Posts Tagged With: San Francisco

Escape to Barbary Lane

‘Connie, I’ve found this darling place on Russian Hill on the third floor of the funkiest old building…and I can move in tomorrow,’ said Mary Anne Singleton when she realised she was moving up in the world.

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Mark at 28 Barbary Lane

I travelled 5000 miles to make a pilgrimage to a place that isn’t real. The mythical Barbary Lane is more of a state of mind than an actual place: the heart of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City novels. The famous wooden steps which lead up to it are real enough, and this is where people from all over the world go to have their picture taken. Standing on those steps I got a feeling of the fantastic history of San Francisco, following in the footsteps of Mary Anne Singleton, the starchy secretary who ran away from Cleveland to live a more colourful life.

Mark Macondray Steps Tales of the City The Vibes

The Victorian apartment house should be perched at the top of the Macondray Lane steps on Russian Hill, but all that greets the curious tourist, breathless from the steep incline of Taylor Street, is a dark fern-lined alley between buildings which bear little resemblance to the movie set (which was based on a place on Napier Lane.)

28 Barbary Lane at Night

In the movies, the house itself is magical. At night, the garden is lit by Chinese lanterns and fairy lights, ‘the whole fantasia’ as Michael fondly remembers in Michael Tolliver Lives. Marijuana plants nestle next to Azalea bushes as the sound of moaning foghorns drift up from the bay. Maupin had created an iconic place to rival Tara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, but here a new tenant would receive a joint taped to a welcome note on their front door, a gift from Mrs. Madrigal, ‘the mother of us all.’

Mona Ramsey from Tales of the City

Not everyone was happy at number 28. “The moon is in ca-ca,” said Mona, the free-wheeling hippy with displacement issues who leaves the warmth and safety of Barbary Lane to forge into the wide blue yonder in search of her roots. ’You can’t hide from the cosmos!’ she says when Mary Anne is shocked by her nudity. It’s Mona who inspired the tagline of my blog, ‘Dreams of a Free Spirit,’ the questing romantic with her Buddhist chants and cosmic consciousness. Of all Maupin’s characters, Mona is the one who really chimes with me. I’ll travel a long way to find a place like Barbary Lane.

mandalaBelow you can see a clip from the Tales of the City tv series, and Mary Anne’s wide-eyed arrival at the house. The series was funded by Channel Four in Britain because the US networks refused to portray gay people in a positive light. How things have changed…

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Jump to 1.30 to see the where it all began…

I had to ask two taxi drivers and a realtor how to find the steps, so here’s a map…

Armistead Maupin’s new novel, The Days of Anna Madrigal will be published in 2013. Keep an eye on The Vibes for updates.


Golden gate Bridge san Francisco                                                                    Halloween in the Castro
My adventures in San Francisco               Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City          Halloween in the Castro

Categories: Photography, Random, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Tales of the City

28 Barbary Lane Victorian house san francisco

Picture it: San Francisco, 1976. Big hair and hedonism, disco dancefloors and decadence.

 

Armistead Maupin chronicled life in San Francisco in the 1970s in his newspaper column, and then in a series of captivating novels centered around the bohemian homestead of 28 Barbary Lane, high on Russian Hill.

It’s the home of one of the most fascinating and ingenious characters in modern fiction, garden-variety landlady Mrs. Madrigal, the enigmatic Earth Mother who views the world from a unique perspective, embodying both yin and yang. Whether she’s wafting around in a kimono and a cloud of smoke, or out-facing an adversary with the steely gaze of a gunslinger, she shines like a beacon as the disposessed are washed up at the gates of number 28.

Four years ago, one of my best friends gave me the complete set of novels, which became an instant addiction. Maupin was describing a golden age in the first three novels, which are rich, warm and humorous, humanitarian like Dickens, with a dark undercurrent straight from classic Hitchcock. The first great mystery in Tales of the City is Anna Madrigal herself. The name’s an anagram: a key to the door of her secret past…

Arguably the pivotal quote from the entire series is where Mrs. Madrigal refers to the logical family, as opposed to the biological, and here we see how gay people, rejected by their families, adapt in the face of homophobia. This forms the firm foundation on which the wonderful world of Barbary Lane is built. Maupin has talked about emotional reactions from fans at book signings and as strange as it sounds, it highlights the serious lack of positive depictions of gay people in popular culture, and how he threw us all a line. No one was writing about aspirational happy characters, and there were consequently no real gay role models.

He also deals with subjects like racism, and religious zeal with wit and ingenuity, and then he stands back and lets the bigots have it with both barrels. Maupin was the last American serviceman to leave Vietnam and the first mainstream author to write about Aids, as a major character dies in one of the early novels before the advent of drug therapy.

Maupin captures the natural rhythms of speech and observes human behaviour so acutely that he adds a whole dimension of realism that few authors can achieve, one of the reasons for his phenomenal success and the enduring love for his characters over the years.

On May 26th it will be 36 years since the first Tales of the City column appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and more than a quarter century later, we have e-books, three epic TV mini series and a musical. Stay tuned for more about the Tales of the City series…

Golden gate Bridge san Francisco

Check out my trip to San Francisco

http://www.armisteadmaupin.com/

Armistead Maupin on Facebook

Here’s an update for you: we’ve been visited by the man himself! Scroll down to comments…

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The Best of The Vibes: Part 2

To celebrate my first year of blogging, here are some more of my best pictures from The Vibes. Each image links back to it’s original post, so have fun exploring!

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Categories: Art, Photography, Random, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Best of The Vibes: Part 1

To celebrate my first year of blogging, here are some of my best pictures from The Vibes. Each image links back to it’s original post, so have fun exploring!

Goose grooming itself heaton park manchester

Northern Flower shop digital painting the vibes

swan lake heaton park manchester


The Vibes First Birthday neon sign

Check out Part 2 here

Categories: Photography, Random, Travel, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Planet Colour

While we wait for poor UK Primo Daisy Cameron to chew over a decision on exactly how much daylight the British are allowed in winter, we shiver in the dark, necking Vitamin D and trying to remember the Basic Rules of Tactical Voting. While Daisy dithers, you may need some colour and light in your life! Here are some random images which I took on my travels, focusing on colour and texture.

Coloured Glass bottles
I love the way these glass bottles overlap, inventing new shapes and colours between them in the Castro, San Francisco.


Flowers, Olympic Beach, Greece
A beautiful Greek summer, with hot reds and pinks on the balcony.


Kiosk, Olympic Beach, Greece
There’s something about crude fiberglass mouldings that says you’re at the seaside.

More…
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Categories: Photography, Random, Travel, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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