Volume 43 Number 25

Appetite: Caffeinated Comics, Chocolate Salon, Masa’s at a discount, and more

0

chocolate0316a.jpg

Chocolate time! See “events” below

As long-time San Francisco resident and writer, I’m passionate about this city and obsessed with finding and exploring its best food-and-drink spots, deals, events and news, in every neighborhood and cuisine. I started with my own service and monthly food/drink/travel newsletter, The Perfect Spot, and am thrilled to share up-to-the minute news with you from the endless goings-on in our fair city. View the last installment of Appetite here

————

NEW RESTAURANT & CAFE OPENINGS

Caffeinated Comics, the breakfast of champions
Four Barrel coffee, free wi-fi, comic books and donuts? Could this possibly all be in one place? It is now with Caffeinated Comics, SF’s first comic book/coffee shop rolled into one. The Outer Mission shop is a bright red, orange and yellow space where you can sift through superhero memorabilia or check out DC or Marvel’s latest comic books, all while sipping a high-quality espresso. (Note: there’s also affogatos using neighbor, Mitchell’s, legendary ice cream). CaffCom’s applied for green certification with green lighting, building materials and energy efficient freezers and fridges. Holy caffeinated geekdom, Batman.
Caffeinated Comics
Weekdays 7am-6pm
Weekends 9:30am-5pm
3188 Mission Street
415-829-7530
www.caffcom.com

Livin’ La Dolce Vita at Pizzanostra
Jocelyn Bulow of the Chez Papa and Chez Maman restaurant group and Italian chef, Giovanni Aginolfi (who was cooking pizzas in Nice, France, prior to coming to SF), join forces for a new pizzeria/osteria on Potrero Hill called Pizzanostra. Aginolfi placed sixth in the World Pizza Championship and now we can get ’em right here. There are two themes to this restaurant: a pizzeria serving Aginolfi’s famed pies, and an osteria with a menu of antipasti, foccacias, salumi, pastas, gelatos and Italian wines. The outdoor sidewalk terrace will be a huge hit on sunny days for filling up on bruschetta topped with eggplant, prosciutto, mozerella and tomato, a salad of celery hearts and fennel, or pizzas covered in lamb sausage and egg or clams and prawns. This is la dolce vita realized.
Pizzanostra
300 De Haro Street
415-558-9493
www.pizzanostrasf.com

———

EVENTS

March 17: Screening and Iyemon Cha Tea Reception as part of the Asian American Film Fest
Asian film screening and tea tasting sound good? Iyemon Cha is a one-of-a-kind organic bottled green tea made at the historic Fukujuen tea house in Kyoto, Japan. Only recently available in our city, the tea and complimentary appetizers will be served at an exclusive pre-screening reception you have to sign up for online. At the reception you’ll meet the director, Dave Boyle, and cast of that night’s film, “White on Rice.” Consider it a culturally fun education in tea and Asian film.
5:30pm reception at Bar Bistro; 6:45pm Film Screening
Free for pre-screening reception but must register on website ahead of time
Film screening, $10: www.festival.asianamericanmedia.org/2009.
Sundance Kabuki Theatre
1881 Post Street
www.iyemonchaevents.com

March 21: Spend your Saturday at the Third Annual SF International Chocolate Salon
The SF International Chocolate Salon is back for it’s annual showdown of over fifty gourmet chocolate vendors covering 30,000 square feet of ground. Let’s see, spending a Saturday sampling rich chocolates, velvety wines and all things chocolate? Can do. There’s chef and author talks, demos, chocolate fashion and body painting (?!) and wine pairings, so you won’t be bored. I would concur with the well-known adage, “I never met a piece of chocolate I didn’t like”, and this event will surely confirm it.
10am-6pm
$20 advance; $25 at the door
Fort Mason Center: Herbst Pavilion
99 Marina Boulevard
www.sfchocolatesalon.com

———-

DRINK NEWS

Adesso opens in Oakland – finally, a sports bar for cocktilians
Jon Smulewitz of longtime Piedmont Ave. Italian restaurant, Dopo, just opened an Italian-chic sports bar (yes… chic, Italian and sports). Adesso may have a Foosball table and flat screens, but it also has 15 drinks assembled by Jay Kosmas of New York City’s Employees Only, an industry insiders’ culinary cocktail hang-out. In a casual, mod space, imbibe cocktails or Italian wines while pulling up a seat at the bar… salumi bar that is. You heard right: salumi bar and foosball, all in one place.
4395 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
510-601-0305

———–

DEALS

sens031609a.jpg
Sens gets special

Sens: $19 lunch special with entree, dessert and a 12 oz. beer
Sens, Embarcadero’s Mediterranean Rustic Chic restaurant overlooks Embarcadero Plaza from big, picturesque windows. I enjoy the fresh dishes but find the place pricey in general, though I have a reason now to return for their new $19 lunch special, with soda or 12 oz. beer, entree and dessert. The menu rotates weekly with recent dishes including a lamb and feta meatball sandwich on rosemary ciabatta with sweet potato chips and mesclun greens and a lush chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Sounds like my kind of lunch hour.
Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm Lunch; 3-7:30pm Happy Hour; 5:30-10pm Dinner
Saturday 5pm-11pm
4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
415-362-0645
www.sens-sf.com

Masa’s makes fine dining affordable
Masa’s is one of SF’s most revered fine dining destinations for more than 25 years, but set menus run $105 for six courses or $155 for nine courses per person. Yeah… definitely a special occasion splurge at best. But Masa’s is feeling the economic times, too, responding with something they’ve never done before: offer a three course menu for $55 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for early bird diners. Exec chef, Gregory Short, serves dishes like roasted beets en terrine or potato agnolotti with fava beans and black trumpet mushrooms. Pastry chef, John McKee, won’t leave you hanging on dessert either, with delectables like a fleur de sel caramel bon bon or Winter citrus tart. An ideal chance to try out this upscale dining mecca at a “discount”.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays 5:30-6:30pm
$55 three-course menu; $30 for three wine pairings
648 Bush Street
415-989-7154
www.masasrestaurant.com

Kennedy, compounded

0

HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING It’s chaos theory’s maxim that the mere brush of a butterfly’s wings might produce a ripple effect sufficient to changes history. But let’s face it: it’s more interesting to muse upon the big what-ifs, like assassination attempts. What if Lincoln or Archduke Ferdinand had survived? What if Reagan hadn’t?

Are such speculations actually useful, or just a glorified party game? Clearly Koji Masutani thinks it’s the former, since he’s gone to the trouble of making Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived. As presented by the director and foreign policy historian James G. Blight, this new documentary makes the case that Kennedy’s nonconfrontational tactics on the world stage during his presidency would surely have carried over to preventing that "quagmire" known here as the Vietnam War (and over there as "the American War"). Had he lived, of course.

Parallels to our moment are hard to resist. Like Obama, JFK’s election was viewed as a landmark and greeted with messianic excitement unequalled by a Democrat until now. He arrived at a time of equally daunting if very different emergencies — the Cold War’s peak boiling point, the civil rights movement heating up at home — and likewise faced hostile Republican lawmakers as well as skeptical press.

Masutani charts six occasions on which JFK dodged armed conflict that might have triggered (or so reasoning went) World War III. The Cuban Missile Crisis is the obvious one. Others, all four-alarm calls for anti-commie action, include resisting engagement in Laos and Vietnam, as well as over the Berlin Wall’s construction. In archival footage Kennedy looks alternately uncomfortable and good-humored defending his policies, as he’s accused of "appeasement toward communism," "utter incompetence," and "mismanaging the news" by rationing his statements to prevent hysteria outbreaks in an already paranoid nation. "This generation of Americans has already seen enough war and hate," he pronounced. Amen.

Alas, that fateful open-car ride in Dallas placed Lyndon B. Johnson in office. Though it evidently tormented him, LBJ saw no alternative to an ever-expanding Vietnam incursion. Some 58,000 U.S. lives and 2 million native ones later, it remains the quagmire by which all our blunders abroad are measured.

These days, not everyone thinks Kennedy was as golden as that Camelot glow suggested. But Virtual JFK does convince us that things would have turned out quite differently, at the very least, had he missed taking a premature powder. May history not repeat itself.

VIRTUAL JFK: VIETNAM IF KENNEDY HAD LIVED

Fri/20-Tues/24, see Rep Clock for times, $6–$9

Red Vic, 1727 Haight, SF

(415) 668-3994

Back to nature

0

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

ODC/Dance opened its 38th season with world premieres by artistic director Brenda Way and co-artistic director KT Nelson. Neither Way’s In the Memory of the Forest nor Nelson’s Grassland broke new ground. But novelty is overrated. What you want from experienced choreographers is that they continue challenging themselves with ideas that are compellingly realized. If both works need some settling, the rest of the season should take care of that. In upcoming performances they will be presented as part of the repertoire, which will give them a warmer context than the opening gala did. The dancers, who now include Robert Dekkers and Vanessa Thiessen, look as good as you may want them.

Nelson set her Grassland to a commissioned score by Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos, with whom she collaborated for her 2006 Stomp a Waltz. It’s a restless, driving piece of music, forcefully interpreted by a piano quintet and well-suited to Nelson’s equally restless, driving choreography. She kept the relationship to the music elastic, sometimes following its rhythmic impulse but also anticipating its sweep or going against its complexity.

Even without direct references to natural phenomena, Grassland suggests a vast sense of open space. Dancers tore in and out of the wings; they walked or scurried on tiptoe as if trying to see beyond the horizon. Legs swept the floor like scythes; four-legged critters scrambled across. The beautifully individualized duets for Daniel Santos and Yaoi Kambara, Anne Zivolich and Corey Brady, and Elizabeth Farotte and Jeremy Smith involved collisions and interlockings that then split, slithered, or scooted apart. The whole suggested a pulsating sense of aliveness, sometimes almost too much to take in.

Way’s elegiac In the Memory of the Forest was inspired by her mother-in-law’s escape from Poland in 1941 to find the man she loved. The work ended with parts of a recording — incorporated into Jay Cloidt’s musical score — of Iza Erlich telling her story. The audio was fragmented, pensive, and a little scratchy, just like Way’s choreography. Instead of fashioning a narrative, Way explored the anxiety, uncertainty, and determination — as well as the innocence and sense of loss — inherent in Erlich’s experience. More than anything, this is a piece about remembering. Cloidt’s music was multilayered and supportive; in the hands of Elaine Buckholtz’s set and lighting design, David and Hi-Jin Hodge’s video work looked first rate.

The piece opened with a stunning line of hand-holding dancers stepping from video images of woods; their line then began to fracture as if an earthquake had broken the ground beneath them. Joining them were video images of white-clad dancers who accumulated until they gave the sense of a world about to drown. But Way kept the focus on the private. Couples fused and separated, sometimes like silhouettes, sometimes very physically. Kambara was the heroine who flitted hither and yon. A limp Zivolich, dragged around by Santos, seemed to be an alter-ego whom Kambara befriended. In good movie tradition, it was not the men’s uniform gestures but Cloidt’s sound track that terrified. When Kambara finally threw herself against a slightly overwhelmed looking Smith, both froze and began to turn like music box figurines, while the shadows kept pace with their own whirling dance.

