Volume 43 Number 37

Best of the Bay 2009: Local Heroes






As staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, Angela Chan has been at the forefront of a yearlong effort to ensure that all undocumented juveniles have the right to due process in San Francisco.

That effort began last summer, shortly after Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had just decided to run for governor, announced that undocumented juveniles henceforth would be reported to federal authorities the minute they are booked on suspicion of having committed a felony — and before they can access an immigrant-rights lawyer.

These changes primarily affect Latino youth, but Chan, whose Cantonese-speaking parents ran a restaurant in Portland, Ore., sees the broader connections to other immigrant communities.

"I grew up in an immigrant community in a white working-class neighborhood," Chan explained. "I saw the barriers — language, culture, racism, xenophobia — and I realized that there was not a lot of power and awareness. I learned to appreciate civil rights."

As a teenager, Chan was determined to become an attorney. The temporary passage of California Prop. 187 — prohibiting undocumented immigrants from using social services, health care, and public education — intensified her determination. Chan graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, and has been able to focus on this particular juvenile justice battle thanks to a Soros Justice Fellowship and the ALC’s "innovative, fluid, creative, and client-centered vision."

"I’ve tried different ways of challenging inequality — direct confrontation, anger — but I’ve found the best way is through policy, and being very educated and strategic," Chan said.

She said she’s hopeful that Sup. David Campos has the votes this summer to pass veto-proof amendments to the city’s undocumented-youth protection policy. As she put it: "People are starting to understand the difference between the juvenile and adult justice system and the issues around due process." (Sarah Phelan)




Take a look at just a few of the things Julian Davis has done: He ran the 2008 public-power campaign. He’s on the board of San Francisco Tomorrow. He’s president of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. He’s a founder of the MoMagic Collaborative, which fights youth violence in the Western Addition. He’s on the board of the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation. He’s been appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve on the Market-Octavia Citizens Advisory Committee. He’s a founder of the Osiris Coalition, which is working to ensure that public-housing tenants have the right to return to their homes after renovations. He’s hosted countless events for charities and political campaigns.

Then think about this: he’s only 30.

Davis grew up in Palo Alto, and moved to the corner of Haight and Fillmore after getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from Brown University. Philosophers weren’t exactly in demand at the time, so he wound up "playing my guitar on the streets for burrito money" while starting a PhD program at Stanford.

He also saw three people shot to death on his corner. "And I realized," he explained, "that the academic life wasn’t going to be for me."

Davis started organizing against community violence, and, inspired by Matt Gonzalez’s mayoral campaign, ran for supervisor in 2004. That got him started in local politics. He’s headed to law school at Hastings this fall, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a leader in the progressive political community for years to come. (Tim Redmond)




"He’s a visionary. He’s very determined. He never gives up."

That’s how Ken McIntire, executive director of San Bruno Mountain Watch, describes David Schooley, who founded the Mountain Watch nonprofit four decades ago.

"For many years, David led every Sierra Club hike, organized every restoration party, and even took the bus to community fairs up and down the Peninsula so he could set up a table and distribute fliers about San Bruno Mountain," McIntire recalls.

Now snowy-haired and allegedly semiretired, Schooley, 65, remains as nimble as a goat when it comes to hiking across his beloved mountain, which rises and cuts across the Peninsula just south of San Francisco in San Mateo County — and whose ecosystem has been identified as one of 18 global biodiversity hotspots in need of protection

Schooley’s love for the mountain — which is covered with low-growing grasses, coastal sage, and scrub year-round and is dotted with wildflowers each spring — led him to found SBMW in 1969 and fight the expansion of the Guadalupe Valley Quarry and the growth of nearby Brisbane. Both were threatening to destroy the biggest urban open space in the United States and the habitat of rare butterflies, including the San Bruno elfin.

As Schooley explains, while the mountain is often hit with strong gusty winds and enveloped in thick fog, it is a great butterfly habitat and the last fragment of an entire ecosystem — the Franciscan region — the rest of which has been buried beneath San Francisco’s concrete footprints.

Two years ago, Schooley had the pleasure of once again finding the tiny raspberry-colored elfin caterpillars on some sedum (its host plant) on the north-facing upper benches of the quarry.

"It’s a miracle," Schooley told me at the time, delighted by this living example of nature’s ability to overcome human-made damage on the mountain.

At the time, Schooley was hoping the state park system would annex the property where the elfins were found. That hasn’t happened yet. But as McIntire says of Schooley (who dreams of a wildlife corridor that runs from the bay to the ocean), "David is always pushing for more open space around the mountain, for more nature and less development, and trying to reach a bigger audience." (Sarah Phelan)




The San Francisco Mime Troupe is the conscience of the city, our proudest export, and — as it celebrates its 50th year — perhaps our most enduring sociopolitical institution. That’s a lot of kudos to heap on an artists’ collective, particularly one that delivers its theatrical social satire with such over-the-top comedy and music, but it isn’t a statement that we make lightly.

The SFMT embodies the very best San Francisco values — limitless creativity, a hunger for justice, courage under fire, an uncompromising commitment to creating a better world, and a progressive missionary zeal — and offers a powerful and entertaining reminder of those values every July 4, when it presents its new show in Dolores Park.

After it sings (and preaches) to the progressive choir of San Francisco, the troupe hits the road, visiting such less-than-enlightened outposts as the Central Valley and rural Northern California, delivering important messages to audiences that need to hear them most. "First of all, it’s humorous, so that breaks down a lot of barriers from the get-go," SFMT general manager Jenee Gill tells us.

But even here in the early ’60s, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission tried to use obscenity laws to ban the SFMT from performing in public parks. The troupe successfully fought the commission in court, setting an important free speech precedent. Modern San Francisco has grown up with the SFMT showing us the way forward with its uniquely high-stepping, knee-slapping, consciousness-raising style, and we’re a better city for it. (Steven T. Jones)

All local heroes photos by Pat Mazzera



Best of the Bay 2009: Sports and Outdoors




Editors Picks: Outdoors and Sports


Although it has only been a mere season and a half since Barry Bonds went loudly into a toxic sunset, the San Francisco Giants have already refocused with a formidable team of unlikely upstarts that boasts one of the best records in the National League. Built around a colorful but humble lineup of players with nicknames like the Freak, Big Unit, and Kung Fu Panda, the current Giants roster is everything that Bonds was not — egoless, team-oriented, and free of baggage. And just as the Tim Lincecum-<\d>led pitching staff was shaping up as the team’s best asset for a successful playoff bid, along comes 26-year-old left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, from a demotion in the bullpen, to throw a masterpiece of a pitching performance. The Sanchez no-hitter against the Padres on July 10 was the team’s first since 1976. It provided an up-from-the-ashes victory that invoked tremendous optimism for the future, to the point where you can already hear it, clear with conviction and confidence: "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!"


Never underestimate the urge — especially in somber, grizzle-haired grown-ups and perfectly sensible adults — to jam shiny, decal-stickered helmets on one’s head before shrieking downhill in plastic toy vehicles, playfully jockeying with others all the way to the bottom. Having just completed its triumphant ninth annual run this past Easter, the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel race is spastic, daredevil fun. Any form of transport is legal, as long as it’s human-powered and about a third your size. Past races have seen some imaginative entries: office chairs figured in one racer’s wobbly run, while others constructed iffy rides from wood planks, masking tape, and a few ingeniously placed nails. Outlandish costumes never hurt, either: Big Bird, bunnies, and aliens run rampant. Once held on Lombard Street, the event now careens down Potrero Hill’s twistier Vermont Street. The only thing you can’t bring is alcohol. Shucks.



