. The building boom was driven by The tech industry's need for office space.
I've heard that in just a few years the city built space for 15,000 people to live and work. And yet people still get squeezed out of gentrifying neighborhoods. Partly that's because tech hubs down the peninsula---Mountain View, Cupertino, Redwood City, etc.---refuse to build housing. Instead they remain true to the vision of their founders: houses on lots of a half acre or more.
Of course there are also neighborhoods in San Francisco that refuse to allow building higher than three stories.
And we all complain about traffic.
I participated in the Book Bazaar at the Mechanics' Institute Library. I must say it felt good to see the four Nicole Tang Noonan Mysteries all together on the table. I sold a couple of books and learned a lot from readers. One frequent question: Where are they set?
"Mechanics" has become my literary community. For four years I've participated in writers' critique groups that meet there, attended talks by authors, and hung out at events like this. I've done most of the research for my mysteries at this library. I also enjoy readers' groups for mysteries and short stories.
As many have said, writing is a solitary activity, and I treasure that time by myself, but I need to come up for air a few times a month. There's nothing like getting to know other writers who are at the same stage I'm at and comparing notes on what's working and what's not.
The Mechanics' Institute Library has been around since the Gold Rush days, when its name was accurate. It was founded to teach people skilled trades. After about 20 years, it became a general interest library. This was before San Francisco had free public libraries.
It has always been a subscription library, and remains so today. For about the price of a years' subscription to a newspaper, all this is yours. And, yes, when I go there, everybody knows my name.
It would be easy to miss how good this movie is. The dialogue is limited to what people would really say in the circumstances. That means most of the storytelling is visual.
When Mickey asks a doctor to write a prescription so she can get oxycontin for her father, the doctor asks what her plans for college are. She has none. Later, she sneaks into a doctor's office to steal a prescription form and accidentally spills some rosewater, wipes it up with her sleeve, and wipes her hands on her pants. The doctor's influence is now real. Nothing need be said. This film is full of such clues.
Publicity for the film says, "a young woman dreams of living life on her own terms." That's soft-pedaling it. Mickey is devoted to her father who suffers PTSD from his combat in Afghanistan. He tells her boyfriend the reason to have kids is, "When your shit starts to look look sewage, they're there to clean it up for you." As the film goes on her dreary situation turns dangerous.
Mickey and the Bear is full of powerful performances from little-known actors. Camila Morrone as Mickey and James Badge Dale as her father are so good you forget you're watching a movie. With a bigger budget, the director could have had Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper, but they would not have made a better film.
A lot of people say there should be more women making films in Hollywood. If that's going to happen, we have to pay admission to see films like this one by first-time writer and director Annabelle Attanasio. Her accomplishment as a director is all spelled out in the 100% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
We took a walk in Muir Woods, a bit of primeval forest just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is what northern California looked like when the Gold Rush of 1849 touched off a building boom. Only a few places like this are left.
These old-growth Redwoods were designated a National Monument in 1908. Since then the National Park Service has done its usual excellent job of preserving the site while also making it available to the public. Most importantly the Park Service provides information: signs, talks by rangers and volunteers, publications, and website.
Since Muir Woods is near several big cities, and tourist destinations, it is extremely popular. Therefore "making it available" has meant charging admission to cover increased costs of protecting it, providing shuttle buses, charging for parking, and now parking by reservation only.
I love the woods, and I have nothing but praise for what the National Park Service does here, but the whole situation reminds me of a lyric by Joni Mitchell, "They took all the trees and put 'em in a tree museum."
Recently I discovered Joe R. Lansdale in a book of short stories, and liked his story so much I sought out some of his novels including The Thicket. He likes stories in which an average guy or underdog gets some help and takes down a bully.
Cold in July, his novel from 1989 puts some interesting twists in this type of story. It starts with a man shooting a thief who breaks into his house in the middle of the night. The aftermath is not pleasant, and the complications are both frightening and thought-provoking.
When I learned it had been adapted for film in 2014 with Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson in the principal roles, I wondered why I'd never heard of it.
Wikipedia explains why the film was difficult to market. Even with three A-list stars it didn't make money. But it is available through streaming services and it's entertaining, so long as you don't mind the violence.