California is a beautiful place. From landscape + art + weather + people + architecture + culture, it’s all incredibly stunning and diverse. Later this month marks my five-year anniversary in the state/San Francisco, and honestly, I’m just now starting to appreciate the scenes around me.
This past Monday, I decided to surprise Aaron with a little walking tour around the city. The sole purpose: track down and gander at a number of Richard Neutra-designed houses from the 1930s. While known more for his LA-located homes, the architect has a number in the Bay Area, most within walking distance (well, kinda…).
I didn’t tell him where we were going/why we were doing it. The only instructions were to wear comfortable boots. In reality, I didn’t really know what to expect either, I was doing what I do best, winging it.
Our first destination was in Telegraph Hill. 66 Calhoun Terrace, also known as the Kahn House, was built in 1939. Perched on a cliffside, the property is a neck cranker. Unfortunately, I totally blanked and forgot to snap a picture of the well-hidden gem. But it did lead down to lush, cliffside pathway, which ends in Levi Plaza.
Before heading to the second house, we made a slight detour. Tip: Apparently The America’s Cup Park is free on Mondays (not on the list) and In-N-Out is a more than deserved lunch spot (on the list, 333 Jefferson). 800 Chestnut is the San Francisco Art Institute Russian Hill campus. Here, which is open to the public, one of my favorite Diego Rivea murals (Making a Fresco) is housed. Also, you’ll get an absolute killer + unique view of the city from their café rooftop.
The second Neutra home (2430 Leavenworth) is right around the corner from SFAI (also, one block away from Lombard St.). This one is hard to see, not because of where it’s located, but because it disappears with it’s surroundings. Nothing too stunning, but still to be appreciated.
Neutra’s philosophies resonate deeply with the San Francisco attitude. As you can see, his buildings + designs live with nature, they don’t disrupt nor disturb it. My favorite of the three was the last (2056 Jefferson). I’ll have to go out and see it again on a sunny day to see if my perception changes, but it was perfect going on this past gloomy Monday. The shades of grey in the building blended perfectly with the grimness of the sky. If you squinted, the two-story duplex literally blurred away.
It is this ideology I love. San Francisco is beautiful. Sure, man has laid a heavy hand into this beautiful landscape (I mean, the Marina + The Palace of Fine Arts are 20th century creations), but the groundwork + background is already there. Neutra’s wisdoms are still very relevant + appreciated today. Take note Apple.
P.S. The walk, all-in-all, was at least five miles and took about four hours with stops. Oy.
When it comes to retail, the men’s world has been rather…boring. Not men’s fashion itself, but the business + execution of selling to the male consumer. From merchandising to marketing, men’s retail has been more expected than exciting. The instincts + needs + habits of man have been downplayed + dumbed down.
As of recently, though, that has been changing. The evolution of the male consumer has been a slow + steady + sometimes stagnant process, but believe me, it’s growing. This new man isn’t just hungry for fashion, but also pursues all the other components that makes up his lifestyle. Those sluggish, stale days are becoming a thing of the past. The personality void department stores + dull specialty shops + your father’s go-to chains of yesteryear are taking a backseat to a new realm of retail directed towards men.
The demand for fully developed + fashion forward men’s boutiques has been on the rise, and I am proud to say that San Francisco has been on the forefront of the movement. With stores like GANT Rugger + Citizen + MAAS & Stacks + Onassis + Sui Generis, men are being given the treatment women have long been able to enjoy and dress themselves in. These locations realize their clientele have lives. Lives that their products need to integrate into.
My favorite of all the men’s boutiques in San Francisco has been Welcome Stranger. Housed in the extra trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood, the store just does it right. That shouldn’t come to any surprise seeing as it is part of the Azalea family, but the store has built + solidified it’s own personality that thrives in the market.
Carrying brands such as Goorin Bros. + Topman + Shades of Grey + Rag & Bone, as well as their eponymous line, in a way, these fashion forward lines marry in so well into all the other happenings of the shop. Sure, the clothing + the selection is great, but what’s even better is that nothing stands out more than what’s next to it. Everything in the store works together to tell a story + a lifestyle. Oh and they sell my favorite deodorant from Malin + Goetz, so that’s just an automatic win.
