John Briscoe & Noah Griffin
A Child's Christmas in San Francisco
Sun., Dec. 5, 2021 • 1:00pm PT • Ferry Building Store
At the core of A Child's Christmas in San Francisco are seven poems, composed, author John Briscoe tells us, by generations of San Francisco school children. Over the week before Christmas these children paired iconic San Francisco food and drink with the days of the week. Each day got a poem featuring a particular food or beverage. In this way, Briscoe observes, the young poets showed "a precocious affection for the culinary tradition and abiding spirits of Christmas in their City of St. Francis."
Briscoe was one of those children. "For the occasion of those seven days, we composed ditties of juvenilia, in verse from bad to worse, to celebrate the days of the week and their paired food or beverage soulmates. From Sutro Heights to South Beach, from Bernal Heights to the Bayview, we composed, and competed, and conceded to the best of us."
These then are the best productions of San Francisco's youthful versifiers. They are sly and surprisingly sophisticated comic verses that bring to life a forgotten San Francisco, one spiced with wicked innocence and fueled by the city's unique culinary offerings.
Like the season it recalls, this book is celebration, a feast that is guaranteed to delight.
This book is for people who have affection for San Francisco, particularly its food, drink or history; people who don't know San Francisco but have been enchanted by films, books, or legends of San Francisco; and people who enjoy whimsy for whimsy's sake.
The title of this little book is unabashedly borrowed from Dylan Thomas's delighting story, "A Child's Christmas in Wales," which is best taken in by listening to Thomas himself reading it on the BBC.
This little book is a bit of history of San Francisco, history that is inconsequential in light of the city's role in the California gold rush of 1849, in light of the city's destruction and rebirth in 1906, in light of the city's role in the creation of the United Nations and in the Treaty of Peace with Japan following World War II. But it is a bit, just a bit, of the city's history. It is also a bit of poetry, and this city has produced great poets including poets of that now scorned outlaw genre, light verse.
It is a bit of nostalgia, for first visits to Playland, first trips to Fisherman's Wharf, first dates.
It is a bit of nostalgia for a time that never really was.
John Briscoe is a San Francisco poet, author, and lawyer. His poetry has been praised by Kirkus Review, Columbia, and other reviews. His book Crush: The Triumph of California Wine took the Oscar Lewis Award in Western History for 2020, 1st prize in the Top Shelf Book Awards, and his Tadich Grill: The Story of San Francisco's Oldest Restaurant, is a critically praised history of the Tadich, but also of all of SF's remarkable culinary history. He is a Distinguished Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, president of the San Francisco Historical Society, and co-owner of Sam's Grill.
Noah Griffin has sung professionally since the age of seven. As a soloist for the San Francisco Boy’s Chorus, he performed in La Boheme, Turandot, Carmen and Bor Gudenov, He also appeared with Leontyne Price, Paul Robeson, Nat “King” Cole, Johnny Ray, Eddie Fisher and the Shirelles He has sung with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Nashville Symphony, the Harvard University Choir and soloed with Duke Ellington. He has performed in Boston, New He has performed in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Locally he has sung at the Plush Room, the Purple Onion and the Hungry I, and performed with the late Vernon Alley, Allen Smith and the Walt Tolleson Big Band. He has composed and sung the original official Ballad of the Golden Gate Bridge and co-composed the song for the Giants’ on Opening Day at Pac Bell Park. Founder and Artistic Director of the Cole Porter Society.
John Briscoe photo courtesy of the author; Noah Griffin courtesy of the Cole Porter Society