Volume 40 Number 31

May 3 – May 9, 2006

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Our gang


"Oooh, I do detect/ I can’t go on/ Without you," the latest lesbionic Chaka Khannabe, Leela James, rasps in the spooky reedit of "My Joy" that’s dominated dance floors worldwide for about five months now. The mix is by NYC’s deep house genie Quentin Harris, whose last smash crack-up, of Jill Scott’s "Not Like Crazy," whistled lonely through the graveyard on the grounds of soul’s asylum. "My Joy (Quentin Harris Shelter vocal)" is a classic melancholic spine-tingler. A Hammond B3 swirls toward climax, the bass skips a heartbeat, strings of life collide, and the woeful diva’s voice is drawn and quartered, pulled in four directions, wailing "My mind! My mind!" despite an uplift in the chorus: "No, no, no, ain’t no way/ You gon’ take away/ My joy, my peace, my strength." In the end, James dumps her psycho lover and moves on but we’re all left shaken to the bone.

Whatever happened to house? It devolved into circuit, all shrieking modulations and lame-ass breaks, the pale lingua franca of gays worldwide. It rode the elevator down to easy listening lounge, the wallpaper tube-topped bimbos spilled appletinis on. It got all lush and gospel, overeagerly fronting its blues-black roots. It stripped off its base and went seriously loony, fattening up Fat Boy Slim’s paycheck and Paul Van Dyke’s portfolio.

Poor little house, kicked to the curb with its shoelace untied, crying foul in its white-label milk. What’s an unabashed househed freak who loves working it out gonna do?

Go to Fag Fridays at the Endup, for one. Despite all the lip service to a house revival and a titilutf8g resurgence of underground queer clubs dedicated to old-school jacking, the national house scene’s been whittled down to a mere trifecta of well-respected bastions Shelter in NYC, Deep in LA, and our very own Fag, which gathers all the varied arms of house back into one long, sweaty embrace. I’m not saying Fag’s the only happening house gig in town, far from it, but it’s the only weekly joint where you’re guaranteed to hear slices like "My Joy" and not feel obliged to wonder if you look a mess while you lose your shit over it. No matter what you do, you will never, ever be the messiest-looking freak up in there.

Fag was started by grassroots impresarios David Peterson and Jose Mineros a decade ago, when queer was still a dirty word and sex columnist Dan Savage was getting hate mail from homosexuals because he allowed readers to address him as "Hey Faggot." The golden age of local fun houses Klubstitute and Product had just petered out, folks were still dying left and right of AIDS, and gay men were heckling me on the street because I sported gasp! baggy pants and a wallet chain. Homo-hop was unheard of, gay youth was a derogatory term, and Manhunt hadn’t been invented. People who did drugs had to actually leave the house to get laid! For the group of streetwise queer kids of color who clustered around Peterson and Mineros and had roots in House Nation, Fag was heaven a clubhouse, a get-down, and, for some of us, a home.

Now, 10 years later, Fag’s still going strong, featuring not only some of the best known SF DJs as regulars (David Harness, Pete Avila, Neon Leon, Rolo) but pulling in the globally acclaimed as well (Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, Angel Moraes, Honey Dijon). The upcoming anniversary celebration kicks off with singer Dajae, she of back-in-the-day "Brighter Days" and "U Got Me Up" fame. Sure, Fag’s now become a kind of institution, associated by some with shirtless boys, GHB casualties, shit-faced queens, and on one occasion, raids for Versace’s killer. But it’s hung in there, proving that house isn’t dead. It’s alive. It’s joyful. It’s kicking.

It’s also relevant. I went there last month to hear Quentin Harris himself on deck, and he did this thing all night where he kept a little fuzz box of white noise going on behind the mix, which to my overanalytical mind, at least (metaphors! metaphors!) was a perfect representation of the global mess outside we were all hopping around to escape. Groovy, cute, and smart? Hey, Quentin, wanna date?


10th anniversary with Dajae

May 12, 10 p.m.–6 a.m.


401 Sixth St., SF


(415) 646-0999



International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)



International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)
On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, IPI highlights the relationship between the death of a journalist and communication


Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
The 10 Most Censored Countries


Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Iraq: Journalists from Kurdish weekly face arrest, trial

“The Man Box and Beyond”


REVIEW Postfeminism — which is not the death of feminism so much as an effort to examine how culture creates gender differences in terms of how femininity and masculinity are defined — is a good place to start when thinking about the work included in "The Man Box and Beyond." The exhibition was inspired in part by an exercise from the Oakland Men’s Project, a violence-prevention program that asks men how they feel when they’re expected to "act like a man." The 15 participants in this show approach and extend this question through a range of responses from the humorous to the serious. Perhaps the most compelling response is Hand to Hand, a large, wall-mounted installation by Ehren Tool of ceramic mugs with photo-transferred imagery and text related to war. The material is culled from different sources and represents the various ways war imagery shows up in our culture. All the mugs are unique and feature skulls, gas masks, insane quotes by President George W. Bush ("I just want you to know that when we are talking about war, we’re really talking about peace"), naked women holding assault weapons, naked men in military hats holding their cocks, people with their faces blown off, children who have been disfigured by war, and on and on. The mugs also have images of the artist, a former marine, and his family members who have served in the military. By locating himself in the crosshairs of war’s absurdity, Tool critiques himself and his identity, which has been both handed down to him and constructed by others. "People need to see this stuff with their coffee," is how Tool explained his project to me. To that end, the artist has given away 6,000 mugs — some of which have been mailed unsolicited — to politicians and other people in positions of government and corporate power. Deconstructing masculinity: one mug at a time. (Katie Kurtz)

The Man Box and Beyond Through Sat/6. Wed.–Sat., 1–6 p.m.
Closing reception Sat/6, 5–7 p.m.
The Lab, 2948 16th St., SF. (415) 864-8855, www.thelab.org

King “B”


King "B"

ICON John Saxon is many things to many people: 1950s teen idol (during his Universal contract player days he won a 1958 Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer"); ubiquitous TV guest star (scratching the surface, the list includes Dynasty, Melrose Place, The A-Team, Fantasy Island, Wonder Woman, and Gunsmoke); and, most prominently, B-movie superstar. Throughout his still-active career, Saxon (real name: Carmine Orrico) has proved a charismatic presence no matter the setting. Program your own Saxon invasion with just a few of his best (and most widely available) performances.

Enter the Dragon (1973): Saxon showcases his black belt in this Bruce Lee classic.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors (1987): Lt. Thompson doesn’t believe his daughter’s crazy Freddy Krueger dreams are real … until it’s too late.
Black Christmas (1974): Lt. Fuller doesn’t believe the crazy phone calls that are freaking out the sorority house are cause for concern … until it’s too late.

Tenebre (1982): Saxon’s supporting role in this Dario Argento giallo features a memorable hat dance and plenty of vigorous bloodshed.

The Evil Eye (1963): Two decades earlier, Saxon acted in this serial killa thrilla for Italian horror king Mario Bava.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980): Another Italian horror entry, but this one’s infinitely trashier. Saxon stars as a Vietnam vet who discovers several of his men have returned from the war with, uh, peculiar eating habits.

The Cynic, the Rat, and the Fist (1977): Saxon was often the only American cast member in his films, including this criminally hard-to-find cops ’n’ robbers tale from ambassador of ultraviolence Umberto Lenzi, best known for 1981’s Cannibal Ferox, a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly. (Cheryl Eddy)

Bronson’s Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films


Bronson’s Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films

by Paul Talbot 


BOOK REVIEW This slim, yet essential tome is jammed with information about the greatest quintology in cinema history, inspired by Brian Garfield’s 1972 novel about vigilante justice. Interviews with director Michael Winner (Death Wish I through III) and others fill in juicy details, including the casting of thugs (among them Jeff Goldblum, Laurence Fishburne, and Alex Winter, plus my personal favorite, Kirk Taylor as Death Wish III‘s "The Giggler") and the all-important hero ("The Death Wish vigilante role was called ‘uncastable,’ but Winner solved the problem by casting the world’s most popular movie star"). Talbot — clearly a fan himself — also covers the series’ frequent screenplay revisions, as well as audience and critical reactions to the brutally violent films. Plus, there’s plenty on the late, fiercely private Bronson — who’s unfortunately not directly interviewed here, though copious anecdotes offer fascinating insights. (Cheryl Eddy)

“Fab Mab Reunion”


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

April 8, Fillmore

LOCAL LIVE "Typical Flipper," Flipper frontperson Bruce Loose quipped at one point during the band’s set at the recent "Fab Mab Reunion." Not to suggest that Flipper don’t know what they’re doing they do. But dotting is never were top priorities for them. Their improbable, ragged, and yet ultimately triumphant return to the Fillmore April 8 was a case in point, featuring its share of false starts, wrong notes, and out-of-sync vocals, along with a bass amp on the verge of crapping out throughout their approximately 40-minute set. "Know your history," Loose added at another point in the show.

Speaking of history, fellow showgoers who had actually experienced the legendary Mabuhay Gardens back in its late-’70s/early-’80s heyday remarked that the most authentic part of the show was MC Dirk Dirksen. His rambling, semicoherent monologues, which included a roll call of the dead that made reference to deceased Flipper member "Will Shatner [sic]," drew groans and heckles, as well as a bona fide noogie from Loose at one point.

