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Tag: California

Month of Letters: Day 28

Finally! The last day of this challenge. I think the intent was good, but it takes more time out of your day than what one might expect. I think this would be a great project for people who have more free time than I do. As I’ve mentioned before, after this I’m sticking to doing all my mail on the weekends. If I were to participate again next year, I may reduce it down to one postcard a day. Maybe two.

Anyways, this last batch. The first one is going to someone in Russia who likes local nature scenes–I think I got this one in a tiny convenience store I stopped in while driving around Marin County a while back. The second is going to Belgium to someone who like comics and food (hence the food stamps and decorations and the Superman postcard from the Vintage DC Comics postcard box set put out by Chronicle Books). The third is to an animal lover in France who particularly likes all the animals that I’ve managed to squeeze into this (the postcard is from a set called “The Art of Instruction”). And the fourth is to an old school postcard collector in Germany who had a, um, roundabout way of stating that they didn’t like anything but tourist postcards and no decorations at the back. I also took care to not place any of the stamps over the writing because they specifically didn’t want stickers over any writing. And, you know, all the US stamps are stickers now. They might still not like the stamps, though, because they don’t like art.

Month of Letters: Day 27

First up is a postcard from the Earth and Space postcard box going to someone in Italy for a space tag. The second postcard is one I actually purchased at the San Diego Zoo going to someone in Taiwan for a zoo tag. And the third is also going to someone in Italy who likes bridges. Well, bridges is actually one of their minor preferences. They actually collect postcards with naked ladies on them and since that’s a subject I have no interest in accumulating in my stash, I had to find something else. Also, this person specifically said no cute things–hence the lack of decorations on the back of this postcard. I had to use the plainer stamps because this person also didn’t like flowers. I suppose I could have gone for the ship stamps, but they’re not the specific type of ships this person likes.

Honestly, I feel that my interest in postcards and an old dude’s interest in postcards only intersects at a very technical level.

Month of Letters: Day 22

First up today is a cat postcard for a cat tag going to someone in Taiwan. And in a related feline tag is a postcard I had originally gotten at a rummage sale of a lynx in the middle of a leap–going to someone in France. And finally, a postcard of the de Young Museum since the German person this is going to had requested local attractions.

Month of Letters: Day 17

The first postcard today is going to a retirement home in Germany–the person requesting this had specified that any postcards sent should be about the location, thus the vintage postcard with a cable car. The second is actually a birthday postcard going to Canada even though it’s a photograph of the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, because the birthday person in question likes historical facts. The last postcard is heading to Italy and it is for a map tag–I have a bunch of Civil War map postcards and this is pretty much the only way I can give them away to people who would actually like them.

Postcard Set Review #1: Wildflowers of California by A.R. Valentien

I’ve been thinking for a while about a series of reviews on postcard sets (books, boxes, or otherwise) that I’ve bought and personally used to send to other people. While these reviews will be more like “lightning” reviews and the frequency would be sporadic, it’s more for my own documentation and edification. Feel free to skip to the pictures below if you don’t feel like reading blather.

Several years ago, when I was still living in San Diego, I was browsing the gift shop of the San Diego Natural History Museum and came across this postcard book: Wildflowers of California. I was just beginning my postcard hobby at the time and this seemed like a pretty good deal, getting an entire book of postcards rather than purchasing them one at a time at a dollar a piece. I didn’t think too much about the artist or the subject matter at the time, only that I liked it because I like nature illustrations in general and flowers seemed like a fairly inocuous thing to mail to other random people without possibly offending any sensibilities.

This was also where I first encountered something that was published by Pomegranate–which I later learned also made a lot of other stationary and specialized in printing postcard books of fine art that could be found in a number of different museums. There’s definitely a certain style to postcards printed by Pomegranate. The card stock for postcard books is durable but slippery. I’m always afraid that any ink will smudge if it gets wet and the surface is not good for writing with ballpoint pens which require a rougher surface.
It was only later that I learned who Albert Robert Valentien was and why I was only able to find this postcard book at the San Diego Natural History Museum. It’s a shame that it’s too difficult to find a copy online and another shame that Valentien never saw his work (which took a decade to finish!) get published. His illustrations are really quite wonderful.

A Visit to the Beat Museum

Today, on a whim, I went to the Beat Museum which is located in North Beach. I admit, I didn’t know anything about the Beat Generation. I had this stereotypical view that they were a bunch of artists who dressed all in black in the 1950s and recited depressing poetry in dimly lit smokey jazz clubs. I probably should read more of their work to get a better sense of the era. But in any case, I came away with the feeling that these artists had a lot more crazy drama in their lives than the normal person.

Which brings up these questions: Why do so many famous artists have so much drama in their lives? Is experiencing drama necessary for producing art? Are well-adjusted people doomed to never produce good art? Or is that the nature of art itself–as a window to the artist’s angst in which we the viewers are just voyeristic rubberneckers?

