A Trip Down Market St.

Sit patiently through the Viagra commercial(s) and you will be in for a treat. “60 Minutes” journalist Morley Safer shares a film, and some new historical twists, about San Francisco’s Market Street. Back in 1906, two brothers put a camera in front of a street car, hand-cranked the box as they moved down the “Slots”, and caught an amazing sight of everyday San Francisco. You’ll see anarchic traffic patterns, random pedestrians, no traffic lights, teamsters, newsboys, and a bike or two. You’ll also see a city center that sprung up in mere decades thanks to the Gold Rush of 1849.

Biking down that street every week for the past dozen or so years, and still feeling the residue of an older time, the thrill of seeing this film never diminishes. Now Safer has connected the past to the present, lovingly filming 2010 Market Street and the City I call home while giving the old film new perspective. New proof shows that the film was made a week before the earthquake and the huge fires that burned the whole area to the ground. And, now that we all know it captured buildings that would soon be destroyed, and San Franciscans who would soon perish and/or suffer, “A Trip Down Market Street’s” mystique grows deeper.

I was biking down Market St. in 2005 one Sunday morning on the way to open up the Box Office at Teatro ZinZanni. I had cut over to Mission Street to get on to Embarcadero, and I saw the oddest sight: a roofless, antique street car that looked like a maintenance vehicle. Perched on the front of this odd machine was an expensive digital camera. I biked by with a shrug, and thought it was a Hollywood film shoot. A few months later, I was treated to my first viewing of the original film (thought to have been made in 1905) as well as the new one that commemorated San Francisco’s Market Street a century later. Of course my friend Chris Carlsson is in the new film, and had invited me to see the public premiere just off Market Street at the Embarcadero. Here is the video from 2005: