Monday, August 31, 2009



In the juniper bushes near the de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park

Saturday afternoon


San Francisco: The Suburban City

Peek-a-boo; I see trees…glorious, glorious trees. And they are everywhere in San Francisco! OK, so maybe there aren’t so many on Taraval Street, but I do take great pride in this whole backyard thing we’ve got going on in the Outer Sunset. And I must say, it’s a whole other world out here in the Avenues than it is in downtown San Francisco. Having grown up in New York City where my bedroom window overlooked a hard, grey, lifeless alley, I am really getting into experiencing these soft, green, living beings that never sway the same way twice in the salty Ocean Beach breeze… OK wind…OK torrential wind, depending on the season.

I admit that living out here took some getting used to. In Manhattan I was lulled (oddly enough) to sleep by sirens, car alarms, and that on-again off-again couple who would either be cursing or sloppily making out. It took me a good year or so to get used to the still and quiet. And at first, it was frightening! The thing of horror flicks. I expected Freddy, Jason, or even little, well-dressed twins to appear at any given moment in this suburban alcove of greater San Francisco. Once I got used to the peaceful nature of this community (and watched fewer movies), I noticed that there was, most definitely, movement and noise, albeit on a different decibel.

There’s the L train that can be heard in the distance, the creaking of a rusted swing set next door, that tsunami evacuation drill on Tuesdays at noon, those red-tailed hawks swooping across yards to look for gophers, that dude across the block who practices for his DJ gigs, the Australian Shepherds who are trying to get to know one another through fences, the crash of a white capped wave, and those trees, brushing leaves against one another like crickets. Ahhhh… to revel in the joys of suburban city life!


The rest of Abby's photo shoot can be seen here.

Friday, August 28, 2009



Orange Alley
The Mission
Tuesday, late afternoon


Some things I’ve had in San Francisco:

A Dream

Actually, I don’t remember the dream. But I remember exactly what happened right after it ended.

I sat up, turned to my girlfriend and said: "The thing to remember is that even though the fact that someone as inept as Gary Canter is needed for the system to grow, which is a failure, the fact that the system can continue to thrive despite absorbing someone as inept as Gary Canter is a success."

She said: "What?"

I said: "I dunno. I guess that was the last part of my dream."

She said: "That was weird. What was it about?"

I said: "Yeah. I dunno."

She said: "Who is Gary Candler?"

I said: "I dunno."

A Walk

Going home at around 3:25 AM Wednesday morning. As I walk out the door onto Capp Street a man on a bike tuning a boombox is the first to greet me. Possibly a full moon tonight? The clouds above me like argyle wallpaper. A beauty of a night, either way, between rainy days. Five men stand on the corner of 17th & Mission, doing various things. They stop as I walk through. They all glare at me in different ways. One is menacing, one is hesitant, one is annoyed, etc. The last and oldest of them stretches a belt out across my path. He seems to be thinking that if he doesn't me hit me with it, he'll just sell it to me.

"Nice belt," I say.

I smirk at him. Eyebrows jumping, I decide to laugh about it later right now. He’s making his mind up without me anyway.

20 seconds later I'm alone under the deep sky, taking a long breath before it exhales again. On Sycamore Street my footsteps sound like gunshots. I am the violence in the night.

A Thought

Watching the neighborhood fill up with these familiar brands, getting so damn recognizable you don’t know where the hell you are.

A MUNI Ride In The Mid-Nineties

Get up before dawn. Put on David Bowie, Modern Love. Get dressed for high school. Walk from Dolores Park to Church Street station in the dark. Wait on the MUNI platform. Watch the MOceanView pull into the station. Check to make sure she's sitting in that seat. The seat she's always in. Get on, not taking your eyes off of her. Notice that she doesn't turn to look at you. Even when you sit down next to her. Notice the smile that she can't help releasing as you do. Go to school. Sneak into the back classrooms. Kiss until the bell rings.

An Unexpected Trip

Boy and girl have been together for 6 years.

Boy breaks up with girl over the telephone.

Girls is sad, drinks.

Girl lives on other side of bay.

Girl sleeps in my bed.


I spend some time at the 24 Horas Fiesta Wash & Dry.

A Feeling

The texture of the walls in Lilac Alley.

A Smell

The waxy smell all over the city on the cold nights.

A Sight

The crowd from Skylark mingling with the crowd from Esta Noche.

Another Walk

About 2 a.m. at 21st and Bartlett. Walking East on the South side. I pause to put alcohol in my body. Directly across the street a man walking West on the North side pauses to push alcohol out of his body. A bus passes. A blonde woman with her hood up and her head pressed up against the window, eyes closed, wishes she was home now. At least we hope she does.


