The Opinionated Traveler: San Francisco, Day #6

I wanted to bookend my trip, primarily for the travelers out there. While San Francisco is not a very distant destination for us, it’s still a world away for those trapped by their regular lives in LALA land and the gold we’ve found is worth sharing for others who may venture down these steep, endlessly winding streets in Northern California (or “Nor Cal”, as many a t-shirt and hoodie annoyingly announce).

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a trip to Berkeley and no trip to Berkeley is complete without a trip to Dark Carnival Books (and now comic shop as well, two doors down!).

I took my first hesitant steps into Dark Carnival about five years ago and immediately fell in love with the place. At the time I was helping manage a big box book store and for every thirty-five things I thought my company did wrong on a daily basis and made me – incredibly – loathe working in a store that sold one of the things that I love most in this world,  Dark Carnival did the exact opposite in an almost effortless way. Despite a certain… almost antagonistic aloofness (which I easily forgave, as in my own book store gig I sometimes wore a similar hat) the environment of the store was ridiculously inviting, simply because the entire freakin’ room was literally covered in books.

Main level? Shelves, floor and rafters covered.

Stairs to the meager second level? Stacks ascended right alongside you, piled high enough to grant handrail-like presence (admittedly maybe only for midgets, but still!)

Second floor? Dripping with lit from all sides and angles. In brief, a little unnavigable but still a dream come true.

On this visit as during the last I had to wholeheartedly control myself, curbing my lust for the written word down to a few amazing volumes. The haul? As follows:

Prize: Jonathan Lethem’s Amnesia Moon, which I was so excited to finally read I dusted it off in about a day (I am NOT a fast reader). Absolutely one of the most hallucinogenic and frustratingly awesome books I’ve ever read (who would expect anything less from the man that brought us the masterpiece Motherless Brooklyn ((of which the store had a massive autographed poster for))?

Also acquired: Jay Lake’s Pinion which I’ve been super curious about for some time (Clock Punk as a subgenre of the subgenre Steampunk? The latter being something I am admittedly really into despite my suspicion of now that a host of conventions seems to have arisen to outline its scope and variance; ie goggles, dirigibles, corsets, et al? We’ll see, but this series, with it’s clockwork world and clockwork men seem definitely worth a look. However I’ll have to wait to read this one until I can locate the unexpected first two books in the trilogy, Mainspring and Escapement; Cherie Priest‘s Blockbuster (again, Steampunk), and from the just-over-a-year-old comic shop Dark Carnival has opened two doors down, a wonderful if no-punches-pulled bio-graphic novel about my beloved Hunter S. Thompson, aptly named Gonzo – a fantastic read.


What else? Well, I can tell you amidst a city of bars – many of them Irish – Sara found the best Irish pub food at The Irish Bank. great selection of beers on tap, wonderfully maintained taps and the food – AMAZING I SAY!!! I had the Irish Beef Stew and she had the Fish-n-chips and both were fantastic. Plus the outdoor seating is basically in the well-adorned alley next to the pub so it’s cozy in a very backstreet-city kind of way.

Judging by this post and my Day #1 post you may have noticed a certain proclivity for all things British or Irish on my belt. Well, a hold over favorite from our last trip here and another amazing find by my wife is Kennedy’s Curry/Irish Pub, a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful pub that serves some fantastic Indian cuisine. The decor alone is worth it, whether you are stopping in for a pint from their elaborate beer menu or looking to feast on the best Chicken Jalfrazie I’ve had yet in Northern California.

Lastly I’d like to mention one of the great carry out experiences in this city. While I must say San Francisco-brewed Anchor Steam has completely captured my heart (and liver) with it’s ESB-style exquisiteness everywhere we went that featured it on tap (not the first time I’ve had it but definitely the first time it seemed to me an essential nightly endeavor), it was 21st Amendment Brewery‘s Back in Black black IPA that actually made me fret not being able to run to its toasty malted arms once back in the confines of Southern California (or “So Cal” for those annoying hoodie folk).

All in all, a wonderful trip to a marvelous (if not filthy) city. I cannot wait to come back!

Other favorites:

Isotope Comic Lounge

Rasputin Music

The Red Victorian Bed, Breakfast/Cafe

Drip Coffee Bar

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to The Opinionated Traveler: San Francisco, Day #6
  1. John Constantine Reply

    I think you’re great…

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