San Francisco: 4 indie bookstores worth a visit
I once heard a statistic that San Franciscans buy more books per capita than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S. (it was paired with a stat that said we also drink more wine than any other city, but that's a discussion for another time). Moreover, San Francisco is a hotbed of social literary events, and many literary heavy lifters—Jack Kerouac, Amy Tan, Danielle Steele, Dave Eggers—have made their home here.
So it's not surprising that this city is home to an impressive number of indie bookstores. These neighborhood stores manage not just to survive but to thrive in the age of Amazon, Kindles, and iPads (not to mention a wicked recession). Four of these bookstores are worthy stops for your next visit:
Considered by some to be the ground zero of the beat movement, City Lights was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. The eponymous publishing company produced works by Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and more. Grab a book of poetry and take it across Jack Kerouac alley to Cafe Vesuvio, a regular beat hangout back in the day, for the quintessential Beat Generation experience. 415/362-8193, 261 Columbus Ave., open daily 10 a.m.-midnight.
Dave Eggers, author of Zeitoun and A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, founded 826 Valencia, a volunteer tutoring center, in 2002. The front of the store is a Pirate Supply Store that sells everything from messages in bottles ($12) and Mermaid bait or repellant ($4) to posters and publications put out by Eggers' publishing company, McSweeney's. Pick up the latest copy of the McSweeney's Quarterly Concern or a back copy of Might magazine, which Eggers founded in the early '90s. 415/642-5905,826 Valencia Street, open daily noon-6 p.m.
Down the street from 826 Valencia is Modern Times. This store stands out for its selection of books on radical lefty politics, gender and sexuality, and a number of 'zines and graphic novels. They also have a great section dedicated to Latino topics, including children's books in Spanish. While you're there, grab a "Reading is Sexy" T-shirt as a souvenir. 415/282-9246, 888 Valencia Street, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.- 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Founded in 1967, Green Apple Books has perhaps the largest selection of used books in the entire city. The 8,000-square-foot space has the worn-in feeling of a much-loved bookstore that invites you to spend hours browsing the shelves. Green Apple also hosts lots of events and author signings. 415/387-2272506, Clement Street at 6th Avenue), Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
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Ohio: World's Bravest and Finest face off in weeklong competition
Starting this weekend, 750-plus of the world's most fearless police officers and firefighters will gather in Dublin, Ohio, a northwestern suburb of Columbus, to duke it out in the 2010 Can-Am Police-Fire Games. The international Olympics-style competition, held every two years, pits public safety personnel against one another in 58 sporting contests to promote fitness and camaraderie. This year's event, which runs August 15 to 22, will host competitors from 38 different states and provinces and nine countries. Why you should go: All the events are free and open to the public, and include the grueling, can't-take-your-eyes-away Toughest Firefighter Alive and Toughest Competitor Alive multievent contests, the amazing and widely entertaining K9 service dog competition, and the classic crowd-pleaser, tug-of-war. The Games kick off on Sunday with the Opening Ceremonies from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Dublin's Coffman Park, complete with bagpipe music, a color guard, and welcoming remarks from Dublin's mayor. Activities include inflatables for kids, a concert by oldies band Phil Dirt and the Dozers, a K9 demonstration, and all kinds of emergency vehicles—including helicopters—on display, plus food and drink. And after the week of sporting events, closing out the final night of activities is the Badge Bash on Saturday, August 21, at 4 p.m., with food, beverages, entertainment, and raffles in Coffman Park. The event isn't free, but the $10 admission fee supports local police/fire charity Get Behind the Badge (ages 17 and under get in free). Live music includes several pipes and drum bands (make sure you're there at 8:30, when all the bands will get on stage and play together—about 50 bagpipes at once!), and then rock-and-roll cover band Tazer will take over from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (fittingly enough, one of the raffle prizes is a civilian taser). Various Dublin hotels are offering special rates for the Can-Am Police-Fire Games. For more information about what to do in Dublin, visit the city's convention and visitors bureau website.
