San Francisco Panorama

Here’s the deal; I have San Francisco envy in a big way. I’ve only spent a quick two days there during a trade show about 7 years ago, but it spiked my interest. The thing is, I don’t even know what I envy about it. I picture it as this cultural city with unlimited outdoorsy-type opportunities and a strong tech business base. But for all I know, I could be completely wrong.

So Gail and I are making a visit purely for the purpose of tourism. It’s only going to be for four days, but I’m fired up, and I’m arming myself with some local knowledge. Oh, I already have a bunch of local (say regional) knowledge. For example, I own an Apple computer, use Timbuk2 products to haul my stuff around, keep most of my cloud stuff with Google, and own Journey’s greatest hits. So yeah, I’m almost a native. But I need more, so I purchased the San Francisco Panorama and bought the San Francisco Moleskine. So how do you like me know? Let’s light this West Coast candle baby!

The Panorama is a single-issue newspaper published by the folks at San Francisco-based McSweeney’s. The Panorama is somewhat Bay Area-centric, but even a Chicagoan like me felt right at home with the topics. It’s more of a big, informative, artsy set of spiels in classic newspaper format on a wide range of topics, both mainstream and obscure. I posted some Panorama pix on Flickr so you can get a feel. Let me toss out some of my favorite items.

In the Food section, the 58 step pictorial of lambchetta from field to fork provided a lot of fun for Gail and I. We spread it out on a table at an outdoor bar during a long weekend (kind of like a vacation) and poured over it in fascination. I’m still not queasy about eating meat, by the way, despite the slaughterhouse shots.

In the Magazine, the story of a gay couple who went to the Michigan NASCAR event was pretty cool. It ended well and was pretty funny. Also in the Magazine; I loved the article on the Pakistani lawyer who saved a family from having their home foreclosed on by Wells Fargo. I laughed out loud while reading it in the airport, but it was actually more informative than humorous.

Speaking of funny, there was a fair amount of humor in the Panorama. The Comics section ranged from hilarious to bizarre. The one entitled The Christian Astronauts was my favorite. A few of them went over my head. I’ll have to grab McSweeney’s more often to see if any of those comics are regulars.

In Sports, there was a really cool article on Patrick Willis, who has somewhat of an under-publicized story akin to The Blind Side. This story is accompanied by a profile piece on the 49ers GM, Jed York. He’s an ND grad, by the way. The 49ers have had a rough time lately but they seem to be quite an institution. Maybe I’ll grab a 49ers hat when I’m out there. Also in sports, there was a scathing and very funny game-by-game commentary of the 2009 World Series written by Stephen King (Red Sox fan).

One section was devoted to the Bay Bridge debacle. You can see the article here (not sure if this is an official post). I’ll have to look into this public press and idea of story funding. Evidently the cost overruns make Millennium Park in Chicago look like pennies.

The last thing I read was the Books section. It prompted a few things. First, I have to give Book Forum another shot. It appears a little intellectual for me, but I need to verify that. Also, I purchased Generosity: An Enhancement by U of I grad and Evanston native Richard Powers. It looks like a good book and will go towards filling the literature hole in my reading this year. And finally, I loved the article “Reading Like A Teacher” by Lisa Morehouse and her discussions about visiting the places she reads about in books. Makes me want to read The Outsiders (she made a visit to Tulsa to explore scenes in the book). Great stuff.

This thing was really cool. I’ve only scratched the surface of the content. It took me a few months to read, and I still didn’t get to building the cutout rocket ship or finish any of the crosswords. I wish Eggers would do a Chicago version of this. He has some Chicago roots. I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I think he grew up in Lake Forest and lived in Chicago before moving San Francisco.

It was a big reading experience, equivalent in time and attention to a book. I’ll save the Panorama for a few more months if anyone wants to read it.