With the semester winding down and I taking my last trips to North Beach to grab my last couple stories, I found myself inspired having a drink on the second level of Vesuvio, a bar located just off Columbus and Broadway. I didn’t think I would find myself missing the trips down to the neighborhood where I’ve worked, broken down, succeeded and failed in for the past four months.
As journalists I think we get so bogged down with the negative aspects of stories or events happening, and don’t step back to look at the large picture. San Francisco, as a whole, is seeing tons of changes, from gentrification to construction, and North Beach has been no exception to those changes. With the new central MUNI line adding to the ever-present encroachment from Chinatown and an increasing presence of Marina partiers invading Grant Avenue, it can feel that North Beach is losing its charm and spirit.
While having that drink at Vesuvio I couldn’t have disagreed more. Just the scene around me made me feel like I was in a Kerouac novel, a writer who’s works created an atmosphere to the neighborhood in the 1950’s and 60’s. Down the bar was another writer scribbling away, us both competing to be the next Ginsberg. Looking out across the street there was a women sitting out on the ledge of an apartment window smoking a cigarette, her face illuminated by the neon of the Condor strip club. A manager of City Lights Bookstore was sitting in her office across the ally picking, what I like to think, the next Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
While this scene I was apart of created these abstract feelings that really mean nothing, I think that spirit can be vindicated with the people that I meet this semester. From the hard working people at North Beach Citizens who care deeply about the homeless they help, local shop and restaurant owners, to the passionate residents that came to the government meetings to voice their opinions, that spirit of community, avant-gardism, rejection of status-quo, and innovation that this neighborhood is know for, lives on through them.
Through the course of the year I had many doubts on whether I had picked the right neighborhood. After this semester, however, I feel like I came to know, and appreciate greatly, a pocket of the city that I’ve always been drawn too.
For next semesters crop of reporting students, my advice is to not be timid and get your sources right off the bat for those first two articles. This is easier said than done, as I know going up to random people is intimidating, and something that I’m still struggling with. It will make your life so much easier to have these people to bounce story pitches off of and see if your angle is an actual concern amongst residents. The Beat Museum, North Beach Citizens and Saint Peter and Paul Catholic church are all great places to start and are full of super helpful and friendly people.
While this may have been my last drink at Vesuvio while reporting so in-depth for the neighborhood, it will not be my last as a frequent visitor to North Beach.