New York City: Why you should visit the High Line
The High Line, built in the '30s, was a freight rail line originally designed to help deliver meat to the Meatpacking District of New York City. Since then, the High Line fell into disuse. In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond formed the Friends of the High Line and worked with the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to halt the railway's demolition. Since then, the elevated train line has been turned into a beautiful public park. The first stretch opened last year and spans from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, or about a half-mile. Section 2, set to open in 2011, will add another mile, extending the park another 10 blocks north to 30th Street. The High Line was mobbed with crowds when it opened last year. But now it's much, much easier to find a seat on one of the benches designed to match the park's railroad theme. Drop into Chelsea Market halfway (home to dozens of top-notch bakeries, coffeeshops, and the Food Network studios). Then watch the sun set over the Hudson River. City-dwellers constantly seem to fight the nature around them. The High Line, however, serves as a haven for plants—guests are asked to "keep it wild" by keeping on the path. Be sure to keep an eye out for an interesting sculpture residing at the northern end of the nearly 1.5-mile park. If you look through it just right, you'll see (or not see) sections of the buildings behind it. In fact, it's an abstract art installation by Richard Galpin, called Viewing Station. The High Line can be reached using a number of means: By subway, you can take the L or A, C, E to West 14th Street and 8th Avenue, and walk two blocks west. If you're closer to a 7th Avenue 1, 2, 3 train, take it to West 14th and 7th Ave., and just walk an extra block over. (The 1 train also stops at 18th and 23rd Sts., if you want to enter the park from either of those cross streets.) Plan your trip at thehighline.org. —Max Behrman
San Francisco: 5 best August values
SF Street Food Festival San Francisco's second annual Street Food Festival is a chance to sample must-taste food from 44 different restaurants and food carts, all in one place. Featuring some of the city's best, like Delfina, the Slanted Door, Bi-Rite Ice Cream, Chez Papa, and 4505 Meats, this day-long block party in the Mission should definitely be on a visiting foodie's to-do list. Additionally, there will be creative cocktails from Beretta and Rye on the Road, plus games for kids. August 21, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., along Folsom and Treat streets, and in the adjacent Garfield Park. Painted Ladies house tour Located on Alamo Square, the colorful Queen Anne Victorian homes, also known as the Painted Ladies or Postcard Row, are much-photographed icons of the city. The view with the modern downtown skyline in the background, is a dramatic sight (maybe you recognize it from the opening credits of Full House). Currently, the oldest, largest, and most ornate of these homes is up for sale and open to the public for house tours—if you're willing to act interested in buying the $4 million home, of course! The beautifully restored interior features gas-lamp fixtures, fireplaces, and a large turret window. It has been 35 years since one of the houses was available for public viewing, so consider this a rare chance for a peek inside. 722 Steiner St. The Oakland Museum The Oakland Museum of California features exhibits on art, history, and natural science, and the recently completed $53 million renovation makes it worth a trip across the bridge. Now through January, the 25 Years of Pixar exhibit provides an insider's view of the creative process behind the Bay Area animation studio. See drawings and sculptures from computer-animated favorites including Ratatouille, Up, and Toy Story 3, plus screenings of Pixar's feature and short films. 1000 Oak St., one block from the Lake Merritt BART station. 510/238-2200, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays (closed Monday and Tuesdays). $12 per person admission, and the Pixar exhibit is an additional $12 per person. Free Film Nights This month, Free Film Night in the Park is hosted right downtown at Union Square. The film, Alfred Hitchcock's classic Jimmy Stewart-Grace Kelly vehicle Rear Window, has the perfect level of suspense for the dramatic setting. August 28, 8 p.m., Union Square. DIY Printing The new Levi's Workshop is a hands-on community print shop that's free and open to the public. Print anything from T-shirts to posters to notecards. Through August, visitors can sign up for classes on letterpress, screenprinting, and type-setting, and see posters by local artists and "pioneers"&mash; people like chef Alice Waters and skateboarder Tommy Guerro. If this social experiment goes well, Levi's plans to roll out similar workshops across the country. Sign up one week in advance either online or in person for DIY screen-printing. 580 Valencia Street, 415/522-0877, Tuesdays 12-5 p.m., Wednesdays-Fridays: 12-7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Paris: 5 best August values
August is an unusual month in Paris because such a large number of local people—including those who run my favorite restaurants—have left to holiday somewhere else. All is not lost, however. Consolation for visitors comes in the form of free concerts, outdoor films, and an urban beach along the Seine. Festival Classique au Vert (August 7-September 26) Free classical music concerts take place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in the beautiful Parc Floral. This flowering garden inside the Bois de Vincennes (12th arrondissement) is a great place to picnic with friends before and during the performance. Entry to the Parc Floral is €5 ($6.60), but the concerts are free. YSL Retrospective (through August 29) This retrospective showing of fashion from designer Yves Saint Laurent has been of the year's most popular exhibits in Paris. This month is your last chance to see the collection of hundreds of gowns, covering 40 years of creation, at the Petit Palais. Avenue Winston Churchill, 8th arrondissement. Cinéma au Clair de Lune (August 12-22) The special thing about Clair de Lune is that their films are often screened in strange locations and on the sides of buildings. The shows begin around 9:30 p.m. and entry is free. I've listed a few selections below and you can consult the full program at forumdesimages.fr. • August 12 – The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the Place des Vosges (4th arrondissement) • August 14 – Two Days in Paris in the Parc de Choisy (13th arrondissement) • August 22 – The Science of Dreams screened against the side of Saint-Eustache cathedral in Les Halles (1st arrondissement) Fnac Indétendances (August 13-14) This concert series sponsored by the music retail giant Fnac brings music (and serious crowds) to the banks of the Seine. The big draw for Friday night's show is the English trip-hop musician Tricky, who will perform following the French electro star Uffie and two other supporting acts. The lineup for Saturday night includes Acid Washed, Danton Eeprom, Chloé, Pulpalicious and Mr Nô. Concerts on both nights begin at 5 p.m on the Parvis de l'Hôtel de Ville, 4th arrondissement. Festival Silhouette (August 28-September 5) This festival picks up where the Cinéma au Clair de Lune leaves off, screening free outdoor films in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (19th arrondissement). The format for this one is short films, which are screened each night at 10 p.m. following free concerts that begin around 7:30 p.m. Plus, a few great summer events still running in August: • Paris Plages (through August 20) – an urban beach laid out along the Seine river (4th arrondissement) and along the Bassin de la Villette (19th arrondissement) • Cinéma en Plein Air (through August 22) – free outdoor films in the Parc de la Villette (19th arrondissement) • Fête Foraine du Jardin des Tuileries (through August 22) – the city's annual summer fair in the Tuileries gardens next to the Louvre (1st arrondissement)