ODC/DANCE DOWNTOWN

Through March 29, $10–$45

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF

(415) 978-ARTS, www.odcdance.org

Model A

0

The stuff of dreams, this model apartment. And a repository for them too. Dreams, though, run in two directions, heavenward being only one. For an elderly Jewish couple from Brooklyn beginning a new chapter of their lives in mid-1980s Florida, nothing in this apartment is as it seems. Neither are they what they may first seem to us. From the time Lola (Naomi Newman) and Max (Jarion Monroe) enter the freshly minted studio condo to the first intimations of their desperate flight, David Margulies’ deeply felt and well turned portrait of lives shattered but still groping in the wake of a catastrophic history wastes no time in peeling back one surface after another. Even what seems a lighthearted comedy quickly turns several shades darker with the arrival of unhinged, inexorable daughter Debby (Amy Resnick), followed soon after by her addled boyfriend Neil (Anthony Williams). Amy Glazer directs a truly memorable, hilarious, and moving cast in Traveling Jewish Theatre’s not-to-be-missed production, one of the smallest and most acute of plays to effectively tackle the greatest of historical subjects.

THE MODEL APARTMENT

Through April 5

Thurs–Sat, 8 p.m.; March 25 and April 1, 2 p.m., $15–$44

Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida, SF

(415) 292-1233, www.atjt.com

Sleeper cells

0

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Pop monoliths come and go, but these days they mostly seem to be going: tumblin’ down quietly, as with the soon-to-be-shuttered Virgin Megastore on Market Street, or crumbling — and grumbling — noisily, as with the war of words accompanying Radiohead’s reputed snub of Miley Cyrus and Kanye West at this year’s Grammys. So it’s heartening to see that we can all agree on one thing: we want to glimpse an ever-morphing, perkily pageboy-ed pop maestro in the pasty, ghostly flesh.

The last monolith standing, Michael Jackson can continue to claim his King of Pop title with the speedy sell-out of his 50-show London residency, dramatically titled "This Is It!" Neverland does too exist, Mikey: in Londontown, with more than 1 million ticket-buyers gripped by the HIStory-making, get-it-now-or-never pop-consumer frenzy that accompanies reunions and comebacks undertaken by Led Zeppelin, My Bloody Valentine, and a certain half-century-old superstar — and pure brilliant and twisted product of the entertainment biz — who hasn’t tackled a major tour since 1997 or made a studio long-player since 2001. Is this deprivation anxiety, or a sign that pop can once again mean popular for a music industry nervously scanning the tea leaves of ticket sales for a brighter, sparkly-gloved future?

But we can’t all be monsters of pop. Witness that other little combo hitting its chart-topping stride around the same time as Jacko’s Off the Wall (Epic, 1979): the Bee Gees. Down-market lulls are an ace time to revisit past beauties like the group’s stunning two-LP Odessa (Polydor, 1969), later abbreviated to a single disc and leached of its pomped-out, once-toxic red-flocked packaging; and recently reissued, in all its completist glory, with stereo and mono mixes of the entire recording, a disc of previously unreleased demos, sketches, and alternate versions, a poster of lyric notes and reel labels, and a booklet breaking down each track. Sure to be a revelatory sunken treasure for fans of the Decemberists, Okkervil River, and other chamber/indie rock literati, the concept album marked an intense period of creativity for the bros Gibb, and nearly shipwrecked the band. Guitarist Vince Melouney departed for bluesier waters, while Robin bickered with Barry over the choice of a first single and left the group in 1968, only to return two years later (after mending his broken heart, no doubt). We’re left with an opulent, astonishingly deep concept album concerning a lost British ship, Veronica, at the turn of the 20th century. Odessa is marked by lovely flamenco guitar and Mellotron work by Maurice, a miniature symphony, moments of Bands-y rusticism, a forelock tug to Thomas Edison, and those Doppler vibrato vocals — all worth diving into, again and again.

The derring-do with which the Bee Gees once charted the risky seas of baroque pop excess should be a lesson to other music-makers. And strangely, Seattle’s Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band brings to mind an adenoidal indie-rock incarnation of the sibs Gibbs. Could it be the buzz band’s over-the-top AOR and early ’00s new-rock interludes that spurred pals to describe a recent Noise Pop turn as "awful"? The press literature for its self-titled Dead Oceans debut draws a line of descent from Wolf Parade through Modest Mouse and the Pixies, but I sense that MSHVB’s breed of over-the-top, kitchen-sink rock is just the latest wrinkle in an increasingly orchestral Northwest sound, which is skipping from grunge to grrrls to baroque ‘n’ roll.

I’ll bust out my conductor’s tales after listening to Portland, Ore., songwriter Mirah’s delectable (a)spera (K). Björk, Beth Orton, and Julie Doiron would be dang proud of Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn’s successful forays into the wilderness of mutable forms, remixes on Joyride: Remixes (K, 2006), and meditations on the secret lives of insects with Spectratone International on Share This Place: Stories and Observations (K, 2007). Working with certified Mt. Eerie/Microphones genius Phil Elverum, Mirah defies her old lo-fi rep with this full-blown sleeper gem of a CD, gamboling from the string-dappled opening gut-punch of "Generosity" to the shimmering snare and delicate guitar coloration of "Education." (a)spera grabs for classic pop beauty standards and succeeds on its own terms — hurdy gurdy, bongos, kalimba, kora, and all.

And speaking of Malian kora, one mustn’t neglect that country’s Amadou and Mariam — departing for the more futuristic, less folkloric reaches of pop with Welcome to Mali (Because Music/Nonesuch). The only ship the blind couple will be wrecking is that of pop purists expecting another Dimanche a Bamako (Because Music/Nonesuch, 2005). The subtly tweaked Afro-futurist soundscapes — littered with appearances by performers like K’Naan and Toumani Diabate — hew closer to a digitized, disco-ball-glittered, cosmopolitan Paris than a more rustic, impoverished Mali. Amadou and Mariam narrow the divide between the two with the sparkling, Damon Albarn-produced rave-up "Sabali," the wah-wah-wailing kora-laced slo-funk of "Djuru," and the rump-shaking Afro-rock sizzle of "Masiteladi." I’m absolutely besotted with the balafon plonk mashed up with electric guitar twang on the palm-wine-‘n’-spaghetti-Western(-African) "Ce N’Est Pas Bon." Congotronics and ethnotronicans, welcome to A&M’s mothership connection — wake up, shake it up, and get ready for takeoff. Can’t wait to see where it takes us next.

MT. ST. HELENS VIETNAM BAND

with Bishop Allen and Miniature Tigers

Tues/24, 7:30 p.m., $15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

www.rickshawstop.com

MIRAH

with Tender Forever and Leyna Noel

April 7, 8 p.m., $16

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus, SF

www.bimbos365club.com

About time

0

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Four Tet’s music is sticky. The word works as a description of Kieran Hebden’s gluey way of making precious, melodic samples adhere to languid hip-hop beats. It also conveys that Four Tet’s sound not only bears down into your memory, it also becomes a medium for memories in its own right. To listen to Four Tet is to think about time, and Hebden has an uncanny way of illuminating the cargo that mundane details carry.

Rounds (Domino, 2003) is widely considered Four Tet’s definitive release; its slight innovation lies in refining Pause‘s (Domino, 2001) fusion of Madlib-esque, fuzz-on-the-needle beats with folky but not fey loops. The effect is major, though, a kind of déjà vu in reverse, as if Hebden amplified a previously inaudible and consequential universe. Rounds, too, runs at a fraction pf the pace of daily life: it’s the aural equivalent of a shaft of sunlight scanning your skin as you sit down to tea. Yet Rounds was a happy willed accident, if one goes by the free jazz-accented and comparatively opaque Everything Ecstatic (Domino, 2005). In the wake of these recordings, the stylistic shifts of Hebden’s recent EP, Ringer (Domino, 2008), run the risk of painting him a techno arriviste. But they result in his most deeply engaging release, one that explores Four Tet’s signature affect while calling upon greater patience and deeper listening.

Although techno can come off as a genre for soliloquists, Hebden brings the interplay and tension he developed in live and recorded collaborations with drummer Steve Reid to Ringer‘s sprawling title track. It runs a near-funky, Cluster-like synth arpeggio alongside a gold lamé string loop, splitting the difference between Kraut and Italo before dropping in an oonce oonce 4/4 beat. If you listen to the hi-hats rather than the bass drum, it’s no less rhythmically complex than an earlier, super-syncopated track like Rounds‘ "Unspoken." Lest you think Hebden’s just transposing his quirks into a new genre’s language, he presents the drone-backed heartbeat of "Swimmer," which charts an previously unimagined middle place between Donnacha Costello’s funk and Charlemagne Palestine going buck wild on a Yamaha DX-7. A very yellow song, like a prolonged burst of vitamin D into the bloodstream.

Hebden imparts an auteur’s stamp on everything he touches: Ringer never disappears into its supposed adoptive genre. It’s admirable to not abandon your audience or imprimatur, but no critic will ever label Four Tet rigorous or its pleasures hard-won. The lion’s share of this music’s appeal, after all, lies in the feeling of a generation coming into its inheritance, an uncorny merger of backpacker aesthetics and Aphex Twin-isms.

A few years from now, Four Tet might strike Web-nourished music fans as a bit middlebrow and embarrassing because of Hebden’s old-fashioned insistence on both meaning and abstraction instead of a wholesale adoption of one over the other. (A dialectic nicely embodied by Dan Deacon on one hand and Black Dice on the other.) Although Hebden’s conclusions are never facile, they aren’t particularly difficult to grasp. The number of commercials that spun off of Rounds almost reached Ratatat levels of exposure, a worrying phenomenon because both groups’ adoption of hip-hop is based on excising, along with non-PC elements, its futuristic streak. Rap doesn’t make a particularly good pillow, and its history is a little too gnarled to be adequately represented by a musty snare.

The problematic aspects of Hebden’s approach don’t detract from the real satisfaction and density of Four Tet’s music. Rounds will always evoke, for me, not just the mezzanine café of Toulouse’s XPRMNTL, a gallery/cultural clearinghouse where I first heard it over hot chocolate, but also a whole way of approaching time I’ve rarely experienced since that moment. Music that dilates the familiar into its own universe makes for a soft revelation, and I get the sense that Four Tet’s real innovation is only just starting to be understood by its audience.

FOUR TET

with John Hopkins

9 p.m. (doors 8 p.m.), $18

Mezzanine

444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880

www.mezzaninesf.com

Swedish fetish

0

Americans have always been lured by the siren call of those blindingly blonde babes and bewitching blue-eyed boys, but what exactly is "it" about Sweden that keeps us wanting more? The country is known for being progressive, well educated, sexually liberal, and neutral in wartime. A Swede even holds the Guinness World Record for spinning the most yo-yos simultaneously (nine).

Sweden has infiltrated American style; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t own at least one thing from Ikea, H&M, or Cheap Monday. These companies convey a sleek, stackable, skinny image. This impression is debunked slightly by the current Yerba Buena Center for the Arts exhibition "Irreverent: Contemporary Nordic Craft Art," a showcase for clothes you can’t wear and furniture you can’t use, such as Frida Fjellman’s chandeliers populated by glass owls and frosted squirrels.

There are also the images Bergmania has left us: stunning and haunting images of long coastlines, 18 hours of daylight in June, and splendid mountain ranges shrouded in December darkness. The snow-white vampires of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008) proliferate our nightmares. The comic glum chums of Roy Andersson’s You the Living (2007) will soon come calling.

For a country with a landscape that’s roughly equivalent to California and a population of about 9 million, Sweden is an impressive exporter of music — the third largest in the world, bested only by the U.S. and U.K. The boom began in the 1970s with those pop perfectionists, ABBA, who crossed the Atlantic to bliss us out with the melancholy euphoria of 1976’s "Dancing Queen" (their sole U.S. chart-topper, although they were the most commercially successful band of the decade).

