Volume 43 Number 16

Fashion forward

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Looking at fashion designer Miranda Caroligne today, it’s hard to imagine she ever did anything other than sew and sell clothing. In addition to running her namesake boutique on 14th Street, she manages the co-op Trunk, peddles her wares at events across the country, and was asked to write Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies (For Dummies, 2007). Thanks to her gorgeous, whimsical, reconstructed styles, as well as her dedication to environmentalism and artistic community, she has become a well-reputed force in the SF indie fashion scene and beyond.

But she didn’t start that way — and the road to the present was neither easy nor direct.

Caroligne grew up in the woodland areas of Rhode Island with her mom, an elementary school teacher and brilliant seamstress, and her dad, a textile scientist. As a child, she spent most of her time hiking, exploring, or working on creative crafts with her mom, developing equal interest in both art and science. By high school, she was passionate about three very different subjects: writing, health care, and fashion. But when she got to the University of Rhode Island, she chose her major based on which jobs she thought would be available after she graduated. Health care won by a long shot. "And I was afraid of this thing called writer’s block," she jokes. Sewing remained a captivating pastime.

After graduating with a MS in physical therapy in 2000, Caroligne began working with children who had sensory system problems in Washington, DC. "Being young and having a job that relied on my physical strength — that time was psychologically stressful," she recalls.

Caroligne’s stress level hit the roof after a bicycling accident in 2003, which left her with a crushed nerve in her neck. Her physical strength had failed her, and she was without a job. It was a sign that it was time to turn her lifelong hobby, fashion design, into a career. With her short-term disability insurance and unemployment checks, she moved to Boston and found an art studio, where she spent nearly all her time at the sewing machine. "Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I just do," she explains. "I’m not one to be idle." She spent so much time working at the studio that she decided to sublease her apartment, leaving her nowhere to sleep but on friends’ couches. After a few months of couch-surfing, she cashed her unemployment checks and moved across the country to pursue a career in fashion.

It was January 2005, and Caroligne lived in a closet in her friend’s apartment. Her only possessions were a disco ball, which hung from the ceiling next to the skylight, a sewing machine, and a few pieces of colorful fabric draped over a stretch canvas which served as sewing material by day and bedding by night. Soon, she found her dream store in the heart of the Mission District.

She opened the shop in November of that year. About the size of a large dorm room, the cluttered space is filled with radiant, one-of-a-kind garments that reflect many years of hard work. She stitches them with a beat-up machine that faces a window on the street, so she can smile and wave to people as they pass. Her wares are reconstructed garments (made from donated clothing that she dismantles and pieces back together in different ways), articles produced from original patterns, and offcut items (made from the leftover scraps she accumulates while working on patterned pieces).

And her reuse of materials is more than just style — it’s an outgrowth of the environmentalism she learned as a kid. Caroligne advocates sustainability and makes use of almost every shred of old fabric, no matter how big or small. "I have this philosophy of not having sizes," she says. "I alter everything to fit." Sometimes she lets her customers alter pieces with her, so inspired buyers can learn how to make clothing on their own. "Part of the reason the sewing machine’s out is to show people they can do it, too."

To share her philosophy, Caroligne agreed to write Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies in the fall of 2007, encouraging fellow fashionistas to reuse old materials. She was surprised to reach not only an earth-loving, crafty crowd but also a non-sewing, mainstream audience. People were motivated to salvage their materials, whether they made their own clothes or not. Now, her style is becoming so popular with typical shoppers that some conventional retailers have started "faking" reconstruction. But Caroligne says her authentic pieces are about reducing waste and avoiding conformity, not just about looking good.

Now, on a typical Friday afternoon at her boutique, as she sits at her old-fashioned sewing machine with a pile of white, ruffly fabric exploding out from under it, she waves playfully at a child strolling past the shop with his family. Another woman walks in and gives Caroligne a hug. "It’s less about fashion and more about meeting people, helping them get in touch with themselves," she says. She wants everyone to be able to express themselves by wearing clothes that reveal how they feel. While her designs are meant to be fashionable, they’re carefully crafted based on how they feel and move while wearing them. Her background in physical therapy helps her understand the way fabrics are supposed to flow with the body, as well as how light or heavy the materials should be. She tests most of her skirts and dresses for these characteristics, because she says the weight of a fabric can change the way someone walks in it, depending on his or her physical composition. "They don’t teach you that in fashion school," she says, noting that she’s glad she didn’t attend. "It’s rigid."

Most designers she knows went to fashion school, though, and have taken a more standard route: they’ve created clothing lines and sold them to national retailers. While this route is probably the easiest, Caroligne says she’ll never regret opening her neighborhood boutique and sewing her designs herself. "There’s a life that happens when hanging up a new piece," she says. Curiously, it’s the one people ooh and ahh over when entering the store, even though everything looks new to them when it’s their first time in. Caroligne gets new ideas when sewing one-of-a-kind articles, which she says wouldn’t happen if other people sewed the clothes for her.

This March, however, Caroligne and her sales rep plan to start taking orders for a nationally distributed clothing line — without abandoning her boutique. Her "adult contemporary" collection will comprise pieces she has crafted for her store and her fashion shows, which are usually fundraising events for groups such as the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

On top of everything, she runs a sustainable art-retail-fashion cooperative, Trunk, in Upper Haight. Formerly known as Pandora’s Trunk, the shop has been renovated inside and out since she and her business partner split last fall. Caroligne says the corporate structure and leadership has changed, and for the first time it feels like a true San Francisco co-op, where people encourage each other and each other’s art. "There’s a sense of community support in San Francisco," she says, thinking about the differences between the Bay Area and Boston. "People live better here." Now there’s more space for local designers in the store, including the San Francisco–born, world-renowned company Wildlife Works, whose proceeds benefit endangered species and help create jobs and schools in Kenya. Caroligne donates regularly to Wildlife Works, which gives her scrap fabric and clothing in exchange. She uses the leftovers for her reconstructed and offcut designs, noting that this swap is just another way she likes to support the community and reinforce its connectedness.

Years after accomplishing her goal of becoming a successful designer, she has only one piece of advice for others with a similar ambition: "Just do it." She remembers one of her college professors who’d had many different jobs in various fields, and back then she thought he was a failure. But now his story inspires her.

"There are different ways of looking at life: you can work to financially support the life you want to live, or you can figure out a way to make the thing you love to do a source of financial stability," she says. With a humble smile, she adds: "I think I’ve found success in that." *

MIRANDA CAROLIGNE

485 14th St., SF. (415) 355-1900, www.mirandacaroligne.com

TRUNK

544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.myspace.com/trunksf

Diversify, DIY, or die

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You never thought your innate talent for margarita mixing or jewelry design would get you very far, so you went to business school, or got into publishing. Soon, you were working your way up in a dependable industry, the sort guaranteed to provide you with a secure income.

Then the financial crisis hit.

This November alone, in the biggest one-month drop in US payrolls since 1974, employers cut 533,000 jobs. Seemingly invincible corporations like AT&T and Citigroup have laid off thousands of employees, and many jobs once coveted for the security they provided are now as unpredictable as Bay Bridge traffic.

It’s time to look up your secret margarita mix recipe. In order to survive the recession, Bay Area residents are rediscovering their old talents and secret passions. Got an eye for detail? Help people perfect their résumés. Speak three languages? Tutor someone preparing to study abroad. Whether you’re recently laid off or simply nervous about the prospect, this type of diversification can provide relief in a time when reliable jobs are scarce.

If you’re unsure how to market your skills, take some advice from Allan Brown, who may be the poster boy for career diversification.

Brown, a "senior level marketing guy by trade," is currently the director of marketing for a publishing services company. In addition, he runs a résumé and cover-letter business out of his home, as well as a private bartending service.

After being let go from a publishing company a few years ago, Brown searched for a way to make some extra income while looking for a new job. He remembered how his father used to help the neighborhood kids write résumés, and thought he might have a knack for it, so he posted some ads online. "I thought, maybe I’ll make a few bucks," Brown told the Guardian. "Instead, I made a lifestyle change without even realizing it."

His customers were so impressed by this work that they referred him to their friends, and it wasn’t long until his endeavor developed into a rather lucrative enterprise, one he doesn’t even feel comfortable calling a "side business" since it brings in so much income. Once his résumé-writing business took off, he started a private bartending service, which he does "for a little extra money" as well as for fun.

"All you have to do is think outside the box," Brown told the Guardian. "In hard times like these, people don’t want to — or can’t — work in an office. So what if the industry is dried up? Think of what else you have to offer."

Brown believes that by taking in internal revenue that has nothing to do with the corporate office, people can develop their own kind of job security, even in times like these.

He’s one of the few people who are currently optimistic about their own financial state. "I feel I’m diversified enough to withstand the tide," he says. He admits holding three jobs is "a juggling act, to say the least" — still, in this economy, it’s better to have too many jobs than none at all.

The crucial tip for diversification, Brown says, is Craigslist.org, the online listings community to which he says he is "forever indebted."

"Twenty years ago, people with my type of skills found it very hard to make a living because it was hard to let people know about them. The only thing we had were classified ads. Now, we have Craigslist, and it’s a wonderful tool."

Peruse Craigslist.org and it’s clear that many others are following in Brown’s footsteps. "Need a Latin quote or love poem deciphered? Possum te adjuvare [I can help]," writes John Sullivan. "I got my BA in English literature by writing papers on books and plays I’d never read while paying my rent on papers that I was writing on subjects about which I knew little to nothing," boasts John Dillion.

"No matter if you want to sell stained glass sculptures or quilts, there’s someone out there on Craigslist who’s interested," Brown adds. "If you know how to market and make a good product, it will sell."

Lysa Aurora knows what Brown says is true from firsthand experience.

Aurora also juggles jobs: she works part-time for a nonprofit and as a marine biologist lab manager. While she enjoys her work at both places, her true passion lies in hat design.

"There’s a buyer for everything — even for my hats!" Aurora says.

Aurora, who calls herself "a Renaissance woman … the kind who only needs a glass of water and a broom to work my way to the top," decided to try her hand at hat design because she wasn’t working full time and wanted some extra money. Now, she’s the founder of De La Lucha Designs and sells her hats at stores around the Bay Area. Her side business helps her make rent, but it’s also her dream — and something she may not have pursued if she had a more stable job: "These are hard times and [my hat company] directly translates from the struggle. Through the ugliest of situations, we find ourselves."

It’s not only current members of the work force who are diversifying. Soon-to-be college graduates, like Connie Wang, are frightened by the state of the economy and taking precautions to make sure they’ll be able to get by until the market gets better. Wang has always longed to be a fashion journalist, but admits that in times like these, "knowing about the latest runway trends and what the editor-in-chief of Vogue is doing is kind of nonessential. I’m still trying to build up my résumé with internships before I graduate in May, but print clips don’t exactly pay the bills."

In order to make money while still doing what she loves, Connie started her own fashion blog, www.prettylegit.blogspot.com, where she posts about trends and writes product reviews. As her site gained more popularity, companies began sending her free products in exchange for write-ups.

"Unfortunately, what interests me more than honest-to-blog fashion reporting is not starving, so there have been a couple times where I’ve found myself reviewing products that didn’t exactly fit in with my readers for a little extra cash," she says. For example, she was just sent a new Google phone — trendy, but not exactly wearable. Wang does have limits — once, she was sent a set of "fancy douches," which she chose to disregard. "If I get sent something that is completely irrelevant and/or offensive, I won’t write about it. I’m not evil, I’m just poor."

Wang says she feels more confident graduating this spring with a steady, albeit small, stream of income — as well as an online portfolio and an abundance of free goods.

If you can’t find your inner blogger or designer, you could always try growing out your hair. "The economic situation has resulted in a substantial increase of users on our site," says Jacalyn Elise, the executive partner of www.hairtrader.com, which is essentially a hair-specific version of eBay.com. "Predominately, the people who visit our site seem to be those who were going to donate their hair to groups like Locks of Love, but now they’re in a financial bind, lost their job, need money to help pay the rent … selling hair helps."

Elise started the Web site a few years ago to help a friend who needed some extra money and had 12 inches of hair to spare. Soon, more and more people were contacting her to ask if they could participate. The site allows people to sell straight to buyers rather than going through a salon. Interested parties — whether wig makers or, yes, hair fetishists — browse through ads with frequently laughable sexual connotations, such as "20+ inches virgin uncut Asian hair: asking for at least $1,000." Jaclyn says site traffic has increased 40 percent since the Dow first plummeted in September 2008.

An Oakland resident and www.hairtrader.com user who prefers to remain anonymous says she is slightly embarrassed that she sold her hair instead of donating it. "But, I have to pay my bills — and I got over $500 for the hair I’ve had on my head for years."

It’s hard to keep a positive financial outlook these days. But sometimes — as these Bay Area residents discovered — it takes a layoff or a similar struggle to get out of one’s comfort zone and take a chance on change.

Back to school

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Let’s face it: 2008 was not great. Two wars, lots of political BS, and an economy that’s seen better days. But if our president-elect is to be believed, things are about to change. Why not bring some of that change to your personal life by learning a new skill? Here are some of my favorite offerings in our fair city by the Bay.

EN GARDE!


Perhaps you love those old Robin Hood movies or actually know the names of all three Musketeers. Or maybe you just think it’d be fun to hit someone with a steel stick. Whatever your attraction to fencing, Golden Gate Fencing Center is the place for you.

On the day I visited, a number of young fencers were working out. Some were junior national champions; some were just out to have fun. And that is the vibe that permeates the place, which has been serving fencers of all ages and levels since 1997. Although the sport is physical, coach Paul Soter says strategy is equally important. In fact, some fencers have been known to compete and train well into their 70s.

As for gear, the expense is minimal. Aside from the cost of the class, the only thing you have to buy is a glove that will run you about $20. Golden Gate will provide the rest.

Golden Gate Fencing Center, 2417 Harrison, SF. (415) 626-7910, www.gofencing.com

BLOW ME


More of an artist than an athlete? Get yourself down to Public Glass in the Bayview. Founded 12 years ago as "the Disneyland of glassblowing," this organization is the only one in the city that teaches novice glassblowers. The space is ample, as is the curriculum. But classes are small, with a ratio of three students to one carefully screened instructor.

