I’ve recently read Armistead Maupin’s memoir Logical Family which I preordered but then read slowly in order to savour his writing. I believe I’ve read all his books including of course his Tales of the City series. It so happens that today @armisteadmaupin tweeted “this makes an old guy happy” in response to The Guardian‘s feature Book clinic: what are the best titles for LGBTQ+ representation?
I was San Francisco last week and went for some long walks, on one day consciously seeking sights that inspired or feature in the Tales of the City. My main aim was to see Macondray Lane – its famous steps inspiration for Maupin’s 28 Barbary Lane:
The beauty of architecture at one with nature at the entrance of the lane:
Macondray Lane – a cobbled path bordered by aromatic jasmine:
A tranquil path worthy of meditation:
After leaving the path I looked down the hill towards Union Street and saw an amazing view with Alcatraz in the distance, shrouded in fog:
Looking behind me, i was also struck by this stunning art deco building which was undergoing refurbishment, and had to go back up the hill to check it out:
I looked up up what it was and the building is actually included in Maupin’s personal blog on a page It is Bellaire Tower at 1101 Green, the southwest corner of Green and Leavenworth. I don’t remember this detail but apparently Brian called this the “Superman Building” in More Tales of the City. It was visible from the north windows of the “pentshack” at 28 Barbary Lane.
Another fabulous building caught my eye as I was walking through Polk Street. Formerly The Alhambra Theatre, it is now a Crunch Gym:
I couldn’t find a direct link to Armistead Maupin and this building but there is definitely an indirect link in that the architect behind the building, Timothy L. Pflueger, also designed the famous Castro Theatre. In Logical Family Maupin movingly recounts how he read the seminal coming out letter, Letter to Mama, in a packed Castro Theatre. The Letter to Mama was written as a coming out letter for the Michael Tolliver character and is a powerful, brave and emotional piece of writing that anyone who has spoken their truth to their mothers can relate to. It has since been performed by Sir Ian Mckellen, and has even been set to music and performed by various choirs .
I was in the Castro area a few months ago on another visit to California. Here are some pictures I took; the first is a sidewalk mural celebrating gay marriage:
This next picture is from Castro’s Rainbow Honor Walk, and features transgender entertainer Christine Jorgensen. One of the things that really interested me in Logical Family was how Maupin described the character development of Anna Madrigal, the landlady of the aforementioned 28 Barbary Lane. In his daily serialisation of the Tales for the San Francisco Chronicle, prior to their publication in novel form, he had wanted to reveal Anna’s identity as transgender but the newspaper editor was against it for fear of alienating the audience who weren’t “ready” for that kind of information. Over time the audience grew to love Mrs. Madrigal as a character and were then more open to accepting the information that she used to be a man. I find this interesting as it confirms to me that fear of otherness – whether it is cultural or religious – is often due to ignorance, and getting to know someone is a way of dispelling the fear of difference.
Also published on Medium.