Goin' on a Ninja Hunt

Anyone in San Francisco with a legitimate need for a truncheon, sickle, or short-range projectile weapon knows the correct place to go to find it, or at least where to ask about it. The rest of us (rightfully) must press our ears to the ground to acquire that same information. So when the significant other of one of our ace reporters mentioned the sighting of what looked to be a “ninja store” within city limits, Sucka Free City decided it was necessary to don our best masks and saddle up with pastel-colored butterfly swords and homemade nunchucks to try to find the mystery spot, supposedly in the vicinity of Otis Street in the Mission District.

After a short detour to Rainbow Grocery, where we independently verified that ninjas don't hang out in organic produce aisles looking for heirloom tomatoes, the ninja radar starts to tingle once we're on Otis. A man who looks suspiciously like Tom Ammiano — wait, that is Tom Ammiano! — is walking toward 15th Street, likely on the same mission. A few doors in from the intersection of 15th and Mission streets we see an awning bearing an ominous-looking fighter. The sign says Brendan Lai's Supply Co.

It's at this point, dear reader, that we must admit something that might already be painfully clear: Ninjas we are not. So much for a secret supply store — we've been led to one of the best-known martial arts and kung fu supply shops in North America. While it's not a household name among the civilian public, Brendan Lai's had already gotten the twice-over from hipster Web site www.yelp.com before we were even tipped off to it. Similarly, www.milkycat.com had already asked the obvious question: “Where else can you buy crack, burritos, Vietnamese sandwiches, and ninja throwing stars, all on the same corner?”

Even the unfortunately named www.sweatpantserection.com beat us to the punch, its Web mistress alternating between disappointment at not being able to touch all the weapons (which are locked up, of course) and bewilderment at finding something as un-ninja as a workout video for women hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Incredible Hulk, aka Lou and Carla Ferrigno, for sale. Not exactly the type of defense instrument that would turn a real ninja green with envy.

Next week: We try to find a geriatric burlesque. But not while wearing the gear of an undercover assassin.

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