How I See San Francisco: Litquake Founders Jack Boulware & Jane Ganahl
San Francisco has a long literary history stretching all the way back to the 19th century when the likes of Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde sought inspiration from the City by the Bay. Several authors have made San Francisco home since then, such as Jack London, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Today, Litquake celebrates the literary arts for 10 days every October. Whether it’s poets reciting in a cathedral, authors debating science and religion in a library, or novelists reading in a beekeeping supply store, the goal remains the same: whet a broad range of literary appetites, present the literary fare in a variety of traditional and unlikely venues, and make it vivid, real, and entertaining. Now the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast, Litquake was founded in 1999 by writers Jack Boulware and Jane Ganahl. This is how they see San Francisco.
What's your perfect day in San Francisco?
Jack: I would start off with a single-pour coffee at any of the Philz Coffee outlets. Order the dark roast Code 33 blend; it was created specifically for the SFPD and Fire Department. Lunch at the Ferry Building Hog Island oyster bar. Don’t bother waiting in the long line; go inside and sit at the bar. Every seat has a perfect view of the bay. Order the Dungeness crab sandwich. Don’t get hung up on the wine list; just order a glass (or a bottle!) of whatever the waiter recommends. Take in an afternoon matinee at the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission District. If you need further sustenance, they offer a full bar and food menu inside every theater. If there’s a cool author reading that night, go see a slice of the incredible Bay Area literary scene. And if you want live music, check out The Chapel, a restaurant/club in the Mission District housed inside a former funeral home.
Jane: Brunch at Presidio Social Club followed by a trip to the California Academy of Sciences (I swoon for their indoor exhibit with butterflies). Then bar food at Jardiniere, followed by a ballet, opera, symphony or show at A.C.T.--or if the Giants are in the playoffs, a Giants game complete with kale salad and bourbon smash cocktail.
What should every visitor to San Francisco do at least once?
Jack: Visit City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, and browse the racks of books and marvel at the selection. Trotsky in Norway, Exile: 1935-1937. You will be astonished at the intellectual firepower in that building.
Jane: The Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.
What’s your favorite place to take a photo or read a book?
Jack: I can read a book anywhere, and everyone should feel free to do so. I tend to take photos only when I’m reminded to. But the whole city is so photogenic, any neighborhood will make you whip out your phone and snap away.
Jane: Ocean Beach, from the windows at the Beach Chalet restaurant, during a storm.
Where do you indulge your artistic side in San Francisco?
Jack: I like to do lit readings at Vesuvio Café in North Beach or the Edinburgh Castle pub in the Tenderloin. I usually write at home, but sometimes I'll camp out in whichever neighborhood cafe doesn't have baby strollers. I play music in a band occasionally. That often happens at the Bay View Boat Club, a cool little roadhouse bar just south of AT&T Park.
What’s your favorite event that happens in San Francisco?
Jack: I try to make Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass each year. They always have great lineups and HSB is free, of course. It’s a very San Francisco thing. This city basically invented that type of music show.
Jane: I’m prejudiced, but Litquake of course! A book lover’s fantasy week.
Where and what would you choose for your last meal in San Francisco?
Jack: Tadich Grill in the Financial District, the oldest restaurant in the city. Sit at that big wooden counter. Order the surf and turf, oysters Rockefeller and salad on the side, a cocktail or a glass of wine. The waiter will be grumpy; don’t worry, that happens. And as they take you out and handcuff you and put you in the van to drive you to San Quentin (you said this was the last meal, right?), look out the mesh window at the beautiful sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge, and wonder how did Mother Earth create such a beautiful place.
Jane: Wild mushroom ravioli at Greens! Nice way to die, with that view!
Which restaurant is still on your list to dine at in San Francisco?
Jack: I’ve heard Michael Mina is fantastic, and next time I rob a bank, I’m headed there.
Who do you follow to keep up with San Francisco news?
Jack: I follow lots of local journalists and news sources on Facebook and Twitter, so my feed is popping with links every morning. NextDraft, by Dave Pell, is an excellent distillation of the day’s news, world and local, and the app is free. For extended long form analysis of Bay Area news and issues, I often look to British news sites like the Guardian or the Independent, since most of those reporters live in the Bay Area, and they’re allowed more time and room to report their stories.
Jane: KQED and KCBS radio.
Any last final advice for travelers in San Francisco?
Jack: Bring layers. Forget the shorts. Get ready for some walking. Be aware you might eat early or late, to skip waiting in lines. Prepare for the fog. In fact, follow @karlthefog on Twitter. It’s a daily feed of pithy items posted from the point of view of the San Francisco fog.
Jane: Take in the cultural scene. Eat the food. Bring clothes for a wide variety of weather. Leave your heart here.