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Postcard #285 – From Yosemite

Yes, I’m finally getting to a postcard I sent to myself! There’s a post office in Yosemite, so I couldn’t resist sending something from there.

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Bookshop Hunting #5

Note: These are only my opinions and impressions of bookstores, book fairs, book sales, and/or other book-related events I’ve visited. I am not reviewing or ranking them because I’m sure other people will visit these places and have diverging opinions. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences of what a great bookstore should be. If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment on this post and take a look at my bookstore list in progress to make sure your suggestion doesn’t overlap with a place I already know about.

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Paulist Center Bookstore (614 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This Catholic gift shop is located on the edge of Chinatown and to me, seems rather out of place. There’s religious knick knacks and gifts here, of course, but there are also books. Most of it is of a Christian bent so of no interest to me. However, they also do sell a few used books and I was somewhat surprised to find several Danielle Steel novels on sale. I’ve never read a Steel novel, but I didn’t think they were particularly religious…

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Louie Brothers Book Store (754 Washington St, San Francisco, CA) 
I had been here before to buy a few postcards. The store itself is narrow, but neat. The selection here is mostly Chinese literature (in Chinese, of course), but you can also find greeting cards in the front (I bought a Chinese New Year card for my parents here). There are also Asian skin mags near the front counter, which seems somewhat unusual.

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Sino-American Books & Arts (751 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA)
I had been visiting the fortune cookie factory and I turned a corner and there this store was, squeezed in between some other food stores. When I visited, there was a blaring television and the whole store seemed to channel a paper factory explosion. They do have a lot of manga/graphic novels and books in the same series were tied together into bundles with twine and stacked like abandoned cords of firewood. The aisles are extremely narrow with barely enough room for one normal sized person. Again, it’s mostly literature in Chinese. There might be some great stuff in this store, but the general disorganization makes the neat freak in me cringe.

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City Lights Booksellers & Publishers (261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is the iconic bookstore in San Francisco, located on the edge of Chinatown and Little Italy. Every time I come here, there’s always something new to see. The first time I came to the store, the booksellers were very helpful with finding a book I had been trying to locate forever. The front door to the store is narrow and when it’s crowded with tourists, it’s impossible to navigate (I had gone there once when it was bursting with tourists, but I gave up quickly after one step into the store and found that I could not move anywhere—this would be frustrating for other tourists, but at least I had the luxury of living in the Bay Area and coming at a different time). The second floor is devoted to poetry, the first floor is fiction, and the bottom floor is non-fiction. I spend most of my time on the bottom floor, wishing I had enough money to buy their entire mythology and folklore section. When I visited this place last Sunday, there were a moderate number of patrons, which was great. I really don’t like crashing into other people every time I want to browse books.

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Eastwind Books & Arts, Inc. (1435 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA) | Website
I mentioned this store in a previous post on this store’s Berkeley branch. This particular store is located next to a bank down some stairs on the lower level. Right outside the door of the store are carts of sale DVDs, CDs, books, and magazines. Most of the store’s inventory is Chinese media and literature (the stuff in English is tucked away all in the back). It’s a large, well organized store with books available in many subjects. When I last visited there, they had Chinese New Year cards on sale (without the envelope) and I discovered they had a large cook book section. If my parents visit me again, this would be a place I’d recommend they check out.

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Coit Tower Gift Shop (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
I walked to the Coit Tower from Chinatown, but if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to scale Telegraph Hill, you can take bus 39 or drive (warning: extremely limited parking). Getting up the tower itself will set you back $8, but if you’re just there for the gift shop, you’ll find a lot of Coit Tower knick knacks, overpriced postcards, prints, and vintage books for $10 each. Personally, I’d say go for the views from Coit Tower and avoid the gift shop. You can get better deals of the postcards and books elsewhere. You won’t be missing much.

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Bookshop Hunting #4

Note: These are only my opinions and impressions of bookstores, book fairs, book sales, and/or other book-related events I’ve visited. I am not reviewing or ranking them because I’m sure other people will visit these places and have diverging opinions. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences of what a great bookstore should be. If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment on this post and take a look at my bookstore list in progress to make sure your suggestion doesn’t overlap with a place I already know about.

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Warm Springs Book Company (46513 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA) | Website
I was in the area and Google Maps said that this was here so I figured, why not drive past this place and see if there’s anything? But there’s nothing here, just housing and a busy road. After further Googling, I discovered that this bookstore exists solely online and the address they prefer you to reach them at is a post office box. Anyways, even if there had been a bookstore at this location, it’s probably one of the worst locations to be in. It’s right at Exit 12 on I-680 where cars are exiting the highway and merging straight into Mission Blvd. Trying to get to this place by taking the back roads would be a miracle because there are no back roads.

