Hipsters, Hikers, and French Fries in San Francisco
Thank you so much to Black Hippie Chick’s Take on Books & the World for letting me guest post today. My novel, The Flower Bowl Spell, is set in San Francisco and is the story of a Wiccan named Memphis Zhang. Memphis has abandoned magick after the tragic death of her dearest friend, but after two years, magick comes looking for her when a fairy pops up in a Metro tunnel. Adventures ensue!
I myself am a San Francisco native, so for today’s post, I’m going to list out the 5 places you should visit if you visit my City by the Bay. They’re not all that touristy, and I think there’s a little something for everyone. The list is in no particular order, so go ahead and pick and choose.
1. 18th Street at Dolores Street. Here you’ll find hipster heaven in the form of food, shopping, and people watching. Start with an ice cream cone at Bi-Rite Creamery head over to Dolores Park Dolores Parkfor all kinds of crazy—dogs, sunbathers, kids, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, evangelists. It’s all going on.
2. Valencia StreetValencia Street You can walk one or two blocks down to Valencia, where there’s even more hipster heaven. There are so many restaurants, bars, and shops to choose from, I can’t even tell you where to start. This is part of San Francisco’s Mission District, which retains a lot of its Latino vibe. It’s also where Dave EggersDave Eggers started 826 Valencia826 Valencia ,his nonprofit writing center that encourages kids to create their own stories through workshops, reading groups, and other cool stuff.
3. Lucky Penny DinerLucky Penny Diner,Honestly? I haven’t been here in years. Years! But Memphis goes there in my book, and yes, I did eat here quite a bit when it was under the Copper Penny moniker, and I was knee-high. Check it out on YelpYelp,and if you’re into a late night, pre-hangover experience, go for it. It’s also not bad in the light of day. For the best French fries in town and a more refined diner experience, head over to Noe Valley to Toast EateryToasty Eatery. There are two locations, one on 24th Street, and one on Church Street.
4. Crissy Field in the PresidioCrissy Field. in the Presidio, This place gets crowded on the weekends, but they started charging for parking, so perhaps that’s dissuaded some of the lingerers. Walk along the bay trail with joggers and cyclists while watching windsurfers on the dazzling San Francisco Bay. Stop at the Warming Hut Warming Hutfor a gourmet café drink, buy an eco-friendly souvenir, and take in the amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
5. Glen Canyon ParkGlen Canyon Park. Located in the Glen Park neighborhood, this wooded canyon will make you forget you’re in a city. It’s definitely a magickal place. Coyotes have been spotted here, but the park is pretty populated with dog-walkers, hikers, kids, etc., so no worries.Do you have favorite haunts—in San Francisco or elsewhere—that you’d like to share?

by Olivia Boler


Journalist Memphis Zhang isn’t ashamed of her Wiccan upbringing—in fact, she’s proud to be one of a few Chinese American witches in San Francisco, and maybe the world. Unlike the well-meaning but basically powerless Wiccans in her disbanded coven, Memphis can see fairies, read auras, and cast spells that actually work—even though she concocts them with ingredients like Nutella and antiperspirant. Yet after a friend she tries to protect is brutally killed, Memphis, full of guilt, abandons magick to lead a “normal” life.

The appearance, however, of her dead friend’s attractive rock star brother—as well as a fairy in a subway tunnel—suggest that magick is not done with her. Reluctantly, Memphis finds herself dragged back into the world of urban magick, trying to stop a power-hungry witch from using the dangerous Flower Bowl Spell and killing the people Memphis loves—and maybe even Memphis herself.