On the other side of the coin, in terms of historical accuracy, were the Avengers and the Jeff Penaltyfronted Dead Kennedys. The Avengers’ set had a decidedly mall-punk feel to it, sounding more like third-generation MTV punks than a class of old-school ’77 graduates. As for the controversial DKs, at least Penalty brought a touch of surreal ridiculousness as he bounded onstage, manically hopped around, and even went so far as to slyly beckon applause with a "come on, come on" hand gesture. One might have expected him to be dodging beer bottles instead.

But with all due respect to the Mutants we walked in with just a couple of songs left in their set of solid-sounding, if somewhat quaint, set of Sex Pistolsish punk Flipper were the highlight of the evening. Just over a year ago, the remaining members from the band’s classic early-’80s lineup Loose, drummer Steve DePace, and guitarist Ted Falconi were barely on speaking terms, so to see them onstage together and clearly enjoying themselves was great in itself; the fact that they sounded like themselves, not like a slick facsimile, was even better. Filling in for Shatter was unofficial fifth member and longtime utility player Steve DeMartis, who turned in an intense vocal performance on "Shine." Elsewhere, Loose who dyed his hair bright blond for the occasion handled the mic with his trademark sarcasm and lovable obnoxiousness, tossing off trademark lines like "Forget it, you wouldn’t understand anyway."

They opened with unlikely sing-along "Ha Ha Ha," stumbled through the Shatter anthem "Life," and played zero songs from their Shatter-less 1993 Warner Bros. album, American Grafishy. The set closed with a barely recognizable rendition of "Flipper Blues" and a sped-up, runaway-train version of "Sex Bomb" with original session-player Ward Abronski of Polkacide on tenor sax.

Yes, there were rough edges, but as far as their sense of humor, focused sloppiness, and don’t-give-a-damn attitude went, it was indeed typical Flipper. And that’s a good thing.  SFBG

Bright knight of the analog soul


John Vanderslice goes straight for the guy with the bouzouki. He’s taking me on a tour of his recording studio, analog haven Tiny Telephone, located in an industrial space at the base of Potrero Hill, directly across from a giant, rusted rocket engine belonging to Survival Research Laboratories.

He’s about to pick the melon-shaped instrument up from its stand out of sheer exuberance, but he checks himself and asks its owner, "Do you mind?" It has four sets of strings, paired in octaves like a 12-string guitar, and some fancy inlay work. He gives it a tentative strum, trying to suss out the tuning, before gingerly replacing it. "Anything but an electric guitar excites me."

It’s a strange statement coming from a guitar player. But Vanderslice isn’t simply a guitar player he’s a complex commodity. He looks calm enough in his tattered, holey sweater and wide-wale corduroys. But it’s like the surface tension on a water droplet. It can only briefly hold back an inexorable motion, and the seeming stillness on the outside belies the seething, wild Brownian motion beneath.

Tapestry of the unknown

Google "’John Vanderslice’ + ‘analog’" and you’ll get around 100,000 hits. This shouldn’t be shocking. For one, there are five "official" solo albums on Barsuk, as well as three with his previous band, mk Ultra; for another, there’s his studio, boasting a 30-channel Neve mixing board that once belonged to the BBC, and dozens of vintage amps, preamps, and effects, some of them fairly wacky, like the huge anodized metal "plate in a box" reverb. One can comfortably call him an analog purist. He even calls himself that. Sometimes.

Like most purists, there’s a persnicketiness to his passion. I’m reminded of the older guys at the BMX track who refuse to ride aluminum bikes: "Steel is real," they’re always saying. For Vanderslice too, steel is real as are the glass tubes and the magnetic tape that runs from reel to reel to capture it all. When it comes to his own records, he has "these militant rules about what we can and can’t do as far as using effects. If we want an effect on an instrument, we have to record it that way. My thing is, if you want it to be some way, make it that way and commit to it. Don’t be half-assed. If you want it to sound fucked-up or modulated or distorted or delayed, let’s go for it. Record it that way, print it on tape, and then it’s part of the tapestry. It’s done."

"It is done" were that last words of Jesus Christ, and when Vanderslice is up in arms, hunched over his cup of tea, the ardent analog guru preaching the tube gospel, they’re murmured with similar prophetic urgency. But that’s just the molecular lockdown on the surface of the drop. Underneath: movement. His records especially as they move away from being "guitar records" are all about that tapestry. The song, lyrics, chorus, melody, and bridge these are the structural elements that build the house. But you have to peek in the windows to see what’s really going on: the art on the walls, that tapestry he’s talking about and how intricately it’s woven. "Exodus Damage" on his most recent album, last year’s Pixel Revolt, has got mellotron "synthesizing" (sans computer), a choir, pipe organ, strings, and a flute. Instrumentally, the album’s all over the place it’s like a warehouse with cello, Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, glockenspiel, vibraphone, steel drums, trumpet, moog, tape loops, and a "space station," among other things. There’s a lot going on, on different levels, and you’ve got to do more than peek through the windows to really get Pixel Revolt; you’ve got to come inside and sit down.

Vanderslice constructs his music in that honest, brick-by-brick way of the analog stickler, but it’s not as if he just mics it up, tapes it down, and it’s ready to go. He manipulates his songs using techniques that might be more readily associated with the digital side of things. He builds them, then deconstructs them and builds something else. I’m reminded of Bob Geldof in The Wall, where he smashes everything in the hotel room and builds something that, at first glance, is obtuse and impenetrable but is clearly imbued with deeper meaning for having been recontextualized. Vanderslice takes digital techniques and analog-izes them. He uses Tiny Telephone like a punch card machine, a steam-driven computer.

"I like using the analog instruments of the studio, meaning compressors and mic pres and effects as instruments," he explains. "When you start combining all these things the keyboard into some mic pre you found in a pawn shop into some weird compressor into delay you get some unknowable results. Chasing down that kind of shit is fascinating for me."

Covert ops

"I’d harbored hope that the intelligence that once inhabited novels or films would ingest rock," Lou Reed once said. "I was, perhaps, wrong." Like most Lou Reed quotes or songs or looks, he’s both right and wrong. Most rock has ceased to even aspire to the literary. Traditional rock lyrics are the domain of the first-person diarist.

Vanderslice’s songs, however, are sonic novellas, small, encapsulated narratives whose meaning sometimes bleeds into the silence between tracks to form the greater novel of the album. Not surprisingly for an artist with so much happening musically on that other level, stories of the covert permeate JV’s records. Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (2000) takes us behind the scenes of a drug operation on "Speed Lab." Life and Death of an American Fourtracker (2002) follows the semi-institutionalized ruination of its lead character’s life and love. Of late, 2004’s Cellar Door features the shaky ruminations of a special ops type, musing on shady dealings from Columbia to Guant?

Worst album of the week


› kimberly@sfbg.com

"A strange new sound that makes boys explore."

Will and Grace‘s Eric McCormack singing Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s "The Greatest Discovery"

SONIC REDUCER Not one of El’s greatest moments of songcraft. A lot of strange, new sounds regularly leak through the CD cat door just how many albums have the C*nts made? We get more than our share of musically ho-hum benefit recordings, amateurish anti-Bush anthems, and those almost quaintly, obliviously sexist Ultra dance comps. But the fundraising comp the aforementioned track was drawn from, Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars (Rhino), is oddly, exquisitely … painful. This showcase of film, TV, and theater actors is almost as cringeworthy as contemputf8g that Tom Cruise DJ set rumor floating round Coachella last weekend.

I suspect Unexpected Dreams‘ cause is a decent one: Music Matters, a Los Angeles Philharmonic music outreach program for school kids. But I can’t imagine inflicting this disc on the youngsters that producers Wayne Baruch, Charles F. Gayton, and "vocal coach to the stars" Eric Vetro supposedly intended it for, although Baruch thoughtfully adds in the liner notes that the creators considered including a sticker saying, "Warning: Parents with children may experience drowsiness; do not operate machinery. For those without children … this may cause children."

Yuck. Don’t get me wrong I can take the corn, cheese, anything you want to poke in your bowtie-and-top-hat aural burrito. But disregard the vanity backslapping commentary and try to suffer through the actual renditions themselves: They make Shatner’s silly spoken-word symphonies look visionary; Lindsey Lohan’s pop pachyderms, cerebral; J-Lo’s albums, stone-genius.

Oh, the vanity, the vanity of actors who think they’re singers. Faring best: Scarlett Johansson singing a smoky blues-jazz version of the Gershwins’ "Summertime" (in the CD notes, Vetro claims "lightning struck the room" when Johansson lay into the helpless tune), her Island costar Ewan "O Obi-Wan" McGregor wrapping his Moulin Rouge round Sade’s "The Sweetest Gift," and Teri "Close encounters with Desperate Housewives poltergeists" Hatcher’s relatively unembellished rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s "Goodnight." Hatcher and vocalists like John C. Reilly rate lower on the icko-meter simply by sounding like themselves rather than affected high-school glee club achievers Alias‘s Jennifer Garner, for instance, sounds like all the variety show choristers I’ve been happily not missing since those endless, mind-numbing days of school assemblies. In fact, you can imagine a lot of boys and girls discovering that the "strange new" sounds on this album make them want to trash all their parents’ well-meaning children’s albums and explore some quality Slayer recordings.

Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow‘s hook-warbling hooker) does bring some soul to her song but it’ll be hard to pimp tracks by the otherwise fine actor Jeremy Irons, who never should have been allowed to try his all-too-white gimp hand at Bob Dylan’s "To Make You Feel My Love" from Time out of Mind. And there are the many others who look at their songs as a license to overemote, like the worst rankamateur karaoke contestants, in love with the fact that they can even hit the notes. Onetime warrior princess Lucy Lawless bludgeons her quasi-Christian Vetro original. Nia My Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos unleashes the feta on an overwrought, taste-free stab at Lennon and McCartney’s "Golden Slumbers," and Hairspray‘s Marissa Jaret Winokur makes one gag with a cloying, faux-childlike Vetro number. "Who wouldn’t want Hollywood’s biggest stars to sing them to sleep?" the album’s press release states. Yeah, I guess that would be all right but if John Stamos is one of ’Wood’s biggest stars, I think Tinseltown is in trouble. Hint: I could be convinced to donate to any cause Rhino chooses, if they just, please, stick to reissues. SFBG


Watch it this time


The budding art star was recently feted in Artforum. Modern Reveries and F-Hole also perform. Wed/3, Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 923-0923

The Herms

What’s this about the porn written by one of the he-men in the solid indie-rockin’ Herms, here celebrating their CD release? Loquat and the Husbands also perform. Thurs/4, Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750

Rainer Maria

The Brooklyn indie-rock romanticists return. Thurs/4, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 621-4455

16 Bitch Pileup

All female, all noise, all hands on deck when the Bay Area band plays with LA’s Crom and Goldie winners Total Shutdown. Fri/5, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $6. www.924gilman.org. 16 Bitch Pileup and Crom also play Sat/6, 5 p.m., Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. $6. (415) 552-7788


Soulful vocals meet aggro rock. Play nice. Boyjazz and Turn Me on Deadman also perform. Fri/5, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455. Also Sat/6, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

Drive-By Truckers

The Southerners set up camp with Son Volt. Fri/5–Sat/6, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $28.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Doug Gillard

The Guided by Voices guitarist took his time, getting last year’s addictive solo release out in front of breathing humanoids. Richard Buckner also plays. Sat/6, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $13–$15. (415) 621-4455

Secret Machines

The buzz band was no secret at SXSW. Sat/6, 8:30 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $20. (415) 771-1421

Blood on the Wall

Flannel, ’80s art rock, and a certain groove. Physic Ills and the Death of a Party open. Mon/8, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455


The English duo dig into T-Rex–drenched electro with Supernature (Mute). Mon/8, 8 p.m. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Starlight Mints

Your indie-pop hop happens with Dios and Octopus Project. Tues/9, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455  SFBG

Dumpling drifter


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Me and Wayway went to the store and bought 67 chicken wings, a carton of buttermilk, and a big bottle of oil. Then we went out to eat. I had a show that night in the Sunset, at my new favorite bar, the Riptide, so the plan was to point ourselves in that direction and just roll.

The Riptide is on Taraval, way out there, almost all the way to the beach. But we barely got past 19th Avenue, of course, before we had to stop rolling and walk. What pulled us over was this new Hawaiian joint where JT’s diner used to be. It looks pretty good. I looked in the window, and Wayway looked at the menu in the window.

"Eggs and rice," Wayway said. "Spam and eggs."

"Hay," I said. "Straw."

We meant all these things as compliments. You know, sometimes I wear Hawaiian shirts when I play the Ping-Pong, and sometimes I wear Western shirts. If I had been wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I might have had a new favorite Hawaiian restaurant to tell you about, but as fate would have it, I was wearing a Western shirt.

Which was just as well because I’d already eaten about five eggs that day anyway. We looked into a couple other places and wound up agreeing on a hole-in-the-wall just a few doors down called White Horse Dim Sum & Restaurant.

Hot dang it smelled good in there. It smelled kind of like celery. There was no art on the walls, no music, and just a couple of tables. So the atmosphere was the smell of celery. And general hominess. The White Horse family, from little kids to Gram and Gramps, was just sitting down to eat at this one big table. Every now and again one or another of them would get up and pour our tea and take our order and cook and everything.

So now, finally, I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant. Check this out: Dim sums are 60 cents each, they have Shanghai dumplings for $3.50 for six, lunch specials for $3.95 with rice and wonton soup or coffee, and they have almost 20 kinds of soup for under 5 bucks, most of them under 4. Rice plates, noodles … a lot of $3.50s, $3.95s, and $4.50s. I don’t think anything was more than 5 bucks.

What I’m getting at: Cheap!

And don’t forget that it smells real good in there. So, OK, so what we wanted, in honor of yet another soupy San Francisco day, was soup. And the guy sitting behind us was eating dumplings, so, sure, we were going to need dumplings too. You can’t talk about frying and barbecuing chicken wings without dumplings. At least a dozen.

Wayway told me how when he was living in Shanghai he used to eat these things for breakfast every day, and how sometimes, because of the language barrier, he’d ask for six, which was one order, and they’d bring him six orders of six.

"I want to live somewhere with a language barrier," I said.

Shanghai dumplings, those are the steamed pork ones with like little bowls of soup in them. Pig drippin’s, you figure. It pools inside while the pork cooks, and stays warm but somehow not too hot, and then when it erupts inside your mouth you get this flow of buttery, greasy goodness all over your tongue, and … and … um . . .

I lost my train of thought.

Chicken wings. Buttermilk. Barbecue sauce. Strategy. Celery. Oral sex. Oh yeah, soup. That was the other thing we were eating. Fish ball noodle soup, and pork noodle soup ($3.95 either way). Both were great. The broth was excellent, the noodles had to have been homemade, they tasted so good, and the vegetables were done perfectly, with still a little life left to them. Bok choy, broccoli, celery.

I’ll tell you, I walked out of the White Horse feeling really good. And I stayed that way all through the rest of the evening. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rum. Coffee, next morning, and we went to work like two well-oiled machines, Wayway frying, or parfrying the wings, and the chicken farmer manwomanpersoning the grill. Barbefried chicken. My joke is that it’s health food, if two wrongs make a right, which, conventional wisdom being, for our purposes, damned, they do. Right? SFBG

White Horse.

Mon.–Sat., 7 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

937 Taraval, SF

(415) 665-9080

Takeout available

No alcohol

Credit cards not accepted


Wheelchair accessible



Without Reservations


Split is a splendid little word, one of my favorites, at least when we are wandering through the joyous realm of sparkling wine. Who wouldn’t want an adorably petite bottle of bubbly for one’s own, complete with cork wrapped in fancy foil in a cage of golden wire? Yet split, alas, has other meanings too; in that terrible, inevitable restaurant moment when the check arrives, the word becomes the occasion for close scrutiny of the bill, who had what, some people drank more than others, tax is always a muddle, multiple credit or debit cards (all confusingly similar in appearance) are produced, and, at the very end, there is the dreadful business of agreeing on a tip. It is a business negotiation, basically, a moment for teams of accountants, and it sounds a slightly off note at the end of a lovely evening.

Splitting a check is somewhat less cumbersome and embarrassing in cash transactions, true which tend to be smaller anyway and I would grant an exemption for gigantic get-togethers like birthday-party dinners, where 20 or more people can gather at a single table and the tab can easily drift past $500 or even higher. But: For the usual small rendezvouses, têtes-à-têtes and so forth, somebody should just pick up the check. I nominate rich people. Rich people should pay. The richest person at the table should fess up or, better yet, just discreetly snatch the bill when it comes and discreetly whip out the putf8um card to settle the matter. This would be a kind of gracious ad hoc socialism that would also meliorate a small but galling social blight, and while it wouldn’t necessarily assure the fate of one’s eternal soul, if any ("Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" Matthew 19:24), it couldn’t hurt. Spending money on food is a virtue, as is spending money on other people so spending money to feed other people must be doubly virtuous.

How to determine who the richest person at your table is? I recommend the stare-down. And if two rich people happen to be having dinner? (Surely this happens from time to time.) One pays this time; the other, the next socialism for the rich, kind of. SFBG

Crazy on you


› paulr@sfbg.com

Kookez looks like a name from The Epic of Gilgamesh, or perhaps the name of some lost city in ancient Persia near Shiraz? but really it’s a kind of phonetic or spoof spelling. Hint: Resist the urge, almost irresistible in this city, to see the word kook; remember that we deal in food and restaurants here and visualize … cookies! (No, not whirled peas.) For Kookez Café is, indeed, in part about cookies; they are the pride of founder, owner, and baker Lynn Marie Presley, and a selection of them, along with other tempting baked goods, is on display in a glass case just inside the entryway.

But Kookez is about more than cookies. It is the successor to the long-running and successful Miss Millie’s (recently decamped to the East Bay) and accordingly has inherited the pole position in Noe Valley’s busy weekend brunch derby. It is also a cozy evening spot, serving "coast to coast" American comfort-food dishes many with a decidedly Southern accent in as appealingly old-fashioned a setting as you’re likely to find around town. The look is that of some venerable, family-run café on a narrow lane in Paris or London: lots of warm wood, yellowish wall lamps, snug booths, and a small garden in the rear whose charms are, thus far in this indescribably dreary spring, hypothetical. Those with long memories will recall that the space, before becoming Miss Millie’s, belonged to a coffeehouse named Meat Market, which took its name from the butcher shop that once occupied the premises.

An overhead rail for hanging split carcasses is still mounted from the ceiling just in front of the small exhibition kitchen, where the chef, Amir, goes about his business. When Miss Millie’s opened, in the mid-1990s, the original menu was vegetarian, and the rail was left in place as an ironic reminder, a kind of memento mori for meat eaters, or maybe nonmeat eaters. But Miss Millie’s later expanded beyond meatless offerings as the neighborhood changed, and as Kookez picks up the baton, the neighborhood continues to change.