Is it wrong to be kind of turned on by the Victorian-bondage-looking machines at San Francisco Gyrotonic? Even the word "Gyrotonic" makes us gyrate suggestively in our minds. (Pervs!) Intimately connected to the dance community, the Gyrotonic exercise program is an intriguing new approach to working out. The Gyrotonic Expansion System was invented in the 1950s by ballet dancer Juliu Horvath after an Achilles injury left him unable to dance. The workout uses a contraption with raised pulleys, similar to a Pilates machine, but moves your joints in a circular rather than linear motion, training the body to be more flexible. Classes are taught by former ballerinas who’ve danced in companies such as the San Francisco Ballet, New York’s School of American Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera’s American Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco’s Alonzo King’s LINES. In terms of dance workouts, nothing could be further from Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo. The studio attracts a fleet of nimble, limber dance-types, but beginners should not be intimidated, nor overexcited.

26 Seventh St. # 4, SF. (415) 863-3719, www.sfgyrotonic.com


If we’ve learned anything from the most recent technological revolution, it’s that nerds are way cooler than we thought they were. "I’m a music nerd," people will proudly say, or "I’m an art nerd." Identifying as a nerd grants substantial cultural capital — and not just in a lame hipster sense, like when people wear glasses without lenses or pretend to appreciate B-movies. Skateboarders, cyclists, and gamers are good examples of this phenomenon, but none of these subcultures has a more nonconformist, fuck-you attitude than that of the gonzo yo-yo enthusiast. It’s true that yo-yo champion David Capurro and the other members of his local club, the Spin Doctors, probably spend their weekends practicing barrel rolls and smashers instead of drinking, dancing, and posing. But, well, come on, that shit’s for nerds. Cool people have better things to do … like winning tournaments, inventing new tricks, and traveling the world to battle other crews.



Perhaps you’ve seen kiteboarders skimming across the water like wakeboarders and flittering aloft, gliding like skydivers. If you’ve yearned to partake in the strange but intriguing sport of kiteboarding, but didn’t know where to start, look no further than Boardsports School and Shop. With three locations and plenty of certified instructors, it’s the most facilitative wind and board shop on the bay. Whether it’s kitesurfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding on land, or even stand-up paddle boarding, the staff can help you find what you’re after (don’t be put off by the dude-bro locutions) and teach you how to catch some major air safely. Boardsports has exclusive teaching rights in two of the bay’s best beginner spots, Alameda’s Crown Beach and Coyote Point in San Mateo, and offers lessons for first-time kite flyers or can arrange pro instruction for experienced boarders looking to push their skills to the next level. Boardsports also offers tidy deals on kite packages and equipment to help you lift off without lifting your wallet.

(415) 385-1224, www.boardsportsschool.com


The Brits have started some internationally contagious sports, like football (soccer) and cricket. Now underwater hockey, which English divers created in the 1950s, is grabbing Americans’ attention. Locals are quickly jumping into the game with the San Francisco Underwater Hockey club. If you like swimming, dip your toes in new water and give it a shot. Sean Avent of the San Francisco Sea Lions club team explains its appeal: "Holding your breath, wearing a Speedo, and swimming after a lead puck on the bottom of a swimming pool is no more obtuse than trying to pummel a guy who is carrying a pigskin ball and armored in high-tech plastic. People, in general, are just more familiar with the latter of the two obtuse sports. And the first is just way more fun." Pay $4 at the door of one of the games to try it out, or join the club and play in the Presidio or Bayview pools at a low cost.



Million Fishes Gallery, one of our favorite artist collectives in San Francisco, isn’t just an awesome place to see great exhibits by a revolving door of local artists and to catch raging late-night shows featuring bands like Jonas Reinhardt, Erase Errata, Tussle, and Lemonade. It also provides an effective and inexpensive way to get your rejuvenating twice-weekly yoga fix. Instructor Beth Hurley teaches a 90-minute vinyasa yoga class from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the gallery’s yoga studio (yeah, this artist space comes with its own yoga studio) that draws a nice mix of artists, Mission locals, yoga enthusiasts, and those who see the benefit in working out before hitting up El Metate next door. Hurley’s sessions are $7 to $11, which firmly places them among the least expensive yoga classes in San Francisco, and safeguards you from having to deal with yuppie yogis in head-to-toe Lululemon.

2829 23rd St., SF. www.millionfishes.com


Mission restaurateur Scott Youkilis has turned out quality American fare at Maverick for a few years now, while his brother Kevin continues to play at an MVP pace for the Boston Red Sox. Scott bottles a great homemade hot sauce; Kevin hits two-out home runs in the bottom of the ninth against the New York Yankees. Could there possibly be a way to merge these exceptional fraternal talents? Voilà: Youk’s Hot Sauce, a condiment that attempts to bottle the potency of Kevin’s hitting abilities with the flavor of Scott’s Southern-tinged cuisine. Available at Maverick or online, bottles go for $10 each, or $25 with Kevin’s autograph, and portions of all proceeds go to Kevin’s charity, Youk’s Hits for Kids. It’s a hot souvenir from a future Hall of Famer for the legions of Red Sox fans that make the Bay Area their home away from Fenway.

3316 17th St., SF. (415) 863-3061, www.sfmaverick.com, www.youkshotsauce.com


When it comes to getting in shape, it’s almost a crime to have a gym membership in San Francisco. We live in the almost perpetually golden state of California, not Wisconsin in the third week of January. So get the hell outside and tackle some hills or run along the beaches. Better yet, do both with the Baker Beach Sand Ladder. Long known to local triathletes as an endurance-crushing beast, the sand ladder is 400 sheer steps of pulse-pounding "I think I’m gonna die" workout, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Pacfic Ocean flowing into the Golden Gate. Minus the cardiac arrest, it sure beats the fluorescent lighting, smelly funk, and steroidal carnival music of your local gym. The simple fact of the matter is that when you can run nonstop to the top of the sand ladder you’re officially in good shape. And best of all, it’s free.

25th Ave. and El Camino del Mar, SF. www.nps.gov


Chevron has always been one of the Bay Area’s more vile corporations, whether it’s lobbying aggressively against global warming legislation or polluting communities from Richmond to Ecuador, all the while greenwashing its image with warm and fuzzy (and highly deceptive) advertising campaigns. That’s why we love to see groups such as the rainforest-protecting Amazon Watch and its anti-Chevron allies giving a little something back. Before this year’s Chevron shareholders meeting in San Francisco, activists plastered fake Chevron ads ("I will not complain about my asthma" and "I will give my baby contaminated water") all over the city and staged creative protests outside the event. Ditto when Chevron CEO David O’Reilly spoke at the Commonwealth Club in May, sending Chevron goons into a paranoid frenzy. Amazon Watch and other groups are winning some key battles — voters recently approved steep tax increases on Chevron’s Richmond refinery, and a judge rejected plans to expand the facility. To which we can only say, "Hit ’em again!"



