Mike's Political Walking Tour of Old San Francisco

2) Cable Car turnaround!

3) Where is the Barbary Coast? This infamous section of old San Francisco is now a genteel, tree-shaded row of brick office buildings and ultra-modern furniture showrooms on Pacific Avenue. Architects, lawyers, publicists, and obscure firms with "International" in their titles inhabit what used to be saloons, whorehouses, and early strip joints. Especially notable is the Hippodrome, with its old-fashioned trashy lighting and naked-lady sculptures by the door. Both trails mention the building. Who works in it now? "SMED International."

Striptease? Nope. Furniture sales.

4) Cable Car turnaround!

5) The heart of the matter: Jackson Square to Portsmouth Square, via Commercial Street. Friction between Gold Rush and Barbary Coast arises from this six-block route in downtown San Francisco. Except for a couple of blocks on Columbus, these streets amount to the only significant overlap between the trails. When Dan Bacon and Barbara Kaufman insist that Gold Rush overlaps Barbary Coast with "one-third" (Bacon) to "two-thirds" (Kaufman) of its total length, they're including the length on Columbus where the trails crisscross, and stretching the total with their eyes. (See map.)

"Running a trail someplace else is fine," says Kaufman. "If you wanna do a totally different topic in a different direction, go for it." But two similarly themed tours in the same part of the city is a no-no.

6) Cable Car turnaround!

7) The Clarion Music Center. Everyone involved admits this debate is petty, hardly worth discussing, but everyone -- Kaufman in particular -- also seems prone to odd squalls of bitterness over it. Each side accuses the other of having a commercial interest in its trail. Burger points to Bacon's Barbary Coast book; Bacon says he's earned no profit from the book, and accuses Burger of trying to drum up foot traffic for certain local businesses.

"They had this harebrained scheme," says Bacon, meaning the Gold Rush organizers. "They wanted to put these little kiosks everywhere, sort of little computer kiosks that were actually gonna be hand-cranked to create the energy for it, if you can believe that. You hand-crank this computer kiosk, and then you'd go in -- this was the sort of commercial aspect, they would be putting these in all sorts of businesses, so they would draw people in. And that was how you were gonna get the content, was by going into these businesses, and winding these things up."

The windup cabinets involve some framed old pictures, a crank, and four buttons. You press a button to hear a recording explain why certain nearby sites are historical. The machines use silicon sound chips and batteries charged with old-fashioned "windup radio" technology. It's actually a cool idea. They would be activated by keys, which would cost $10. And, according to Burger, the contraptions would sit in vaguely appropriate places, such as the Pacific Heritage Museum or the Palace Hotel, which tend to get tourist foot-traffic.

So our last stop on our tour is the Clarion Music Center, at the corner of Clay and Waverly Place, which you'll notice from the map is right smack on the Barbary Coast Trail. Dan Bacon's book recommends stopping in. "This delightful music store carries an exotic array of musical instruments from every continent except Antarctica," it says, and lists some genuinely fascinating items available inside: Tibetan singing bowls, Indonesian ox bells, Burmese gongs, didgeridoos, etc. What it doesn't list, although you'll find it on a shelf near the sitars, is the Barbary Coast Trail book, retailing for $13.95.

Michael Scott Moore ( can be reached at SF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, San Francisco, CA 94107.

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