The décor is what really sets Welcome Stranger apart from their competitors. Every piece of furniture or wall fixture holds a purpose. Nothing exists just to exist.
I’m excited for the future of men’s retail + exploring how men shop. Men are hungry for something different and I can’t wait to see how stores like Welcome Stranger react + work to feed that need. Get ready for it my friends. It’s about time magnetism met consumerism.
So I’m totally late on the pho love. Oop. So I’ve been on the grind to play catch up + become well versed in the delectable noodle soup. There’s nothing worse than being out of date on the latest trend or not knowing how to properly order something at a San Francisco establishment. No seriously. Never make the mistake of walking into Philz without having a friend prep you and taking a look at their website. If anything, just don’t try to order a soy latte there. It isn’t going to happen. It’ll only end in a painfully embarrassing experience for everyone involved.
With that said, my favorite so far has been Mau on 18th and Mission. Along with the trendy décor + trendy music + trendy crowd, the staff is incredibly patient and helpful, even though I always know I’m bound to order the vegetable pho.
Be warned: the portions are HUGE. As with the experience + aesthetic, Mau doesn’t skimp on the food. It can easily take two people to tackle a bowl. You may want to bring a companion with similar taste buds or deal with the horrors of balancing a doggie bag around the city.
The noodle house also touts a rather impressive beer listing. Nothing crazy nor particularly big, but they steer clear of the restaurant usuals. The IPA they have on tap is particularly tasty and offers a nice cool backing to the steaming broth.
I’ve only been here for dinner, but I’ll need to make my way over in the middle of the day and some point because their banh mi selection looks pretty delectable. Also note, for a place located in an area with a happening nightlife, Mau doesn’t stay open very late (10pm). Also, they’re closed on Sundays. So if you were next door at Elbo Room or down the street at Skylarke, don’t venture over here for a fix for that nasty Saturday hangover.
A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the immensely talented Iann Ivy. For the past five years, I have been fortunate enough to call this woman my friend + roommate + collaborator + confidant. A person I could share my silly fairy tales + embarrassing secrets + biggest insecurities with, all with no judgement.
I only 13 short days, Iann will be leaving the Bay Area to start a new adventure in England. It hurts my heart knowing she won’t in the next room when I’m over dramatic and pick which tie goes with my polka dot shirt or that certain someone hasn’t texted me back in a timely manner. But that’s me being selfish. Believe me guys, the girl is truly a barrel of explosive talent and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
I wanted to give her the opportunity + platform to say goodbye to the city she has called home for five years. I am honored to have her guest blog on her today, so take it away Iann. Can’t wait to see you in Manchester later this year!
Dear San Francisco,
I knew this day would come but suspected it would last a bit longer until we had to part ways. When we first met, I was hesitant to really get to know you. I thought that sticking to what I knew all the years prior would suit me better than leaping into the arms of a stranger. Your rainfall reminded me of the drops of doubt I had within myself; Thinking I was this shapeless mass of murky water that had no where to go but under the steps of others. I got acquainted though, with a shy smile and then a drunken hello. I never felt more accepted for just who I was and with no expectations. Those around me you also embraced steadily, everyone comforted by your approachable charms. I saw beauty here, and kindness that filled me with inspiration to create images that fueled the imagination.
You found a way to get me together with some memorable people. First off, the boys. Good God those boys. Thanks for that. I was given your abundance, and well, some worked out better than most. I fell hard twice in the past 5 years. My heart could never have felt as much joy than with the beings I met and even though I’m taking my leave, I know they are the most beautiful creatures I will ever meet in my life. Then you went a step further and introduced me to some of the most loving friends a person could ever ask for. I mean really, everyone wanted to help everyone with moving or projects or just having someone to talk to. I’ve never experienced such selflessness. The very best people in the world I am convinced come to you to connect. Something draws them in and helps to join pieces together to complete something within each other.
I thought we would have a long and serious relationship that would end up in gray hairs and dark circles. Instead you were the best thing that ever happened to me. And I know you will always be someone I can turn to and you will find a way for me to thrive. Until then though, you will have stolen that piece of my heart which so famously you are known for. It’s ok though, you can take that, because what you gave me in return completed my soul.