Ear-piercing squeals, gut-rumbling skronks, the occasional wet fart sound — these are the unfortunate hallmarks of beginning brass instrumentalists. Those living in a city as dense and sensitive as our own have it rough when they want to work out their kinks: neighbors who sleep during the day or get up early yell at them, passersby take none too kindly to the squawking on busy sidewalks, and soundproofed studio space is economically out of reach. For all who need a place to practice, there’s the blessing of the Conservatory Drive tunnel, which passes under John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. An array of practicing jazz combos and amateur tooters take up residence at the tunnel’s entrance during the day, providing entertainment to nearby Conservatory of Flowers visitors. The tunnel actually seems to crave music pouring into and echoing through its abyss — it forms a protective acoustic cocoon around performers that amplifies mellifluous passages and somehow blurs out less felicitous ones. Spontaneous jam sessions are common, so don’t sit on the grass — pick up your brass.

Conservatory Dr. and John F. Kennedy Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF


Little-known and charmingly miniscule, the Eagle Point Labyrinth is a jumble of twisty turns perched on the lip of a cliff near an offshoot of Lands End Trail. To reach it, you must set out with a compass in hand, hope in your heart, and fingers crossed. The labyrinth, one of three outdoor mazes known to exist in San Francisco, is a mysterious wonder that has so far avoided being marked on any map (although it can be glimpsed via a Google satellite image for those too faint to blindly wander in search of it). The superlative views it affords of the Golden Gate certainly justify hiking, sometimes panicked, through yards of unpruned foliage. The stone-heaped maze is handmade, and while we speculate about its mysterious origins — a mousetrap for Minotaurs, perhaps? — we can’t help but appreciate the karmic offerings of those who have reached the center before us, leaving a small pile of baubles. Mythic etiquette mandates you scoop up one of these and leave something of your own behind.

Lands End, Sutro Heights Park, SF.


Yearning to try yoga but needing to stretch your dollar? Every Monday through Thursday from 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., YogaKula packs its San Francisco location with eager newcomers for its affordable community class, available on a sliding scale ($8 to $16). Especially lively are the Monday and Wednesday classes with quirky and entertaining instructor Skeeter Barker, who offers genuine, palatable optimism and inspiration along with some much-needed recentering. Barker is an inspirational teacher who, as her Web profile says, "welcomes you to your mat, however you find yourself there." Along with the community classes, YogaKula offers Anusara, a therapeutic style of yoga, in addition to a variety of other wellness practices. Its two locations — one at 16th Street and Mission, and one in North Berkeley — offer courses in yoga training, yoga philosophy, specialized workshops, Pilates, massage, and one-on-one yoga instruction.

3030A 16th St., SF. (415) 934-0000; 1700 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 486-0264, www.yogakula.com


To be precise, the best place to hide a jet is behind Door 14 on the Alameda Naval Air Station. While many of the buildings on the former military base have been converted to civilian uses, such as sports clubs and distilleries, some continue to serve military functions, like storing the jet that used to be on display at the base’s portside entrance (until high winds blew it off its pedestal two winters ago). The naval station is also the perfect place to hide domesticated bunnies. A herd of them live in and around a tumbledown shed opposite the Port of Oakland. Then there are the jackrabbits, which flash across the base’s open spaces at night, hind legs glinting in the moonlight. It’s easy to miss the flock of black-crowned night herons, which pose one-legged every winter on the lawns of "The Great Whites"-<\d>houses where the naval officers once lived. But who could forget the hawk that roosts atop the Hangar One distillery and periodically swoops to grab a tasty, unsuspecting victim off the otherwise empty runways where The Matrix Reloaded was shot?

1190 W. Tower, Alameda


Since 1998, Cyclecide has been enchanting — and sometimes scaring — audiences with its punk rock-<\d>inspired, pedal-powered mayhem. But after 11 years of taking its bicycle-themed carnival rides, rodeo games, and live band to places like Coachella, Tour de Fat, and Multnomah County Bike Fair, the bicycle club is putting down roots, or rather, fake grass. This year the crew famous for tall bikes, bicycle jousting, and denim jackets with a cackling clown on the back is building Funland, an 18-hole mini golf course in the Bayview. Though sure to be fun for the whole family, rest assured that Funland will retain all of Cyclecide’s boundary-pushing humor and lo-fi sensibility. Yes, there will be a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge built by master welder Jay Broemmel, but you can also putt through Closeupofmyass, a landscape of rubber tubes springing from brown Astroturf. What else would you expect from a crew whose interests are "bikes, beer, and building stuff"?



It’s nice for big companies to notice that women buy things other than cleaning supplies and facial cream. But do they have to make everything targeted toward the female demographic so freakin’ floral and pink and cloyingly girlie? Adventure Medical Kits — the Oakland-based company famous in sports circles for outfitting everyone from backcountry skiers to weekend car-campers with durable, complete first-aid packages — says a resounding no. Its women’s edition outdoor medical kit comes jam-packed with all the fixings adventurous boys get — wound care materials, mini tweezers, insect-bite salve, a variety of medications, and a first-aid booklet — plus a couple things only ladies need, like tampons, leak-safe tampon bags, menstrual relief meds, and compact expands-in-water disposable towels. And it’s all packaged in a sporty blue nylon bag that weighs less than a pound. No lipstick? No diet pills? No frilly, lacy case made to look like a purse or a bra or a tiny dog? We’re buying it.



When one thinks of skate shops these days, one’s thoughts travel naturally to wicked Bloodwizard decks, Heartless Creeper wheels, and Venture trucks — everything you’d need to trick out your board before you cruise to Potrero de Sol. All those goodies are available at Cruz Skate Shop, as well as Lowcard tees, recycled skateboard earrings, Protec helmets, and much more. But boarding is boring. You’ve done it since you were 13. Isn’t it time to ditch that deck and take up a real sport like, say, roller skating? Hell, yes. And Cruz has everything you need to get started down that sparkly, disco-bumpy Yellow Brick Road to eight-wheelin’ Oz. From the fiercest derby-ready model to mudflap girl bootie shorts, this store will kit you up in the best way for your Sunday afternoon Golden Gate Park debut. We’re partial to the Sure-Grip Rock Flame set of wheels with, you guessed it, pink flames streaming up the toes. But an enticing array of more professional-looking speed skates is available, as is a knowledgeable staff to get you rollin’.

3165 Mission, SF. (415) 285-8833, www.cruzskateshop.com


If you’re looking to get on the water without getting wet, Ruby Sailing is an affordable option for you and your friends to get a taste of adventure. The Ruby sailboat has been taking guests around the bay for 25 years. For just $40 per person, owner and operator Captain Josh Pryor will lead you on a two and a half hour tour of the bay, passing Alcatraz and looping around Sausalito. Snacks are provided, and the skipper sells wine and beer by the glass for cheap. The Ruby is also available for fishing expeditions, including poles, bait, and tackle; for private parties up to 30 guests; for weddings; and even for funerals at sea. And since the boat boards at the Ramp restaurant on the Dogpatch waterfront, you’re covered for pre- and post-splash food and drink, if you have the stomach. No prior sailing experience is required, but, in the words of the skipper, "no two trips are the same," so be ready to hang on.

