Best Street Name

Ambrose Bierce arrived in San Francisco after a stint in the Union Army, and before long his stiletto wit, usually employed at the expense of organized religion and the mendacity of public life, was gracing the pages of The Argonaut and other publications. (He once threatened an angry reader with a pistol; those were the days.) In 1887 Bierce joined W.R. Hearst's fledgling Examiner and published his stories of the Civil War and the supernatural for the first time. He left San Francisco in 1899, and in 1913, his two sons dead and his marriage finished, he disappeared into Mexico to join Pancho Villa's revolutionary forces. He was never heard from again. Perhaps the crowning achievement of a life that included boozing it up with Twain, Harte, and London, taking on (and triumphing over) the railroad barons, and being blamed for McKinley's assassination was his timeless Devil's Dictionary. A few sample entries: “Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage ….” “Joss-sticks, n. Small sticks burned by the Chinese in their pagan tomfoolery, in imitation of certain sacred rites of our holy religion.” “Patriot, n. … The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.” Bierce's street — a darkling alleyway somehow appropriate to its namesake — is located just behind the old Examiner building, where the scribe wrote much of his best work.

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