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Clementine’s Little Sister

by Joel Pomerantz

June 25th, 2014

I was in a canyon in the Gold Country last weekend, at the Yuba River researching my usual, the storm of 1862. And going for a nice swim. The Bridgeport covered bridge has signs saying it was built to replace the one washed away by the storm.

I marveled at the beauty of the canyon, saw a sign about gold panning regulations and found myself singing, “In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine….” I suddenly wondered, Is this song about the flood!? Is this yet another clue to [...]

Photo Essay: Beautiful Noplace

by Joel Pomerantz

June 24th, 2014

Do you realize how fun exploring is? It is for me! I just returned from a wildernessy road trip to places with no name. It was that remote. Okay, not as far away as my fantasy places to go canoeing on the Canadian Shield, but remote enough to stumble across artifacts which have been sitting untouched for longer than the West has been part of the USA.

If you want to see some pictures from that trip to NW Nevada and NE California, scroll down in this article. If you want [...]

Mistaken Tunnel

by Joel Admin

March 14th, 2014

Here’s an image of the lighthouse back when it was more interesting. [only visible in full article]

Once again, I get to bask in the glory of being wrong.

In my post to everyone on the Thinkwalks mailing list, twice, I said that a tunnel goes out to the Mile Rock Lighthouse.

I’ve learned I’m totally incorrect. It’s a sewer tunnel, not lighthouse access. I fabricated, without realizing it.

I feel 100% certain my contact at DPW told me that it goes to Mile Rock, which I may have assumed meant Mile Rock [...]

Thinkwalks 2014 • Catalog

by Joel Admin

March 1st, 2014

A Thinkwalks group exploring historic water routes takes a break beside the Duboce Park Cafe. As it happens, that’s right where the most important spring in San Francisco’s history was located.

Here’s our first ever Catalog of Thinkwalks! Many of these walks will be scheduled as public events on our Calendar shortly. To get an announcement when the Calendar is completed, sign up for our mailing list. Custom Thinkwalks are also available, based on these, or adapted to fit your topics and needs.

Mission District Water Walking
Length:    3 hr.  Wander along [...]

Participants in many of my water walking tours have consistently told me I must go see the basement of the Armory.

I finally did!

The building’s current owner, porn company Kink.com, gives studio tours that include a brief visit to the sub-basement. There, where many channels of water flow in rough concrete trenches, they tell us we’re looking at Mission Creek.

Our Kink.com guides, Odile and Miguel, were excited to see the official map of historic waterways in the Mission District that I’d brought along.

They noted the tributary creek that once ran past [...]

Thinkwalks iPhone App Launch

by Joel Pomerantz

September 8th, 2012

August 31, 2012 Even more excitement around as the iPhone apps we released in February become much simpler to buy, easier to buy, and cheaper to buy! Did we mention yoou can BUY them?

Announcing the launch of two Thinkwalks guides that you can purchase directly from iTunes.

See our full announcement here.

It used to be complicated, buying the Thinkwalks guides only as in-app purchases through the Know What Essentials guide. That cost $7.97 for both Thinkwalks guides. Now you can get both—Everything Explained and Local Nerd! for just $3.98 and don’t [...]

We tried to put the creek into our mural. Mona sketched it on paper. Seth painted it on the wall—three times before getting it the way he liked it, with the street names of the Wiggle bike route shimmering in the water. We carefully mocked reality with brown (Franciscan chert) rocks on the one side of the creek and green (serpentine) on the other side. We even allowed ourselves interpretive license when we colored it in crayon blues.

When we designed the mural (1996 & ’97) I [...]

The Earth did the Wiggle!

by Joel Pomerantz

August 24th, 2011

My mom, Joan Straumanis, arrived home in DC just in time to feel the surprising 5.9 quake. It was the first earthquake she ever felt and she had this to say about it:

Where was I during the earthquake? In the bathroom at National Airport, just after returning from Boston. Many people around me were alarmed. But to be honest, I thought it was more exciting than frightening. It was actually sort of gentle, and different from what I had imagined: more rocking than shaking, and inspiring—to think of [...]