The experience of making glass is magical, and almost spooky. The heat coming off the glory holes — the giant furnaces that heat glass into liquid — reminds you that the beautiful orange glow is powerfully dangerous. But it might be the danger that keeps people coming to Public Glass. "It’s a primordial rush," says Manigeh Bridget Khalaji, the operational manager.

But another part of glassblowing’s appeal seems to be that it requires teamwork. Though glass in liquid form shifts shape easily, it only stays malleable for a few moments. Thus, it takes more than one set of hands to perform all the tasks necessary to shape a glass piece.

When I was there, I saw two men working in tandem — almost as if they were one person with four hands — sculpting, cutting, blow-torching the glass before it hardened. One of the artists called the process "controlled chaos," and he wasn’t exaggerating.

Glassblowing isn’t cheap, and learning the skills necessary to make a decent piece requires a real time commitment. The staff recommends four four-week classes to get you up and running, and the classes are a little on the expensive side. But if you can get the money together, and if you want to experience something truly unique, creating glass objects fits the bill — and then some.

Public Glass, 1750 Armstrong, SF. (415) 671-4916, www.publicglass.org

CHEEK-TO-CHEEK


Take a trip to Buenos Aires — via Potrero Hill — on the first three Fridays of each month, when Gary Weinberg and his partner teach two walk-in tango classes — one for beginners and the other for more advanced dancers. Afterward, he hosts a milonga (or dance social) where you can practice what you learned. And you get all of that for $15.

The Monte Cristo is just one of many places in the city where you can learn tango, but there are few places as friendly to newbies. During the week, it’s a social club for Italian Americans, and it’s been around for more than 100 years. As you might imagine, the vibe there is old-school, with an emphasis on old. There’s a lot of fake wood panels, black-and-white photos on the wall, and plastic tablecloths like you see in North Beach’s older, "locals only" cafés. That said, tango at the Monte Cristo attracts dancers of all ages.

Unlike other styles of dance, there is no basic step to the tango; you just walk. So beginners can get a real taste for what the dance is like after one lesson. Still, tango ain’t easy. If you’re leading, this means walking without stepping on your partner’s toes; if you’re the follower, then you’re walking backward, often in heels. From there, things get increasingly complicated. Think mobile, upright Twister and you start to get a feel for how difficult the dance becomes.

Maybe because of its complexity, tango lends itself to overachiever types. Gary is a retired English professor, and many of the people I met at his class were engineers, doctors, and teachers. That said, tango is not only an intellectual exercise. If you like a physical challenge, and if you like to surround yourself with interesting, passionate people, you won’t go wrong spending a Friday night at the Monte Cristo.

Monte Cristo Club, 136 Missouri, SF. www.sanfrantango.com

CLOWNIN’ AROUND


One of the things people tend to lose as they get older is the ability to play. So imagine a place for adults where the whole point is to rediscover that part of you that’s been buried under all the worries you carry around. That place exists right here in San Francisco, at the Clown Conservatory.

When you enter the building, which was once a boy’s gymnasium for a now-defunct high school, you forget the world outside. It’s a bit like Willy Wonka’s factory, without the calories. There are rainbow-colored lockers and some of the students do wear clownlike clothing. Most notable, though, is that everyone brings a real earnestness to what they do.

The biggest surprise to me was this: clowning is not only fun, but an art. Jeff Raz, the Clown Conservatory’s founder and a professional clown, has developed a curriculum that trains every level of performer, from the recreational trapeze student to people who want to go on to careers in Cirque du Soleil.

But it’s the students who work tirelessly at their craft that make the space come alive. The cost is a few hundred bucks for a 12-week class, but learning to be a clown might just be the thing to make your 2009 a year of wonder. *

The Clown Conservatory, Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. (415) 759-8123, www.circuscenter.org

Get class-y

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› molly@sfbg.com

Want to take your career in a new direction? Increase the skills you already have? Use your unemployment check for something fun and educational? We’ve chosen just a handful of interesting classes to occupy your time and, perhaps, to serve as a more cost-effective (and beneficial) alternative to the massively expensive dinner-and-bar outing.

BHANGRA


This multilevel class teaches a modern version of the ancient harvest dance from the state of Punjab in northwestern India. Incorporating hip-hop, dancehall, and drum ‘n’ bass influences of modern DJs, this accessible dance form reflects the diversity of the Indian diaspora.

Mondays, 6:30–8 p.m. $12 drop-in.

Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. (415) 826-4441, www.dancemission.com

SWING GOTH


More "alt" than strictly "goth," the whole point of this class is to teach basic partner dancing moves to fun, unconventional music. Don’t expect to learn traditional swing, but do expect a rockin’ good time with a room full of people looking for the same. (And you’ll leave at least looking like you know how to swing.)

Tuesdays, 7–8 p.m. $5 drop-in.

Fat City, 314 11th St., SF. www.swinggoth.com

BEGINNER ROCK CLIMBING COURSE


You’ll learn everything you need to know to climb glaciers (or gym walls) in this in-depth, four-week introductory course, including belay and basic safety techniques, bouldering, climbing technology, and more. It’s not cheap, but the fee includes harness and shoe rentals for class nights, gym access for one month, and — should you decide to join the gym — a discount on membership.

Wednesdays, 7 p.m. $129 for four weeks.

Planet Granite, 924 Old Mason, SF. (415) 692-3434, www.planetgranite.com

FLASH FICTION


Explore this exciting, nuanced genre with instructor and published writer Josh Mohr. You’ll learn to use all the elements of narrative construction while creating powerful stories containing only a few hundred words. Mohr promises lots of freedom, experimentation, and play.

Jan. 24, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., $110

Writing Salon, 720 York, SF. (415) 609-2468, www.writingsalons.com

WTF NIGHT


Are you intimidated by the bicycle boys’ club? Want a supportive place to learn more about your ride? Bike Kitchen’s monthly clinic devoted to women, transfolks, genderqueers, and femmes is one of our favorite offerings from the all-volunteer collective. Also check out Basic Tune-up classes in February, and BK’s new locale in March!

Jan. 26, 6:30–9:30 p.m. Free.

Bike Kitchen, 1256 Mission, SF. www.bikekitchen.org

SIMPLE AND HEALTHY EVERYDAY COOKING


Spend an informative, enjoyable evening with Chef Joe Wittenbrook in his charming Duboce Triangle studio as you learn approachable menus that work well for those on a budget. Or, even better, schedule a private class for you and four friends.

Jan. 27 (and every Tuesday through April), 6–9 p.m. $95.

Chef Joe’s Culinary Salon, 16a/b Sanchez, SF. www.theculinarysalon.com

SCULPTURAL SQUARE BOOK


Elaine Chu shows students how to make an impressive hardcover, origami-style book with folded pages that can be filled with images and text. In class, you’ll paint your own covers using vibrantly colored inks, as well as learn to attach ribbon ties.

Jan. 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $55 plus $10 materials.

SF Center for the Book, 300 De Haro, SF. (415) 565-0545, www.sfcb.org

MONSTER BABY FLEECE HAT


Learn to work with stretch fabrics while making these painfully cute tops for tots, all while supporting the new effort by former Stitch Lounge favorites Kelly Williams and Hannah McDevitt. Great gifts for new moms and their winter spawn!

Jan. 31, noon–3 p.m. $62

Craft Haven Collective, 520 Hampshire, SF. crafthaven.org

HERBAL MEDICINE-MAKING FOR WINTER HEALTH


Create simple herbal remedies for the common winter bug while learning about basic actions of plants and how they work in combination. You’ll leave with a jar or each remedy, plus handouts and recipes.

Jan. 31, 10 a.m.–noon. $15.

Garden for the Environment, Seventh Ave. at Lawton, SF. (415) 731-5627, www.gardenfortheenvironment.org

BEGINNER SURFING I


You live in California! It’s time to learn how to surf! In Adventure Out’s two-day clinic, you’ll learn basic technique, safety and etiquette, ocean awareness, and balance. All gear included!

Feb. 7–8, 9 a.m.–noon, $170.

Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica. www.adventureout.com

FEARLESS FIRE EATING


Think there’s no way you could be a fire-eater? Think again. The art of putting (and putting out) fire in your mouth, running it along your skin, and executing other advanced tricks is easier than it seems. In this entry-level class, you’ll make two torches to take home and practice with. And don’t worry, you’ll learn fire safety before any flames touch your skin.

Feb. 28–Mar. 1, 3:30–5:30 p.m. $85.

The Crucible, 1260 Seventh St., Oakl. (510) 444-0919, www.thecrucible.org

GRANT WRITING FOR ARTISTS


There’s no better time for learning how to fund your art than now. Let Root Division’s executive director, Michelle Mansour, guide you through researching and applying for grant funding, including understanding lingo, addressing application criteria, preparing work samples, and editing.

March 16 & 30, 7–9 p.m. $30

Root Division, 3175 17th St., SF. www.rootdivision.org *

Twice as nice?

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RANT As 2008 wound down, and filmgoers everywhere began to gag on For Your Consideration flicks, one exciting piece of news gurgled out for genre fans: a planned remake of 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby had been cancelled. According to a post on Collider.com, producer Andrew Form was stumped by trying to adapt Ira Levin’s 1967 novel for a contemporary audience. "We couldn’t come up with something where it felt like it was relevant and we could add something to it other than what it was," he told the site.

These pearls of wisdom from the guy who produced 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2005’s Amityville Horror, 2007’s The Hitcher, this February’s Friday the 13th, and the slated-for-2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street. Roman Polanski’s paranoia-will-destroy-ya tale of New York City witches is spooky enough on its own, thanks to suspenseful pacing, an overwhelming sense of dread, and its performances, particularly by a bug-eyed Mia Farrow and a grasping, Oscar-winning Ruth Gordon. For current viewers, subtext from the director (the movie predated Charles Manson’s murder party at Sharon Tate’s mansion by a year) and the setting (the Dakota, John Lennon’s last address) further ups the creep factor. The movie itself seems haunted. You think producers who favored lingering shots of Ryan Reynolds’s Amityville abs over any actual scares could replicate that?

But I’m rambling on a moot point. Most horror remakes do get made, and rake in the bucks. Many tend to be hampered by the worst invention in the past 25 years of cinema, the PG-13 rating. (The recent wave of PG-13 horror films really need their own genre distinction that doesn’t have "horror" in it, because there’s no horror in them.) For the most part, post-millennial horror remakes are either J-horror (2002’s The Ring remains the most lucrative) or slashers, like 2007’s Halloween. The selection process for what gets remade seems as arbitrary as the eventual results: Jamie Lee Curtis’s 1980 disco-dance nightmare Prom Night, a cult favorite, became a shitty 2008 release (PG-13!) seen by maybe 15 people. But some seemingly sacrilegious efforts, like the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, were well liked. Even by me.

Up next: 1981’s My Bloody Valentine, a somewhat obscure early-period slasher comin’ at us in 3-D this Friday. (Yes, it’s rated R.) What good is gimmick du jour 3-D if not to enhance flailing limbs and splattering blood? Cynical though I am, I can’t resist. Besides, one of my favorite movies of all time is a horror remake: John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing. (Cheryl Eddy)

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D opens Fri/16 in Bay Area theaters

Mo Biggie

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Wait for it, wait for it: the moment when Jamal Woolard as Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. Big Poppa, utters, with admirable understatement, "Mo money, mo problems." The woman he married three days after he met her, vocalist Faith Evans (a sad-eyed Antonique Smith), is pregnant but estranged; his spunky protégé Lil’ Kim (Naturi Naughton) is hopping mad that her lover-protector-mentor has dropped her and is instead bossing her in the studio; his original baby mama is miffed that his daughter gets zero Big Poppa time, and his ex-BFF Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) thinks Biggie is out to get him, and the East Coast vs. West Coast beef is now fully fired up. ‘Nuff said.

"Mo Money Mo Problems" is the obvious alternate title for Notorious, which has the ring of a men’s cologne by Sean "I Am King" Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka P. Diddy, aka Diddy, the film’s executive producer. It’s certainly more glammy — and feeds into the mythmaking that Combs has been so adept at when it comes to his Bad Boy artists — than Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. (Three Rivers, 2004), the title of the book by Cheo Hodari Coker that this biopic is based on.

The drive-by shooters who killed the legendary rapper, born Christopher Wallace, at the far-too-young age of 24, remain cloaked in mystery, despite the attention given the MC’s murder in Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book, LAbyrinth (Grove/Atlantic) and Nick Broomfield’s ’02 doc Biggie and Tupac, and his death is still embroiled in knotty intrigue, having triggered multiple wrongful-death claims against the Los Angeles Police Department. But of course, history is written by the winners — and those happen to be Combs and Notorious‘ producers, Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace and Biggie managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts — and in the end, they prefer to skip the speculation and allegations of conspiracy surrounding the rapper’s unsolved murder and focus on the love.

So much like recent musicmaker biopics à la 2007’s Control, which privileged the perspective of Joy Division frontperson Ian Curtis’ wife over his bandmates’, there’s an element of noticeably selective memory-picking to Notorious — even as it tries to play fair with those outside the equation, such as Shakur and Lil’ Kim. The latter has slammed the movie, according to MTV: she believes it hews to the version of history as written by Biggie’s mother and wife and portrays her inaccurately.

Still, director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor, Barbershop) seems to have thrived on the tension between a mother who adored Biggie but disapproved of his criminal activities, and label heads and managers aware that the dope-dealing, dues-paying gangsta grind girding Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics must be shown to authenticate the first-person experiential honesty the rapper was known for. Thus we get a multidimensional Biggie — the big-kid vulnerability he showed to his moms and his "Faith-Faith," as well as the tough, rock-slinging-to-pregnant-crackheads, money-making front. Plenty of respect is also given to the MC’s art, which this rags-to-riches/gats-to-bitches tale (with much due given to a kind of golden-age of hip-hop label patronage in the form of Puffy [Derek Luke] and Biggie’s friendship) reverently visualizes on the street, in the basement, in the studio, and on the arena stage.

Putting his interest in street-level soul, characters less than well-represented in mainstream Hollywood, and his touch with rappers to work, Tillman subtly injects more cinematic interest into his already-dramatic material than it might have had on the page. Biggie’s childhood is washed with glowy, golden hues, while his time dealing on the street is leached of hues and clad in corroded grays, blacks, whites, and browns, until the MC battles another rapper on the sidewalk and color begins to enter the picture.