I wake from a light doze, no more than ten minutes. Outside, the sun has barely shifted. Cooper lies by my side watching me, a smile on his lips, his eyes a little confused with love.
“Time for the sunset now?” I yawn.
“Yes, by all means. The sunset.”
He rolls to the edge of our bed and I watch him walk out the door to the bathroom. I hear him turn on the shower and start to mumble-sing “Toréador” from Carmen, his favorite shower song.
Cooper knows about my Wiccan upbringing and refers to me and Auntie Tess as the Asian Pagan Invasion. I’ve even shared tales of some of the more far-out stuff, like the green glow that would suddenly emanate from candles when our former coven would chant around a pentacle circle. But we don’t talk about fairies. Or inanimate objects coming to life. I tried to once, and he told me I had a very active imagination as a child, a sure sign of greatness of mind. Who am I to argue?
Besides, I knew he’d say something like that. Cooper is supportive and easy to read. It’s why I chose him. But he’s not able to handle the fact that my imagination only gets me so far. For reasons I don’t even understand, I can see and do things other witches can’t, things you read about in fairy tales. Only two others know about me. One is Auntie Tess, yet we never talk about it. Something stops me from sharing too much, and something stops her from asking. The other person—well, we haven’t spoken in a long, long time.
I study the ceiling, my old friend. There’s a crack that’s been there forever, before I moved into this place. I’ve never liked the ceiling light fixture and pretty much ignore it, even though each time I pass a lamp store I study the possibilities. Cooper tells me to wait until we buy a place of our own. But I doubt we’ll ever leave this apartment. Still, that lamp with its 1950s design of starbursts and boomerang angles just does not fit with the Edwardian crown molding and—
Something behind it moves.
My breath catches. I blink. What could it be? A mouse? A giant spider? Something small. Something that darts. With wings.
A face peeks over the rim of the lamp. As I sit up it ducks away, disappearing from my view. I feel something, almost like a raindrop, hit my belly, and I jump low into a crouch. Slowly I stand up on the bed, trying to balance on the lumpy old mattress. I reach for the lamp. I’m too short.
“Did you just spit on me?” I holler. “What do you want?” And where, I wonder, have you been?
Footfalls pound down the hall. Cooper stands in the doorway of our room, dripping wet and naked. He looks me up and down. The shower is still running.
“Why are you yelling? What’s wrong?” he asks.
“Nothing. There’s something there.”


I point. “The light. The lamp.”
For a second, I don’t think he’s heard me. He continues to stare at me like maybe this is the moment where he sees the truth about me and it all ends between us. It’s only a fraction of a second and then he steps onto the bed—he’s a good foot taller than I—and unscrews the knob that holds the shade in place. Carefully, he removes it before peering inside. He raises his eyes to me.
“You’re right. There’s something here.”
I open my mouth but don’t say what I’m thinking: Are you magickal after all? He pauses, making sure I’m ready. I nod. He holds the shade toward me like—I can’t help thinking with a wee shiver—it’s a sacrifice.
Inside are bits of asbestos. Dead flies. Lots and lots of dust.
“Oh,” I say. “Oh.”
“Confess.” He wipes the dripping water from his wet hair out of his eyes. “You just wanted me to pull the ugly lampshade down. Am I right?”
I look up at the glaringly bright lightbulbs in their sockets. There’s a hole next to them—a swallow could fit through it, or something of that ilk.
“Yeah, big C,” I say. “You caught me.”
“You are a piece of work, Memphis Zhang.”
“You mean a control freak.”
“Comme tu veux.”
Cooper goes back to the bathroom. He turns off the shower and I hear him toweling off. I stretch out on the bed and study my bod. The spot where I felt something drip on my skin is dry, clean as a whistle. Cooper comes back into our room and starts to dress.
“What did you think was there, anyway?” he asks.
I raise my hands in a helpless shrug. “A squirrel?”
He snorts. “A squirrel.”
“Yeah, you’re right. That’s crazy talk. It was probably a fairy.”
“Or the ghost of Columbus.”
“Ha ha.”
Yet, I know it was a fairy because he smiled at me.


“Olivia Boler’s The Flower Bowl Spell is a genre-bending ride with sexy rock stars, Californian witches, children with potentially otherworldly gifts, and the occasional fairy. But it is also a story of identity, of the sometimes warring facets that make and shape a human being. Beautifully written, witty, and brimming with both ordinary and fantastical life, The Flower Bowl Spell will charm readers everywhere.” — Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

Book Trailer Book Trailer

Author Bio

Olivia Boler is the author of two novels, YEAR OF THE SMOKE GIRL and THE FLOWER BOWL SPELL. Poet Gary Snyder described SMOKE GIRL as a “dense weave in the cross-cultural multi-racial world of complex, educated hip contemporary coast-to-coast America…It is a fine first novel, rich in paradox and detail.”

A freelance writer who received her master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis, Boler has published short stories in the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) anthology Cheers to Muses, the literary journal MARY, and The Lyon Review, among others. She lives in San Francisco with her family. To find out about her latest work, visit

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