Following ABBA’s footsteps and to some degree formula, lesser and at times laughable groups emerged from Sweden in the 1980s to reinforce the bright blonde stereotype. Europe advised us to "Open Your Heart" and Roxette counseled to "Listen to Your Heart." Although these acts managed to break into the mainstream, none attained the same timeless staying power of Agnetha, Benny, Björn, and Anna-Frid, with their teen anthems about sneaking out under mama’s nose and "having the time of your life," and their darker, more adult post-Arrival (Polar, 1976) material.

The 1990s only solidified Sweden’s reputation as a pop paradise. It brought some ludicrous acts, such as Rednex with 1994’s "Cotton Eye Joe." But Ace of Base gave us "The Sign" in 1993, and the Cardigans crafted powerful, lasting songs and even albums. Perhaps most notably, Max Martin made Britney Spears famous by writing and producing her 1998 debut single "… Baby One More Time" and creating many more hits for her and the Backstreet Boys. He also collaborated with Robyn, who has achieved cult and critical success at home and more recently in the U.S. with her own songs.

In the 21st century, Sweden’s international music presence has grown more multifaceted. The Hives brought rock to the American charts in 2000 with "Hate To Say I Told You So," and American indie kids and Kanye West went bananas in 2006 for the whistling jam "Young Folks" by Peter, Björn, and John, whose fifth and newest album Living Thing is set for release this month. The female vocalist on "Young Folks," ex-Concretes member Victoria Bergsman, is now focusing on a solo project, Taken By Trees. Psych-folk-jazz rockers Dungen put out their fourth proper album, helpfully titled 4, last fall. The group’s U.S. label is Kemado, while its sound is increasingly Komeda — as in Roman Polanski’s early film composer Krzysztof Komeda.

The Swedish acts, if not hits, keep coming: last month brought femme foursome Sahara Hotnights’ album of cover versions Sparks (Universal); January delivered delicate folkster Loney Dear’s Dear John (Polyvinyl); and charming, Björk-influenced Maia Hirasawa puts out her second album next week. The beautiful Lykke Li recently played the Fillmore, where her opening act, the Västra Götalands Iän duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums, was to die for. Indie-pop trio the Bell recently played the Independent, and the Dylan-inspired Tallest Man On Earth (a.k.a. Kristian Matsson) breaks free from touring with Bon Iver to headline shows in support of the acclaimed Shallow Grave (Gravitation).

Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenberg, plays host to lovelorn troubador Jens Lekman, Madchester-influenced boy duo the Tough Alliance, and doo-wop dolly El Perro del Mar. Another Gothenberg resident, acoustic singer/songwriter José González, gained popularity in 2003 when his cover of Swedish electro duo the Knife’s "Heartbeats" was set to a Sony commercial in which 250,000 colored balls bounced down the steepest streets of San Francisco.

González’s version of "Heartbeat" resparked interest in the Knife’s original, and brother and sister duo Olaf Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson built on that audience with 2006’s critical fave Silent Shout (Mute). This week, sister Karin introduces her solo recording project, Fever Ray. Like her work with the Knife, the 10 songs on Fever Ray (Mute) couple icy electronic atmospheres with quite literal lyrics — one song even refers to dishwasher tablets.

Whatever the "it" is that has captured the hearts of so many Americans and sent all these acts across the ocean to us, it continues to grow and assume new forms. If you ever make the trek to pop paradise, remember: they refer to Swedish Fish as "winegum candy" in Sweden. It’s kinda like how the French don’t use the term "french fries."

THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH

with Herman Dune

March 25, 7:30 p.m., $12–$14

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

www.rickshawstop.com

More meaner, more cleaner

0

› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"We’re not elitists," asserts Nick Catchdubs, co-founder of Brooklyn dance label Fool’s Gold. In a conference call with business partner A-Trak, he describes Fool’s Gold fans as a sea of hip-hop dudes, skinny-jeans-electro kids, super DJ nerds and Urban Outfitters girls. "The tempos and the beats-per-minute are the only governing factor," adds A-Trak.

You could say that Fool’s Gold is fomenting a cultural moment. After years of dismissing it as cheesy and "gay," rap fans have finally, tentatively, learned to accept dance music. Kanye West landed a number one hit with "Stronger" by remixing Daft Punk’s 2001 "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." A-Trak, the other co-founder of Fool’s Gold, is Kanye’s tour DJ. And Washington, DC rapper Wale drove the Internet nuts with his remix of Justice’s "D.A.N.C.E." Catchdubs mixed 100 Miles and Running, the Wale mixtape which featured that viral hit.

Fool’s Gold works with many of the era’s players: Kid Sister, who scored the label’s first successes with clever pop-raps "Damn Girl" and "Pro Nails" (and is A-Trak’s girlfriend); Trackademicks, the Yay Area electro-funk producer-rapper who celebrated the release of the single "Enjoy What You Do" at SF nightspot Vessel last month; and Treasure Fingers, the Atlanta DJ who scored a disco-house smash last year with "Cross The Dancefloor." Its biggest hit to date, though, has been Kid Cudi’s "Day ‘N’ Nite," a lonely-stoner gem that mixes Cudi’s off-key harmonizing against winsome electro melancholy. A-Trak doesn’t have exact figures, but he places digital sales at around 100,000, which he rightly describes as "cool for an indie like us."

Kid Cudi was the first Fool’s Gold artist to win over difficult-to-please hip-hop blogs, which sometimes ridiculed Kid Sister as too fluffy and trendy (perhaps in part because she’s a woman). During Kid Sister’s run of singles in 2007, which eventually landed her a major label deal with Downtown Records, skeptics didn’t know what to make of her or Fool’s Gold — was she some kind of hipster rapper, and was Fool’s Gold just a goofy imprint for fashion-challenged scenesters?

"When we first started the label, we would do all these weird interviews, like, ‘Talk about the hipster rap movement.’ Just bizarre interviews where people would talk about your jeans and sneakers and shit," says A-Trak. "One year later, we hardly ever get those questions. It takes a minute for stuff to assimilate. I think people know that some stuff is trendy and is going to float away like all trends do. But a lot of times it’s just culture at work: ideas coming out and getting assimilated, and then people move on to the next shit."

Fool’s Gold’s greatest ambassador may be A-Trak. A DJ star since the age of 15, when he shocked the then-thriving turntablist world by winning the 1997 DMC World Championships, A-Trak has grown into an influential artist. In the next two months he’ll release DJ mixes for two reputed dance labels, Thrive (Infinity +1, due March 31) and Fabric (Fabriclive.31, set for May 5). His transition from scratch-happy hip-hop head to genre-blurring tastemaker is one that Fool’s Gold might follow.

"The whole aesthetic of Fool’s Gold is based on what Nick and I play in our DJ sets," says A-Trak. "What we put out is really varied, but it all kind of makes sense."

A-TRAK

with Trackademics, Vin Sol

Sat/21, 9pm, $13

Paradise Lounge

1501 Folsom St, SF

www.paradisesf.com

West ghost

0

› johnny@sfbg.com

This land isn’t your land, or my land, and it wasn’t made for you and me — such is the insightful and incite-full impression one gets from California Company Town, Lee Anne Schmitt’s beautifully photographed, concisely narrated, and ominously structured look at the Golden State and the state of capitalism. Sneak previewing at Other Cinema for one night before it screens in full 16mm glory at the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, Schmitt’s labor of love, shot between 2003 and 2008, is a provocative piece of American history. On a semi-buried level, it’s also an extraordinary act of personal filmmaking that subverts various stereotypes of first-person storytelling by women while simultaneously learning from and breaking away from some esteemed directors of the essay film.

Categorically speaking, Schmitt’s left-leaning survey of the American landscape belongs next to recent cinematic people’s histories such as Travis Wilkerson’s An Injury to One (2002) and John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (2007). Her dedicated photographer’s eye for still-life truths of American sightseeing is influenced by Cal Arts filmmaking elder James Benning, while her carefully selective use of archival audio — in particular, radio — makes California Company Town an understated female answer to the gay reading of homophobia in Ohio within William E. Jones’s too-obscure classic of new queer cinema, Massillon (1991).

One by one, California Company Town investigates this state’s ghost towns — doom-laden boomtowns of the past where today, at best, bedazzled modern day cowboys and cowgirls reside and line dance for tourists. Surveying forgotten landscapes that verge on post-human, Schmitt has an eye for signs of the times, whether they be literal ("USA WILL PREVAIL" on a theater’s marquee in Westwood; "Stay out" spray-painted over a "Prayer Changes Things" billboard in Trona) or figurative: spider webs of broken glass; a tree falling through the roof of a house; punk rock kids skateboarding near factory ruins. She pairs these sights with the sounds of speeches by FDR, Eldridge Cleaver, Cesar Chavez, Ronald Reagan, radio testimonials, and — most contentiously — her deceptively flat voice-over, which renders each titular site as a place that looks like a dead end yet has roiling life beneath its stingy, abandoned surface.

California Company Town is a one-woman road movie. A lonely film, but also an act of strong resolve built to last — and, in its original filmic form, slowly decay. Over and over, from Chester to Scotia through to McCloud and even Richmond, Schmitt traces the varied yet similar ways in which private interests crush community and exploit natural resources. In the process, she reveals the ultimate forfeiting of American pride of ownership. Grim stuff, yet presented in a manner that ultimately flouts the dry speechifying of academia, doctrinaire ideologues, and public television pablum-pushers. Schmitt concludes her film with a mute final gesture designed to start arguments.

CALIFORNIA COMPANY TOWN

Sat/21, 8:30 p.m.; $6

Other Cinema at Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

(415) 824-3890

www.othercinema.com

CALIFORNIA COMPANY TOWN is also screening April 30, May 2, and May 4 at various venues as part of the Golden Gate Awards Competition in the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival. www.sffs.org>.

Tokyo!

0

Easily capturing the paradoxical essence of the world’s largest megalopolis seems about as likely as a phalanx of harajuku girls uniformed in Little Bo Peep costumes successfully scaling Mount Fuji. Now imagine that Bo Peep army solely consists of two Frenchmen and a Korean, and you have a sense of the heady task undertaken by the filmmakers of Tokyo!, a French production comprising a fantastical triptych of stories about the celebrated city from writer-directors Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho.

The first, Gondry’s Interior Design tells the intimate fable of Hiroko and Akira, a spirited young Japanese couple who relocate to the big city and become confounded by its mix of vast possibility and soul-crushing suffocation. The aimless Hiroko eventually succumbs to a fate that curiously mixes urban alienation, cultural traditions of utilitarian uniformity, and the whimsical surrealism of an old-fashioned folktale. The result is a sweetly touching, delicately composed encapsulation of old- and new-guard Japanese culture.

Carax’s Merde stars Denis Levant (1991’s Lovers on the Bridge) as a homicidal sewer dweller — part evil clown, part C.H.U.D. — who wreaks havoc on Tokyo out of an avowed hatred for the Japanese. A half-cocked homage to Godzilla, the titular Merde (yes, that’s French for "shit") represents a cartoonish outsider’s view of Tokyo and its denizens. Is it a sly attack on cultural isolationism or just myopic, er, horse merde? Either way it’s painful to watch.

