Volume 40 Number 27

Apr. 5 – Apr. 11, 2006

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Party with us at our 39th annual Best of the Bay celebration!


The San Francisco Bay Guardian presents our 39th Annual Best of the Bay party to celebrate the awesome people, places and things that make living in the Bay Area so great, featuring Maus Haus and MicahTron!

Plus: DJ Dials to start out the evening, with House of Babes DJs Rapidfire, Pink Lightning, and Jenna Riot to follow. Upstairs, you will find a special Motown on Mondays dance party with special guest vocalist Ezekiel McCarter (Afrolicious, Con Brio, Ascension)!

With three hosted bars, Hella Vegan Eats, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, and Hey Cookie! on site, free photos by Snappea Photobooths, and more!

Get your tickets here (advance tickets are recommended!) and click on “Purchase Now.” At check out, please consider donating to La Cocina, our official non-profit sponsor of the event. Other sponsors include Fiat, Rolling Rock, Distillery 209, Stein Family Wines, La Cocina, WillCall, and Guitar Center.

Wednesday, November 6 from 8:30pm-midnight @ 1015 Folsom, SF | $10, includes hosted bar, free photo booth, and more!


Guide to Pride 2013*



Pullin’ Pork for Pride The Bay Guardian and Hard French Present the Ninth Annual Queer Pride Happy Hour hosted by Lil Miss Hot Mess with performances by Dick Van Dick, Tara Wrist, and Rotimi Agbabiaka with DJs Carnita and Brown Amy. Celebrate LGBT culture and our progressive heroes that keep San Francisco legit with kick-ass soul jams, free comfort food, and ice cold adult beverages. Plus: bring a dark-colored t-shirt and get your Bradley Manning screen print to wear proudly during Pride. All of the Bay Area’s queer singles, marrieds, residents, visitors, boys, girls, bears, and babydykes are invited to our hottest happy hour of the year! Wed/26 from 6-9pm @ Pilsner Inn, 225 Church, SF | FREE


Slow Knights and Bright Light Bright Light Folsom Street Events is throwing one big-ass, sordid concert to help kick off your SF Pride weekend! Slow Knights is the new side project from Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters fame. Check out his bump-and-grind debut album Cosmos now. Bright Light Bright Light is Welsh-born Rod Thomas, a singer, writer, and producer that NME has called “the boy Robyn in all but name.” His debut album Make Me Believe In Hope is a tour-de-force, drawing influences from late 80s electro-pop and early 90s classic house to help get your juices flowing. Honey Soundsystem DJs will keep the sexy vibes going long after the bands are done. This is a must for any Scissor Sisters fan (as other band members may be in attendance). Thu/27 from 9pm-2am @ Public Works, 161 Erie, SF | $25 | showfolsompride.eventbrite.com



Sissy Darlings in the Night Bay Area radical queer dance parties Ships in the Night and Sissy Strut are joined by Darling Nikki for their Fourth Annual Friday Pride party, Sissy Darlings in the Night. Each of these fabulous parties has deep community roots, throwing benefits and raising cash for various local organizations. This Pride, they bring their local style of durty, bumpin’ gay-fabulousness, where every shape, size, color, and flavor of queer and queen can come shake it till they’re sweating glitter. There will be soul music in the early evening followed by hip-hop and booty jams ‘til close, featuring DJ Durt, Pony Boy, Sissyslap, and more to make you weak in the knees. After the Trans March, celebrate all things queer the way we do in the Bay of Gay. Fri/28 from 8am-2am @ Underground, 424 Haight, SF | $5

Original Plumbing Original Plumbing, the trans guy quarterly magazine born in San Francisco (and since moved to Brooklyn) is back for their fourth year in a row to host Unofficial: OP’s Dance Party After the Trans March. After a prideful day in the park stumble over to the Elbo Room to grind, sweat, and cruise with other queerios. Join hosts Rocco Katastrophe and Amos Mac and dance all night with music by DJ Average Jo from New York, Stay Gold’s DJ Rapid Fire, and DJ Chelsea Starr from Portland. Also featuring Go-Go Trans Boy Heart Throbs and Starr Violet at the door, and a creepy colorful Troll Doll photo booth that will ensure you never forget the evening. Fri/28 from 9:30pm-2am @ Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. | $6-$10 | originalplumbing.com

Bearracuda It’s the high-holy gay holiday of Bearracuda Gay Pride at Public Works where 1000 bears from all over pack it into the party and kick off Pride weekend in San Francisco. This year they have a lineup you will go gay for! On the main floor are San Francisco favorites, Craig Gaibler and Steve Sherwood, who together have played for Bearracuda all over the world, from Atlanta to Auckland. Joining them are hot go-go bears Shawn (from RuPaul’s Drag Race pit crew) and Ryan. Upstairs will be two big names from San Francisco’ legendary DJ collective, Honey Soundsystem: P. Play and Josh Cheon! Jump the line with $12 advanced tickets at Body on Castro or at bearracuda.com. Fri/28 from 9pm-3am @ Public Works, 161 Erie, SF | $12| bearracuda.com



Dark Room Dark Room and The Black Glitter Collective Present: Black Hole – The Queer Pink Saturday After Party featuring Believe live on stage with special guest DJ and drag superstar Heklina from Trannyshack along with the debut of Per Sia and Daddies Plastik’s new single “Google Google Apps Apps,” while host Lady Bear and her Dark Dolls give dark drag and sexy looks. Dark Room resident DJs Le Perv, Omar Perez, Rachel Aiello, and Daniel Toribio blend dark electro, techno, industrial, freestyle, and more to keep you dancing all night long. Add custom visuals/art, human art installations, and drink specials, and you have one of San Francisco’s most unique and sexy queer parties ever! Sat/29 from 9:30pm-2am @ Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF | $10

The House of Babes Three of San Francisco’s beloved queer dance parties – Stay Gold, Fix yr Hair, and Swagger Like Us – present The House of Babes. Walking distance from Dolores Park and the Castro, the party kicks off with drag acts, cheap happy hour drinks, and food vendors. Look forward to performances by Micahtron, Double Duchess, and Vogue & Tone, Baltimore superstar DDm, and local and guest DJs spinning the best in booty dropping jams. Get cute for the photobooth hosted by installation artist Matt Picon and photographer Shot in the City. Feel good knowing that local queer youth heroes, Lyric, are beneficiaries of the event. This promises to be an ecstatic, sweaty Pride party not to be missed. Sat/29 from 7pm-3am @ Public Works, 161 Erie, SF | $12-$15 | thehouseofbabes.eventbrite.com



Hard French Hearts los Homos Hard French is hosting an intergalactic Pride Party at the historic Roccapulco nightclub on Mission Street and will keep you on your feet with a combination of classic all vinyl soul combined with live performances by some of the hottest queer bands and DJs. Hard French has hand picked their favorite artists including Seattle-based funk-psychedelic duo THEESatisfaction, Portland post-punk darlings Magic Mouth, and SF nine-piece neo-soul band Midtown Social. Joining them will be guest DJs Olga T and Taco Tuesday. Of course, no Hard French party would be complete without DJs Brown Amy and Carnita and smoking hot moves from the Hard French Jiggalicious Drag Babes. Sun/30 from 4-11pm @ Roccapulco, 3140 Mission, SF |$20-$65 | hardfrench.com

Queerly Beloved Courtney Trouble’s Queer Pride Pink Sunday Dance Party is back, hosted by Courtney Trouble and Jenna Riot – SF’s Femme Dream Team! Featuring intergalactic space group Icy Lytes, DJs Jenna Riot, Chelsea Starr, and special guest Automaton, video booth by Ajapopfilms and QueerPorn.TV, and the Queer Porn Circus with performances by Courtney Trouble, Jade Phillips, and sexy gender fucking go-go dancers. Plus, if you’re in dire need of a spanking, a smooch, or just a damn good foot rub, the Cum and Glitter Kissing Booth has got you covered with super cheap massage, lap dance, and whatever else you’re perverted heart may desire. Sun/30 from 3-9pm @ El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF | $8 | queerlybeloved.brownpapertickets.com

Big Freedia This is going to be ridiculous. The undisputed Queen Diva of NOLA Bounce is droppin’ by this unofficial Pride after party at Public Works. Words cannot do justice to the all-out sparkle-sweat blast that is a Freedia show. Bring a towel and someone to get freaky with on the dance floor with warrior-stripper-rapper Brooke Candy, the godfather of Detroit Ghettotech DJ Assault, Lady Tragik, Dick Van Dick, Marco de la Vega, and more! This show will be legend. Do. Not. Miss. Sun/30 from 7pm-1am @ Public Works, 161 Erie, SF | $20-$30| publicsf.com

Honey Soundsystem Honey Soundsystem presents its annual Extended Pride event at the Holy Cow Nightclub featuring its line-up of residents Jason Kendig, P-Play, Josh Cheon, and Robot Hustle. In celebration of Pride they will be going after-hours until 4am with the same world class dance music you have come to expect from Honey. Sun/30 from 9pm-4am @ The Holy Cow Nightclub, 1535 Folsom, SF | $10 | honeysoundsystem.com



Switch Tuesdays: Pride Decompression Get nasty with Jenna Riot and Deejay Andre as they present this special post-Pride edition of Switch and what may be your last chance to find the Pride babe of your dreams. QBAR has been keeping the queer-girl dream alive for seven years now, making your Tuesday nights a whole lot hotter. Get wet with DJs Jenna Riot, Andre and guest Leah Mcfly and impress all the babes with your twerkin’ skills, as they spin the hottest Top 40, hip-hop, electronic, pop, and booty bouncing beats. Cruise, werq, twerk, get naughty, and dance ’till you sweat. Tue/2 from 9pm-2am @ QBAR, 456 Castro, SF | $5



Pet Guide*


Wag Hotels

Unparalleled in the industry, Wag Hotels is the ultimate stay and play resort for dogs and cats. Designed from the ground up with pet care in mind, Wag Hotels aims to provide your best friend an elite experience during his or her stay while giving you the peace of mind knowing that your pet is safe, healthy and happy. They offer a variety of innovative services and amenities, including hotel-style boarding, All Day Play/ Dog Day Care, training, grooming, and spa services. Featuring open-air, loft-style facilities with fun play areas including a spacious rooftop with views of the bay, and peaceful private rooms for snoozing, Wag Hotels is open and providing care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Restaurant Guide*


La Note and Café Clem

Dorothée Mitrani-Bell, owner and proprietor of both La Note and Café Clem in Berkeley, was born in the South of France and grew up in Paris. Daughter of French gourmet cooks, she is no stranger to fine French cuisine, but wanted to bring the rustic and unpretentious side of things to her clientele. “I sell conviviality,” she says, adding with a laugh: “It’s about people – I want people to be together and sit together…and calm down.”

After “Berkeley called, ” a young twenty-something Dorothée arrived on a one-way ticket and $6 in her pocket, attended Cal, and sometime thereafter set up shop in a once dilapidated 1875 building that she completely renovated and restored on her own. La Note opened in 1997 and has been in the same location since.

“As soon as I walked in to the building, I had a vision of what it is today” – that is a charming eatery with a warm and rustic Provençal ambiance. Reclaimed and repurposed furniture like old pews make it feel homemade, like the food. The pancakes are a must-try, as are the eggs. Les Oeufs Lucas and a fresh croissant will not disappoint.

More Paris than French countryside, the new Café Clem opened last April near Berkeley High with much fanfare. “The kids are fans of the Nutella-filled baguette and les pain perdus.” A pain perdus, for the uninitiated, is a pressed stack of challah layered with Nutella, served here with a glass of milk – French comfort food at it’s finest, for students and adults alike. (Jackie Andrews)

La Note, 2377 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley | (510) 843-1535| lanoterestaurant.com

Café Clem, 2020 Kitteredge St., Berkeley | (510) 280-3881 | cafeclem-downtown.com


Taqueria Can-Cun

Voted as “Best Taqueria” in the Best of the Bay for 10-plus years, this taqueria is one of the best in the Mission. Their tacos and burritos are always delicious but if you are looking to mix it up a little try their pastor torta – flavorful pork between two fluffy warm buns with lots of tasty toppings in between. If you are a vegetarian this place will satisfy since they’ve been voted “Best Veggie Burrito” more than once. This small, quaint, authentic taqueria is located in the heart of the Mission at 2288 Mission St. @ 19th with another location at 1003 Market St. @ 6th and their newest one at 3211 Mission St. @ Valencia. Whether you are looking for lunch, dinner or a late night snack, this place deserves consideration. Open Monday through Thursday 10am to1am, Friday and Saturday 10am to 2am, and Sunday from 10am to 1:30am.


