Volume 41 Number 48

August 29 – September 4, 2007

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Test the Lennar site


EDITORIAL A committee of the San Francisco school board is discussing some sort of voluntary program to test for toxic exposure kids who attend facilities near Lennar Corp.’s construction project at Hunters Point. That’s set off a modest fury in the Department of Public Health, which insists there’s no threat to the public and no reason to test anyone. And the school district almost certainly doesn’t have the money to conduct a testing program for hundreds of students.

But the city should never have allowed this situation to develop to this point. And if there is real concern in the community (which there is) and any credible evidence that asbestos might be present in the air (which there is), then the Department of Public Health ought to do the only prudent thing and order a series of air and ground tests in the immediate vicinity of the Lennar site.

Lennar, as we’ve reported (see "The Corporation That Ate San Francisco," 3/14/07), is running a massive Redevelopment Agency construction project on part of the old Hunters Point Shipyard. The construction stirs up a lot of dust, and there’s naturally occurring asbestos in the rock below. There may be other forms of toxic material in the dirt too, left by the military, which was never terribly good about keeping its bases clean.

The company was supposed to do air monitoring near the site; state law requires stringent tests whenever construction that could stir up asbestos takes place near an area where children congregate, and there are schools and rec centers right near the Lennar project. But the subcontractor handling the tests bungled them, so for 13 months there was no data on air quality at all.

The Muhammad University of Islam, a private school that adjoins the site, has been demanding better monitoring and asking for students to be relocated if the site isn’t safe. Some of the tactics of school representatives have been questionable: Department of Public Health workers going door to door in the neighborhood report that school supporters followed and intimidated them. And since there’s naturally occurring asbestos in rock, and the substance is used in products like car brakes, it’s entirely possible that there’s some presence of the deadly fibers in the air anyway, unrelated to anything Lennar may have done wrong. The Department of Public Health wants to avoid a needless panic.

But that doesn’t change the basic point: if there’s toxic dust in the air, and kids are being exposed, the public needs to know about it.

There is no safe level for asbestos exposure. The stuff can linger in the ground for years, and if it’s even slightly stirred up, it gets into the air, and breathing it is directly linked to fatal lung disease. It wouldn’t be that hard for a city team to take a few samples from the soil around the construction site; if the stuff is pretty thick on the ground, then kids clearly shouldn’t be playing there, and if the levels are even minor, then parents ought to be aware.

The supervisors failed on a 6–<\d>5 vote to approve a measure that would have called on Lennar to shut down construction, but they can certainly direct the Department of Public Health to conduct some basic safety tests — and make the results public.<\!s>*

Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com

You’d think that this was a Republican town, with the way the local news media have been bashing not only the left but also some of the better, more effective, and more functional progressive institutions in San Francisco. I wouldn’t waste my time with this stuff, but there are real issues here.

I woke up Aug. 21 to a San Francisco Chronicle headline proclaiming "Anti-gentrification Forces Stymie Housing Development." The piece, by Robert Selna, opened with the sad, sad tale of a poor auto shop owner who wants to "build eight apartments and condominiums on an empty lot next to his Mission District auto shop and rent some of the apartments to his mechanics."

Well, it turns out that the evil Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition is fighting that plan, Selna reported, "insisting that [the] project not go forward until the city evaluates how new development on the city’s east side will affect industrial land, jobs, and housing."

The message: a little entrepreneur is getting hosed by a big, bad "not in my backyard" group that wants to stop new housing. The implication (and this is just the latest example of this stunning lie): the left in San Francisco is against building housing.

Well, for starters, MAC is playing only a modest sideline role in fighting the 736 Valencia project, a five-story structure that is designated legally for condos and includes no affordable housing. The real opposition is a group called Valencia Neighbors for Community Development. The issue, Valencia neighborhood activist Julie Ledbetter said, is that as many as nine new market-rate housing projects are in the pipeline for a short stretch of Valencia, and they shouldn’t be approved one by one without any regard for the cumulative impact.

MAC activist Eric Quezada told me that the organization has indeed taken the position that the city shouldn’t go forward with any more market-rate housing projects until it’s completed a legally mandated environmental study of the cumulative impacts of high-end condos on displacement, blue-collar jobs, and overall land use.

But that doesn’t mean MAC is against housing.

In fact — and this is the killer here — MAC emerged in the dot-com era almost entirely out of the nonprofit housing community. Some of its earliest and most prominent members were (gasp) housing developers. Just for the record, nonprofits have built something like 25,000 low- and moderate-income housing units in this city in the past 25 years. That is housing the city needs, housing that meets the city’s own clearly stated goals. And the progressives, people like the MAC members, are essentially the only ones who have built any affordable housing in the city at all.

Selna told me that he didn’t write the headline and "isn’t taking sides in this." I realize it’s not all his fault that he’s stumbled into a political hornet’s nest — but he has.

Then in the Aug. 22 SF Weekly, Matt Smith wrote that the left is turning this city into nothing but a tourist trap by promoting "a price-goosing apartment shortage of 30,000 to 70,000 units." That’s what, 140 giant new towers, or 7,000 10-unit buildings … that will go where? And what if (as is likely) rents still don’t come down? (Smith had no comment when I called him.)

And now C.W. Nevius of the Chronicle wants to shut down the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center so that homeless people won’t have any money … and will what — panhandle more aggressively? Break into cars? Makes perfect sense to me.

Harm reduction in the park


EDITORIAL Anyone with any sense knows that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempts to clear homeless people out of Golden Gate Park won’t work. It’s been tried before, under a series of mayors, and in the end, as long as there’s no suitable housing available, the park will have long-term residents. You can sweep them out one day and pack the park with cops the next, but eventually the extra attention will die down and the homeless will be back.

But in the meantime, as J.B. Powell reports in this issue, the backlash from the crackdown is hitting facilities like the needle-exchange service in the Haight. And that’s a big problem.

The mayor can play cat-and-mouse games with the homeless all he wants, but needle exchange is a crucial public health issue. Dirty needles spread AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases; this is literally about life and death, and the medical evidence is clear that needle-exchange programs help. They also take a whole lot of dirty needles off the streets (and out of the park): drug users not only obtain clean syringes at the exchange, they also drop off their used ones.

Despite the best efforts of the needle-exchange programs, however, there are going to be users who simply inject, then look for a place to toss their rig. That’s why Newsom ought to tell the Recreation and Park Department to look seriously at putting safe, secure disposal facilities in or around Golden Gate Park.

This isn’t a radical idea — Santa Cruz, New York, Baltimore, Vancouver, and many other cities provide needle-disposal boxes in areas with high drug use. That keeps a lot of the needles from being discarded in areas where people and animals walk and play — another serious public health concern.

But Newsom and the folks at Rec and Park refuse to consider the idea — because they don’t think it would be politically popular. That’s a terrible way to approach a health crisis.

Yes, some park neighbors would complain about the presence of canisters designed to hold hazardous medical waste. And it’s possible, of course, that vandals could attack the sites and spread dangerous needles all over. But those downsides are relatively modest compared to what we’re facing right now: dirty needles are already being discarded in the park. And everyone, including city gardeners and maintenance workers, is at risk from an accidental needle stick.

The city has an official "harm-reduction" policy in place; since it’s not possible to stop all drug use, the city’s supposed to do whatever possible to prevent contagion and save lives. Secure needle-disposal facilities in and around Golden Gate Park won’t solve every drug-related social problem, but they could help save a few lives. And that makes the idea eminently worthy, whatever the political costs.<\!s>*

Green City: Signs of asbestos


› sarah@sfbg.com

A new front has opened up in the fight for environmental justice in the asbestos-dusted Bayview–Hunters Point community, this time featuring a Nation of Islam–affiliated nonprofit that’s using Proposition 65 — California’s "right to know" law — to force Lennar Corp. to take responsibility for what activists say is a failure to provide clear and reasonable warning that thousands of Californians are being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis in Bayview–Hunters Point.

It’s a creative use of the 21-year-old law to promote environmental justice.

On Aug. 2, the Center for Self-Improvement and Community Development, which runs the Muhammad University of Islam school next to the Parcel A work site, filed suit individually, and on behalf of the public, against Lennar Corp., Lennar Homes of California, Lennar Communities, Lennar BVHP, Lennar Associates Management, and Lennar’s subcontractor, Gordon N. Ball.

At issue is the alleged failure of Lennar and its subcontractor to notify the surrounding community of exposures to asbestos dust during the 16 months that an entire hilltop has been graded on Parcel A of the Hunters Point Shipyard in preparation for developing a 1,500-unit condominium complex.

The suit contends that Lennar and Ball engaged in construction site activities, including grading, scraping, and excavation of materials containing asbestos as well as storage and transportation of materials off site, and continues to engage in these activities without first providing "the adjacent community and persons working at the site with toxic health hazard warnings under California’s ‘right to know’ law."

Enacted in 1986, Prop. 65 was intended to protect California citizens and the state’s drinking water sources "from hazardous chemicals and to inform [citizens] about exposure to any such chemicals." As such, it requires the state to maintain lists of hazardous chemicals and requires businesses to provide a "clear and reasonable warning" before exposing individuals to any of these listed chemicals.

But though asbestos has been listed as a carcinogen since 1987 and has been subject to Prop. 65’s warning requirements since 1988, Minister Christopher Muhammad, who heads the school, claims he first learned that asbestos was in Lennar’s Parcel A construction dust six months after grading began in 2006 —and two months after Lennar admitted to the city that its air monitoring equipment hadn’t been working.

"I did not know that the dust contained asbestos until a young worker, Christopher Carpenter, blew the whistle in October 2006, the same day he got fired from the site after asking the crew to stop digging on account of the dust being too heavy," Muhammad told the Guardian. He recalled how Carpenter visited the school, worried it hadn’t been notified after he saw children playing right next to Lennar’s site.

