In anticipating our trip to San Francisco, a visit to Valencia figured large in our plans. Valencia is a funky district dripping with hipster coffee shops (we saw a heavily bearded, skinny-pantsed young man un-ironically knitting a scarf over his laptop in one), unspeakably cool antique shops, upscale bakeries, used books an the like. But the reason for our great and slightly giddy anticipation was 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers' infamous pirate-shop-slash-writing-workshop.
The delightfully publicity-shy Eggers, who (in case you don't remember) was catapulted to fame in 2000 by the publication of his slightly-fictionalize memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, has since spearheaded the brilliant McSweeney's Internet Tendency (and the wonderful print version, to which my husband was sweet enough to subscribe me). In addition, he was instrumental in creating 826 Valencia, a forum and venue for inspiring gradeschoolers and highschoolers to literary creativity.
The "pirate supply store" helps to support the writing workshops, but also serves as an inspiration and imaginary journey in its own right.
We have been watching 826 Valencia since its inception, and couldn't wait to visit in the flesh.
Even large as it has loomed in my mind, the pirate supply store outdid my expectations. I'm not sure why (as creative as has been the conception and execution of the McSweeney's issues I've received in the mail, I guess I should have expected more) but I thought it would be a bit more perfunctory. I pictured a bin of string-headed mops for deck swabbing, and a hardware store pegboard of ziplock bags containing eye patches and peg legs. In fact, this is a beautifully hand-hewn haven of the imagination, at once homey and deliciously exotic.
This case featured glass eyes, and "glass eyedrops", all displayed like jewelry on black velvet.
QQ was riveted.
At the back of the store, a rope strung with a pirate flag warns shoppers away from the writing workshop itself, populated by vintage school desks and library ladders.
The layout and conception of the store is makeshift, moody and creative, and its offerings myriad and tempting.
Notice anything unusual about the pirate dummy? Yup, it's a female department store mannequin under that pirate beard and eye patch.
A puppet suspended like a hangman from the rough-hewn beams of the ceiling.
Here, I was attempting (dorkily) to take a shot of myself centered in front of a moustache on a wall full of moustache-and-beard mirrors. I never claimed to be cool (or to have any sort of sense of dignity).
Daddy and Q exploring the lore of the high seas.
Here there be monsters. I love the handmade shadowbox paper cuts.
A tea set sits displayed over bottles of tincture labeled "Land Legs".
Various magic potions.
I adore the cockeyed shelves, spice-cabinet drawers and sea-themed shadow boxes. What a wonderful spot.
Our greatest asset on our trip was a series of printable, customized Google maps made for us by our friends Jaeha and Jen. The maps covered districts of the city from the tourist-y Fisherman's Wharf to Valencia to Japantown, where we were based for the week. One of the recommended stops in Valencia was Paxton Gate (see the first photo), a bizarre taxidermy-themed curiosity shop which seemed right up our alley. Unfortunately, like many of SF's coolest stores, Paxton Gate forbids photography inside. We did, however, visit twice, leaving with a couple of very cool mementos which I will detail in a future post.
Another spot on our customized map was X-21 Modern, the coolest of the cool antique shops. Sadly, this was far outside of our meager budget, but we enjoyed exploring and daydreaming here.
If only.......(yes, I absolutely would have that fish skeleton suspended from my ceiling, if I could afford it. I would also have the various old-Hollywood klieg lights stashed in corners of the house.
If I were rich, this is where I would come to furnish my home. Oh, yes.
A bit of a street mural.
A lovely window.
Row houses in the rain.
A Chinese-themed safety gate over an anonymous doorway.
The best restaurant sign we came across.
We didn't have a chance to sample the food here, but the concept tickled our fancy.
What fond memories I have of riding on my own Papa's shoulders, and how it does my heart good to see QQ enjoying that particular pleasure while exploring the city with her Daddy.
I love San Francisco trees. In the rain, they are even more sculptural and alien in aspect. Just wonderful. Someday, I'll have to draw them.