Bistro SF Grill

Bistro SF Grill provides the best, always fresh, organic, sustainable, local, and eclectic meats, and with their fresh-baked organic breads they create the most exciting burgers.

If you’re looking for a hearty meat dish – whether a traditional Kobe beef burger, or if you’re feeling funky and want to try grilled ostrich, alligator, buffalo, wild boar, or venison – then this is the place for you. Their wide variety menu also has options for the vegan and vegetarian eaters as well. This restaurant serves a wide variety of beers from around the world and also has wine tastings everyday. Open Monday through Friday, 5 to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 10pm, located at 2819 California St. @ Divisadero.


Las Palmeras

This Salvadorian/Mexican/Latin American restaurant is sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds, even those of the picky eater. They offer all the traditional Mexican food including refried beans, rice, homemade warm flower tortillas, salad, salsa and their famous pupusas – a thick handmade corn tortilla stuffed with a variety of cheese and pork. The menu also includes tamales, soup, finger lickin’ fried chicken and hamburgers. Open seven days a week from 8:30am to 9:30pm daily, located at 2721 Mission @ 23rd  St.


Taqueria El Castillito

This affordable, delicious, and undeniably authentic taqueria may be one of the best in the Mission. This place is best when you are looking for a late night, cheep eat.  They are known for their XXL burritos and bottomless chips and salsa everyday. They also offer a wide variety menu that includes tacos, nachos, and tortas. Whether you want a mild or extra hot salsa, their salsa bar is sure to satisfy whatever your level of spice may be.  El Castillito is pen for lunch, dinner, and late night meals with two locations –2092 Mission St. @ 17th St. and 370 Golden Gate Ave. @ Larkin.


Rainbow Grocery

This locally owned grocery store has been serving San Francisco’s Mission District since 1975. They aim to buy goods from local organic farmers, bakers, dairies, and other local businesses whenever possible. They are most known for having a wide selection specialty items, most of which you cannot find in a chain grocery store – plenty of gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, soy-free and organic products. Customer’s favorite items include the wide variety of cheeses, oils and vinegars that you can package yourself, bulk grains and teas, and a large supplement aisle. Located at 1745 Folsom St., Rainbow Grocery is open everyday from 9am to 9pm. 


Ganim’s Market

If you’re looking for some good comfort food at incredibly reasonable priecs, then Ganim’s is the place to go. With everything from delicious burgers – veggie too – and fries for $6 or less to traditional English fish and chips for the same price, this is a cheep deli-style joint that will not disappoint. Looking for something different to mix it up?  Try their surf and turf burger – a piece of fried fish on top of a bacon cheeseburger. This place has everything from burgers to burritos, and icy cold beers to wash it all down. Here, you can truly enjoy a huge meal for a small price. Located at 1135 18th St. right on the corner, Ganim’s is open Monday through Friday 11am to 9pm and Saturday from 11am to 7pm. Great lunch specials as well!


Blowfish Sushi

Blowfish offers good quality sushi in a modern, upscale environment. The restaurant has a hip club vibe with large TV screens around the dining room and a DJ spinning the latest tracks. With beautiful plating, awesome deserts, and delicious plum wine, this place is sure to satisfy all sushi lovers.  If you’re coming here for lunch make sure to come early or make a reservation as the place is usually packed. Also good to know is that from 2:30-5:30pm, Monday through Friday, it is siesta time. Open for dinner Monday, Tuesday and Sunday from 5:30 to 10pm, Wednesday and Thursday until 10:30 and Friday and Saturdays until 11pm. Located in the Mission at 2170 Bryant St.


Reina’s Taqueria

Fresh, inexpensive, local – Reina’s has all the familiar Mexican menu items you are looking for, like nachos, enchiladas, tamales, al pastor burritos, and tacos, all made with the freshest ingredients at a really great price. Make sure to check out their beer and wine selection as well. Reina’s Taqueria makes for a great lunch spot and can accommodate large groups. Located on the corner of 12th St. and Lafayette at 1550 Howard, this taqueria is very convenient to get to. Stop in for lunch or call your order in at (415) 431-0160.


Eiji Tofu

If you are looking for a low-key, Japanese restaurant in a small, quaint location then this is the place for you. Eiji offers a limited menu but the options are all signature dishes that are simply delicious, like great sushi, okra beef, homemade tofu, and more. Make sure to end your meal with their most famous dessert, the strawberry mochi. The staff is very knowledgeable and attentive to what you need, making this a great place for an un-fussy or casual dinner date night. Located in the Castro at 317 Sanchez. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 10pm.


Central Market Guide*



CounterPULSE is an experimental and innovative non-profit theater, performance space, community center, and gallery with roots deep in the Bay Area’s provocative performance and dance scenes. Supports emerging, local, and talented artists and performers who have not yet tapped into the larger Arts funding streams by producing their own shows, hosting residency programs, and boot camps, not to mention the constant combing of the artist community for emerging talent. Their small and intimate stage can seem to blur the link between audience and performer for a truly unique theater-going experience. Perfect for those seeking an out-of-the-box adventure and fringe art aficionados alike, CounterPULSE is conveniently and centrally located – just a short walk up Ninth St. from the Civic Center BART and Muni Metro stations.

1310 Mission St | (415) 626-2060 | counterpulse.org

A.C.T. Presents: Electra

Direct from its acclaimed sold-out premiere in Los Angeles, A.C.T. director Carey Perloff brings her sweeping production of Sophocles’ Electra to the Bay Area beginning October 25, with a specially-commissioned new translation by London playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and a haunting original score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. A feast of poetic language, Elektra features two of A.C.T.’s most beloved performers: core acting company member René Augesen in the title role and associate artist (and Academy Award winner) Olympia Dukakis as the fiercely partisan Chorus Leader.

After her mother murders her father, Elektra is driven by grief, perpetually reliving the horrific event to refuel her burning need for revenge. See why the LA Times calls A.C.T.’s production of Electra “shattering in its poignancy.” For show times, visit act-sf.org.


24 Days of Central Market Arts Festival

Central Market Arts, is thrilled to announce its third year offering the 24 Days of Central Market Arts Festival, a free and open-to-the-public art festival in the Central Market district of San Francisco. The festival kicked-off last month and continues through October 21 with action-packed performances and activities at a variety of Central Market locales like Mint Plaza, United Nations Plaza, The Old Mint Building, and Market at 6th Street. A calendar and map of all events can be found by logging on to centralmarketarts.org.

Next up is KUNST-STOFF arts presents: Dance Based Artistic processes at Mint Plaza from 1-4:30pm on Saturday, October 20. Sharing the outdoor stage is Tango & More Argentine Dance, Hallie Dalsimer, Santa Barbara Dance Theater Kate Jordan, Tahoe Youth Ballet, Bruno Augusto, Dance ELIXIR, Anne-Rene Petrarca/Sculpted Motion Samantha Giron, Laura Arrington, KUNST-STOFF Dance Company Dancers, and Guests.


Marinello Schools of Beauty

Started in 1905 by a physician’s wife cooking up batches of face cream in her Wisconsin kitchen, Marinello Schools of Beauty are now the nation’s leading chain of beauty schools, where industry professionals teach aspiring cosmetologists, estheticians, and manicurists their tricks of the trade. Marinello schools are at the forefront of beauty education so rest assured that their advanced students will give you quality services at unbelievably reasonable prices, that will make you feel like a million bucks. For a complete menu or guest services – everything from five-dollar haircuts to forty-dollar Glycolic peels – visit their website.

1035 Market #100, SF | marinello.com | (415) 800-5842


Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers


One cannot call him or herself a burger fan unless they’ve eaten at Pearl’s. With four locations, two of which are in San Francisco, there’s no excuse not to! They’ve got a variety of beef burgers (including Kobe!) and chicken sandwiches, salads, homemade chili, and plenty of sides to make everyone in your party happy. Try the healthier and leaner grass-fed buffalo burger, or the somewhat less so King Burger topped with a hot dog, or the much less so – and appropriately named – Phat Bob with BBQ sauce, bacon, onion rings, and cheese. Pearl’s looks out for the vegetarians with veggie burger options, as well as the more indecisive crowd with their clever sides menu that includes “springs” (half sweet potato fries and onion rings), “spries” (half sweet potato fries and french fries), and “frings” (you guessed it – half french fries and onion rings). Down any combo of their outstanding comfort food with one of their milk shakes and you’re good to go.

1001 Market Street and 708 Post Street, SF | pearlsdeluxe.com


Huckleberry Bikes

Not even open for one year yet, Huckleberry Bikes has already become the FiDi bicycle commuter’s dream come true and go-to (their five-star Yelp score speaks for itself.) Leaving work and need a repair? Riding to work in the morning and catch a flat? Not only are they conveniently located on San Francisco’s heaviest bike commuting corridor with a nice and late close time of 7pm, they were smart – correction: genius – enough to convert a newspaper kiosk on the corner of Market and Seventh Streets for early morning drive-by servicing – open from 7:30am to 9:30am every weekday morning. Their prices are more than reasonable, their staff is less than pretentious, and their shop is stocked to the gills with everything you need for the smoothest ride.

1073 Market Street | huckleberrybicycles.com


Summer of Art continues through fall with What’s On Stage?


What’s on Stage? (produced by Denia Dance and People in Plazas) takes the stage from the theatre to the streets with free Tuesday lunch-time performances at UN Plaza. A part of the Summer of Art series, this cultural respite from the hectic workweek continues throughout the month of September.

Up next is the September 11 event featuring Yannis Andoniou’s KUNST-STOFF Dance Co., who will preview The Moment You Stood Still…#7 moNOs – catch the world premier at the Old Mint Building Courtyard on October 13 and 14. KUNST-STOFF Dance Company partners with The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society to present this funny, dramatic, and at times “real” play on appropriation and acceptance.

Also catch the Leyya Tawail’s DANCE ELIXER preview of Destroy// with live music by Mike Guarino of Tiberius before a full ensemble of dancers and musicians perform it October 4-6 at KUNST-STOFF arts, as well as Kate Jordan Dance Project’s preview of BUILd – performed by Bruno Augusto – before it premiers October 24 at the 24 Days of Central Market Arts Festival.

We could ride trains


The Muni trains are fun. I rode them for years before I figured that out. 

Muni was always a matter of function, a means of getting around. I was in a rush, a busy person with Places to Be. I was late; the train wasn’t there. When one of those historic clankers from Boston showed up on Church Street, I got even more crabby. The thing goes about four miles an hour; don’t they know we’re on a schedule here?

And then I had a son.

Even before he could talk, Michael loved trains. He’d point at them and start waving his hands up and down and laughing. “Choo-choo” was one of his first words; I think he knew that one even before “dada” and “mama.” And when I finally took him for a ride on the J-Church, around his second birthday, he became the happiest boy on the planet.

For the next year or so, every weekend morning, when he woke me up at the crack of dawn, I’d ask him what he wanted to do that day, and he’d say, with a big smile, “We could ride trains!” And almost every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, that’s what we’d do, from Church Street to Market Street, down Market, maybe along the waterfront to the end of the line at Fisherman’s Wharf. Then we’d get on another train and ride back home.

Sometimes we’d stop for a while at Dolores Park; sometimes we’d have doughnuts and check out the sea lions at the wharf. Sometimes we’d take a walk along the bay and look at boats. But really, as Zen masters and three-year-old boys have always known, the journey was the destination.

It’s different seeing the city through a child’s eyes.

