For a worthy field trip in San Francisco, head to North Beach, and check out one of my favorite spaces in any city, Aria, located at 1522 Grant. Bill Haskell, longtime proprietor, lives part time in Paris, so his store is often closed (you’ll still get a sense of Bill’s specialized taste from his window display). When he is in town, his large storefront overflows with exotic ephemera, antiques, objects, and art that he ships back from flea markets and warehouses all over Europe.
Many of my favorite things have come out of this store, from a stainless steel desk, to a 1930’s school room wall map of California. Bill has sold me old prison mugshots from Alcatraz and a random old photo that looks like my former North Beach friend, Nini McCabe, shooting a rifle. Aria is never dull and often fabulous, a curio shop for the visually inclined, where browsing is always welcome. Bill’s struggle to make order out of his eccentric inventory, is definitely performance art.