Keep those awards comin’!

by Joel Pomerantz

July 28th, 2011

Looks like it’s the season for awards, and we’re knee-deep in them over here at Thinkwalks.

This week, the San Francisco Bay Guardian gave Thinkwalks its freshly minted “Best of the Bay: Best Cerebral Stroll” Editor’s Pick Award.

Joel Pomerantz has a lot of nerve asking people to think and walk at the same time. He also has a lot of nerd. In fact, he bills his ThinkWalks — designed especially for locals — as “nerdy tours for San Franciscans.”

And last week it was the Awesome Foundation for the [...]

New SF Lake Discovered

by Joel Pomerantz

April 28th, 2011

As mentioned in my previous post, the access to old articles has increased amazingly. And that access helped me to break this story.

Or at least rediscovered…

A 25-acre Phelps’ Lake in San Francisco’s Panhandle?

I’ve just solved a mystery described in my previous research on the south area of Divisadero street. Back when it was a winding path through the dunes, Devisadero, as it was known, connected the Mission Dolores to the Presidio. The incorrect story had settled into this version over the years: San Souci Lake, located at Divisadero north [...]

News-digitizing making 1862 storm research easier

by Joel Pomerantz

March 3rd, 2011

There’s great news about researching the storm. The California Digital Newspaper Collection has been working on digitizing old news, just as Thinkwalks has been doing, only with more funding. I love calling 150-year-old articles “news”! Perhaps it should be “renews.”

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know about my effort to create a detailed historical survey of the record-setting storm of 1862, which began in December 1861, lasting so long it was called the Noachian Deluge by many alive at the time; it was more than forty days and forty [...]

Carl Nolte is Secret Love Child of Father Palou?

by Joel Pomerantz

February 22nd, 2011

New rumors about Mission Dolores history have hit the papers!

In addition to Hadley’s post at Mission Local, mentioned in my previous entry, which breaks the story with a perfect synopsis of the latest research, Carl Nolte has, over the weekend, published an article printed on real paper—front page above the fold and in color in Saturday’s Chronicle. It’s a little confusing, since the headline, along with the map Nolte presents and the article itself all incorrectly state that the Mission may have been founded north of Market Street near Duboce [...]

Evidence of Thinkwalks

by Joel Pomerantz

January 27th, 2011

A reporter asked me yesterday why it’s even important to argue about evidence of a fresh water lake at Laguna Dolores, or to pinpoint the founding location of SF Mission Dolores. The sharp questioner, Hadley Robinson, is from Mission Local, the news outlet and laboratory for UC Berkeley Journalism graduate students.

Aside from my usual, “Let’s understand how the natural landscape affected our existence as a city,” I used the opportunity to proclaim the benefits of arguing and evaluating evidence. Public democracy and human planning for the future of our species [...]

ARkStorm’s science challenge

by Joel Pomerantz

January 17th, 2011

Since the Big Summit last week, ARkStorm has been getting a lot of press. Most of the coverage has been simply warning the public that a Big One could happen in the form of a superstorm, rather than a quake. The public interest is generally portrayed as being strictly about natural hazard emergency response.

Official preparation is certainly important. Information about the science and history of storms also needs to be emphasized. In fact, it’s in some ways even more important for the public to understand the implications in context, than [...]

Reports from the Storm—Part 1

by Joel Pomerantz

January 4th, 2011

In my diggings concerning the bizarre month-long storm of 1861 and 1862, I’ve come across exciting tidbits. Some, such as the gold country rains of more than nine feet depth in one month (!) are shocking enough. However, nothing has been so exciting as reading words written in the midst of it, each more dire than the previous.

Leland Stanford was apparently forced to take a boat through the streets of Sacramento just to attend his own inaguration as Governor of California. Here's the speech he gave, as reprinted in [...]

