For 15 years, San Francisco author Michelle Tea has spearheaded Sister Spit, a loose collaborative of roadtripping queer writers and performers that brings alcohol- and vegan meatloaf-fueled evenings of cabaret-styled provocation to college campuses, community centers, and art spaces around the country. This fall, venerable SF publisher City Lights will launch an entire line of Sister Spit Books, to be curated by Tea, whose own past novels, including the lesbian landmark Valencia bode well for what promises to be an edgy, engaging imprint. We’ll keep SF Agenda readers informed about local authors and events related to Sister Spit, but while we wait for news, we asked Michelle to answer our Insider Tips questionnaire about some of her recommendations for SF visitors and locals.
What’s your favorite SF cultural institution?
The GLBT Historical Society. Their archives are open to the public, and contain really incredible artifacts – Harvey Milk’s Levi’s, Sylvester’s sequined stage costumes, a bar stool from the legendary ‘female impersonators’ nightclub Finnochio’s. They have the entire collection of every On Our Backs ever published (who knew Dorothy Allison was writing for them at the start?! Not me!). One gentleman left the Society a collection of his lovers’ pubic hair, all neatly collected in little glass jars and labeled with their names. It’s really a fun and vast collection, and they also run a storefront museum in Castro on 18th Street that shows different aspects of the archives with cultural context. San Francisco is really lucky to have this institution!
What’s the best spot to take in a view of the city?
Probably the view from the top of Dolores Park. The park itself curves out beneath you like this pretty green bowl, and then beyond that is the city. It’s a great, inspiring view, especially on a sunny day. At night I like the view of the waterfront when you’re driving back over the Bay Bridge. It looks so charming and exciting, old fashioned somehow with the ferry building, but totally not, with the giant buildings.
Michelle Tea has to eat and run (Photo: Amos Mac)
You are one of the best dressed literary ladies around. Where do you like to shop.
For clothes, in the Mission, I like the Candy Store Collective and The Bell Jar. For vintage Stone Pony and Painted Bird are great and for actual thrifting, Community Thrift and Thrift Town. In a city of mad thrifters you can still find treasures at these places! I also love high-end consignment and discount stores, and good places for that are Sui Generis and in the Castro (second hand stuff you can’t afford the first time around) [Ed.: Honey, love that store, but I can't afford most of their stuff the second time around either!], and My Roomate’s Closet in the Marina (where Philip Lim and Costume National go to die).
For interesting ephemera I like 826 Valencia (which is like a fun house on top of being an actual store, where one can open drawers and discover dioramas, or get themselves swabbed. That would be a trap door of mop heads tumbling down on you.) and Paxton Gate and Viracocha, which is like a beautiful art installation you can buy earrings at.
For books I love Dog Eared Books, which are new and used with a fantastic remainder table. And City Lights is the best is like being in a museum and wonderful bookstore at the same time. There is so much history, and then shelves of the best edgy and political work that is out right now. A whole alcove dedicated to zines and chapbooks, and a whole floor dedicated to poetry! Unheard of!
What would you tell visitors are San Francisco’s “must eats”?
I am obsessed with the tacos and burritos from Pancho Villa on 16th Street in the Mission, in particular their chili verde chicken, which is stewed and delicious. I like to get ‘baby burritos’, which are slightly smaller version of the giant ones that can be a bit too much. You can pick spinich or chili tortillas, and there are tons of bean options, like 10 different agua frescas and a giant salsa bar. Also, for a really special and slightly otherworldly dining experience, check out Outerlands, in the Outer Sunset just blocks from the ocean. It looks like it was made by ocean-dwelling gnomes, with driftwood and plants hung on rusting chains, and the food is really great.Their Sunday brunch is awesome, and the wait can be annoying but a few doors down is Trouble Coffee, a little shop that sells only three things – coffee, fresh young coconuts (they slice the top off for you) and thick slices of cinnamon toast. Get some caffeine and a snack to tide you over and browse overpriced but lovely hippie wares at The General Store. If it’s a nice day check out their backyard, which has a big old picnic table and a lovely little greenhouse.
And for the best, most extravagant meal of your life, splurge at Atelier Crenn, a Michelin-starred restaurant where a wildly talented and creative French chef serves up Asian-inspired dishes with the help of molecular gastronomy.The menu is a poem, and on my visit one of the desserts came with smoked fog. Yes, fog.
More food, drink, and—gulp—death, after the jump Read more…