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There’s still magic in San Francisco, it’s just harder to find

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An impromptu second line performance breaks out on the sidewalk near diners in North Beach. (Broke-Ass Stuart/Special to S.F. Examiner)


We were already a few Peronis in when the New Orleans-style brass band came sauntering down Green Street, humphing, booping, ba-ba-ba-ing and making other beautiful noises that no onomatopoeia will ever get right.

Morgan’s pocket-sized pup, Penny, searched for a pocket-sized place to hide her button-sized ears. Katie’s marginally larger dog, Bear, was similarly nonplussed about the trombones, trumpets, drums and sousaphone, giving his mom a look that said, “What kind of fuckery is this?”

Despite the doggy disappointment, we humans were elated.

“Yes! This is exactly why I love this city!” Morgan cried as we all pulled out our phones to catch the excitement. There simply aren’t enough second lines this side of New Orleans, and few things light up a crowd better than one ambling toward you.

It was a lovely, warm-for-San-Francisco Monday night, and before the band arrived, we’d been sitting outside Bella Cora in North Beach, drinking beer and wine and eating Bavarian pretzels covered in raclette cheese. Some days, heaven is almost attainable.

At one point, artist Winston Smith came by with some friends, and we talked about his collage art and the fact that he designed the Dead Kennedys’ logo. “Can I get your info?” Alex asked, “We’d love to do a feature on you for BrokeAssStuart.com.”  I picked the last of the cheese off the pretzel when no one was looking.

Winston left, more drinks arrived and artist Jeremy Fish came by and joined the group. I’d missed the release party for the new cannabis vape pen that Jeremy had designed the art for, so he brought me one. “Be careful,” he told me. “It’s 90 percent THC, the strongest stuff on the market.” I put it my bag, giving it a “not today, Satan” look and had some more wine.

For a couple years now, Jeremy and I have been talking about starting a sort of League of Extraordinary People club, where San Francisco’s best and most interesting creatives can congregate to make more magic happen. One of the major obstacles has been that we don’t have a space to do so. (If you have a space for us, please give me a shout!) The other obstacle is that so many of the artists, musicians and writers who would’ve been in this club have been pushed out of The City. So we all spent some time trying to figure out how to make out club happen anyway.

We didn’t come up with any answers, but Nils and Danielle did come by our table with more drinks, which often is a good enough answer in itself. Then, the brass band rounded the corner, the dogs became excited and the humans got riled up, too. Even though we’d just talked about San Francisco losing its soul, it suddenly felt magical again. Maybe I was high from all that cheese.

Since last September, I’ve been in Shanghai, Helsinki, Oslo, El Paso, New York, San Diego and Washington, D.C., to name a few. And even though I lament the changes The City has endured recently, I always love coming back to it because of nights like these. There’s still magic in San Francisco, it’s just harder to find these days.


I’m throwing a pretty special event tonight. It’s a summer birthday party for winter babies. Since my birthday is Dec. 16 and is always disappointing, I figured I’d throw a birthday party for everyone who has the same problem. Smoked Out Soul is providing the tunes at Monarch (6th and Mission), and if your birthday is between Nov. 23 and Jan. 4, you get in for free. For everyone else, it’s $5. Turquoise is December’s birthstone, so wear turquoise-colored clothes and jewelry. San Francisco might be changing, but who says we can’t still get weird?

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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