North Beach Journal

Ferlinghetti Plaza, signs of the times and highly important trivia

Is this a sign of the times, or is it just the season of the glitch?

I received an e-mail from the law offices of that mover and sometimes-persistent shaker, Angela Alioto. It read, “October 3 press conference cancelled.” It went on to state, “There is a new plan for unveiling the Piazza — more to come.”

Readers will recall that this message from Angela’s office refers to a press conference presumably to announce the go-ahead for the Lawrence Ferlinghetti concept to turn that short block of Vallejo Street between Grant and Columbus into an Italianate pedestrian walkway and park, complete with benches, trees and creature comforts; in short, an urban oasis with the Church of St. Francis of Assisi’s Porziuncola at one end and Caffe Trieste at the other. Ferlinghetti proposed this idea several years ago — it’s his baby — and he has worked tirelessly to raise approximately $2 million to get it built. Necessary city approvals have been gained, and there has been considerable fund raising.

Angela got into the act a few years ago, and has stated repeatedly she would come up with the necessary funds for what she — and even a benevolent Ferlinghetti — are both referring to as the Piazza St. Francis.


I’m sure Lawrence has just as good a pipeline to St. Francis as Angela does. And I’m wondering if bringing his vision to fruition is going to take divine intervention.

Angela’s press conference — presumably to show us the money and get things going — was first scheduled for Aug. 3. Then it slipped to Sept. 3 and then to Oct. 3. And now the date has slipped again with the message, “More to come.” So we are not yet ready to canonize Angela.

Now the old adage “no news is good news” needs modification — “no news is bad news” — that is, bad news for poet Ferlinghetti’s plan. Once more, we ask: Can we please get this thing completed in Lawrence’s lifetime?

As an afterthought, my preference would be to call this project Lawrence Ferlinghetti Plaza. I’m sure St. Francis would understand.


Does it occur to anyone else that if back in 2004 the big bore Telegraph Hill Dwellers hadn’t stopped the Pagoda Palace Theater from becoming (logically) a theater or (second plan) condos with underground parking and a Mexican restaurant, North Beach would not be facing the painful dental extraction on Powell Street of the really Big Bore now tunneling its way toward our neighborhood? That’s a helluva toothache.


My North Beach buddy Bernardo Quintana plans a sequel to Bum Rap: A Noir Fantasy, the short film in which he stars. With the ultimate in typecasting, Bernie plans to have this humble columnist play journalist Walter Winchell. “Good evening Mr. and Mrs. North America, from coast to coast and border to border, and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press.”


When news got out that Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s disease, North Beach flaneur Greg Hearn went over to Saints Peter and Paul and talked to a priest there about saying a mass for her good health and long life — a fine idea. Greg wanted to get one of those ornate Mass cards sent by mail to the famed songstress but didn’t know her address. So he asked my favorite cop, Jimmy Dignam, from Central Station, to find her address. She lives out in the Richmond. Cops can do anything, you know. But Jimmy the Cop had a better idea: He decided to deliver the holy good wishes in person.


After that heavy-duty neighborhood news, it’s probably time for some trivia: a few signs that have caught my eye.

Focaccia heaven in North Beach is located precisely at the corner of Stockton and Filbert. It’s the Liguria Bakery that has made the tasty flatbread at the same location since 1915. In chipped gold lettering on Liguria’s large window facing the sidewalk is a sign reading: LIGURIA BAKERY — Soracco & Co. Tel: GARFIELD 13786

Prominently displayed on the Wall at Capp’s Corner at Powell and Green is a large white sign. It reads: EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS: Grab your coat, don’t forget your hat. Leave your worries on the doorstep. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!

On an exterior wall of the NorthStar, a saloon at Powell and Green, is this irreverent but sidesplitting sign: Voted Best Happy Hour by the Betty Ford Clinic. On another exterior wall at the NorthStar is this: Drinking Consultants since 1885.

We also like this all-encompassing sign at Gigi’s Sotto Mare on Green: Welcome to the Chaos.

Then there’s this sign at Tupelo’s on Upper Grant: “Come let’s make poor decisions together.”

O’Reilly’s Irish Pub has a sign reading: It’s Tacos on Tuesday. Irish tacos?

In a second-story window at iconic City Lights Booksellers and Publishers on Columbus is the edict: Turn Left.

I called your attention in an earlier column to this sign by Banksy, the genius graffiti artist. But we consider it again because it’s been some time ago. Look at the building wall at the southeast corner of Broadway and Columbus: If at first you don’t succeed, call an air strike.

Over the entrance at Vesuvio’s on Columbus: We are itching to get away from Portland, Oregon.

More from Vesuvio’s: When the shadow of the grasshopper falls across the trail of the field mouse, on green and slimy grass as a red sun sets above the western horizon silhouetting a gaunt and tautly muscled Indian warrior perched with bow and arrow cocked and pointed straight at you, it’s time for another martini.

In the window at Ali Baba Smoke Shop next to the Psychic Shop on Columbus: Used Skulls

At The Underground (Licensed Grateful Dead and Rock ‘n’ Roll Merchandise): Take Me Drunk, I’m Home.

Let’s close this column with an apt Ferlinghettism. On the sidewalk along Kerouac Alley adjacent to City Lights: Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations.

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