amateur traveler podcast

As I mentioned here recently, a couple of weeks ago I goofed around for an hour with Chris Christensen from the Amateur Traveler podcast.

I hadn’t really known what aspect of San Francisco he was going to grill me about, but the result was a sort of spontaneous guided tour of the western and northern edges of the city — from the Great Highway to the Marina District.

It was great fun to gossip about Our Favourite City while the tape rolled (extemporaneously for a change), but the real reason I’m bringing this up again is this:

Chris has just posted a complete transcript online.

Against my better judgement, here’s a small sample of the logorrheic flow:

Richard: Later on our tour I guess we can end up in Union Square and actually visit the woman herself on top of the pedestal, but we can go back to that. The thing to do next, after you’ve enjoyed Rodin and the fabulous view, is continue on that odd, curvy road. By the way, we are now in – and this in not to creep anybody out – but this whole park like area golf course etcetera, that we are walking across, or driving across right now, was once the largest cemetery in San Francisco, and, when they made the gold course, when they built the Museum, and occasionally still, when they do renovations and dig up plumbing and so on and so forth, they dig up parts of people that got left behind. Most everybody got transferred down to Colma when they built this thing, but they didn’t get everything, so stay away from there on Halloween night!!! The thing to do now, is to follow that road – there are no choices, just stay on the road – and it will take you through, you’ll go down a hill, you’ll have some beautiful views out on your left, across the Golden Gate. You’re actually, at this point, west of the Golden Gate Bridge, so you’re outside of the Gate, and in fact, this is a nice spot to pull over, or walk if you can, if you get out of your car and walk out to the edge, and look into the way the ocean flows into the bay, there, you can position yourself so that you don’t see anything built by human hands. This never occurred to me, Chris, until once, I was riding around there, I saw a bunch of people stop by the side of the road. I slammed on the brakes to see what they were looking at. It was the day the Tall Ships came sailing into the harbor, something that happens every year. It was the most fabulous thing I think I’ve ever seen in my entire life, because everybody watching was dead silent. It was a Sunday, so there was not much traffic. You could actually hear the creaking of the masts, the slapping of the sails, and, as you looked across the water, you could see the water, you could see Marin on the other side, but you couldn’t see anything else, and it really felt, as long as you weren’t looking at the sweatshirt of the person standing next to you, as though you were in the 17th century, it was really, really cool. A nice spot. And then a helicopter comes over, and screws up the whole thing, but, for a moment… Continue down that road. The first developed area that you come to is one of the, if not the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Francisco. This is where our handful of movie stars live, our super rich, multi millionaires and so on, they live in this little neighborhood called Sea Cliff.

Chris: Interesting.

Ahem, yes … apparently I don’t speak in paragraphs.

In any case, the transcript is perfect for those of you who take stuff in through the eyes better than the ear, so have a read (and a chuckle), and feel free to leave Chris a comment!

amateur traveler podcast

In which I am interviewed by the capable Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler podcast — a wonderful show devoted to travel and travel stories from around the globe.

It was great fun, with graveyards, greasy spoons, and “houses of ill repute” somehow working their way into the conversation — not to mention Alma Spreckels, Diego Rivera, chantey singing, Louie’s Restaurant, the Wave Organ, and more …

I pretty much just let the stream of consciousness flow, describing my usual cock-eyed plan for showing visitors around the City. The result? A loosely structured aural tour of north-western San Francisco, starting on the Great Highway, wrapping around Land’s End, and running out of time somewhere in the Marina District.

I have to admit that — given my tendency for excited babbling about my favourite subject — I listened to the final result with some trepidation, but Chris is a very good interviewer. You can hear how well he moderates the flow with well-placed questions, comments, and (thank goodness) excellent final-cut editing.

Give it a listen here.

SFWeekly logo Nonconformity Still Reigns

Apparently yours truly is the go-to source on non-conformity in historical San Francisco. That’s the way the SFWeekly is leaning, in any case. An hour of phone-schmoozing with intrepid reporter Lauren Smiley resulted in the following introduction to story about modern-day San Francisco kooks and characters:

In the beginning of our city’s love affair with odd ducks, there was Emperor Norton. A businessman in Gold Rush San Francisco who lost his pants on an investment in Peruvian rice, he re-emerged as a grand character of his own invention: “Emperor of These United States” and “Protector of Mexico.” He waltzed about town in a secondhand military uniform while newspapers printed his official edicts without caveat and establishments honored his fake currency.

If Los Angeles lionizes its celebrities, San Francisco has always embraced, or at least tolerated, its homegrown eccentrics. “I can’t imagine any other city in the world where [Emperor Norton] could have become what he became with the acceptance of the city,” says Richard Miller, an armchair historian who creates podcasts on San Francisco legends for his Web site, Sparkletack. “Some say all the loose nuts rolled west … people who hadn’t made it elsewhere, or just different from the average bears.”

Take a look at the rest of the SFWeekly’s article, and not just because of that little quote — Lauren hits all the high spots, from the Brown Twins (who refused to be interviewed by the Weekly without cash on the barrelhead) to Frank Chu (who could not be contained). The premise of the story is that there’s still hope for San Francisco … and in the long run, I’m sure she’s right.


Web 2.0 here we come … there’s a brand new Sparkletack group on Facebook.

You can post photos and video, add links, start a discussion, or just join the group and show your enthusiasm for Sparkletack and San Francisco history. And if you’re not already part of Facebook, it’s painfully easy to join.