"The dust clouds were so thick during the summer of 2006, they were like minitornadoes on the hill, which is surrounded by water, so the wind swirls upwards," Muhammad said. He noted that the baseball courts, classroom windows, and jungle gym are 10 feet from a chain link fence that is the only thing separating Lennar’s site from the school, and noted that a Boys and Girls Club, a public housing project, and many residences lie in close proximity to Parcel A, whose dust was seen drifting across the entire neighborhood.

There’s a strong case here: there’s no doubt that the construction project was generating asbestos dust — and still may be. The suit seeks to prohibit Lennar and Ball from engaging in construction activities or any other work at the site "without first providing clear and reasonable warnings to each exposed person residing, working, or visiting the adjacent community and to workers at the site regarding asbestos exposures."

Enforcing Prop. 65 is the responsibility of the state attorney general, the local district attorney, or the city attorney, but as attorney Andrew Packard told us, the law also allows private entities to sue.

Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said the office is "keeping an eye on the situation, including this private effort, and would take it very seriously if a determination is made that a case of action exists in favor of the city."

Comments, ideas, and submissions for Green City, the Guardian‘s weekly environmental column, can be sent to news@sfbg.com.

Sticking point


› news@sfbg.com

The Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA) has quietly operated a drop-in center and needle exchange program in the Haight for the last 10 years. Until last month, very few people besides their clients even knew they existed.

Then the San Francisco Chronicle ran a series of overheated articles about used syringes littering Golden Gate Park. One of the pieces singled out HYA for handing out drug needles "by the double handful."

But the HYA and similar groups have long urged city leaders to deal with needle waste, urging them to install the type of needle collection receptacles used in other cities that share San Francisco’s official "harm reduction" approach to drug use. "We’ve been trying to get disposal boxes [for syringes] into the park for over a year and a half," HYA executive director Mary Howe said.

Yet Mayor Gavin Newsom and his administration have ignored that advice — apparently concerned about its political implications — and have instead ordered police and outreach workers to crack down on the homeless.

"Since the [Chronicle] articles, a few people have decided to stroll in off the street and tell us what they think of us," Howe told the Guardian. "Clearly, they want to think that the syringe problem is on me and on the needle exchange."

But Howe and other public health experts say San Francisco’s 15-year-old needle-swap program has not only dramatically contained HIV, Hepatitis C, and other deadly diseases among IV drug users, it also has actually reduced the number of cast-off needles in public spaces.

Santa Cruz, New York, Baltimore, Vancouver, and many other cities feature disposal boxes in drug hot spots. New York State Department of Health spokesperson Claire Pospisil told us her agency has more than 80 such receptacles around the state. While Newsom has borrowed get-tough programs like community court (for quality-of-life offenses generally committed by the homeless) and some aspects of his Care Not Cash plan from New York, his administration nixed requests to put the boxes in.

Instead, shortly after the first Chronicle articles appeared in late July, the city launched another crackdown on people sleeping in the park, as other mayors before him have done during election years. But several public health and law enforcement professionals told us the raids will never rid the park of addicts looking for a safe place to fix — or the occasional used needle that they leave behind.

"It’s one thing to sweep the park and displace an entire community if you have someplace to put them," Howe argued. "But they don’t have any place to put them."

Howe said her attempts to have syringe containers placed in the park are consistent with the San Francisco Health Commission’s seven-year-old "harm-reduction" mandate, which calls on city health workers and city-funded contractors like needle-exchange programs to minimize, as much as possible, the health dangers associated with drug abuse. Used needles, Howe contends, count as one of these dangers.

But Newsom spokesperson Nathan Ballard confirmed by e-mail that the administration has considered and rejected the idea for now. "The mayor is not eager to put such boxes in the park," Ballard wrote. He added that Newsom has asked the Health Department to consider installing "receptacles … in the right places," but when we asked him in a follow-up e-mail where such "right places" might be, he did not respond.

Rose Dennis at the Recreation and Park Department said that, in the past, the department "floated the idea" of disposal boxes at public meetings. But when it became clear that the containers would not be politically popular, the department quickly gave up on them. "People were really, profoundly opposed to it … and we just didn’t have the confidence that we weren’t going to be vilified for it," Dennis said. "We’re not just going to politically put our asses out there just because someone has an idea."

Several sources in the public health profession lamented this kind of political ass-covering. Dr. Alex Kral, a noted San Francisco epidemiologist, told us, "It’s not that we don’t have solutions to these problems. We have solutions. The problem is the politics…. If you take the politics out of it, we should have syringe disposal boxes in the park and wherever [IV drug users] congregate. At the very least we should have them at the edges of the park."

Even C.W. Nevius, the Chronicle columnist who stirred up the syringe controversy in the first place, supports Howe’s disposal box proposal. "What’s the downside of putting these boxes in?" he told us. "People might think that boxes would somehow encourage people to use drugs in the park, but the reason why [drug users] stay there would not be because there are these boxes."

Nevius added that Newsom called him after his columns came out and "yelled at me for 45 minutes…. He was very upset with the stories and the way they showed what’s happening."

Ballard touted the city’s aggressive new actions to clean up Golden Gate Park. He said that, in addition to the recent raids on homeless encampments, 13 new Rec and Park patrol officers will be dispatched to the park within a month, and "we’re adding additional HOT [homeless outreach] teams to connect more homeless people to the services they need."

Lt. Mary Stasko at the San Francisco Police Department’s Park Station explained how social workers in the HOT teams interact with park squatters during the early morning operations. "The outreach teams go with the police officers and the clean-up crews, and they tell people, ‘We can put you in a bed tonight, we can give you a hot meal right now if you come with us.’

But Stasko was doubtful that sweeps alone will stop homeless drug users from returning to the park. City shelters do not permit substance use, she reasoned, meaning anyone who wants to accept the HOT teams’ offers must choose immediate abstinence. "For the people who are interested in quitting, [the city’s new outreach efforts] are working like a charm. But then you have the hard-core people who don’t want to stop using. They’re the ones who end up coming back. Those are the types that have been in the park since 1967."

Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Evan Wood cited San Francisco’s "high-threshold," abstinence-only approach to services as a major factor in Golden Gate Park’s chronic cycle of homelessness and substance abuse. He has been involved with implementing Vancouver’s successful "safe injection site," where people can safely shoot up and dispose of their needles. Similar facilities are already widespread in Europe.

"Trying to simply eliminate these behaviors does not work," Wood went on. "You have to meet these people on their turf."

Too many golf courses


OPINION The future of San Francisco’s public golf courses affects you even if you don’t play golf.

San Francisco’s seven public golf courses cover more than 700 acres of parkland, or 20 percent of our public open space. That’s three times the acreage in Chicago, a city five times larger with four times the population. Furthermore, San Francisco’s golf courses lose more than $1 million annually.

In a 2004 city-funded survey, San Franciscans preferred more hiking trails, community gardens, skate parks, playgrounds, off-leash dog areas, bike trails, and baseball diamonds. Golf ranked 16th out of 19 on a list of recreational priorities. If the city is serious about keeping families and children in San Francisco, we must prioritize the recreational uses preferred by our diverse community.

With the exception of Harding Park, San Francisco’s public golf courses operate at only 40 percent capacity. Golf courses effectively remain unused half the time. There is clearly an oversupply of courses, while demand continues to wane. We can convert this underutilized asset to greater use and still meet demand for golf at all ability levels.

Pleasanton recently hosted a soccer tournament. A friend noted that her hotel was filled with players and families. Our local economy would benefit by adding adequate acreage to our mere 25 acres of soccer fields to host similar family-friendly tournaments. Golfers get 700 subsidized acres, while soccer moms and dads get 25?

Recreation and Park Department studies indicate the city accommodates fewer than 50 percent of soccer teams with only one game and one practice per week. What about the other teams? Rec and Park recommended 35 more soccer fields to meet demand.

One of the city’s courses, Sharp Park, is a prime candidate for conversion to restore its wetland ecosystem, home to the endangered red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake, while adding hiking trails and preserving golf play.

Public pressure from a broad coalition of park users to stop privatization of our public courses helped force Rec and Park to analyze conversion of some — not all — golf courses to other recreational uses. The city should compare the costs of conversion to the estimated $64 million needed to upgrade existing golf courses.

No one suggests closing all of San Francisco’s public golf courses or denying people access to them. However, we can likely meet current golf demand with two or three fewer courses.

Demand more equitable use of our open space by e-mailing recpark.commission@sfgov.org and board.of.supervisors@sfgov.org. Indicate you want the study funded by the Board of Supervisors to begin immediately.

Rick Galbreath, Jill Lounsbury, Dan Nguyen-Tan, Sally Stephens, and Isabel Wade

Rick Galbreath sits on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco chapter. Jill Lounsbury is manager of the Golden Gate Women’s Soccer League. Dan Nguyen-Tan works with the Coalition for Equitable Use of Open Space. Sally Stephens is a member of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group. Isabel Wade is executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council.

The death of Polk Street


› news@sfbg.com

Click here to read about the Polk’s long, queer history

Kelly Michaels was following the San Francisco dream when she escaped her small Alabama hometown at 17 and hitchhiked westward. It was 1989.

"I had stars in my eyes," Michaels told the Guardian, sitting on the floor of her friend’s small single-room occupancy Tenderloin apartment, hints of a Southern drawl now paired with Tammy Faye mascara and bleached-blonde hair. "When you’re 16 or 17 and have dreams of being famous, you come to California — and you probably end up on Polk Street in drag."

Michaels arrived on Polk with little more than blue jeans, a bra, and rubber falsies to her name, making ends meet as a street sex worker. It wasn’t what she was looking for; the Polk was plagued with drugs and violence. But her dad was embarrassed by his transgendered daughter and didn’t her want her back. The neighborhood was a home.

She found a community at fierce Polk Gulch trans and boy-hustler bars like Q.T. and Reflections, where clientele included one "big, tall, black Egyptian transsexual hell-raiser" known to draw a gun. Scores of boy hustlers "coming in daily from the Greyhound station" danced naked on the bars. At the end of the night, Michaels’s new family members would pool their money and rent a hotel room for $30.