And unlike 2008’s Cadillac Records, which bought into the overt displays of bling that talent can bring, Tillman and company give adequate shrift to the musicmaking that built Biggie’s renown: the mic is shot as if it’s a grail, swathed in a silvery aura. The symbols of power — such as the Big Daddy Kane–like throne Biggie mounts — speak louder than his kicks, cribs, or cars. And the scenes in which Woolard actually raps — particularly in a basement scene after he emerges from prison and a bout of lyric writing and soul searching — are believable and compelling: flecks of his spit shimmer in the harsh light. Woolard, who grew up blocks from Biggie’s original hood and had a promising career until a shooting in front of NYC’s Hot 97, is the perfect choice to portray the man.

Notorious‘ melodramatic, overly amped conclusion may ring a bit artificial with its drawn-out return to the opening scenes: as "Hypnotize"’s "Rise" sample ripples through the dancers, Notorious B.I.G. says, in flashback, that he’s finally found peace, he’s become a man, and, well, he’s Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994), to crib the title of his classic debut. But I dare anyone to not get choked up by Notorious‘ coda, as Voletta Wallace, portrayed with grand-dame grit by Angela Bassett, looks out on the crowd surrounding her son’s NYC funeral procession, playing his music and flinging their arms, and realizes that, though she never quite trusted the easy money and fast friends surrounding her son, Biggie will always be remembered for his way with words.

NOTORIOUS opens Fri/16 in the Bay Area

———–

JUST PLAYING

BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT


It’s not a hologram: the roving musicmakers return to the region they once called home. Wed/14, 8 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

LOS YEUX NOIR


They’re dark-eyed and infatuated with gypsy, Yiddish, and Manouche jazz. Wed/14, 8 and 10 p.m., $20–<\d>$25. Yoshi’s SF, 1330 Fillmore, SF. sf.yoshis.com

LENKA


Cutie-pie pop oozes from the Aussie charmer who once studied acting with Cate Blanchett. Thurs/15, 8 p.m., $13–<\d>$15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

WILD WEEKEND


We’re lost in an all-girl punk rock wilderness. Sat/17, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE


The popsters go acoustic with tunes from an album-in-progress. Sun/18–Mon/19, 8 p.m., $25. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com.

BARRINGTON LEVY


The acclaimed live performer taps Obama samples for his new single, "No War." Tues/20, 9 p.m., $28. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Goin’ Coconut

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› johnny@sfbg.com

It was winter-coat weather the night Coconut played music at a release party for a book of Veronica De Jesus’ memorial drawings. After a slide show by De Jesus with a revelation about how the project was born from loss, Colter Jacobsen read a sharp first-person essay about her portraits, those lively renderings of dead poets, movie directors, baseball team owners, and Romanian table-tennis champs displayed on the windows of Dog-Eared Books. Then Tomo Yasuda joined Jacobsen to play some songs. One of them was a quasi-cover of Matthew Wilder’s "Break My Stride" that gave the 1983 white-lite reggae pop hit a heart transplant, allowing the song to briefly race forward before slowing to a near standstill.

Coconut has traveled from a quiet spot to meet you and your ears. The tracks on the duo’s triple CD-R collection, Rain/Cocoanut/Hello Fruity (Allone Co., 2007), form and fade in relation to energy and inspiration. The longest one, "Dubbud Song," might even be composed of the moments between the music: the strums, hums, and drones that briefly take shape and then fall away. There is no need for a vocal on Rain‘s "Blue Umbrella." The guitar sings. On holiday from other endeavors — Jacobsen is a visual artist; Yasuda records solo and plays in Tussle and Hey Willpower; both were part of an earlier group called Window Window and Lets, a side project of Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki — Coconut explores a world of echo at a relaxed pace. Jacobsen and Yasuda are on self-timer.

Now I’m onto another thought: Cocoanut, the silver entry in the duo’s blue-silver-yellow CD-R trilogy, is my current favorite. It might be the way "Tide Sun 7th Generation" layers lolling, rolling acoustic melodies while still leaving room for backward masking effects and other little embellishments. It might be the talky, off-kilter, get-your-goat riffs at the beginning of "Tree of No Tree," before a glowing harmonium harmony arrives to transform the composition into a tango for oddballs. It might be that "Vacation (I don’t want to go to work)" sounds like it was recorded on a warm day in a barn with a makeshift kitchen.

Or it could be the spindly pluck of Cocoanut‘s "Webs on a Grid" and "Evidence," songs that prove Jacobsen and Yasuda are on the sunny side of the ocean on a bicycle built for two. The 101 is a hard road to travel, but they’re ready for excursions into the unknown, so it isn’t completely unsettling when "Webs on a Grid"’s final minor-chord descent is coupled with what sounds like dying stars falling through space. That astral passage and the electronic personality of Yasuda’s too-little-known album For Many Birthdays (Daft Alliance, 2006) make the warp shift to sci-fi dub on Cocoanut‘s final track, "Should I?" — which pushes squares, without the macho math-nerd beat displays — more natural and less surprising.

Back on earth, Jacobsen is inclined to sing for a fine stretch of time every now and then. "Rainbow," a number on Rain, allows him to tease out the difference between a jeweler and a jail man. On Cocoanut‘s "Gannet Song," he blesses the listener with a prankish anecdote. The quiet rustle of his voice moves to the fore on Hello Fruity, where "Human Nature" ponders the meaning of second place in a two-person race, and "100 %" multitracks a godly-and-creamy choir of reassurance into something vaguely unsettling. There is a light sense of wordplay in these tunes that extends to the way other songs’ names ("Sarah Rain," "Rain in Sahara," "Hell O Hello") play off of the CD-R’s titles and each other.

It was T-shirt weather the night Coconut played music at a release party for Bill (Gallery 16 Editions, 45 pages, $25), a collaboration between Jacobsen and the poet-essayist Bill Berkson. Sunlight beamed through the open windows. After playing a set of songs from and beyond Rain/Cocoanut/Hello Fruity, the duo was joined by Berkson. He read a line from the book, and they punctuated it with a brief blast of rhythm or a touch of acoustics. When he reached the end of the poem, it wasn’t the end of the performance — Coconut’s music keeps dancing in and out of San Francisco, and its words and pictures.

COCONUT

With Aero-Mic’d and Elm

Thurs/15, 9 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1121 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

www.hemlocktavern.com

Hang on, Ramsey

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Venerable jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis will be 74 in May, but you’d hardly know it from his packed tour schedule and mounting awards. The Chicago native and 2007 NEA Jazz Master honoree hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, has recorded nearly an album a year since 1956 plus tours with his trio, does regular duets with Dave Brubeck, and moonlights as a member of smooth jazz supergroup Urban Knights. But perhaps Lewis’ greatest accomplishment was bringing jazz and pop together in soulful harmony.

Sample libraries and hip-hop production would be diminished were it not for Lewis’ funky covers ("Dear Prudence," "Soul Man," "People Make the World Go Round," "Slipping into Darkness"). Likewise Lewis, whose been playing since age four, has a sense of history: he studied Bach, Beethoven, Hayden, Duke Ellington, and Art Tatum before forming the Cleffs with Eldee Young on bass and Redd Holt on drums, his first of many trio configurations.

As the Ramsey Lewis Trio he scored hits in the mid-1960s on Chess-Cadet label releases like "Wade in the Water," "The In Crowd," and Motown cover "Hang on Sloopy." Lewis did for the piano what Stevie Wonder did for the harmonica, made the instrument swing. He also managed to evolve with the times, switching to Fender electric piano and writing originals like "Uhuru" and "Bold and Black" on 1969’s Another Voyage (Cadet) produced by studio great Charles Stepney. Sun Goddess (Columbia, 1974), which showcases enduring Lewis collaborator Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire on drums and vocals, was rediscovered by DJs decades later and ushered in the early-’90s acid jazz movement.

His most recent recording, 2005’s With One Voice (Narada) includes gospel standard "Oh Happy Day," redone with a house groove, and soulful reggae number "Keep the Spirit." These days bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce fill out the trio, and the group makes an extended stop at Yoshi’s SF, a great prelude to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In 1967 Columbia Records president Clive J. Davis said: "In the next century or so, we may very well no longer draw distinctions between what is ‘jazz,’ what is ‘classical,’ what is ‘progressive,’ ‘rock,’ or ‘soul.’ It may all just be called music, and let it go at that. For it’s all here, in the music that Ramsey makes." Davis’ hope for an end to genre distinctions may not have come to pass yet, but he was right about Lewis, it is all in him.

RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO

Thurs/15–Fri/16, 8 p.m., Sat/17, 8 and 10 p.m., Sun/18, 7 p.m.; $65

Yoshi’s SF

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 655-5600

sf.yoshis.com

Wise blood

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

The only real city within a 1,000-mile radius, Denver perches a full mile above sea level, a windswept plateau superficially blanketed by strip malls, widget manufacturers, and convention centers. Bereft of both cosmopolitan peerage and any truly cohesive sense of cultural identity, the loneliness of the native Denverite is pervasive, haunted, and misunderstood, but not wholly undersung. For within the discomfited bosom of the Centennial State, an entire subgenre of music has continued to flourish — attracting devotees from far beyond the state line.

At the forefront of the Denver sound, even before there was such a term, has been David Eugene Edwards. Formerly a member of the Denver Gentlemen — as was fellow standard-bearer, Slim Cessna — Edwards’ most well-known band, 16 Horsepower, had all the requisite qualities characteristic of the Denver sound: conviction, intensity, and an uncompromising spiritualism that manifested itself in fire-and-brimstone lyricism, American Gothic instrumentation, and the feverish denouncements of a traveling preacher man. It is difficult to speak of Edwards without the specter of 16 Horsepower looming large behind the context, but Edwards’ current band Wovenhand, an entity in progress since 2001, has finally broken away from the tyranny of the past to fully inhabit its own potential with a new album: Ten Stones (Sounds Familyre, 2008).

Ten Stones is as elemental an album as Edwards and present company have ever crafted. From the rock-solid, faith-shaken lament "Not One Stone" to the north wind-inhabited "Kicking Bird" to the curiously moving cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)," which sounds as if it had been recorded underwater, almost every song on the album corresponds intriguingly with a companion force of nature. One of the album’s particular surprises, the druggy rocker "White Knuckle Grip," feels like the rising tension of clouds gathering before a particularly fierce Colorado thunderstorm — the kind that splits the sky in two and harks back to the great flood that drowned the world. The album showcases the metamorphosis of the band as a whole from solo side project into a tightly knit collaborative, drawing inspiration from the impassioned religious fervor for the supernatural that characterizes much of the Denver sound, and from a greater reverence for the immutable power of the strictly natural, and of the music that lies buried at the heart of both.

Peter van Laerhoven, Wovenhand’s lead guitarist since 2005, especially comes into his own on Ten Stones. Like a spirited horse finally allowed his head, he rises to the challenge — penning two of the disc’s songs, most notably the aforementioned "Kicking Bird" — and smoothly lending earthy heft to the otherworldly divergences of bandmate Edwards. Stripped of many of the alt-Americana bells and whistles of Edwards’ earlier music, this strong guitar base helps anchor the tunes in a thoroughly modern context, without diminishing the ageless quality of their emotional weight. And while a driven, revival-meeting furor was essential to the development of the original Denver sound, this willingness to encompass other forms of reverence has become its new watchword. Call it a tempering process, or simply call it maturation. The refined blade of Wovenhand may have been forged in the youthful fires of what was once 16 Horsepower, but with a steel all its own, it cuts straight to the bone.

WOVENHAND

Tues/20, 9 p.m., $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

www.bottomofthehill.com

Speed Reading

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MIXING IT UP: TAKING ON THE MEDIA BULLIES AND OTHER REFLECTIONS

By Ishmael Reed

Da Capo Press

320 pages

$15.95

Ishmael Reed is one of the most prolific writers, seers, and pundits of the 20th and 21st centuries. The author of nine novels, six books of poetry, six plays, and four books of political essays has been a constant presence and persistent thorn in the sides of various official experts. What I love about Reed is his refusal to be classified, stereotyped, or labeled. From his first book, 1967’s wildly experimental Freelance Pallbearers, through a turbulent and often silly surge of academic quarrels, he has shared his vision with bravado and courage.

His latest book of political essays continues his crusade for mother-wit in the face of a consistently homogenized culture, whether through an insightful interview with saxophonist Sonny Rollins, or writing that tackles America’s anti-black lending practices. Reed’s take is plainspoken and no-nonsense, yet an element of whimsy seems to permeate even the most uncomfortable subjects. In an essay about the Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant trials, for example, his observation about hip-hop "pimp-culture" is that "Blacks are just as incompetent in this area of crime as they are in all others. Nearly four hundred years on this continent and not a single Martha Stewart or Ken Lay."

The only drawback of this book is that I get the impression that Reed is spending too much time in front of the television. It’s rumored that he has several sets stacked one on top of another so he can watch them simultaneously.

ISHMAEL REED

With Justin Desmangles

Sat/17, 2 p.m.; free

Koret Auditorium

San Francisco Public Library

100 Larkin, SF

(415) 557-4400

www.sfpl.org

Shock and awe

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

After 15 years of a labor of printmaking love in what has become the artistic heart of SoMa, Aurobora Press has to be out of its home at 147 Natoma Street by the end of the month. When the landlord came forward with a tenant able to pay three times what the press was shelling out for the historic back-alley building, built in 1907 with bricks from the rubble of the earthquake, Aurobora — no stranger to our languishing economy — was forced to pack its bags. Standing before a radiantly colored Jay Davis monotype in the press’s small office, director Michael Liener said that he was trying to stay positive and accept that "change is good." But he was clearly in shock, sounding somewhat otherworldly in his soothsaying. "We’re still figuring out where we’re going to land — maybe in a space, maybe not."

In order to lessen its moving load, the press is currently selling framed work at unframed prices, though Aurobora Projects, the press’s showroom in Menlo Park, will continue to operate. Sadly, Aurobora’s coveted residencies, which allow artists who don’t normally work in the medium to come in and make monotypes — paintings on paper, created by inking a flat surface and then pressing it in an intaglio press — are up in the air. In the tradition of early 20th-century artistic crossovers such as French Catalan sculptor Aristide Maillol’s exquisite woodblock illustrations, the residencies have helped artists discover hidden resonance within their own symbolic systems. For example, working in monotype without preconceived notions, painter Angela Dufrense captured the essence of Ivan the Terrible. Local sculptor Stephen DeStaebler saw his signature angel wings and rock-forms expand on paper.

