826 Valencia

Top choice in The Mission, Dogpatch & Potrero Hill

Avast, ye scurvy scallywags! If ye be shipwrecked without yer eye patch or McSweeney's literary anthology, lay down ye doubloons and claim yer booty at this here nonprofit pirate store. Below decks, kids be writing tall tales for dark nights a'sea, and ye can study writing movies, science fiction and suchlike, if that be yer dastardly inclination.

This eccentric pirate-supply store selling eye patches, spyglasses and McSweeney's literary magazines fronts a nonprofit offering free writing workshops and tutoring for youth. Yank open wooden drawers organized according to pirate logic: a drawer marked 'illumination' holds candles; 'thump' is full of mallets. But leave the stinky tub o' lard well enough alone, or you might get mopped – a pirate hazing ritual that involves a trap door, a mop and the element of surprise.

Before you leave, step behind the velvet curtain into the Fish Theater, where a blue-eyed and smirking (yes, smirking) puffer fish is immersed in Method acting. The ichthyoid antics may not be quite up to Sean Penn standards, but, as the sign says, 'Please don't judge the fish.' He's doing his best, and will even read your fortune.

The Pirate Supply Store is open weekends from 11AM to 6PM. Take the 33 bus to the 18th and Valencia stop, or the 14, 14R, or 49 bus lines to the stop at the corner of Mission and 20th. Either approach puts you within a couple blocks of the Pirate Supply Store, which is conveniently located right by The Mission Playground.

More family fun from 826

For further literary shenanigans, visit King Carl's Emporium at 826's nautically themed satellite center in the Tenderloin (180 Golden Gate). Check the 826 calendar for evening writing workshops, ranging from perfume-inspired fiction to neighborhood oral-history projects.

There's even more whimsical fun from Dave Eggers' teams in other cities, too, with the same great mission to get kids excited about reading, writing, dreaming, and learning. Los Angeles' Time Travel Mart in Echo Park, the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute in Minneapolis, Chicago's Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co., the Detroit Robot Factory in Michigan, Massachusetts' Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute, the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. in New York City, Washington DC's Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company, and the The New Orleans Haunting Supply Co. in Louisiana – all are similarly fun storefronts that support the cause and fire up the imaginations of kids of all ages.

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