"The bars were the churches, the sanctuaries," Michaels’s friend Terri, an African American man in his 50s, told us. "You weren’t really going to be hassled there."

Not any more. "Polk Street is dead," Michaels told us. "Dead as fuck now."


The new kids on the block are calling it "revitalization."

After the three-decades-old gay bar Kimo’s is transferred to a new owner at the end of September, there will be only two queer bars left on a street that was San Francisco’s gay male center in the 1960s and a gritty, affordable home for low-income queers, trans women, and male sex workers in the following decades. Where scores of hustlers lined up against seedy sex shops and gay bars just a few years ago, crowds of twentysomething Marina look-alikes now clog the sidewalks in front of upscale clubs.

Polk’s queer residents and patrons are now being priced and policed out of their neighborhood — and their city — as business and tourism interests continue to eat away at the city’s center. Lower Polk Gulch, just blocks north of City Hall and one block east of Van Ness, has in the past few years succumbed to multimillion-dollar businesses, upscale lofts, increased rents at SRO hotels and apartments, and a new million-dollar city streetscape beautification plan. The related increase in policing and new efforts to clean up the street is making the area an unwelcoming place for the marginal queers who for so long called it home.

It has been the most down-and-out segments of the queer population — male sex workers, trannies, young people, poor people of color, and immigrants — who have often been the queer population’s boldest and most innovative actors, pushing the movement forward in new ways. What does queer San Francisco lose when our most marginalized members are pushed, policed, and priced out of the city?


Michaels stood under a neon purple Divas sign, advertising the three-story transgender club that has stood in Polk Gulch for more than three decades. Divas manager Alexis Miranda, a friend, stepped outside to chat, and a dozen characters from the neighborhood stopped by to shoot the shit. One man rubbed Miranda’s belly through her leopard bodysuit. "This is my baby," he told us jokingly.

Divas is as much a community center as it is a club. Girls from out of town and out of the country know to come to Divas when they step off the boat, plane, or bus. Many trans immigrants make a living as prostitutes, and while Miranda insists that she does not allow them to work inside the club, the close vicinity of San Francisco’s tranny prostitute district has meant tension for Divas.

Miranda told us the police have been targeting the club because of complaints from new merchants. "Some of the people who have new businesses don’t want the people who live here to stay. They want to close us down," she said. "They’re trying to gentrify the neighborhood."

Neville Gittens, a police spokesperson, told us that the San Francisco Police Department performs "regular enforcement in that area" but said any targeted operations cannot be discussed.

Theresa Sparks, a trans woman who chairs the Police Commission, said Miranda made the same claim at the commission meeting Aug. 15. "I don’t know if that’s true or not," Sparks told us. "My intent is to find out what is going on."

Sparks agreed that gentrification is driving trans people out of the Polk Gulch neighborhood: "It is very, very difficult for a transgendered person to survive in this city."

Miranda pointed to a bar across the street. Until 2000, the Lush Lounge was the cruisy trans and hustler bar Polk Gulch Saloon. Now, under a new owner, white twentysomething heterosexuals sip apple pie martinis.

Sonia Khanna, a 28-year-old trans woman with long, curly brown hair and mocha skin told us she doesn’t feel welcome there. "If you’re a tranny, they think you’re a whore," she said.

Miranda said the owner, Steve Black, ejected her when she went to welcome him to the neighborhood. Miranda, a former empress in San Francisco’s Imperial Court System, reported him to the Human Rights Commission. The inquiry was closed when the owner informed the commission that he allows transgendered people into the bar. He didn’t deny tossing out Miranda; he said he just disliked her personally.

The bigger problem may be the neighborhood’s increased property values. Divas owner and Polk Gulch resident Steve Berkey told us that rents have pushed out other established queer businesses on Polk. The only reason Divas stays open is that he owns the building. "It used to be that so many girls lived in the neighborhood," he said. "They packed the place. But now rents have driven them off."


The reasons behind the death of the queer Polk are complex, likely including the ascendance of the Internet as a social networking tool, rising property costs, and the aging of the bars’ core clientele and owners. But most of the community’s rancor has focused on the most visible manifestation of change: neighborhood associations representing new, upscale businesses working with police and the city to clean up the streets.

At the center of the storm is a glass-walled architecture studio at the bottom of Polk Gulch, around the corner from Divas. Two freshly planted palm trees in front of the studio are conspicuous on a site next door to a bleak, institutional homeless shelter outfitted with security cameras and across the street from a porn shop promising "Hot Bareback Action!"

Case+Abst Architects has been the workplace and home of husband and wife Carolyn Abst and Ron Case since they were lured by the area’s low cost in 1999. The trees were the first of 40 planted in a campaign they initiated last year as cofounders of Lower Polk Neighbors. Abst told the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2005 that she "wants a fruit stand [on Polk Street], and we’ll take a Starbucks too."

The group has had an impact: District Attorney Kamala Harris said at a recent community meeting organized by the LPN that she has responded to association agitation by having representatives of the District Attorney’s Office walk the neighborhood with police and installing high-tech surveillance equipment to gain more criminal convictions. Sup. Aaron Peskin has asked the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to include the Lower Polk in its Neighborhood Marketplace Initiative, a program designed to revitalize neighborhood business districts. As part of this program, a part-time staff person now acts as a liaison between Lower Polk merchants and police. Another city program is scheduled to spend $1 million on installing new lights and planting trees later this year.

Activists say the LPN focus is not on outreach, therapy, or support for the Polk’s marginalized residents but on pushing undesirables out of the neighborhood and ejecting outreach programs like a local needle exchange.

Last year Abst was the subject of a "wanted" poster put up on Polk by the group Gay Shame. The group calls the LPN a "progentrification attack squad" whose goal is to "remove outsider queers and social deviants from our neighborhood in order to accelerate property development and real estate profiteering."

The hustler bar Club RendezVous lost its lease in 2005 after the property was bought and razed. Its co-owner, David Kapp, didn’t return our phone calls seeking comment, but he told the Central City Extra in February 2006 that a "smear campaign" by the LPN stopped him from relocating down the street. A First Congregational Church is now being constructed where RendezVous once stood. The church was designed by Case+Abst.

Case told us that the Planning Department wanted to see neighborhood support for the RendezVous move. The LPN asked that RendezVous provide security, but the bar’s owners refused. "They always had younger, underage boys hanging out," Case said. "There are a lot of families in this neighborhood. We wished them well, but it’s also a community." He told us he wants not to gentrify the neighborhood but to make it clean and safe.

But safe for whom?

Chris Roebuck, a medical anthropologist at UC Berkeley, told us that the increased policing has also meant increased harassment of trans women. Sex workers, many of them immigrants from Mexico, the Philippines, and Thailand, are "increasingly being pushed into the alleyways, into unsafe spaces," he said. He’s also noticed a criminalization of what he called "walking while trans" in the six years he has spent interviewing trans women on Polk Street.

At a community meeting with the district attorney earlier this month, two trans women said the police, despite sensitivity trainings, do not take them seriously when they report a crime.

"Getting rid of the public space for trans women and drug users is not safe for them," Polk resident Matt Bernstein Sycamore (a.k.a. Mattilda) told us. "Deportation [of immigrant sex workers] is not a safe space. The needle exchange actually does make people safer. Getting rid of it does not make people safer."

Sycamore, editor of the book Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients, is concerned with what he calls a "cultural erasure" in the area. "Polk Street has been the last remaining place where marginalized queers can come to figure out how to cope, meet one another, and form social networks," he told us. "That sort of outsider culture has been so dependent on having a public space to figure out ways to survive. That is the dream of San Francisco — that you can get away from where you came from and cope, and create something dangerous and desperate and explosive."


When Kimo’s changes hands at the end of September, San Francisco will lose one of the last vestiges of a hustler culture housed on Polk Street since at least the early 1960s.

On a recent night, six gray-haired men sat chatting or reading the paper, relics of Polk Street’s heyday. A young man with a shaved head and black hoodie stood outside the front door and gave a suspicious look to a young blonde woman in bikini straps who breezed in with two friends, laughing, oblivious to him. A sign in front read "No Loitering In Front of These Premises."

The state’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control mandated the warning, Kimo’s bartender John David told us. He said he thinks that was the result of pressure from the LPN. "Kimo’s is the new whipping boy," he told us. "RendezVous is out, and now it’s our fault that people are on the streets."

Case denies that his group had anything to do with the crackdown on Kimo’s.

A tall man with shaggy brown hair standing on the sidewalk near Kimo’s, who asked to be identified by his porn-actor name, Eric Manchester, complained that a way of life is coming to an end. Manchester said he started hustling on Polk at age 17 after leaving the "redneck, racist town" of Martinsville, Ind., in 10th grade and being stationed in San Diego by the Navy.

"It wasn’t just money for me," Manchester told us. "This was a good place to come and get advice, comfort, support. There are people that need people, and they’re going to take that all away. San Francisco is going down the tubes. All the heterosexual people are moving in. They like the police-state mentality."

Among the new arrivals is the owner of the $6.5 million O’Reilly’s Holy Grail Restaurant that stands just a few doors down Polk Street from Kimo’s. On a recent evening, a musician played soft jazz on a black grand piano, while men in starched pastel button-down shirts stood around on the hickory pecan floor.

Myles O’Reilly opened the restaurant two years ago, when he also transformed a low-rent residential hotel above the space into 14 European-style hotel suites. Neighbors point to the property as a tipping point in Polk’s transformation. But O’Reilly sounded almost defeated when he talked about his "multimillion-dollar jewel in the middle of the desert."

"We are only a couple blocks from City Hall and Union Square," he told us. "But tourism doesn’t come this way."

With the goal of transforming the area, he teamed up with John Malloy, the head of the recently founded Polk Corridor Business Association, who has also chaired the LPN.