Caught between dimensions and subject to the idiosyncrasies of a big, heavy press, the monotype medium is an ongoing experiment in temporality. Thus Liener is familiar with the unexpected. He stressed that he doesn’t harbor hard feelings toward the landlord, who helped Aurobora get the space in the first place. Liener had been on a month-to-month lease, but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave a space that he created from the ground up. "The question now is, do I have the will, the stomach, the bank account, to do this all over again?" he says. "It’s kind of the end of an era. When we first moved here, we spent four months ripping this place apart, exposing the bare bones, shaping a beautiful gallery." During Aurobora’s time at 147 Natoma, Liener and friends pulled down six rooms, took out the "cheesy carpet," and exposed and patched the site’s original floorboards.

"We were here before the [San Francisco Museum of Modern Art] opened, before the W [hotel], before all the development," Liener observes. "We were out here pioneering. This is just another example of what happens when an area becomes ‘discovered,’ ‘found,’ ‘populated’: the ‘pioneers’ can no longer afford their good work. I’m not unique. This happens everywhere in every city. When you create a really lovely space and you’re here for a period of time, it becomes a selling point for the next person to come in and kick you out." The tragedy is that it’s the quiet little places, the hidden spaces for meditation and contemplation, that always seem to disappear first. And what do we need most right now?

www.aurobora.com

Street fighters

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› steve@sfbg.com

StreetsBlog (www.streetsblog.org) isn’t your average blog, but rather a well-funded institution that helped promote and propel a major transformation that has taken place on New York City streets since the site was founded in 2006, sparking rapid and substantial improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In the process, StreetsBlog — which is part of the Livable Streets Network, along with StreetFilms and the StreetsWiki, started by urban cyclist Mark Gordon, founder of the popular file-sharing site LimeWire — developed a loyal following among alternative transportation planners and advocates in cities across the United States.

"There was nothing like it," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "They put out these inspiring images and really helped people envision better streets."

So when a group of about two dozen of these Bay Area transportation geeks made the trek up to Portland, Ore. last summer for the Towards Carfree Cities International Conference (see "Towards Carfree Cities: wrap-up," Guardian Politics blog), one of their secret goals was to try to lure StreetsBlog to San Francisco.

What began with a long, beer-soaked meeting at a Portland brewpub has turned into substantial new voice in the local media and transportation landscape since StreetsBlog San Francisco (www.sf.streetsblog.org) launched at the start of this year.

"All this really came together in Portland during the Carfree conference," said Aaron Naparstek, executive editor of the three StreetsBlogs (SF, NYC, and Los Angeles) and executive producer of the LivableStreets Network. "The No. 1 reason we decided to open up SF StreetsBlog is because so many people were asking us to do it, particularly from the bike activist community. Most important, we also had a guy with money asking us to do it — [San Francisco bicyclist] Jonathan Weiner … There’s a vibrant activist community that thinks we can be useful and there are people willing to fund the work."

It also dovetailed nicely with the organization’s push to influence the quadrennial federal transportation bill reauthorization that Congress will consider later this year, which environmentalists hope will shift money away from freeway projects. "There was a sense that now is the time to build a nationwide movement," Naparstek said. "The freeway lobby guys are very organized and embedded in all the state [departments of transportation] and it’s tough to counter that. We want to use the Internet to foment a national movement."

StreetsBlog SF has two full-time staffers, editor Bryan Goebel, a San Francisco-based journalist who worked for KCBS) and reporters Matthew Roth, part of the team that started StreetsBlog in New York. StreetsBlog also pays as a contributor longtime local author and activist Chris Carlsson, who was part of the SF crew in Portland.

"I think they have an opportunity to bring close attention to the texture of life on the streets, something print journalism doesn’t do very well," Carlsson said. "It’s about reinhabiting city life."

Shahum said she’s thrilled at the arrival of StreetsBlog, which she says will help local leaders envision a less car-dependent city: "We as advocates are not always so good at helping people visualize what something better looks like."

And that, says Naparstek, is his network’s main strength. "We’ve actually had a lot of success in New York moving these livable streets models forward and we have a lot of best practices to share," he said, noting their network of 175 bloggers in cities around the country and world.

With Mayor Gavin Newsom’s penchant for "best practices"; San Francisco’s experimentation with innovative ideas like market-based parking pricing, congestion fees, Muni reform, and creation of carfree ciclovias; and the imperatives of climate change and the end of the age of oil, activists say this is the ideal time and place the arrival of StreetsBlog.

"There is an interesting convergence of issues that has made it bigger than it might have been," Roth said.

"And in San Francisco, who’s covering these issue besides the Guardian? There is a big need for this," Goebel added. "From a journalists’ point of view, we need to call people on their inconsistencies and not just let leaders govern by press release, which Mayor Gavin Newsom has a tendency to do."

Liebe me, liebe me not

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By Nicole Gluckstern

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

It might not be spring, but love is already in the air, thanks to a Berlin and Beyond lineup crammed full of romance — as mysterious and elusive as the first vernal crocus. From the grief-stained impressionistic canvas of Götz Spielmann’s Revanche, to the addled office politicking in André Erkau’s Come in and Burn Out, to the sweetly scandalous wartime liaison of Ulla Wagner’s The Invention of Curried Sausage, the vagaries of love, lust, and even plain old like are on diverse display.

Going by typical film fare, one would think romantic love is a sensation reserved for awkward adolescents, torrid 20-somethings, and the midlife crisis set. Any character over 50 is either comfortably married or a lone wolf, and if they display any sexual spark at all it is frequently comic or saccharine. Considering too the usual portrayal of desperate love triangles from which no one exits unscathed, we might further find ourselves taking false comfort in the myth that such messy affaires d’coeur will sort themselves out later in life. With Cloud 9 (Wolke Neun), Andreas Dresen seeks to dispel those myths with a fearless cast of aging ingénues.

When seamstress Inge (Ursula Werner) falls for one of her clients (Horst Westphal), a charming widower whose flirty spontaneity is a distinct contrast to the familiarity of husband Werner (Horst Rehberg), she impulsively gives in to her desires. By turns exhilarated and distressed, Inge struggles to balance her welling fondness for Karl with her habitual devotion to Werner. And though she is cautioned against coming clean by her daughter, she eventually confesses her actions to Werner, who wrathfully accuses her of not acting her age. "What does it matter if I’m 16, or 60, or 80?" she retorts, a deserving question for which none in her sphere can provide a good answer. The unscripted cast members comport themselves with a naturalistic dignity and guileless intimacy even as the movie’s initial optimism takes a sharp downturn into melancholia. Avoiding moral conclusion, Dresen’s quietly resonant film suggests that the pitfalls of mature love are just as treacherously uncertain as its youthful counterpart.

That such uncertainty also belongs to the young is evidenced in Micha Lewinsky’s unusual The Friend (Der Freund), which centers around an imaginary love affair between awkward singer-songwriter Larissa (Emilie Weltie) and her equally awkward fan-boy Emil (Philippe Graber). Agreeing to pose as Larissa’s boyfriend, Emil doesn’t entirely realize his role is to be that of an alibi. Nor does he get time to find out. Before he can solidify the terms of the agreement, Larissa is dead, and her family insists on meeting him. This overtly-dramatic introduction aside, The Friend is a gentle reflection on death’s impact on the living, and the nature of life to move beyond.

Though Emil bears all the hallmarks of a typical loner, by the movie’s midpoint it has become apparent that he is in good company. Each character’s painful isolation is so deeply ingrained they can’t even find words to remark upon it. But despite their instinctive solitude, they can’t help but grasp for comfort from each other, which precipitates a clumsy romance between Emil and his dead fantasy’s sister, Nora (Johanna Bantzer). The final frames might be a shameless rip-off from Fatih Akin’s Edge of Heaven (2007), but the movie that precedes them is a singular creation.

BERLIN AND BEYOND

Jan 15–21, most shows $10

Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF

www.berlinandbeyond.com.

Welles well

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Many years before the word got sullied on the campaign trail, Orson Welles took up the maverick badge during his acceptance speech for the 1975 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. Welles used the platform to show clips from The Other Side of the Wind, his comic portrait of an old-time director (played by John Huston) making the rounds in the "New Hollywood" of the 1960s and ’70s. Auteur-worship, Hemingway machismo, and Pauline Kael all come under fire in Wind, a radical film deceptively clothed in shaky handheld camera. The project was in chronic need of funding, and Welles surely hoped that some dues-paying member of the American film society that had recouped Citizen Kane (1941) as a Hollywood classic might step forward to support his new work. They did not, and the film remains unreleased.

For all the fantastic myths that still circulate about Welles, his annotated filmography is the single most intriguing evocation of his career. To be sure, there has been progress since Charles Hingham’s willfully reductive 1985 biography, Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius. Touch of Evil (1958) and The Lady from Shanghai (1948) are widely admired today despite existing in compromised cuts, and the tragic story of RKO’s knee-jerk butchering of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) has passed through generations of cinephiles.

And yet, a full appreciation of Welles’ career continues to be hampered by the notion that it ended with Touch of Evil. Criterion’s stellar edition of F for Fake (1974) helps correct this view, but with even a masterwork like Chimes at Midnight (1965) still unavailable in America, Welles’ late period remains mired in obscurity. Every time a critical appraisal trots out the tired tropes of Rosebuds and wunderkinds, we lose sight of the indefatigable productivity of Welles’ wilderness, etched in the fragmented traces of The Dreamers, Don Quixote, and The Deep, the forays into television and video, the unproduced scripts (The Big Brass Ring) and monologue performances (Moby Dick).

Munich Filmmuseum director Stefan Drössler’s traveling program "Unknown Orson Welles" offers a rare chance to glimpse this material, much of it locked up in legal contestation. It’s an especially invaluable assemblage for a new generation of Welles scholars, a group who will not feel obliged to reconcile Welles’ degraded performance of his personality (the wine commercials and bit parts that financed his work) with his tremendous record of creative freedom. Following the breadcrumb trails of his genius, we find a wellspring of possibility — and little use for regret.

"UNKNOWN ORSON WELLES." Sat/17, 5 p.m.; Sun/18, 2 p.m. $5.50–$9.50. Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berkley. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Fair game

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› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Oodles of great blasts polished off 2008 — surely more heavenly reassurance that getting fucked up and fabulous is recession-proof, even if your outfit’s from Discount Fabrics and your liquor is too. But my favorite New Year’s Eve party wasn’t one that "everybody went to," or even one I went to all at once.

Hunky Beau and I had just scrammed from our midnight toasts at an as-yet-unnamed new bar on Market Street when the jagged chimes of an amped-up Guitar Hero rang out in the busy darkness. The Zep-like noodling tugged at our ears until we reached Church Street and joined two or three others gawking at the source, as fog-shrouded fireworks boomed in the distance. "This is what 2k9 nightlife is gonna be all about," I slurred in my own mind, because I was shit-faced. "Happy accidents." No strobe lights or Flash site, no four-color flyers or flown-in high-fivers, no electro-this and micro-that and all those totally denied friend requests. Just some cute dude in a light-gray hoodie who plugs his ax into the shut-down Safeway and makes a little dance floor in the parking lot.

It was a New Year’s miracle.

After that peak, I surfed a bipolar adrenaline rush and spent the whole night discoing out of control. At least I could still spend something, right? The After School Special point here is that nightlife is exactly what you make it. Never say a party was boring because that means you were at it. Don’t buy into trends: people who buy too much into trends are like walking planned obsolescences, dissolving in the storm of next new things. And if no one else is dancing, fuck ’em. Do the mashed potato, and get skronked. Everything is on the table.

PARTY MONSTERS So what the hell did happen in Clubland last year? A heckuva lot, Brownie, but damn if I can remember it all. Here are a few things that stood out.

Losses: the great Steve Lady passed away, an incredibly sad asterisk at the end of the Trannyshack, which shut its bloodied wings as hostess Heklina crawled forth to discover herself. Beloved anarcho-hipster hangout the Transfer got gutted so that the kind of OK gay Bar on Castro could move in — opening date: Jan. 20 — and become the, er, Bar on Church. And Pink, one of the few clubs left in the city devoted to house music — remember that? — closed Jan. 4. I disagreed with some of the fancy-schmancier aspects of Pink’s approach, but I still loved it in occasional doses. And I’m hearing rumors about the Stud, right when it’s riding a Milk-mention wave of fame, so please go there and buy cocktails.

Wins: New regular rip-roarers that freaked me included the cumbia-rific Tormenta Tropical, outrageously draggy Tiara Sensation, free-for-alls Honey Sundays (gayish, discoish), and Infatuation (straightish, electroish), roving furry dress-up party Beast, the Hole-y ’90s-worshipping Debaser, slinky Gemini Disco, crazy Look Out Weekend, and the hyperenergetic Work. Gone but not forgotten: Trans Am, Fag Fridays, Tits, Sucker Punch, Stiletto, Monster Show, Drift, and, finally, Finally. Another win: with the opening of Chaps II and the relocation of Hole in the Wall, there’s now a big gay leather SoMa "Miracle Mile" bar crawl again! Overall it was an awesome year, one in which a new generation rushed the club doors, so a big bold heart-heart to all the level-headed bar staff who scraped us off the sidewalk and helped find our flippin’ iPhones. Rawk.

Best: You really need to take the N-Judah night owl bus at 2:30 a.m. Way too cute …

Cafe Mystique

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› paulr@sfbg.com

If you squint — hard, on a night of driving rain, and you earlier washed your contact lenses down the sink by accident, leaving yourself legally blind — you might just catch a hint of a glimpse of a shadow of the Castro Street that figures so prominently in the movie Milk. Today’s Castro Street, like its 1970s antecedent, is dominated by the Castro Theater’s gigantic sign (a colorful spectacle even to the grievously nearsighted), and it’s still just a few blocks long, a brief run from Market Street to 19th Street. In college, driven by stomach-churning curiosity, we navigated this little stretch one night and wondered what all the fuss was about. This was it? Yes, it was and still is.