Half Price Books (39152 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA) | Website
I arrived at this bookstore approximately one hour before it closed. The arrangement of this store is similar to other Half Price Book stores, so there’s no surprise there. When I was visiting, there weren’t many other customers, so it was rather nice wandering around, browsing the shelves without worrying about bumping into other people. If I lived near here, this would definitely be one of my frequent haunts, but since this takes me about one hour to get here, this will probably end up as an occasional visit depending on my schedule. The easiest way to get here is on I-880, Exit 17 at Mowry Ave.

Flash Sale – Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library (1750 Oak Park Blvd, Pleasant Hill, CA) | Website
The Pleasant Hill Library hosts a couple book sales during the year, the times which are publicized on their website and the town’s monthly newsletter. I didn’t realize this was a small sale until later so I was a bit disappointed with the selection. Last Saturday, they had a couple tables out in front of the library with adult fiction and history on display. There were more books on sale inside the library, but it was primarily literature geared towards kids and young adults. I was trying to look for travel books and dictionaries, but I didn’t find any. I think the larger book sales occur during the summer—at least the one I went to last summer took up most of the parking lot next to the library—and is probably a better bet if you’re looking for a variety of subjects. The library is about one mile west of the Pleasant Hill BART station. If you’re driving, take Exit 48 on I-680.

The Interval at Long Now (Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is a coffee shop and bar, but I decided to include this because there are definitely books here. As Google describes it, it has “a librarylike vibe”. Right at the entrance is a large model orrey and a slim spiral staircase leading up to the second floor. Although you can’t go upstairs, the second floor is open to view from below and it’s just shelves of books. The first floor is the coffee bar, but it also has a very modern feel. I like the look, but I also felt very out of place among all the yuppies and I hastily exited after briefly looking around. There are a number of buses that can get you to the vicinity of Fort Mason: 19, 28, 30, 43, 47, 49.

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Readers Bookstore (Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is located in the same area as The Interval, just a building over. The bookstore is another division of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, so it’s all used books. However, I’d say the quality of these used books are better than the stuff you’d find at the warehouse, so expect the prices to be accordingly higher. It’s a very cozy bookstore with an entire section on local history. A cafe is next to the bookstore. I’m not sure I’d try their chai again, but their sandwiches are certainly delicious.

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Chronicle Books (1846 Union St, San Francisco, CA) | Website
Since I happened to be in the area, I walked from Fort Mason to this location. This turned out to be a fail. I had been looking at a list of bookstores collected by Chronicle Books and since this was on it, I decided to find it. I did, but it’s permanently closed, soon to be taken over by some upscale clothing boutique. I was a bit pissed, to be honest. The neighborhood is upscale, but seriously, how many clothes do rich ladies need anyway? There are already so many other clothing stores on that street but no other bookstores. Anyways, Chronicle Books still has a store on 4th Street. I hope some silly clothing boutique store doesn’t take over that one as well.

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Bookshop Hunting #3

Note: These are only my opinions and impressions of bookstores, book fairs, book sales, and/or other book-related events I’ve visited. I am not reviewing or ranking them because I’m sure other people will visit these places and have diverging opinions. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences of what a great bookstore should be. If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment on this post and take a look at my bookstore list in progress to make sure your suggestion doesn’t overlap with a place I already know about.

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Pegasus Books Downtown (2349 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
My visit to this new and used bookstore in downtown Berkeley this weekend was actually my second visit ever to this place. I do like it because it’s quite distinctive (a bright blue facade) and it has a nice variety to browse through. On my first visit some time close to the end of last year, I was able to find some beautiful tropical underwater postcards for sale which I have since sent to other postcard enthusiasts who loved them. The lower level of the bookstore consists of new/recent books near the front along with the gifts and stationary near the front counter. To the right of the front door, there is a large sale section along with the art and architecture books. Towards the back left of the store are a section of used records and cassettes and genre fiction. The upper floor contains literature. On this second visit, I was a bit pressed for time because I was running late to a write-in so I wasn’t able to browse as much as I wanted, but there was giant calendar sale going on with a huge selection of art calendars. Nowadays, I no longer get paper calendars since all my scheduling is done electronically, but my teenaged self would have had a field day. This is extremely easy to get to—it’s only four blocks south of the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

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Moe’s Books (2476 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
A fellow NaNoWriMo writer recommended this bookstore to me a couple days ago, and I’m really glad I took her advice to check this place out. The front of the store isn’t much to look at, but the inside of this place is enormous—four floors of a booklover’s paradise. There’s a mix of new and used books, with most of the new books are on the first and second levels. There are concrete stairwells at the front and back of the store with maps for easy navigation. The first floor consists of newer genre fiction, children’s books, new fiction, and stationary. The second floor contains new and used non-fiction, mainly art and travel. The third floor has used books about language arts, culture, and science. The fourth floor has used books on history, but about half of the floor, too, is taken up by a separated section with rare and antique books. I was really happy I was able to find a cheap Portuguese dictionary for my Dad (he’s trying to learn the language but for some reason hasn’t been able to find a copy in all the bookstores he’s looked in where he lives), and a book discussing the culture and superstition behind “the evil eye”. I am definitely coming back here again if I can. It’s four blocks east of Pegasus Books or three blocks south of the UC Berkeley campus.