After that unfortunate palate cleanser, Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (2006’s The Host) channels Michelangelo Antonioni by way of Haruki Murakami in Shaking Tokyo, an atmospheric tale of a shut-in (or hikikomori) who is literally jolted out of his hermetic existence by a strong earthquake and a comely pizza delivery girl with an unusual set of instructional tattoos. Bong’s story effectively conveys the internal turmoil caused by modern disaffection and fear (here, Tokyo itself is the monster), but it would have been nice to see a story that explores the city’s teeming life in all its richness, vigor, and eccentricity instead of envisioning what it would be like without it. Seriously, where’s a harajuku girl when you need one?

TOKYO! opens Fri/20 in Bay Area theaters.

Say you, say me

0

› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Adult contemporary is alive and well and thriving in Southeast Asia. I just touched down from a refreshing jaunt to that worldly hot spot: Cambodia a capitalist riot of beauty and pollution, untamed Laos a communist stoner’s wet dream. Everyone Hunky Beau and I met was gorgeous, despite the odd backpacker overload, which occasioned a few frightful spottings of crocadreadles — northern Europeans sporting poorly waxed dreadlocks, jingle pants, and stomach-churning Crocs.

Memo to the Danes: please stop.

Still, even that led to some perfect Putamayo moments, as when a lovely Jewish-Korean singer at Dead Fish Tower guesthouse in Siem Reap launched into her acoustic version of Daft Punk’s "One More Time." Many of the citizens themselves, however, seemed happily obsessed with Lionel Richie, Westlife, Yanni (it lives!), and Thailand’s answer to Nickelback, Big Ass. The gay clubs were pumping the usual homo-panglobal Kylie Minoguerrhea, sigh, yet the drag was way brill. But alternative DJ and dance music culture — and even the hip-hop aspirations my Amerocentric, quasi-Orientalist mind expected to sense in the region’s rapidly developing economic climate — seemed banished to the land of wind and ghosts.

I’d say I felt a little sorry for the baby-boom youth there, but who am I to make value judgments? Value judgments give me acne, Jessica Simpson — and a few weeks probably aren’t enough time to properly shake out an underground. Besides, here on the other side of the rim our dance charts are clogged with Lady GaGa blah-blah-blah, zombie Prodigy retreads, and something called "Total Dance 2009." Goddess help us all. If ever there was a moment to hit the reboot on Western mainstream dance music — hell, even drag to trash and go running with the night — this may be it.

THE ID LIST

MIKE SLOTT AND KOTCHY


"If you’re tired of all the retro shit, holla," woozes New York City’s Kotchy on one of his typical genre-fuck tracks, blending ambient squelches with trippy bloops from inner space. "Our culture must be in a coma, and I’m not a doctor." Glasgow-based future bass collective LuckyMe brings twilit melodies, brogue-inflected park bench rhymes, and wry Scots humor to the burgeoning genre. Both Kotchy and LuckyMe’s Mike Slott will bruise the speakers with live performances, while graffiti artists sear your sinuses, at this month’s installment of Bass Camp.

Thu/19, 9 p.m., $10–$15. 111 Minna, SF. www.111minnagallery.com, www.myspace.com/basscampsf

DAVIES AFTER HOURS


Do the words "electric strings" excite you as much as they do me? Yeah, that’s right, I’m a geek. The San Francisco Symphony, following in the frisky footsteps of other wildly successful nightlife-aware arts institutions, is launching a monthly post-performance shindig composed of cutting-edge styles. Cellist Alex Kelly’s avant-jazz combo kicks off this month, with electric strings and rock from NTL in April and the massive DJ Masonic with Mercury Lounge in May.

Fri/20, April 24, and May 22, after 8 p.m. concert, free with purchase of symphony performance ticket. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF. www.sfsymphony.org

WORLD OF DRUM ‘N BASS


The name may sound like a trade show — and I’m here to tell you that drum ‘n bass fans make pretty great trade — but this huge affair brings serious low-end to Temple’s multiple floors, and a boffo chance to reconnect with, and lose your droopy drawers to, the fractured sound of yore. Chase and Status, Radioactive, 2 Cents, A.I., Havoc, and more break it up. Let’s get ready to rumble.

Fri/20, 10 p.m., $20. Temple, 540 Howard, www.templesf.com

DJ SNEAK


Ah, Sneak, how you play with our heart-shaped equalizers. One minute you’re banging chunky techno tunes, the next you’re upping the bongos for some well-earned soul release — and then you drop some serious freaking Chicago house gangster shit on us and we can’t stop screaming. Through it all you keep a shroom-happy smile on our faces and work the soles off our Keds. Here’s to another 15 years of squeaking the woodwork, and your choo-choo new contribution to the Back in the Box series. With Hector Moralez and Oscar Mirada.

Fri/20, 9 p.m., $10–$20. Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com

CLIVE HENRY


Anyone who caught house legend Francois K.’s head-scratching but still rewarding set at Vessel on March 12 may have taken away the same thought I did — the sparkling Balearic revival of the past few years has now congealed into a full-on non-ironic Ibiza attack. That’s kind of scary, but maybe the crappy-champagne-and-carnival-siren sound is an interesting comment on now. Prolific DJ and producer Clive Henry, of the glittery Circo Loco party based at Ibiza’s humongous DC10, may be the best person to help you rethink the microgenre at EndUp. Whether or not he’ll be sponsored by Got 2 B Magnetik hair gel with pheromones, like most Ibiza denizens, remains to be seen.

Sat/21, 10 p.m., $10–$20. EndUp, 401 Sixth St., SF. www.theendup.com, www.sensesf.com

BOOKA SHADE


The moody duo is still touring — and bridging the gap between thoughtful Berlin minimal and the more laconic side of electro. Yet why would Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier ever stop accumuutf8g bonus miles as one of the most acclaimed live acts in dance music, especially with their Get Physical label still scoring kudos and their hoards of ready and willing fans? You may have seen it all before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the tits.

Sun/22, 8:30 p.m., $22 advance. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Spicy Bite

0

› paulr@sfbg.com

We all have our little weaknesses, and one of mine is any form of the word "spice." "Spicy" is a particularly potent variation, since in common usage it doesn’t mean well-spiced in a general sense, with nutmeg and clove — like carrot cake or mulled cider — but flavorfully hot. If some dish is described as spicy, whether shrimp or French fries, I am going to have a hard time staying away from it. And if a restaurant has the word "spicy" in its name, I am going to have a hard time staying away from it, too. I am all ears. Or eyes. Or nostrils.

Despite this strong sensory awareness, I don’t know of many restaurants in the city that answer to this alluring description. There is Spices! on Eighth Avenue near Clement, a kind of hipster noodle house serving a pan-Asian menu with plenty of kick. Google also reports the reality of Thai Spice on Polk; this is news to me. But let’s not forget Spicy Bite, an Indian restaurant at the southern edge of the impressive restaurant row that has developed in recent years near the confluence of Mission and Valencia streets.

An Indian restaurant in these environs is welcome for its very Indianness. The neighbors include a wealth of Mexican and other Latin American restaurants, a smattering of Thai and Chinese places, the impressive Blue Plate (with high-grade new American cooking), and the endearingly quirky Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, a kind of alt answer to Pasta Pomodoro. So Indian, yes, good; spicy Indian, better!

"Spicy bite" could mean any kind of spicy bite, but your nose knows what awaits even before you step inside. The smell of curry drifts through the front door and hovers at the corner as a fragrant cloud and an advertisement. Few food establishments can match the olfactory signature of Indian restaurants — only bakeries and breweries, in my experience. Spicy Bite offers both beer and wine, but because south Asian cuisine didn’t evolve in the company of wine, I tend to find matching the two awkward and to prefer beer instead. (Beer is underrated as an accompaniment to food; it might not be as good as the best food-wine matches, but in my experience it pairs up with a wider variety of foods than does wine, while clashing with none. Certainly it goes well with spicy foods of every description. Almost no wine can make that claim.)

Given the centrality of India to vegetarianism, it’s not surprising to find that Spicy Bite is vegetarian-friendly in addition to being spice-hound friendly. You can do very nicely here without touching flesh, from lovely pappadum ($2) — the crinkly lentil wafers, with their faint sheen of frying oil, like freshly painted object rapidly drying — to a meatless biryani and a long list of what the menu calls "vegetarian dishes." These are none the worse for being familiar and include a richer-than-usual saag paneer ($9.50) with an abundance of cubed white cheese, and a fine chana masala ($8.50), with chickpeas in a velvety sauce softened by tomato. One also suspects butter as a player in many of these complex sauces — not an issue for most people, but possibly worth asking about for those who shun dairy.

Chili heat varies per your request, and there are three settings, as on an inexpensive blender. I like hot and spicy food, but one person’s hot is another’s incendiary and inedible, and asking the server for guidance usually produces a philosophical shrug. We ended up on the "medium" setting and found the dishes so seasoned to be plenty hot enough.

As for flesh: the tandoori chicken ($8.50) surprisingly disappointed. The half-bird was tasty and tender enough; it was an attractive rosy color and arrived on the customary hot iron skillet, complete with lemon quarters, tomato chunks, and sizzling shards of onion. But the meat turned out to be a little dry, despite what must have been an hours-long, or overnight, bath in a yogurt marinade.

Shrimp tikka masala ($12.50) were juicier — a set of nice, fat peeled prawns, roasted in the clay oven in a tomato-cream sauce. Purists often insist on cooking shrimp in their shells, I guess for flavor and moisture retention, but it’s certainly more end-user-friendly to shell them beforehand. Judging by the Spicy Bite example, it is indeed possible to cook shelled shrimp successfully without drying them out and ruining them.

No Indian meal is complete without either a side of basmati rice (cooked here with saffron, $2), or a round or two of naan, or — if you’re a starch fiend — both. The rice grains didn’t stick together (nice), while the bread was served already cut into triangles, like pita, which did slightly dim one’s Neanderthal pleasure in ripping out pieces as needed but was, on the other hand, much more convenient.

Take-out traffic can be heavy, with deliverers coming and going (free delivery is available in some areas until 10 p.m.). But while service often stalls at a restaurant that does a sizable take-out business, this isn’t the case at Spicy Bite. The wait staff is attentive and professional, the kitchen turns things out promptly, and the space itself — a corner box not unlike Emmy’s — has a certain presence. But if you want carrot cake for dessert, forget it. There’s kheer, kulfi, and a pastry made from milk and honey, each three bucks.

SPICY BITE

Dinner: Tues.–Sun, 4:30–10 p.m.; Mon., 5–10 p.m.

Lunch: Tues.–Sun., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

3501 Mission, SF

(415) 647-4036/7

www.spicy-bite.com

Beer and wine

AE/MC/V

Modest noise

Wheelchair accessible

Representation

0

› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I’ve lost track of how many parts there have been in this three-part series. Hopefully more than three. Hopefully not more than six. I wouldn’t want to rock anyone over the ridge. Same time, I do want to show off my new neighborhood.

So: Rockridge Cafe. Been there twice, and both times I got the same thing, the Italian scramble, which is great. They also have ricotta cheese pancakes, and a lot of other cool stuff, but I’m telling you: Italian scramble. Sausage, provolone, some other things, eggs of course, and I think parsley. The potatoes aren’t real good.

But speaking of scrambled Italians … I’m on the train again, coming home, and my right eyeball is all a-wobble in its socket. I needs me a night of completely horizontal, unrattled sleep, and of course a long bath.

When I returned up from one of many trips to the toilet, I accidentally attracted the attention of a black man of color, who addressed me as Sweetie or Baby or Honey — I forget which because I was so astounded by the next words out of his mouth. He liked my perfume, he said. What was it?

"My perfume?" I said, stalling for something smart-ass. It worked! "Oh, that’s Eau de Three Days On The Train," I said.

