Alamo Square and Beyond

Yesterday, we drove to The Fillmore to buy tickets for the upcoming Brand New concert. Since it was a beautiful day, we decided to finally visit Alamo Square, a park about 6 blocks away.

Alamo Square is best known for its view of San Francisco’s archtypical Victorians, sometimes juxtaposed against the downtown skyline:


Personally, I think it’s a view you can get from dozens of places in San Francisco. What I’d really wanted to see was the shoe garden:


If you abandon your shoes in Alamo Square and the mysterious, clandestine gardener likes them, he’ll use them as planters.


They’re not much as planters, but the little garden is a neat, funky place to check out. My children, on the other hand, loved all the dogs in the park, Kelly maybe a little bit too much. They found a tennis ball and tried to find dogs who would play fetch with them, but none of the dogs would take them up on it. So they rolled and chased after the tennis ball themselves.

Both Peter and Neil love magic, so after having fun in Alamo Square, we drove to Misdirections. It’s a small magic store in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, just a block away from Golden Gate Park. But I can see why both amateur and professional magicians love it. Gags, toys, and simple gimmicks were easily accessible, but the kinds of magic tricks you would want to perform were behind glass–all the better to keep non-magicians from examining them and learning how the magic is done. More advanced equipment, like flash paper, is behind the counter. If you want to see how anything works, the clerk will perform the magic tricks for you. I think Neil made the clerk perform about 4 magic tricks until he settled for a penetration glass pane. A few summers ago, Neil performed magic tricks to entertain some kids at Golden Gate Park, so I am quite sure Misdirections will see more visits from us.

I’m more into the quirky stuff San Francisco has to offer, so from there, we went to Valencia Street. After a cheap lunch, we strolled along the 800 block of Valencia Street. Our first stop was X21.x21.jpg

Peter describes it as a cross between the Smithsonian’s back storage room and a Hollywood prop room, except that all the items are for sale. There was a chair that looked like a giant hand, and a girl’s bureau and vanity set that looked like dollhouses. The proprietor, who looked like Jeff Bridges, was friendly and happy to explain the provenance of any of the pieces, as far as he knew it. He didn’t think that the busts which looked eerily similar to the busts used in the Disneyland’s original Haunted Mansion, had come from there. But the eight foot tall sarcophagus statue in the front had come from the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. I was particularly entranced by a vaguely neo-art-deco mural:


and when I inquired about it, was told it was the last of 12 murals salvaged from the 1939 World’s Fair, which had taken place on nearby Treasure Island.

But the real treat of the day was a shop a few doors down. 826 Valencia is a pirate store, but it’s more of a delightful amusement and entertainment than a commercial enterprise. And when I saw it’s a pirate store, it’s a pirate store in the imaginative sense, not a ticky-tacky knicknacks store. You know this from the moment you walk into the store. Huge locked chests stand by the door, and ropes hang from ship-like rafters:


At least half the wares are hidden in drawers against a wall. Many of them are too high to reach or can’t be opened. They have labels like “bilge” and “beauty” or and they’re as often filled with a surprise or a joke as with goods. Kelly opened a drawer labelled “spare parts” and found a lot of eyeballs:


The floor also had several trapdoors. Neil opened some of them and found them equally full of surprises. He didn’t dare, however, pull the cord to open a trunk suspended over anyone who dared to stand near the clerk. Both Neil and Kelly dug around in the vat, and found treasures, for which they had to pay: Neil with a joke, and Kelly with a song.

I also wanted to see Paxton Gate, the natural history garden store. Kelly and I liked the vials, and sea glass, and taxidermy mice, but Neil wasn’t that much into it. So we went back down the street to a science fiction bookstore we’d seen, Borderlands. It was neatly organized, surprising for a science fiction book store. I was in the back, looking for used Viktor Pelevin books, when Neil told me he’d just seen a hairless cat. I half-heartedly agreed to see what he was telling me about, thinking it was a picture on a book or something, when Peter distracted me from the front. He’d found Glenn Orbik’s painting for ComicBase 10, the painting which had Neil as a model, in the copy of Spectrum 13 that the store had near its front counter. So we had to burble about it to the clerk for a few minutes, until Peter bought the book.

Meanwhile, Neil was still insisting I see the hairless cat. He pulled me to the open door of the office, and there, sitting on a chair, I saw a real, live, bald cat:


She looked nervously at us, but she was obviously breathing. As I found out from the clerk, her name is Ripley, and she’s less allergenic than furred cats. But she still set off Peter’s allergies, so we had to be on our way. With our treasures in hand, we returned home.

1 Comment

  1. SL

    Aww, Kelly is so cute! What’s the cross street for the store? Oh, maybbe I should just go look it up… field trip!


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