I remember the amazing sense of wonder I had when I first arrived in San Francisco, a 22-year-old out of the New York suburbs and a Connecticut college town who had never been west of Buffalo. Everything seemed so alive, so special and strange and funny. And after a while, like everyone else, I had to pay the rent, and fight with the bank and the phone company, and the IRS found me, and life in the big city became, well, life in the big city.

But when you walk around with a kid, it all starts to come back. The whole urban world is an adventure. That stuff blowing around on the sidewalks isn’t garbage — it’s treasure. The graffiti on the walls isn’t vandalism (or even art) — it’s a clue to some sort of puzzle, maybe a map to where the pirates buried the gold. Even watching the train pull away just before you get to the corner isn’t any reason to be mad — because (as Michael always announces with glee) pretty soon there will be another one!

Just walking out the door is an explosion of scientific marvels. The wind is moving air, which is pretty cool when you think about it. The fog is a cloud on the ground. The rain makes puddles, and puddles lead to big splashes and soaking wet feet, and life doesn’t get much better than that. I suspect that every day in Michael’s life is like the first time I smoked pot and tried to talk about the difference between time and color.

There was a long period (and now it seems like another lifetime) when I could go for weeks without venturing beyond work, the 500 Club, a couple of take-out places, and my apartment. The advantage (and curse) of this city is that you can live quite well in your own neighborhood (particularly when it’s a place like the Mission District or Bernal Heights), so you don’t need to go anywhere else.

Amazing what I was missing.

I’ve lived in or around the Mission for 10 years, and I’d never been to Garfield Pool. You can swim there for three bucks, and it’s never crowded. The locker room feels like something out of a 1940s socialist paradise — everything’s one color, brutally utilitarian, and just a little bit broken. There are free kickboards, basketballs (and a poolside hoop), and sometimes even swim goggles (I guess when people leave them behind they become properly nationalized). The Upper Noe Recreation Center has the same sort of feel: on Saturday mornings, there’s a toddler gym, filled with a huge conglomeration of toys that look and feel like they were never actually new. But they work just fine and are durable as hell, and on rainy days, dozens of children stranded inside get a chance to ride welded tricycles and plastic cars around and crash into each other, with no ill effect. I smile just thinking about it.

The big children’s playground at Golden Gate Park has a long, steep slide made out of concrete that would make a modern-day insurance agent gasp in horror and alarm. Kids who have barely learned to walk somehow manage to climb up about 75 slippery, uneven steps that are almost too much for me, then sit on torn pieces of cardboard and careen down a hard, fast incline and skid to a stop at the bottom. It’s outstanding.

At Crissy Field, there’s a narrow, shallow channel where the water in the newly restored tidal marsh flows in and out of the bay. I don’t think the people who oversaw the ecological restoration of the wetlands area had any idea they were creating a swimming hole for kids, but that’s what happened: on warm days, dozen of children splash in the stream and build elaborate sand castles on the banks. When the tide goes out, a muddy island appears in the middle. Even with the tide coming in, the channel is never more than a few feet deep. It’s mind-boggling: you’re on the edge of the bay, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, a few yards away from the icy-cold currents and riptides where even seriously athletic adults in wet suits venture only with care — and three-years-olds are romping in the water with their dogs.

There’s a railroad museum at the old Hunters Point shipyard, with vintage steam engines that still work. There’s a model river (full of water and plastic fish) at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. There’s a working beehive in the bug house at the San Francisco Zoo, and the queen bee has a white dot painted on her abdomen. There’s an artificial earthquake that shakes up the Lego houses you can build at the California Academy of Sciences.

There are stores in the Mission that sell parachuting space aliens. If you ask nicely at Mitchell’s Ice Cream, they’ll stick a few green gummy worms in your chocolate-chip cone.

These are all things I didn’t know.

When I was a kid in the suburbs, I couldn’t imagine growing up in a city. I hope my kids see it differently. Because I’m getting to be a kid again right here in San Francisco — and I can’t imagine anyplace better.

Affordable housing group’s shady, “shameless” endorsements


Editors note: This article orginally ran in October, 2000.T

he Brown machine’s soft money operation is churning out some very
duplicitous propaganda. While we haven’t seen many mailers attacking
independent candidates yet (they’re usually deployed in the final days
of the campaign, when the targets don’t have a chance to respond), we’ve
come across flyers that aim to portray business-friendly machine
candidates as champions of progressive causes.

Perhaps the most egregious comes from an organization called the
Affordable Housing Alliance.

Once a legitimate tenant advocacy group, the AHA does little these days
except endorse candidates and send out mailers during election season.
Numerous well-known tenant activists say the AHA reflexively promotes
the candidates of the Willie Brown machine — no matter where they
stand on tenant issues.

And from what we’ve learned about the group’s endorsement process, AHA
director Mitchell Omerberg isn’t even trying to give the group the
appearance of legitimacy.

Omerberg, who works as a deputy city attorney for San Francisco, was
active in the 1979 fight for rent control. We called him several times
and left messages at the AHA, at his home, and at his city office. He
never called us back or faxed us a copy of the group’s endorsements.
The shenanigans began when Omerberg invited candidates to speak at the
AHA’s endorsement meeting. Chris Daly, the District Six hopeful who has
inspired more enthusiasm from tenant activists than any other candidate
in the city, wasn’t even invited. Daly told us his campaign called
Omerberg to ask when the meeting was scheduled, and Omerberg never
called back.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, the candidates whom Omerberg did invite made
their speeches. Then the group’s supposed members voted on the club’s
endorsements. But it’s not clear who most of those members are or where
they came from.

Progressive activist Richard Ow, who probably attends more political
meetings than anyone in San Francisco, told us he didn’t recognize a
single other tenant activist among the voting members. Ow sits on the
boards of the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee,
and the Senior Action Network and is active in dozens of other tenant

The most egregious maneuver came at the end of the meeting. According
to District One supervisorial candidate Jake McGoldrick (one of the few
people who stayed until the end) Omerberg refused to open the ballot box
and tally up the votes there and then.

Instead, he insisted on taking the ballot box home with him.
Apparently Omerberg prefers to count the ballots alone: one former AHA
member, who asked to remain anonymous, told us he did the same thing
after at least two endorsement meetings in years past.

Alex Wong, chair of the Democratic County Central Committee, helped
Omerberg run the meeting, introducing the candidates and watching the
clock as they spoke. Wong, a Brown ally, told us he didn’t know if Omerberg had taken the ballots home with him; he says he, too, had left the meeting by that point. Then he got off the phone, saying he’d call
us back. He never did.

With Omerberg and Wong keeping mum, we couldn’t track down a copy of
the group’s endorsement list. (McGoldrick campaign manager Jerry Threet
says he asked Omerberg for a copy and Omerberg flat out refused.) But an
AHA mailer sent to tenant voters in the Richmond provides a clue.
“Renters have two choices in the November election,” the flyer
proclaims. “Michael Yaki will preserve rent control. Rose Tsai wants to
repeal it.”

Of course, Richmond renters have more than two choices. There are five
candidates on the District One ballot, including McGoldrick. McGoldrick
has been active on tenant issues for decades, including a term as a San
Francisco Rent Board commissioner from 1988 to 1992 and another as
cochair of the now defunct Housing and Tenants Council, an umbrella
coalition for the movement.

“Jake has a long history of being pro-tenant, from his days on the Rent
Board to doing grassroots work on every tenant campaign and every piece
of tenant legislation,” said Ted Gullicksen of the Tenants Union. The
city’s preeminent renters’ advocacy group, the Tenants Union gave
McGoldrick its enthusiastic endorsement. If you believe the AHA’s
mailer, he’s not even in the race.

On the other hand, Gullicksen said, “Yaki initiated legislation to stop
owner move-in evictions — but then, under pressure from landlords,
killed it himself. Since then he has consistently been against tenants
and with the real estate industry.”

That’s the candidate of the Affordable Housing Alliance. Yaki has a
strong claim on AHA support: he is backed by Willie Brown, of whom he
has been a stalwart ally, and Omerberg worked on Yaki’s 1998 campaign
for the board.

“As a tenant who went through an owner-move-in eviction, I strongly
believe in protecting our rent-control laws and stringently enforcing
protections for seniors and the disabled,” Yaki told us through his
consultant Ellie Schafer. “I am proud to have supported all the measures
which passed the Board of Supervisors expanding OMI and Ellis Act
protections.” (Note Yaki’s careful phrasing: he supported the measures
that passed, and opposed the measures that failed. The same can be said
for most of Willie Brown’s other appointees; that’s why those measures
passed and the others failed.)

The AHA also endorsed Meagan Levitan in District Three, according to a
Levitan mailer. Her opponent Aaron Peskin, who spoke at the endorsement
meeting, has the support of the Tenants Union and just about every other
legitimate tenant activist. Yaki and Levitan are both endorsed by the
Small Property Owners Association and the San Francisco Apartment
Association, which lobby for landlords.

The AHA’s endorsements of Yaki and Levitan were no surprise to longtime
members of the tenant movement. “Historically, the Affordable Housing
Alliance hasn’t endorsed credible pro-tenant supervisors,” Robert
Haaland of the Housing Rights Committee told us. “It’s a group that’s
used to perpetuate machine candidates. It’s another shameless example of
how the machine stays in power.”

PG&E vs. Greenaction



Pacific Gas and Electric Company has been promising for years to shut down its filty, dangerous Hunters Point power plant. Now state regulators have signed off on the plan, and it should be happening any day. But PG&E and Greenaction — which has been the group leading the charge to close the plant — have very different ideas about the timeframe.


Here’s PG&E’s claim:



   PG&E Completes Potrero-Hunters Point Transmission Line
                               in San Francisco

      Utility on Target to Closing Hunters Point Power Plant This Spring

    SAN FRANCISCO, April 7 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Pacific Gas and Electric
Company has released into service a new underground transmission line in San
Francisco, bringing the utility closer to its goal of closing its last San
Francisco power plant.
    The Potrero-Hunters Point Cable is a 115,000-volt transmission line that
improves electric reliability and increases electric capacity in San
Francisco. Built at a cost of about $40 million, the Potrero-Hunters Point
Cable spans 2.5-miles and is entirely underground, connecting two large
substations in southeast San Francisco. Construction on the line began in June
    The Potrero-Hunters Point Cable is the second-to-last of nine transmission
projects PG&E has completed in its effort to obtain California Independent
System Operator approval to terminate the must-run contract for the Hunters
Point Power Plant. The California ISO has required PG&E to run the plant to
assure continued reliable electric service in the region, but completion of
the transmission projects will allow PG&E to maintain reliable service without
the plant.
    The final transmission project, the Jefferson-Martin 230-kv Transmission
Line, is scheduled to be completed this spring, even though excessive rain
during March and April has posed challenges. PG&E is investing approximately
$320 million in the nine projects that will increase electric capacity,
improve reliability and also allow for the Hunters Point Power Plant to close.
    Ten business days after PG&E notifies the California ISO that the
Jefferson-Martin line is in commercial service, the "reliability must-run"
contract under which PG&E is obligated to operate the plant will terminate, at
which point PG&E will immediately close the plant.
    "PG&E worked closely with the community, the City and the Port of San
Francisco to get the Potrero-Hunters Point Cable project approved and built in
a timely manner," said Jeff Butler, senior vice president of energy delivery
at PG&E. "Everyone understood the project’s role in closing the Hunters Point
Power Plant."
    "The Close It Coalition and the A. Philip Randolph Institute have been
instrumental in seeing that Hunters Point Power Plant close," said Lynette
Sweet, a community resident and advocate, and board member of the Bay Area
Rapid Transit District. "I’m grateful that PG&E listened to the community and
worked hard to keep their promise."

    For more information about Pacific Gas and Electric Company, please visit
the company’s Web site at www.pge.com.

