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Look closely and you might be able to pick out the hint of San Francisco Bay crowding the top of the first panel.
Long ago South of Market, Hunters Point, India Basin, Dogpatch and Islais Creek were my go-to spots for insomnious sketching: trains and cranes rendered in Winsor & Newton India ink on little rectangles of cold press Crescent illustration board. The whole kit, bottles, brushes and all, fit nicely in my shearling coat pockets.

Claudia’s favorite of that series is a little study of an idling locomotive mostly in silhouette, the headlight white and glaring in diesel fumes and fog. I’d show it to you, but it’s buried in a dark and distant storage locker now.

Oftimes when anyone dug a sizable hole in the landfill that so much of The City’s waterfront is perched on they’d hit entombed wooden hulks from the Barbary Coast, whole schooners and barques like toys swept under a rug. It was news when the bucket of someone’s hydraulic excavator chunked into one of those buried ghost ships. We’d get pics of the pit, the muddy water, the splayed black planking, the keel. It still happens I guess, but now you never hear about it. Now you never hear about anything.

Already an inveterate skulker, I found lots of shadows to keep to south of Market, splotched now and again with smeary streetlights.

Images linger, at least on cardboard: the poisonous Naval Shipyard like a black iron cobweb… jaundiced worklights in the auto wrecker’s yard under I-280… the silent projects heaped up in sodium vapor terraces on South Slope.
With morning on its way, if the fog and wind were just right down among all that stark clapboard and brick chiaroscuro, you could even catch a whisper of faraway wind in the eucalyptus trees all the way up on top of Potrero Hill.

Now, that first panel of page 89, the glimpse of the Bay behind Geier and his jetpack completes the series. I’m good with that.


Pepperpot Piper is written & illustrated by Joseph Kelly
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