like a setting sun

SF outer sunset
The Sunset. It’s a long way from downtown. The glare of the sun sinking toward the sea basks everything in a yellowy pastel-themed wash, the salty air gnawing away at the corners, the pale shadows drooping lazily across wooden boards. They call this area the Sunset not because the Sun sets here, but because, well, no actually that is the only reason. The Sun goes up on one side, yeah, and then goes down over this side of town. I mean it makes total sense, if you think about it, this is the west side of San Francisco, the sun generally sets in the west, the ocean is there so it can only set near here, so this place is called the Sunset. Oh sure other places have a sun and that also sets but not like here, here it really means it, with its pastel salty gnawed shadows and its glare and stuff. It is miles away.

I took the N-Judah from the part of the city where the sun neither sets no rises but arrives exactly when it means to, counting the stops and watching my Lego watch for the time; I was coming here for an Event. This was no random trip out to the Sunset, which by the way, isn’t a huge destination. My wife lived out here years ago and hated it – she is a Californian used to the Sun, and while they call it the Sunset they should really call it the BloodyFogHidesTheSun, because it is generally agreed to be the foggiest part of an already foggy city. It’s quieter, more residential, and interesting in its out-of-the-way way. I came here, on the N-Judah as I said, which for the uninitiated is a streetcar line of the Muni Metro, to go to a small gallery for a Book Signing Event.

The Book was “On to the Next Dream”, the Signing author was Paul Madonna, the artist and writer famous for his All Over Coffee strip. A decade ago I first discovered his work in a bookshop in Berkeley while I was out on a sketchcrawl and loved his sepia-washed linework scenes from around San Francisco, sketching people free and largely vehicle free scenes of streets and buildings just as I was trying to do; for a little while I sketched monochromatically myself (before I realized how much I like colour). Nevertheless he was a big influence back then as I aspired to improve my own drawn lines. I actually met him a few months ago, with his wife, at the Manetti Shrem opening event (you remember that, surely), which was a surprise. This latest book of his is a smaller book than his previous ones and features a lot more of his writing, detailing in often absurd situations the reaction to his being evicted in an increasingly unaffordable and alienating version of San Francisco that is exactly the real one. It’s a touching book, with his ever-evocative illustration intertwining his equally illustrative text. I definitely recommend. Oh, and Paul signed it too. I mentioned we had met a few months before and he said, “oh yes, you’re the sketching guy,” which is a pretty accurate description. I got my book which I couldn’t wait to read, and looked at the art on display, ate some of those rolled up sandwiches and other fancy food. There were a lot of people there all lining up to get a signed copy, also looking at pictures and eating rolled up sandwiches, talking about San Francisco, some dressed pretty fancily, arriving in Ubers and Lyfts and other chauffeured vehicles, and if I were the sort of person to mingle and talk to people I would probably have met lots of very interesting people, but my sketching fingers were itchy and I decided to go across the street and draw The Last Straw, which was some sort of shop (my inquisitive mind wasn’t inquisitive enough to inquire what they sold). I saw it from the window, and looking at drawings of buildings makes me want to go and draw buildings. Like Father Dougal, who cannot resist pressing a big red button on a plane if people are talking about big red buttons on planes. So I drew The Last Straw, as more Ubers and Lyfts pulled up behind me and more well dressed city folk went to the gallery. It was nice, but I am shy so I sought out the N-Judah, said goodbye to the ocean, and headed away from the Sunset and into the Moonrise, I guess.

the fool, or the fool who follows him

Buena Vista SF
Where was I? Oh yeah. A month ago, at the very start of April, on the Fool’s Day itself, I hopped on a train and went to San Francisco. No, no I didn’t actually hop on the train. That’s not how April’s Fool’s Days work. Though the Easter Bunny probably does hop on trains. No, I caught a train. No, I didn’t catch the train, it wasn’t falling from the sky and I’m not Superman. I took a train? Ok I know I have been overworked the past couple of months, there have been a lot of late nights working, my email inbox is a mess (if you’ve not heard from me, this is why) and I’m well behind on posting all the sketches I’ve been doing to stay sane, but I’m not losing it entirely; let’s just say I was in Davis, there were trains involved (see the previous post), and then I was somehow in San Francisco. Right. So I got to San Francisco, I didn’t really have much of a plan. I was going to sketch some stuff, look around North Beach (where I will be holding a workshop in a month, so I was doing some forward planning there), I was also going to schlep out to the Outer Sunset to see Paul Madonna signing his new book, and then I was staying at the hotel I’ve stayed before in the Financial District. A little overnighter by myself while my family visited family in Oregon (they ended up not going, but I still got my little solo visit to the City). I got off the Amtrak bus at the Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39 area, always a mistake, a rookie error. But I decided that I had never sketched the Buena Vista on Beach Street, so I did that, and it’s above. Yes, I would have liked to sketch inside, but it was full up, full of people loving their Irish Coffee (by the way I don’t like Irish Coffee). (If you’re buying though I’ll take a beer, cheers).
SF columbus
Oh this is a panorama I attempted and then realized I was taking too long with. It’s on Columbus. If you click on it, it will take you to a bigger version on Flickr (but you have to come back because there’s more to tell you) (not interesting stuff though) (actually if you don’t come back that’s ok) (look just stay in Flickr, it’s fine) (I have loads of sketches in Flickr without all the writing) (if you prefer pictures with no context, you’ll love it). This corner is pretty interesting because that place is called “Bimbo’s”. It’s pretty old. I have sketched it before, in 2009. Back then I came down to San Francisco on the train for an overnighter while my family went up to Oregon (actually they ended up not going but I still was able to go to the City anyway) and I got off the Amtrak bus at the Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39 area, always a mistake, a rookie error. But I had never sketched the Musee Mecanique so I did that, then walked down Columbus and sketched Bimbo’s. This is all sounding familiar, as if I just repeat history, over and over. I even stayed at the same place. “Dormammu, I have come to bargain.” Remember my trip from November in which I followed the footsteps and sketches from a previous SF trip in 2007? I’m plagiarizing my own life. I must have been becoming conscious of my own repetition and lack of originality when I gave up sketching this; in fact this was never meant to be a panorama but a single-pager, and I added the left half quickly at the end to give it that ‘unfinished’ and ‘playful’ and ‘less is more’ feel, thinking, people will like this one, they’ll be all like, “ooh I like the unfinished effect” and “I totally prefer it to those complete coloured-in ones you do”. Yeah I’ll just do the outline of the rooftops and some really basic telegraph poles, yeah that’ll do. My legs were tired. I’ll have that drink now.

SF rocco's corner, columbus

So I went for that drink in a bar I had passed by once and thought, I must go in there someday (that was 2009, eight years ago, if you are wondering why it takes me ages to answer email these days). This is La Rocca’s Corner on Columbus, and is a proper old San Francisco boozer, and they do love their sports in here. The older gents were talking baseball, a group of tourists (from the North Bay, I mean they aren’t really tourists if they come from as far away as Golders Green is to Burnt Oak) (ok maybe an exaggeration) were asking touristy questions like “is this really where Joe DiMaggio used to drink? Wow!” And I am assured that it was. The famous fashion designer Joe DiMaggio used to drink in here. Yes I know he wasn’t a fashion designer, I was being silly (but his descendant Joseph is a famous fashion stylist). He was born in Martinez, not too far away, but grew up here in San Francisco and played for the San Francisco Seals before hitting the big time with the New York Yankees. This bar is cool. I would totally come here again. After a while though it was getting time for me to check in, check out, and then head off into the Sunset. At like, 4pm.