SOURCE  Pacific Gas and Electric Company
    -0-                             04/07/2006
    /CONTACT:  PG&E News Department, +1-415-973-5930/
    /Web site:  http://www.pge.com/


Here’s what Greenaction has to say about that:

For immediate release: April 7, 2006


For More Information Contact: 

Marie Harrison, Bradley Angel, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, (415) 248-5010

Tessie Ester, Bayview Hunters Point Mothers Committee for Environmental Justice, (415) 643-3170


                  Showdown at PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant


           Greenaction and Community Groups Set Tuesday, April 11, noon

                as Deadline to Shut Down PG&E’s Polluting Power Plant


PG&E claims plant will close, but fails to set date & makes conflicting statements about closure

Tired of broken promises over the last 8 years, residents issue ultimatum


San Francisco, CA – Fed up with PG&E’s refusal to set a specific date to close the dirty and outdated PG&E Hunters Point power plant and tired of years of broken promises to shut it down, Bayview Hunters Point community residents and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice will take nonviolent action at the power plant on April 11th at noon to ensure it closes once and for all. 


The power plant is located at Evans and Middlepoint, San Francisco, in the heart of the low-income Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. As one of California’s dirtiest and oldest power plants, it has polluted the community for over 77 years.  Residents suffer very high rates of asthma and cancer.


PG&E officials have recently made numerous conflicting statements about the supposed upcoming closure of the power plant. First, in September PG&E told the California Independent System Operator (ISO) that the plant should be able to close by early April. Next, in November they wrote a letter to the ISO stating it should close by the end of the second quarter (by end of June). Then, two weeks ago a PG&E official told Greenaction that construction of transmission lines required for ISO approval for the shut down had been completed, and were undergoing testing. Early this week PG&E told a City Department of the Environment official that construction had not been completed. On April 6th PG&E Vice President Bob Harris told an environmental group representative that the plant would be closed "8 days after the rains stop." It is very unclear which rains the PG&E official was referring to.


PG&E has had so-called community groups that it directly supports praise the company, ignoring the ongoing criticism from residents who actually live next to the plant and suffer every day from dirty air.


Tessie Ester, resident of the Huntersview public housing project located across the street from the PG&E plant and chair of the Bayview Hunters Point Mothers Committee for Environmental Justice, said "After years of watching our children suffer with all these illnesses, we won’t be singing or dancing until it closes, and we will be there on April 11th to ensure that, in fact, it finally shuts down."


On April 11th, residents and their supporters will gather in front of the PG&E Power Plant to ensure that the plant closes, by community action if necessary. "Residents and Greenaction will be at the front gates of PG&E on April 11th to make sure this dirty polluter is shut down once and for all," said Marie Harrison, community organizer for Greenaction. "We are tired of delay after delay and broken promises from PG&E and government officials, and we will be at the front gate on April 11th."

                                                                                # # #





Wild Pepper


Travelers on Interstate 280, northbound across the south face of the city, may well have had occasion to use the San Jose Avenue exit, a two-lane ramp that curves through a tunnel and onto another multilane road scarcely different from the freeway itself, except for the Muni trains running along the median and the lower speed limit, which is generally ignored, as is the case on the freeway proper. But, like a wadi fading in some desert, San Jose Avenue soon becomes a ghost. Traffic curves onto Guerrero and speeds north, and San Jose itself seems to end even before reaching Cesar Chavez.

It doesn’t end, though. It’s just interrupted, and a block north of Cesar Chavez it resumes its languid progress as a kind of village lane all but inaccessible to the automotive furies on nearby thoroughfares and lined with quaint old houses and a small slice of park, beatifically calm. At the foot of this segment of street, in a building that could easily be mistaken for a Laundromat, we find Wild Pepper, a recently relocated Chinese restaurant (ne Long Island, on Church) notable not only for its isolation for restaurants, like wolves (and humans!), tend to operate on a pack model, clustering together but also for its offer of evidence that two people can indeed eat quite royally in this town and still get out the door for less than $40, maybe nearer $30. Those numbers include tax and tip, yes the latter covering table service at tables covered with proper white linens and set with handsomely lacquered rosewood chairs.

None of this is to suggest that Wild Pepper is the lap of luxury. The setting, intimate to the city yet remote from it, has its charms, of course; I would not have been surprised to find a hitching post for horses outside the front door. The interior design too, while not without its flourishes, including an aquarium full of bubbles and decorative tropical fish, is Spartan in the manner of one of those semilegal in-law apartments in which the dehumidifier is always running. But all this means is that there is less sensory clutter to distract one’s attention from the excellent food.

As Wild Pepper’s menu reminds us, excellent Chinese food need not be imperial nor be prepared with a banquet table and 14 courses in mind. Earthiness helps, pepperiness too, along with an attention to freshness of ingredients and continence in the use of cooking oil. As an introduction to these admirable qualities, Wild Pepper offers a deceptively boring-sounding cucumber salad ($3.95); the crisp, cooling cuke is cut into coins and dressed with a simple but lively oil flecked by chili flakes and minced garlic. If you thought the cucumber was a dark green torpedo fit only to be made into effete little white-bread sandwiches for the high teas beloved of the garlic-fearing English, you will be pleased to think again.

Many of the menu’s more attractive offerings are to be found under the heading "chef’s specials." Here we find such treats as minced-chicken lettuce cup ($6.95), basically a variant of mu shu pork (including a small dish of hoisin sauce), with chicken substituted for the pork and immaculate leaves of iceberg lettuce for the pancakes. Also good, if on the richer side, is Szechuan crispy beef ($8.95), cords of shredded meat hot-wokked to a certain snappiness in the company of slivers of onion and an unassumingly brown but potent sweet-sour sauce laced with Szechuan peppercorns. For a Thai spin, try basil eggplant with prawns and scallops ($10.95) the classic Siamese combination of sweet and spicy, with the eggplant neither tough nor mushy, those disastrous termini of many a home cook’s ministrations.

If there is a weakness on the menu, it lies in the hot appetizers and can be recognized by the alluring but somehow repulsive scent of the deep-fryer. The pork pot stickers ($4.50 for six) are an exception, being just pan-seared instead of dunked in a vat of hot oil. But they are an exception; also a bit floury. The combination plate ($6.25) gives the full oily effect; here we have egg roll and fried chicken wings (which consist of little more than deep-fried batter and some slender bones but are tasty!), along with a pair of pot stickers and a couple of disks of crab Rangoon: crab meat mixed with cream cheese and, yes, deep-fried. Good, but positively Homer Simpsonesque.

A better hot first course might be one of the soups. Hot and sour ($2.75 for a cup) is fine in a mainstream way, but a more enriching choice might be the ocean party ($6.95 for a large, and that means at least six cups’ worth), an egg drop soup fortified almost beyond recognition. Emendations include seafood, of course (mainly scallops and chunks of white fish), along with shreds of bok choy, rounds of baby corn, panels of carrot, and slivers of shiitake mushroom. There is no obviously dominant ingredient in this soup, and its flavor is delicate easily obscured, say, by the bite and fire of the preceding cuke salad, if you had eaten that first, as we made the mistake of doing. But we found that once the cuke fireworks had ended, the soup quietly asserted itself until its mild flavor filled our mouths and we could not get enough of it. Pepper, you see, is nice, whether red, black, white, or Szechuan, but it is not the only way to go.

Wild Pepper

11 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.

3601 26th St., SF

(415) 695-7678

Beer and wine


Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

March of the ants


MEXICO CITY (March 7th) — Civil War in Iraq! Riots across the Islamic World! Coups and killer mudslides! The Bush administration sinking daily in the quicksand of corruption and lies!

When played against the backdrop of incipient cataclysm that darkens the globe from east to west and south to north, “the Other Campaign” of the largely Mayan rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation seems more like a march of ants across the Mexican landscape than breaking news.

The Other Campaign is, indeed, a campaign of ants.

This March 1, La Otra Campana marked the start of its third month on the road since the Zapatistas’ charismatic mouthpiece, Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as “Delegate Zero,” roared out of a jungle camp in the EZLN’s Chiapas sanctuary zone on a silver and black motorcycle January 1, the 12th anniversary of the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion. In the past 60 days, Delegate Zero has traveled thousands of miles through ten states, a third of the Mexican union. The jaunt now constitutes the longest road trip the rebels have taken in their 12 years on public display.

The ski-masked spokesperson plans to visit all 31 states in the Mexican union (he will be on the U.S. border in June) and the federal district (where he will take part in the May 1 International Workers Day march) before Election Day July 2, when Mexico selects a new president and congress. The Other Campaign is staunchly anti-electoral, arguing that the political parties and the electoral system are hopelessly corrupt and unrepresentative.

La Otra Campana contrasts sharply with the opulent campaigns of Mexico’s three major political parties — the right-wing National Action (PAN) Party of President Vicente Fox, the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its front-running candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO.)

Traveling close to the ground in a muddy white van, Marcos whistle stops a Mexico rarely visited by the “presidenciales,” huddling with the most pissed-off and marginalized Mexicans in down-and-out rural communities and ragged “popular colonies” in provincial cities, “the ones no one else is listening to.” The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which gave birth to the Other Campaign, instructs the Zapatistas to “walk and question” rather than deliver the answers.

The idea of the Other Campaign is to build a new Mexican left from the bottom, an anti-capitalist, anti-electoral alliance that does not depend upon the political parties to bring about social change. “I am not a candidate — I am an anti-candidate,” Marcos tells audiences after hearing out their frustrations. “I cannot change these things, but we can do this together, because together we have the power.”

Nonetheless, the anti-candidate seems to be working twice as hard as the candidates — the PAN’s Felipe Calderon, the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo, and AMLO — in getting the word out. In stump speech after stump speech, Delegate Zero lambastes the political parties and their candidates, with particular emphasis on Lopez Obrador, who seems destined to become Mexico’s first president from the left since Lazaro Cardenas, and Latin America’s latest leftist head of state come July 2. The Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican Left.

Delegate Zero’s withering attack on AMLO has led to charges by the PRD that he is fomenting absenteeism and handing the election to the right. The Other Campaign ran into angry PRDistas during a recent pit stop in Juchitan Oaxaca, once a stronghold of EZLN sympathy. Scuffling during a visit to teachers’ union offices in Oaxaca City was also a sign of PRD resentment at the Zapatista spokesperson’s pronouncements.

Delegate Zero adamantly refutes allegations that he is telling constituents not to vote in July — “each person must make his own decision.” Marcos is an inviting target of PRD fury because AMLO’s campaign has not yet ignited much interest. Aside from a 100,000-plus drummed out in Mexico City, where he was a wildly popular mayor, Lopez Obrador, as well as the PRI’s Madrazo and the PAN’s Calderon, have thus far not generated much buzz. The registration of only 57,000 Mexicans living in the United States out of a potential expatriate electorate of 3.4 million is an ominous signal that the 2006 presidenciales have not triggered much enthusiasm amongst a citizenry that voted for change in 2000 and was bitterly disappointed by six years of Vicente Fox’s empty promises.

But the butt of Delegate Zero’s on-running rap is not always AMLO: The Subcommandante expends equal dollops of time roasting Mexico’s last three neo-liberal presidents, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Fox, often calling for their imprisonment. In this sense, the Other Campaign is a significant test of free speech in Mexico. Thus far, Delegate Zero has not been clapped in jail for attacking the powerful and preaching class war, although he has been allowed to enter prisons twice so far to visit political prisoners in Tabasco and on the Tehuantepec isthmus of Oaxaca.

Although the Fox government professes that it’s not listening to the Other Campaign, its plainclothes intelligence agents monitor every meeting. The events are often patrolled by machine-gun toting police, and local organizers have been harassed and jailed for such crimes as posting notice of the rebels’ arrival in town.

The Other Campaign moves cautiously in convoy on the road, cognizant of possible assassination attempts or “accidents” — in 1994, the Zapatistas’ candidate for Chiapas governor, the late Amado Avandano, was nearly killed in a highly suspicious head-on crash with a license-less 18 wheeler on a lonely coastal highway. Earlier that same year, the PRI presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was gunned down in Tijuana.

Marcos’s audiences are the “simple and humble” people that the Other Campaign seeks to recruit — “those who have never held a microphone in their hand,” writes John Gibler who is accompanying the odyssey for the San Francisco-based NGO Global Exchange. At such meetings, Delegate Zero takes copious notes as he listens intently to the outrage of the locals, always counseling the attendees that they themselves, in alliance with other “simple and humble” Mexicans, have the power to alter the equation between rich and poor, justice and injustice. The EZLN is proposing the writing of a new Mexican constitution to achieve this end.

