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Minna Street Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

18 February 2020

Press previews of exhibits at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art take place on Wednesday when the museum itself is closed. Only the Minna Street entrance is open for check-in. So whether you arrive by car or public transportation, you'll find yourself briefly on Minna.

Minna Street. Captured with an Olympus E-PL1 and 14-42mm II R at 16mm and f3.6, 1/1000 second and ISO 200. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

For many years we worked at a weekly newsmagazine whose back entrance was on Minna, just across from the museum. We remember looking out the second story window at the museum's ground-breaking in 1992 during which a couple of massive robots tore into each other. It was orchestrated by Survival Research Labs.

On Wednesday evenings we took sacks of bundled magazines down the freight elevator to load into the old Plymouth Sports Suburban station wagon parked in the alley for trips to the Post Office.

So Minna Street is our old haunt. And we have a certain affection for it.

When we found ourselves in the alley again last week, we took out the camera and took a few shots. Once again the Salesforce Tower made its presence known.

But we were struck by the contrast between that bright building and the darkness of the alley. Two different worlds.

Lost in that, perhaps, is the single figure walking down the sidewalk. But she provides, not just a sense of scale, but direction as she walks toward the light.

When we got home, we took a moment to research how the alley got its name.

There really was a Minna, we learned. Her full name was Minna Rae Simpson and in 1875 she published a memoir titled My Life as a Child Prostitute. Emperor Norton reputedly called her the little Countess. Everyone else called her Minnie Rae.

Even better, she made the acquaintance of J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan on a trip to England and Scotland when she was 10. But he too was 10 at the time.

And a year later, she gave birth to her only child, Bartholomew.

There is some speculation that Barrie based the character of Wendy in Peter Pan on Minnie Rae, perhaps a more notable legacy than the alley named after her.

There is one known photo of her, identified on the back, from 1871 when she was pregnant with Bartholomew. She disappeared early in 1973, never to be heard from again.

However fanciful the story of Minnie Rae is, Minna Street really does exist. And who's to say if those who find themselves on it now and then aren't somehow blessed by the benevolent spirit whose hard times and famous friends made her legendary as a child?

We certainly had a warm feeling as we put the camera away and went into the museum.

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