You’re forgiven if you’re thinking “surely he meant to title this A Quick Take on Radio Valencia Cafe”.
Liberty Street runs for only six blocks but it’s complicated; it’s interrupted between Sanchez and Noe Streets, and it’s split-level, divided by a lovely strip garden, between Sanchez and Church. It starts in The Mission, crests what some call Liberty Hill – passing near the Golden Fire Hydrant above Dolores Park – and then is linked by staircase to its final vehicular block, which descends and deadends into a residential stretch of Castro Street. I lived on Liberty for only two years, 1992-1994.
They were very full years.
Public access to the Internet was just getting off the ground and one of the things I was doing was hosting a bi-weekly series about how to use it, why you’d want to use it, and its potential impacts, at Modern Times Bookstore, then on Valencia near 20th. (Modern Times eventually moved to a smaller location on 24th Street and sadly closed up shop in 2016 after 45 years as a worker-owned business. Its Valencia Street storefront is currently occupied by VanMoof “An iPhone wih Pedals” ebikes. So much for potential impacts.) Another thing I was doing was running a fulltime modem-to-modem-over-POTS Internet connection from my apartment to a scrappy ISP called The Little Garden, with an office in the California Savings building at 16th and Mission, so that I could host my own email plus gopher-, web-, and ftp-sites from a 386 Zeos towercase running BSDi Unix.
I wasn’t cooking very much (or very well) and I took many meals at Radio Valencia. I washed them down with coffee or (pre-“Craft”) beer on tap, depending on time of day; read, journaled, socialized, and listened to a lot of music, both live and from mixtapes. The mixtapes, prepared by co-owner Don Alan, were in rotation for a week and the playlist was printed out and available at every table. In my enthusiasm for the cafe I’d drop by at the beginning of the rotation and – did I get it on diskette? take a printout home? – post the week’s playlist to a Radio Valencia page on my own fledgling website. The cafe was open late, served good food and drink at reasonable prices, was friendly and colorful without being funky … it was a textbook example of what people reminisce about when they speak of a pre-dotcom San Francisco.