One of their projects is on view outside the restaurant and along the street. Colorful banners read: "Welcome to Polk Village … working together to build a cleaner, safer, more beautiful community." The PCBA plans to circulate a petition to officially change the name of Polk Gulch to Polk Village in a few years, but O’Reilly isn’t waiting. He defiantly lists the restaurant’s address as 1233 Polk Village on his building.

That "village" will house a small army if these merchants have their way. "We need foot patrols up and down Polk Street," Malloy, who lives in the neighborhood, told us. "We’re going to get more police even if we have to go out there and hire them ourselves."

O’Reilly took out his cell phone and started showing me photos. "This is defecation on the sidewalk outside," he said, pointing to a smudgy image. "This is condoms on the sidewalk. You see this lovely photograph? That’s a condom in the flowerbed. That’s what my son had to see this morning. And nobody helps."

"There are 1,000 condos being built here," O’Reilly said. "Something has to be done to restrict the number of street people."


The Tenderloin, and to a lesser extent Polk Gulch, risked being swallowed by the expanding downtown financial district and tourist industries in the late 1970s. But in the 1980s, community activism secured a moratorium on the conversion of residential hotel units, required luxury hoteliers to contribute millions of dollars in community mitigations, downzoned dozens of blocks of prime downtown property, and created a nonprofit housing boom.

It is these achievements that new merchants and residents point to when distancing themselves from the word gentrification. LPN cofounder Case told us that because apartments in the area are rent controlled, gentrification is "not possible."

Not so, said Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee. "Look at the Castro," he told us. "It’s full of rent-controlled buildings. All you have to do is evoke the Ellis Act, or you buy out the tenants."

Or look next to the Congregational Church construction on Polk. There stands an almost-completed four-story building whose 32 units are being sold for up to $630,000. A large glossy poster in its window advertises the units’ "open living and dining areas," along with "stainless steel appliances, custom cabinets, [and] granite counters."

Brian Bassinger, cofounder of the AIDS Housing Alliance, told us that in one of the buildings where his organization houses people a few blocks south of Polk Gulch, rent is now $1,700 a month, up from $1,325 just a few years ago.

Gayle Rubin, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and a historian of South of Market leather cultures, told us that gay neighborhoods are disappearing across the country as the core of major cities are transformed into high-value areas. This puts pressure on the economic viability of queer neighborhoods, most of which — despite the stereotype of the wealthy gay — have taken root in marginalized, poor neighborhoods.

"Polk Street is just one little battle in the war," Mecca told us. "The Mission was a working-class lesbian area. That whole lesbian culture got lost overnight. The bustling culture of queer artists in the Castro — all gone. The South of Market leather scene — gone. Parts of our culture, the very thing we came to San Francisco for, keep getting wiped out."

Kelly Michaels did develop a certain amount of celebrity as a performer at the famed club Finocchio’s and as a porn star; fans still post photos and gush over her online. And she remains drawn to the Polk, even if her relationship with the neighborhood is deeply ambivalent.

"It’s so evil, so dark, full of drugs and despair," she told us outside Divas. "But this is my home and my family."

"The people left here are going to fight for their home," she said. "Some people have been here forever. Their whole life is here. It’s impossible to get an apartment in other places of this city."

"This is a sanctuary," she said. "They’re taking the sparkle out of San Francisco."

The original queer district


The Tenderloin and its more settled fringe, Polk Gulch, have a long history in queer San Francisco.

The city’s street prostitutes were pushed into the Tenderloin after the 1914 Red-Light Abatement Law led to a crackdown on the Barbary Coast. Police crackdowns on gay bars in North Beach in the early 1960s led to the ascendance of Polk Gulch as the city’s gay center.

In the 1960s, a vibrant queer culture consisting of young butch hustlers, drag queens, transgendered sex workers, and older men spanned lower Polk and the adjacent Tenderloin. By 1966, the area supported more than two dozen gay bars and baths, sex shops, restaurants, men’s clothing stores, gay theaters, and gay hotels, according to GLBT Historical Society records. The Gay Freedom Day Parade passed through Polk Gulch in the early 1970s. Before Halloween in the Castro, Halloween was in the Polk.

A 1966 police riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, an all-night hangout for hustlers and street queens just a few blocks from Polk Gulch, predates New York’s famous Stonewall riot by three years.

Many gay men from Polk Gulch migrated to the Castro in the mid-1970s, and their businesses left with them. But Polk Street remained a vital center for poor queers of color, hustlers, runaway youths, trannies, and drug users who were generally not welcome in the Castro. The AIDS epidemic hit the Polk hard in the 1980s, which also saw a rise in crime and drugs in the area.

The dot-com boom of 1999–2001 hastened this collapse, accelerating gentrification in the area. A series of fires at SROs, including one in 1998 at the Polk Street Leland Hotel, displaced low-income tenants, while condos began to be constructed in their place. Increased policing, tied in with new upscale businesses and tenants, the aging of the bars’ owners and core clientele, and competition from the new technology of the Internet, also changed the neighborhood’s character.

In the past few years especially, businesses began buying up limping gay bars, transforming them into hip, heterosexual meeting places. RendezVous was razed. The Polk Gulch Saloon became the Lush Lounge. Reflections, a male hustler bar, became the Vertigo Lounge. The Giraffe, a gay bar since 1979, became the Hemlock Tavern. The dive bar Katie’s became Blur. (Plaster)

Breaking a sweat


› gwschulz@sfbg.com

When San Francisco took the national lead in eschewing consumer products made by workers forced to endure unsavory working conditions, Mayor Gavin Newsom positioned himself front and center on the issue.

Along with Sup. Tom Ammiano, Newsom coauthored the nation’s toughest municipal ordinance on the matter, requiring that the city and county of San Francisco purchase garments for its firefighters, police officers, Muni drivers, and others from manufacturers that can prove they don’t subcontract with sweatshops or mistreat workers themselves.

Putting the widely touted plan into action was another matter. Two years later, some appointees to the city’s newly formed Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group, including former state senator Tom Hayden, say San Francisco is already failing to recognize its own commitment to human rights.

Several contractors who are set to provide the city with everything from bulletproof vests to uniforms for the Sheriff’s Department have received exemptions from the law, and nearly all of them have contracts lasting from three to five years — meaning it could be the next decade before the law has much impact.

The contracts in question total $7.2 million in value, according to city records.

"The waivers have no conditions attached," Hayden wrote in a recent letter to the mayor. "They give permission to continue avoiding compliance for several years…. We know from the city’s own staff that one supplier, Galls, produces in Colombia, a human-rights violator where scores of union leaders have been assassinated."

Hayden added in a phone interview that members of the advisory group have offered solutions to the city’s slow pace, but officials haven’t reacted. He met with American Apparel CEO Marty Bailey last month, and Bailey expressed interest in bidding on the city contracts, Hayden said, but the city hasn’t followed up with a meeting or conference call. Nor has it explored the option of joining contracts with "sweat-free" companies doing business with Los Angeles, Hayden contended.

"I’ve wondered if the procurement officials in San Francisco were being creative enough in looking for suppliers," Hayden said, "or whether they were looking at the same old handful of suppliers as if those people would change their ways."

Dozens of cities have such laws in place, but few have serious enforcement mechanisms. San Francisco was supposed to distinguish its ordinance in part by activating an agreement with the nonprofit enforcement body Workers Rights Consortium, which should already be inspecting manufacturing plants independently to ensure fair wages, benefits, and safety standards.

But enforcement, it turns out, is exactly where San Francisco’s law has so far fallen flat on it face, critics from the advisory group say. The group’s chair, Valerie Orth, an organizer for Global Exchange, said city bureaucrats promised to grant only short-term contracts until the law’s complex requirements were logistically workable.

Companies doing business with the city are often merely part of a supply chain that is coordinated with manufacturers abroad, so inspectors must track the conduct of subcontractors too.

The city, however, still doesn’t know the locations of some of the manufacturing plants where uniforms for sheriff’s deputies, meter enforcers, and many others are produced, Orth said, and with so many suppliers potentially receiving waivers, there’s no way to tell if, for instance, workers are getting a minimum wage.

Some businesses did provide info to the city on what outfits they subcontract with, but in one case the subcontractor, Fechheimer Brothers Co., didn’t comply with the law’s wage requirements, city records show.

According to Fechheimer’s Web site, the company has "manufacturing partners" in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia that "complement our three union plants in the United States." Fechheimer is participating in a three-year contract to provide uniforms to the city’s fire department.

"We’ve been trying to implement this law since 2005," Orth told the Guardian. "They’ve had time to try and figure out the kinks."

Orth said an executive from Fechheimer attended a recent advisory group meeting and complained that disclosing the location of manufacturing plants abroad would make the firm less competitive.

Newsom’s government affairs director, Wade Crowfoot, was unhappy when he discovered last week that Hayden and Orth had distributed a news release outlining their complaints. When we contacted the mayor’s media flak, Nathan Ballard, with questions, he responded only with an exasperated letter that Crowfoot had sent to the duo.

"Far from the doom-and-gloom portrait painted by the press release, the city remains committed to advancing the most aggressive anti-sweatshop law in the country," Crowfoot wrote. "While it may be frustrating to implement this incrementally, our experience with other groundbreaking legislation such as requiring domestic partner benefits suggests that remaining focused on removing the barriers to implementation — and working together to do so — is the only way to make this law fully operative."

Crowfoot added that the city wants to modify the law to reward contract bidders who are mostly compliant, but Orth and Hayden still worry that the city is simply prioritizing suppliers who are the least costly. According to Orth, "Once [contractors] figure out how they can get out of complying with the law in a city like San Francisco … they can easily get out of complying with laws in other cities."

Mouse politics


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION My apartment has been invaded by mice, and my biggest worry is not that I will catch some strange disease but that they’ll stage a revolution. I’m like some kind of Beatrix Potter Marxist, worried that the distribution of rice in my house is indeed unfair and that there is a kind of injustice in the fact that I won’t share my stale caramel popcorn with the mice who want it.