Oscar Wilde is said to have said that anyone who disappeared would sooner or later be seen in San Francisco. He might have had a vision of Elvis, or perhaps a premonition about Castro Street, which remains a semi-mythical — and yet quite real — Main Street for gay America and maybe the world. Sitting in a window seat at Café Mystique recently (on an evening of no rain and with contact lenses securely in place), I noticed several familiar faces from epochs past, not seen by me for years but still quite recognizable, like a parade of Fezziwigs from my own private version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In between these sightings, with the huge "Castro" sign glowing like a beacon across the street, we discussed Milk, a movie full of saintly intentions and virtually barren of actual characters except the tortured Dan White and the gently droll Scott Smith (Harvey Milk’s onetime lover), as played by James Franco.

Franco is tasty, with mystique: if he were a café, would he be Café Mystique? The food is tasty at Cafe Mystique, which until recently was a joint called Welcome Home. If Harvey Milk might have felt vaguely at home at Welcome Home, he would almost certainly be astonished by Café Mystique, which on the one hand is still a recognizably gay restaurant from the old school and on the other is dramatically good-looking and serves a Moroccan-inflected menu that would have seemed noteworthy anywhere in the city as recently as a decade ago.

First, the good looks: they’re neither North African nor Castro-homey but faintly central European, like a Vienna hotel or a Bavarian hunting lodge. The long north wall is clad in impressive wood wainscoting, punctuated by pillars topped with sconce lamps, for a street-light effect, while the paint scheme, of butter washed with caramel, enhances the sense of woodsy warmth.

As for the Moroccan touches, they’re all over the dinner menu (there are breakfast and lunch menus too), from the flatbread triangles accompanying a warm fava bean dip ($6) — like a slightly soupy hummus — to the mint in a cup of excellent, if under-seasoned, split green pea soup ($2). (Just add salt and voilà!) There are hints of influence from elsewhere around the Mediterranean as well; a bowl of cucumber sticks bathed in yogurt and boldly charged with lemon and garlic ($4) could easily pass for the Greek condiment tzatziki (itself an obvious relative of the Indian condiment raita).

None of these flourishes seems at all pretentious, since the cooking on the whole remains earthy and friendly. You can get a grilled cheese sandwich ($9), for instance, and it comes with really good fries, and if the cheese happens to be halumi wrapped in lavash, well … that just adds to the mystique. Halumi is a not-soft white cheese typically made from a blend of goat and sheep’s milk and is most closely associated with Cyprus; its firmness means that it resists melting under heat, retaining its shape and solid texture even while taking on a smokiness.

Grilling cubes of meat on skewers is common practice around the Mediterranean — and elsewhere — and at Café Mystique the mixed grill ($15) includes chicken and beef. Beef takes easily to the simplest preparations, such as grilling, while chicken typically needs some TLC to show at its best, so if I’d been asked to bet beforehand on which of these two contestants would command the plate, I would have chosen the beef. But the beef turned out to be rather tough, gray, and flavorless, while the chicken (boneless breast meat) was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, with a nice dusting of spice. This uneven confederacy of flesh rested on a bed of couscous (which in its white coarseness resembled corn snow), and its chunks were interspersed with examples of grilled vegetables, among them onions, plum tomatoes, zucchini coins, and strips of red and green bell pepper. The bits of green and red on a carpet of white reminded me of Christmas trees and mistletoe wreaths left at snowy curbs in the Januaries of my youth.

Wilde might or might not have anticipated Elvis, but could he possibly have anticipated the Elvis crepe ($8), a gigantic dessert of bananas, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, nuts, and melted Nutella sauce, all piled, ladled, and scattered atop an actual crepe? Plowing through this mass of sugary calories was a little like eating a banana split that had been neglected for an hour or so on the hottest day of summer. And a cautionary note on Nutella, the wondrous Italian spread of chocolate and hazelnut that appeared from the ashen privations of World War II: it used to consist largely of hydrogenated vegetable oil, i.e. trans fat, which, as we now know, is a no-no. I stopped buying it even when it was on sale. Have they changed the formula? Reading ingredient labels now involves considerable squinting.

CAFE MYSTIQUE

Daily, 8 a.m.–11 p.m.

464 Castro, SF

(415) 865-9810

www.cafemystiquesf.com

Beer and wine

MC/V

Moderate noise

Wheelchair accessible

Fanning the flames

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› le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS When your rats grow bigger than your chickens and you can hear them at night in the chicken coop, laughing at your traps … them’s hard times.

I mean to pack it in, as a chicken farmer. But what am I going to farm? Rats?

What am I going to eat for lunch? What am I going to give to my friends for their birthdays?

What am I going to give to complete strangers when I love them for one reason or another? Besides eggs, eggs, and eggs, respectively?

Is it even possible for a chicken farmer not to be a chicken farmer? I have gone through brief periods of chickenlessness in my life, but I forget what they were like. Purgatory, probably. And in my theological opinion, purgatory is worse than hell. Hell, you can bring hot dogs and a stick, settle in. But purgatory is waiting by the phone, or running to the mailbox, or checking your e-mail 999 times an hour, wondering if you got the job.

I looked down and my slippers were on the wrong feet. Instead of switching them, I stood up and walked around like that for a while. I’m eating leftovers that are more than a week old now, and when repercussions happen, instead of throwing out the rest I go, hmm, better eat this for dinner too, to get rid of it.

Hey, maybe that’s why my chickens are smaller than my rats. The rats are eating their feed, and the farmer’s eating their scraps. That’s hard times.

I intentionally left Fanny’s off my little list of Hard Times Handbook cheap cheap chirpies because I wanted to give it a whole fat column of words to itself. Not that it’s the best, or the cheapest place out there, but it’s good and cheap, and it’s my new favorite restaurant simply for having duck soup, which is rare for Chinese restaurants, period. It’s even rarer for Chinese/American greasy-spoon dives.

Which is of course what Fanny’s is. South of Market, Bryant and Eighth streets, plain, spacious, and unspectacular. But the pa of the presumed "ma and pa" was talking passionately to their one sit-down customer about some recipe or cooking technique when I walked in, and I took this as a good omen.

An even better omen: how easy it is to eat for under $5. Two eggs with bacon or sausage, hash browns, and toast, omelets, French toast, pancakes, sandwiches, or two-item combos of Chinese food … all five and under. And then even if you’re going to splurge, say, on a big bowl of roast duck soup with wontons or noodles, you’re still talking sixes and sevens.

Not bad!

The catch is that I haven’t actually tried the duck soup, because I went there at eight in the morning on my pre-caffeinated way to work, ordered off the wall, to go, and grabbed a take-out menu (by way of reading material) on the way out.

I didn’t read my reading material until days later, the same way I read everything I read: rocking chair, toasty fire, cat on lap, hot tea … ah, literature!

Under the chapter heading, Soup (Wonton or Noodle), I read the words "roast duck" and followed the dots to the six and the fitty. My rocking chair squeaked to a stop, Weirdo the Cat woke up, the fire popped, I bookmarked my little fold-up take-out menu, and set it on the side table.

My eyes blurred with hot tears (I am easily moved), I scanned the bookshelves next to my wood stove: Jane Austen, Robert Benchley, Chekhov, Dickens … I didn’t have any E’s, so would file Fanny’s between Dostoyevsky and Fante.

I would go there again first chance I got — for lunch, because they’re not open for dinner. If anything is amiss or astounding, I will get word to you. Meanwhile, for me, it’s enough to know that it’s there, like Moby Dick.

And I can vouch for the breakfast: great hash browns, eggs done right, toast whatever. True, I ate these things in my car, driving over the Bay Bridge and listening to a recording of an old Booker T & the MGs LP played at 45 rpm … but that doesn’t mean I’m not a real restaurant reviewer.

Does it?

FANNY’S RESTAURANT

Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

1010 Bryant, SF

(415) 626-1543

No alcohol

MC/V

L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

A watched pot

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By Andrea Nemerson


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I am gay and my boyfriend has trouble getting me off. I don’t like anal sex much because receiving or giving it usually doesn’t make me come. And my boyfriend usually can’t get me off orally, either, which means I have to resort to my own hand sometimes. I bought a Fleshlight, which my boyfriend uses on me. I can come with the Fleshlight, but now I feel disconnected from my boyfriend.

Love,

Not Feeling It

Dear It:

No doubt. That sounds a little grim and technical — plugging yourself (or getting plugged) into the sex socket a few minutes a night — and then rinsing it under the tap and going to sleep — sounds more like maintaining a set of false teeth or an ostomy than it does like having a sex life. What’s missing in your story, though, is how it has come to this. I get the feeling you’re young, but how did you operate before this particular boyfriend? And, um, what is he doing wrong?

We all have to resort to our own hands occasionally, and not only do I not think that’s a problem, I quite often consider it a solution. You shouldn’t be the only one who can do anything for you, though. I think you need to undertake a program like those followed by women trying to overcome anorgasmia. Of course, there are a lot of those women and relatively few men in the same boat, and while I know the girly experts and their work, um, inside and out, their male-oriented counterparts and clients are less familiar. Mostly, you hear about premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Male lack of arousal and aroused-but-just-not-coming don’t get — rather, have not demanded — the same sort of respect, and don’t get discussed much except in the context of drug side effects, which…. Hey! You’re not taking any antidepressants or anything, are you? That would be great, actually, since if you were your doctor could probably fix this by jiggering your meds or dosages around.

Let’s assume there are no drugs involved. And you can’t have a purely physical problem, like scarring from an operation or diabetic neuropathy, or your Fleshlight (and may I say how much I hate the name of that masturbatory gizmo?) wouldn’t work either. So what you’ve got is something psychological holding you back, or causing you to hold back, however you want to frame it. You could be judging yourself unworthy of pleasure for any number of reasons, none of which really matter here.

If you are focusing on the sex you’re having as a performance instead of as an experience, you are doing what sex therapists call spectatoring — "Do I look hot when I’m doing this? Does he think I’m hot? Is he looking at my (putatively unattractive body part here)? Am I as good at this as his last boyfriend? Is he only with me because of (insert pathetic reason to be with you instead of someone better here)?" — which may sound ungrammatical but is certainly a useful concept. If you’re willing to put in the time with a therapist, or even with a bunch of self-help articles, you can probably figure out what you’re doing and learn to not do that. Since you’re gay, there’s a whole other avenue to wander down, too, the one with guilt and self-loathing and feelings of disappointing parents and angering assorted gods — all those things which have never done sexual minorities any good but can be pernicious and damned near impossible to shake if they happened to get their claws into you. Anyway, you’ll have to learn to stop watching and judging yourself, either by learning to focus on your sensations or on his — anywhere but on your own perceived suckitude, basically.

So, (1) it’s performance anxiety, and therapy, or self-help literature and then therapy if the former doesn’t work, will help. And let us not discount the possible — enormous — benefits of drugs. Say, anti-anxiety meds if it’s determined that you’ve got an anxiety thing going. Also, not that this is a common treatment protocol or anything, but I read one abstract where oxytocin, my favorite molecule and the hormone implicated not only in mother-infant bonding and human orgasm but mammalian pair-bonding and (this may be key here) our ability to trust each other, was successfully used to treat male anorgasmia. Yay, oxytocin!

Or then again, (2) it isn’t performance anxiety so much as it’s the result of initially practical but ultimately unhelpful masturbation habits — you trained yourself to respond to a very specific sort of stimulation. Since none of these other acts or orifices except the Fleshlight approximate what you’re used to, none of them are working. If it’s that, you have to retrain, and it will take a while, but women do it all the time and you can too.

My last suggestion, and please don’t quote me on this: Your boyfriend needs lessons.

Love,

Andrea

Andrea is teaching Sex After Parenthood at Day One Center (www.dayonecenter.com), Recess (info@recessurbanrecreation.com), and privately. Contact her at andrea@altsexcolumn.com for more info.

The decimation of public health

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OPINION Crisis seems omnipresent these days.: it’s hard to find a newspaper that doesn’t carry the word in a headline at the top of the business section, or even on page 1. But a liquidity crisis seems a lot less solid when compared to the kind of crises faced by people in a society without health services.

San Francisco has developed a strong mental-health infrastructure, with respect for mental health consumers’ viewpoints and rights.

As an alternative to confinement — a coercive practice that can alienate patients — this city has acute diversion units: houses that serve as recovery centers for people in psychiatric crises. Psychiatrists manage medication, and nurse practitioners conduct health screenings, as you’d expect, but this is just the beginning of a broader approach to mental health. Residents work with professionals to develop their own treatment plans. They meet for discussion groups and trainings on topics that affect their ongoing mental health, like relapse prevention, symptom management, and medication education.

Participants help cook and clean to prepare themselves for independent living. Every year, 1,400 San Franciscans use these units.

We also have created culturally competent services. In immigrant neighborhoods and at San Francisco General Hospital, we have services in Spanish and Asian and Pacific Islander languages — services that help prevent the problems that can occur when native-language support is unavailable.

And the city has embarked on a grand experiment: Healthy San Francisco is designed to provide health care — before things get to crisis level — for any city resident who lacks insurance.

Unfortunately the crises have collided. These programs, along with dozens of others, are slated for closure next month as part of the city’s emergency rebudgeting response to our economic crisis. Half our acute diversion units will close. Hundreds of monolingual San Franciscans will lose services in Chinatown and the Richmond District, and General Hospital may lose half the Asian languages with which it can communicate with mental health consumers. New Leaf will cut therapy for 50 gay clients with combined mental health and addictive disorders. The sexual assault trauma recovery center will close.

Healthy San Francisco will be gutted. Staffing has not increased sufficiently to provide high quality care for all patients, and SF General will downgrade service by replacing skilled nursing jobs with less-skilled positions. Some RNs will be eliminated, LVNs will be replaced, certified staff will be replaced by noncertified staff, and clerks with medical training will be reduced to clerical work.

These are just examples. Cuts were made so hastily that nobody yet understands their full extent. But budgets — for all those digits and decimals that smack of hard economic truth — exist in the nebulous apparition of What May Be. And what may be, may yet be changed.

This month, the Board of Supervisors has the opportunity to change this future, and to protect the health and, in some cases, the lives of thousands of San Franciscans. Public health will receive cuts: that’s a sad truth of a faltering economy. But these cuts need be neither as numerous nor as deep as the current plan.

By reallocating funding from less essential programs to our most vital services, and by giving San Franciscans the option to vote on new revenue in June, the supervisors can respect the priorities of a city that cares about the well-being of its ill, its injured, and its uninsured.


Alysabeth Alexander works with La Voz Latina. Jennifer Friedenbach works with the Coalition, and SEIU Local 1021 activist Ed Kinchley is a member of the Coalition to Save Public Health.

