A snapshot of South of Market in San Francisco

A shot of my old South of Market stomping grounds in San Francisco. 5th and Bryant. When I first moved to San Francisco in 1976 as a 19-year-old boy, I used to crash every night at the Fremont St. offramp just down the street. And there was a gospel soup kitchen on 5th and Folsom where I often went for supper with my doomed street pal, Fearless Frank. I also spent a lot of time one block up in the other direction on 6th St., Skid Row. And then for a couple years I lived in this flophouse — the Planters (Nuthouse) Hotel on 2nd and Folsom nearby. The scene in Jack Kerouac’s book DHARMA BUMS, where one of Cassady’s nutty girlfriends jumps off the roof of a hotel building and commits suicide, I believe took place a block from there on 3rd St. back in the olden days when 3rd St. was the Skid Row area before 6th St. preempted it.

South of Market was mostly a warehouse district back then, so it was like a ghost town after working hours and on weekends, so I had the whole neighborhood mostly to myself. Rolling Stone magazine had their offices at a warehouse a couple blocks down the street. The punk rock empressario Paul Rat had some kind of a warehouse squat, the Rathouse, nearby that he shared with a motley crew of proto punks. Will Shatter of Negative Trend and then later of Flipper lived in a nondescript old house farther down the street on 5th before he ODed on heroin. And in 1982 I started working as a bike messenger at Special T messenger service who had their garage on 5th St right near where this photo was taken. So I spent a lot of time on this block from 1976 to 1985. . . The famous Coca Cola sign had been on this block since 1932 until the bastards finally tore it down a couple years ago.

Needless to say, looking back on this photo now, it all seems like a dream to me. Or like a movie that happened to somebody else.


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