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chronicles of starting an art bar / cafe in san francisco

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For most of the last month my whole apartment has been carpeted in zines, magazines, and books (see also: candy wrappers and clothes). There is a regiment to the madness, I swear. There are piles grouped next to other piles, and…. well, it’s all going to come together in the Library at The Summit. Probably a hell of a lot better than it’s come together on my apartment floor.

Even though I live alone, I still find myself looking at my messy apartment like it's someone else's fault.

I say “Library” but right now I’m working within the confines of a 10′ high by 3′ wide really, really nice magazine rack. I’ll have more space to work with in November, but it’s probably best that I start small.

A mock-up of the initial "Magazine Rack" placed between the coffee station & the ATM - can't miss it.

There’s a whole lot that I want to fit onto those 6 little shelves, and even more that I want to fit into the completed Library, but I have narrowed down the first collection of work to (mostly) fit within a theme.

The “theme” concept for the Library was Desi Daganan’s idea. Instead of jamming together a bunch of magazines randomly, wouldn’t it be neat to think of the collection as sort of an art show at a gallery? As someone who enjoys going to art shows and museums, I’ve had a lot of fun trying to translate the way an art curator puts together a show to a process that I can use when putting together written work for the Summit Library.

An art show at 111 Minna Gallery in SOMA.

...doesn't look so terribly different from this Library. Only those are books on the wall instead of paintings. And those are little kids instead of drunk hipsters.

This month, the theme for the Library is “Don’t Call it a Comeback” (taken from LL Cool J’s smash hit “Mama Said Knock You Out”, because all themes for Libraries should have ties to rap songs) I didn’t choose this theme because I love rap and Cool J’s sexy abs (I love both a lot though), I chose it it because I wanted the first installment of the Library to remind people of where The Summit came from.

That’s right “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.” Most everybody knows by now that The Summit has risen from the proverbial ashes of Poleng Lounge, a restaurant and nightclub, with strong ties to the Hip Hop community (The RZA once drank tea and played chess at Poleng until 3 in the morning). And with the doors finally opening to the public, Desi and many ex-Polengers (myself included) have made a comeback of sorts.

Poleng's last night was more fun and positive than it was sad.

So how exactly does this influence what’s featured in the Library? Well, I came up with a long list of people, companies, countries, etc who exemplify the tenacity it takes to climb from defamation back to success: Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Ford Motor Company, David Needleman of Jet Blue, Jack Bogle of Vanguard Funds, The Lakers, The Red Sox, Martha Stewart, China, etc. Then I began hunting down magazine covers detailing each of these subjects at their worst, and then back up on their feet. I learned pretty quickly that back issues of magazines can be expensive and difficult to obtain. Ultimately I determined that, within my budget, Ford Motor Company, Steve Jobs, and China were the best subjects for which I could find the two magazine covers I needed to demonstrate the Press’s conception of a downfall and then a comeback.

1993 issue of French Vogue featuring Nelson Mandela for $118? Can I use the company card?

So, like an art show centered around a few key pieces, this month’s Library will be centered around 6 really awesome magazines.

The Steve Jobs cover story from last post ties with this 1967 issue of TIME for my favorite pieces in this month's collection.

In the future, I want themes to be less restrictive (i.e. a whole bunch of drug related stuff for the November Marijuana ballot?). And there will always be a selection of reading material that doesn’t relate to the theme. In an effort to please the very eclectic group of people who work and spend time at The Summit, the Library will be pretty eclectic itself.

It looks like the doors to The Summit will finally be open this Thursday, and I encourage you to come by and check out The Summit mini-Library and give me some feedback on what you’d like to see included next month!

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I can think of few things more excruciating than bus rides, waiting rooms, or lunching solo without something to read. I spend a lot of time in transit, and between destinations I find myself stuck in the Mission with 20 minutes to spare, or at the 33 MUNI stop watching the estimated arrival time waver from 18 minutes to 63 minutes. 99% of the time I have a book in my purse, but I have collected hours upon hours reading and then rereading The Guardian and The SF Weekly. Most weeks I can relate to you in great detail what Paul Reidinger thought of the udon at Izakaya Sozei or Dan Savage has to say about maple syrup fetishes.

I love to read. Growing up I probably spent more time with books than I did with other children. My mom would take me to the library once a week and I would bring home as many books as I could carry. I was partial to fantasy and sci-fi (Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Philip Pulman…), and I spent most of my childhood waiting for a doorway to appear in my closet.

I'm borderline obsessed with Ray Bradbury. The Illustrated Man remains one of my favorite books.

When I would run through my library books I moved on to my parent’s – a mix of non-fiction and classic literature. As a teenager I became obsessed with Twee Pop, Riot Grrl, and DIY culture. I was rabidly addicted to Livejournal, wrote terrible poetry, and pieced together equally terrible zines. More than anything in the entire world I wanted to move to San Francisco, work in a cafe, and date a boy in a band.

The term "zine" (from "fanzine") covers a wide range of self-printed, small circulation publications featuring text & images.

Slumberland, Sarah, & K Records were probably the biggest influences on the person I am today. All these labels have strong ties to the zine culture that emerged in the 80s.

Kathleen Hanna - Poster girl for the Riot Grrrl movement, which was ignited by the publication of several feminist zines.

Fast-forward to today and I live in San Francisco, work in a cafe… and have pretty much given up on dating boys in bands. It’s been a wild ride getting here. I went from couch surfing in Oakland to traveling the country by Greyhound, finally ending up here in San Francisco about four years ago. I started off as a hostess at a now defunct Top 100 restaurant (any guesses?), moved on to become a party promoter, fell into a social media consulting position for a clothing boutique, and have ended up at The Summit, where my job title is “Literary Curator.”

In '09 The Guardian named me of one of San Francisco's "Scene Makers" in the Nightlife Industry. I think the scene at The Summit will involve more reading & less dancing.

In the last couple of years that I spent falling into jobs and scenes and hangovers, I’d sometimes forget that for most of my life, books were my best friends. For me, running the literary program at The Summit is like peeling away all sorts of strange identities that I’ve adopted in the last few years and finally getting to do what I love to do best, nerd out over books.

Me in '06 - platinum & probably plastered. These days I'm usually holding a cup of Blue Bottle.

I’ve spent the last few months watching The Summit come together. The space keeps filling up with tables, espresso machines, and couches, and more importantly, with people and ideas. My job went from stocking a simple magazine rack, to outlining a literary program that will focus on zines, graphic novels, and other independently published work. Along with compiling a library of zines, I’ve been hunting down magazine back issues and vintage design manuals, and playing with the idea that a collection of literature can be curated much the same way one curates a collection of visual art in a gallery.

I left Zine Fest last weekend with lots of awesome readables that will soon be featured in The Summit Library.

Just scored this back issue of Fortune Magazine. Who knew Steve Jobs was such a babe?

As excited as I am about my position at The Summit, I’m also a little scared. I read constantly, but the volume of books, magazines, zines, and comic books out there is astounding. I cannot and will not claim to be the authority on any literary scene, but I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with people who know more than myself. I hope that I can make The Summit a welcoming place for readers and writers, and I feel incredibly fortunate to work someplace where I’ll always have something interesting to read.

!!!

KKW

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