He laughed and all the people in the seats around him laughed.

I’d have left it at that, but he was wearing a black doo-rag and a Raiders jersey and he had a beautiful ruby set in the middle of his one front tooth, so, recognizing the potential for a date with a hometownish boy (I just know there’s a cooler way to say that) … I sniffed myself and said, "Gee, do you like it? Really?"

"Come here," he said, still laughing. And that was it. The whole train had to put up with us for the rest of the way. Which was Sacramento. I’d misread him.

He didn’t misread me. There is a class of man, thank God, which recognizes and appreciates the Kind of Woman That I Am. A chicken farmer. Well, a recovering chicken farmer.

Whereas my man is a recovering gangster. Between slow deep kisses, copped feels, and heartfelt professions of "representation," he explained to me about L.A., drugs, drug dealing, and how, if I understood him correctly, he’d killed some people.

It’s important, especially in the early stages of romance, to establish common ground, so I told him about having killed my chickens. "But not these last ones," I said, to be clear. "I gave them away."

He kept looking at me, into me, smiling, laughing, and shaking his doo-ragged head, saying things like, "Girl, you are so cool." And, "Girl, you are the bomb." And he liked my hat and how did he find me and he knew every time he watched me walk down the aisle how real I was. And how real he was.

What else he was, of course, was drunk. And worried about his breath. So you know, there is something very touching about an ex-gangster who is self-conscious about his breath.

Which was fine, by the way, so I gave him my number, and agreed in spirit to the terms of our "representation."

I think I’m his woman.

Yeah, that’s how it goes: I am his woman, and he is my man, and when we are out with his homos, or homies (or something like that), I represent him and he represents me, and when we are not together I have his back. He has mine. I like this!

In fact, we both had the chance to prove ourselves on the train. A young white rap-ripping poseur from the suburbs of somewhere disrespected my man’s woman by "informing" him, when he went to get a beer, that, yo, he was kicking it with a dude.

As if after half a day of heart-to-heart and hand-to-body he didn’t know exactly what kinda woman his woman was! Well, my man is no poseur. He comes from a sexually diverse family, and a tough, diverse, forward city, and, in fact, he did have my back.

However, in the aftermath of the ensuing hard feelings, the bigoted wannabe’s racism gurgled to the surface too, and she had the bad sense to call my man a "niggah." Then, when that didn’t go over so well, she changed her pronunciation to "nigger." And spitted the word, repeatedly, with venom.

I had to pull my man away before something happened that might be construed as drunk and disorderly. Back in our seat, he cried. And I represented him.

ROCKRIDGE CAFE

Daily: 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

5492 College, Oakl.

(510) 653-1567

No alcohol

MC/V

Cave woman

0

› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I’m ready to go live in a cave. It’s been two years since I’ve dated. Partly I backed off from the scene, and partly I’m not receiving much interest. I think I’m smart, approachable, creative, "together," nice, and passably cute. It’s starting to affect my self-confidence.

I joined eHarmony ($120!) and nerve.com, solicited friends’ input on my profiles, and followed up on every match. I got one eHarmony date (great but not local) and rarely heard back from anyone. I try to e-mail one guy a day. Either they don’t answer or our communication peters out soon after I e-mail. The ones who really get me seem very interested, ask me out, then drop it when I accept.

Why? Is this a Mars/Venus thing? Maybe online just isn’t my venue? I do several activities that attract single guys, but haven’t led to much — except maybe embarrassment on my part when I show interest and get a brush-off. Maybe try going through friends again? That worked in the past.

I just turned 40 and would like a partner. Mostly I’ve been solo, and that really sucks.
Love,

Forty & Frustrated

Dear F&F:

Before you go live in a cave, you might consider something a little less drastic, like living in a smaller, less brutally competitive city far from the coasts. It’s an idea.

Barring that, we have to subject your online interactions to the scrutiny of a girlfriend panel. Ideally these would be your girlfriends — they could make far more specific suggestions, like lose that mullet or stop telling everyone about your rectal fistula. But if you don’t have a panel, you can borrow mine. I convened one for you.

Irina: The phenomenon of guys initiating and then vanishing as soon as you try to make a date is very familiar, and probably has nothing to do with her. I could theorize all day, but when it comes down to it, they’re not ready to actually connect with people, so fuck ’em. Next!

Also, she should try free sites, like okcupid.com, which may attract guys who are more open to chicks who initiate. She should stay involved in the activities, and of course hit up her friends if that worked in the past. But she could still go online if she can let go of some of her frustration. Maybe see it as just one more tool to increase her odds of meeting guys.

Myrna: I wonder if there’s some kind of smoking-gun thing in her appearance or self-presentation that’s causing this. Maybe her desperation is showing? As far as the real-life men go, the guys may be panicking when she comes on to them, so if she doesn’t think her mutual attraction radar is good, maybe don’t do that.

Leanne: God help us all, she’s 40.

Andrea: Right, but we have seen that 40 is not an automatic dating death sentence. Also, what about the disappearing-act dudes? I assume they’ve all gone off with hotter-sounding properties, but I wonder what makes those other properties so hotter-sounding.

Lucilla: I’m fat, in my 40s, rural, and follow a weird religion — guys should be thin on the ground for me. Yet I’ve had a good many dates recently before settling on one gentleman. I also got rejected or given the silent treatment by dozens of guys. I tried to project positivity and hope, and used words like "passionate" to indicate, discretely, that I like sex. In pictures I was smiling and had my hair down. And another vote for okcupid — free and has lots of activities where you can participate and get to know people without pressure. Also Craigslist, although you have to wade through lots of awful guys to get to the good ones. As for why guys don’t follow up: They’re not into you, they’re not really committed to finding someone, or they’re married. Or all three.

Ruby: There is also a possible picker problem. My rule for online dating is "look for normal."

Andrea: I like that! FF, I do think men and women approach this a bit differently. You’re taking the rejections too personally — a lot of those guys are answering every new ad that appears. They don’t know you, so they aren’t rejecting you. Stick with the online dating if it’s at least a tiny bit fun, but pursue the circle of friends options — all the research says that we basically marry ourselves, so hang out where you already hang out, but more so. Get as much feedback as you can about your personal presentation. (Note: this is does not mean criticize every aspect of your body and find it wanting. I mean, do you seem fun, clean, sane, and at least passably light on baggage?)

You are NOT more likely to get hit by lightning while suffering a terrorist attack than you are to marry after 40. There’s nothing wrong with spending a little time alone in a cave recuperating right now if that’s what you need, though. It’s rough out there.
Love,
Andrea

Don’t forget to read Carnal Nation (carnalnation.com) for more Andrea and other cool stuff.

Station leaves the train

0

› steve@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY The Transbay Terminal rebuild is moving forward, but this multi-modal downtown transportation station seems to be pulling away from what was supposed to be its showcase centerpiece — the California High-Speed Rail Project — before it can satisfy the design and capacity needs rail officials require.

San Francisco officials from Mayor Gavin Newsom to Sup. Chris Daly, who sits on the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) Board of Directors, all say high-speed rail must be a component of the Transbay Terminal. Yet they were caught off-guard when the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) recently made clear that the station would need to handle up to 12 trains per hour, more than double what current station designs can accommodate.

Even as phase one of the station got underway in December (see "Breaking ground," 12/10/2008), it lacked the more than $300 million needed for a so-called train box that would make it easier and cheaper to later bring high-speed rail and Caltrain into what would otherwise be a $4.3 billion bus station and commercial complex.

TJPA officials were struggling with how to secure that money, ideally through federal stimulus funds, when officials from CHSRA and Caltrain told a Feb. 25 Metropolitan Transportation Commission meeting that current designs were inadequate for their needs (see "Stimuutf8g transit, 3/4/09).

While the demand for straight platforms, rather than the curved ones TJPA designed, can be fairly easily addressed, the volume issue is far more significant and costly. During a March 12 TJPA meeting on the issue, engineers said that adding the third floor of trains that would be needed to handle 12 trains per hour would add $1 billion to the cost. Even if no train box is built, TJPA officials say that just the foundation work and deeper dig needed for the higher capacity would add $500–$700 million to the cost of the project’s first phase.

The good news is the federal stimulus package sets aside $8 billion for high-speed rail development, and Transbay Terminal is one of the few shovel-ready projects out there that would qualify for immediate assistance. The bad news is the criteria for attaining those funds won’t be ready by the time TJPA plans to sign its construction contracts in late May.

Delaying the project would not only increase costs and forestall the immediate economic stimulus impacts of the construction, it would also anger bus transit agencies such as AC Transit, which kicked in $57 million to the project. "AC Transit expects the TJPA to meet its commitment to AC Transit and its passengers, as well as keep the construction of phase one on schedule," AC Transit attorney Kenneth C. Scheidig wrote to TJPA March 11.

At the March 12 meeting, TJPA members uniformly reacted with dismay to their dilemma, criticizing CHSRA for its unrealistic demands. Program manager Emilio Cruz said the agency had designed to high-speed rail specifications and only learned in January of the desire for trains to run up to every five minutes during peak hours.

"They were presented without adequate justification for why they need increased frequency," Cruz told the TJPA board as he offered his analysis for why that frequency isn’t needed to handle the 12 million annual riders the system predicts for 2030 and noting that Tokyo — which has far greater volume and density — is the only high-speed rail station in the world to run 12 trains per hour.

CHRSA executive director Mehdi Morshed said Cruz isn’t a rail expert and disputed his analysis, noting that Tokyo and Paris each have multiple stations that together run far more than 12 trains per hour. He also noted that the BART system is at capacity after just 30 years.

"We are building a train that has the capacity to hold not just the riders in 2030, but beyond that," he said. "They are trying to fit the high-speed trains of the future in a very limited space, and we’re telling them that’s not adequate."

Morshed said his agency is still years away from getting into station design, but has been as accommodating as possible with TJPA’s desire to move forward now. Daly and others have pointedly criticized CHSRA and its chair, Quentin Kopp, to which Morshed said, "Sure, we can take all the blame, but how is that going to help San Francisco get its station?"

Volume 43 Number 25 Flip-through Edition

0

The rise and fall of a Polk Street hustler

0

› news@sfbg.com

Last June, a small group of costumed 20-something activists from Gay Shame — wielding saxophones, loudspeakers booming electronica, and bullhorns — held a "séance" on Polk Street to "summon the ghosts of Polk Street’s past."

They performed in front of the recently constructed First Congregational Church — what they call "ground zero" for Polk Street gentrification — built over the remains of what they characterize as a gay hustler bar pushed out of the area by Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN), an organization not coincidentally holding its monthly meeting just a few feet beyond the window during the ear-splitting performance.

It was one of many ongoing clashes as new condos, upscale businesses, and trendy "metrosexual" bars replace Polk Street’s SRO apartment buildings, shuttered businesses, and hardscrabble hustler bars.

Protesters blamed the transition on LPN, a "pro-gentrification attack squad" working to transform the city’s "last remaining public gathering place for marginalized queers." New business and neighborhood associations counter that they are only working to beautify, make safer, and "revitalize" the area — a benefit to everyone, including the street’s marginal residents.

But what has been lost in the noise of this high profile, ongoing clash are the stories, needs, and wishes of the very people purportedly at the center of this conflict: the "marginal queers" and the homeless.

I conducted interviews with more than 60 people during the past year, including sex workers, merchants, the homeless, and social service providers — thanks to a grant from the California Council for the Humanities and the sponsorship of the GLBT Historical Society. And I learned that changes on Polk Street stem from a collapse of the area’s community-based economic and social safety nets in the 1990s, combined with the absence of a viable alternative from the city, the neighborhood, or an increasingly affluent gay political establishment.