Noe Valley is known as the city’s "baby belt," and really you can’t go a block without encountering a baby stroller, a nanny, a pack of tots, or a young father carrying an infant in some kind of chest sling. The Kookez brain trust is on the case; in addition to the cookies, the restaurant offers a kids’ menu (cupcakes included), the waitstaff seems unfazed by strollers zooming to and fro inside, and the cards of fare are laminated. I understand the precautionary nature of taking this last step, since children do have a way of spilling, scattering, smearing, and otherwise making messes with their food. At the same time, the menu card entombed in plastic does summon for some of us the ghosts of forgettable meals in chain restaurants near freeways at the outskirts of cookie-cutter cities in the heart of the heart of the country.

For the most part, Kookez pulls off its Comfort Food Nation conceit pretty nicely. The familiar stuff is the best: a bowl of New England clam chowder weighted with potatoes and bacon and heady with black pepper ($4.95); a chicken pot pie ($10.95) with a lovely golden pastry crust and a pea-rich stuffing; an excellent hamburger ($8.50), subtly swabbed with chipotle aioli and served with a stack of garlicky home fries in need of but a sprinkle of salt to come to attention; an herb-roasted half chicken ($12.50), tender and moist and plated with garlic mashed potatoes (under- and perhaps unsalted) and sautéed zucchini.

The chilled tomato tower ($7.75) basically a napoleon, layers of red and gold tomato slices buffered by disks of mozzarella and seasoned with basil and balsamic vinegar would be a lovely dish in summer, when the tomatoes are soft, juicy, and deeply flavored. At the end of winter, one tastes mainly the chill. The mango quesadilla ($7.50) is a worthy attempt to dress up a possibly overfamiliar friend; the decorations include a nippy blend of jack and brie cheeses, the aforementioned mango, and slices of strawberry on top. The strawberry slices looked a little forlorn on the golden half disk, as if the door to a party had been shut in their faces and they were left to pace around outside. At the same time, their presence did suggest not just seasonality but the possibility of some clever innovation: How about pureeing them with some garlic, cilantro, cayenne, and lime juice into a kind of spring salsa?

One of the best of the Southern-inflected dishes is the bayou butter-BQ dippin’ shrimp ($21.50), eight or nine big sautéed prawns accompanied by three lengths of grilled fresh okra a surprisingly appealing bit of exotica and not one but two dipping sauces: a peppery bourbon-butter number and a fruity-sharp jam of ginger and chilis that’s reminiscent of something you might be served with pot stickers. I would say this dish is well worth its sticker price, while noting that the sticker price is slightly lofty for a neighborhood joint. And it isn’t alone in being on the high side of $20; two other dishes also wander above the tree line, while several more are in the upper teens. But … this is the new Noe Valley, the Beverly Hills of the Googleocracy.

This can be a depressing line of contemplation, and a ready antidote is the infantile pleasure of dessert: a slice of rich amaretto cheesecake ($7.95), say, with blood orange sorbet. Or just a cookie maybe chocolate chip ($1.50) if you’re not nuts about such a rich finish. SFBG

Kookez Café

Dinner: Wed.–Sat., 5:30–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

4123 24th St., SF

(415) 641-7773


Beer and wine


Moderately noisy

Wheelchair accessible

{Empty title}


APR. 26–May 2


March 21-April 19

Aries, you’ve reached total system overload. It’s like you’re having your own little personal Mercury retrograde. You’re managing too much, and we suggest that you start prioritizing responsibilities, placing your obligation toward your own emotional needs at the top of the list.


April 20-May 20

Whatever it is you’re dealing with looks pretty frickin’ monumental, Taurus. You’re going to have to figure out how to make self-loving choices in the midst of all the bullshit. The least you can do is make sure you’re feeding yourself at least one good meal a day.


May 21-June 21

Gemini, there appears to be some sort of conflict happening in your relationships. What’s making it worse is your total reluctance to tackle this problem, either out of fear of making everything worse or just a plain ol’ aversion to confrontation. But being open, honest, and direct is the only way to fix things.


June 22-July 22

If you’ve been waiting for a time to be scandalous and risqué in the pursuit of getting what you want, it’s now, Cancer. Go on, sleep your way to the top. Put yourself out there and snag what or whom you want like a Venus flytrap. It’s a great moment, with lots of sexy amour for the snatching.


July 23-Aug. 22

Leo, we have a prescription for your ennui. It’s a party. We think it would be great, on so many levels, for you to gather together all the people in your life and watch what magical and surprising things occur. Don’t strategize who would benefit you by their attendance; compile your guest list from the gut.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

We know a family who did this adorable thing, Virgo. They planted fruit trees in their yard on the birth of each of their kids, so their kids could gauge their often imperceptible growth by the more obvious stretching and blooming of the trees. We suggest you do something similar to tangibly mark your progress.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Our psychic eyes show us a poor little emotionally tapped Libra. Are you going to start taking care of yourself or what? Can you trust that your life won’t fall apart if you cease your consistent, perhaps manic, tending to it in order to nurse your frayed well-being?


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

It’s time for Ego Investigation, Scorpio. Send in the squad. You need to take a serious look at how you have been handling your ego and honestly assess if it’s helping or hurting you. We think you might actually need some good, healthy ego energy to help take care of yourself in the coming weeks, so make sure that thing is working right.


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Sag, we’re sorry to report that your horoscope is boring as hell. You’re destined to have a week steeped in the mundane, which, come to think of it, may make the next seven days not only boring but shitty for a thrill-seeker like yourself. Make sure you’re dealing with the minutiae of your life to prevent petty frustrations.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

There are positive changes happening, Capricorn. Stop rolling your eyes. We know you think that the phrase positive change puts the moronic in oxymoronic, but you’re wrong. Your fear of change is preventing you from seeing how great all these new shifts are and puts you in danger of sabotaging them.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Aquarius, we gave you a vague warning about overextending yourself last week, but apparently we need to bang you over the head. Or, rather, we would bang you over the head, but your life is already smacking you upside it. Deal with the balls you already have in the air; don’t introduce any new ones to your act!


Feb. 19-March 20

You’ve always had the potential to be efficient and productive, Pisces. You’ve just resisted it, like a teenage stoner skipping class for another bong rip in the quad. But the time has come to say goodbye to your underachievin’ ways and embrace your capacity to harbor ambition. Think big. SFBG

Going low-tech


› naturesucks@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION I had the urge to be low-tech, so I spent a day walking across Manhattan. If you believe that culture is the new nature, my trek was roughly equivalent to an amble through the forest. I bought a bagel and lox at Zabar’s, stuck my earbuds in on the corner of Broadway and West 80th Street, and headed south. Surely a Neanderthal could have had this same experience munching on meat and humming to herself as she wandered through Europe 42,000 years ago.

The Upper West Side bounded by Central Park on one side and Riverside Park on the other is actually full of old-school traditional nature. There are trees and slightly stinky bodies of water and birds. I know there’s supposed to be some dramatic cultural difference between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, but I think my relentlessly Californian senses prevent me from discerning what it is. Both sides of the park are full of well-maintained residences, doctors’ offices, corner stores built in the 1950s, and nannies ambling with baby strollers.

Exiting the park’s south side is pretty much like walking into a really dirty waterfall next to sharp rocks. In fact, scratch that traditional nature has no metaphors adequate to describe the sheer human hell of this place. Its dense cultural outcroppings and vortices stretch at least to 40th Street below Times Square and create the sensation of being in a crowd that’s just on the verge of rioting in response to a piece of entertainment. This is very different from being in a crowd whose protoviolence is prompted by a desire for food or political freedom.

At the heart of Times Square I made a left and detoured briefly into the Condé Nast building to visit one of my editors. Four Times Square is one of the only high-rise office buildings in Manhattan constructed from eco-friendly materials. Supposedly the windows are specially made to maintain a moderate temperature, and air ducts keep fresh air circuutf8g through the place. I couldn’t really tell whether the building felt any "healthier" than, say, one of the scary buildings near Penn Plaza where I once interviewed a bunch of guys in suits. But it was amusing to try to identify which people in the elevator worked for Vogue and which worked for the New Yorker. After eating a genetically engineered banana with my editor among the translucent plastic structures that bloom like gigantic flowers all over the Condé Nast lunchroom, I returned to Broadway.

I slowed down when I hit 30th Street, moving through each neighborhood and watching the population change gradually the way I would watch a beach becoming forest if I were hiking on the California coast. The closer you get to Union Square Park near 12th Street, the more you start seeing young hipsters and frenetic middle-class people with bags of groceries. Continuing south, I skirted the edge of Greenwich Village and scooted past New York University, where everybody has floppy hair and Converse sneakers and jeans with stitching on the pockets.

Everyone got older and richer briefly in SoHo, but that group dissipated quickly around Canal Street. On Canal it was impossible for me not to examine at least four or five unlicensed pieces of trademarked and copyrighted media. People stuck handfuls of pirated DVDs under my nose; street vendors sold knockoff Hello Kitty and Gucci. If only this crowd could slake the thirst of those protorioters in Times Square, I don’t think we’d have any violence.

The buildings got taller and the air between them colder as I approached the downtown financial district. People in suits with whimsical ties almost distracted me from my favorite part of Broadway downtown: the enormous brass bull statue near Wall Street that celebrates the crude joys of financial power. I never get tired of looking at its huge balls, which hang in remarkably realistic detail between its raised tail and abstract cock. Capitalists have never been a shy bunch, nor do they have any difficulty finding metaphors from nature to explain their peculiar form of culture.

And then, at last, I was at the Staten Island ferry, which brought me to the one place where Manhattanites fear to tread. SFBG

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who isn’t afraid of Staten Island.

Stick to it


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

This might be a little vanilla for you, but I thought I’d chance it.

