A weird thing happened when I sat down to review Paul Madonna’s latest book. You Know Exactly is Madonna’s third and final collection of art and musings gathered from the All Over Coffee series he made for the San Francisco Chronicle between 2004 and 2015. And as I flicked through the beautifully rendered, hyper-detailed depictions of quiet corners of San Francisco, a house appeared that was immediately familiar. It took my brain a second to process.
There, staring back at me, were the front gates of a building I moved into in 2005 and didn’t leave until 2013. It was a two-bedroom that, at any given time, had five to ten people staying there. The apartment had so many roommates, so many couch surfers and so many impromptu parties, it seemed entirely feasible to me that Madonna might have passed through at some point.
The pink elephant pictured on the sidewalk out front was a bit of creative license. It must have been a reference, I deduced, not only to the copious amounts of alcohol consumed in the apartment, but also to the fact that a few of its occupants had worked at the Mission dive bar Zeitgeist. (A pink elephant mural is featured prominently the bar’s backyard.) I started spiraling—Paul Madonna had almost certainly been in my apartment, and I needed to track him down to talk about it immediately.
The next day, we connected via Facetime.
“That’s definitely your old building,” Madonna told me. “I used to live at 15th and Guerrero so that was my ‘hood.”