855 Terry Francois, SF. (415) 272-0631, www.rubysailing.com



Best of the Bay 2009: Sex and Romance




Editors Picks: Sex and Romance


While the Folsom Street Fair has grown into an international destination for kinksters and the tourists who ogle them, the Up Your Alley Fair has become increasingly important as a more intimate oasis for local leatherheads who remember the scene’s old days. The fair — better known as Dore Alley Fair, though the event was named when it started in 1985 on a different street — has brought much-needed attention to the oft-overlooked SoMa neighborhood. We love the organization’s dedication to supporting groups and charities like the Episcopal Community Services, AIDS Emergency Fund, and Transgender Law Center. What we don’t love is that this event may be the next target on the Police Department’s Death of Fun Crusade. Show your support this year so that Up Your Alley doesn’t go the way of Castro Halloween.

Last Sunday in July, Dore Alley, between Folsom and Howard. www.folsomstreetevents.org/alley


Having sex doesn’t take much: a partner (or not), a place, a modicum of desire. But feeling sexy isn’t always so easy — especially if you’re in a relationship that has reached the sweatpants, TV–dinner, oral-sex-what? stage. Enter Intima Girl, the Marina’s boudoir of a boutique. The small, upscale shop stocks a variety of items meant to up the ante in the bedroom, from sex toys to lotions to lingerie, most geared toward girls (and their partners) who want a little class in their kink. Think sleek vibrators, high-end candles, silk bondage ropes, and sex books that could sit on your coffee table. But Intima Girl doesn’t skimp on the fun. Adventurous types can head home with an edible candy bra, assless panties, and metallic condom compacts for stylish safe-sex on the go. Best of all, the owner and staff are as knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful as you always wished your big sister would be.

3047 Fillmore, SF. (415) 563-1202, www.intima-online.com


Dim, crimson lighting. The Stones on the sound system. Attractive youngsomethings lounging languidly on plush couches. And there, across the room, a tall, lean brunette, sipping a PBR, staring through the haze. Will Amber, the worker-owned watering hole with stiff drinks and legal cigarette smoking (thanks to labor law loopholes), be the setting of your "How We Met" story? Are those the tears of love at first sight? If you’re not a smoker, your eyes might just be irritated or you might be frustrated knowing tonight’s bar clothes will smell when you wear them to work tomorrow. But for those brave (stupid? nah) few who still toke the tobacco stick, this Duboce Triangle destination is a sexy, sultry, smoky oasis in a world that’s become increasingly cold (literally) to the dwindling minority. Just for this moment, in this beautiful bar out of time, nothing exists but you and your beloved. Not work. Not cancer. Maybe not even a future for your relationship. But what does it matter? Since the first release of studies on the dangers of smoking, people who continue to puff have lived in the here and now. And at Amber, there’s no better place to be now than here.

718 14th St., SF. (415) 626-7827


You’re getting married to the love of your life, and every member of your extended families will be in attendance, including your Aunt Jolene, who lives in an RV in the Nevada desert and talks to inanimate objects, and your future spouse’s Harvard-educated litter, all flying in from Martha’s Vineyard. How are you going to pick a wedding band that will get everyone — from your lumpy litigator father-in-law-to-be to your own Crazy Uncle Cletus — on their feet dancing? Tainted Love, the best ’80s tribute band since The Wedding Singer, is the answer. This talented seven-piece act regularly draws sold-out crowds to venues like Bimbo’s and Red Devil Lounge, while also happily playing private parties, corporate events, and, yes, weddings. Now that ’80s music is almost the golden oldies, you can count on the fact that Love’s renditions of "Purple Rain," "Sweet Child o’ Mine," and, of course, "White Wedding" will appeal to all the guests on your list — no matter how far they traveled (or how much they put in for the ceremony).

(510) 655-7926, www.taintedlove.com


What’s wrong with loving a product for its design? That’s really why Apple fanatics love all things "i." And that’s why we lust after sex toys from Jimmyjane, the Potrero Hill pleasure purveyors whose vibes, games, and accessories would look as natural in a museum gift shop as they would in your minimalist, modern bedroom. The Form 6 vibrator looks like a cross between a stylized pen and a high-end electric toothbrush, while the Little Chromas model has the sleek grace of a bullet, or a small cigar (we refuse to make that joke). And Jimmyjane’s Usual Suspects line is nothing short of inspired — celebrating both form and function by interpreting classic toys, in flawless white. Yes, the company does seem to cater to Audi drivers and iPhone users — collaborating on expensive special editions with well-known designers and bragging about appearances on cable TV shows. But we can’t argue with the nontoxic materials and the unprecedented one-year warranty. And the fact that they just look so cool.

www.jimmyjane.com. Available at Good Vibrations, various locations. www.goodvibrations.com


The problem with mainstream porn is that most of it is made in the San Fernando Valley by brainless douche bags and lazy ex-cheerleaders looking for a quick buck. But this is San Francisco. This is the art capital of the world, the home of the free thinker, the land of the awesome. Can’t we get some porn made for us? Yes, we can! Yes, we can! If you’re as sick of Barbie Doll smut as we are, then you should know about local filmmaker-producer-writer-artist Courtney Trouble. Trouble is the founder of a queer porn site called Nofauxxx.com ("queer" as in not just homo, but alternative as well). She’s the final word when it comes to smut with attitude, character, and soul. Not only is No Fauxxx the oldest running queer porn site on the Internet, it’s also the only spot that mixes alt, gay, lesbian, straight, trans, kink, and BBW content. It’s sexy, artsy, entertaining, all-inclusive, and totally DIY. In a word: ours.



The Masturbate-a-thon is an annual pledge drive for the Center for Sex and Culture during which people gang up in a hot and sweaty room to watch each other jerk off for an entire day. Sounds like fun, right? But what if you’re not an exhibitionist? No worries. The whole show (held in May, which is Masturbation Month) is broadcast live on the Internet so that shy people can join in too. Categories include "Most Money Raised," "Most Orgasms," and "Longest Squirt," and the winners in each division receive sexy prizes from Good Vibrations (and perhaps a lifetime of wishing Google and YouTube were never invented). Score! Exhibitionists, porn addicts, and the rest of us are encouraged to ogle, vote, and even participate alongside certified wank-masters such as Dr. Carol Queen, Fellatio Brown, and Masanobu Sato, a Japanese toymaker who holds the world record for "Longest Time Spent Masturbating" (to be fair, it should be noted that his company, Tenga, makes masturbation cups for men). The time to beat next year is nine hours and 58 minutes, so fire up Fleshbot.com now and start practicing. You can be sure that’s what Masanobu is doing.



The place where Broadway meets Lyon and dead-ends into the edge of the Presidio is almost always empty. Here, the steep angle of the land affords swoon-inducing vistas of the Marina, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the bay, and tranquility hovers amid the perfectly manicured gardens and the improbably large and ornate houses to which they are attached. The drawback? If you’re not in the mood for a workout on the Lyon steps, there’s not really anything to do here except park, which, if you’ve brought an attractive friend along for the ride, is no drawback at all. If there’s an ounce of chemistry, the solitude and stunning view will have you two making out in the backseat of your car. In fact, come here with someone for whom you have feelings that run deeper than lust, and you may just be inspired to make things official. There are few better spectacular, proposal-inducing viewpoints in our spectacular, proposal-inducing city that haven’t been completely co-opted by tourists. Relationship-phobes and impulsive romantics, consider yourself forewarned.