This was the message Delegate Zero brought to a pink-doored Casa de Citas (house of prostitution) in the tiny Tlaxcala town of Apaxio. After three hours of conversing with the sexoservidoras (sex workers), the Sub called for the formation of a national union of sex workers (“not prostitutes — the prostitutes are the politicians who sell themselves to the highest bidder.”)

Other Other Campaign venues have found the quixotic rebel spokesperson tilting at windmills in La Ventosa Oaxaca, the site of a transnational wind farm that impacts local Zapotec Indians; in Oaxaca’s Juarez Sierra, talking the evils of transgenic corn with campesinos; speaking to a few thousand protestors at a new airport site in Hidalgo; hobnobbing with transvestites in Orizaba Veracruz; straddling a tricycle (poor peoples’ transportation in southern Mexico) with the Union of Triciclistas in Merida Yucatan; promising a thousand ex-braceros who have been cheated out of moneys due them by both the U.S. and Mexican governments that he will march with them May 1st; and encouraging Mayan artisans barred from selling their wares at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to take matters into their own hands.

Humor is a Zapatista weapon, and Marcos has armed the Other Campaign with a satiric edge. He is accompanied on the tour by his pet beetle Don Durito of the Lacandon (representing “the autonomous municipality of Charlie Parker”) and in Merida, the Sup actually removed his mask to the gasp of hundreds of admirers. Of course, he had his summer mask on underneath.

The steady grind of the Other Campaign is gaining “traction” in the eyes of Narconews founder Al Giodorno, who has been accompanying the adventure as it wends its way through Mexico. Narconews is just one of dozens of alternative media that file daily reports on the Other Campaign. The EZLN has extended preference to alternative rather than corporate media — only two national newspapers, La Jornada and Milenio, cover the Otra, and international attention has been short-lived (although Al Jazeera headlined the campaign’s first days.)

In mid-February, hundreds of alternative journalists and writers from all over Mexico convened in Tlaxcala to pledge allegiance to “the other journalism,” which focuses on reporting social change from the bottom up.

The traction that Giodorno senses the Other Campaign is gaining comes at the expense of the PAN, PRI, and PRD. As their presidential candidates fail to stimulate enthusiasm and the opulence of their campaigns elicits the dismay of the nation’s 70 million poor, the Other Campaign wins adherents.

On a continent that has elected the left to high office in important numbers and where the citizenry has been frequently disenchanted by government’s failure to improve daily lives, the Zapatistas campaign to build change from down below is bound to have an echo.

Invited to attend new Bolivian president Evo Morales’s all-star inauguration January 22, in La Paz, the EZLN responded “it is not our way to meet with the great leaders.” Addressing a few hundred indigenous farmers in rural Campeche state, Delegate Zero explained “we have come instead to listen to you because no one ever does.”

Bolivia’s new president heard the Zapatistas’ message loud and clear, pledging to mandar obedeciendo — to serve by obeying the will of the Bolivian people, the EZLN’s leadership ethos.

John Ross is sleepless in Seattle. These dispatches will continue at 10-day intervals until he returns to Mexico in mid-March. His latest opus, Making Another World Possible — Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006, will be published this fall by Nationbooks (if he ever finishes it.)


Inside the belly of the dog



Homeland Security asked the usual dumb questions when I slapped my passport on the counter: what countries did you visit? Business or pleasure? The laser page did not trigger any alarms yet. I advanced to the carrousel to pick up my luggage. My suitcase had burst apart in Mexico City, spilling incriminating documents all over the terminal floor. Now it came down the ramp swaddled in plastic. As I reached to pull it off, all hell broke loose bells began to clang, buzzers burped jerkily, strobe lights flashed crazily on and off, and an automated voice on the intercom kept repeating “this is an emergency walk do not run to the nearest exit.”

I did not walk, nor did anyone else in the San Francisco International arrivals terminal. We were under terrorist attack! The twin towers were coming down upon us! Young and old, some in wheelchairs even, stampeded for the sliding doors, luggage carts tipping, travelers stumbling, elbowing each other in their mad rush to escape as customs inspectors implored us to return to have our suitcases checked for contraband once the emergency had subsided. No one in his or her right mind ever did.

Meanwhile, the escapees kept jostling and tumbling and the bells and buzzers and whistles and lights kept yowling their siren song. Yow! Burrrp! Pow! It was like a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon.

Of course, in the end, the terrorist turned out be some poor schmuck caught smoking in the men’s room.

It was a prescient re-introduction to the land where my father croaked. My month inside the belly of the Dog was kind of like a perpetual cartoon. I often felt like poor Bob Hoskins surrounded by a world full of Roger Rabbits. Cartoons were, in fact, motoring worldwide mayhem. Bim! Baff! Boff! The irreverent Danish magazine Jyllns Posten had published a dozen blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in one, he wore a turban with a bomb in it, in another the Messenger of Allah was depicted as a pig (the magazine had reportedly turned down caricatures of Jesus Christ as being in poor taste.) The publication of the cartoons had opened the scab of Islamic wrath and the Muslim world was on a murderous rampage from Indonesia to well, Khartoum.

The religious leaders of 57 Islamic nations meeting in Mecca declared fatwa and jihad on the infidel Danes and their damned cheese. In Tehran, a smirking Ahmadinejad announced big-money competition for cartoons of the Holocaust (he doesn’t believe it happened) and spurious drawings appeared in Europe of Anne Frank in the sack with Adolph while she scribbles in her diary.

The Christian anti-Muslim cartoon backlash tumbled Muhammad’s rating to an all-time low in U.S. polls. The New York Times Style section reported that rebel youth were jumping out of the djalabahs and into “extreme Christian clothing.” In Nigeria, Christians slaughtered their Muslim brethren, daubing “Jesus Christ Is The Lord” on mosque walls in their victims’ blood.

Then came the anti-Christian, anti-Muslim cartoon backlash. Churches were neatly stenciled with icons equating the cross to the Swastika in Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) California. And to close the circle, three white boys in Alabama took the crusade a step up and just burned the tabernacles down to the ground.

If you don’t think our nation is being devoured by religious psychosis, consider two recent Supreme Court decisions. Just the other day, the Supremes voted unanimously, with Justice Roberts on board, to uphold the right of a religious cult to guzzle potions brewed from the hallucinogenic Amazonian root Ayahuasca while they gabbed with god. Last summer, that court, with Sandra Day O’Connor still in place, voted to deny brain tumor victims medical marijuana to ease their agonies.

The ultimate cartoon was Cheney plugging his hunting partner in the ticker just like good ol’ Elmer Fudd. Ping! Pong! Blamblam! Senator Lindsey Graham, who shares a similar war-mongering dementia with the veep, reports that Dick Cheney told him that killing small birds kept him “sane.” Blap! Splat! Shazam! The late night joke mongers had a ball with the caper: “This Just In! We’ve learned that Vice President Cheney tortured his hunting partner for an hour before he shot him!” Yuk! Yuk! Did you hear the one about the CIA agent caught rifling housewives’ panty drawers during working hours in Virginia (you could look it up)? Yok! Yok! The U.S. teaming up with Iran to keep Gays out of the United Nations? Tweet! Tweet! Bird flu in of all places, Turkey (and Iraq)? Kaplooey!

Elmer and Daffy Duck scoot off into the sunset and the screen rolls up into a little round porthole where Bugs is cackling, “th-th-th-the-that’s all folks!”


The problem is that that’s not all folks, and this may be loony tunes but it certainly isn’t merry melodies. These bastards are for real and it’s not really very funny. The title of Lillian Hellman’s slim volume on how HUAC hounded her and Hammitt is an insufficient one to describe these scum and their perverted torture war.

Every day the Seattle Times runs a few inches slugged “Terrorism Digest.” Aside from the usual shorts on Moussaoui, a rumored attack during March Madness, and an elderly ice cream truck driver in Lodi California who is accused of planning to blow up skyscrapers in Hollywood, most of the news is not about terrorism at all but rather the torture of alleged terrorists, perhaps tens of thousands of them in secret torture chambers hidden away in U.S. client states like Bulgaria and Morocco.

Here’s one. Ali Shakal Kaisi was the hooded man on the box with the electric cables snaking from his limbs, the poster boy for the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The photo is now on his business card. Originally, he was arrested for complaining to occupation troops about throwing their garbage on a soccer field in his Baghdad neighborhood. The Pentagon, in a display of perhaps the most hideous chutzpah in the Guinness Book of Records, refuses to comment on Mr. Khaisi’s case because it would “a violation of his Geneva Convention rights.”

Connoisseurs concede that Bush et al (heretofore to be referred to as “the scum”) have added some innovative techniques to Torquemada’s little catalogue of horrors. The reoccurring sexual pathology is disturbing. One accused Jihadist at Gitmo was wrapped in an Israeli flag and forced to watch gay porn 24 hours a day by military interrogators who passed themselves off as the FBI. Sadistic commandants shove feeding tubes up the nose of hunger strikers and rip them out roughly as the men piss and shit all over themselves while restrained in what Rumsfeld euphemistically describes as “a rolling padded cell.”

Why are these men being tortured? We learn from 5,000 pages of heavily-blacked-out military depositions released on court order to the Associated Press that at least three were detained because they wore Cassio F91W watches that have compasses on their face pointing to Mecca. “But our chaplains here all wear the same watch” protested one detainee.

All of this pain and suffering is being orchestrated in the much shat-upon name of freedom, the “freedom” as Sub Marcos puts it, “to choose between the carrot and the stick.” You know, as in “free elections” Iraq’s three fraudulent elections that have led to massive bloodshed in that benighted land being the role models. But elections are not “free” when the Bushwas don’t win, like Hammas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and most probably, Lopez Obrador in Mexico this July. Maybe free elections are not such a hot idea after all.

The third anniversary of this despicable war is only days away as I write these scabrous lines. Extrapoutf8g the Lancet study, it is probable that 150,000 Iraqis have been crucified in this infernal crusade. The 2,300 or so GIs who died with their boots on fill just a few slabs in the charnel house Bush has built in Iraq.

I suppose the up side is that two thirds of those Yanquis surveyed think he is a liar and a baby killer but many more will have to fall before the infidels are finally run off. Clearly, the resistance is working on it. Blowing the Golden Dome sky-high was a malevolent stroke of genius by the terroristas to incite sectarian (not civil) war, a scenario designed to foil the White House’s scheme to pull out of this treacherous quicksand and start bombing before the body bags queer the November elections.

Will it work? Shia death squads operating out of the Interior ministry are kidnapping dozens of Sunnis every day now and hanging them for public consumption. We can expect roadside gibbets next. The imminent spread of Shia-Sunni hostilities into neighboring oil lands has Washington biting its nails. We’re talking $100 a barrel here.

Sasha has a Skype pen pal in Baghdad, call her Fatima. She is a medical-science professor at the University, a middle class, somewhat secular woman who lives in a high rise in a mixed neighborhood. She writes when there is power and an Internet connection the last three generator operators on the block have been shot dead. Her absence on the screen is always a cause for alarm. Fatima says she no longer sits writing in her window to take advantage of daylight because she is afraid of being hit by a stray bullet. I am forever amazed how concerned she is for us. Last week, she wrote “I am sorry my dear for not writing. I am ok but I am more afraid than before. Things are going from bad to very bad.” If we never hear from Fatima again, the blood will be on George Bush’s hands.

Is George Bush impeachable? He has committed multiple felonies in spying on 350,000 unsuspecting citizens without a court order, a stain on the Constitution and way beyond the pale of even Nixonian paranoia. He sold the country an illegal war based on shameless perjury in collusion with oil barons and defense contractors who have grown obscenely fat on the blood of the Iraqi people.

And he sought to sell off vital U.S. ports to “Arab terrorists”! Or at least that’s what his fellow Republicans seem to perceive. Fanning the fumes of anti-Arab racism has come back to bite Bush and the corporate globalizers of the planet on the ass. Who does Bill Frist think was operating these ports up until now? The bloody Brits, that’s who! This is Globalization, Savage Capitalism, Dog eat Dog. It’s the American Way. What do you know about Sheik Mo? Vital elements of the food chain (Church’s Chicken and Caribou Coffee for example) have already fallen into the hands of “Arab terrorists.”

