Sometime after I finished college, a borrowed paperback of Dharma Bums turned me into a Beatnik junkie. It sent me on a literary scavenger hunt through San Francisco. If Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac so much as sneezed somewhere, I wanted to find it.
I think deep down, I thought these spots were magical, though it sounds crazy to write those words down now.
I don't really smoke weed anymore, so consequentially, I don't think these spots are actually magical now. But I do think there's something special about the space that an artist inhabited, whether its Elvis' Graceland, or John Steinbeck's Salinas. You get to see and connect with that physical space that shaped their world view (and in turn, that book that you love to curl up with).
As someone who loves these spaces, I'm always sad to see one go. And right now, one is in danger: the house of author and social critic James Baldwin, which a real estate firm wants to convert into a lot of 18 high-end condominiums. Not only would it erase a beautiful relic of French and American literature, it would also rob us of the chance to get to know Baldwin better, to see - and connect with - the house and town that he loved, as he saw it.
Check out my Vice article about the house of James Baldwin in Saint Paul de Vence, and why it would be such a tragedy to lose it. You can find that here.