Sunday, April 10, 2011

Looking Forward, Looking Back: Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero

Red's Java House, San Francisco, 2004
Copyright by Dory Adams, all rights reserved

It’s easy to get distracted by research done as part of the writing process, especially when it involves looking at photographs of a place you love. San Francisco certainly stole my heart – it was where I fell in love and married. Lately I’ve been caught up in fact-checking details for 1988-1989, a time period six years beyond when that city was my home. My first visit back after we moved away was in January of 1990, just three months after the Loma Prieta earthquake, so I have some sense of the changes during that timeframe. However, all the changes in the decades after Loma Prieta tend to blur together in memory over time.

Much changed after 1990, particularly along the embarcadero. The controversial Embarcadero Freeway, an ugly double-decker elevated freeway along the waterfront, was demolished and removed after it was damaged by the earthquake. Now, a wide boulevard and pedestrian promenade stretches along the waterfront. New skyscrapers went up to dramatically change the skyline in the South of Market Area (SoMA), and an entirely new neighborhood known as South Beach developed in what had been an industrial warehouse district.

In 2004, Red’s Java House was still there at Pier 30, looking much as it did when Kevin first took me there for lunch in 1978. Red’s is all about cheap food and sitting out on the pier below the Bay Bridge while you eat. Memory tells me the building was painted a deep red back in the old days when we’d go down to the Embarcadero for night photography, but I can’t confirm that since any photographs we have of it from back then are in black-and-white. We shot a lot of B&W film in those years and possibly that’s why some of my memories of that time seem to be in B&W too. Or, maybe it’s just that I’ve been watching too many film noirs set there – visually interesting and lots of fun just to see what has changed across eras.

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