they say the neon lights are bright

SF broadway
Back to the sketches from San Francisco last month (that long ago now? Still more to post! I’m so behind…). This is the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, a colourful  and bustling part of the city. I stood here sketching early on a Friday evening, getting a lungful of car fumes from all the traffic, with a warm sunset behind me. That over there is the city’s red light district – I overheard a couple of people use the phrase “titty-bars” which probably aren’t some sort of candy (or maybe they are?), and also a popular area for clubs and music. It always makes me think of San Francisco’s legendary Barbary Coast, which during the gold-rush was centered a block away on Pacific Street, a haunt of vagabonds and prostitutes, drunken sailors and cut-throat gamblers, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The big bawdy signage on Broadway is probably tame in comparison. The signs I like the most are the ones on the right though, “No Stopping Any Time”, that one telling you not to go left across the street, basically keep away from the sinful side. It’s an important intersection this, though, as around me Chinatown effectively turned into the Italian North Beach. One tourist who had just walked up Grant Avenue with his family asked me if I could tell him where the Italian pastry shops were, this now being the Italian town. He went on to ask me about other districts, in particular Nob Hill, which I told him was a very steep climb. “Which ethnicity lives up there?” he asked. Maybe I should have said something funny, like “the Swiss”, because they like climbing big mountains, but I didn’t think of it at the time, and it wasn’t all that funny anyway. So I just said “the rich,” and got a nonplussed look as if to say, that’s not an ethnicity. I meant to give my explanation as “the rich live on Nob Hill because they are used to climbing big mountains…of cash” but I didn’t think of it at the time, and it wasn’t all that funny anyway. I shrugged, they went off in search of pastry and I carried on sketching. The map below shows where I was.
SF northbeach map

There is more SF sketchage to come, by the way, so stay tuned crude-map-fans…

SF broadway photo

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5 thoughts on “they say the neon lights are bright

  1. Linda Daily says:

    I am so pleased that Big Al’s is still there.Too bad Carol Dodo’s is gone.When our 35 year old son was a wee boy he use to point to the signs and say,”There’s Daddy and there’s Mommy.” Other than being female there was no resemblance between me and the voluptuous Carol! And I have never seen Ron with a machine gun!
    Thanks for bringing back memories with your wonderful SF sketches.
    Where did you go for pastry? Stella’s?

    • pete scully says:

      That’s hilarious! This stretch of SF is great, I could sketch round there forever. I didn’t have any pastries though, but I love the cannolis from the ferry building market…

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