Still On Lombard

Kage Baker loved Lombard Street. It’s a good access route to and from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf, and even the financial district – it connects to Van Ness on one end. It’s lined with hotels and restaurants, and it even has two gas stations! Gas stations are hard to find in San Francisco; I’ve always suspected the locals’ cars run on gin, and the Shells and Arcos are only for the tourists.

I am in a nice little hotel on Lombard, one crunched into an angle of the hills that run down Gough, right before you drive off the edge of San Francisco into the Bay. As I said, the parking garage is mostly underground, on two separate, unconnected levels. You can look through the bars on each of them, like hamsters in a cage, but you can’t get from one to the other.

There is a serving stand as tall as me in the lobby, which looks like a birdcage put to the rack and then turned inside out – and it’s full to overflowing with elderly bananas. Three tiers of ’em. The room is nonetheless very clen and comfy, with a view out over Lombard and the Bay. The lights and the foghorns and the traffic noises are soothing.

Linn wanted somewhere interesting for brunch today. So I took her up Lombard through the Presidio, and so via side streets to Cliff House. Negotiating the Presidio was slightly awkward, as the middle section of Lincoln has been closed and replaced with a yawning pit full of machinery. Evidently the Morlocks are taking over. But I found a track down to Baker Beach, and it was clear after that.

Cliff House is a wonderful place. It has three distinct restaurants on site, and today we ended up in the frighteningly chic one. The place is right on the cutting edge of “Bring weird is not enough”, and the clientele (largely tourists) looked half-afraid of the wait staff as well as the food. Luckily, Linn is from New York and I am an arrogant old biddy – we both see weirder things all the time. Although the whole, eviscerated mussel floating in my corn chowder was a little odd – looking disturbingly like some yonic symbol – it was tasty.

However, I cannot recommend the elegant miniature tamales. They appeared to be made of corn pops boiled into a pulpy mass. Or maybe they were hominy grits. Too weird. Even with the little garnet beads of red-dyed salt scattered over things. Tamales should not be made with hominy grits.

But Linn loved the back streets, the elegant neighborhoods of Sea View and the Sunset District; and the interesting hovels of the same. The blocks of restored Painted Ladies along Felton delighted her. The Safeway hidden below the edge of Sutro Park pleased her, too.

The sun has yet to come out, and I am delighted. This fortress of fog was just what I needed after the griddle LA has been lately. Now I am off to SF in SF, and the giant Pixar statues that stand sentinel beside its stage …

There’s usually a bowl of M&M’s around there. Yum.


Linn decided to take a cab to Variety Arts Building, so as to spare me the driving. I should have realized that she lived in New York until a month ago … she was dumfounded when no cab arrived within 10 minutes. She was waxing apoplectic when none had come in 20. We finally got one, and the driver had dyslexia or something and initially tried to drop us off three blocks from our destination. Adventure time!

But at last we made it to the corner of Market and 2nd, where the venue hides behind a modest, street-level lobby. Outside stands an inexplicable monument that Kage especially liked: bronze winged victories, assorted bears, what might be a sailor bold or might be a badly dressed printer holding a broadsheet up to dry … and at one side, coiling up the base, a large octopus. It might be a monument to Cthulu; we were never sure.

The evening went charmingly, the new book of Kage’s silent movie reviews looks great, and tomorrow anyone who comes to Borderland Books between 2 and 4 can get a free copy! Andif you can’t make it, it will be available as of Monday from Tachyon Publications for $15.99.

And now my brain is shutting down from exhaustion and sensory overload. Good night, all!

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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