Revolutionary Politician Meets Revolutionary Artist

by Joel Pomerantz

December 27th, 2010

San Francisco is lucky to have a significant share of the remarkable art and architecture produced by the New Deal’s financial support programs. Beniamino Bufano, a sculptor who lived in San Francisco, produced a number of these pieces that are now displayed in San Francisco, where he lived for many years. But some of his most unusual sculpture was privately commissioned, such as the steel and stone statue of Sun Yat Sen in St. Mary’s Square Park at the corner of California Street & Grant Avenue.

Bufano usually used an easily-recognized [...]

Taming the Weather with Intrepid Wigglers

by Joel Pomerantz

December 15th, 2010

Take a look at this luck!

As always, I held off on canceling the tour on Tuesday. I hoped there would be a gap in the rain. I was right, but more than right, I was using a weather prediction system for local San Francisco short-term planning that I’ve now tested enough to share around. Feel free to pass the link along.

The tour ended at 2pm. At 2:20, this is how the oncoming rain looked, sweeping in from the west. Good timing!

The tour only had six people, but they all [...]

It’s Fun to Discover (that I was wrong)

by Joel Pomerantz

December 9th, 2010

This post is a confession—actually a whole confessional litany. I told untruths. Yes. Me. I know, I know: never trust me again! I’ll list them in a moment so you can adjust what you learned on one of my tours accordingly.

Friend and Thinkwalks volunteer Nancy Botkin told me the other day that it’s strangely easy to change my mind about an “objective fact.” All you need to do is give me careful evidence of something that contradicts what I used to adamantly believe. I flip from saying I’m sure the [...]

San Souci Roadhouse

by Joel Pomerantz

December 3rd, 2010

Maps are so unreliable. Even when they are well drawn—which hilly places never were before the advent of contour lines in the 1850s—they don’t necessarily have a key telling useful details. Sometimes a map shows what a place has or had, or what the mapmaker thought was once there. All too often, though not captioned as ‘fantasy’, they tell what someone wishes to encourage into existence in the future. (“Please invest!”)

On my tours I almost always refer to the Lower Haight neighborhood and Panhandle area of San Francisco as “San [...]

Podcast of Watersheds Panel

by Joel Pomerantz

November 19th, 2010

The recent (November 17) Shaping SF panel discussion at CounterPULSE was recorded and is posted here. If it’s been topped by more recent podcasts, search or scroll to “Watersheds Lost and Found: San Francisco, Guadalajara, Yuba.”

Me swimming at the South Yuba River

My part of it was the San Francisco part, of course, and I was joined by Derek Hitchcock of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), and Sarah Kelly and Arthur Richards, co-directors of Adapting to Scarcity.

The Q&A was excellent and helped me to formulate my long-term concepts [...]

Haight Ashbury Map and Guide

by Joel Pomerantz

November 9th, 2010

In the mid 1990s, I helped create two pieces of printed matter that I had no idea would hit it off one day. With each other.

Strange, but true: Stannous Flouride’s Star Map of the Haight and 409 House’s Directory of Local Services found one another, fourteen years later, and got hitched. The resulting Haight Ashbury Map & Guide is the latest incarnation of a long history of local resource guides and maps.

Stan approached me about producing his first handmade “Star Map” of the Haight, and I helped him get the [...]

Laguna Honda watershed

by Joel Pomerantz

November 8th, 2010

Check out what interesting stuff I’ve sleuthed up for the “trek” I’m leading with Nature in the City on November 14th.

The tour will start in Golden Gate Park, because since the late 1800s, the Laguna Honda watershed has been a main source of water for irrigation of the Park.

The creation of the irrigation system happened at the time when the Park was being entirely re-configured. Development of Golden Gate Park had been firmly within the “rustic” aesthetic of William Hammond Hall. Then railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington gave funds to [...]