That trend is illustrated by the story of one such "marginal queer," known on the street as "Corey Longseeker." In a changing neighborhood divided by distrust and tension, it seems that even people from opposing viewpoints are united in their familiarity with a story that has become the stuff of legend: the most beautiful, most successful boy on Polk Street who became the saddest, poorest homeless man in the neighborhood.

Now, during a time of recession and drastic budget cuts to mental health, drug abuse, and HIV-related services, Corey’s story traces the neighborhood’s history and its present challenges.

THEN AND NOW


Corey, now 39, is a constant presence in the neighborhood. He’s always alone when I see him, sometimes sitting on the sidewalk, his head of long stringy hair in his lap, rocking back and forth slightly. Or walking up and down the alleyways, sometimes stooping over and making cupping motions with his arms — picking up imaginary children, I’m later told. Or walking slowly, alone, near City Hall, his arms straight by his side, his body hunched.

"I came to San Francisco because I wanted to be an artist," he told me. He speaks slowly, softly, laboring, with long pauses. "When I first got here, there were a lot more people. We used to play guitars and drink beers or smoke a joint and just hang out and stay out of trouble."

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, compounded by years of methamphetamine use and complications related from AIDS — a triple diagnosis that is unusually common among homeless people on Polk Street. Corey’s flashes of clarity alternate with moments in which memories blend into different times and places, and seemingly into dreams and fantasy: "I’ve been trying to protect my little self and my little brother and I’m about 500 homicides behind and I don’t know how to bump and grind to pick up the little morsels and the pieces of the people I liked and loved the way I used to know how to." He paused. "So I just keep on."

Dan Diez, now the co-chair of LPN, believes that homeless on the street such as Corey are negatively affecting businesses and residents who "should not have to put up with people sleeping in their doorways." He even talks of moving the homeless to facilities on Treasure Island as one solution. "I think it’s one of the reasons why these condos that have gone up have not been filled."

Corey and Diez may seem to have little in common, but they maintained a close relationship with each other for more than a decade, and Diez felt so close to him that he characterized himself as part of Corey’s "surrogate family."

It was 19 years ago that Diez first laid eyes on Corey, then a fresh-faced 19-year-old who had just moved to San Francisco. Diez, then a city government employee living in the East Bay, was sitting in the Q.T. II, Polk Street’s premier hustler bar — on the very plot of land where protesters later clashed with the LPN meeting.

Corey "wasn’t what I expected someone like a hustler to look like," Diez said. "I cannot tell you, this kid had movie star written all over him. He was extremely clean and very attractive and he just looked like somebody who walked out one of these suburban towns."

Dan befriended Corey, taking him to Burger King, listening to rock music in his car while Corey drew and writing poetry. Dan slipped him $20 bills and took him to movies. With time, he also brought him to the spas to clean Corey up, took care of his laundry, and bought him clean underwear and food.

"A lot of the kids on the street were hustling," Diez said, "but I did not pick up at that time. Corey was the only person I was really interested [in] ‘cuz he was something different. He was a person with a creative bent, which I really admired."

Diez says their relationship was not sexual, though he did enjoy being physically close with Corey. "He was someone I liked being around. It was just really a nice relationship."

In a letter Corey wrote in the late 1990s, he calls Dan one of his "sponcers" [sic], along with another man Diez said is a "multi-multimillionaire" and "very well known in San Francisco." This man bought Corey a car and provided him with plenty of cash and drugs as one of his clients. In Corey’s letter, he says the man "made me into a liveing legand [sic] at the age of twenty two years old by letting me have enough money." Corey listed as his "Boss" a bartender at the Q.T., widely known for facilitating hookups between johns and hustlers, and spoken of warmly by many as being a "big mama" to kids on the street.

By this time, many of the buildings that had held thriving businesses in the ’70s and ’80s were shuttered, leaving sex work and drug sales as a few of the street’s dominant economies. People such as Corey, widely considered to be the most beautiful and lucrative sex worker at the time, were Polk Street’s economic engines.

In fact, Q.T. manager Marv Warren was president of the merchant’s association in the 1990s. The sex trade turned profits on the streets and in the bars. "Most of us didn’t like the idea of these kids hanging out because it didn’t look good," Steve Cornell, owner of Brownies Hardware, recalled. "[But] if there are male prostitutes out there and there are businesses that thrive on that, they’re part of the business association too."

THE BOTTOM LINE


The current conflict on Polk Street has been framed as one between profit-hungry business owners and marginalized queers. But on Polk Street, a coveted bloc of city space long zoned as a commercial corridor, the buck has always been the bottom line.

This is not to discount the deeply emotional ties many have to the area, many who reported escaping abusive families and discrimination to find themselves and their first real family in Polk Street. Just the opposite: the history of Polk Street shows that community and commerce were closely linked.

In the early 1960s, gay men bought up failing shops along the street and created posh clothing stores, record shops, and elegant restaurants. Failing bars and taverns cashed in on gay consumer power. The community combined economic and political power to win major gay rights battles.

Most famously, bartenders formed the Tavern Guild in 1962, the nation’s first gay business association, which combined economic self-interest with charitable support for the nascent gay community. According to historian Nan Alamilla Boyd, the Guild "represent[ed] a marketplace activity that, in order to protect itself, evolves into a social movement."

The Imperial Court, part of the Guild’s fundraising arm, elected Empresses who raised funds for people in the community who needed housing, drug treatment, mental health services, or help with their medical bills. In the ’70s and ’80s, the Polk Gulch was a magnet for young people around the country escaping abusive homes and discrimination, and who therefore did not have the educational or employment background to make it on their own in the city.

Anthony Cabello came to Polk Street from a working class family in Fresno as a teenager in the late 1960s, dining as the guest of an older lover at the posh P.S. Lounge. As a student at a nearby college, he formed lifelong relationships with men on the street who took him to fancy hotels, plays, and dinners. "I did not mind the monetary help, but that wasn’t my primary concern," he said. "I was getting exposed to things that normally, I wouldn’t have the ability to do." He toured Europe in a theater troupe, worked a number of jobs on Polk Street, and now manages the neighborhood’s Palo Alto Hotel, which continues to house people living with AIDS and people of meager means.

Coy Ellison found a safe haven in Polk Street as a teenager in 1978. He did under-the-table work at gay businesses through an unofficial job pool at the street’s bars. That allowed him to avoid being caught by the police and sent back to an abusive home. "There were a lot of people doing that at the time," he said. "Let’s say you needed your apartment painted, was there a kid here who knows how to paint and [the bartenders would] send him off." He later climbed the employment ladder through the bars by working as a bouncer, providing support for new young people coming to the area. He now lives a few blocks away with his partner.

Kevin "Kiko" Lobo moved from San Francisco’s Mission District to Polk Gulch in the early 1980s and found work on the street as a sex worker in bars like the Q.T. "Nobody lost because the bar made money, I got a few drinks, and I met clients." He pooled money with his "street family," made up of teenagers escaping abusive homes and discrimination. On the street, "everything was family," Lobo said. "We all looked out for each other. If you didn’t make any money that day it didn’t mean you were going to sleep on the street." Kiko eventually worked his way into the bar business, becoming a bouncer and later a DJ.

COREY’S STORY


Diez learned that Corey grew up in a deeply religious family in a small town in Minnesota. His mother and father worked in factories, and hunted and fished in the countryside. But "something happened in that family," Diez said. "Either he did something really wrong and they could not put up with him, or they did something wrong and he could not put with up with them, or both — I don’t know." Corey never graduated high school, instead leaving Minnesota for San Francisco.

Corey gave Dan clues as to his move in a series of letters he wrote him from jail, where he was sent on a series of drug charges in the late 1990s. He wrote about three "childhood nightmares" that were "true life stories" and "part of my past survived existence."

He wrote of being part of a "bunch of little gay boys" in high school who "were not allowed to live a normal life one on one with their partners, among lost immediate family, and unforgiven [sic], misunderstanding, or nonaccepting [sic] religious traditional old fashioned folks.

"Our very own parents used to laugh and giggle, and be cruel to us. And no matter how gifted each child was, our parents watched us and made harsh comments, and truly not funny jokes, and then forced us by broken pride, trust, and rejection to survive in Satan’s swamp.

"Some parents are not willing to understand the flower children of the nineties," Corey wrote, but now "I am trying to step out of a nightmare and back into a Dream … [to] kickstart the new flower child era" in San Francisco, "like the hippies once did, so will we rise above once again."

A San Francisco State University study published in Pediatrics in January found that LGBT youth who reported higher rates of family rejection were eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, and more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex, compared with their peers who reported lower levels of family rejection.

Those escaping persecution also appear more likely to be runaways or homeless. While approximately 3-10 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian or gay, 30 percent of youth served by San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth report that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex.

POLK FALLS APART


By the time Corey arrived in 1990, the twin epidemics of AIDS and methamphetamine addiction were wreaking havoc on Polk Street.

Harvard-educated ethnographer Toby Marotta, who worked on several federally funded research projects in the Polk Gulch, said that by the mid-1980s "the whole southern end of Polk Gulch was being transformed because of methamphetamine use."

Speed was the perfect drug for the early days of AIDS, when people were terrified and confused: it produced feelings of euphoria, a sense of invulnerability, focus, and a desire for sex. But while the drug "produced long mind-escapes" for people who used it, Marotta said, it "completely undercut the personal relationships and social obligations essential to functioning community."

Combined with a national recession and a rash of Polk Street business closures, the economic health of the street, and the support systems enabled by it, suffered a tremendous blow. The money, energy, guidance, and options for street youth employment through local bars and businesses were quickly disappearing.

By the late 1970s, the city’s gay political center had moved to the more affluent Castro District. "For those of us that depended on the street to survive, the money was harder and harder and harder to make," Lobo said. "And that’s what [began] the downward spiral. Some very pretty boys have become very ugly people because of the … loss of the great community."

A large homeless shelter moved onto Polk in 1990, along with much of the hardscrabble Tenderloin population. A different kind of john came to the street, and there was less respect for sex workers, leading to more escape through drug use. Ellison left his work at the bars in the 1990s, when the community of bartenders that had kept violent crime in check on the street broke down. Sex workers increasingly started advertising in newspapers, and later on the Internet.

Corey began using the speed that was rampant on the block, quickly becoming addicted. Diez worried that by continuing to give Corey money, which he used for drugs, he was "keeping him where he was at" instead of helping. "I eventually always gave in because I always wanted to see him have something better," Diez said. "I just enjoyed being with him. Even if we weren’t talking and he was just writing, I just liked him being there. He was company."

As Corey began using more speed, his artwork "became wilder and wilder." He started to lose his teeth, and his blonde hair turned brown. "He went down, I would say, fairly fast," Diez recalled. Spas began to refuse to serve him. He would wander into the street to pick up imaginary children, and began to be more difficult to talk with. "He went into a lot of gibberish or psychobabble," Diez recalled. "He started to look almost Charles Manson-like."

James Harris, a Polk Street community member since 1978, met Corey when he came to the city in 1990. Harris left in the mid-’90s, and when he returned in 2001, he barely recognized Corey. "I just could not believe what I was seeing. What was once a strapping, good-looking, young man had been reduced to this homeless, toothless guy. It freaked me out so bad. It took me a little while to get over it."

