San Francisco, CA: the North Beach neighbourhood is a sketcher's dream. If you are the type of sketcher of dreams of standing on a narrow sidewalk trying not to fall into the traffic while drawing complicated street signs and breathing in traffic fumes. That's all of us, right? I love this area. The scene above is the intersection of Columbus and Broadway. 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 live 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. 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. "The rich," I replied.
By the way I have started drawing little maps in my sketchbooks so people can see where I was. I'm always asked, oh where is that? Well now I can show them. But where to put the "star", the centre of location? On the top one I put it in the place where I stood, but in the bottom two I starred the things I drew. Well I was so close to them. Below, Vesuvio, a fun and colourful bar on Columbus, opposite the City Lights bookstore. It was late afternoon on a sunny Friday when I stood sketching this, and there were happy people about getting ready for the weekend.
Below is an Italian deli called Molinari's, which has existed since the end of the 19th century. I was particularly cramped while sketching this, getting as wide an angle as possible without being crushed by delivery vans. It was quite fortunate to be stood next to a parking meter, as drivers who needed to pop into the deli quickly could pretend I was a parking attendant with my sketchbook to ward off other wardens, at least that is what I presumed when a woman asked me to watch the car for a few minutes. Who knows. This was a lot of fun to draw, but I had to add the colour in later, time was pressing. I'm glad we don't have parking meters for urban sketchers, except the ones in our own heads...
...and here are the maps for those two places, both on Columbus. I love North Beach.