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Author Michelle Tea Guides Us through Queer San Francisco


From the best groceries to the gayest parties, Tea schools us in all things San Franciscan. 


Photo courtesy of Gretchen Sayers. Courtesy of locations.

Since her 1998 debut, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, Michelle Tea’s memoirs have captivated queer audiences with their frank and honest insights into sexuality and gender. Her latest book, Black Wave, is no exception. Set in 1999, it evokes the intense sense of living at the end of times, when what counts is to find a way to tell it like it is. Between running her queer-centric literary nonprofit Radar, editing for the queer anthology series Sister Spit,and heading up her alternative parenting site, Mutha Magazine, Tea found time to take us on the road less traveled in her beloved San Francisco.

1. Nooworks
“Though Nooworks makes tons of things for adult people, I’m obsessed with their kids’ T-shirts and leggings. There are prints with monster people, cats, and — my favorite — a crazy Garden of Eden scene with an Adam so chiseled and an Eve so busty that it’s almost inappropriate.” 395 Valencia St.;

[Michelle Tea’s San Francisco]
2. Trouble Coffee
“People love to get all up in arms about the $5 ‘hipster toast’ at this joint, but have any of them actually tried the fat, buttery slices crusted with cinnamon sugar? And then washed them down with coffee that tastes like coffee, not like ‘jasmine’ or ‘honeysuckle with notes of cantaloupe?’ I see nothing to complain about here.” 4033 Judah St. 

3. Rainbow Grocery
“There is no other grocery store in the world like this giant organic-food emporium. Whatever exotic spice, medicinal tea, fake vegan meat, or million-dollar raw-food cracker you’re craving, they have it — plus gorgeous produce. It’s also a great way to give Whole Foods — and their conservative Republican CEO — the finger.” 1745 Folsom St.;

4. Hard French at El Rio
“At this party at the city’s long-standing, beloved dive bar El Rio, the music is perfect, the go-go dancers are top-notch, and the crowd is a truly diverse mix of all genders. Though it’s mostly queer, everyone is welcome to get drunk in the sunshine and dance under a lemon tree on the back patio. 3158 Mission St.;

5. Radar Productions’ Queer Reading Series
“Not to brag, but I started this long-running monthly series at the San Francisco Public Library, where conversations between the authors and the audience take up as much space as the readings themselves. Literary and artistic superstars such as Eileen Myles, Alison Bechdel, Justin Vivian Bond, and hundreds more have graced the podium.” 100 Larkin St.

6. The Tenderloin National Forest
“A once-squalid Tenderloin alleyway has been transformed into a miniature forest bursting with redwood, Japanese maples, vines of edible nasturtium, walls of perfumed jasmine, a babbling brook, and installations both natural and artistic. The Forest has had the neighborhood’s back for years, supporting artists and low-income residents.” 501 Ellis St.;

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