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Mad Monk Center for Anacronistic Media (2454 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
This is just a few doors down from Moe’s. Initially, I had not planned on visiting this place because according to Google, this is not a bookstore. But in reality, it kind of is. What caught my eye was that they had wheeled out carts of sale books onto the sidewalk. Unfortunately, if you go into the bookstore, they make you check all your bags in behind the counter—so if you plan to visit, visit this place first before you shop at other places and do not bring your backpack/purse. If you can get away with it, only take a wallet, your ID, and your phone. The first floor of this place is mostly filled with music records. Along the walls are genre fiction and some other non-fiction (I was able to find some travel books I wanted to collect for only a couple dollars). There is also an upper level filled with books, but I did not have time to explore it. I will probably visit this place again once or twice to check out the sections I haven’t seen, but I personally don’t like the policy about checking in bags. I understand why they have it, but I hate the assumption that I’m a thief first and a possible customer second.

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Doe Memorial Library Book Sale (University of California, Berkeley, CA) | Website
Normally, this isn’t open to the public, but I was able to take a look at this because I was at a write-in here and I know one of the librarians. The sale itself is located on the third floor of the library in a beautifully designed reading room and the inventory consists of books that the library no longer needs in its collection. As far as I know, the next time this will open will be at the next month’s write-in (check our regional NaNoWriMo calendar for dates and times) as well as Cal Day on April 21. A word of warning for anyone planning on coming to the book sale on Cal Day–I’ve heard in past years it’s a melee. Apparently by 9 AM, the lines are extremely long and people bring carts with them in anticipation of grabbing as many books as they can. So go early and bring equipment to haul your bookish treasures away.

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Half Price Books (2036 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
There are several Half Price Books stores in the Bay Area and this is one of them. I actually knew about this chain of bookstores before because of their online presence (it was a great resource in helping me collect the different volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies). So when I moved up to the Bay Area, I was really happy to find out that they also had a physical presence. The store in Berkeley is on the corner of Addison and Shattuck, just one block north of the Berkeley BART station. I’ve been to this one several times last year and it was great for finding deals on postcard books and other stationary. This particular store has placed all the stationary, music, and comic books near the front. When I visited this past weekend, the front section was also taken up with a calendar sale. Subject signs are helpfully hung from the ceiling. The non-fiction books are shelved around the perimeter and the fiction in the center. The children’s books and young adult fiction are in the northwest corner of the store while the enormous station where you can bring your books to sell is in the southwest corner. The middle back of the store has a shelf of clearance books. It’s both a new and used bookstore, but the new books are also discounted. For some reason, I am never able to leave this store without buying anything.

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Fantastic Comics (2026 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
This comic bookstore is next to Half Price Books and I find it to be a hybrid inventory-oriented and display sort of store. The structure of the store is very open concept—to the point that I feel like they have too much space and not enough shelves (or reading chairs if one is so inclined). There’s one major bank of shelves along one wall with the graphic novels shelved spine out, but the rest of the shelves on the floor have them shelved cover in front. I don’t know if it’s the atmosphere or what, but I feel really out of place here.

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Eastwind Books of Berkeley (2066 University Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
If you walk further on from Half Price Books and Fantastic Comics and round the corner to your left on University Ave, you’ll find Eastwind Books. There’s another Eastwind Books in San Francisco’s Chinatown which I had been to before—that bookstore mainly has books in Chinese, Chinese CVDs (the poor cousin to DVDs), and art supplies for calligraphy. So before I stepped inside the store in Berkeley, I was expecting the same thing. But no, it was totally different. Despite being small, most of the books in this store are in English and there are a diversity of books spanning all Asian cultures (as well as some small sections for African-, Latino-, and Native American cultures). I really liked the curation on the titles which included many Asian American authors. In some ways, it’s the complete opposite of the other Eastwind store which is monolithic in its subject matter. However, I also completely understand why this particular store decided on a more diverse inventory. It is, after all, located next to UC Berkeley where there is a diverse student population.

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Goodwill (2058 University Ave, Berkeley, CA) | Website
Located next to Eastwind, this Goodwill store isn’t particularly unique among all the other Goodwill stores I’ve visited so far in the Bay Area. Most of the store is taken up by clothes and there’s a shelf of books at the back. Again, they had mostly popular books and I didn’t find any interesting volumes there this time.