Brautigan’s library finds a home

The Presidio Branch Library, now under renovation.

The Presidio Branch Library on Sacramento Street, now undergoing renovation, became legendary in literary circles after author Richard Brautigan used it as the setting for his imaginary library of unpublished manuscripts in the novel, The Abortion.

In Brautigan’s novel, published in 1970, the library was always open for authors to personally deposit their manuscripts. Through the years, quite a few writers took the story literally and submitted manuscripts or asked if the library really existed.

The Presidio library maintained a small display about Brautigan’s novel, but never actually accepted manuscripts. But in 1990 one of the author’s fans opened the Brautigan Library in Burlington, Vermont, and accepted several hundred manuscripts. That arrangement ended in 2005 when negotiations were announced to bring the manuscripts to the Presidio Branch Library. But it never happened.

Now the manuscripts have found a new home. The Brautigan Library will become a permanent collection in the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington. Brautigan was a Washington native.

Local aficionados, including library volunteer Marcia Popper, continue to push for an expanded display about the Brautigan connection when the renovated Presidio Branch Library reopens in late 2011.

NY Times: A homecoming for Richard Brautigan

The end of a design era

Every year, his clients have been invited to tour designer John Wheatman's home.

By Thomas Reynolds

In the springtime came the annual invitation to stop by the corner of Alta Plaza Park and tour the elegant home of interior designer John Wheatman.

Hundreds of current and former clients walked through on May 3, a cool, grey Sunday afternoon, to admire the treasures Wheatman has acquired and the good taste with which he has arranged them — and his garden, looking splendid in the mist, and grown entirely in pots and planters on the rooftop.

So it was a surprise when his letter of September 30 arrived. “I have decided to retire,” he wrote. “I have loved every minute of my involvement with you.” And in merely a month the end has come, after 45 years, for John Wheatman & Associates.
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One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!

Joanne Weir: Women love tequila, too.

By Joanne Weir

It all started several years ago when an invitation arrived in my mailbox on Pine Street beckoning me to the launch of a spiffy new tequila in a sexy square bottle.

It took place at Tommy’s, the well-known tequila bar out on Geary, and was mostly men who were sniffing and swirling their glasses of tequila. But the few women who were there were just as enthusiastic.

I discovered that night that women love tequila just as much as men. They go out with their girlfriends for margaritas, and they also savor tequila straight-up with meals, drink it slowly from a snifter and enjoy it mixed into new, innovative, seasonal cocktails. I was thrilled by the camaraderie among these women and pleased to learn that I wasn’t the only one out there who liked a beverage that had long been considered the domain of men.
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A library of unpublished manuscripts

An architectural rendering of the renovated Presidio Branch Library.

In its literary star turn, the Presidio Branch Library, at 3150 Sacramento Street, was transformed into a fictional repository for unpublished manuscripts placed on the shelves at all hours of the day and night directly by the writers themselves.

Yet except for one easily overlooked display case near the checkout desk, there is no evidence the library was used regularly by noted Bay Area writer Richard Brautigan and incorporated into his novel, The Abortion.

That may change now that the historic Carnegie library, which has been serving local readers since 1921, is about to be remade. Planning is in the final stages for a $2.4 million renovation of the library.
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A lifetime of loving film

Global but local: film critic David Thomson on Fillmore. Photograph by Lucy Gray.

“What should I see?”

It’s the question the eminent film critic and historian David Thomson is asked most often — sometimes even as he walks his dog in Alta Plaza Park or runs errands on Fillmore Street.

Now, more than three decades after he published his landmark Biographical Dictionary of Film, Thomson has responded to the question comprehensively in a new book published in October 2008 titled Have You Seen…? Its subtitle bills it as “A personal introduction to 1,000 films, including masterpieces, oddities, guilty pleasures and classics (with just a few disasters).”
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From Tony Duquette, a magical space

The Duquette Pavilion on Geary near Fillmore.

In the late 1980s, while driving down Geary Street in San Francisco, designer Tony Duquette discovered an abandoned and vandalized synagogue. He immediately purchased the building. After thoroughly remodeling and updating the structure [located on Geary near Fillmore where the post office now stands], Tony began creating a new exhibition named the Canticle of the Sun of Saint Francis of Assisi, after the patron saint of San Francisco.

The building itself was historic, and what Tony did with it architecturally was equally historic.
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The story of a food revolution

Photograph of Tom McNamee by Dickie Spritzer

Celebrity food guru Alice Waters had been approached by a number of writers who wanted to tell the story of Chez Panisse. But they didn’t “get it,” and getting it was the whole idea behind Chez Panisse.

So she approached Tom McNamee, whose work on food and natural history she admired, and asked if he might be interested. Thus began a four-year project for the Fillmore resident that resulted in “Alice Waters and Chez Panisse,” published in April 2007, which stimulated favorable reviews both from critics and the book-buying public.

McNamee wrote the book in the Victorian facing St. Dominic’s Church that he and his wife Elizabeth have called home since 1998.

“This neighborhood probably has as high a percentage of people who care about food as any neighborhood in the world,” he says. “And some of my favorite places to eat are just around the corner,” Florio and Johnny Rockets among them.

After he wrote the proposal for the book, Waters flew with him to New York to meet with potential publishers. Ever the evangelist for organic fruit and vegetables, she brought along a bowl of tangerines. Every half hour a different publisher came to hear the pitch, leaving with tangerines in tow. Five of the six publishers bid for the rights to publish the book, and Penguin Press won the bidding.

“I was very lucky,” McNamee says. “Alice is a celebrity, and as a result I got a lot of money for it.”

The Chez Panisse book is McNamee’s fifth, and he’s already at work on his next, a memoir that, he says, “uses food as a way of looking at history.”