"At times I feel your voice is reaching me from far away, while I am prisoner of a gaudy and unlivable present, where all forms of human society have reached an extreme of their cycle and there is no imagining what new forms they may assume. And I hear, from your voice, the invisible reasons which make cities live, through which perhaps, once dead, they will come to life again." ~ Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Tonight, my friend Chipmonkey (the lady of the long eyelashes) and The Boy and I will be attending a presentation called "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco."
This lecture will be part of the ongoing use of my Mental Stimulus Package that I came up with recently. For those of you who know my penchant for history, and especially the history of this particular city that has captured my imagination, I can't wait for the rare finds we'll get to see tonight. From the program description:
Rick Prelinger is a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible. Prelinger will be presenting his third annual "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco" event, an eclectic montage of lost and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes and labor in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and industrial filmmakers.
How we remember and record the past reveals much about how we address the future. Prelinger will preface the film with a brief talk on how fragmentary, incomplete histories are being overtaken by pervasive real-time documentation, and how history, memory and property are combining into a new matrix of experience.
I happen to love finding old brick buildings, because brick buildings of unreinforced masonry are a little more rare when you live in a town associated with earthquakes. But even more so, I love finding these old painted advertisements on the sides of buildings.
These painted signs are becoming an endangered species, whether due to the desecration by graffitists or destruction in the wake of "progress." I treasure my glimpses of them and rejoice when I find a new one in my wanderings. I am trying to take photos of as many of them as I can, my own little collection of San Francisco's city within a city.
I have a recent photograph of a building and that is all that remains. I found the yellow painted billboard advertising for an ancient brand of cigarettes on an early morning walk on my way to the office. And now that building is no more. Just my memory of it and the photograph. Places are always devouring themselves and becoming new, but how quickly a place can become unrecognizable to itself.
I was never able to finish Invisible Cities before. I really wanted to, but it always made me sleepy (I fault myself and not the author). I tried to read the book before I went to Venice, and also when I returned home. Perhaps after tonight I will try it again (I have two copies of it floating around the house), and see if I can't start to weave my own imagined stories of San Francisco, for me and to share with you.
ps.: First two photos taken downtown, on Kearny Street. Last photo taken in the Tenderloin.