This ridiculous philosophical and pestilential situation started when I heard really loud squeaking from behind my bookcase — the one full of books on leftist activism and Marxist criticism. I discovered a family of five mice, fighting over a stash of rice that they’d hidden behind the books. They’d also been eating part of a book on cultural studies and left tiny mouse turds between the pages of another, by Greil Marcus, about punk rock. They’d stolen my rice in improbably large amounts, hauling it up from a bag in my cupboard to the top of my bookshelf for storage. I’m sure they figured that it wasn’t stolen — they’d liberated it.

At first, I didn’t react to this situation with the brute animalistic feeling of "kill the invader" that evolutionary biology would predict. I’ve been so well-trained by blogs like I Can Has Cheezburger? and Cute Overload that at first all I could think, upon discovering this gang of mice in my bookshelf, was that they were adorable. One of them kept running up the wall and jumping down to the floor with an awkward splat. Cute!

I also had a hard time adjusting to the idea that these whiskery little guys might be spreading disease. Apparently mice can spread hantavirus, a very rare and deadly virus that attacks the respiratory system. I’m not sure what else they spread, but all the mouse-control Web sites I looked at had these paranoid instructions on how to dispose of mouse poop in double bags and how anything touched by mice should be rigorously disinfected.

Despite this, my first reaction to the mouse party on my bookshelf was to block the mouse hole that I found near my stove, sweep up the rice and poop, and go to bed. Two nights later, having gotten no sleep due to mouse-related shenanigans, I began to feel the interspecies hate. All the squeaking and scratching and pooping and sneaking in through teeny cracks had worked my last nerve. I’d put all my grains and sugar into sealed containers, and now I needed traps. But of course they should be humane traps. I kept worrying about what the most ethical way to deal with the mice would be. What would animal liberation ethicist Peter Singer do?

Actually, I’m pretty sure Singer would say, "Kill them." But I was still feeling the Cute Overload, so I bought these traps that lock the mouse in a tiny cage so you can release them. I’m not sure what I was thinking: that I would reintroduce them into the wilds of Golden Gate Park? That I would establish some sort of bilateral agreement with them to acknowledge their right to collective bargaining, then raise wages and offer health care so they would stop doing squeak-ins all night in my kitchen? Dear reader, there is really nothing worse than a leftist with anthropomorphizing tendencies. This is exactly why people join PETA instead of unions and protest animal experimentation instead of how humans are treated in jail.

Even my scientific know-how somehow managed to enhance my magical thinking. I kept recalling how similar the human genome is to the mouse genome. Lisa Stubbs of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has written that mouse genomes are, on average, about 85 percent similar to human. Doesn’t that make mice my genetic cousins? Shouldn’t I learn to share my house with them somehow?

No. On day four of the mouse invasion, I finally went into predator mode. I put out deadly traps that kill mice instantly — no torturing them in tiny boxes before releasing them into a park to be eaten by local cats. I know it sounds awful, but mice are not people. It’s true that they have emotions and share many genetic traits with humans, but unfortunately I can’t negotiate with them about living arrangements. I comfort myself by saying that I’m doing the only thing mice can understand: acting like the predator I am.<\!s>*

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd whose geriatric cat is the only creature in her apartment that can sleep through the nightly mousefest.

Diet plate


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I’m in my thirties. Most of my life, my sex drive has been pretty low — not during the "honeymoon" phase, but within a year, it tends to taper off to almost nothing. This significantly, negatively impacts my relationships (my last one ended due to not enough sex; my current one has same problem).

I suspect this is pretty common. What are the typical causes of low libido in women? I don’t really believe in aphrodisiacs, but are there any proven treatments?


No There There

Dear There:

Female sexual dysfunctions are, somewhat sadly, a growth industry. With the latest research indicating that something like 40 percent of women experience something dysfunctionish (most often low desire but also anorgasmia, aversion, or pain), you can see how people who develop and sell new treatments might have their eye on you. All good, to a point. We don’t want to see the same preying on the desperate but not that bright that supports the cosmetics industry. Did you know there’s already a real product called Hope in a Jar? Let’s not have another.

Male sexual dysfunction is usually easy to recognize and fairly easy to treat. Most men who think there’s something wrong down there want sex — oh, do they want it — but are hampered by lack of or loss of erection, or by coming too fast or, sometimes, too slowly (it’s always something). We women tend to keep our dysfunctions tucked neatly away out of sight, like our genitals and our vibrators, so problems are harder to quantify and harder to treat. This is especially true of the desire disorders, which occur in men but are practically epidemic in women. Causes may be hormonal, situational, or historical, and it’s tricky even to figure out if you have one, let alone to treat it. How hypo does a hypoactive sex drive have to be before it is considered a problem? And who is it a problem for? Is there a right and proper level of desire out there, and ought women who don’t meet it feel inadequate or just different? Must women’s desire match men’s in order to be considered normal? Should a woman "fix" herself to suit a partner, even if she would be pretty much satisfied with whatever amount of sex her natural inclinations tell her is enough? See what I mean?

There is, I’m afraid, nothing yet available in the way of an aphrodisiac for women (or for men either, should they need one; the history of aphrodisiacs has mostly involved men slipping random substances into women’s drinks and crossing their fingers). There are a few things in the pipeline, very close to release, or already available off label, although most are just testosterone with assorted delivery systems. Testosterone patches will be worth trying when approved, but they’re simply not going to work for everyone (most of the trials have enrolled naturally or surgically menopausal women only) and aren’t safe for everyone. Testosterone has been shown to be effective, though — it seems to be responsible in large part for the "go out and get me some" drive that most men tend to have in greater abundance than most women do, even highly sexual women, so it’s the obvious place to look for a treatment for "just don’t feel like it" complaints. Wanting to want it is probably the most common complaint going, but you still have to ask yourself why you want to want it before it’s really worth trying to want to want it, if you know what I mean. You do know what I mean, don’t you?

I do wonder if you are really even part of Hypoactive Nation or if you might have something altogether different going on. If you’re into it at the beginning, and then it tapers off, you may just be kind of a novelty freak (I’m guessing this isn’t it but you never know), or you might be — brace yourself for this one — having kind of blah sex, or sex with kind of blah people. If, for instance, you don’t have a lot orgasms because you’re not that turned on, and you’re not that turned on because you don’t have a lot of orgasms (so why bother wasting all that good pelvic engorgement?), you’ve got yourself a nasty little cycle there. Arousal disorders may not be as common as desire disorders, but they can create desire disorders. You know why some diets work, at least at first? It’s because the food isn’t appealing enough to crave or to stuff yourself with when it gets there. A few bites will suffice.

I’m wondering if perhaps the sex you are having (and have had) is of the cottage-cheese-and-tuna plate variety, and you need to work on finding your French triple-cream cheese on a fresh baguette and a pain au chocolate equivalent. Or if that doesn’t sound that appetizing either, what does, and how can you get some of that instead?



Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.

The Blender


(1) Hummus and Afghan bread, Zand’s, Albany

(2) Toro and yellowtail nigori, Aki Sushi Bar, Long Beach

(3) Shrimp-stuffed crab claw, Ton Kiang, SF

(4) Blueberry-limoncello cupcakes, Love at First Bite, Berk.

(5) Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

Socked and odd


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk’s sister Sisterwonk made Socky a sock monkey with multiple piercings and horns, so she named it after herself. She named it Socky. Now I have to call Sockywonk "Wonk" for short, to avoid confusion. We made a fine pair, the three of us — me, Socky, and Wonk — in Kansas, and at Cracker Barrel, and all along the Loneliest Road in America.

Truck stop to truck stop we did not get beat up or even pointed at, we three freaks: the tranny chicken farmer, the punkish weirdo, and the devilish sock monkey with a fetish for road kill. Well, one little kid cried when Wonk showed Socky to him, and that was it.

Yes, you heard me right: Cracker Barrel. It wasn’t my idea, but I admit to being down with it. All I needed to know was fried okra, and Sockywonk kept saying it, like a mantra, "fried okra, fried okra, fried okra." Then when we finally found one she said, "Prepare to be shocked and awed."

I didn’t know about shocked. I didn’t know about odd. All I needed to know was fried okra, and that was what I ordered with my chickens and dumplings. They give you three sides, and I chose okra, okra, and okra. None of them were really worth writing about. I’m not going to write about the chickens and dumplings, either. Don’t worry.

The only thing remarkable about Cracker Barrel, besides the novelty of it, for me, was sweet tea and real butter.

And what Sockywonk really wanted more than mushy beige food, I figured out later, was to be able to call her mom and dad and say, "Guess what! We ate at Cracker Barrel!"

There are some things in life that I understand.

Other things, I am learning, like how to not always look like a chicken farmer. We went into a lot of thrift stores, and Sockywonk played big sister, fashion checking all my purchases. She did let a bit of gingham slip through, but other than that, weather permitting, I am now going to be leggier and chestier than I used to be. Just to warn you. If you see a totally hot chick walking around town without any chickens, say hello because that’s me.

I’m back! Safe, and unsound.

The day after our return, I waited for the Wonk to leave, and then I donned my new gingham pants and orange "I Rock It Old School" tank top, painted my toenails neon green, and drove up to the woods to a chicken coop dedication party. I took my steel drum with me, and my country buddy Mountain Sam, who was stuck in the city and kinda could use a ride home.

We stopped and bought a watermelon. We stopped and got a rack of baby backs, a bag of potato chips, and two big beers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be back in the Bay Area, y’all, and in particular to be back in my beloved Sonoma County, west county, in the redwoods, sitting on a stone wall with the Mountain, and sucking down a rack of ribs. There was a blue grassish band called the Wronglers, and they were playing "Red River Valley," "Home on the Range," and other ideal soundtracks to pork and beer on a stone wall in the woods.

For now, I still live in Noe Valley. But my new favorite barbecue is in Petaluma. It’s called Lombardi’s and they have a whole chorus line of barrel smokers in front, kicking out chickens and ribs and tri-tip, salmon, burgers and dogs, and even nonmeat grillables like corn, asparagus, and mushrooms.