Where was I? The Bill of Particulars, right? I’m sorry it’s my birthday and I’m on a vent fueled by the one good thing about this country, Humboldt County sinsemilla.

George Bush guilty of nuclear proliferation! What else would you call giving India enough fissionable material to blow a hole in China and Pakistan?

George Bush guilty of blatant racism and incalculable callousness, strumming his guitar while the levees were bursting down in New Orleans, an interval much like the goat story on 9/11 of which Osama has reminded us in a recent communique. J’accuse George Bush!

Will a mush-minded congress apparently dosed to the gills on Ambien, the new sleepwalking (and sleep voting) wonder drug, vote to impeach? “Que se vayan todos!” the cry of the 2002 Argentinazo, “that they should all be kicked out” is an anthem for our time.


I’ve spent the last month sleeping in Seattle. Daytimes, I’ve churned out tens of thousands of words on my soon-to-be-published-if-it-ever-gets-finished opus, “Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006.”

Seattle has spectral vistas but at heart, it is a city without a soul. It has been bitterly cold here, the wind whipping off Puget Sound like The Hawk off Lake Michigan. A sullen rain falls most days. When the sun comes out in Seattle, they say the suicide rate goes up because people can’t deal with the brightness.

I have been lucky to have had Sasha’s cozy room and half to hole up in. A lot of people in this city don’t even have a roof over their head. Old men sleep rough in Pioneer Square these freezing nights, young tramps camp out under the bushes up here on Cap Hill. There’s a Hooverville under the Viaduct.

The merchants don’t care much for all these deranged pariahs dragging around ragged sleeping bags like batman capes or curled up in fetal positions in one of Starbuck’s many doorways. Seattle has more pressing matters on its mind. Howard (Starbuck’s) Schultz is threatening to move the Sonics if he doesn’t get a new arena free of charge from the city. Then there is Bill and Melissa, the world’s wealthiest nation.

This is a smug city that has grown soft and wealthy on the backs of software billionaires, where no one gives a damn about anything that is not on a screen. The Stranger ran the Muhammad cartoons and no one flinched. The next week, the paper ran a feature on a man who was fucked to death by a horse. Again, no one flinched. Meanwhile, the homeless are dying out there in the street.

On Valentine’s Day, Sasha and I died in on the City Hall steps she was the 50th victim to have died on the streets of Seattle in 2005. I was the 53rd. The Raging Grannies died in with us. I dedicated my dying to the spirit of Lucky Thompson, who recorded with Miles and Bird and spent his twilight years sleeping in Seattle parks. Seattle has a way of damaging its black geniuses. Octavia Butler, the towering writer of “conjectural fiction” whose work hones in on race and class like a laser, fell down the steps of her home here a few weeks ago. She lived alone she always lived alone and no one found her until she was dead. There is a statue of Jimi Hendrix right down the street.

What’s been good is watching Sasha blossom as an organizer. She’s been busy 25 hours a day putting together the visit of Eman Khammas, a courageous Iraqi journalist who speaks to the plight of women in Bush’s genocidal war. I saw Khammas last summer at the Istanbul War Crimes Tribunal and she is a firebrand speaker. Eman is part of the Women Say No To War tour put together by Global Exchange, two members of the delegation who had lost their families to the occupation, were denied visas because they did not have enough family left to “compel” their return to Iraq.

On the third anniversary of this madness March 18th, Eman Khammas will be a speaker at the march and rally set for the Seattle Federal building. That evening, she will talk at greater length at Trinity Methodist Church in the Ballard district. The kick-ass rebel singer Jim Page will open. No one turned away. Some of the moneys raised will go to the Collateral Repair Project (www.collateralrepairproject.org) which Sasha and her pal Sarah have created to help out the family of Mahmoud Chiad, an ambulance driver in al-Qaim who was gunned down by Bush’s crusaders October 1st, the first day of Operation Iron Fist in al-Ambar province, as he raced to aid victims of the massacre. There’s a widow and six kids, and Collateral Repair hopes to buy them a piece of land and some goats.

So I’m in the air back to Make Sicko City. The globalphobes are acting out at the World Water (Privatizers) Forum, which kicks off this week and when last heard from, Sub Marcos was trying to break into a prison in Guanajuato. I’ve got to finish this damn book in the next six weeks.

And Sasha and I? Who knows? I wear her name on a grain of rice around my neck and her door key is still wedged deep in my pocket and maybe it will open her heart to me again someday. We met in Baghdad with Bush’s bombs on the way and the bottom line is that we continue to fight this heinous war together. That’s good too.

John Ross has landed. But these articles will continue to be issued at 10-day intervals until “Making Another World Possible” is done. The deadline is May 1st. “Making Another World Possible” will be available at cost to Blindman Buff subscribers this fall.




222 Club


REVIEW This jazzy, Euro-cozy joint in the ’Loin just got licensed for hard alcohol, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying its Spanish-inflected wine list and sparkling sojuladas (a lovingly crafted combo of soju and limonada). Victrola-era tunes pour out of the upstairs bar’s speakers, while in the downstairs lounge, art students, hip-hop aficionados, and old-school bebop fans mingle over upscale housemade pizzas ($10$15) or the delicious antipasto plate ($11), featuring marinated sausage, berry jam, wine-braised beef, warm pâté, and imported cheeses. Owners Bianca, Joseph, and Manuel provide enough hands-on bar service (and peppy personality) to sate any classy barhopper’s appetite. (Marke B.)

222 Club 222 Hyde, SF

(415) 440-0222. D, $, credit cards not accepted



April 5–11


March 21-April 19

Aries, everyone’s got a little bit of the people-pleaser in them, even you. You might annoy the shit out of yourself this week as you notice all the ways you refine your personality to suit what other people want or need from you. Pay attention to which of your closest relationships provoke such chameleonesque activity.


April 20-May 20

Your dramas actually have a higher purpose, Taurus. They’re not just happening because the earth deities are pissed at you for your lackluster recycling habits. Nope. Frustration offers you the opportunity to ground your ass in such a way that you coast through your stress with unbelievable balance and authenticity.


May 21-June 21

Gemini, you’re going to have to take a risk. May we suggest that such a risk be taken from your happy place, as opposed to your crazy place, where you’re currently renting a room. We shouldn’t have to tell a weird-ass sign like yourself not to be scared of doing things unconventionally, but fear can make even the zaniest of the zodiac turn overly prudent.


June 22-July 22

Every time you encounter crap, Cancer, (and you will encounter crap in fact, you might want to check the bottoms of your shoes right now), we want you to seize the opportunity to use the stanky muck as compost and hustle yourself some flowers out of the situation.


July 23-Aug. 22

Awwww, finally, someone has a nice horoscope. You deserve it, Leo. You people have truly been putting the horror in horoscopes lately. But not this week! You should be beaming with pride at how open you are to cultivating a new level of understanding what love and passion actually mean to you.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Welcome to our crash course in how much you can and cannot control things, Virgo. We think you’ve been enrolled in this particular program before, but hey, sometimes it takes a few tries for information to really sink in. Your homework: cultivating humility in a way that doesn’t diminish your vitality.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Libra, it’s going to be tricky to not compulsively submerge yourself in the society swirl. While it may be enticing to throw your cares to the wind and take up a regimen of partying, frankly, your self-esteem can’t handle such immersion in humanity. Have a bath, a cry, or a primal scream instead.


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

Sometimes, Scorpio, all you’ve got is your little personal truth. Your point of view. Your slice of life. And it looks like you’re on a Slice of Life Sandwich diet. The meat in your sandwich this week is (a) you can and should totally trust your needs, and (b) you seriously need to assert some frigging boundaries.


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Sagittarius, there is such a thing as too much push and not enough yield. And you are all about that thing right now. Yes, we’re saying you’re being pushy and uncompromising. While we are fans of asserting your individuality, and of assertiveness in general, you have officially gone overboard in pursuing what you want.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

Education isn’t always about acquiring information, Capricorn. Sometimes the most crucial lessons are those that teach us to unlearn what we thought we knew — and undo the damage such mistaken smarts have created. Such knowledge brings loss. Nothing catastrophic, you’re just learning to let go.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Ah, it’s another pupil in this week’s School of Hard Knocks! Your specially tailored curriculum concerns ambiguity. How do you achieve some level of comfort when murky situations make you want to scratch your eyes out? How do you ground your intentions and pursue what you want while trapped in enigmatic circumstances?


Feb. 19-March 20

Pisces, you’re coming from such an emotionally funky place it’s getting to be wicked hard to ride good vibes. Just try to stay checked in with yourself and take special pains to make sure you’re not behaving in a way that’s reactionary. Let your behavior reflect what you truly want, not just your tantrums.

Cocky bull story


Erich von Stroheim and Orson Welles were early, defining examples of the film director living like a work of art larger than life, a wee bit self-destructive, and as entertaining as their movies. Yet looking, acting, and smelling like a great filmmaker doesn’t necessarily mean you are one.

Nicholas Jarecki’s The Outsider manages to just about completely avoid that troublesome issue. It leaves no doubt, however, that subject James Toback is a maverick, an auteur, and an original. The leap implied is that these inherently neutral designations imply quality, even greatness not just, as Roger Ebert is noted as saying (in perhaps the closest the film comes to a critical evaluation), that anything of an off-the-beaten-track, personal nature is bound to be more “interesting” than whatever the studio assembly line spat out last weekend.

No argument there. But it would be ignoring what really does grab one’s lapels about Toback’s work to suggest (as The Outsider does) that he must make great films because they’re unlike anyone else’s. In fact, the reason he’s been worth following for three decades or so is precisely because his work is often obnoxious, crackpot, and uneven at best and ouch-bad at worst. Toback’s moments of garishly questionable judgment are sometimes world-class ones you can’t forget.

After major druggy high jinks at Harvard and penning an infatuated book about Dionysian football legend Jim Brown, Toback wrote 1974’s The Gambler, in which all his influences (the first being Dostoyevsky) and themes (“race, sex and risk”) are laid out. It was about an intellectual (James Caan) driven by compulsion into gambling debts and other excesses that invite criminal violence pretty much the quintessential Toback plot, someone notes in The Outsider, and one he’s happy to confirm as quasi-autobiographical.

A similar scenario went into hyperdrive in 1971’s Fingers, his first and still best directorial effort. Recently remade as the French film The Beat That My Heart Skipped, this electric genre-mauling had frequent collaborator Harvey Keitel bouncing off the walls of his inner Dr. Jekyll (concert pianist) and Mr. Hyde (psychotic mob enforcer). It remains crazy in a good way. Which could not be said of the international intrigues Love and Money (alas, there’s no footage of him wrangling on-set with Klaus Kinski) and Exposed. The latter featured unlikely corn-fed Midwesterner Nastassja Kinski’s encounters with terrorism, fashion modeling, and a Rudolf Nureyev struggling to convey blaze-hot heterosexuality in a uniquely constipated way. Like his friend Norman Mailer, Toback often regards women with a combination of Penthouse slobbering and Freudian horror; it’s too bad the documentary doesn’t ask any of his more recklessly messed-around actresses for their two cents.

It’s a mighty spotty oeuvre. His more commercial stabs (The Pick-Up Artist, Harvard Man) are just poor entertainment; a smart screenplay for Bugsy was undermined by the wrong star (Warren Beatty) and director (Barry Levinson). The Big Bang was a look-who-I-know cocktail party masquerading as philosophical inquiry. Highly “personal projects” Black and White and Two Girls and a Guy gave Robert Downey Jr. way too much rope while giving me cause to repeatedly bang my head against the wall. Many of these films are playing at the Roxie in conjunction with Jarecki’s portrait. Knock yourself out.

At times The Outsider is more revealing than flattering toward its subject as when Downey calls the subject a “genius and retard.” If one might argue he doesn’t merit either extreme, it’s Toback’s oft-simultaneous hitting-and-missing that makes him so hard to dismiss. Or maybe it’s just the 100,000 micrograms of pure LSD-25 he says he never quite recovered from. That does explain a lot.


