The Signs of San Francisco

4 Jan

I love typography and typeface and fonts. So when I went to San Francisco and starting walking around, I noticed all of these vintage signs. Photographer’s dream!  Here are a few of my finds:

A lot of people know about the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square. But there isn’t as much chatter about the high school across the street, which I found equally as fascinating. While I was waiting for the bus (for twenty minutes, natch), these kids were just hanging out and I thought it added great perspective to a sign that you normally wouldn’t see.

North Beach was one of my favourite places to find vintage signs, walk around, get lost and spend the afternoon at an old school Italian coffee shop. No wi-fi. No grande or venti. Just good old coffee and conversation with the locals.

North Beach

There’s a lot of colour in North Beach, this wee Italian neighbourhood that apparently, Frances Ford Coppola hangs around in. It’s little shops, tasty Italian restaurants and art deco buildings. LE LOVE. I could spend days wandering around here.

I love this picture. In front of the famous City Lights Bookstore. RIP: my converse.

On the edge of North Beach is the City Lights Bookstore. It’s chock full of signs and I’m posting this photo again because I love it and I look hipster and I won’t look hipster forever. This a mini tribute to my H&M denim blazer that I’ve had since 2006. It’s lost but has never been found. RIP Denim blazer. Thank you for sheltering me against mild breezes and acting as a layer on many occasions.

Jack Kerouac. Classic.

You can’t be near the City Lights Bookstore without mentioning this sign. On the road? Indeed.

La Taqueria. A favourite find.

Heading over to the Mission, my homie Gnomie and I ended up getting a hat tip from a local to go to La Taqueria.  You can get a cheap and cheerful meal here (Corona included) for less than $10. It’s pretty amazing. And so is that sign. Retro Personified.

The corner store in Noe Valley.

My jaunt in the Mission ended up in a long winded walk through Noe Valley. My new Olympus isn’t particularly suited to night shots but I was able to capture this one. San Francisco does sleep and walking in these neighbourhoods in the dark alone was half parts eerie (Hello, Twin Peaks anyone?) and half parts peaceful. But that’s the best part about San Francisco: juxtaposition between neighbourhoods and feelings.

The Tenderloin District at its best. But it's better than the real thing because you get a salted caramel at the end.

And there are definitely neighbourhoods that contrast each other. South of the tony Nob Hill nabe, I had the opportunity (and yes, I do say opportunity) to have stayed in the Tenderloin. As seedy is its underbelly, small businesses are burgeoning here because of cheaper rents. And hey, at least the clientele are full of um, character.  My favourite find in the Tenderloin was this cheekily named shop, Hooker’s. They have the most delightful salted caramels. A perfect place to work.

I remember when I checked into my hostel, the guy drew a huge x on the map that marked a good 4 blocks and said, “Don’t go here. Even during the day.”  And I listened to him…at first. But the homeless and the hoookers and the drug addicts are for the most part, harmless. On the other side are people who are trying to rise this neighbourhood beyond what it is and do good things. And that’s a sign we should all be looking for. (Cue after school special music).


3 Responses to “The Signs of San Francisco”

  1. Raghav January 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Have you seen the documentary Helvetica? If you like typography you will enjoy it. Great post.

  2. christopher January 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Pretty sure that sign for the liquor store is at 17th and Noe, which is the heart of the Castro. Love the pics though. 🙂

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