Broadway at Lyon


Burlesque is bawdy. It’s lowbrow. It’s often political, and always boundary- pushing. But sexy? Not necessarily. As the new burlesque movement merges with circus and performance arts, it sometimes sacrifices the delight of the tease in favor of mere shock and awe. But Rose Pistola knows how to balance her solo performances so they get your panties wet and in a bunch. The classic beauty has graced stages in an octopus skirt, an Elvis costume, a mullet, a Victorian mime outfit, and a full tulle gown (that she rolled out of) — always mastering a blend of humor and class. But it’s not just her performances at places like Hubba Hubba Revue and Bohemian Carnival that rev our engines — Pistola also designs costumes, including tiny hats, vinyl corsets, and almost all of her fabulous stage get-ups. What could be sexier than a woman with pasties and a pincushion? How about one who plays with fire? Oh yeah, Pistola does that too.



Not big on commitment? At Lindy in the Park, the weekly swing dance party that’s been uniting partners with fancy footwork since 1996, change companions as often as you change your mind. With free lessons starting at 11 a.m. and open to the public, it’s the perfect place to flirt with fellow Lindy Hop fans and then flee. But this outdoor event near the de Young Museum isn’t just for eternally happy singles. Couples know the best thing about the swingout is the swing-back-in. And once you’ve seen your honey doing the sugar push, you might just find that your hip-to-hip leads to lip to lip.

JFK Dr. (between 8th and 10th avenues), Golden Gate Park, SF. www.lindyinthepark.com


Whatever your definition of cockblocking — whether it’s using a friend to pose as a lover to deter unwanted advances, or stopping a fellow suitor from stealing your paramour with their charm and free drinks — the idea is clear: there’s a third-party penis, and its plans must be thwarted. What better name, then, for a dance night geared toward girl-on-girl love? But it’s not just clever nomenclature that fuels our love for Cockblock, the monthly lesbian dance party at the Rickshaw Stop. It’s the fact that these get-togethers feature infectious music, cheap drinks, good vibes, and that rare chance for girls-who-like-girls to get together without sweaty heteros trying to get in the way (or cast them in their personal porn fantasies). Plus, queer ladies should have at least one surefire place other than the Lex to scope out a hottie.

Second Saturdays, Rickshaw Stop,155 Fell, SF. www.cockblocksf.com


Masturbation need not be a covert mission reserved for solo artists behind bedroom doors or within shower stalls. If you’re the type who is more of a team player, you might like SF Jacks, a group of like-minded men who appreciate a good circle jerk. The group has been perfecting its "loose and goofy environment" for 26 years, regularly drawing as many as 70 Jacks and Joes who want to lose their clothes — and their inhibitions — together. Meetings are held every second and fourth Monday at the Center for Sex and Culture, where lube and refreshments are provided. Just show up with your $7 donation (though no one’s turned away for lack of funds), ready to do the hand jive. But just remember to follow the rules. You can touch your dick, but don’t be one.

Second and fourth Mondays, 7:30-<\d>8:30 p.m. $7. Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission, SF. (415) 267-6999, www.sfjacks.com


Dinner and a movie, a night at the bar, a drive down the coast — all these date options have their merits. But when you’re trying to plan a partner activity that’s off the beaten path, consider renting bikes from Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate and exploring less charted territory (especially on Sundays, when Golden Gate is closed to car traffic). For just $5 an hour, you can check out hidden trails, watch the legendary bison do whatever it is bison do, and take a breather by the ocean. Not only will you get beautiful views (of park and partner), but the chemicals you release while exercising will bring you and your paramour closer together. This is an especially good thing if you’re looking to take your relationship to the next level, because producing endorphins together might just lead to … uh … producing endorphins together.

3038 Fulton, SF. (415) 668-1117, www.goldengateparkbikeandskate.com


Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone, Dogpatch Studios, the nondescript warehouse on Tennessee Street marked by a benign and vaguely cutesy flag featuring a black Labrador, is where the Mitchell Brothers filmed Behind the Green Door, the first feature-length hardcore porn film to be widely released in the United States. Today, with enough green of your own, you can host a private event inside this historic sex landmark. While the venue still welcomes movie shoots, your options are unlimited. Dogpatch Studios will provide you with flexible floor plans, kitchen facilities, wireless internet, lighting services, staffing, and just about anything else you require, whether it’s for a sedate corporate retreat, a no-holds-barred bacchanal, or even a wedding. Because nothing says everlasting love quite like tying the knot where Marilyn Chambers (R.I.P.) filmed money shots.

991 Tennessee, SF. (415) 641-3017, www.dogpatchstudios.com


Remember when the Castro was just a big boys’ club? That’s changed somewhat, thanks in no small part to Femina Potens, the nonprofit art gallery dedicated to women, transgendered folk, kink, and the sex worker community that anchors the corner of Market and Sanchez. Cofounded by renaissance porn star and queer BDSM queen Madison Young, the cozy spot has been hosting exhibits, workshops, spoken word performances, film screenings, and readings by queer literary and artistic legends like Michelle Tea, Annie Sprinkle, and Inga Muscio since 2001 — and recently has added health and wellness programming into the mix. With showcases tackling topics from body image to safer sex, suicide prevention, and breast cancer awareness, there’s no question that what Femina Potens does is important. But we think art shows about bondage and performances about breasts are also just damn sexy. Plus, it’s about time the Castro got a little more double-X (chromosome) action.

2199 Market, SF. (415) 864-1558, www.feminapotens.org


Dark Tasting is the most unintentionally kinky thing to happen to dining since the invention of the hot dog. The very concept sounds like something out of a Marquis de Sade novel. The San Francisco group believes that sight deprivation heightens the sensory experience of having a meal, from the taste, smell, and feel of your food, to the sound of your company’s voices. Before the meal is served, diners are blindfolded and rendered submissive. (Doesn’t that alone sound like something out of a deliciously depraved Japanese bondage flick involving nyotaimori?) Sponsored by TasteTV and held at a different venue once every two months, Dark Tasting events offer gourmet multicourse meals with wine parings, with the caveat that you have to pay $95 per person and can’t see what you’re eating. Events are described as a "sensual dining experience," and given that no one can see what a pervert you are, you can freely grope your partner under the table without eliciting "Get a room!" remarks from fellow diners. If you’re into BDSM, we highly recommend Dark Tasting as a romantic prelude to being hog-tied in a cage (where the real fun begins).




Best of the Bay 2009: Shopping






Sure, you can buy anything you want on the Internet, but there’s still a certain charm in entering a store whose items have been carefully chosen to delight the eye in three dimensions. That’s the idea behind Perch, Zoel Fages’s homage to all things charming and cheeky, from gifts to home décor. Do you need a set of bird feet salt-and-pepper shakers? A rhinoceros-head shot glass? A ceramic skull-shaped candleholder that grows "hair" as the wax drips? Of course not. But do you want them? The minute you enter the sunny, sweet Glen Park shop, the obvious answer will be yes. And for those gifty items you do need — scented candles and soaps, letterpress greeting cards, handprinted wrapping paper — Perch is perfect too. We’d recommend you stop by just to window-shop, but who are we kidding? You can’t visit here without taking something home.