Harris has no doubt that Corey’s decline was linked to the breakdown of the Polk community. "If Corey came to Polk Street in 1980, he would have a job as bartender maybe, working somewhere, maybe living in the Castro," he said. "No question about it." Many people who now work in Polk Street businesses and social service organizations started as runaways and sex workers on Polk.

"In the ’60s and the ’70s, it was like a big party atmosphere. I, fortunately was taken under several people wings," said Cabello, the Palo Alto Hotel manager. "Now people don’t have the cash flow, ‘cuz economically times have really changed. People who were out partying and being able to take somebody home and help them find a job are basically waiting in line at Social Security and making sure that their housing is together."

INTO THE SYSTEM


Gay bar patronage decreased citywide in the 1980s and 1990s, the result of AIDS-related deaths, a generational shift, and later the rise of the Internet. The Tavern Guild disbanded in 1995, and by the late 1990s, most of the Polk Street bar owners had either died or retired. Most of the remaining gay bars were remade into upscale heterosexual or mixed drinking establishments, serving new residents attracted by low rents during dot.com era.

Lower Polk Neighbors represented this new bloc of business owners. Diez joined LPN in 2001, when he retired and moved to Pacific Heights. They planted trees, cleaned sidewalks, and successfully pressured the city officials to increase the number of police patrols in the area. In one of their most controversial actions, they opposed the relocation of the RendezVous bar, which they blamed for nurturing the street and hustler population.

Corey and people like him, once the street’s economic engine, were now bad for business. After his string of arrests on drug charges in the late 1990s, Corey always came back to Polk Street after being released. In 1997, he was arrested, diagnosed with HIV while in jail, and sent to a psychiatric hospital.

The most recurrent theme in Corey’s letters from this period were finding love and proving to himself that his love was okay. In a poem, he wrote, "God’s gift a soul /it was not shattered, battered, but whole / … My love from within /was not curse … scattered, tattered, or sin/than [sic] I found I did win /see like yang of yin /by forgiving within /my mind and my kin. I’m forgiving their sins."

When the Rev. Megan M. Rohrer, director of the Welcome Ministry, first met him in 2001, Corey was having "loud, yelling conversations" on the sidewalk outside Old First Presbyterian Church, where he often slept at night. "He was having the conversation of the day he came out to her, and his Mom was always trying to tell him why he couldn’t be gay, and why it was a bad thing. He was always trying to have the conversation that that was who he was, and it was how he loved, and he just kept having the conversation over and over and over, trying to have a different result, which never happened."

The organization formed in the late 1990s as a result of complaints about the increasing number of homeless in the area. Rohrer estimates that 98 percent of the homeless who live in the Polk Gulch and come to the Welcome Ministry have been part of the Polk Street sex work industry. Like Corey, they had aged into the general homeless population.

For four years, Rohrer tried unsuccessfully to place Corey in a hospital or get long-term treatment from the city. Ironically, it was the result of increasing neighborhood complaints that he finally found this. "The neighbors were getting really angry and wanted to get rid of the homeless from the area," Rohrer recalls. In 2005, Corey was arrested on drug charges as part of what she characterized as a sting operation.

The breakthrough came when he was arrested and declared mentally unfit to stand trial for the first time since 1997. The court sent him to Napa State Hospital, a secured mental facility where he was required to take medications. "Finally Corey was getting the mental health services he needed," she said.

In the absence of sufficient social services, this has become standard policing practice, according to Al Casciato, who heads San Francisco Police Department’s Northern Station. "We do not have a front end to the criminal justice system in the health arena that allows us to take these people and put them in a secure facility," he told the Guardian.

"What happens is that we wait until they get in trouble in order to put them in jail to get them off the street and then try to get them into services. We should be trying to get them into services first, but we do not have the capacity to accept everybody into services." Even after police convince a person to use services, during the long waits due to the lack of services, sometimes months at a time, "they fall back into their pattern of either drug abuse, or if they have a mental health issue, their depression starts to spin out again."

Corey was at Napa State for nearly a year on medications. "Corey make some really good strides there," Diez said. "He was also at his artistic high points … he built balsawood airplanes that he gave to children." When he was declared competent to stand trial and sent back to San Francisco, "he was like a completely different person," Rohrer recalled. "He was so with it. He was really clear about what he wanted and where he wanted to go."

But Rohrer spent two months navigating the bureaucracy to get Corey the medication he needed, during which he had slid back into schizophrenia and was no longer willing to take his prescriptions. "It was like watching Corey emerge in this beautiful way and then to disappear," Rohrer said. He’s never been back on medication, and his condition has not improved.

Rohrer was able to find him housing in a nearby SRO hotel through the Homeless Outreach Team, instituted in 2004 as part of Care Not Cash — part of a dramatic move indoors for the homeless in the area. It was an improvement from the streets, on which the supportive "street families" had now broken down. But it’s unclear whether Corey is capable of living on his own, or whether the case managers assigned to him are sufficient.

"They weren’t there," Diez says. "Because I was vacuuming his floor, I was cleaning his sink, I was taking his dirty clothes out. As much as I hate to say it, Corey needs to be in a medical facility where he can have some psychiatric help."

When I visited Corey in his apartment a few months ago, cartoons played on the television, the only piece of furniture other than his bed. His walls were bare and the sink fastened to the wall was clogged with brackish water. The carpet was filthy with cigarette butts and a mouse ran over my feet.

BOTTOMING OUT


Now, with major budget cuts across the board, services are being cut at the time when they are most needed. This will have a tremendous negative impact not only on people like Corey, but also on business owners and service providers in the Polk neighborhood.

The Welcome Ministry will lose big grants next year, Rohrer said. Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, says that budget cuts in the works will have a "huge and dramatic impact" on people like Corey and will "devastate" mental health treatment services — with as much as a 44 percent reduction in the publicly-funded mental health treatment system and similar reductions for substance abuse treatment.

Ann R.P. Harrison, director of New Leaf, a mental health organization that serves 1,500 LGBT people a year, says they recently reduced staff hours and the amount of services offered, and, like most nonprofits, are looking at up to a 20 percent budget reduction starting July.

Toby Eastman of Larkin Street Youth, which serves youth under 25, says that $100,000 in HIV prevention services cuts from the Department of Public Health mean "significantly reduced the prevention staff." Eastman expects the cuts to increase next year, at a time when she sees other smaller agencies closing their doors.

Diez and Rohrer take away different lessons from their experiences with Corey. Diez says he has "hardened" about homelessness and has stopped talking with Corey. "I was an enabler for him, which I didn’t like doing but I was always hoping that what I was doing was helping him," he said. "But maybe not. Corey made choices, and maybe they weren’t good choices. And you can’t blame that on the city. It’s gotta go both ways." Once the keeper of Corey’s Social Security card, money, and other personal items, he has now handed that responsibility to Rohrer.

Rohrer sees a failure of the social safety net. "There’s a barrier to getting mental health services that seems like it’s set up so that people will fail," she said. "Places that accept MediCal or city patients can take two months before they can get an appointment. The hospital does not even have the capacity to help those police deem a threat to themselves or others."
"There were gay bars here, and there were affluent men, and that’s not here anymore," Diez said. "The bars are gone, those people who went to those bars don’t come anymore, and Corey’s just a remnant. He’s just existing. He’s surviving. He’s just something that’s eventually going to disappear from the scene."
For now, Corey poses both a challenge for the emerging Polk community and an opportunity for a divided neighborhood to find common ground. He still has dreams, Rohrer says, even if they might not be realistic. "We’re not expecting him to be a Wall Street CEO," she said. "But he’s always going to be stuck in the past if he doesn’t achieve some of his future hopes."
Joey Plaster is curator of "Polk Street: Lives in Transition," an exhibit open through May 31 at the GLBT Historical Society. More information at www.glbthistory.org/PolkProject.

Save the Chronicle!

0

EDITORIAL The San Francisco Chronicle story March 15 on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s frequent absence from the city drew comments from many who believe the mayor is out of touch, wandering the state seeking votes for governor at a time when the city is facing a historic financial crisis. The news was really nothing new — we’ve been reporting for months now that the mayor is disengaged in the business of running the city. But it appeared on the front page of the local daily newspaper, and that put the story right in the center of civic discourse.

We’ve been as critical of the Chron as anyone in town. For 42 years, we’ve been reporting on the failures of the daily newspapers in San Francisco, and we regularly blast the Hearst-owned near-monopoly daily for its failure to cover major stories and its biased slant on others.

And as the first alternative newspaper in the country founded specifically to provide an editorial and advertising alternative to the moribund dailies, we’re the first to agree that the Chron doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have the final word on what’s important in this city. We’re big supporters of all sorts of alternative media, and we’re glad to see that Web-based news publications, some of them daily, are appearing and offering different ways for people to find information.

But if the Chronicle dies, the city will lose an important, if often infuriating, civic institution. Hearst should not be allowed to turn San Francisco into the first major American city with no major daily newspaper — not without extensive oversight, hearings, and a chance for somebody else to take over the paper and try to make it work.

Hearst is complaining that the Chronicle is losing about $50 million a year. Of course, Hearst, a private corporation, won’t show anyone, even its own unions, its books.

We realize the newspaper business is rough right now, but we’re not convinced that running a daily paper in San Francisco is a doomed proposition. This is one of the wealthiest, best-educated markets in the world — and the fact that Hearst can’t sell enough newspapers and ads to float its operation is in significant part a sign of how miserable the paper’s management has failed. It tried to be a regional paper, which flopped. It’s become so politically conservative that progressives, particularly young progressives who make up the future of its demographic base, see little reason to subscribe.

And let’s not forget — Hearst has made a fortune in San Francisco. In 1965, the Hearst-owned Examiner and the family-owned Chronicle formed a joint operating agreement — a government-sanctioned monopoly, blessed by special legislation, that allowed two ostensibly competing companies to fix prices, share markets and pool profits. For the next 26 years, the JOA was a license to print money. Local advertisers paid billions in high rates to the newspaper combine, and those profits far, far eclipse anything the Chron has lost since Hearst bought it.

When the New York company bought out the deYoung Thieriot family in 2001, it sought to create a true monopoly by shutting down the Ex entirely. A local outcry, a lawsuit by Clint Reilly, and threats by federal regulators forced Hearst to sell the bones of the Ex to the Fang family, which essentially got the paper free and was given a $66 million subsidy to run it.

Now, after all this, Hearst is threatening to close shop and walk away, destroying hundreds of union jobs and wiping out a newspaper that is, by its nature, something of a public utility. And once again — ironically, just as the Chron reported — Mayor Newsom is missing in action. Newsom should be taking the lead on preventing the loss of a major local business. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is asking the Justice Department to relax anti-competitive rules on newspaper ownership (a bad idea), should instead push legislation barring a daily newspaper in a one-paper town from closing down unless and until the owners offer it for sale at a fair price and give someone else a chance to run it. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer should join her.

The Chron unions have talked of an interest in buying the paper. Financier Warren Hellman confirmed to us that he supports creating a nonprofit entity to take over Chronicle operations. Hearst Corp., which has almost certainly already written off its $600 million purchase as a tax loss, should be forced to work with potential buyers — and give them a deal no worse than what the Fangs got in 2001.