My boyfriend and I are in our mid-20s, and I’m fairly confident that we’ll be married at some point. I’m only the second girl he’s slept with, though, and the only girl he’s had an orgasm with. I’ve had a few more partners. I genuinely feel like he should have sex with other women before committing. Do you think the numbers matter? Is he going to wake up at 45 needing something different? Is there any way I can get him to have sex with another woman and not feel like he’s cheating on me?


Commitmentphobe (for him)

Dear ’Phobe:

Well that last part is up to you, isn’t it? If you’re going to feel like he’s cheating even though you pretty much ordered him out the door with your phone number and address pinned to his underpants, there’s nothing I can do for you. You’re going to have to decide which is more important to you: lifelong fidelity or knowing he’s had a look around and still chose you. Without a time machine at your disposal (oh, how I wish I had one, for so many reasons), you’re not getting both.

Here are two facts, make of them what you will. (1) Americans, on average, have not had anything like the number of partners racked up by unmarried characters on any sitcom you might watch. At last count by a trustworthy source, half of all adult Americans had had three or fewer sex partners over the course of their lifetimes. More than your boyfriend/husband will have to show for it on his deathbed, should he neither cheat nor obey your order to go out and slut around first, granted, but certainly not what you’d expect from the way people do go on. (2) If he’s going to get bored at 45 and need a little something different, that’s going to happen whether or not he does the homework you assign him at 25. If it helps, when the data for the landmark "Sex in America" study were collected in the early ’90s, it appeared that the vast majority of married or cohabitating couples were in fact faithful to each other, something that, again, you’d never guess from watching TV or movies, or even reading popular or literary fiction.

And, anyway, cheating is not the leading cause of divorce. Many studies point to money or plain old "incompatibility" for that, and not necessarily sexual incompatibility although that does count. There is even some research showing that "being very unhappy" needn’t cause divorce in and of itself: 86 percent of couples who reported being unhappily married in the late ’80s described themselves as happier five years later, and indeed most called themselves "very" or "quite" happy by then. It seems that the best indicator of whether a marriage will last is whether the couple wants it to last and is willing to stick it out.

I do digress and I do apologize, but I guess what I want you to get here is that projecting your worries into the future (there’s that time machine again) is not necessarily the best use of your time while you’re young and happy and have a wedding to plan. If you’ve made the offer ("Sure you don’t want to go out and spread it around a little before we settle down?") and he is still not interested, you might want to consider just being glad he’s so satisfied with you, and start picking out china patterns.



Dear Andrea:

My boyfriend has described an ex-girlfriend of his as "really great in bed," so I asked him what was great about it. He described her vagina as "ribbed for [his] pleasure" and said that she had muscle striations that gave him a pleasurable sensation because she did Kegel exercises regularly.

I do Kegels regularly too, but obviously he does not consider our respective vaginas to be comparable. Am I doing something wrong? Do I not do it enough? Would one of those weights that you’re supposed to put in there help?

I definitely have more "tricks" than that girl, but I want to be considered "great" too!


Wanna B. Great

Dear Great:

Of course you do. I wonder, deeply and truly, about those "muscle striations" and in fact assume that they were in his head, along with a lot of other muscle and not too much of the more useful sort of tissue. By all means get a barbell-style exerciser if you like it couldn’t hurt but you’re not going to get any more "striated," just stronger. Your boyfriend could get to work developing his tact muscles at the same time, if he knows what’s good for him.



Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her former life, she was a prop designer. Visit www.altsexcolumn.com to view her previous columns.

Single town?


Like Clear Channel radio stations, many smaller papers would have little or no staff, nobody to answer the phone, nobody to take local tips and cover local news … they would be nothing but shells of once-thriving community newspapers.

This map, prepared by the San Jose Newspaper Guild, shows all of the newspapers that will soon be owned by Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group. MediaNews started out with 11 papers, and the addition of 33 Knight-Ridder papers will give the Denver-based outfit a total of 44 daily and community papers in the Bay Area.

Most of the daily newspaper coverage of the deal (including the coverage by Knight-Ridder and MediaNews papers) has focused on the four biggest papers involved and ignored the smaller papers altogether — a sign, perhaps, that neither chain cares that much about community publications.

Currently owned by MediaNews: (1) Alameda Times Star; (2) Fremont Argus; (3) Hayward Daily Review; (4) Marin Independent Journal; (5) Milpitas Post; (6) Oakland Tribune; (7) Pacifica Tribune; (8) San Mateo County Times; (9) Tri-Valley Herald; (10) Reporter (Vacaville); (11) Vallejo Times-Herald.

Currently owned by Knight-Ridder, soon to be taken over by MediaNews: (1) Alameda Journal; (2) Almaden Resident; (3) Berkeley Voice; (4) Brentwood News; (5) Burlingame Daily News; (6) Campbell Reporter; (7) Concord Transcript; (8–11) Contra Costa Newspapers (Contra Costa Times, West County Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Times); (12) Contra Costa Sun; (13) Cupertino Courier; (14) East Bay Daily News; (15) El Cerrito Journal; (16) Antioch Ledger-Dispatch; (17) Los Gatos Daily News; (18) Los Gatos Weekly-Times; (19) Montclarion; (20) Monterey County Herald (not shown); (21) Palo Alto Daily News; (22) Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record; (23) Piedmonter; (24) Redwood City Daily News; (25) Rose Garden Resident; (26) San Jose Mercury News; (27) San Mateo Daily News; (28) Saratoga News; (29) Sunnyvale Sun; (30) Salinas Valley Advisor (not shown); (31) Walnut Creek Journal; (32) West County Weekly; (33) Willow Glen Resident. MediaNews owns 29 other California publications.

Stop Singleton’s media grab!

EDITORIAL At first glance, it looks like one of the oddest deals in recent newspaper history: McClatchy, the Sacramento-based newspaper chain, buys the much bigger Knight-Ridder chain, then sells two of the Knight-Ridder papers to MediaNews Group, run by Dean Singleton out of Denver, and two to the New York Citybased Hearst Corp., which owns the San Francisco Chronicle. Then Hearst immediately sells its two papers to Singleton’s shop, in exchange for an equity share in MediaNews operations outside of the Bay Area.

The upshot: MediaNews will take over the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, along with some 33 small-market dailies and weeklies, which, combined with the 11 Bay Area papers the chain already owns, will give Singleton control of every major daily newspaper in the Bay Area except the Chronicle.

It creates the potential for a newspaper monopoly of stunning proportions and threatens the quality of journalism in one of the most populous, educated, and liberal regions in the nation. Singleton, known as "lean Dean" for his cost-cutting moves, is likely to slash staffing at papers like the Times and the Merc, consolidate news gathering, and offer readers less local news.

In fact, in its most recent annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MediaNews outlined its strategy for profitability. "One of our key acquisition strategies is to acquire newspapers in markets contiguous to our own," the report states. This so-called clustering strategy allows the company to consolidate advertising and business functions as well as news gathering. "We seek to increase operating cash flows at acquired newspapers by reducing labor costs," the report notes.

In other words, a smaller number of reporters will be doing fewer stories, which will run in more papers. This, Luther Jackson, executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, argues, "means cookie-cutter coverage and fewer voices contributing to important public policy debates."

There are deeper concerns with this deal including the possibility that Hearst and Singleton could be forming an unholy alliance that would nearly wipe out daily competition in the Bay Area.

The whole mess has its roots in the decision by the Knight-Ridder board several months ago to put the company up for sale. It was the kind of decision that demonstrates the problems with treating newspapers like baseball cards, to trade on the open market: Knight-Ridder was quite profitable, ran some of the better newspapers in the nation, and had a reputation (by chain standards, anyway) of being willing to spend money on the editorial product. But the stock price wasn’t quite high enough, and a few big shareholders (who weren’t satisfied with 20 percent profits) were complaining, so the entire company went on the block.

McClatchy, a well-managed company that has the Sacramento Bee as its flagship, wanted some of the Knight-Ridder papers but only the ones in fast-growing markets. So after submitting a winning bid, the McClatchy folks starting looking for ways to dump the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Monterey Herald, the St. Paul Pioneer-Dispatch, and some 20 smaller community papers in the Bay Area.

But why, exactly, is Hearst getting involved? Well, Peter Scheer, a former antitrust lawyer who runs the California First Amendment Coalition, has some theories. The first possible reason? Hearst has plenty of cash on hand, and the deal would allow MediaNews to avoid having to seek as much financing from bankers.

More likely: Hearst through the Chronicle would have been Singleton’s only local competitor, and is the only significant political player in California that could have pressured regulators to oppose the deal. The arrangement, Scheer says, turns Hearst from a potential foe into a partner. Already the two companies have announced they may seek to share distribution systems. And there may be other plans in the works.

In fact, one of the most interesting ideas about the deal comes from a former Chronicle assistant managing editor, Alan Mutter, who writes a blog called Reflections of a Newsosaur (newsosaur.blogspot.com). Mutter suggests that the deal might lead to the end of real newspaper competition in the Bay Area, for once and for all. "Hearst," he speculates, "hopes at some point to work with MediaNews to extricate itself from the costly problem posed by the San Francisco Chronicle, which is widely believed to be losing about $1 million per week."

The idea: Down the road, Hearst merges the Chron with MediaNews or, if the Justice Department won’t allow that, the two companies enter into a joint operating agreement. A JOA works like this: The two companies share all printing, business, sales, and distribution operations, run two theoretically separate newsrooms, and at the end of the day split the profits. The Chron and the Examiner were run for years under a JOA, and it was terrible for readers: With no economic incentive to compete, both papers stagnated. But it can be the equivalent of a license to print money.

