In my writer circles, I knew 826 Valencia as the youth writing center co-founded by Dave Eggers. I'd passed by the actual place many times, but never went inside because I thought it was, I don't know, a room with desks. Then, my friend Charles said, "Hey have you ever been to the pirate store?" I had not. "It's the coolest thing." It's at 826 Valencia.
And it was so cool. I mean so freaking cool. The walls are drawers full of pirate gear - pull one open to find shackles or candles. Framed instructions on rules of use or general thoughts- in the McSweeney's way so they are hilarious. (My favorite: Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight; Red Sky in the Morning, Red Skies are Scary) Near the entrance, there is a fish theater where you can watch Carl the puffer fish flutter about. But don't judge him. Ever.
I came out of the store wanting more, wanting a whole secret land behind that 826 storefront.