The future of the Chron has implications for the entire industry — and if Hearst is going to carry out the assassination of a newspaper, it should be done in a fishbowl. Congress, the state Legislature, and the San Francisco supervisors should hold hearings, subpoena the Hearst executives, and push alternatives. And Newsom needs to quit gallivanting around the state and start working on his own city’s problems. *

Editor’s Notes

0

› Tredmond@sfbg.com

My sister did a sociology project in college that involved the culture of laundromats. Nothing revolutionary, and I suspect it’s been done before, but she hung out in coin-ops and watched what happened when somebody ran out of money before the final load. What she discovered (again, nothing that sociologists haven’t written about for years) was that the less money patrons had, the more likely they were to lend it to someone else. You can imagine what the poorer folks told her: "Hey, last week that was me needing a quarter."

I know this is a huge, vast, sweeping generalization, but I’ll cop to it: Poor people are better at building communities than rich people. If you’re someone who is always living on the edge, always one step away from economic disaster, you’re more likely to play a role in a community that helps others in your situation.

So check out our cover story this week, because it gives some perspective on the evils of gentrification.

In the 1980s, lower Polk Street had an active sex-worker community. Hustlers and bartenders and guys looking for hustlers took care of each other. New kids in town, many of them runaways fleeing homophobic and abusive situations, got connections, work (not always sex work), and a chance to build a life. There are quite a few prominent, successful San Franciscans who came out of that world. It wasn’t always pretty, and was often dangerous, but it was a legitimate community.

But as more upscale businesses and residents started to displace the hustler bars and push the kids off the streets, the community fell apart. It didn’t help that the drug of choice was changing from pot to meth, and that AIDS was ravaging queer San Francisco, particularly places like Polk Street, and a lot of the damage would have occurred anyway. Still, the gentrification made it worse.

And as organic, self-sustaining communities made up of people who help each other are riven by economic displacement, the costs are shifted to the public sector. In other words, gentrification is bad for the taxpayers.

I saw this happening way back in the early 1980s, when I was a volunteer with the Haight Ashbury Switchboard. We saved the city millions, mostly by helping people in the neighborhood help each other. My friend Jasin, who was living on SSI, had a flat with some extra space, and we sent homeless crashers to stay with her while they got on their feet. A few of the local communes took in crashers too. We told people how to work the system, how to say out of trouble, how to survive in the big city.

But as rents went up, and people who had plenty of time to volunteer either left town or had to take full-time jobs, and the communes and food conspiracies disappeared, and SSI no longer paid for a five-room flat — as the Haight gentrified — that model fell apart. There are still plenty of community-based services and organizations in the Haight and elsewhere, but it’s harder, much harder. And the sense that we’re all in this together, that we’re all kind of struggling but we’re all going to help each other make it through, is almost gone.

I don’t know. Maybe the depression brings it back. *

Real set-aside reform

0

Whenever conservative elements within San Francisco’s political mix put forth measures that carry the moniker "good government," liberals, progressives, and those of us concerned that good government serve the people rather than the corporations should take notice.

Last year, one so-called good government measure usurped the right of four members of the Board of Supervisors to check a mayoral veto by putting a measure on the ballot at the last minute. The reform imposed a requirement that hearings be held before the supervisors put any legislation on the ballot.

Never mind that empirical evidence shows no correlation between the route to the ballot and the quality of measures; good as well as crap has made it onto the ballot and into law from all origins. Never mind that there were other ways to ensure that voter-initiated ordinances were amendable and flexible. Downtown wanted to crimp the power of the Board of Supervisors and our neighborhoods and, with the help of some progressives, succeeded.

They’re back at it again, as government grapples with revenue shortfalls caused by the second Great Depression, a depression caused by the economic policies championed by our local conservative/moderate coalition. We are seeing another effort at good government that would only benefit those who wish to destroy popular public services, to enable Reaganism, and to wipe away much of the public sector.

In order to secure a dedicated, reliable stream of funding, activists have run campaigns to create set-asides for various public programs. The earliest funded the San Francisco Symphony during the first Great Depression. Since then, programs that carry great public appeal, from the Children’s Fund to the Open Space Fund to Muni have been given set-asides by the votes.

The proposal on the table now would change the way the city handles budget set-asides, ostensibly to allow greater flexibility during tough times. It would allow the Board of Supervisors, under certain budgetary shortfall conditions, to dip into funds earmarked for particular purposes. But the result would be dangerous to the ongoing essential function of government. And the proposal would prevent the voters from solving a problem created by our City Charter — the inability to do multiyear budgeting.

What this city needs is a way for voters to express their long-term funding priorities and to hold the feet of elected officials to the fire in funding those priorities — but in a manner that accounts for the vicissitudes of the economy.

The reason the city can’t do multiyear budgeting without a Charter set aside is that any regular ordinance passed by the board and the mayor can override any other ordinance. One way to approach the problem: amend the charter to create a new class of ordinance, one that would allow for multiyear budgeting. This class of ordinance would need to be classified as a multiyear budget ordinance when proposed, and would require either a vote of the people or a super majority at the Board of Supervisors and a mayoral signature to enact.

The multiyear budgeting ordinances would govern subsequent years’ budgets and could be overridden only with a super-majority vote, and only under conditions of economic hardship. In normal times, the city could set longer-term spending priorities for projects and priorities that last longer than one budget year, as well as those areas that are important to San Franciscans year in and year out. *

Marc Salomon is a neighborhood activist in San Francisco.

Jewish Music Festival

0

PREVIEW Oh man, do we live in troubled times. If you possess a certain fundamentalist biblical streak, you might be forgiven for falling prey to thoughts of doom and damnation. For a proven antidote, try gospel music — certain postracial/maxicultural sectors of society are pushing back against the end times with joyous, fervent determination. Exhibit one: the "kosher gospel" of Joshua Nelson, a black Jew from New Jersey born to African American parents, who traces his religion to several generations of West African Senegalese Jews.

Nelson lived in Israel for two years and is fluent in Hebrew, and his music is as interesting as his lineage and biography. He draws from Jewish liturgy to rework a traditionally Christian genre of music, imbuing it with resonant Jewish themes — the despair of being lost, the longing for freedom. Despite his inventiveness with the form, his music retains gospel’s recognizably uplifting, stirring, soulful core. Nelson has performed before Yitzhak Rabin and Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey has championed and befriended him. At the Jewish Music Festival’s opening event (Sat/21, at First Congregational Church of Oakland), you’ll find out why his singing voice has been compared to Mahalia Jackson’s. For one night, at least, let the "Prince of Kosher Gospel" soothe your weary brow. He’s Oprah approved!

Another good Jewish Music Festival pick is a March 26 performance at the Rickshaw Stop by Daniel Kahn & the Painted Bird, who are on tour in support of their second CD, Partisans & Parasites (Oriente). Kahn is often called the Tom Waits of Berlin — his band mixes punk with political cabaret. If you’re looking for more of a raucous dance party, this is your night.

JEWISH MUSIC FESTIVAL Sat/21 through April 2. Various prices and venues. (510) 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org.

“The Caretakers”

0

REVIEW As the U.S. continues to blindly race forward, wise eyes look closely at what is left behind. In the case of Bill Mattick’s "The Caretakers," this means uncovering the lives hidden within — and the haunted spirit of — a defunct train station in west Oakland. Surveying the loss that saturates the American West, "The Caretakers" makes a great companion piece to Lee Anne Schmitt’s California Company Town (2008), screening at Artists’ Television Access this week. It also is a kindred spirit to a pair of recent railroad-themed films, Bill Daniel’s Who is Bozo Texino? (2005) and James Benning’s RR (2007). Whether focusing on abandoned landscapes, engaging in cinematic trainspotting, or both, these artists have proven shrewd and prescient (Mattick’s project dates from 2004) about this country’s paths of foolishness. They’ve tapped into the new Depression long before Wall Street would admit it.

Mattick cites the peerless Robert Frank — the subject of a major retrospective coming to SFMOMA this year — as an influence. But while his images bear tonal similarities to Frank’s, people are less likely to occupy his frame of vision. He generates strong atmosphere from mid- and late-afternoon daylight: Stairs on Platform 2004-99 (810) sets aquatic shades of blue and white against the severe shadows of a staircase; the rich green of Distance 2004-186(810) varies from Daniel’s black-and-white treatment of similar subject matter; Paul’s Flowers 2004-108(810) updates Helen Levitt’s fascination with kids’ chalk scrawlings on the streets. Yet a contemporary human story emerged from this largely "empty" setting: that of Willy and Paul, whom Mattick discovered living at the station. They’re an odd couple of sorts: one messy, the other fastidious; one a religious eccentric, the other street-smart and battling addiction. These caretakers exert small acts of control amid society’s debris — things that share their castoff societal status. Mattick’s photography is an act of collaboration with them.

THE CARETAKERS Through April 30. Tues–-Sat., 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Corden Potts Gallery at Warnock Fine Arts, 49 Geary, suite 211, SF. (415) 680-5997, www.cordenpottsgallery.com

Googoosh

0

PREVIEW Googoosh was the predominant soundtrack for youth in Iran in the 1970s. My mother came to the United States then as a college student and, like many other young Iranian girls at the time, was fascinated with Googoosh: her voice, her looks, her dancing, her fashions. Googoosh was the center of pop culture in music and cinema; her face on posters and billboards, her fans ranging from Ray Charles to the shah himself.

For today’s middle-aged Iranians, listening to Googoosh is reminiscent not only of Iranian music of the ’70s, but also of the family and culture they left behind. In 1979, following the Islamic Revolution, all female pop music was banned in Iran and Googoosh went into a 20-year silence. Her albums continued to resonate in the Middle East and greater Western world while she lived a subdued life in Tehran. In 2000, she held her first public performances in two decades, playing to more than 1 million adoring, nostalgic fans in the United States, Europe, and Middle East.

My friend Razmin handed me Googoosh’s greatest hits CD when I was a junior in college. I was completely entranced. I still play it today and sense the power and timelessness of a style that incorporated so many elements of traditional Persian music (and even some ’70s disco and psychedelic-folk) while maintaining an undeniably magnetic pop sensibility. I’m sure the term "voice of a generation" has been used and misused many times over, but I wouldn’t know any other way to introduce the magnificent Googoosh.

GOOGOOSH Sat/21, 8 p.m. $49–$250. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 465-6400. www.ticketmaster.com

“Fridays at the Ballet”

0

PREVIEW By now the fact that San Francisco Ballet is one of the hottest ballet companies in the country is no longer news. It’s also common knowledge that ballet is an extremely expensive art form. Ticket prices reflect that unfortunate reality. That’s why SFB’s "Fridays at the Ballet" are such a good deal. For $59 (or even less if you shop around) you get a performance plus drinks afterward in the War Memorial Opera House lobby. The first of this season’s "Fridays" features Helgi Tomasson’s lovely, romantic On a Theme of Paganini (2008) and two glories of the repertoire — Jardin aux Lilas (Lilac Garden) and The Concert. The SFB premiere of Antony Tudor’s 1936 Jardin aux Lilas celebrates Tudor’s 100th birthday with an early work that is perhaps his all-time masterpiece. Its drama, its heat, its agony are underground; nothing is spelled out, everything is implied. Yet this story about love acknowledged and love denied will haunt you. Jerome Robbins’ 1956 hilarious The Concert strikes an altogether different note. Ballet doesn’t take to comedy easily, so Robbins was in for a challenge — but he watched silent movies and studied comedic timing. His mayhem in the concert hall has become a classic, and SFB has the dancers to pull it off. It’s the first of Robbins’ choreographies set to Chopin, a composer he would use very differently in later works, and all you can do is pity the poor pianist who has to contend with the kind of audience Robbins gave him. "Fridays at the Ballet," with a different program, returns April 3.

"FRIDAYS AT THE BALLET," Fri/20, 8 p.m., $59, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF. www.sfballet.org/fridays