I moved to San Francisco when I was 17. So far, every crucial + critical thing I need to know to be a functional + sane adult. Such as, how to be a good roommate. Or proper tipping etiquette at restaurants + salons + bars. Oh and don’t puke in front of cops. When all of that would become too much, my go to place to escape was the Borders on Powell + Post. I loved that bookstore. It was my consistent best friend for three years. No matter what was happening at the time or what I was dealing with, once I entered Borders, every problem would disappear for at least a few hours and I could catch up on some glossy fashion mags + learn a new recipe + peruse the self-help aisle (this city seriously brings out the crazy in everyone).
Then Borders died. It wasn’t anything I was ready for, despite the writing being clearly on the wall. I remember the twangs of sadness walking towards my apartment on Bush every evening and see construction workers tear my old friend apart. But seriously the worst was to see it turn into a DSW, but I’ll leave that one alone for now.
I did find a beauty in Borders closing. Well, any corporate business really. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and check out home grown + nurtured San Francisco establishments. The city has a reputation for being very anti-corporate, but seriously, there’s some amazing stores/businesses out here. Companies with a story + face that they’re more than will to share + get to know you as well.
After some searching, I settled on a local bookstore to give my heart + trust to. Turning a grand 60 years old this year, City Lights Books has stood the test of time + been a vital part in transforming San Francisco into what it is today.
Today City Lights Books houses three floors packed with literature, with the top room devoted purely to poetry, a tribute to their beatnik roots + legacy. It may look small from the outside, but it’s a behemoth. With winding staircases + random nooks throughout the store, there’s a sense of adventure. It’s also incredibly inviting. Visitors are encouraged to plant it + read, for as long as you want.
City Lights is a true San Francisco gem. It would be a shame for it to one day disappear. When Borders folded, my heart broke. But at the same time, I’ll admit I was part of the problem. I remember one day I met up with my friend Wil and his friend. I knew I recognized the kid, but couldn’t place my finger on it. Then he goes “Oh yeah, I know you. I work at Borders and you’re always there. You and you’re little group of friends who don’t buy anything.” He didn’t say it to be hateful or hurtful, because everyone else in the city did it. It was a direct case of ‘why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free’.
But to keep these businesses chugging, you sometimes need to buy the cow. And buy consistently. I’ve always have been a fan of physical books. But I’ll admit to buying my latest purchases on my iPad. Sure it’s convenient, but not worth losing places like City Lights. I’m going to challenge myself to make the trip, because it is worth it.
So next time I need to pick up the next installation in the Tales of the City series (I’m on Significant Others at the moment), I’m going to take the trip to North Beach. Then maybe go to Calzones a block down and sit for a while and order a mojito (try the one they use tequila, seriously to die for) and enjoy some old fashioned reading.
This is my friend Ryan. This coming Sunday, May 5, marks exactly four years since we met each other. Yes, in a crazy Cinco de Mayo haze, Ryan and I met each other and over the next four years, our friendship has slowly pressure cooked into what it is today. We’ve gotten to get to know each other over plenty of heartbreaks + hangovers + humming of Lana del Rey tunes over dinner.
Last summer, Ryan took his first ride + journey on the AIDS/Lifecycle, a seven day 545 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefitting HIV/AIDS research + awareness. Like the 3000+ other riders, he had to train + set goals + raise the minimum $3000 donation required of every participant. Along with that, Ryan set out to educate his friends + coworkers + peers + community.
By that time, I had known Ryan for three years. But in one conversation about why he’s doing the Lifecycle + what a cure to HIV/AIDS means to him, I learned more about him in one hour than I had in the previous three years. The passion + emotional factors spilled out of him effortlessly and unapologetically at a table in the upper deck of the La Boulange on Fillmore. I left lunch that day with a whole new set of eyes + an amount of respect for Ryan that still burns today.
Ryan’s honesty on the subject + what drives him is simply inspiring. Unafraid to invite everyone into hearing his story, I am honored that he has allowed me to help tell + disseminate it for a bigger cause.
So I invite + ask you to take the time and listen to my friend Ryan. Listen to his honest + his heart + take a ride on his journey.
That was recorded last summer after his first AIDS/Lifecycle ride. This year, he’s coming back for seconds. If you have the time + funds, please click the link below and make a donation to Ryan’s cause, no matter the amount.
I personally want to thank you for taking the time to read this post.