Walking with Mary

The last posting generated a response from Jennifer, who wants to know about a day tour of the city before the San Francisco launch party for LOCKED ROOMS next week. What fun!

(Now, if I can only remember what the book is about and where they went in it’e2’80’a6)

Before you set off, you might like to print off the ‘e2’80’9cSan Francisco Then and Now’e2’80’9d page from my web site’e2’80’99s Press Page and take it along for a comparison of the Cliff House, the Ferry Building, and Lafayette Square.

Chinatown is most definitely a part of the book, and be sure you look for the pagoda that was the phone exchange in the Twenties, because the poor operators there were rather startled by the events of the book’e2’80’99s ending scene. And while in The City, Russell and Holmes stay at the St Francis, whose afternoon tea I can recommend, and Russell walks from Union Square to Chinatown in a bit of a daze.

Her walk that evening would be a bit of a stretch for most of us, but in case you’e2’80’99re feeling ambitious (or want to cheat and drive it) she goes down Grant all the way to the Embarcadero, follows the water past Fisherman’e2’80’99s Wharf and the Aquatic Park and then turns south on, probably, Gough or Octavia up into Pacific Heights to her house.

The Cliff House is a place you should definitely visit, and the best way to begin here is to park near the Sutro gardens at the top of the hill and walk through them until you are staring down at the road, the sea, Ocean Beach, and the (new) Cliff House. This is another fabulous place to eat, with the waves, rocks, and sea lions just as Russell and Holmes see them in the book, although the version of the place that shows on the cover is the earlier building, which survived the earthquake (one wonders how) only to burn a year later. For those who object to the anachronism, please see page 67 of the book, and don’e2’80’99t write me any more letters to point out the mistake.

Dashiell Hammett’e2’80’99s home at this time was in the apartment house at 620 Eddy, and he often ate at John’e2’80’99s Grill, on Ellis near Stockton. There’e2’80’99s no name to the grill where Holmes meets him in the book, but it could be John’e2’80’99s.

And Russell’e2’80’99s home? Unfortunately, she gives no address. But for an idea of her neighborhood, drive into Pacific Heights and park along the perimeter of Lafayette Square. From the eastern side of the Square, you can see what burned during the 1906 fire, described by her father’e2’80’99s manuscript in the book. And for a lovely, beautifully preserved private home similar to what hers must have looked like, visit the Haas-Lilienthal House on Franklin Street near Washington. It’e2’80’99s even open on Wednesdays, from noon to three.

At the time, and especially during Russell’e2’80’99s childhood, the cable car lines were considerably more extensive. Visit the exhilarating cable car museum for an idea of what stops Russell would have made. It’e2’80’99s on Washington and Mason, eight blocks east of the Haas-Lilienthal house, three west of Chinatown’e2’80’99s main street. In fact, you could walk the length of Washington from Lafayette Square to the Embarcadero, about a mile and a half, and you’e2’80’99d end up at the Ferry Building, just in time for a restorative glass of champagne and a Mary Russell fortune cookie.

Many of these places have web sites, to give you background, and the St Francis has rooms very like those of the 1920s that look out over Union Square.

And be sure you tell me at the party what you ended up seeing.

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  1. Jacqui on June 14, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    This may have nothing to do with the blog… but how long do Book Signings usually last? My sister and I live in Seattle and were going to visit the event here. My sister needs to block a certain amount of time off from work and neither of us have any clue for how long.

  2. myninki on June 14, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    well, this going to be a long, long wait for me, and its highly unlikely that i could think about something else.
    i hope someone takes pictures at the party for the ones that are too far!

  3. 2maple on June 14, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    I chuckled reading your San Francisco walking tour ‘e2’80’a6 my husband and I try to sneak away for a long weekend occasionally and spent some time there about a year and a half ago.

    We did a bunch of touristy or just quirky things we wanted to do with time off (like trying to find the most obscure Chinese restaurants’e2’80’a6the ones where the waiters look at you and debate whether you’e2’80’99ll know anything on the menu), but there was one day week we just ‘e2’80’9cwalked the city’e2’80’9d (and just about walked me into the ground). We ate breakfast down on the waterfront with the fisherman (east coasters who can’e2’80’99t sleep late are really up at the crack of dawn on the west coast), walked through Lafayette Square in the cool of early in the morning, accidentally met this tiny, old woman explaining the Black jazz era to her grandson through this sidewalk photo exhibit, who just gave us her life story and an amazing insight into another world (she was in some of the photos and her laugh had more joy in it than anyone I can remember), on to Alamo Square and the ‘e2’80’9cPainted Ladies’e2’80’9d, saw the Cable Car Museum, then to Union Square (tea at the St Francis would have been nice – but we ended up in this 5-story music store finding all sorts of eclectic music to drive our kids nuts) and finally took a cable car ride back to our hotel. As a chronic home renovator, I loved the old Victorian houses (as long as I don’e2’80’99t have to paint them!)

    Champagne and fortune cookies at the end would have been a real treat (too bad, I’e2’80’99d love to have one of your “fortunes” to go with other interesting fortunes I’e2’80’99ve kept through the years). Sounds like quite the bash being planned…

  4. WDI on June 14, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    I’m hoping to visit SF again next summer after reading the book. Last summer I was able to take a couple of east-coast students on a (relatively) quick visit before their red-eye back to Virginia. We just parked at Ghirardelli Square and followed the water to Pier 39, but they loved the street artists, window shopping, and lovely views along the way. My favorite part was taking them out to the end of Pier 39 and showing them “my” landmarks: the Bay Bridge and the buildings of the UC Berkeley campus (the campanille and International House are easily visible across the water). What a beautiful city — and why didn’t I ever spend much time in it when I lived in the area???

  5. Chris on June 15, 2005 at 9:04 am

    I read all these comments and miss the city so much! Fifteen or so visits in the last 8 years andI feel so at home there, and have made many friends there. I knwo all these places to which you all refer, and I only wish I had my usual June visit this year, and could attend the launch of Locked Rooms.

    Ah well – just a couple of weeks (I hope) until I get my (UK) copy.

  6. Jennifer Ice on June 15, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    Dear Laurie,
    Thanks for the ideas. We have our map highlighted and our walking shoes ready. The St. Francis no longer does afternoon tea (we were looking forward to that), but we can’t wait to try some Dashiell Hammett entrees at John’s Grill. See you on Wednesday.
    FYI – I couldn’t bring up the old and new San Francisco page on your web site. I tried on two different computers. I thought I had the right program to read it. Thanks again for all your great Mary Russell information.

  7. Rebecca on June 15, 2005 at 2:07 pm

    Grr! I wish our trip to San Francisco could have been two months later so I could have gone to the Mary Russell party. At least now I know the layout of the city and can picture exactly what you’re talking about. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book!

  8. Anonymous on June 16, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Oh, ding dang nab it! I’m going to be in San Francisco on our family vacation just 9 days too late! My husband just couldn’t get away from work any earlier. I see that I will be in town for two of your appearances at SF area bookstores–perhaps all is not lost. And really, I’ll be in San Francisco herself, so I’ve nothing to complain about! I absolutely will be following in Russell’s footsteps with *Locked Rooms* in hand! The route she took from Union Square seems like a perfectly lovely walk to me. Also, I want to see all the other places you mentioned in your entry today. Hope the launch party is a blast and see you soon.

    Maer aka “Merely a whim.”

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