Fri/7 through April 13

Fri., 7 and 9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 3, 7 and 9 p.m.; and Mon.–Thurs., 6:30, 8, and 9:30 p.m.

For information about the “James Toback Retrospective,” see Rep Clock.

Roxie Cinema

3117 16th St., SF


(415) 863-1087



28 years later


If you live in or truly love San Francisco, you’ve seen The Times of Harvey Milk. Rob Epstein’s 1984 movie is one of the best nonfiction features ever made. It’s also one of the greatest movies about this city. Only time will tell whether Stanley Nelson’s new documentary, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, is a work of similar importance, but the fact that I’m even mentioning it in the same context as Epstein’s movie says something about the reserved precision of its journalistic reasoning and the overwhelming emotional force of its finale.

Of course, there is another reason to connect Jonestown and The Times of Harvey Milk. The murder of Supervisor Milk and Mayor George Moscone by Dan White took place 10 days after the deaths of Jim Jones, Congressman Leo Ryan, and more than 900 members of Jones’s Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978. One tragedy claimed the life of a man who was already a civil rights hero, while the other led mainstream media and true crime sources to portray a human being as a monster. Just as Epstein’s movie profoundly humanizes Milk, Nelson’s movie digs beneath stereotypes of pure evil to reveal a different Jones than the one used to sell quickie television and paperback biographies.

Twenty-eight years later, the tragedy in Guyana and the Milk-Moscone murders still have an effect on San Francisco politics: In very different ways, they represent the death of progressive, district-based local activism and its afterlife. (Garrett Scott, codirector of the superb documentaries Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story and Occupation: Dreamland, was in the early stages of making a movie about the two events and their relationship to SF politics when he died earlier this year.) It seemed appropriate to have New York native Nelson discuss his movie with a contemporary political figure whose knowledge of local history runs deep. On the eve of Jonestown’s screenings at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, former San Francisco mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez agreed to interview Nelson about the roads leading to the cataclysmic events of 1978 and the roads leading away from it.

MATT GONZALEZ I want to start by saying I had a typical impression of Jim Jones as a cult leader whose message was a hustle to get people into his church so he could take advantage of them when they were vulnerable. The thing that jumped out immediately to me in this film was that the fundamental part of his message throughout his ministry was this idea of racial integration and equality. The main component was there at the beginning, and in a place like Indiana, when Indianapolis was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. It made me rethink and see him as someone who exhibited a certain genuineness and courage at that time.

Did that surprise you about him?

STANLEY NELSON The depth of his commitment surprised me. During one of the anniversaries of the deaths in Guyana, I heard some Peoples Temple members talking about it on [the radio]. I started thinking, “This involved over 900 people all these people weren’t crazy. So what was it that drove them to the church?”

Research made me realize that there was something much deeper going on and that this was a real political movement for a lot of the time the church was in existence.

MG Jones had been a member of a human rights commission out in Indiana. That also underscores a very self-conscious relationship between his church and what was happening in society.

SN Yes. [In the film] there’s that incredible audiotape when he’s giving his own history, where he talks about how his father didn’t want to let a black kid in his house. Jim Jones says, “I won’t come in either,” and he doesn’t see his father for years after that.

I don’t think it was a hustle at all, I think it was something he truly did believe in. Jim Jones was a very complicated individual. Everybody’s complicated there are no simple people but Jim Jones was much more complicated than most of us.

MG How hard was it to find folks in Indiana who knew Jones?

SN It was hard. But Lynn [Jones’s hometown] was very small, and we were able to find one person who could lead us to others. One thing that’s amazing when you do research is that you can go to high schools and grade schools, and they still have yearbooks. You find people’s names, use the phone book, and just start calling.

MG Over time, Peoples Temple gets a financial foundation because its members give their property to Jones. He’s then able to set up communal living arrangements. But when he’s in Indiana, if I’m to understand correctly, he’s selling monkeys door to door or something like that.

Was his message about communal living a part of the hustle, or do you think that was also a belief that he genuinely held?

SN I think he genuinely believed it. That component really came out of Ukiah, in Redwood Valley, where they [Peoples Temple] had this farm. People actually did travel with him from Indiana [in 1965], so how were they going to live when they’d sold their houses? They could live communally.

One thing that I found fascinating is that the older people who lived in these communal houses got better treatment than they ever could have gotten from the state or welfare or Social Security, because not only were they housed and fed, they were also loved. All of a sudden they had this family the old people were revered in Peoples Temple.

MG Would you say those two components racial integration and property held in common were the cornerstone of his preaching?

SN I think they were a big part, but it was also more than just racial integration. There was a sense that “we have this power that none of us has as individuals.” This was a time when a lot of people were smoking dope and dropping out, but Peoples Temple members were active. They saw themselves as activists; they saw themselves changing the world with the church as a tool.

MG In 1971 Richard Hongisto was elected sheriff of San Francisco, and it was a very liberal campaign. [George] Moscone was elected mayor in ’75, and we know Peoples Temple played a part in that. Hongisto’s election was an early sign of growing liberal strength in San Francisco, enough so that you can look at the Moscone victory and not simply say, “Peoples Temple caused this to happen.” But there’s no question given how close the election was that they played a major role. How do you see their political impact then?

SN Peoples Temple was part of the mainstream politics of the Bay Area. I’m from New York. I had no idea that Jim Jones was head of the Housing Commission in San Francisco or that politicians came to Peoples Temple events and gave incredible speeches praising Jim Jones. That was something I discovered while making the film.

It’s part of the history of Peoples Temple, but it was also like a birthday caketimes-12 to the politicians. The politicians didn’t look too far behind this gift horse, because [Peoples Temple] was highly organized. People did what Jim Jones said. At one point they had 13 buses. They’d fill up the buses and

MG a politician could have an instant press conference.

SN Just one phone call and Jim Jones could come with buses. You’d have 500 people at your march.

MG Do you get a sense that what happened in Jonestown reverberates politically today? The players then aren’t necessarily in politics. Jackie Speier still is, but Moscone, Willie Brown, and others are not holding political office. Still, do you see any aftereffects?

SN I’m not sure on a local level, but one thing I think it did was help kill the idea of communes in this country [at a time] when there was a strong movement saying, “Let’s live together; let’s live on the land; let’s pool our resources.” All of a sudden that was associated with “look at what happened in Guyana.”

MG As I understand it, there are about five survivors who were there when the massacre took place.

SN There were about five people actually there [who survived], and of those, there are, to my knowledge, three left alive. Two of them are in the film.

MG People closely associated with Peoples Temple spoke to you and revealed some, I would think, very difficult, personal stories about sexual assault or the use of authority to express dominance. Was it difficult to get people to talk honestly?

SN It was surprisingly easy for us to get people to talk honestly. Time has passed. Partly because of a play [Berkeley Rep’s The People’s Temple] that was produced here in the Bay Area, I think people understood that maybe we were ready to hear a different version of the story that was much deeper.

MG In the film you see that Jones is abusing prescription drugs and probably has a mounting paranoia that’s associated with some mental condition. Is there a sense that he changed while he was in San Francisco, or was Peoples Temple headed toward this sort of cultlike finality from its inception?

SN We interviewed people who knew Jim Jones when he was a kid, and they talk about the fact that he was not normal even as a six- or seven-year-old boy. But I think that his behavior did get more extreme as time went on. He had this incredible power within the church, and he was this warped individual, and the combination affected his behavior. In the end, when they [Peoples Temple members] are isolated in the jungle, that’s [a reflection of] who he is.

MG Tell me about the wealth of material you have. There is film footage of a healing that is rather dramatic and recordings of his various sermons.

SN Going in, I had no idea that there was so much film footage. But we found a guy in LA who had shot in Peoples Temple over two days using three cameras and 16-millimeter film and had lit the whole church. His footage is just incredibly beautiful. The healing service, Jim Jones preaching, and the congregation singing and dancing are all part of that. He’d sold off bits and pieces to places like NBC, but we came along at a time when he felt that the film he wanted to make would never get made, so he agreed to sell us some footage.

We found members of Peoples Temple who had footage that had never been seen before. There are actually shots from the plane of them going down [to Guyana] you can hear Jim Jones describing what he’s going to do and shots of Jones cutting through the jungle with machetes.

Also, we were working very closely with the California Historical Society library, which has a Peoples Temple collection.

MG There was a recent book [Dear People: Remembering Jonestown] that compiled some of that material.

SN Also, Jim Jones recorded himself and his sermons at Peoples Temple. They actually audio-recorded the night of the suicides. As the people are dying, Jim Jones is encouraging them to drink the poison. There are audiotapes of the children and the women and men screaming and dying.

MG As a filmmaker going into a project like this, are you trying to present the truth? Are you trying to present an alternative reading of what happened? Are you trying to warn people?

SN I’m not trying to warn people or tell an alternative history, although obviously what we did turns out to be an alternative history. I was just trying to tell this incredible story and tell it with as much honesty as I can. Everybody in the film had a part to play in Peoples Temple. We really wanted it to be a film told in the voices of the people who lived through it.

MG In my notes I have a reference to the various CIA-related theories [about what happened in Guyana]. You don’t pick that up in the film, and I wonder if you might say something about that.

SN There are different theories that Jim Jones was a CIA agent and this was all a scary mind-control experiment. You know, we found nothing to back that up, and it just didn’t make sense for us to go down that road.

MG As I understand it, a lot of these theories stem from [the fact] that the government withheld documents related to Jonestown. I guess Congressman [Leo] Ryan had a bill pending, the Hughes-Ryan amendment, that would have required that CIA covert operations be disclosed to Congress before those operations could be engaged in. You didn’t find anything related to that?

SN No, we didn’t find any hard evidence. I’m trying to operate as a filmmaker and also as a journalist.

MG So you had access to material

SN and we just didn’t find it [evidence].

MG I’d be interested in seeing what the original accounts were like in the local press in San Francisco during the time of Guyana and the Milk-Moscone murders. There was probably a sense of how Moscone’s opponents might use his ties to the Peoples Temple for political purposes.

SN One reason for the article in [the magazine] New West that first exposed Jim Jones and called for an investigation of Peoples Temple was to discredit Moscone. Part of the media follow-up was that “here is someone that Moscone supported.” So that was already happening around a year before the deaths in Guyana.

MG There are folks who find objectionable the idea of referring to the deaths as mass suicides. Did you reach a conclusion about that?

SN The film has no narration, so we didn’t refer to that other than in a title card at the end that I think calls it the largest mass murder-suicide in history. It’s impossible to say exactly what went on that day, but it is very clear that the kids something like 250 people who were under 18 were all murdered.

It was something we struggled with: “What do we call it: suicide or murder?” I think by the end of the film you feel that it’s kind of both at the same time.

MG If Jim Jones had died in Guyana prior to Ryan’s visit, is your sense in talking to the survivors or those associated with the church that this is a project that would have sustained itself?

SN I just don’t know.

MG You don’t want to engage in a bit of speculative history?

SN I think they had a real problem in sustaining themselves. They were growing food, but they were bringing in food too. Financially there was a burden.

One fascinating thing about that day is that there weren’t a lot of people who left with Congressman Ryan less than 20 people. It was more Jim Jones’s insanity, him thinking that 20 people leaving is devastating [that led to the massacre].

MG Other than the sermons, are there other records of his thoughts? Are there tracts and manifestos?

SN There are some things that he wrote. He didn’t write a definitive book of his philosophies, but there is a piece in which he picks apart fallacies in the Bible.

MG On the one hand, Jones could be critical of the contradictions in the Bible, and on the other, he could pick out the parts that were useful to him.

SN One thing that everybody said was that Jim Jones knew the Bible he wasn’t just talking off of the top of his head. He was incredibly smart, prepared, and cunning.

MG What did you learn from making the film?

SN It’s a film I’m glad to be finished with. All films are hard to make, but it really took a lot out of me. We’ve only had two screenings, and both times afterward there was a kind of shocked silence. One was for the members of Peoples Temple and their friends to let them be the first to see it.

