The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour o' the nabes, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. This week, we welcome Jackson West on board as a guest contributor; Jackson has been blogging in and about San Francisco for nearly five years, most recently gossiping about the technology industry at Valleywag. Join Jackson every day this week as he says his piece about the NB. Want to say your piece, blogger? Holler! (And don't worry, we won't leave you hanging on Benjamin Street.)
[Did we mention that Jackson is photo editing, too? This street poetry was found in the NB.]
North Beach, my neighborhood of over two years, is in many ways a preserve like the rest of San Francisco, only more so. It is certainly cleaner and better served by municipal agencies then my old corner of the city at 24th and Potrero, presumably because of the image the neighborhood has to uphold on behalf of San Francisco to the legions of tourists from around the world who come to haunt the ghosts of Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg. On a bad day, it's like living in an off-brand corner of Disneyland. On a good day, reading Frank Norris in a claw-foot tub older than your parents, it's more than worth the heartache of my monthly rent.
While there is still a small and lively literary population anchored around the venerable but still-vibrant City Lights books, I mostly enjoy my corner of the peninsula because, while not centrally located, most of my day-to-day necessities can be had by walking just a few blocks. Wander around the neighborhood this way long enough, and the strip club barkers, cable car operators, coffee roasters, small-time politicos and pizza slingers will eventually pick your face out from the crowd of flyover state transients and Europeans with their hard currency and you'll start to get the goods on the machinations behind the scenes— but it takes a while.
Sure, it's not the hippest, or cheapest, or most convenient neighborhood to live in, but I love it, and you'll get the lease on my rent-controlled studio overlooking Washington Square Park from my cold, dead hands.