654 Chenery, SF. (415) 586-9000, www.perchsf.com


How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? None: LED light bulbs last longer than environmentalists. If you think that joke’s funny — or at least get why it’s supposed to be — you might just be the target market for Green Zebra. Based on the idea that environmentally aware consumers like to save money as much as their Costco-loving neighbors, this book melds the concept of a coupon book with the creed of environmental responsibility. It’s a virtual directory of deals at local businesses trying to work outside the world of pesticidal veggies and gas-guzzling SUVs. Anne Vollen and Sheryl Cohen’s vision now comes in two volumes — one for San Francisco, and one for the Peninsula and Silicon Valley — featuring more than 275 exclusive offers from indie bookstores, art museums, coffee houses, organic restaurants, pet food stores, and just about anywhere else you probably already spend your money (and wouldn’t mind spending less).

(415) 346-2361, www.thegreenzebra.org


So you need a salad spinner, some kitty litter, a birthday card for your sister, and a skein of yarn, but you don’t feel like going to four different stores to check everything off the list? Face it, you’re lazy. But, you’re also in luck. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Standard 5 and 10, a one-stop wonderland in Laurel Village that caters to just about every imaginable whim, need, and desire of serious shoppers and procrastinators alike. Don’t be fooled by the large red Ace sign on the storefront — this is not merely a hardware store (although it can fulfill your hardware needs, of course). It’s an everything store. Walking the aisles here is a journey through consumerism at its most diverse. Greeting cards and tabletop tchotchkes fade into rice cookers then shower curtains, iron-on patches, Webkinz, motor oil…. It’s a dizzying array of stuff you need and stuff you simply want.

3545 California, SF. (415) 751-5767, www.standard5n10.com


Maybe we don’t have flying cars yet, but with video chatting, iPhones, and automated vacuum cleaners, we’re pretty close to living in the imaginary future The Jetsons made magical. Is it any wonder that, while loving our new technologies (hello, Kindle), we’ve also developed a culturewide nostalgia for simpler times? A perfect example is the emergence of steampunk — perhaps familiar to the mainstream as jewelry made of watch parts and cars crafted to look like locomotives. There also seems to be a less expensive, less industrial trend for the pastimes of yore: Croquet. Talk radio. And board games. The last of which is the basis of Just Awesome, the Diamond Heights shop opened by Portland escapee Erik Macsh as a temple to old-fashioned charms. Here you can pick up a myriad of boxes full of dice, cards, and plastic pieces. Head home with Clue, one of the Monopoly iterations (was Chocolate-opoly really necessary?), or a new game that came out while you were distracted by Nintendo Wii. You can even open the box and try a round or two in the shop. How’s that for old-world service?

816 Diamond, SF. (415) 970-1484, www.justawesomegames.com


The nice thing about having a sister, a roommate, or a tolerable neighbor who’s exactly your size is that there’s always someone else’s closet to raid when your own is looking dismal. But what to do when you live alone, your neighbor’s not answering your calls, and you desperately need an attention-getting outfit right now? Make a new best friend: Shaye McKenney of La Library. The friendly fashionista will let you borrow a pair of leather hot pants for a Beauty Bar boogie or a German knit couture gown for that gold-digging date to the opera, all for a small pay-by-the-day price. You can even bring your makeup and get ready for the evening in front of the antique mirrors in her socialist street shop. It’s all the fun of sharing, without having to lend out any of your stuff.

380 Guerrero, SF. (415) 558-9481, www.la-library.com


Need clothes a rockstar would wear but a starving musician can afford? Look no further than Shotwell, whose blend of designer duds and vintage finds are worthy of the limelight and (relatively) easy on your budget. Think jeans with pockets the size of guitar picks, sculptural black dresses, handpicked grandpa sweaters, and reconstructed ’80s rompers that can be paired with lizard skin belts or dollar sign boots, all for less than the cutting-edge designer labels would suggest they should cost. And it’s not just for the ladies. Michael and Holly Weaver stock their adorable boutique with clothing and accessories for all chromosomal combinations. The concept’s become such a success that Shotwell’s moving from its old locale to a bigger, better space. All we can say is, rock on.
320 Grant, SF. (415) 399-9898, www.shotwellsf.com


The best stores are like mini-museums, displaying interesting wares in such a way that they’re almost as fun to peruse as they are to take home. Park Life takes this concept one step further by being a store (wares in the front are for sale) and a gallery (featuring a rotating selection of local contemporary artists’ work). No need to feel guilty for window-shopping: you’re simply checking out the Rubik’s Cube alarm clock, USB flash drive shaped like a fist, and set of "heroin" and "cocaine" salt-and-pepper shakers on your way to appreciating the paintings in the back, right? And if you happen to leave with an arty coffee-table book, an ironic silk-screen T-shirt, or a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, that’s just a bonus.

220 Clement, SF. (415) 386-7275, www.parklifestore.com


In a world replete with crates, barrels, Williams, and Sonomas, it’s easy to forget there’s such a thing as an independent cooking store. But Cooks Boulevard is just that: an adorable, one-stop shop for reasonably priced cooking paraphernalia, from a pastry scale or Le Creuset to a candy mold or stash of wooden spoons. And if the shop doesn’t have what you need, the friendly staff will order it for you. In fact, this Noe Valley gem has everything the big stores have, including online ordering, nationwide shipping, and a well-kept blog of missives about the foodie universe. It even offers cooking classes, on-site knife sharpening, community events such as food drives and book clubs, and CSA boxes of local organic produce delivered to neighborhood clientele. With knowledgeable service and well-stocked shelves, the Boulevard makes it easy for home cooks and professional chefs to shop local.

1309 Castro, SF. (415) 647-2665, www.cooksboulevard.com


No sleep ’til Brooklyn? Fine. But no style ’til you reach the Big Apple? We just can’t give you license for that kind of ill, especially since the Brooklyn Circus came to town last July. With its East Coast–style awning, living room vibe, and indie hip-hop style, this boutique might just be the thing to keep those homesick for NYC from buying that JetBlue ticket for one … more … week. Want to save your cash just in case? You’re welcome to chill out on the leather sofas and listen to Mos Def mixtapes. At the store you can soak in the charm of the Fillmore’s colorful energy and history, while checking out the trends that blend Frank Sinatra and Kanye West almost seamlessly. Sure, you could visit the Chicago outpost before going to the original in the store’s namesake city, but why bother? Next year’s selection will include an expanded line of locally produced goodies — all available without having to brave a sweltering Big City summer.

1525 Fillmore, SF. (415) 359-1999, www.thebkcircus.com


I know. It’s July. The last thing you want to do is think about that stupid holiday shopping season that’ll dominate the entire universe in about three months. But the gift baskets at La Cocina are worth talking about year-round, not only because purchasing one supports a fantastic organization (dedicated to helping low-income entrepreneurs develop, grow, and establish their businesses) but because the delightful packages really are great gifts for any occasion. Whether it’s your boss’s birthday, your friend’s dinner party, or simply time to remind your grandmother in the nursing home that you’re thinking of her, these baskets full of San Francisco goodness are a thoughtful alternative to flower bouquets and fruit collections ordered through corporations. Orders might include dark chocolate-<\d>covered graham crackers from Kika’s Treats, spicy yucca sticks, toffee cookies from Sinful Sweets, roasted pumpkin seeds, or shortbread from Clairesquare, starting at $23. Everything will come with a handwritten note and a whole lot of love.