"Unlike some publishers who shun JOA relationships," Mutter notes, "Dean Singleton has embraced them and seems to be making them work in places like Denver and Detroit. Is the San Francisco Chronicle next on his list?"

Imagine what a near-complete monopoly of Bay Area dailies in the hands of a notorious cost-cutter would mean. For starters, we can count on more standardized, conservative politics (at least the Knight-Ridder papers opposed the war). Perhaps all reporting and editing would be consolidated into one newsroom, in San Francisco or San Jose. Like Clear Channel radio stations, many smaller papers might wind up with little or no staff, nobody to answer the phone, nobody to take local tips and cover local news … they’d be nothing but shells of once-thriving community newspapers. They would have abandoned the crucial local-watchdog role of a daily newspaper (and made life more difficult for the few remaining independents).

The fact that this is a possible, even likely, scenario is alarming. In short order, one company could control every major daily in the Bay Area (except the Examiner and the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat) fixing prices, sharing markets, pooling profits, and keeping ad rates artificially high and the quality of journalism abysmally low.

Have there been discussions around this? What is Hearst’s real interest here, and how does it jibe with Singleton’s dream of a massive regional "cluster"? Until we know the answers, the MediaNews-McClatchy deal should never go forward.

It’s almost too much to ask that the Bush administration, which loves big-business mergers, give it a thorough review. But the California attorney general has grounds to challenge it too.

AG Bill Lockyer completely ducked on the deal that merged the two largest chains in the alternative press, Village Voice Media and New Times. He can’t be allowed to duck this one: There must be a detailed, public investigation, and the newspaper chains must come clean and release the details of the deal. The two leading Democratic candidates for attorney general, Jerry Brown and Rocky Delgadillo, need to make this a top issue in the campaign. It should be an issue in the governor’s race, and every city and town that’s affected, including San Francisco, should pass a resolution against the merger. SFBG

PS Local arts and community organizations on the Peninsula are alarmed about the deal for another reason: Knight-Ridder contributes millions of dollars a year to those groups. Will Singleton continue that tradition?

Bay Area Congressional letter to DOJ re. KR sale antitrust concerns 

A dose of reality on immigration


EDITORIAL The massive immigrant rallies, marches, and work boycotts on May 1 may have been an inconvenience to some, and the sight of tens of thousands of undocumented workers demonstrating in the streets may have offended a few politicians, but that’s true with all great social movements. And there’s little doubt that this is a new, great social movement.

The point of the May Day actions was to demonstrate the economic importance of immigrants and to send a not so subtle message to Congress that punitive, regressive immigration "reforms" won’t be tolerated quietly. The legislators in Washington, DC, can debate the finer details of amnesties and guest-worker programs, and the activists can argue over political tactics, but there are a few key points that should never get lost.

Immigration can’t be addressed with fences, border patrols, and felony prosecutions. As long as economic conditions in places like Mexico and Central America (and political conditions in dozens of other places) are dismal, people will try to come to the United States and they will always find ways of getting here.

The overwhelming majority of those immigrants contribute mightily to the nation’s economy and to the fabric of society. The waves of immigration over the years have always made this a better country.

The laws that criminalize undocumented immigrants are cruel, sometimes deadly, and immensely expensive. They’re also a complete failure, and always will be.

The only way to really address this issue is to get beyond the rhetoric and face some facts:

The reason most immigrants come to the United States is economic necessity. If we want fewer people from Mexico crossing the border, then we can help them make a decent living where they are. Imagine what $277 billion (the amount the United States has spent to date on the war in Iraq) would do for economic development in neighboring countries.

Big corporations love "free trade” agreements, but in the United States those deals only allow money and goods, not people, to move freely. In Europe, people can move too but to make that possible, the wealthier nations of the European Union have poured billions of dollars into the less developed areas.

There’s no way to get rid of the 12 million people who are living illegally in the United States, and even talking about it is a terrible idea. Offering them all citizenship, today, would solve a whole lot more problems that it would create. People who don’t fear deportation can fight abusive landlords, take sick kids to clinics, join labor unions, vote, and refuse to accept economic, political, and social abuse.

And that’s better for everyone. SFBG

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Editor’s Note

The Healthy Saturdays folks were out leafleting in Golden Gate Park this weekend, on a stunningly beautiful Sunday, along with thousands of other people enjoying the car-free sunshine. The message on the handouts: Call the mayor (554-7111); the supervisors have approved a plan to at least try extending the car ban to Saturday, and now it’s in the mayor’s court.

Which will be interesting, as Steven T. Jones reports on page 19, because Gavin Newsom thinks of himself as an environmentalist who is pro-bicycle and propublic transportation but the people who were a big part of his political base from day one are upper-crust de Young Museum types who, for their own selfish reasons, don’t want the roads in the park closed.

De Young Museum baroness Dede Wilsey and Ken Garcia, the San Francisco Examiner‘s resident crank, are the chief architects of the argument that the Saturday road closure is a bad idea. They’re pushing this God-and-the-flag line "let the voters decide" and claiming that since a similar plan lost at the ballot once, only a public referendum would be adequate authority for a rather simple land-use decision. Put it to the voters, they say; that’s fair, right?

Well, I’m not here to dis American democracy or anything, but there’s a little secret I want to share: Most elections aren’t fair. Anytime the size of the electorate is larger than about 40,000 voters (a typical San Francisco supervisorial district), you can’t effectively communicate your message without a big chunk of money and the larger the jurisdiction, the more money it takes.

Consider California.

There are three major candidates for governor, and all of them are wealthy people. But only two are truly, obscenely, stinking rich, with wealth in the $100 millionplus range, and they are, right now, the odds-on favorites to make the November final in large part because of their abilities to put personal wealth into the race. In other words, if you want to run for governor of California, being rich garden-variety rich isn’t nearly enough.

The same goes for San Francisco, on a different sort of scale. If citywide elections were fair, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. didn’t have the ability to write a blank check every time an activist group tried to pass a public-power measure, San Francisco would have kicked out the private-power monopoly half a century ago. If citywide elections were fair, and Gavin Newsom didn’t have the ability to outspend Matt Gonzalez by a factor of about 6 to 1, the odds are at least even that Gonzalez would be mayor today.

That’s why Dede Wilsey and Ken Garcia, who both know better, are blowing some sort of smoke when they call for a "vote of the people."

But maybe we should call their bluff. How’s this for a deal:

The museum folks have plenty of money, so Wilsey can raise, say, $200,000. Then she can split it in half she gets $100,000, and the road-closure activists get $100,000. No outside, "independent" expenditures (they can control their side, and we can control ours), no tricks, no bullshit. Level playing field, fair election and let’s see who can walk more precincts and turn out more people on election day. That same model would work for all kinds of civic disputes.


PS: As an in-line skater with plenty of bruises to prove it, I have another suggestion: For even-more-healthy Saturdays, maybe they could resurface the roads. SFBG

No more bogus school budgets


OPINION Spring means budget season at the San Francisco Unified School District.

Under the state Education Code, the SFUSD is required to present its proposed budget to the public. But each year the published budget leaves out the actual amounts of money that the district spent on each item in the previous year. It doesn’t even include the past year’s budgeted amount.

The public only receives a wish list of the district’s proposed requested amounts for each budget item.

Recently, the SFUSD negotiated a new contract with its largest union, United Educators of San Francisco. The contract gives an 8.5 percent raise to the district’s hardworking teachers, paraprofessionals, and nurses. In the fall the mayor and his staff mediated a new contract with a 4 percent raise for the SFUSD’s second-largest union, SEIU Local 790. United Administrators of San Francisco also negotiated a new contract with the SFUSD in the early spring.

At the same time, both federal and state funding for education has decreased. The SFUSD’s enrollment has also declined over the last 30 years. So the San Francisco Board of Education closed four schools and two child care centers in 2005. Three more schools are scheduled to close in June, while another two elementary schools are scheduled to be "merged" with two other schools.

Last year it was revealed that a reserve fund for a new school of the arts had been used to meet the district’s budget shortfalls. That reserve fund is now being repaid by funds that the SFUSD gets from developer fees.

The district is projecting a deficit of $5.8 million for the next fiscal year and an even greater deficit in 2007 and 2008. The board will have to make difficult choices in order to balance the next year’s budget in these challenging times. It also must pass a budget that is accepted by its stakeholders parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, janitors, clerks, other key staff, and the community.

But that can only happen if the district brings parents and other stakeholders meaningfully into the budget process. People can only participate if they have useful information like how much the district has spent on budget items in the past as well as how much the district wants to spend on those items in the next fiscal year.

Other public school districts, like Fresno’s, have developed budgets that are easy to follow. The budged of the city and county of San Francisco allows its stakeholders to participate in the budget process by showing each item’s "actual money spent" and the previous year’s budget amount.

A transparent budget that everyone understands is the only way we as a community can hold the district accountable and build more public trust and support in our schools. SFBG

Kim Knox is an education activist who is running for San Francisco School Board in November 2006.

The SFUSD will be having a community budget workshop at Everett Middle School May 13.

The veto question


› steve@sfbg.com

There are bigger issues facing San Francisco than whether to close off part of Golden Gate Park to cars on Saturdays. But as political dilemmas go, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s impending choice of whether to sign or veto the Healthy Saturdays initiative presents him with a difficult call on a matter of great symbolic importance.