I can speak for the baby backs: excellent! We saved some for Veronica. I dipped potato chips into the leftover sauce. Between sets, I whipped out my steel pan and played a handful of chicken farmerly songs, like the one about how I first became a chicken farmer, and the one about how my chickens drink my bath water, and the one about how I want to be a chicken, and the one about how when I die, I’d like for my chickens to eat me, please.

And all the while I didn’t have a single chicken in the world, and lived in a yardless basement apartment with grocery store eggs in the fridge.

Still, kids and old folks loved me. Our hostess said she was going to name one of their new baby chicks after me, and then I knew that I had made it.


Daily: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

3413 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma

(707) 773-1271

Beer and wine


Elisa’s Cafe and L’s Caffe


› paulr@sfbg.com

No matter how you prefer to spell café — or caffe, or even cafe — you probably have a favorite one. Haunting a particular café is a prerogative of city dwelling, and in a coffee-involved city like ours, the possible forums for such socially acceptable loitering are vast, even including places that don’t have espresso machines. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Cafés, you see, don’t have to be about coffee, really, though most serve it in some form and some serve it in many forms. Cafés can also be about food, and in this sense we use the word in more or less the same sense the Parisians do, to describe the most casual sort of restaurant, the sort of place that doesn’t necessarily have full table service but does have tables where you are welcome to linger and discuss and rap your knuckles for emphasis even after you’ve finished eating whatever it was you were eating.

And what were you eating? Nacatamales? Have my typing fingers gone into spasm? Did I mean to type tamales but succumbed to overenthusiasm? No: I meant to type nacatamales because the nacatamal is the tamale of Nicaragua (and Honduras), and you can get them at Elisa’s Café, along with other Central American delicacies. Along with coffee — but not espresso.

Elisa’s opened late in the spring in the Excelsior space occupied for a number of years by Bistro E Europe, a restaurant that served the foods of Hungary and the Roma (a.k.a. the gypsies). The rather Spartan-looking space has been given a nice freshening, with peach paint and black furniture, and you no longer have that forgotten-city feeling while sitting in the window, watching the world go by.

Nacatamales ($5.50), as prepared by Elisa’s kitchen, are bigger and squarer than ordinary tamales. They’re about the size of a watch box and are steamed in plantain leaves, which are peeled away before the plate is presented to you. Otherwise, the similarities are manifest; we are talking about a squarish molding of masa (a close, corn-meal relation of polenta) in which potatoes, rice, tomatoes, onions, raisins, mint leaves, and possibly beef, pork, or chicken, have been cooked, as in a clafoutis or berry muffin. The boundary between the filling and the enclosure is indistinct, in other words.

The nacatamales are big. One is plenty for a single person and might even be splittable if you open your repast with, say, some soup. Soups vary according to the day of the week, and some are pricier than others. The least costly appears on Friday and is meatless: a black-bean soup ($4.50), whose namesake legumes are reduced to a thin purée in which bob peeled boiled eggs and coiled ropes of red pepper. Since the soup is basically mild, enlivenment is provided on the side in the form of a white salsa, a mince of onions steeped in vinegar. The sauce emits almost unbreathable fumes, but once in the soup it settles down to the general benefit.

Other dishes seem more familiar — the sorts of things you might find at other restaurants serving the foods of Mesoamerica — including bistec encebollado ($8.75), several pieces of beef sliced minute-steak thin, then pan-fried and finished with a tousled cap of sautéed onions. There’s also a salad on the side, iceberg lettuce with cucumber coins and quartered tomatoes. Quite American, I thought, as if the shock of Nicaraguan cooking must be buffered somehow for yanqui sensibilities.

When you are sitting in L’s Caffe, on 24th Street between Bryant and Florida, you are sitting in what I think of as the deepest heart of the Mission. And because the Mission is changeable and ever-changing, a café at its heart would almost necessarily be polyglot. The principals of L’s are all named Lozano — which is a Spanish name but also turns up occasionally in Italy. Italy and Spain, of course, have taken turns ruling bits of each other over the centuries.

As if to honor this long entwinement, the café offers a casually international menu, with definite Italian flourishes along with Spanish touches spoken in a New World accent. You can get bagels smeared with lox and cream cheese, or with hummus; you can get a PB&J or a sandwich with pepperoni, mozzarella, and pesto. You can get Chilean-style empanadas ($3 each), half-moon shaped pastry pouches filled with shredded chicken or just vegetables — which might mean mostly spinach.

There’s a minestrone soup ($4.50) whose thick, spicy tomato sauce and flotsam of white beans and pasta would do credit to many an Italian restaurant. The soup goes nicely with, perhaps, a turkey and Swiss sandwich ($5.95), which would be totally all-American if not for the swoosh of hummus on the top slice of whole-wheat bread. Even a five-bean salad ($3.25), a staple of midsummer picnics, features a broad constituency of legumes: black, pinto, lima, and green beans, along with chickpeas.

Not all recent changes in the Mission are awful, if we factor into our judgment L’s Caffe’s commitment to organic agriculture — all the coffee beans are organic, as is much of the food — and to reducing its waste stream through a conscientious program of composting and recycling. As someone who recently had a burrito at a long-beloved taqueria (also in the Mission) and was horrified to see a reckless flow of aluminum foil, Styrofoam, and other manufactured leavings into the garbage, I can tell you that this matters.


Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat–Sun., 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

4901 Mission, SF

(415) 333-3177

Beer and wine


Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible


Mon.–Thurs., 6 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri., 6 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sat–Sun., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

2871 24th St., SF

(415) 206-0274


Beer and wine


Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible



› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO OK, I figure I’ve got fewer than five readers this week because of, oh yeah, fucking Burning Man, so let’s drop all the usual hyperintellectual lip gloss and get intimate. It’s just you and me and the scent of a Mariah Carey M eau de parfum sample strip from a ripped-off copy of Glamour in the air between us. First, this just in: there’s actually a Cuban drag queen in Miami named Fidela Castrato. Topical! Second, screw the burners — for a couple of glorious weeks, the Bay is ours. Let’s get go-go-toasted. Let’s get ho-ho-noxious. Let’s get divatrocious. Below are some delish party picks for the fortnight ahead to keep us busy while others pluck playa dust from their sun-baked cracks. Take back the night! And check out the Noise Blog at www.sfbg.com, where I’ll be posting more Labor Day weekend and beyond kookiness. Just for us.


Years ago I got my first glimmer of the juggernaut that the whole blank-parody white-kid electro-hop scene would become when I scored a CD from the Guardian‘s Johnny Ray Huston sometime in the late ’90s, put out by an awesome kid named Ed DMX, who vocoder-rapped over analog beats about rainbows and Adidases and probably unicorns — but who the hell knows, I just needed the CD cover to cut up … er, my nails. Anyway, it was awesome, and DMX is still alive! He’ll be stepping lively with his Krew at one of the most raucous parties in sodomyville, Eggs, with PJ Pooterhoots and Safety Scissors.

Thu/30 10 p.m.–2 a.m., $8


119 Utah, SF

(415) 762-0151




The world’s most phenomenal piece of transgendered flesh-sculpture talks! Will we ever understand? Do we want to? The legendary inflatable club goddess is interviewed onstage by inflatable Asian tranny whore Monistat, at the hippest nightspot for underage East Bay queer kids of color into Bryan Adams techno remixes and Rihanna mash-ups (and who can cough up $15). Fearfully intriguing.

Thu/30, 9:30 p.m.–2 a.m., $15

715 Harrison, SF

18 and older




It’s on. DJs Jefrodesiac (Frisco Disco, Blow Up) and Funk (Dancemania) hit the decks with some fine, fine chaos, and Hot Tub, that crazy, bubbly girl electro-rappin’ trio from Oakland, perform live at this must-do event for non-naked-yoga-for-Gaia people.

Sun/2, 9 p.m.–2 a.m.

Free with RSVP at going.com/djfunk

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011



What?! A Detroit-themed night at a queer club? Hells yeah. DJ Chicken hatches his latest feather-brained scheme at Truck, playing every genre of music that launched from tha D, which is, like, everything. (Hey, I’m from there — work it out.) Motown, techno, Iggy, Eminem, White Stripes, MC5 … need I go on? Also featuring — and if you’re not a Michigander, you won’t get it — Faygo cocktails! What, no Vernors? Chicken also tells me that Truck’s kitchen may also include a chili dog minus the dog (Coney Special), a burger smothered in ketchup (Murder Burger), or an onion ring on a hamburger bun (Spare Tire). Rawk.

Sept. 5, 9 p.m.–2 a.m., free

1900 Folsom, SF

(415) 252-0306



Gays in frilly panties! Strip poker! Mayhem! DJ Mickey Moniker from Vancouver (Uncanny, Pumpjack) joins DJ Donimo and DJ6 for a night of electro madness at Lucky Pierre — the steamy monthly at the Stud for three-way lovers and their lovers’ lovers. Plus, this month’s theme is "hair" (as in fluff it up, show it out, shave it off — not the musical, I dearly hope), so grab your giant novelty comb and hop to. Coco Canal hosts, Artemis Chase deals, and the toilets overflow. With love!

Sept. 7, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., $7

399 Ninth St., SF

(415) 252-STUD


Bedsit cinema of ’60s England


The early ’60s French new wave gets imitations and retrospectives and books galore, but in terms of homage, the British new wave of roughly the same era hasn’t been gifted with much more than a number of Smiths 7- and 12-inch singles covers and some Morrissey lyrics. Such tributes are nothing to sniff at, but an orange Shelagh Delaney on the cover of Louder Than Bombs or a picture of a pouty Rita Tushingham on the packaging of Sandie Shaw’s version of "Hand in Glove" don’t amount to the unanimous praise and canonical status given to, say, Jean-Luc Godard.

