Reader Mail – International Edition!

Believe it or not, despite writing a locally focused blog all about San Francisco, I have occasionally received mail from people from Far Away Elsewhere. For example, a while ago a group of fans from Europe of the TV show “Streets of San Francisco” looking for advice on how to find various locations on the program, as well as how to best navigate Muni.
Yesterday I received an interesting email from Prague, Czech Republic from Reader Aude, who found the blog via The Google for an interesting reason – they are translating a book set in San Francisco, and found one passage difficult to decode, despite consulting both Google and Muni Maps. Read on:

Hi Greg!
This is Aude, from the other side of the Atlantic :-)
I’ve never been to SF but I’m currently translating into French a book you’ve maybe heard of since it’s set in your city, that is Homeboy, by Seth Morgan.
At one point there’s this sentence (in case (!!!!) you have the book it’s on p.80) which mentions the N Judah. I’ve been trying to follow through the Muni web and Google maps, but must say I’m at a loss.
Here it is:
“He turned onto a side street and parked in its culdesac over the streetcar tunnel. He walked to the railing overlooking the tracks and leaned against a streetlamp that looked, in the swirling mist, like a giant dandelion atop a wrought iron stem. The N Judah car burst out between his legs, rattle-trapping down the cutbacks through the steep backyards, jiggling in its yellow windows like a corn in a popper newspapers, crossed legs, a woman applying lipstick. Scanning the gray density of buildings, Joe spotted the house on Treat Street by the police lights. They pulsed in the fog like red amoebas.”
I’d have two questions, if you’re kind enough to help.
– First do you have an idea of where the character can be? It looks like Treat St is very short and quite far from the N Judah way.
– Second, do you have an idea of what the cutbacks are here? Does the author mean this kind of tortuous, steep and narrow streets of San Francisco? (I can’t imagine the tramway following a zig-zaggy way…)
Thanks a lot for your help, I hope I’ll make it one day to San Francisco and take the N Judah :-)
All best from Praha, and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This made an interesting puzzle. We know for a fact the N doesn’t “cut through steep back yards” – that would more accurately describe the J-Church right before it arrives at Dolores Park. Likewise, neither Treat Street, nor Treat Avenue are near any streetcar/LRV lines either.
Treat Avenue is within semi-walking distance from the J, but not like the way it’s described here. As for a cul-de-sac (or any spot above a tunnel vis a vis the N) the only place this could be describing would be somewhere above one of the entrances to the Sunset Tunnel (this book was written long before the N went to Caltrain).
After much discussion, I told Aude that it was likely the author was taking some artistic license with San Francisco geography, much as Hollywood does when filming car chase scenes or having cable cars appear like they criss cross the City.
What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

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