C’mon, drop by and help us peel off the wrapping paper!

San Francisco City Guides

Sparkletack is featured in this month’s “Guidelines”, the newsletter of the non-profit San Francisco City Guides. You know about them already, right? Free tours all over town run by smart, dedicated volunteers? I’ve experienced several (and reviewed a couple (1, 2) of their offerings, so it seems only fair that they’d take a look at Sparkletack.

It turned out to be a nice little piece:

“I love my iPod, but it is kind of a piece of junk with lots of programming bugs. At my last visit to the Genius Bar to get the thing fixed, the Genius complimented me on my podcast collection. And then he told me Sparkletack was one of his favorites.”
— read the rest of the article here

It isn’t all about Sparkletack of course — the newsletter features several short articles about San Francisco history every month, and is well worth a read. Adolph Sutro, the movie-makeover of the Castro Theatre, the 1894 Midwinter Fair and a local angle on the Lincoln Brigade are featured in the current issue, and the stories are as interesting and well-researched as the walking tours.

Thanks for the plug, Guides!

Transcripts for Sparkletack’s 2-part “Story of Treasure Island” podcast series are now online at the website of the upcoming Treasure Island Music Festival (September 15th-16th).

» Transcript: Treasure Island Music Festival
» Podcast: The Story of Treasure Island (part 1)
» Podcast: The Story of Treasure Island (part 2)

And why are they there? Well, the inspiration for the series originally came in an email from Bill Rousseau of Noise Pop Industries. He simply asked if I would write a short history of Treasure Island for the festival’s website. Since the event will actually be held on the island, he thought a little historical perspective would help people enjoy their experience out there in the middle of the bay.

I had to agree. I’m a huge fan of Noise Pop anyway — their amazing music festivals have been expanding San Francisco minds and ears for fifteen years already. But what was even more appealing was the fact that I didn’t know the first thing about the island!

The simple write-up Bill requested expanded dramatically as I started to dig in… and as with just about any San Francisco story, there was more to tell than I could have ever imagined.

So I learned a thing or two, and I invite you to share. Enjoy!

Well, the promised 7×7 interview has finally hit the streets. It’s a disconcerting experience to read one’s spoken words in print, especially if it turns out that they’ve been edited to fit the story! I’m not complaining, though — it’s all more or less correct. And the more San Franciscans are inspired tune in to hear the stories of our city, the better… not to belabor the point, but of course that is the point!

I haven’t actually seen a copy of the magazine yet, but a FoS (Friend of Sparkletack) over at Roshambo Winery not only posted a scan of the page, but painstakingly retyped the text of article in a blog post.

Curious? Read the text of the article here. (thanks, Scott!)

EDIT 5/30/07
Hey! I just noticed that the subhead of the article characterizes me as “debunking” Mark Twain. Faithful listeners will recognize that this notion is a little wide of the mark — I’ve never said a negative word about “Cousin Mark”, and never will.

“Hey mom, my picture’s gonna be in a magazine!”

Strange but true. I just spent an hour in a studio with a battery of hot lights trained on my mug… the results of which should appear in the June 2007 issue of San Francisco’s local style magazine “7×7“.

I suspect the “new media” cachet of podcasting is what lured 7×7 to my digital doorstep — and who knew 1875 was going to become hip? I can’t say I’ve ever actually read the magazine, but to my delight I was informed that I’ve got a few fans on the inside. The interviewer couldn’t have been nicer, and the whole thing is a fantastic opportunity to promote San Francisco’s history to the people who will benefit the most… San Franciscans.

My hope is that the interview will spark 7×7’s readership with enthusiasm for our city’s past, to just start noticing as they walk around town. Chances are good that you ‘re already inspired — after all, here you are — but wouldn’t it be cool to be able to share the energy and wonder of everything that’s come before with the whole population? A city completely connected to its past…. that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.

And apropos of that, I thought you might enjoy the work of the photographer who happened to draw the job of shooting me. His name’s Jeff Singer, a native Bay Area guy, and there’s a small gallery of San Francisco-themed black and white work up on his website. Never fails to amaze me what a photogenic city we have here. Enjoy…

San Francisco is about to be invaded by geographers! The annual convention of the Association of American Geographers is coming to town, and Jesse Rouse, cohost of the VerySpatial podcast (an excellent show covering geography and geospatial technology) thought I would be a good candidate to give their listeners some idea about what there is to see and do in our fair city — from a historical perspective, naturally.

For the results of my stream-of-consciousness phone discussion with the good geographers, in which I hardly let them get a word in edgewise, have a listen to the podcast at their website:

VerySpatial episode #18

Amazing what clever editing can do!

Full disclosure — I will be taking part in a panel called “Spread the word: Podcasting, blogging and the New Media in Geography” at the convention on Friday, April 20.

For more information about VerySpatial and the AAG Conference:
» 2007 AAG Annual Meeting

April 21, 2007: Thanks again to the VerySpatial folks for inviting me to the panel discussion, and for that totally stylish tshirt! (“countries and mountains and more, oh my!”) It was an intriguing and informative couple of hours, and I only hope my contribution was as useful to the geographers in attendance as their ideas were to me. More than a few new concepts in collaborative online geography seemed to apply directly to the Sparkletack project — so stay tuned for further developments.

random episode from the archives:
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