The subject of the new Pacific Film Archive series "Look Back at England: The British New Wave," "bedsit" or "kitchen-sink" British film drama of the early ’60s has often been a target for critics. Pauline Kael sneered at its emotions. The films of Tony Richardson and the acting of Tushingham have met no greater naysayer than Manny Farber, who devoted an entire essay, titled "Pish-Tush," to attacking Tushingham as the foremost example of a "megalomaniac star who can make the simplest action have as many syllables as her name." No doubt about it, Tushingham is mannered. But more than 40 years on from Farber’s essay, many and much worse offenses have been committed to celluloid and video, and it’s easy to see the merits of a movie such as 1962’s A Taste if Honey, written and directed by Delaney, whose dialogue and lead-colored riverside scenario provided Morrissey with an entire song ("This Night Has Opened My Eyes," far more doleful than A Taste of Honey) as well as a number of lines to steal for other lyrics.

"Look Back at England," which looks at nearly a decade of filmmaking, kicks off this week with Richard Burton abusing a Claire Bloom much wimpier than his future real-lire and onscreen wife in Richardson’s 1958 adaptation of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and ends with the Stanley Kubrick–tinged Malcolm McDowell antics of Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 If… In between, you’ll find Tom Courtenay, madcap in 1963’s Billy Liar (sampled on Saint Etienne’s album So Tough) and haunted in 1962’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner; and Albert Finney, loutish in 1960’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Michael Caine posh loutish in 1966’s Alfie. Prototypical angry young men? Yes. But women had major roles as well — the period introduced us to the divine Julie Christie (in Billy Liar, her appeal later inspiring a song by Yo La Tengo, and in 1965’s Darling) as well as Tushingham, who meets her everything-and-the-kitchen-sink directorial match in Richard Lester in The Knack … and How to Get It, a 1965 film as narratively wild as Godard’s work of the era, if not wilder.

Yo La Tengo, Saint Etienne, the Smiths: funny how the seeming dreariness of British bedsit movies inspired maybe even more great pop acts than did the French new wave visions of and for the children of Marx and Coca-Cola. You can also find the seeds of the lurid extravaganzas of Derek Jarman in some of these pictures, if not the phallic frenzies (to borrow the title of Joseph Lanza’s new book) of Ken Russell and the hallucinations of Nicholas Roeg. The hyperextravagant Joseph Losey could find a home within the modest British new wave (his 1963 The Servant is a touchstone, thanks to Dirk Bogarde’s career peak performance). And while a contemporary director such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa loves his French new wave, he’s no stranger to the British corollary either. His Séance (2000) is based on Bryan Forbes’s 1964 Séance on a Wet Afternoon.

Speaking of Forbes, his excellent The L-Shaped Room (1962), starring a low-key Leslie Caron in a Tushingham-style unwed mother role, is one of the few links missing from "Look Back at England." But you can seek it out on video — and discover the source behind the opening moments of The Queen Is Dead. (Johnny Ray Huston)


Sun/2 through Oct. 26

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-5249


Domestic disturbance


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When Argentine director Jorge Gaggero’s first feature opened theatrically in New York about a month ago, East Coast film critics responded very enthusiastically. Of course, that didn’t come as much of a surprise; after Live-In Maid‘s initial release in 2005, it not only earned many distinctions at the Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards but also won numerous prizes in the various film festivals it traveled around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize.

Celebrated Argentine actress Norma Aleandro, one of the film’s protagonists, is at the center of most discussions surrounding the film. Aleandro became known in the United States after taking one of the leading parts in The Official Story, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1985, and has acted in many movies and plays since. But while Argentine cinema’s grande dame does a wonderful, graceful job as Beba — a formerly famous and wealthy woman in decline — Live-in Maid‘s most revealing performance is by Norma Argentina, who plays Dora, Beba’s maid for 28 years.

During casting, Gaggero chose Argentina from thousands of real maids he met all over the country. "[Dora is] a physical role, in a way, without many words, and it [is] told a lot with her expressions and her physique. To work as a live-in maid all your life, it has a special posture and a special thing I wanted to achieve," the director explained over the phone from his home country. Indeed, Argentina’s physical presence in the film is imposing and laden with meaning. A glance, a touch, or the slightest of movements is enough to reveal all we need to know about Dora and her emotional struggle: she’s fighting between the affection she feels for Beba and the resentment she stores for her, as Beba hasn’t paid her for seven months.

The whole film relies heavily on a very exact choreography between the two characters. "I had a very precise idea of the space," Gaggero admitted. "It was all written: ‘[Dora] had to take two steps to the kitchen and get that glass.’ So there was a timing that was already in the script." The characters’ dance-like exchange lends Live-In Maid a feeling that is almost corporeal and creates a very subtle account of the two women’s relationship. It calls close attention to detail and calls for an intuitive response on the viewer’s part — you recognize the characters’ emotions because you can feel them under your skin.

The subtle treatment of the film’s protagonists befits Live-In Maid‘s delicate subject matter. And although many critics have brought attention to the way Beba and Dora’s relationship reflects the economic crisis Argentina faced in 2001, the filmmaker actually intended to make a broader statement. "I try to believe that it’s wider than the crisis," Gaggero revealed. "I think that it has something to do with a cultural crisis. People always want to escape and justify their miseries and challenges in a social way. [Beba] is a very particular kind of character that is specific to an upper middle class in Argentina, perhaps in all countries, but [she exposes a] particular way of thinking and feeling. Perhaps the crisis makes her go a step down, but in a way it’s not the crisis. She never learned something more. She was very comfortable in a world that was easy."<\!s>*


Opens Fri/31 in San Francisco

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com

Class of 2007: Ship


QUOTE "We’re kind of getting our hands dirty in all the different ways we like to, sometimes making music, sometimes taking pictures of ourselves in underpants."

CLUBS Fresh Air Fiends Unlimited, Cross-Disciplinary Disciples

If Virgos are master catalysts at organizing earth energy into new ubergrounded forms, both functional and artful, Ship is all Virgo. The multitalented twosome, David Wilson and Frank Lyon, embody Virgocity and more, even on the cusp of certain show disaster, as when they put together a performance this spring in a World War II military tunnel in the Marin Headlands. Ship were just closing out the night, singing around a campfire as the cold air swept in and everyone gathered around the blaze, when bright lights suddenly began swirling at the other end of the tunnel, and someone whispered, "I think the police are here."

"It was a nice moment because everyone joined us in song and started singing the final lines, over and over and over," Wilson says while scouting for a good drawing locale on the brink of his "golden" 25th birthday Aug. 25 (he and Lyon, born Sept. 7, are planning a "little Virgo party" soon). "The police all sat waiting for it to end, and it just kept going. It felt eternal. When the last note rang out, they saw us sitting at the center of the group and gave us a $500 fine."

That gesture too was transformed into a beacon of possibility as attendees sent dollars, coins, and tokens of support to Ship in the weeks following. In the end, they gathered $350, "raising money for the park service."

Add in shows at Ship’s nature-based venues of choice — including a Mount Diablo musical campfire sleepover, an Oakland crater turned creekbed performance with Soft Circle, High Places, and Lucky Dragons, and the forthcoming Aug. 31 sing-along slumber party event for LoBot Gallery’s "Mystical Enchanting Forest" exhibit, which includes drawings by Wilson — and it’s clear that Ship’s free-floating, expansive vessel is unstoppable in its quest to connect and explore. Witness the vibe at Hotel Utah last week as the pair — who met dancing to boom-box jams at Wesleyan University in Connecticut — crooned awkward, winsome harmonies while pinning yarn to their white T-shirts and throwing the balls out into the audience, creating a web of performer-audience interconnectedness. Or behold artbooks by the twosome, working under the name Ribbons, including Sea Past Landscapes, which comprises Wilson’s drawings of his journeys from Cape Cod dunes to pebbly Bay beaches as well as a sweet accompanying CD of Ship’s seafaring songs.

All such endeavors will come together in the pair’s January 2008 exhibition at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, titled "Enter the Center: Our Gentle War with Entropy." The show will encompass Wilson’s drawings and collages, Ship music, Ribbons books, perhaps sounds from their sample- and beat-heavy project Maneuver, and, of course, music and dance performances. "It’s kind of about growing and feeling the forces of aging and time," Wilson explains. "I sometimes feel like I’m between being a kid and having a kid."

Now they’ll just have to find a way to work their love of yoga into the art and make "New Age deep yoga dance music" under the handle Yoga Lazer. Dancing and sing-alongs are all swell, but, as Wilson says, "If we can get everyone to do yoga, we’ll be at our peak." (Chun)


SHIP "What Fire Sounds Like" sleepover with Almaden, One Bird, and Yoga Lazer, with an invitation to sing your ultimate campfire cover. Fri/31, 8 p.m. doors, $5–$10. LoBot Gallery, 1800 Campbell, Oakl. www.lobotgallery.com>.

Class of 2007: King City


Superlative: Most Likely to Carry a Django Reinhardt Album While Wearing a Master of Puppets T-shirt

Quote: “It’s cartoon music. You can’t really go wrong with it.

Here’s a question: where on earth would a group of metalheads and hard-core punkers come together and start playing toe-tapping swing ditties? Only in King City, baby — a mysterious burg where headbanging and devil horns are replaced by tango dips and jazz hands, and the music is suitable for smoky cafés, exotica bars, and backyard fiestas. Together since 2003, King City is a side project for talented locals known for their participation in other notable bands: percussionist Chewy Marzolo performs with local metal heroes Hammers of Misfortune; Marzolo and guitarist Rich Morin played together in metal-punk combo Osgood Slaughter; and bassist Joe Raposo (currently on tour with Celtic punks the Real McKenzies), drummer Boz Rivera, and guitarist Chris Rest (also of punk unit Lagwagon) were in SoCal hardcore outfit RKL. Trumpeter Keith Douglas rounds out King City’s population.

Marzolo says King City’s 2003 founding was "kind of just a big accident. Rich, who’s the main guitar player and writer, basically pieced a bunch of songs together that had nothing do to with metal or punk. It just seemed like a really fun excuse to drink beer and play cartoon music, and it’s continued to be fun."

