top of page

Start me up...

Any treasure map worth its salt needs to tell you where to start, right? If you don't have the starting point, the cryptic clues that follow won't make any sense. One thing that we've learned from Chicago, Cleveland, and Boston is that once you find the starting place, the puzzle becomes very clear.

So how do we know where to start?

For Chicago, the start was in the verse:

For finding jewel casque Seek the sounds Of rumble Brush and music Hush.

Translation: if you want to find the casque, look for train tracks (rumble) near an art institute (brush), a symphony orchestra (music), and a library (hush).

If you can find these four things together on a map and go to that place, guess what you'll find? That's exactly where Mozart and Beethoven are set in stone on the symphony hall. It's confirmation on the very thing that brought you there in the first place. After that (or even if you miss that particular clue), the rest of Verse 12 falls into place.

Let's apply a similar approach to San Francisco: Image 1 / Verse 7.

Looking at the verse, there doesn't seem to be anything telling us how to find the starting point. It does, however, appear to describe a place:

At stone wall's door The air smells sweet

Our task is to find that place. How do we do that? Let's start with the painting. Phil, Fenix, and I talked with George on one of our livestreams and he brought up a really interesting idea:

What's the easiest way to say Dragon's Gate? Put a Dragon in Golden Gate.

A neat little rebus-style puzzle. The Dragon's Gate is arguably the most identifiable thing in San Francisco's Chinatown and something you'd find very easily on most 1980 tourist maps.

Let's assume that the painting is telling us to find the Dragon's Gate. We can locate it at the intersection of Grant Ave and Bush St. Excellent. Now we look around the area and see if we can find any place that resembles "stone wall's door" or a reason why the air might "smell sweet"... Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anything around there that matches either of those descriptions.

We must be missing something. What else might the painting be telling us? We've all seen the two-column grid of squares on each dress sleeve and the conspicuous pointing fingers.

Fenix has a really compelling idea for the similar pointing fingers in Image 9. The gist is that the blocks in the painting are street blocks and the fingers are identifying a specific street among the blocks.

Let's suppose JJP also used this method in Image 1. The blue squares are city blocks and the lines in between are the streets. If we apply Fenix's idea here, the fingers would be pointing to certain streets that we need to find.

We can use the Dragon's Gate as our reference point [0 on the map below].

Once there, depending on how we interpret the pointing, we have a handful of options. If we want to remain adjacent to Chinatown, only two of these options are viable: 1) counting 4 blocks west, 3 blocks north [A on the map]; or 2) 3 blocks west, 4 blocks north [B on the map].

Option A, (4 blocks west, 3 blocks north), yields a surprising result and puts us at the intersection of Taylor St and Sacramento St -- a half block from Pleasant St.

Pull up your 1980 edition of the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus and take a look at words related to"sweet":

And, while we're at it, refresh ourselves on the Japanese hint for this line:

Usually it would mean a sweet taste, but I was told you shouldn't obsess over taste. The air smells sweet, so just like in conventional Japanese, you can think of it like"atmosphere/mood."

Does the air smell sweet at Pleasant St?

Huge thanks to Phil Abbott for his tasteful notes and concise edits. You are a shock-proof shit detector.

313 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page