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became legendary in literary circles after author Richard Brautigan used it as the setting for his imaginary library of unpublished manuscripts in the novel, The Abortion.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

Uncovering a red brick beauty

At Pine and Steiner, the new home of the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation.

After a year behind scaffolding and decades under paint, the red brick beauty of a building at Steiner and Pine was unveiled Wednesday afternoon when the scaffolding came down.

Inside it houses the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. But it’s the outside that commands attention, now returned to its original appearance in 1897 when the building was built for the telephone company. It’s been sitting empty for years, and at one point hospital leaders considered selling it to nearby St. Dominic’s Church. Instead they decided to create a home for the foundation and other administrative offices. When rebuilding began early last year, it was unclear how extensive the restoration would be, and the plans assumed the brick building would be painted once again.

“It was a good surprise,” says Eric Stein, the hospital’s director of space and property management. “It’s beautiful brick. It was meant to be exposed.”

Zen and the art of the public bath

The communal baths at Kabuki Springs & Spa.

By Donna Domino

“There’s a very special energy here,” says Kathy Nelsen, longtime director of the Kabuki Springs & Spa, explaining why the cultural fixture has endured for nearly 40 years. “The communal baths are really what differentiates us. We have some of the only ones in California and the U.S.”

Nelsen, who has carefully nurtured the Kabuki’s distinctively spiritual environment for the last decade, says another thing that sets the Kabuki apart is a deep respect for the body. She describes a recent women’s night to make her point.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

‘Thank God for Browser Books’

Browser Books: cozy


By Donna Gillespie

Book lovers discouraged by the proliferation of chain stores and websites deserve a leisurely afternoon at Browser Books.

It’s an old-fashioned bookstore that emanates warmth — wood paneling and music greet you as you enter, and there are lamp-lit nooks that beckon patrons to sit and read. Carefully chosen classics line the shelves, but better-quality popular books can be found here as well. If a staffer recommends a book, it’s likely some forgotten gem, not something everybody’s already reading.

At 2195 Fillmore, next door to Peet’s Coffee, Browser is a bright, inviting spot that offers a cozy respite hours after the other shops on the street have gone dark.

“We have more books per square inch than anyone around,” says owner Stephen Damon. Just don’t come in asking for a romance novel or a western — Browser doesn’t carry them. “We’re very selective, very literary,” says Damon. “I keep important books.”

Browser’s story is interwoven with the colorful history of the neighborhood. The store was founded in 1976 a block north of its present location, just beside the Clay Theater, where Carlos Santana’s band also recorded, Beat poets read their poems and a head shop once flourished.

“This is a great neighborhood for a literary bookstore,” Damon says. “We have a loyal clientele.” Damon treasures an in-person review he received from local author Alice Adams. “Thank God for Browser Books,” she told him. “I didn’t think bookstores like this still existed.”

Browser is open every day until 10 p.m. — even if it’s New Year’s Day. The store closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

‘Our Lady of the Parking Lot’

In the parking lot behind St. Dominic's Church is a shrine to Our Lady.

Neighborhood lore says the bulldozer operators couldn’t bear to push down the grotto in the school’s courtyard when St. Rose Academy was demolished after the 1989 earthquake. So they carefully left it standing — and it’s still there, amid a grove of cherry trees, in the parking lot behind St. Dominic’s Church. Covered with gnarly vines watered by an underground spring, the grotto is a place of quiet contemplation dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. To locals she has become “Our Lady of the Parking Lot.”

Pets Unlimited celebrates 60 years

One fateful day in 1947, a scruffy dog wandered into the yard of a Pacific Heights home. Mrs. Carter Downing took the dog to the city pound, where she learned his prospects for survival were slim. Wayward pets were put to sleep unless adopted quickly.

Bobby, a Jack Russell terrier rescued from a burning building, was adopted by Janette Gerl.


Horrified by the thought, she decided to take the dog back home — and to adopt all the other dogs at the pound and start an impromptu adoption service.

Other animal lovers joined the cause, including her friend and Pacific Heights neighbor Alice Coldwell. Fueled by tenacity and gumption, they worked to raise awareness of pets who needed loving homes.

Thus began Pets Unlimited, the San Francisco institution at Fillmore and Washington, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in May 2007.
Continue reading