Ariel is one of the four founders of The Secret Alley (

He also wrote and produced the short film, The Grind (

The rest of Ariel's photo shoot can be seen here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Plug 1 and Plug 2

At the Thunderdome
Saturday afternoon


Hello, my name is Plug1. This is my beautiful wife Plug2. We have lived in San Francisco longer than we haven’t and this is our story…

It was a dark and stormy night. No, I’m just kidding…it was a cold and rainy early morning in March of 2006. It was also my first day at a new job, so I was headed into the Financial District for orientation. In the midst of the morning mist, I got off the 15-Third, and walked down California towards Battery.

As I took the elevator up to the 3rd Floor, I remember feeling nervous about meeting so many new people.

When I arrived at the front desk, the receptionist pointed me in the direction of a big and empty conference room at the end of the hall. I grabbed myself a seat and waited for something to happen.

And the real story begins here: about 15 minutes later, Plug2 walks through the door in cowboy boots and a funky dress. Without words, we acknowledged each other and exchanged smiles. It truly was love at first sight.

A few more minutes passed until one of us got verbal and introduced ourselves. I don’t remember who went first exactly, but it was likely her as I am inherently shy when I meet an extremely attractive girl. Over the next hour we got to know each other as other new hires sporadically rolled through the door and joined us at the table.

Days after our first encounter, I heard someone call my name from outside of my new cubicle. It was Plug2!! Nervous, but excited, I made some small talk and took her email address. A few days later I emailed her and got an “Out of Office” response. “Damn!!.” She was in Puerto Rico, so I left a short note in her inbox.

The next week, she emailed me back. Sweet! She wanted me to resize the photos from her trip and recommend a good place to get her Puerto Rico pictures developed. Ummmm, ok. So I sent her the resized files and pointed her to Fox Camera on Market Street.

A few more days went by, and we found ourselves outside of the office, just after work. Hungry, and bad at these things, I asked “Are you hungry??” To which she replied, “Yeah, let’s go to Shalimar and get some food.” Happy to eat with her wherever the hell she wanted, we headed towards Upper Polk, got ourselves a table, and got to talking.

Hours later, we found ourselves on the 1 AX, headed towards the Outer Richmond (where she lived at the time). She wanted to take a walk down to Baker Beach, and I was down.

We walked and talked for what seemed like hours, but was actually about 1 hour exactly. I was at the same time enamored as exhausted. Our day was wrapping up and I really wanted to offer a kiss before we parted ways. As my nerves overpowered my instincts, I left with a simple “goodbye.”

This subtle, yet suggestive back-and-forth went on for the next two months, driving me (and her, I later found out) crazy.

One night weeks later, after a day at the beach and a night of reggae at The Elbo Room, I finally found the nerve to ask the big question: “So what’s up with me and you??”

Well, you can imagine what the answer was, because in a few weeks from today we will celebrate our first anniversary.

To this day, she remains the best thing that ever happened to me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009



San Francisco is a palette for the creative soul. As a writer, I revel in this tolerant characteristic. You can be whomever—or whatever—you choose, and no one will judge you for it. Rather, differences, imagination, innovative thinking, are celebrated. And no one is as he (or she) seems. A buttoned-up businessman in FiDi, for example, plays drums in a band by night and rides his motorcycle through the Mojave Desert on weekends; a pharmaceuticals rep practices fire-spinning after work, moonlights as a yogi and helms a Burning Man group in her “free time.” It’s eclectic personalities like these that convince me I’ve found my home.

I landed here by pure coincidence. My parents bopped around the Bay Area throughout the 70’s (free love, man) then moved back to Tennessee shortly before I was born. I’d visited San Francisco a handful of times as a child and loved it, but never really thought about relocating here. It was so far from the life I knew, both physically and metaphorically. (Plus, I dig the heat. The summer fog and July chill were enough to send me running in the opposite direction.)

I grew up a Southern belle from a Republican, Baptist family in the heart of the Bible Belt, where distinctions are not only frowned upon, but also not tolerated. Luckily, my parents were more freethinking and habitually liberal than the majority of the local townfolk and supported any rational decision I made. This familial openness and encouragement helped me create my own sense of individualism amid the sea of cardboard cutouts that surrounded me. While I claim no political or religious affiliation, I never really felt I fit in. I was too much of a nomad, a free spirit. Many of my classmates went on to become accountants or lawyers, still reside within a 30-mile radius of where we grew up and continue to hang out with the same circles since diapers; I, on the other hand, pursued my passion, travel writing, even though so many told me it couldn’t be done, that I should opt for a more “practical” career, one that promised steady work and—most importantly—a secure income. I left all familiar places and people to live my dream and made new friends along the way.

While living across the pond in the Netherlands in 2005, I met a guy, a Bay Area native. (Isn’t that how it always starts?) Our relationship was a series of complications, logistics being just the beginning, but in the end we both succumbed to love and, long, convoluted story short, I moved out here for him a couple years later. In May, we’ll be married on Muir Beach. Taking a chance on him—and a new, West Coast identity—was the best decision I’ve ever made.