Introducing Amy, renovating TW!

by Joel Pomerantz

October 22nd, 2010

As you’ll be glad to see, dear reader, Thinkwalks is undergoing a small renovation. I’m taking this opportunity to thank you for your patience and let you know what’s in store.

An exciting meeting took place this week, as mentioned two posts ago. I hired Amy Conger to help systematize Thinkwalks projects. I’m so glad she agreed to help. I worked with her for years back in the 1990s at EpiCenter DeskTop, my two-storefronts-business in the Haight Ashbury and the Castro. I know and trust her, and she’s got a great [...]

The San Souci Lake–Pioche Mystery

by Joel Pomerantz

October 19th, 2010

A report spreads for decades but makes no sense. How intriguing and frustrating. In a newspaper column from (unconfirmed date) April, 1919, Edward Morphy says that the lake in my neighborhood was destroyed by the 1862 storms with which I am so intrigued. But the detail given makes absolutely no sense. Says Morphy:

…probably the best known landmark of Divisadero street in the pioneer days was the old San Souci roadhouse which stood on the east side of a pretty little lake that then filled the space from Fulton to about [...]

Storm book project now a definitive Yes!

by Joel Pomerantz

October 16th, 2010

The Thinkwalks blog is going into full swing today. At least for a time, likely many months, most content here will be related to the Storm Book I’ve begun researching.

My intent is to publish articles and a prospectus booklet, eventually extruding a book on the topic. I hope I can nudge The Great Storm and Flood from obscurity into public awareness with some serious research and writing. I consider myself lucky to have stumbled upon this incredible little-known topic. Of the professionals I recently consulted in related fields, few have [...]

Volunteering with Thinkwalks

by Joel Pomerantz

June 23rd, 2010

In the recent past, a number of folks have generously volunteered their time to help with publicity, research, social networking, design and other aspects of Thinkwalks. If you have an idea of how you’d like to help, please let me know.

Some of the clear needs at the moment are for people to help compile information either from bibliographies or from very old news articles on the Great Storm and Flood. And to distribute (to cafés) the wonderful flyers Martina D’Alessandro designed in her volunteer gig. Also, there’s a volunteer design [...]

How Did San Francisco Become A Gay Mecca?

by Joel Pomerantz

June 18th, 2010

Have you ever thought out why it is that San Francisco has such a large population of homosexuals? Sure, it’s historically been a tolerant town (probably due to the gold-seekers and other adventurers and wayfarers). But why gay people in particular, rather than other oppressed populations in need of safe homes? Why not runaway children or middle America refugees? (Wait a second…hmmmm)

Turns out, though, that the sudden increase from a moderate to a high number of homos in this town happened in 1942. That was when the U.S. military services [...]

My report for the 7th grade

by Joel Pomerantz

June 17th, 2010

Here’s my report about San Francisco. I wrote it for my niece, Marina, who asked me to correct her report. Nerd that I am, I corrected it but required she read my report, too. Mind you, this is a challenge, since she lives in Germany and is just learning English.

As I explained to her: Everything in this report is true. Some is strange. Maybe you’ll be surprised.

For 4,500 years, the land that is today called San Francisco was home to a few small Ohlone Indian families. There were probably never [...]

For more than a decade, I’ve led occasional tours as a sort of hobby. In late 2009, I realized that in among all the cultural artifacts that are so important here, there is a natural dynamic most locals crave in their lives

Memorize these resolutions for visitors to SF

by Joel Pomerantz

June 15th, 2010

People come to San Francisco for conventions and vacations, but have more fun if they know someone here. That’s because their host will probably force them to repeat these secret oaths:

1) I will only go to tourist trap Fisherman’s Wharf to see a specific cool thing, such as the Musée Mechanique. I will only go to tourist nightmare Pier 39 to see the wild sea lions. I will not spend all my time in tourist zones. Hardly any, really. Maybe six minutes. And only with these rules…

2) After I find [...]