Volume 43 Number 16 Flip-through Edition

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The Hard Times Handbook

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We all have high hopes for the new administration. We’d all like to believe that the recession will end soon, that jobs will be plentiful, health care available to all, and affordable housing built in abundance.

But the grim reality is that hard times are probably around for a while longer, and it may get worse before it gets better.

Don’t despair: the city is full of fun things to do on the cheap. There are ways to save money and enjoy life at the same time. If you’re in trouble — out of work, out of food, facing eviction — there are resources around to help you. What follows is a collection of tips, techniques, and ideas for surviving the ongoing depression that’s the last bitter legacy of George W. Bush.

BELOW YOU’LL FIND OUR TIPS ON SCORING FREE, CHEAP, AND LOW-COST WONDERS. (Click here for the full page version with jumps, if you can’t see it.)

MUSIC AND MOVIES

CLOTHING

FOOD

CONCERTS

WHEELS

HEALTH CARE

SHELTER

MEALS

COCKTAILS

DATE NIGHTS

YOGA

PLUS:

HOW TO KEEP YOUR APARTMENT

HOW TO GET UNEMPLOYMENT

————-

FREE MUSIC AND MOVIES

For a little extra routine effort, I’ve managed to make San Francisco’s library system my Netflix/GreenCine, rotating CD turntable, and bookstore, all rolled into one. And it’s all free.

If you’re a books-music-film whore like me, you find your home maxed out with piles of the stuff … and not enough extra cash to feed your habits. So I’ve decided to only buy my favorites and to borrow the rest. We San Franciscans have quite a library system at our fingertips. You just have to learn how to use it.

Almost everyone thinks of a library as a place for books. And that’s not wrong: you can read the latest fiction and nonfiction bestsellers, and I’ve checked out a slew of great mixology/cocktail recipe books when I want to try new drinks at home. I’ve hit up bios on my favorite musicians, or brought home stacks of travel books before a trip (they usually have the current year’s edition of at least one travel series for a given place, whether it be Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Frommer’s).

But there’s much more. For DVDs, I regularly check Rotten Tomatoes’ New Releases page (www.rottentomatoes.com/dvd/new_releases.php) for new DVD releases. Anything I want to see, I keep on a list and search www.sfpl.org for those titles every week. About 90 percent of my list eventually comes to the library, and most within a few weeks of the release date.

And such a range! I recently checked out the Oscar-nominated animated foreign film, Persepolis, the entire first season of Mad Men, tons of documentaries, classics (like a Cyd Charisse musical or Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s catalog), even Baby Mama (sure, it sucked, but I can’t resist Tina Fey).

A music fanatic can find virtually every style, and even dig into the history of a genre. I’ve found CDs of jazz and blues greats, including Jelly Roll Morton, John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, kitschy lounge like Martin Denny and singer Julie London, and have satiated rap cravings with the latest Talib Kwali, Lyrics Born, Missy Elliott, T.I. or Kanye (I won’t tell if you won’t).

Warning: there can be a long "holds" list for popular new releases (e.g., Iron Man just came out and has about 175). When this happens, Just get in the queue — you can request as many as 15 items simultaneously online (you do have a library card, right?) You’ll get an e-mail when your item comes in and you can check the status of your list any time you log in. Keep DVDs a full seven days (three weeks for books and CDs) and return ’em to any branch you like.

I’ve deepened my music knowledge, read a broader range of books, and canceled GreenCine. Instead, I enjoy a steady flow of free shit coming my way each week. And if I get bored or the novelty of Baby Mama wears off, I return it and free up space in my mind (and on my shelf) for more. (Virginia Miller)

———–

STYLE FOR A SONG

Shhh. The first rule about thrifting, to paraphrase mobsters and hardcore thrift-store shoppers, is don’t talk about thrifting — and that means the sites of your finest thrift scores. Diehard thrifters guard their favorite shops with jealous zeal: they know exactly what it’s like to wade through scores of stained T-shirts, dress-for-success suits, and plastic purses and come up with zilcherooni. They also know what it’s like to ascend to thrifter nirvana, an increasingly rarified plane where vintage Chanel party shoes and cool dead-stock Western wear are sold for a song.

Friendships have been trashed and shopping carts upended in the revelation of these much-cherished thrift stores, where the quest for that ’50s lamb’s fur jacket or ’80s acid-washed zipper jeans — whatever floats your low-budg boat — has come to a rapturous conclusion. It’s a war zone, shopping on the cheap, out there — and though word has it that the thrifting is excellent in Vallejo and Fresno, our battle begins at home. When the sample sales, designer runoff outlets, resale dives, and consignment boutiques dry up, here’s where you’ll find just what you weren’t looking for — but love, love, love all the same.

Community Thrift, 623 Valencia, SF. (415) 861-4910, www.communitythrift.bravehost.com. Come for the writer’s own giveaways (you can bequeath the funds raised to any number of local nonprofits), and leave with the rattan couches, deco bureaus, records, books and magazines, and an eccentric assortment of clothing and housewares. I’m still amazed at the array of intriguing junk that zips through this spot, but act fast or you’ll miss snagging that Victorian armoire.

Goodwill As-Is Store, 86 11th St., SF. (415) 575-2197, www.sfgoodwill.org. This is the archetype and endgamer of grab-and-tumble thrifting. We’re talking bins, people — bins of dirt cheap and often downright dirty garb that the massive Goodwill around the corner has designated unsuitable, for whatever reason. Dive into said bins, rolled out by your, ahem, gracious Goodwill hosts throughout the day, along with your competition: professional pickers for vintage shops, grabby vintage people, and ironclad bargain hunters. They may not sell items by the pound anymore — now its $2.25 for a piece of adult clothing, 50 cents to $1 for babies’ and children’s garb, $4 for leather jackets, etc. — but the sense of triumph you’ll feel when you discover a tattered 1930s Atonement-style poison-ivy green gown, or a Dr. Pimp-enstein rabbit-fur patchwork coat, or cheery 1950s tablecloths with negligible stainage, is indescribable.

Goodwill Industries, 3801 Third St., SF. (415) 641-4470, www.sfgoodwill.org Alas, not all Goodwills are created equal: some eke out nothing but stale mom jeans and stretched-out polo shirts. But others, like this Hunter’s Point Goodwill, abound with on-trend goodies. At least until all of you thrift-hungry hordes grab my junk first. Tucked into the corner of a little strip mall, this Goodwill has all those extremely fashionable hipster goods that have been leached from more populated thrift pastures or plucked by your favorite street-savvy designer to "repurpose" as their latest collection: buffalo check shirts, wolf-embellished T-shirts, Gunne Sax fairy-princess gowns, basketball jerseys, and ’80s-era, multicolored zany-print tops that Paper Rad would give their beards for.

Salvation Army, 1500 Valencia, SF. (415) 643-8040, www.salvationarmyusa.org. The OG of Mission District thrifting, this Salv has been the site of many an awesome discovery. Find out when the Army puts out the new goods. The Salvation soldiers may have cordoned off the "vintage" — read: higher priced — items in the store within the store, but there are still plenty of old books, men’s clothing, and at times hep housewares and Formica kitchen tables to be had: I adore the rainbow Mork and Mindy parka vest I scored in the boys’ department, as well as my mid-century-mod mustard-colored rocker.

Savers, 875 Main, Redwood City. (650) 364-5545, www.savers.com When the ladies of Hillsborough, Burlingame, and the surrounding ‘burbs shed their oldest, most elegant offerings, the pickings can’t be beat at this Savers. You’ll find everything from I. Magnin cashmere toppers, vintage Gucci tweed, and high-camp ’80s feather-and-leather sweaters to collectible dishware, antique ribbons, and kitsch-cute Holly Hobbie plaques. Strangest, oddly covetable missed-score: a psychiatrist’s couch.

Thrift Town, 2101 Mission, SF. (415) 861-1132, www.thrifttown.com. When all else fails, fall back on this department store-sized megalith. Back in the day, thrift-oldsters tell me, they’d dig out collectible paintings and ’50s-era bikes. Now you’ll have to grind deeply to land those finds, though they’re here: cute, mismatched, mid-century chairs; the occasional designer handbag; and ’60s knit suits. Hint: venture into less picked-over departments like bedding. (Kimberly Chun)

———–

FREE FOOD

San Francisco will not let you starve. Even if you’re completely out of money, there are plenty of places and ways to fill your belly. Many soup kitchens operate out of churches and community centers, and lists can be downloaded and printed from freeprintshop.org and sfhomeless.net (which is also a great clearinghouse of information on social services in San Francisco.)Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

Free hot meals

Curry without Worry Healthy, soul pleasing Nepalese food to hungry people in San Francisco. Every Tues. 5:45–7 p.m. on the square at Hyde and Market streets.

Glide, 330 Ellis. Breakfast 8-9 a.m., lunch noon-1:30 p.m. everyday. Dinner 4-5:30 p.m., M-F.

St. Anthony Dining Room, 45 Jones, Lunch everyday 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

St Martin de Porres Hospitality House, 225 Potrero Ave. Best bowl of oatmeal in the city. Tues.-Sat. breakfast from 6:30-7:30 a.m., lunch from noon-2 pm.. Sun. brunch 9-10:30 a.m. Often vegetarian options.

Vegetarian

Food not Bombs Vegetarian soup and bread, but bring your own bowl. At the UN Plaza, Mon., 6 p.m.; Wed., 5:30 p.m. Also at 16th and Mission streets. Thurs. at 7:30 p.m.

Mother’s Kitchen, 7 Octavia, Fri., 2:30-3:30. Vegan options.

Iglesia Latina Americana de Las Adventistas Seventh Dia, 3024 24th St. Breakfast 9:30-11 a.m., third Sun. of the month.

Grab and go sandwiches

Glide, bag meals to go after breakfast ends at 9 a.m.

St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 666 Filbert. 4-5 p.m. every day.

Seniors

Curry Senior Center, 333 Turk. For the 60+ set. Breakfast 8-9 a.m., lunch 11:30 to noon every day.

Kimochi, 1840 Sutter St. Japanese-style hot lunch served 11:45 am (M-F). $1.50 donation per meal is requested. 60+ only with no one to assist with meals. Home deliveries available. 415-931-2287

St. Anthony Dining Room, 10:30-11:30 a.m., 59+, families, and people who can’t carry a tray.

Free groceries

San Francisco Food Bank A wealth of resources, from pantries with emergency food boxes to supplemental food programs. 415-282-1900. sffoodbank.org/programs

211 Dial this magic number and United Way will connect you with free food resources in your neighborhood — 24/7.

Low-cost groceries

Maybe you don’t qualify for food assistance programs or you just want to be a little thriftier — in which case the old adage that the early bird gets the metaphorical worm is apropos. When it comes to good food deals, timing can be everything. Here are a couple of handy tips for those of us who like to eat local, organic, and cheap. Go to Rainbow Grocery early and hit the farmers markets late. Rainbow has cheap and half-price bins in the bread and produce sections — but you wouldn’t know it if you’re a late-riser. Get there shortly after doors open at 9 a.m. for the best deals.

By the end of the day, many vendors at farmers markets are looking to unload produce rather than pack it up, so it’s possible to score great deals if you’re wandering around during the last half hour of the market. CAFF has a comprehensive list of Bay Area markets that you can download: guide.buylocalca.org/localguides.

Then there’s the Grocery Outlet (2001 Fourth St., Berkeley and 2900 Broadway, Oakland, www.groceryoutlets.com), which puts Wal-Mart to shame. This is truly the home of low-cost living. Grocery Outlet began in 1946 in San Francisco when Jim Read purchased surplus government goods and started selling them. Now Grocery Outlets are the West Coast’s version of those dented-can stores that sell discounted food that wasn’t ready for prime-time, or perhaps spent a little too long in the limelight.

Be prepared to eat what you find — options range from name brands with trashed labels to foodstuffs you’ve never seen before — but there are often good deals on local breads and cheeses, and their wine section will deeply expand you Two-Buck Chuck cellar. Don’t be afraid of an occasional corked bottle that you can turn into salad dressing, and be sure to check the dates on anything perishable. The Grocery Outlet Web site (which has the pimpest intro music ever) lists locations and ways to sign up for coupons and download a brochure on how to feed your family for $3 a day. (Amanda Witherell)

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LIVE MUSIC FOR NOTHING — AND KICKS FOR FREE

Music should be free. Everyone who has downloaded music they haven’t been given or paid for obviously believes this, though we haven’t quite made it to that ideal world where all professional musicians are subsidized — and given health care — by the government or other entities. But live, Clive? Where do can you catch fresh, live sounds during a hard-hitting, heavy-hanging economic downturn? Intrepid, impecunious sonic seekers know that with a sharp eye and zero dough, great sounds can be found in the oddest crannies of the city. You just need to know where to look, then lend an ear. Here are a few reliables — occasional BART station busks and impromptu Ocean Beach shows aside.

Some of the best deals — read: free — on world-class performers happen seasonally: in addition to freebie fests like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every October and the street fairs that accompanying in fair weather, there’s each summer’s Stern Grove Festival. Beat back the Sunset fog with a picnic of bread, cheese, and cheap vino, though you gotta move fast to claim primo viewing turf to eyeball acts like Bettye Lavette, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, and Allen Toussaint. Look for the 2009 schedule to be posted at www.sterngrove.org May 1.

Another great spot to catch particularly local luminaries is the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, which runs from May to October. Rupa and the April Fishes, Brass Menazeri, Marcus Shelby Trio, Bayonics, and Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos Quintet all took their turn in the sun during the Thursday lunchtime concerts. Find out who’s slated for ’09 in early spring at www.ybgf.org.

All year around, shopkeeps support sounds further off the beaten path — music fans already know about the free, albeit usually shorter, shows, DJ sets, and acoustic performances at aural emporiums like Amoeba Music (www.amoeba.com) and Aquarius Records (www.aquariusrecords.org). Many a mind has been blown by a free blast of new sonics from MIA or Boris amid the stacks at Amoeba, the big daddy in this field, while Aquarius in-stores define coziness: witness last year’s intimate acoustic hootenanny by Deerhoof’s Satomi and Tenniscoats’ Saya as Oneone. Less regular but still an excellent time if you happen upon one: Adobe Books Backroom Gallery art openings (adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com), where you can get a nice, low-key dose of the Mission District’s art and music scenes converging. Recent exhibition unveilings have been topped off by performances by the Oh Sees, Boner Ha-chachacha, and the Quails.