More than anything, I’m glad the hunt is over. Not just for a mate, but for a sense of place and permanence. I’ve lived all over the map in the past seven years—the South, Arizona, Scotland, New York City, Holland and Denmark—and it’s nice to no longer be looking ahead to the next move, wondering where my transient life will take me, but rather knowing I’ve found a home.

I went from feeling like a minnow in a vast ocean in Manhattan to a shark in a puddle here. This is no testament to me, but to San Francisco’s intimate feel and welcoming nature. I like knowing that no matter where I go in this 49-square-mile city, I’ll inevitably run into a familiar face. It makes what some perceive as a sprawling metropolis seem more like one big, friendly neighborhood. Living here has opened a number of doors, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve already enjoyed the experiences it has afforded me, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store. Bring it on, San Francisco; I’m ready and willing.


The rest of Kristin's photo shoot can be seen here.

You can read Kristin's travel blog, Camels & Chocolate here.

And you can read her regular column for 7x7 Magazine here.

Monday, August 17, 2009


St. Louis Place
Thursday afternoon


My grandfather was a writer.

Well actually, he was a cop in San Francisco for most of his career. But really, he was a writer. I spent hundreds of foggy San Francisco mornings with him throughout my childhood, flying kites at the Marina Green, buying breadsticks on Chestnut Street and taking naps in his arms to the sound of foghorns in the distance.

He lived in the same Francisco Street house for 50 years. He proposed to my grandmother in the front room, the same front room with the wet bar and record player. I’d tie all of my grandmother’s kitchen aprons around my waist, creating a twirly skirt while I danced to “Come On-A My House” by Rosemary Clooney.

When I think of San Francisco, I don’t think of my neighborhood or my jobs or the incredible parking places I’ve stumbled upon. I think of my grandfather marrying my grandmother at St. Vincent de Paul Church, my father’s stories of police cruisers lining the block during dinner parties. I think of shopping for groceries at the Marina Safeway and my gramps knowing all of the checkers’ stories.

“How’s your son who plays the violin?!?!”

My grandfather used to sing to me. He’d buy me a fresh box of crayons and proudly display all of my art, including a hastily drawn cover of TIME Magazine, proclaiming, “Spotswood First Woman President.” That magazine cover was up for years. I’d see it hanging on the door of a closet as a teenager, starting to fall apart and wonder why the hell he kept it up there.

My grandfather’s license plate holder said, “Happiness is being a grandparent.” He’d drive me everywhere, to tap class and swim practice. I’d emerge from school to find him in his parked Buick asleep in the driver’s seat, a bag of breadsticks on the seat beside him. In high school, I’d tearfully call him on dreadful days, desperate for a ride out of that hell hole. He’d drive out to the Sunset, pick me up, hand me a breadstick.

Everyone thinks their grandpa tells incredible stories. And I think it’s really great that they think so. But my grandfather was a Lieutenant in the San Francisco Police Department during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. And he wrote it all down, in letters to my father while he was in the Army. And in letters to me in college.

My grandfather wrote me a letter a day the entire time I was in college. Often times he’d write about his knee problem, his friends at Safeway or his crazy neighbor who wouldn’t bank at a certain branch because a woman was the manager. He’d include whatever cash he had on him. I’d stand in my college mailroom and open a letter containing $7. And each letter would be signed, “I love you very, very, very much.”

I called him “Da.”

He loved jazz music and my grandmother’s pasta and sweeping the sidewalk in front of his house. My grandfather wore hats and cardigans with elbow patches. They’d make me breakfast, Da convincing me that the chickens had arrived at the break of dawn to deliver the eggs and a cow stopped by to drop off some milk. Da had traveled the world in the Navy, writing my grandmother letters the entire time. He wasn’t allowed to tell her where he was, so they developed a code. If Da wrote that he’d seen “Frank Sullivan” that meant he was in Japan. I found the whole thing very romantic. When I asked my grandmother, my Nonie, what ever happened to the letters, she said she burned them.

“Sad memories.”

My grandfather was in loud love. He said it a lot, every day, every opportunity. He loved my grandmother, my father, my brother, this city. He thought anyone who lived in San Francisco and had never walked across the Golden Gate Bridge was nuts. He laughed and he argued and he was always stopping at a mailbox.

Because while my grandfather could not have been prouder of being a San Francisco Police Officer, a husband, a father, a “Da,” trust me when I tell you, the man was a writer.


The rest of Beth's photo shoot can be seen here.

The amazing Beth Spotswood can be found in many places around the city, but you'll spot her online at her column on SF Gate: Culture Blog!, See Spot Write for SF Appeal, and the always hilarious I'll Flip You. Flip You For Real.