Newsom hasn’t taken a position yet, and City Hall sources say he’s actively trying to find a compromise position something that will most likely involve strict and quantifiable monitoring standards during the six-month study period, or perhaps a request that the closure be moved to the west side of the park, which supporters of the measure have resisted.

If possible, Newsom would like to avoid vetoing a measure beloved by environmentalists, bicyclists, and recreational park users. Newsom’s only other four vetoes have also shot down legislation prized by progressives: three rejected measures aimed at helping renters and preserving apartments, and one killed an ordinance limiting how much parking can be built along with downtown housing units.

But the clock is running on a JFK Drive closure slated to begin May 25, and Newsom is unlikely to please everyone, given the polarization and strong visceral reactions to the issue. The debate has so far played out as a class conflict, albeit one that has both sides flinging the epithet of "elitism" at each other.

The opposition campaign waged by representatives of the park’s cultural institutions (including many prominent and wealthy political donors) and some park neighbors say closure supporters are trying to shut others out from the park, hurt the museums, and deny the will of voters. Supporters say this about making a portion of the city’s premier park safe and inviting on weekends, rather than allowing it to be used as a busy thoroughfare and parking lot.

The rhetoric on both sides has often been heated, but supporters have for the most part stuck to the facts, while the opposition campaign has been marred by misrepresentations (see "Dede Wilsey’s Whoppers," 4/19/06).

Some of the inaccurate statements most notably that voters have repeatedly rejected closure have taken on the air of truth as they were repeated by mayoral staffers, Sups. Fiona Ma and Bevan Dufty, and in two overheated columns by the San Francisco Examiner‘s Ken Garcia that were riddled with inaccuracies and unsupported statements. (Garcia did not answer an e-mail from the Guardian seeking comment on his distortions.)

During the Board of Supervisors’ April 25 hearing on the matter, the main question was whether a measure that already had six cosponsors would garner the eight votes that would be needed to override a mayoral veto.

"On two different occasions, voters rejected Saturday closure," was how Supervisor Ma explained her opposition, reading from a prepared statement. Supervisor Dufty, who voted no, also said he was swayed by the election argument: "This has come before the voters, and that’s what I’d like to see happen [again]."

Actually, the question was put before voters just once, in November 2000. Just over 45 percent of voters wanted immediate Saturday closure (Measure F), while about 37 percent of voters approved of a rival measure sponsored by museum patrons (Measure G) that would have postponed closure until after the garage was completed.

Several supervisors assailed the election argument that Garcia had circulated so vociferously, including one Healthy Saturdays opponent, Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who said neither the voter argument nor the argument that the de Young Museum would be hurt were valid.

Instead, Elsbernd said he was swayed by the concerns of park neighbors that the existing Sunday closure creates traffic problems in their neighborhoods. So he proposes that the Saturday closure happen on the west side of the park, rather than the east.

"Why can’t we spread out these impacts?" Elsbernd said. "It’s a simple compromise that will alleviate a lot of concerns."

Supporters of the closure have resisted that proposal, arguing that the eastern portion has most of the commercial vendors, the flattest and best-quality roads for kids just learning to ride bikes, the warmest weather, and is best served by the new 800-spot parking garage, which hasn’t ever been full since it opened earlier this year.

And at this point, starting over with an alternative proposal would greatly delay the closure and ensure that the trial period doesn’t generate a full summer’s worth of data.

"The time is right. We have the garage open, and it’s accessible," said Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who sponsored Healthy Saturdays after opposing it two years ago on the grounds that the garage wasn’t yet open. He and other supporters later told us that they’re open to considering any monitoring standards that Newsom may propose.

In the end, the measure was approved on a 74 vote, with Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier (who didn’t speak about her reasons) joining Ma, Dufty, and Elsbernd in opposition.

"The table is set for the possibility that the mayor will veto this legislation," Sup. Gerardo Sandoval said at the hearing.

Afterward, Newsom spokesperson Peter Ragone said the mayor would make a decision on whether to veto in the next week or so. In the meantime, Ragone told reporters: "The mayor is going to continue to work with both sides on the issue to maintain a dialogue with the hope that we can reach a place where the right thing can be done."  SFBG

After the Murmur


› news@sfbg.com

One could be forgiven for staring. Oakland’s lower Telegraph Avenue on a wet, cold, windy Friday night is not a location renowned for its street parties, particularly those involving dozens of young, white hipsters happily mingling with an equal number of young African Americans, both watching an impromptu rap show.

But a street party is precisely what was happening outside the Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) Gallery, at Telegraph and 23rd Street, that night. Welcome to Art Murmur, Oakland’s very own art walk on the first Friday of every month. What started in January as an eight-gallery venture has, in a mere four months, blossomed. A dozen Oakland galleries now participate, exhibiting everything from installations featuring massively oversized pill bottles and pillboxes to traditional oil portraitures and, in the case of the Boontling Gallery, unnerving little sculptures that co-owner Mike Simpson described as "whimsical takes on decapitation."

"We want to improve the art scene in the East Bay so that people will call Oakland an artistic force to be reckoned with," the lanky Simpson told the Guardian. "Oakland has a lot of potential, and I have a lot of pride in the city…. A lot of artists who show in San Francisco are from Oakland. Why not represent where they are from?"

But jump-starting an artist-driven revival of lower Telegraph also has its potential hazards, prime among them gentrification. As San Franciscans know all too well, such revitalization carries the danger that the community will be made safe for real estate agents, developers, and urban professionals who quickly eliminate less desirable residents, i.e., the folks who were there first and the new artists’ community.

When asked about the issue, Sydney Silverstein of the RPS Collective knowingly said, "Oh, you mean artists laying the groundwork for gentrification?"

Setting the gentrification question aside for a moment, something new and very exciting is happening along Telegraph Avenue, come rain or shine.

"We want to get people to buy art that have never bought art before," nattily attired Art Murmur cofounder Theo Auer said as he sipped free wine. It is not just the young and trendy who show up more than one gray-haired art aficionado was spotted making purchases at Boontling.

How did it all start? According to Auer, the midwife was beer. "It was after a show, and we asked each other, ‘Why doesn’t Oakland have an art walk?’ ‘How hard can it be?’" The result was a meeting last year at which RPS, Mama Buzz Café, Ego Park, 21 Grand, 33 Grand, Auto Gallery, Boontling, and the Front Gallery all chipped in money for logistics, postcards, an www.oaklandartmurmur.com Web site, and a newspaper ad.

"It’s a tight community," said Tracy Timmins, the pale-blue-eyed and enthusiastic co-owner of Auto Gallery. "We are all very supportive of each other." And that support also comes from her landlord, who is only too happy to have a group of impoverished students who want to improve the neighborhood with art.

This, of course, is what raises the specter of gentrification. History shows that the shock troops of gentrification a Starbucks on every corner, a yuppie in every Beamer are the artists, freaks, punks, and queers who move into marginal areas. They happily pay low rent and live in iffy areas so they can create alternative communities. But that success can sow the seeds of a community’s destruction.

What makes the Art Murmurers different from alternative communities of the past is they are well aware of how they can be a mixed blessing for neighborhoods. The night before the April Art Murmur, Murmurers held a five-hour meeting to revisit their founding principles, which include a commitment to a sustainable neighborhood as a way to prevent yuppification.

"We are trying not to alienate the current residents," Silverstein said, while noting the harsh reality of gentrification. "If this neighborhood goes to hell and becomes another Emeryville, I don’t think you can do anything about it."

Silverstein said RPS is proactively linking to, and becoming part of, the community by offering sewing classes, art classes, a community space for events, and by forging a partnership with a local high school so the collective is not just an invasive bohemian Borg.

Silverstein told us she sees more new faces at classes offered by the gallery, a statement backed by the youths of color running in and out of the gallery space. Timmins too sees a role for the galleries to provide a place for art and education for local kids, because they "are not getting it in school."

Other galleries are less clear on the concept of community and gentrification. Esteban Sabar, owner of the upscale Esteban Sabar Gallery, moved from the Castro to affordable Oakland with a grant from the city of Oakland.

"This is affordable for me," Sabar said. "It will take awhile for gentrification to happen. By putting a gallery here I will help artists and the community. I will not let anyone kick me out." But he failed to address what might happen to the poorer local residents already living there if gentrification heats up.

Perhaps Jen Loy, co-owner of Mama Buzz Café, has the most realistic take on the issue. Lower Telegraph isn’t like areas that used to have vibrant communities until they were decimated by dot-commers. She said there were few people living in the area.

"The more people, the better," Loy said. "People [who have been] living here 10 or 15 years are saying, ‘Thank you, it is great to have you here.’" Loy says businesses like a local market, a pizzeria, and the bar Cabel’s Reef all benefit from an influx of capital.

So the question is, as always, who benefits? If an area is revitalized, tax revenues go up, more people move in, and a more vibrant area ensues, but where do the artists and people who were there first go? Will they be able to create a community strong enough to resist displacement?

Or will they do what Tracy Timmins of Auto Gallery has already had to do: "As far as being pushed out, it happens," she says. "If that happens, I start again somewhere else." SFBG

Last call?


› news@sfbg.com

Concerns about public drinking in North Beach and stifled public debate are conspiring to cripple a pair of popular outdoor festivals, possibly creating a troubling precedent for other events at the start of San Francisco’s festival and street fair season.

"We’ll have to cancel this year’s festival," Robbie Kowal, who runs the North Beach Jazz Festival, said of the possibility of not getting his alcohol permit. "Seventy-five percent of our funding comes from the sale of alcohol."