Aqua Forest Aquarium has reinvented the concept of fish in a bowl. The only store in the nation dedicated to a style of decorating aquariums like natural environments, Aqua Forest boasts an amazing display of live aquatic landscapes that seem directly transplanted from more idyllic waters. With good prices, knowledgeable staff, a focus on freshwater life, and a unique selection of tropical fish, the shop is not only proof that aquarium stores need not be weird and dingy, but that your home fish tank can be a thriving ecosystem rather than a plastic environment with a bubbling castle (OK, a thriving ecosystem with a bubbling castle). Part pet store, part live art gallery, Aqua Forest is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a sailfin leopard pleco.

1718 Fillmore, SF. (415) 929-8883, www.adana-usa.com


Remember when we all joked that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck? Little did we realize the joke would be on us when the only paper in our purses would be a Whole Pink Slip. In the new economy, some of us can’t afford the luxury of deciding between organic bananas or regular ones — we’re trying to figure out which flavor of ramen keeps us full the longest. Luckily, Duc Loi Supermarket opened in the Mission just in time. This neighborhood shop is big, bright, clean, well stocked, cheap, and diverse, with a focus on Asian and Latino foods. Here you can get your pork chops and pig snouts, salmon and daikon, tofu and tortilla chips — and still have bus fare for the ride home. In fact, young coconut milk is only 99 cents a can, a whole dollar less than at Whole Foods.

2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772


Some people go their entire lives buying replacement 20-packs of tube socks from Costco, socks whose suspicious blend of elastic, petroleum products, and God-knows-what signals to wearers and viewers alike: Warm, shwarm! Fit, shmit! Style, shmyle! Other people, even if they keep their socks encased in boots or shoes, want to know that their foot coverings are just one more indicator of their fashion — and common — sense. Those people go to Rabat in Noe Valley, where the sock racks look like a conjuring of the chorus of "Hair": "curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied; bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied." Furthermore, the socks are mostly made from recognizable materials like wool, cotton, or fleece. As for you sensible-shoe and wingtip types, not to worry. Rabat also stocks black and white anklets and nude-colored peds.

4001 24th St., SF (415) 282-7861. www.rabatshoes.com


Don’t let the small storefront at Alexander Book Company deter you — this three-story, independent bookstore is packed with stuff that you won’t find at Wal-Mart or the book malls. We’re particularly impressed with the children’s collection — and with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you’re looking for a birthday present for your kid’s classmate, or one for an out-of-town niece or nephew — or you just generally want to know what 10-year-old boys who like science fiction are reading these days — ask for Bonnie. She’s the children’s books buyer, and not only does she have an uncanny knack for figuring out what makes an appropriate gift, chances are whatever the book is, she’s already read it.

50 Second St., SF. (415) 495-2992, www.alexanderbook.com


If you think Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are the only places to trade your Diors for dollars, you’re missing out. Urbanity, Angela Cadogan’s North Berkeley boutique, is hands down the best place to consign in the Bay. The spot is classy but not uppity, your commission is 30 percent of what your item pulls in, and, best of all, you’d actually want to shop there. Cadogan has a careful eye for fashion, choosing pieces that deserve a spot in your closet for prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Want an even better deal on those Miu Miu pumps or that YSL dress? Return every 30 days, when items that haven’t sold yet are reduced by 40 percent. But good luck playing the waiting game against Urbanity’s savvy regulars — they’ve been eyeing those Pradas longer than you have.

1887 Solano, Berk. (510) 524-7467, www.shopurbanity.com


Ever wish you could be a character in a period piece, writing love letters on a typewriter to your distant paramour while perched upon a baroque upholstered chair? We can’t get you a role in a movie, but we can send you to the Perish Trust, where you’ll find everything you need to create a funky antique film set of your very own. Proprietor-curator team Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa have dedicated themselves to making their wares as fun to browse through as to buy, carefully selecting original artwork, vintage folding rulers, taxidermied fowl, out-of-print books, and myriad other antique odds-and-ends from across the nation. As if that weren’t enough, this Divisadero shop also carries Hooker’s Sweet Treats old world-<\d>style gourmet chocolate caramels — and that’s definitely something to write home about.

728 Divisadero, SF. www.theperishtrust.com


If Hayes Valley’s indie-retailer RAG (Residents Apparel Gallery) bedded the Lower Haight’s design co-op Trunk, their love child might look (and act) a lot like Mission Statement. With a focus on local designers and a philosophy of getting artists involved with the store, the 18th Street shop has all the eclectic style of RAG and all the collaborative spirit of Trunk — all with a distinctly Mission District vibe. Much like its namesake neighborhood, this shop has a little of everything: mineral makeup, fedoras adorned with spray-painted designs, multiwrap dresses, graphic tees, and more. Between the wares of the eight designers who work and play at the co-op, you might find everything you need for a head-to-toe makeover — including accessorizing advice, custom designing, and tailoring by co-owner Estrella Tadeo. You may never need to leave the Valencia corridor again.

3458-A 18th St., SF. (415) 255-7457, www.missionstatementsf.com


Beer-shopping at Healthy Spirits might ruin you. Never again will you be able to stroll into a regular suds shop, eye the refrigerated walk-in, and feign glee: "Oh, wow, they have Wolaver’s and Fat Tire." The selection at Healthy Spirits makes the inventory at almost all other beer shops in San Francisco — nay, the fermented universe — look pedestrian. First-time customers sometimes experience sticker shock, but most quickly understand that while hops and yeast and grain are cheap, hops and yeast and grain and genius are not. Should you require assistance in navigating the intriguing and eclectic wall of beer, owner Rami Barqawi and his staff will guide you and your palate to the perfect brew. Once you’ve got the right tipple, you can choose from the standard corner-store sundries, including coffee, wine, ice cream, and snacks. Chief among them is the housemade hummus (strong on the lemon juice, just the way we like it). Being ruined never tasted so good.

2299 15th St., SF. (415) 255-0610, healthy-spirits.blogspot.com


When is a junkyard not just a junkyard? When you wander through its labyrinth of plywood, bicycle tires, and window panes only to stumble upon an intricately carved and perfectly preserved fireplace mantle which, according to a handwritten note taped to it, is "circa 1900." This is the kind of thing that happens at Building Resources, an open air, DIY-er’s dream on the outskirts of Dogpatch, which just happens to be the city’s only source for recycled building and landscape materials. Maybe you’ll come here looking for something simple: a light fixture, a doorknob, a few pieces of tile. You’ll find all that. You’ll also find things you never knew you coveted, like a beautiful (and dirt cheap) claw-foot bathtub that makes you long to redo your own bathroom, even though you don’t own tools and know nothing about plumbing. No worries. That’s what HGTV is for.

701 Amador, SF. (415) 285-7814, www.buildingresources.org


It’s impossible not to be impressed with the selection at Collage, the tiny jewel-box of a shop perched atop Potrero Hill. The home décor store and gallery specializes in typography and signage, refurbished clocks and cameras, clothing, unique furniture, and all kinds of objects reinvented and repurposed to fit in a hip, happy home. But what we like best is owner Delisa Sage’s commitment to supporting the local community and economy. Not only does she host workshops on the art of fine-art collage, she carries a gorgeous selection of jewelry made exclusively by local woman artists. Whether you’re looking for knit necklaces, Scrabble pieces, typewriter keys, or an antiqued kitchen island, you’ll find ’em here. And every dollar you spend supports San Francisco, going toward a sandwich at Hazel’s, or a cup of joe at Farley’s, or an artist’s SoMa warehouse rent. Maybe capitalism can work.