Still further afield, check into the free-for-all, quality curatorial efforts at the Rite Spot (www.ritespotcafe.net), where most shows at this dimly lit, atmospheric slice of old-school cabaret bohemia are as free as the breeze and as fun as the collection of napkin art in back: Axton Kincaid, Brandy Shearer, Kitten on the Keys, Toshio Hirano, and Yard Sale have popped up in the past. Also worth a looky-loo are Thee Parkside‘s (www.theeparkside.com) free Twang Sunday and Happy Hour Shows: a rad time to check out bands you’ve never heard of but nonetheless pique your curiosity: Hukaholix, hell’s yeah! And don’t forget: every cover effort sounds better with a pint — all the better to check into the cover bands at Johnny Foley’s (www.johnnyfoleys.com), groove artists at Beckett’s Irish Pub in Berkeley (www.beckettsirishpub.com), and piano man Rod Dibble and his rousing sing-alongs at the Alley in Oakland (510-444-8505). All free of charge. Charge! (Kimberly Chun}

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THE CHEAPEST WAY TO GET AROUND TOWN

Our complex world often defies simple solutions. But there is one easy way to save money, get healthy, become more self-sufficient, free up public resources, and reduce your contribution to air pollution and global warming: get around town on a bicycle.

It’s no coincidence that the number of cyclists on San Francisco streets has increased dramatically over the last few years, a period of volatile gasoline prices, heightened awareness of climate change, poor Muni performance, and economic stagnation.

On Bike to Work Day last year, traffic counts during the morning commute tallied more bicycles than cars on Market Street for the first time. Surveys commissioned by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition show that the number of regular bike commuters has more than doubled in recent years. And that increase came even as a court injunction barred new bike projects in the city (see "Stationary biking," 5/16/07), a ban that likely will be lifted later this year, triggering key improvements in the city’s bicycle network that will greatly improve safety.

Still not convinced? Then do the math.

Drive a car and you’ll probably spend a few hundred dollars every month on insurance, gas, tolls, parking, and fines, and that’s even if you already own your car outright. If you ride the bus, you’ll pay $45 per month for a Fast Pass while government will pay millions more to subsidize the difference. Riding a bike is basically free.

Free? Surely there are costs associated with bicycling, right? Yeah, sure, occasionally. But in a bike-friendly city like San Francisco, there are all kinds of opportunities to keep those costs very low, certainly lower than any other transportation alternative except walking (which is also a fine option for short trips).

There are lots of inexpensive used bicycles out there. I bought three of my four bicycles at the Bike Hut at Pier 40 (www.thebikehut.com) for an average of $100 each and they’ve worked great for several years (my fourth bike, a suspension mountain bike, I also bought used for a few hundred bucks).

Local shops that sell used bikes include Fresh Air Bicycles, (1943 Divisidero, www.fabsf.com) Refried Cycles (3804 17th St., www.refriedcycles,com/bicycles.htm), Karim Cycle (2800 Telegraph., Berkeley, www.teamkarim.com/bikes/used/) and Re-Cycles Bicycles (3120 Sacramento, Berkeley, www.recyclesbicycles.com). Blazing Saddles (1095 Columbus, www.blazingsaddles.com) sells used rental bikes for reasonable prices. Craigslist always has listings for dozens of used bikes of all styles and prices. And these days, you can even buy a new bike for a few hundred bucks. Sure, they’re often made in China with cheap parts, but they’ll work just fine.

Bikes are simple yet effective machines with a limited number of moving parts, so it’s easy to learn to fix them yourself and cut out even the minimal maintenance costs associated with cycling. I spent $100 for two four-hour classes at Freewheel Bike Shop (1920 Hayes and 914 Valencia, www.thefreewheel.com) that taught me everything I need to know about bike maintenance and includes a six-month membership that lets me use its facilities, tools, and the expertise of its mechanics. My bikes are all running smoother than ever on new ball bearings that cost me two bucks per wheel, but they were plenty functional even before.

There are also ways to get bike skills for free. Sports Basement (www.sportsbasement.com) offers free bicycle maintenance classes at both its San Francisco locations the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Or you can turn to the Internet, where YouTube has a variety of bike repair videos and Web sites such as www.howtofixbikes.com can lead you through repairs.

The nonprofit The Bike Kitchen (1256 Mission, www.thebikekitchen.org) on Mission Street offers great deals to people who spend $40 per year for a membership. Volunteer your time through the Earn-a-Bike program and they’ll give you the frame, parts, and skills to build your own bike for free.

But even in these hard economic times, there is one purchase I wouldn’t skimp on: spend the $30 — $45 for a good U-lock, preferably with a cable for securing the wheels. Then you’re all set, ready to sell your car, ditch the bus, and learn how easy, cheap, fast, efficient, and fun it is to bicycle in this 49-square-mile city. (Steven T. Jones)

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LOW-COST HEALTH CARE

When money’s tight, healthcare tends to be one of the first costs we cut. But that can be a bad idea, because skimping on preventive care and treatment for minor issues can lead to much more expensive and serious (and painful) health issues later. Here is our guide to Bay Area institutions, programs, and clinics that serve the under- and uninsured.

One of our favorite places is the Women’s Community Clinic (2166 Hayes, 415-379-7800, www.womenscommunityclinic.org), a women-operated provider open to anyone female, female-identified, or female-bodied transgender. This awesome 10-year-old clinic offers sexual and reproductive health services — from Pap smears and PMS treatment to menopause and infertility support — to any SF, San Mateo, Alameda, or Marin County resident, and all on a generous sliding scale based on income and insurance (or lack thereof). Call for an appointment, or drop in on Friday mornings (but show up at 9:30 a.m. because spots fill up fast).

A broader option (in terms of both gender and service) is Mission Neighborhood Center (main clinic at 240 Shotwell. 415-552-3870, www.mnhc.org, see Web site for specialty clinics). This one-stop health shop provides primary, HIV/AIDS, preventive, podiatry, women’s, children’s, and homeless care to all, though its primary focus is on the Latino/Hispanic Spanish-speaking community. Insurance and patient payment is accepted, including a sliding scale for the uninsured (no one is denied based on inability to pay). This clinic is also a designated Medical Home (or primary care facility) for those involved in the Healthy San Francisco program.

Contrary to popular belief, Healthy San Francisco (www.healthysanfrancisco.org) is not insurance. Rather, it’s a network of hospitals and clinics that provide free or nearly free healthcare to uninsured SF residents who earn at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (which, at about $2,600 per month, includes many of us). Participants choose a Medical Home, which serves as a first point-of-contact. The good news? HSF is blind to immigration status, employment status, and preexisting medical conditions. The catch? The program’s so new and there are so many eligible residents that the application process is backlogged — you may have a long wait before you reap the rewards. Plus, HSF only applies within San Francisco.

Some might consider mental health less important than that of the corporeal body, but anyone who’s suffered from depression, addiction, or PTSD knows otherwise. Problem is, psychotherapy tends to be expensive — and therefore considered superfluous. Not so at Golden Gate Integral Counseling Center (507 Polk. 415-561-0230, www.goldengatecounseling.org), where individuals, couples, families, and groups can get long- and short-term counseling for issues from stress and relationships to gender identity, all billed on a sliding scale.

Other good options

American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (450 Connecticut, 415-282-9603, actcm.edu). This well-regarded school provides a range of treatments, including acupuncture, cupping, tui ma/shiatsu massage, and herbal therapy, at its on-site clinics — all priced according to a sliding scale and with discounts for students and seniors. The college also sends interns to specialty clinics around the Bay, including the Women’s Community Clinic, Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, and St. James Infirmary.

St. James Infirmary (1372 Mission. 415-554-8494, www.stjamesinfirmary.org). Created for sex-workers and their partners, this Mission District clinic offers a range of services from primary care to massage and self-defense classes, for free. Bad ass.

Free Print Shop (www.freeprintshop.org): This fantabulous Webs site has charts showing access to free healthcare across the city, as well as free food, shelter, and help with neighborhood problems. If we haven’t listed ’em, Free Print Shop has. Tell a friend.

Native American Health Center (160 Capp, 415-621-8051, www.nativehealth.org). Though geared towards Native Americans, this multifaceted clinic (dental! an Oakland locale, and an Alameda satellite!) turns no one away. Services are offered to the under-insured on a sliding scale as well as to those with insurance.

SF Free Clinic (4900 California, 415-750-9894, www.sffc.org). Those without any health insurance can get vaccinations, diabetes care, family planning assistance, STD diagnosis and treatment, well child care, and monitoring of acute and chronic medical problems.

Haight Ashbury Free Clinics (558 Clayton. 415-746-1950, www.hafci.org): Though available to all, these clinics are geared towards the uninsured, underinsured "working poor," the homeless, youth, and those with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. We love this organization not only for its day-to-day service, but for its low-income residential substance abuse recovery programs and its creation of RockMed, which provides free medical care at concerts and events. (Molly Freedenberg)

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THE BEST HOMELESS SHELTERS

There’s no reason to be ashamed to stay in the city’s homeless shelters — but proceed with awareness. Although most shelters take safety precautions and men and women sleep in separate areas, they’re high-traffic places that house a true cross-section of the city’s population.

The city shelters won’t take you if you just show up — you have to make a reservation. In any case, a reservation center should be your first stop anyway because they’ll likely have other services available for you. If you’re a first-timer, they’ll want to enter you into the system and take your photograph. (You can turn down the photo-op.) Reservations can be made for up to seven days, after which you’ll need to connect with a case manager to reserve a more permanent 30- or 60-day bed.

The best time to show up is first thing in the morning when beds are opening up, or late at night when beds have opened up because of no-show reservations. First thing in the morning means break of dawn — people often start lining up between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. for the few open beds. Many people are turned away throughout the day, although your chances are better if you’re a woman.

You can reserve a bed at one of several reservation stations: 150 Otis, Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (165 Capp St.), Tenderloin Resource Center (187 Golden Gate), Glide (330 Ellis), United Council (2111 Jennings), and the shelters at MSC South (525 Fifth St.) and Hospitality House (146 Leavenworth). If it’s late at night, they may have a van available to give you a ride to the shelter. Otherwise, bus tokens are sometimes available if you ask for one — especially if you’re staying at Providence shelter in the Bayview-Hunters Point District.

They’ll ask if you have a shelter preference — they’re all a little different and come with good and bad recommendations depending on whom you talk to. By all accounts, Hospitality House is one of the best — it’s small, clean, and well run. But it’s for men only, as are the Dolores Street Community Services shelters (1050 S. Van Ness and 1200 Florida), which primarily cater to Spanish-speaking clients.

Women can try Oshun (211 13th St.) and A Woman’s Place (1049 Howard) if they want a men-free space. If kids are in tow, Compass Family Services will set you up with shelter and put you on a waiting list for housing. (A recent crush of families means a waiting list for shelters also exists.) People between 18 and 24 can go to Lark Inn (869 Ellis). The Asian Woman’s Shelter specializes in services for Asian-speaking women and domestic violence victims (call the crisis line 877-751-0880). (Amanda Witherell)

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MEALS FOR $5: TOP FIVE CHEAP EATS

Nothing fancy about these places — but the food is good, and the price is right, and they’re perfect for depression dining.

Betty’s Cafeteria Probably the easiest place in town to eat for under five bucks, breakfast or lunch, American or Chinese. 167 11th St., SF. (415) 431-2525

Susie’s Café You can get four pancakes or a bacon burger for under $5 at this truly grungy and divine dive, right next to Ed’s Auto — and you get the sense the grease intermingles. , 603 Seventh St., SF (415) 431-2177

Lawrence Bakery Café Burger and fries, $3.75, and a slice of pie for a buck. 2290 Mission., SF. (415) 864-3119

Wo’s Restaurant Plenty of under-$5 Cantonese and Vietnamese dishes, and, though the place itself is cold and unatmospheric, the food is actually great. 4005 Judah, SF. (415) 681-2433

Glenn’s Hot Dogs A cozy, friendly, cheap, delicious hole-in-the-wall and probably my favorite counter to sit at in the whole Bay Area. 3506 MacArthur Blvd., Oakl. (510) 530-5175 (L.E. Leone)

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CHEAP DRINKS

When it comes to free drinks I’m a liar, a whore, and a cheat, duh.

I’m a liar because of course I find your designer replica stink-cloud irresistible and your popped collar oh so intriguing — and no, you sexy lug, I’ve never tried one of those delicious-looking orange-juice-and-vodka concoctions you’re holding. Perhaps you could order me one so I could try it out while we spend some time?

I’m a whore because I’ll still do you anyway — after the fifth round, natch. That’s why they call me the liquor quicker picker-upper.

And I’m a cheat because here I am supposed to give you the scoop on where to score some highball on the lowdown, when in fact there’s a couple of awesome Web sites just aching to help you slurp down the freebies. Research gives me wrinkles, darling. So before I get into some of my fave inexpensive inebriation stations, take a designated-driver test drive of www.funcheapsf.com and www.sf.myopenbar.com.

FuncheapSF’s run by the loquacious Johnny Funcheap, and has the dirty deets on a fab array of free and cheap city events — with gallery openings, wine and spirits tastings, and excellent shindigs for the nightlife-inclined included. MyOpenBar.com is a national operation that’s geared toward the hard stuff, and its local branch offers way too much clarity about happy hours, concerts, drink specials, and service nights. Both have led me into inglorious perdition, with dignity, when my chips were down.

