(Nicole McFeely)

Many of us have wondered what the hell they’re thinking. Filling the rooftop rows of sightseeing buses with their sun hats and disposable cameras, clicking away compulsively in whatever direction they’re pointed, attempting to experience the vibrations of the city in snapshots of landmarks to show their friends back home: “I went there, I saw this, I captured the story of that place, I can prove it.” As though the soul of San Francisco were tangible, stuck somewhere in the foundations of the Painted Ladies in Western Addition, painstakingly planted beneath Macy’s in Union Square. As though it could be captured in photos that millions have placed in albums before them. To each their own, I suppose. However, for visitors who are looking for a more authentic encounter with the area and locals who want to delve a bit deeper into the richness of the unique and creative culture here, there has to be a better way to experience the Bay Area.

What if there were? What if tourists and locals alike could take a more intimate look at the city by experiencing it through products of the culture: original pieces of fiction, poetry, visual art, and music created by their tour guides? Enter: Invisible City Audio Tours, guidebooks comprised of stories that explore the essence of each city they engage and the patterns that connect them. A project dreamt up by Tavia Stewart-Streit and put together with the help of local SF artists, curators, editors, composers, authors, journalists, performers, and designers, the organization aims to provide alternative ways to experience urban landscapes.

Sound unusual? It’s certainly captured a lot of attention and the creative energies of some amazing local talent, which gathered at Bird and Beckett on Thursday, June 16th to celebrate the release of the upcoming “Everywhere Man,” authored by Jim Nelson. Nelson treated the audience to an eerily good sneak peak reading of the journey, set on the SF Cable Cars. Unfortunately for the impatient like me, the full experience, which will eventually be available as a free downloadable MP3 like all the others, isn’t scheduled for release until October 15th. However, the current tour, Armada of Golden Dreams, is available now to appease the explorer in all of us, and contributors Britta Austin and Sarah Fran Wisby are two fantastic reasons to check it out. See for yourself:

Britta Austin

Sarah Fran Wisby

Jim Nelson