Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Wanderlust Librarian | North Beach (Part 1)

I was born and raised a California girl. My parents had many friends in San Francisco and enjoyed visiting them at least twice a month. A majority of my City experience was next to Golden Gate Park in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. I spent many a Sunday exploring the park on foot, a borrowed bike and one (painful and clumsy) time with rollerblades. Thinking about it now... my parents must have figured I could take care of myself as a plucky, tomboyish 12 year old since they let me wander Golden Gate Park solo. Considering my own child, it's hard for me to let her wander around the mall alone...let alone a metropolis!

I passed North Beach many times: on the way to the Exploratorium, going towards the Presidio and on the way to Lombard Street... but never took time to really stop and see what I was missing. 

My friend lived her life around Northern California and spent a lot of time in San Francisco as well. The city was a wealth of happy memories for her and her family. Much of her time was spent on Columbus Street ; the anchor of North Beach; also known as "Little Italy". This neighborhood is vibrant and eclectic. She frequents this neighborhood at least once a month and invited me to take time out to explore next time I was enjoying the City.Recently, I had the opportunity to visit North Beach and I absolutely loved it.

I'm horrible at finding free parking spaces, so I used Yelp to find a parking garage in the vicinity. The North Beach Parking Garage is right across the street from the local police station so needless to say, I felt safe. I also got a little something extra when I parked: a fortune! Not the price for the hourly parking... a literal fortune! Check out the pictures below!

I have an affinity towards bookstores. Any bookstores. There's something special about books, living together in a communal space that really sends my heart into a happy whirl. Enter: City Lights. This bookstore's history goes back to 1953 and has published many authors that exemplified beat poetry and radical writing in the 60s. Authors like Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowsi still remain popular today. The bookstore is cozy. It has creaky wood floors and stacks of books comfortably cramped on endless shelves.  Above the shelves, it's as if time has stopped and the beat culture has taken hold. There are tons of pictures, signs and articles from the day. 

For as small as the store is, there is so much history that it's hard NOT to picture a poetry reading in the downstairs area, banned books being stashed behind the counter waiting to be sold and hoards of people in and out of the store purchasing books that only City Lights has published. 

My daughter (a worldly 14) was simply awestruck by the simplicity and the magnitude of the space.  I saw her rifling through the Banned Books display towards the front of the store and felt proud. This bookstore contributed to keeping books available to everyone; that everyone had a voice to be heard. 

My fortune's so bright, I gotta wear shades! 
Announce yourself, door! 

History is alive at City Lights
Where the Beat Poets meet! 


  1. I love this blog Rena. You rock girl.

  2. I laughed really hard at the caption for the door picture!! Awesomeness abounds in this post. I love City Lights, too and San Francisco. And that is just about the coolest parking garage ever. Here in LA, they have ads, yes, actual adds on those cement blocks that stop you from going into the next spot! I would much rather have a fortune. Prosperity is just around the corner.