Exploring San Francisco through the lens of city blocks, Blocker is a regular series by Charles Hodgkins. Look for it on SFist every other Wednesday, around the lunching hour.

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Blocker, No. 36: Mason St. in North Beach

We’re well off Broadway — actually, we’re just off Lombard — in the toppermost reaches of North Beach. In fact, we’re not far from where the old neighborhood abuts the landfilled tourist stronghold that stole North Beach’s shore years ago.

It’s OK — we’re safe here from Crazy Shirts etc., although there’s a Bay Quackers vessel rolling by a few steps away over on Columbus. A moment later, an artist — shirtless, but sleeved — emerges for a smoke from Tattoo City at Mason and Lombard on this pleasant spring afternoon. He spots the amphibious truck carting visitors up North Beach’s diagonal commercial drag and can’t disguise a mild scoff. San Francisco loves its visitors from Cincinnati and beyond; it just gets a bit hrumphy when groups of them venture south of Bay St. in bright yellow military transport vehicles dating from World War II. Perhaps it’s not such an unfair reaction.

But today, that debate’s beyond our scope and interest. We’ve landed on this residential block around the corner from Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground and Pool, and we’re totally looking for action on a sunny Saturday. We find it: live music, street retail, plenty of pedestrian traffic, even a preening housepet.