Notes from a LocationIn my last post, I mentioned that San Francisco’s Haight district figures prominently in Candy from Strangers because of the large number of tattoo parlors in the neighborhood, and I shared some of the pictures I took of the parlors as part of my research.
I also take notes when I “walk a scene” before writing about it and I thought it might be interesting to look at the notes from my tour of the Haight.
The notes I take tend to be terse catalogs of the things, people and activities I see on the street as I walk around, and are intended more to jog my memory about what I’ve observed than they are to be complete descriptions that I can copy into the novel.
They also tend to be written on whatever paper is at hand because I don’t like to clutter up my “official” writers notebook (which I will discuss in future post) with lots of detailed notes about locations—and I don’t always plan very well when it comes to securing writing material before I go!
As it happens, the notes I took about the Haight are written on the back and front of a Mollie Stone’s grocery receipt dated 5/20/04, as shown below:
And here’s the bulleted list of things I scribbled down on the receipt as I went around:
- Tibetan jewelry store
- Falafel restaurant
- Head shop
- Vintage clothing store
- Camouflage pants made into cut-off shorts
- The Red Victorian (a movie theater)
- Natural foods store
- Skull painted red with mouth open holding business cards (in the reception area for a tattoo parlor)
- Cases of studs (in another parlor)
- Import store
- Military surplus store
- Mendel's Art Supplies (open since 1968)
- Music store with guitar and bass in the window
- Skateboarder going down the sidewalk oblivious of others
- Club Deluxe (an interesting bar)
- Giant pair of legs with fishnet stockings in front of boutique (see photo below)
- Discount fabrics
- Low partitions; articulated lamps at each station (inside a tattoo parlor)
- Metallic buzzing of tattoo gun
- Workers removing a giant skull and cross bones from the front of a store (Anubis)
- Sign with a pirate tattooing a naked lady (see photo from this post)
- Magazines for sale in parlor
- Sandwich sign with pierced heart on one side and skull with candle on top on the other
- Haight Ashbury free medical clinic
- Shrines to Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin in staked tree planters covered with plastic
The other thing the notes helped me do was hold the general atmosphere of the Haight in my mind as I wrote the scene, which is also very important, even if I didn’t shoehorn all the literal details I captured into the text.