Beyond all that, and if you have a couple bucks in your shucks, here’s a few get-happies of note:

Godzuki Sushi Happy Hour at the Knockout. Super-yummy affordable fish rolls and $2 Kirin on tap in a rockin’ atmosphere. Wednesdays, 6–9:30 p.m. 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994, www.knockoutsf.com

All-Night Happy Hour at The Attic. Drown your recession tears — and the start of your work week — in $3 cosmos and martinis at this hipster hideaway. Sundays and Mondays, 5 p.m.–2 a.m. 3336 24th St., (415) 722-7986

The Stork Club. Enough live punk to bleed your earworm out and $2 Pabsts every night to boot? Fly me there toute suite. 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 444-6174, www.storkcluboakland.com

House of Shields. Dive into $2 PBR on tap and great music every night except Sundays at the beautiful winner of our 2008 Best of the Bay "Best Monumental Urinal" award. (We meant in the men’s room, not the place as a whole!) 39 New Montgomery, SF. (415) 975-8651, www.houseofshields.com

The Bitter End. $3 drafts Monday through Friday are just the beginning at this Richmond pub: the Thursday night Jager shot plus Pabst for five bucks (plus an ’80s dance party) is worth a look-see. 441 Clement, SF. (415) 221-9538

Thee Parkside Fast becoming the edge-seekers bar of choice, this Potrero Hill joint has some awesome live nights with cheap brews going for it, but the those in the know misplace their Saturday afternoons with $3 well drinks from 3 to 8 p.m.1600 17th St., SF. (415) 252-1330, www.theeparkside.com

Infatuation. One of the best free club nights in the city brings in stellar electro-oriented talent and also offers two-for-one well drinks, so what the hey. Wednesdays, 9 p.m.–2 a.m. Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF. (415) 433-8585, www.vesselsf.com

Honey Sundays. Another free club night, this one on the gay tip, that offers more great local and international DJ names and some truly fetching specials at Paradise Lounge’s swank upstairs bar. Sundays, 8 p.m.–2 a.m. Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom, SF. (415) 252-5018, www.paradisesf.com (Marke B.)

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IMPRESS A DATE WITH DINNER UNDER $50

You’ve got a date this weekend, which you’re feeling pretty good about, but only $50 to spend, which feels … not so good. Where should you go?

You’ll appear in-the-know at the underrated Sheba Piano Lounge (1419 Fillmore, www.shebalounge.com) on lower Fillmore Street, right in the middle of the burgeoning jazz revival district. Sheba was around long before Yoshi’s, offering live jazz (usually piano, sometimes a vocalist) and some of the best Ethiopian food in the city in a refined, relaxed lounge setting. Sure, they’ve got Americanized dishes, but skip those for the traditional Ethiopian menu. Sample multiple items by ordering the vegetarian platter ($13) or ask for a mixed meat platter, which is not on the menu ($16 last time I ordered it). One platter is more than enough for two, and you can still afford a couple of cocktails, glasses of wine or beer, or even some Ethiopian honey wine (all well under $10). Like any authentic Ethiopian place I’ve eaten in, the staff operates on Africa time, so be prepared to linger and relax.

It’s a little hipster-ish with slick light fixtures, a narrow dining room/bar, and the increasingly common "communal table" up front, but the Mission District’s Bar Bambino (2931 16th St., www.barbambino.com) offers an Italian enoteca experience that says "I’ve got some sophistication, but I like to keep it casual." Reserve ahead for tables because there aren’t many, or come early and sit at the bar or in the enclosed back patio and enjoy an impressive selection of Italian wines by the glass ($8–$12.50). For added savings with a touch of glam, don’t forget their free sparkling water on tap. It’s another small plates/antipasti-style menu, so share a pasta ($10.50–$15.50), panini ($11.50–$12.50), and some of their great house-cured salumi or artisan cheese. Bar Bambino was just named one of the best wine bars in the country by Bon Apetit, but don’t let that deter you from one of the city’s real gems.

Nothing says romance (of the first date kind) like a classic French bistro, especially one with a charming (heated) back patio. Bistro Aix (3340 Steiner, www.bistroaix.com) is one of those rare places in the Marina District where you can skip the pretension and go for old school French comfort food (think duck confit, top sirloin steak and frites, and a goat cheese salad — although the menu does stray a little outside the French zone with some pasta and "cracker crust pizza." Bistro Aix has been around for years, offering one of the cheapest (and latest — most end by 6 or 7 p.m.) French prix fixe menus in town (Sunday through Thursday, 6–8 p.m.) at $18 for two courses. This pushes it to $40 for two, but still makes it possible to add a glass of wine, which is reasonably priced on the lower end of their Euro-focused wine list ($6.25–$15 a glass).

Who knew seduction could be so surprisingly affordable? (Virginia Miller)

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FREE YOGA

You may be broke, but you can still stay limber. San Francisco is home to scores of studios and karmically-blessed souls looking to do a good turn by making yoga affordable for everyone.

One of the more prolific teachers and donation-based yoga enthusiasts is Tony Eason, who trained in the Iyengar tradition. His classes, as well as links to other donation-based teachers, can be found at ynottony.com. Another great teacher in the Anusara tradition is Skeeter Barker, who teaches classes for all levels Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. at Yoga Kula, 3030a 16th St. (recommended $8–$10 donation).

Sports Basement also hosts free classes every Sunday at three stores: Bryant Street from 1 to 2 p.m., the Presidio from 11a.m. to noon, and Walnut Creek 11 a.m. to noon. Bring your own mat.

But remember: even yoga teachers need to make a living — so be fair and give what you can. (Amanda Witherell)

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HOW TO KEEP YOUR APARTMENT

So the building you live in was foreclosed. Or you missed a few rent payments. Suddenly there’s a three-day eviction notice in your mailbox. What now?

Don’t panic. That’s the advice from Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. Tenants have rights, and evictions can take a long time. And while you may have to deal with some complications and legal issues, you don’t need to pack your bags yet.

Instead, pick up the phone and call the Tenants Union (282-6622, www.sftu.org) or get some professional advice from a lawyer.

The three-day notice doesn’t mean you have to be out in three days. "But it does mean you will have to respond to and communicate with the landlord/lady within that time," Gullicksen told us.

It’s also important to keep paying your rent, Gullicksen warned, unless you can’t pay the full amount and have little hope of doing so any time soon.

"Nonpayment of rent is the easiest way for a landlord to evict a tenant," Gullicksen explained. "Don’t make life easier for the landlady who was perhaps trying to use the fact that your relatives have been staying with you for a month as grounds to evict you so she can convert your apartment into a pricey condominium."

There are, however, caveats to Gullicksen’s "always pay the rent" rule: if you don’t have the money or you don’t have all the money.

"Say you owe $1,000 but only have $750 when you get the eviction notice," Gullicksen explained. "In that case, you may want to not pay your landlord $750, in case he sits on it but still continues on with the eviction. Instead, you might want to put the money to finding another place or hiring an attorney."

A good lawyer can often delay an eviction — even if it’s over nonpayment or rent — and give you time to work out a deal. Many landlords, when faced with the prospect of a long legal fight, will come to the table. Gullicksen noted that the vast majority of eviction cases end in a settlement. "We encourage all tenants to fight evictions," he said. The Tenants Union can refer you to qualified tenant lawyers.

These days some tenants who live in buildings that have been foreclosed on are getting eviction notices. But in San Francisco, city officials are quick to point out, foreclosure is not a legal ground for eviction.

Another useful tip: if your landlord is cutting back on the services you get — whether it’s a loss of laundry facilities, parking, or storage space, or the owner has failed to do repairs or is preventing you from preventing you from "the quiet enjoyment of your apartment" — you may be able to get a rent reduction. With the passage of Proposition M in November 2008 tenants who have been subjected to harassment by their landlords are also eligible for rent reductions. That involves a petition to the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board (www.sfgov.org/site/rentboard_index.asp).

Gullicksen also recommends that people who have lost their jobs check out the Eviction Defense Collaborative (www.evictiondefense.org).

"They are mostly limited to helping people who have temporary shortfalls," Gullicksen cautioned. But if you’ve lost your job and are about to start a new one and are a month short, they can help. (Sarah Phelan)

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OUT OF WORK? HERE’S STEP ONE

How do you get your unemployment check?

"Just apply for it."

That’s the advice of California’s Employment Development Department spokesperson Patrick Joyce.

You may think you aren’t eligible because you may have been fired or were only working part-time, but it’s still worth a try. "Sometimes people are ineligible, but sometimes they’re not," Joyce said, explaining that a lot of factors come into play, including your work history and how much you were making during the year before you became unemployed.

"So, simply apply for it — if you don’t qualify we’ll tell you," he said. "And if you think you are eligible and we don’t, you can appeal to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board."

Don’t wait, either. "No one gets unemployment benefits insurance payments for the first week they are unemployed," Joyce explained, referring to the one-week waiting period the EDD imposes before qualified applicants can start collecting. "So you should apply immediately."

Folks can apply by filling out the unemployment insurance benefits form online or over the phone. But the phone number is frequently busy, so online is the best bet.

Even if you apply by phone, visit www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment beforehand to view the EDD’s extensive unemployment insurance instructions and explanations. To file an online claim, visit eapply4ui.edd.ca.gov. For a phone number for your local office, visit www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/telephone_numbers.

(Sarah Phelan)

We’ll be doing regular updates and running tips for hard times in future issues. Send your ideas to tips@sfbg.com.

Editor’s Notes

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› tredmond@sfbg.com

I guess Mayor Gavin Newsom really wants to cut the budget. He wants to force city employees (and not just the cops) to accept pay cuts. He wants to lay people off and eliminate services. He wants to solve the budget crisis entirely on his terms — and honestly, it baffles me.

Anyone who runs a public or private enterprise has to make tough decisions and tough choices in tough times. I know that. I’ve had to cut spending and lay people off — and I can tell you, it sucked. It didn’t make me feel like a strong leader or a hard-nosed manager, it just made me sad.

In politics, I guess, there’s some advantage to looking like you can stand up to organized labor and the left. Maybe Newsom thinks he can run for governor as the mayor who refused to raise taxes during a budget crisis. Maybe he, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, thinks taxes are for girlie men.

But does he really want to preside over the decline of his own signature health care plan? Does he want to be mayor of a city that recovers more slowly from the recession? Does he want to be the environmental leader who cut public transportation funding?

He doesn’t have to do that. There’s another alternative. He can work with the supervisors — and labor, and business, and community activists — and look at ways to bring in some more money. It shouldn’t be that hard a sell, really. The budget gap is huge — Aaron Peskin, who served on the Board of Supervisors for eight years, said before he left office that he’s having a hard time even getting his mind around the monstrosity of the necessary cuts. I’ve been watching local politics for 25 years, and I’ve having a hard time too. We could be looking at eliminating half the discretionary spending in the general fund.

Do people who live and work in this city (including business owners) want to see public health cut by 25 percent? Do they want to see libraries closed, and neighborhood fire stations eliminated, and police stations shut down, and recreation programs that keep kids off the streets eliminated, and the Small Business Assistance Center defunded, and more mentally ill people wandering the streets, and longer waits for more crowded Muni buses? Is this the city we all want to live in?

Or are the wealthier residents and bigger businesses willing to pay just a little bit more each year to keep basic services in place?

If Mayor Newsom, who is still quite popular in town, asked that question, in that fashion, and presented budget cuts that everyone knows are necessary and better oversight and good government programs to let us all know that the money isn’t being wasted, and then promoted a couple of fair and progressive new revenue measures in a June special election, the worst of the bloodbath could be avoided.

I can’t understand why he wants this to be so hard.

The challenges for President Chiu

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EDITORIAL The ascension of Sup. David Chiu to the presidency of the Board of Supervisors gives a relative political newcomer considerable power. It also puts Chiu in position to carry on the legacy of Aaron Peskin and lead the opposition to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s pro-downtown, pro-Pacific Gas and Electric Co. agenda. Chiu, obviously, lacks the experience Peskin brought to the job, so he needs to move carefully at first. But he also needs to show that he’s more than a compromise candidate and that he has the ability to lead the board and promote the progressive agenda.

Let’s remember: Chiu was elected president entirely by the six progressive supervisors. The way the vote went down, five people, including Newsom’s closest allies, stuck together as a solid bloc and repeatedly voted for Sup. Sophie Maxwell. Maxwell had come down to the Guardian office a few days earlier to tell us that she was a solid progressive, but we saw the future of the board playing out when the votes were counted. Maxwell and Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who both have voiced concerns about the prospect of an inexperienced person taking the top job, could have broken with their bloc and voted for Sup. Ross Mirkarimi — that would have put him over the top. But through seven votes, as the progressives moved around trying to find a candidates all six could support, the Newsom Five stuck together. (Of course, if it hadn’t been for Sup. Chris Daly’s ill-conceived antics, Mirkarimi would have been able to get six votes, and we would have had an experienced leader in place).

Although Chiu talks (as he should) about bringing everyone together, he needs to keep in mind from day one that he is now the most visible member of a six-person board majority that can control the agenda and the set the tone for the city — if none of the six starts to drift toward the squishy center.

It’s going to be a rough, brutal year. The mayor has already made clear through his comments that he doesn’t even want to look at new revenue measures; he intends to solve the city’s half-billion-dollar budget crisis with cuts — deep, bloody cuts — alone. Chiu will have to stand up to him, publicly and privately, and make clear that a cuts-only budget isn’t going to fly in San Francisco.

And while Chiu will need some time to develop a leadership style and become familiar with the often-complex workings of the board, he should do a few things right away to show that he’s prepared to take on the difficult tasks ahead:

Support Peskin’s proposal for a special election in June. The proposal to allow the voters to consider raising taxes instead of just cutting is going to need a lot of help and support. The mayor opposes it, and some of his allies may oppose it too. But it’s absolutely crucial that San Francisco refuse to follow the lead of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s crucial that the progressives, while acknowledging that cuts will have to happen, also insist on looking at fair revenue ideas. Chiu needs to take the point on this.

In fact, now that the mayor and his allies on the board have made this a central battleground — and in effect have made this a litmus test for Chiu’s new presidency — it’s even more important that every one of the six progressive supervisors stands up to this challenge.

We’re not sure which of the dozen-odd tax proposals floating around is the right one. But it would be the worst kind of foolishness to take the whole idea off the table.

Put good people on the key committees. The Budget Committee at this point looks good, with Mirkarimi, Sup. John Avalos, and Elsbernd. When that panel expands to five members (and it should, soon) Chiu should make sure that either David Campos or Eric Mar joins the committee, keeping a progressive majority. The Land Use committee will be crucial as the Eastern Neighborhoods plan is implemented; Chiu needs to appoint a progressive chair and majority.

Save LAFCO. The Local Agency Formation Commission is the only board committee that has public power and energy policy as its primary agenda. Budget-cutters (spurred by PG&E, which more than any other company is responsible for the budget crisis) have made LAFCO a target; Chiu needs to make it clear immediately that LAFCO will remain in place, with strong appointments and a chair committed to making community choice aggregation work and pursuing public power as the largest potential new revenue source for the city.

Chiu has promised to work with the mayor, which is fine. But first he needs to show the progressives who elected him that he’s also ready to do battle.