MG How it was received?

SN The Peoples Temple members loved the film. We screened the film in a small theater, and we had a reception outside. The Peoples Temple members who were there with their families just stayed in the theater for about 15 minutes talking among themselves. It made me a little nervous [laughs]. But when they came out they all said they loved the film and felt it was a powerful way of telling their story — a story that hadn’t been told that way at all.


April 29, 6:15 p.m.; April 30, 7 p.m.; May 1, 7 p.m.; May 2, 4:30 p.m.

Part of the San Francisco International Film Festival

Various venues

Call (925) 866-9559 for tickets and (415) 561-5000 for more information.


Un certain regard


Like Bresson and Renoir did before them, the Dardenne brothers tend to inspire reviews using vaguely Christian words like transcendence from critics trying to describe the way a transparent film style can result in such fully formed, singular movies. At least one such reviewer has already referred to their newest masterpiece, L’Enfant, as a miracle, but, alas, it is not so. Like the Dardennes’ previous pinnacles La Promesse, Rosetta, and The Son L’Enfant handles weighty themes like guilt and redemption with awesome grace. But to liken the film to an act of God surely takes something from the technical precision and artistic concentration that so informs cinema Dardenne.

While their breakthrough may have come on the stage at Cannes, Luc and his brother Jean-Pierre cut their teeth on a decade of vérité-style documentary work before making their first fiction film, 1987’s Falsch. Much has been made of the way the fly-on-the-wall documentary technique has informed the Dardennes’ fiction work, and, indeed, it’s hard to think of anyone exploring the tension between realism and reality as fruitfully. L’Enfant‘s camera isn’t as doggedly shaky as in the earlier films, but the general long-take style is still present: Conversations and characterizations are mediated by constant reframing instead of by cuts. The Dardennes’ ability to narrate with single takes, conveying information and drama via performance, framing, and an impeccable, Bressonian use of sound, means the brothers belong in any discussion of cinema’s long-take masters (a table that many, including Gus Van Sant and Richard Linklater, wish to eat at). Had he been alive to see L’Enfant, celebrated French critic and letting-the-camera-run aficionado André Bazin would surely have turned in a sparkling review.

Described as a sketch, L’Enfant‘s story is the stuff of melodrama. A penniless teenage mother (Déborah Francois) wanders with her baby in search of the father. Played by a ravaged Jérémie Renier (La Promesse), père Bruno is a decidedly small-time crook. Always looking for a score, he sells the newborn to back-alley adoption agents when mother Sonia isn’t around. As with all Dardenne stories, though, there is redemption: The baby is recovered, and Bruno ends up assuming responsibility for an unrelated theft to spare an underage accomplice.

If this sounds like a nail-biting character study, though, the story plays more mutedly than one might expect. Like much art cinema, the Dardennes use an oblique film style to distance us from characters and de-emphasize narrative spectacle. For the brothers, this strategy isn’t used for the sake of vague artiness but rather to convey their filmed stories as moral parables. One of the key sequences of L’Enfant is the one in which Bruno sells his baby. There is a sort of tension that builds as he rides the bus toward a rendezvous point in a single long take, but it’s of an infinitely quieter and more reflective sort than the kind produced by a comparable scene in Oscar-winner Tsotsi. A couple of cuts and a few rings of Bruno’s cell phone later, our protagonist is waiting in a barren apartment while the baby’s “adopter” operates next door a climax narrated entirely by offscreen sound. The scene conveys an outrageous misdeed, but any judgment or repulsion has been sucked out by the Dardennes’ removed perspective; as such, Bruno’s betrayal seems less a crime against humanity than an action, an inevitable result of his role as the thief.

In the end, the Dardennes aren’t concerned with why their characters do what they do (the thing that occupies the vast majority of narrative filmmakers) but rather are taken with charting the moral implications and consequences of their characters’ actions. Someday a wise DVD distributor is going to package the Dardennes’ fiction films as a set, and the result will rival Kafka’s collected short stories in its parabolic riches. L’Enfant‘s protagonist thief may spend much of the film running to stand still, but the Dardenne brothers are nothing if not directed toward greatness, that is.


Opens Fri/7 in Bay Area theaters.

For showtimes go to www.sfbg.com.


Doomsday dream believer


We didn’t commit suicide,” Jim Jones gravely intones in an audiotape capturing the final moments of Jonestown. “We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.”

Nearly 30 years after the deaths of more than 900 people in the Guyanese jungle, Stanley Nelson’s deeply affecting Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple replays Jones’s final, twisted address, setting in motion what the doc tabs “the largest mass ‘suicide’ in modern history.” Using a remarkable cache of vintage footage, as well as candid interviews with Peoples Temple survivors, relatives, and other eyewitnesses, Nelson examines the massacre with a journalist’s eye. Why the tragedy happened may never be explained, but seldom before has the how of Jonestown been so clearly delineated.

Long before “drinking the Kool-Aid” filtered into the popular lexicon, young Jim Jones was an ambitious preacher whose ideas about racial equality proved too radical for small-town Indiana. Jones and his wife, Marceline, adopted several children from different ethnic backgrounds; one the few still alive Jim Jones Jr., who says he was the first African American child to be adopted by white parents in Indiana appears in Jonestown, as do early church members who followed Jones to Northern California (so chosen because he believed the region would be safe in the event of a nuclear attack). The racially diverse commune was “like a paradise,” a former resident recalls; recordings of Jones’s uplifting sermons and the jubilant Peoples Temple choir, as well as images of happy farmers, seem to bear this out.

Of course, illusion played a big part in Jones’s metier. One of Nelson’s coups is footage of a faith healing paired with an interview that exposes the “patient” as one of Jones’s (perfectly healthy) secretaries. Various ex-followers corroborate each other’s horror stories; one memorable sequence features overlapping testimony about how devotion was measured by sleep deprivation. Jones’s sexual proclivities, which contradicted what he preached and involved sleeping with both male and female disciples (whether or not they were willing), are discussed, as is the general feeling of fear and paranoia that increased as Jones gained more control. A “loyalty test” involving a vat of untainted punch is also detailed; a woman who was there surmises that Jones wondered if he was “potent enough to get people to do it.”

Jones’s ability to manipulate his followers demonstrates the kind of power later echoed by other self-destructive cults. But while Heaven’s Gate seemed a little loony from the start, what with the space aliens and all, the Peoples Temple represented itself beautifully to outsiders. The San Francisco political community was especially taken with the energetic, racially diverse congregation; as Jonestown points out, the church could instantly supply masses of well-behaved protestors, as well as influence key elections by voting as a single bloc. On a television talk show, thenCalifornia assemblyman Willie Brown deems the Peoples Temple “the kind of religious thing I get excited about.”

Even the Guardian was taken in by the Peoples Temple, reporting on its progressive humanitarian efforts in a March 31, 1977, article titled “Peoples Temple: Where Activist Politics Meets Old-Fashioned Charity.” Read with the benefit of hindsight, the piece is often chilling, as when Jones arrives late to a church service because he had to stop and console a woman “who was talking suicide.” Jones’s distrust of government is already in full force (“I have a lot of guilt to know my taxes go to the shah of Iran and Chile”); his hatred of the press (as the film explains, inflammatory coverage hastened his expatriation) less so.

A good chunk of Jonestown is devoted to November 18, 1978, aided with startling footage of doomed congressman Leo Ryan’s Guyana visit and the chaos that erupted in its wake. Two of the men who lived through “White Night” but saw family members (including young children) die before their eyes share their stories, and the emotional impact is undeniable. And then there’s that audiotape, which is even more frightening when replayed. As Jonestown reveals, the line between suicide and murder could not be more distorted: Deceived by promises of paradise, hundreds of people joined a church that championed equal rights then found themselves living in an isolated world where even the most basic rights were denied.




CHEAP EATS “Did you hear about the barn swallows in Minnesota?” Earl Butter said, while we were waiting for our waffles.

“This reminds me,” I replied. “This idea that there are more alive people now than dead ones where did you get it?”

“Late Night,” he said.

“David Letterman?”



“Actually,” he said, “I heard it somewhere else too. Why?”

“No reason,” I said. “Fact-checking.” I checked myself. “After-the-fact fact-checking.”

“Well, about the barn swallows

“What are your sources?” I said, before-the-fact fact-checking, for a change.

“Public television.”

“What show?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Some nature show.”

Our waffles came. On paper plates with plastic forks and knives. They came with two eggs apiece, over-easied into neat little triangles, and meat. Sausage for me of course, and Spam for Earl. You can also get bacon, or some kind of veggie patty ($4.75).

There was butter already melting into the waffles, and, to my amazement and delight, and surprise, given the paper and plastic and overall fluorescent lighting of the little joint, the butter looked like butter. “Can I get more butter?” I asked the guy. Partly this was a fact-checking maneuver, and partly I wanted more butter. I knew I did, without tasting, because I always want more butter.

He smiled and went to get it for me. Sweet guy. Great place. New favorite restaurant. I already knew that, but maybe you want hard evidence.

“About the barn swallows,” Earl Butter said, halfway done eating, and I hadn’t even started.

On the radio: Forum, with Michael Krasny and a panel of tweedy-sounding indie rock “experts” boring the world to death with Noise Pop blah, blah, blah, making it, blah, blah, sincerity, blah, passion. Get off the radio and dance, dudes.

Guy comes back with a little paper bowl full of real butter, and I could of kissed him, speaking of rock ’n’ roll. This was all I needed to know, and knowing it, little plastic knife in hand, I buttered and buttered my golden, crispy waffle, which was starting to get cold. Which is perfect because then the butter really sets there. Speaking of cold, hard facts. It doesn’t disappear into the waffle. It globulates. Waits, looks back at you, existingly. Then, finally, melts into your tongue. Hot damn!

“Can I try a piece of your Spam?” I said.

He gave me a whole slice. It was pretty good, a lot better than I expected. Would you believe I’d never eaten Spam before? Well, I have now eaten Spam. It’s pretty good.

The sausage was chicken apple sausage and this is my only bone to pick with the place. What’s up with the fancy-pants sausage? The name of the joint is the Little Piglet Café, you got pork this and pig that all over the menu, little piggy visual touches all over the walls and all around the paper-hearts-in-the-shape-of-a-heart in the window in the door . . .

The big sign outside over the window, which drew me to the place in the first place, Ninth Street between Bryant and Harrison: Waffles, Soups, Boxed Lunches, Daily Specials, Hot & Cold, Little Piglet Café, real cute picture of a pig. I don’t get it. What’s up with the chicken sausage?

“Barn swallows,” said Earl Butter.

It’s still my new favorite restaurant. I mean, waffles, eggs, and meat for under five bucks, and with real butter, are you kidding me? Plus the coffee is coffeehouse quality, and there are enough other good-looking things on the menu to keep me coming back for weeks and weeks without even repeating myself: Cajun meatloaf sandwich, barbecued pork with “pig sambal” (whatever that might mean), roasted peppers and avocado salad with pineapple vinaigrette.

Is this a Hawaiian theme I’m picking up on?

“Home Depot,” said Earl Butter.


There’s a Spam can dispensing candy canes, and a picture of Jessica Simpson setting on a can of tuna fish.

“They figured out how to open the automatic doors and get inside,” he said.

“Who did?”

Little Piglet Café

Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–4 p.m.

451 Ninth St., SF

(415) 626-5618

No alcohol

Takeout available

MasterCard, Visa


Wheelchair accessible

Cuvee organica


Organic wine is on the rise, and the French, no dopes as regards marketing, are on the case. A recent tasting of organic and biodynamic wines by the importer Louis/Dressner (at K and L Wine Merchants) included offerings from some small producers from the south and northeast of France and the Loire Valley and served as a reminder that (1) French winemakers do right by chenin blanc in a way that American winemakers, to my knowledge, cannot yet even crudely approximate, and (2) if you are going to buy French organic wine, you might be better off with a white than a red.

We did not taste all the reds, but the two we sampled, a 2004 Coteaux-du-Loir rouge-gorge from Domaine de Bellivière and a 2004 Côtes du Rhône from ?