The Recreation and Park Commission’s Operations Committee is set to review the jazz festival’s permit May 3, and if sentiments among the three mayor-appointed commissioners haven’t changed, they might not allow Kowal and his partners, John Miles and Alistair Monroe, to set up bars and serve drinks to local jazz fans in Washington Square Park, as they’ve been doing without challenge for the past 12 years.

"We’ve never even had a hearing to get a permit before," Kowal said. "We’ve had no arrests and no [California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control] violations. We’re being punished when we haven’t done anything wrong. We’re caught up in this whole North Beach Festival situation."

Kowal was referring to a dispute involving the neighborhood’s other popular street fair, the North Beach Festival, a 52-year street fair that had its permission to sell alcohol in the park yanked this year. The festival is hosted by the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, whose director, Marsha Garland, is a political adversary of the area’s supervisor, Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin.

The problem started when parks general manager Yomi Agunbiade determined that a long-standing ban on alcohol in city parks should also apply during festivals. Two out of three members of the Rec and Park Commission’s Operations Committee agreed with that ruling during an April 5 meeting, and it became official policy.

Then, as the North Beach Festival permit went to the full commission for approval April 20, the words "permission to serve beer and wine" disappeared from the agenda item. Those words had appeared on an earlier version of the agenda, allowing the commission to grant what Garland had received with every permit for the last 20 years. The agenda change meant the commission couldn’t even discuss the alcohol issue, let allow issue a permit that allowed it.

Commissioner Jim Lazarus questioned a representative of the City Attorney’s Office about it and was told that the full commission couldn’t hear the policy if the general manager and Operations Committee were in agreement.

"I was taken aback by the fact that the full request of the applicant to serve beer and wine was not on the calendar," Lazarus told us. "I’ve been on the commission for three and a half years, and I’ve never seen that happen before for this kind of issue."

This story is still unfolding, but observers are openly wondering whether this is an isolated case of political sabotage or whether this battle over beer could hurt the summer festival season.

Wine and beer sales have always played a critical role in the financial viability of many of the city’s summer festivals. In a city that’s never been afraid of a liberal pour, many are beginning to wonder if the good times are over, and if so, why?

"The Rec and Park meeting was so disheartening, and if it’s used as a precedent in any way, it will harm other events. If the oldest street fair in this city can be chipped away at like that, who’s next?" said Lindsey Jones, executive director of SF Pride, the largest LGBT festival in the country.

Some North Beach residents think this Rec and Park procedural shell game is punishment for Garland and her organization’s opposition to Peskin, whom they blame for the change.

"Aaron Peskin would like to take Marsha Garland’s livelihood away," said Richard Hanlin, a landlord and 30-year resident of North Beach who filed a complaint over the incident with the Ethics Commission.

"They want to railroad Marsha," said Lynn Jefferson, president of the civic group North Beach Neighbors. "They want to see her out of business. If she doesn’t have those alcohol sales, she’ll personally go bankrupt."

At the heart of the Garland-Peskin beef is a 2003 battle over a lot at 701 Lombard St. known as "the Triangle," which the owner wanted to develop but which the Telegraph Hill Dwellers wanted for a park after they found a deed restriction indicating it should be considered for open space. Peskin agreed with the group he once led and had the city seize the land by eminent domain, drawing the wrath of Garland and others who saw it as an abuse of government power.

Peskin told the Guardian that it’s true he doesn’t care for Garland, but that he did nothing improper to influence the commission’s decision or agenda. However, he added that he’s made no secret of his opposition to fencing off much of the park to create a beer garden and that he’s made that point to Rec and Park every year since the festival’s beer garden started taking over the park in 2003.

“Just let the people use Washington Square Park. It’s the commons of North Beach,” Peskin said. “The park should be open to people of all ages 365 days a year. That’s just how I feel.”

Yet Peskin said that neither the North Beach Jazz Festival, which doesn’t segregate people by age, nor festivals that use less neighborhood-centered parks, like the Civic Center and Golden Gate Park, should be held to the same standard. In fact, he plans to speak out in favor of the jazz festival’s right to sell alcohol during the May 3 meeting.

Access became the buzzword this year, in response to last year’s decision by the San Francisco Police Department to gate two-thirds of the park off as a beer garden, effectively prohibiting many underage festivalgoers from actually entering a large part of the park. The section near the playground remained ungated, but many families were disillusioned by the penning of the party.

Enter the North Beach Merchants Association, a two-year-old rival of the Chamber of Commerce with stated concerns about booze. President Anthony Gantner learned that the park code banned alcohol from being served in any of the parks listed in Section 4.10, which includes Washington Square as well as nearly every other greenway in the city, unless by permission of the Recreation and Park Commission, which should only be granted as long as it "does not interfere with the public’s use and enjoyment of the park."

Gantner and Peskin both argue that the beer garden does interfere with the right of those under 21 to use the park. "The Chamber is basically doing a fair, and that’s it," Gantner said. "A lot of its members are bars, and they run a very large fair with beer gardens that result in incidents on the streets for merchants."

Though Garland contends that the festival is an economic stimulator, resulting in an 80 percent increase in sales for local businesses, Gantner claims that a number of businesses don’t benefit from the increased foot traffic. He associates alcohol with the congruent crime issues that crop up when the clubs let out on Broadway, and thinks that selling beer and wine in the park only accelerates problems in the streets after the festival ends at 6 p.m.

Gantner has the ear of local police, who are understaffed by 20 percent and looking for any way to lower costs by deploying fewer cops. "It used to be we could police these events with full staff and overtime, but now we’re trying to police them with less resources, and the events themselves are growing," Central Station Capt. James Dudley said.

He’s also concerned about the party after the party. The police average five alcohol-related arrests on a typical Friday night in North Beach, most after the bars close. But those numbers don’t change much during festival weekend, leading many to question the logic behind banning sales of alcohol in the park. Besides, if sales were banned, many festivalgoers would simply sneak it in. Even one police officer, who didn’t want to be named, told us, "If I went to sit in that park to listen to music and couldn’t buy beer, I’d probably try pretty hard to sneak some in."

At the April 20 Rec and Park meeting, Garland presented alternative solutions and site plans for selling beer and wine, which represents $66,000 worth of income the festival can’t afford to lose. Beyond her openness to negotiations, Rec and Park heard overwhelming support for the festival in the form of petitions and comments from 30 neighbors and business owners who spoke during the general public comment portion of the meeting.

Father John Malloy of the Saints Peter and Paul Church, which is adjacent to the park, spoke in support of Garland’s request. "I think I have the most weddings and the most funerals in the city," he said. "I’m praying that we don’t have a funeral for the North Beach Festival. If anyone should be against alcohol, it should be the priest of a church."

So who are the teetotalers? Testimony included 10 complaints from members of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Friends of Washington Square, and the North Beach Merchants Association, as well as Gantner and neighborhood activist Mark Bruno, who came down from Peskin’s office, where he was watching the hearing, to testify.

Commissioner Megan Levitan said, "If anyone knows me, they know I like my wine," before going on to explain that she was born in North Beach and even used to serve beer at O’Reilly’s Beer and Oyster Festival. However, she said, she’s a mother now, and parks are important to her.

"It does change a park when alcohol is there," she said. "I do not believe we should serve alcohol in the park."

Will that still be her stance May 3 when the North Beach Jazz Festival requests its permit? The jazz fest has never had beer gardens, and the organizers don’t want them. Instead, they set up minibars throughout the park, which remains ungated, allowing complete access for all ages.

Although there is hired security and local police on hand, by and large people are responsible for themselves. The organizers say it’s just like going to a restaurant for a meal and a drink, except in this case it’s outside, with a stage and free live music.

Though Kowal remains optimistic, he’s rallying as much support as possible, even turning the May 3 meeting into an event itself on his Web site (www.sunsettickets.com). His partners, Monroe and Miles, were concerned enough to swing by City Hall to see Peskin, who agreed to testify and help the Jazz Festival retain the right to sell booze.

"The first person to write a check to start this festival was Mayor Willie Brown," Kowal said. "Peskin has always been a big supporter of the festival, which is why we think it will all work out."

The festival is a labor of love for the three organizers, who barely break even to put the event on; after expenses are covered, any additional profit from the sale of alcohol is donated to Conservation Value, a nonprofit organization that aids consumers in making smart purchases.

"We were the first fair to use Washington Square Park," Monroe, the founding father of the jazz festival, said. "We’re standing up for the right to access the park. It’s not about ‘he said, she said’ or who did what to whom. It’s about hearing free live music."

So now comes the moment when we find out whether this is about alcohol, parks, or simply politics, and whether future street fairs could feel the pinch of renewed temperance. If the jazz festival gets to sell booze, Garland’s supporters argue, that will represent a bias against the North Beach Festival.

The commission will hear Garland’s appeal at the end of May, just two weeks before the festival begins. With contracts already signed and schedules set, the stakes are high. Owing to lack of funds, Garland has already canceled the poetry, street chalk art, and family circus components of the fair. She did receive an e-mail from Levitan promising a personal donation to put toward the street chalk art competition. Even so, she’s preparing for a funeral.

And if alcohol is prohibited at the jazz festival, it could send out a ripple of concern among street fair promoters and lovers around the city. To be a part of the decision, stop by the meeting and have a say. SFBG

PS This weekend’s How Weird Street Faire, on May 7, centered at Howard and 12th Streets, will have beer gardens in addition to seven stages of music and performances. But organizers warn that it could be the last festival because the SFPD is now demanding $14,000, a 275 percent increase from the police fees organizers paid last year.

operations committee hearing

May 3, 2 p.m.

City Hall, Room 416

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF

(415) 831-2750


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