Though King City’s songs — heard on their 2007 debut, The Last Siesta (Antebellum) — are rooted in ragtime, swing, and Latin jazz, their true origins are a bit more beastly. The sound is "closer to Metallica than it is swing," Marzolo explains. "We don’t come from jazz backgrounds. I mean, we understand it, and we’ve studied it a little bit here and there, but when it comes down to actually playing music, we understand rock and metal and punk. With King City, we’re not trying to beat people over the head with volume, speed, and power. There’s a kind of lightheartedness about it, but I think [the music] makes the same sort of impact, ultimately. It’s just not done through Marshall stacks." (Cheryl Eddy)



Class of 2007: Kira Lynn Cain


CLUBS Film Appreciation Society, art club, Existential Smokers Alliance

QUOTE "It won’t be honest if I decide from the beginning what the song’s going to be about."

"Growing up, I was never really exposed to much pop culture that came out after the ’60s," haunted-dream singer-songwriter Kira Lynn Cain reveals as an explanation of her elegant — and occasionally sinister — torch songs from bygone black-and-white eras. "I was raised in a hippie household, where we mostly listened to old folk songs, medieval music, crooners and stuff from the ’40s and ’50s. And that’s still what I listen to the most.

"My friends are always shocked by how little I know about pop culture from the past few decades — I’m like a special project for them!"

So, while Cain is being schooled in the finer points of hair metal and cheesy sitcoms, she’s returning the favor by sharing her love of Peggy Lee and Jim Thompson — which informs her bewitching musical excursions into the shadow-cloaked intersections of romance and violence. Describe her forthcoming debut, The Ideal Hunter (Evangeline), in five syllables or less? Chiaroscuro. Talk about juxtapositions of light and dark: in one moment Cain guides her characters through tender waltzes under a golden glow, and in the next a knife gets pulled. Vibraphones twinkle amorously, only to be knocked around by a raging cello or a stab of Link Wray–worthy guitar. Timpani and brushed drums portend looming misfortune while Cain floats above it all, a temptress detached from the sordid drama below.

If this all sounds very filmic, it should. Meeting me in a Mission bar over whiskey and wine, Cain waxes enthusiastically about movies, as well as composers such as Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, and Henry Mancini, all of whom have had a profound influence on her songwriting. The German expressionists and surrealists play a pivotal role, but of course there’s also film noir, gritty westerns, Dario Argento’s stylized horror freak-outs — and while David Lynch’s name never enters the conversation, there is an undeniable Blue Velvet dreamscape feel to Cain’s sublime creations, helped in part by a similarity to the director’s siren, Julee Cruise.

I’ll ask her another time, perhaps. But in the meantime, how would she feel about scoring a film? "That’d be like a dream come true," she says, beaming, eyes growing wider as she grabs my arm. "I’d do it right now if I could!" (Todd Lavoie)


Class of 2007: Jimmy Roses


CLUBS Hip-Hop Appreciation Society, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), Black ‘n’ Brown Alliance

QUOTE "We’re in a position to start reaching out to our peers and our gente and be like, ‘Hey, man, we’re here. Let’s get it crackin’. It ain’t the ’70s no more.’ "

Representing the Hispanic wing of the hyphy movement, Jimmy Roses won Latin Rap Artist of the Year at the 2006 Bay Area Rap Scene Awards, but he’s not resting on his laurels. Nor is he satisfied to dwell in a niche. As one of the premiere artists on the Thizz Latin label — an imprint of Mac Dre’s Thizz Entertainment — Roses aims to bring Latinos into the hip-hop mainstream while inspiring peace and unity on the streets. For Roses, the whole notion of hyphy and thizz got twisted to mean purely drug-addled or aggressive behavior when it’s actually more about getting loose, mixing it up, and dropping your gangster guard a bit. "That’s what was good about what Mac Dre did with the hyphy movement," Roses explains. "He brought the whole feel-good element … that made it easier for more ethnic backgrounds to participate."

Roses has "been through it," running the streets and even spending a little time locked up. He’s honest about those experiences but doesn’t glamorize them in his music; he consciously avoids gangster imagery in his lyrics and CD artwork, appearing on the cover of his 2006 self-titled debut looking less like a Norteño and more like a bad-ass "rydah" in leather jacket, motorcycle gloves, and low-rider "loq" sunglasses. "I don’t have to be a cholo to be a Mexican," he says. "I’m proud of that heritage and that culture. That’s my bloodline — that’s my past time. [But] we don’t have to rap like we’re struggling in the barrio."

The hustle that Roses promotes is more of the legitimate come-up kind, encouraging kindred Latinos and ‘hood youths to make something of themselves. Yet his approach isn’t that of the preachy, so-called conscious rapper. To ensure he has listeners’ ears, Roses uses the language of the streets, accompanied by music full of Bay slaps and stylish hyphy synths, typified by the catchy track "Who Rock the Party," which garnered airplay on KYLD-FM (WiLD 94.9) as well as stations throughout Central California and the Southwest.

Roses admits that street hustling, as well as the thug-rap soundtrack that typically goes along with it, has a negative side. Growing up in working-class South San Francisco, he became "oriented with all of that street mentality stuff. It’s inflicted a lot of hardships on my family." But, he adds, "I still love the streets. I love the people in the streets — I do, because you can’t help where you’re from." For Roses, what matters is where you’re going. (Amanda Maria Morrison)


Class of 2007: Carletta Sue Kay


CLUBS Future Farmers of America, Baby-Mama Drama Club, Toilet Scouts

QUOTE "Obviously, I’m trying to escape myself."

"It’s so fucking weird," says Randy Walker, a.k.a. Carletta Sue Kay, singer and songwriter for his eponymous chamber rock quartet. "I’m a total fagatron, but I write sad, heartfelt love songs addressed to imaginary women. Then I throw on a big ugly dress and a bad wig and sing them on stage to an audience of mostly gay men. I guess that makes it queer."

Probably. Either that or Psycho. Walker’s made a career of inhabiting various musical personae ever since he scored a Screen Actors Guild card for a production of Peter Pan when he was 10. After moving to San Francisco 12 years ago, he made a splash in queer indie-rock circles as Emile, the oft-bruised lead shouter of thrash-dance foursome Mon Cousin Belge. The sound of MCB edged outright metal terror with a glimmer of glam, splashing enough contempo-emo sincerity onto the band’s hilariously over-the-top antics to light a fire in many a queer boy’s heart. (Now recording a CSK album, Walker promises that MCB, which disbanded in May, will return later this year in a sleeker version.)

"I love Emile," Walker says. "I’ve been being Emile for years, but I’m constantly writing songs — I’m sitting on about 300 — and most of them are just waiting for me to find the right personality inside me to perform them." Thus, in the way of Sybil, Carletta Sue Kay was birthed, to give voice to Walker’s more lilting, Emmylou Harris–meets–Magnetic Fields tunes. Backed by Metal Bob on guitar and Danyol and Mark Mekaru on piano, cello, rhythm guitar, and accordion, Carletta croons her way through an lovely echo chamber of gender-benders, including "Joy Division," about a girl who loses her boyfriend to the titular band. "Carletta Sue Kay was named after my actual cousin, who’s serving time in Iowa for trying to blow up her boyfriend’s house. She was charged with possession of terrorist materials," Walker explains. "Isn’t that fabulously trashy?" (Marke B.)


Class of 2007: The Passionistas


SUPERLATIVE Most Likely to Succeed

QUOTE "We want the fashion line and the fragrance."

"We’d like to be pro — in the sense that we’d like to not work and have lots of money," Aaron Sunshine says of the Passionistas. Based on the group’s Kelley Stoltz–produced debut, God’s Boat (New and Used Records), Sunshine, fellow songwriter Myles Cooper, and bandmate Andrew Lux have earned the right to think big. Yeah, it’s hard to draw blood from a stone, but it’s even tougher to mine new blood from old rock music. Yet that’s exactly what the Passionistas do. If you’re a 21st-century modern lover, ready for post-Y2K "12XU" anthems, and you know you can’t hide your love forever, your dream soundtrack is ready. The Passionistas are so new and so classic they could revirginize an ancient whore.

They’ve got the punk smarts to cover Yoko Ono’s conflicted "No No No," to know fucking is a hot word not used often enough in rock lyrics, and to realize that it’s impossible for a song named "Teenage Jesus" to be lame. But make no mistake: the Passionistas have huge pop potential. They love Lil’ Wayne (Cooper: "He really frees himself of history to say what he feels"), they think Beyoncé’s aggressive shrillness is a sign of the times (Sunshine: "B-Day is like a hardcore album"), and they worship Aaliyah (Sunshine: "She and R. Kelly and Timbaland had this crazy alternative vision that is what we now think of as R&B"). Tom Sneddon is their antichrist. "We supported Michael Jackson through his entire trial," says Sunshine, a young man with a mission born and raised in the Mission. "We have a drum that has ‘Free the King of Pop’ painted on it."

The agnostic-to-atheist Cooper and Sunshine met in a math class at City College of San Francisco. They took the title God’s Boat from a speech by a contestant on Missy Elliott’s reality show The Road to Stardom. If their road to stardom is flooded, they’re ready to go the Noah’s ark route, or perhaps catch a ride on the American whales — seal-bullying orcas sporting stars and stripes — that are part of the Bay Area vista on their album’s Photoshopped back cover. Never descending into what Cooper disdainfully calls a "brofest," the Passionistas’ studio recording with longtime fan Stoltz is ready for the canon. "One Foot on a Banana Peel" is the best grandma-dis track ever, "Fucking Cold" is a boy-raised-on-riot-grrrl tantrum that makes the absolute most of leaping an octave, and if Lou Reed hadn’t turned into such a bore, he’d undoubtedly wish that he’d written "Going Gay." There’s nothing else to motherfucking say. (Johnny Ray Huston)

THE PASSIONISTAS With the Happy Hollows and the Dont’s. Thurs/30, 9 p.m., $7. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-2888, www.makeoutroom.com