1345 18th St., SF. (415) 282-4401, www.collage-gallery.com


There’s something grandmothers seem to understand that the Forever 21, H&M, Gap generation (not to mention the hippies in between) often miss: the value of elegant, tailored, designer classics that last a lifetime. Plus, thanks to living through the Great Depression, they know a good bargain. Luckily, White Rose got grandma’s memo. This tiny, jam-packed West Portal shop is dedicated to classy, timeless, well-made style, from boiled wool-<\d>embroidered black coats to Dolce handbags. Though the shelves (stacked with sweaters) and racks (overhung with black pants) may resemble those in a consignment or thrift store, White Rose is stocked full of new fashions collected from international travels, catalog sales, or American fabricators. In fact, it’s all part of the plan of the owner — who is reputed to have been a fashion model in the ’50s — to bring elegant chemises, tailored blouses, and dresses for all sizes and ages to the masses. The real price? You must have the patience to sort through the remarkable inventory.

242 W. Portal, SF. (415) 681-5411


It seems you can get yoga pants or Lycra leotards just about anywhere these days (hello, American Apparel). But elastic waists and spaghetti straps alone do not make for good sportswear. SF Dancewear knows that having clothes and footwear designed specifically for your craft — whether ballroom dance, gymnastics, theater, contact improv, or one of the good old standards like tap, jazz, or ballet — makes all the difference. This is why they’ve been selling everything from Capezio tap shoes to performance bras since 1975. The shop is lovely. There are clear boxes of pointe shoes nestled together like clean, shiny baby pigs; glittering displays of ballroom dance pumps; racks of colorful tulle, ruched nylon, patterned Lycra; and a rope draped with the cutest, tiniest tutus you ever did see. The store is staffed by professional dancers who’re not only trained to find the perfect fit but have tested most products on a major stage. And though your salesclerk may dance with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet or have a regular gig at the S.F. Opera, they won’t scoff at middle-aged novice salsa dancers or plus-size burlesqueteers looking for fishnets and character shoes. Unlike the competitive world of dance studios, this retail shop is friendly and open to anyone who likes to move.

659 Mission, SF. (415) 882-7087; 5900 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3608,



We weren’t sure it could get any better — or weirder — than Paxton Gate, that Mission District palace of science, nature, and dead things. But then the owner, whose first trade was landscape architecture, opened up Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids down the street, and lo and behold, ever more awesomeness was achieved. Keeping the original store’s naturalist vibe but leaving behind some of its adults-only potential creepiness, this shop focuses on educational toys, vintage games, art supplies, and an eclectic selection of books sure to delight the twisted child in all of us. From handblown marbles to wooden puzzles, agate keychains to stop-motion booklets, and Lucite insects to Charlie Chaplin paper doll kits, everything here seems to be made for shorties from another time — an arguably better one, when kids rooted around in the dirt and made up rules for imaginary games and didn’t wear G-string underwear.

766 Valencia, SF. (415) 252-9990, www.paxtongate.com


San Francisco sure does love its trunk shows: all those funky people hawking their one-of-a-kind wares at one-of-a-kind prices. The only problem? Shows happen intermittently (though with increasing frequency in the pre-<\d>Burning Man frenzy). Lucky for us, Miranda Caroligne — the goddess who makes magic with fabric scraps and a surger — co-founded Trunk, an eclectic indie designer showcase with a permanent address. The Lower Haight shop not only features creative dresses, hoodies, jewelry, and menswear by a number of artists, but also functions as an official California Cooperative Corporation, managed and run by all its 23 members. That means when you purchase your Kayo Anime one-piece, Ghetto Goldilocks vest, or Lucid Dawn corset, you’re supporting an independent business and the independent local artists who call it home.

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


Skate culture has come a long way since its early surfer punk days. Now what used to be its own subculture encompasses a whole spectrum of subs, including dreadheaded, jah-lovin’, reggae pumpin’ riders. And Culture Skate is just the store for those who lean more toward Bob Marley than Jello Biafra. The Rasta-colored Mission shop features bamboo skate boards, hemp clothing, glass pipes, a whole slew of products by companies such as Creation and Satori, and vinyl records spanning genres like ska, reggaeton, dub, and, of course, good old reggae. Stop by to catch a glimpse of local pros — such as Ron Allen, Matt Pailes, and Karl Watson. But don’t think you have to be a skater to shop here: plenty of people stop by simply for the environmentally-friendly duds made with irie style.

214 Valencia, SF. (415) 437-4758, www.cultureskate.com



Best of the Bay 2009: Arts and Nightlife




Editors Picks: Arts and Nightlife


A gut-spewing zombie drag queen roller derby in honor of Evil Dead 2. An interview with The Exorcist‘s Linda Blair preceded by a rap number that includes the line, "I don’t care if they suck their mother’s cock, as long as they line up around the block!" A virtual wig-pulling catfight with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. All this and more have graced the proscenium of the Bridge Theater as part of the jaw-dropping (literally) Midnight Mass summertime B-movie fun series, brought to us by the always perfectly horrific Peaches Christ. Her wigs alone are usually enough to scare the jellybean-bejeezus out of us, but Peaches combines live craziness with wince-worthy flicks to take everything over the top. After this, her 12th season of disembowelled joy, Peaches is moving on from Midnight Mass to become a director in her own right — she just wrapped up filming All About Evil with Natasha Lyonne and a cast of local fleshbots. Look for it in your googleplex soon, and know that Peaches still stumbles among us.



Kids, really, don’t try this at home. Don’t hook up your two-player Dance Dance Revolution game to a row of flamethrowers. Don’t rig said game to blast your dance competitior with a faceful of fire in front of an adoring crowd if they miss a step. Don’t invest in enough propane to fuel a small jet, a flaming movie screen for projecting all those awkward dance moves onto, and a booming sound system to play all the Japanese bubblegum techno you could ever hope to hear. Leave the setup to Interpretive Arson, whose Dance Dance Immolation game has wowed participants and spectators alike from Black Rock City to Oaktown — and will scorch Denmark’s footsies this fall. Do, however, seek out these intrepid firestarters, and don a giant silver fireproof suit with a Robby the Robot hood. Do the hippie shake to the mellifluous tones of Fatboy Slim and Smile.dk, and prepare yourself to get flamed, both figuratively and literally.



Penguins are damn funny when you’re drunk. They’re pretty entertaining animals to begin with, but after a couple martinis those little bastards bring better slapstick than Will Ferrell or Jack Black. But tipsily peeping innocent flightless birds — plus bats, butterflies, sea turtles, and manta rays — is just one of many reasons to attend Nightlife, the stunningly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences’ weekly Thursday evening affair. This outrageously popular (get there early) and ingenious party pairs gonzo lineups of internationally renowned DJs and live bands with intellectual talks by some of the world’s best-known natural scientists. Cocktails are served, the floor is packed, intellects are high — and where else can you order cosmos before visiting the planetarium? Another perk: the cost of admission, which includes most of the academy’s exhibits, is less than half the regular price, although you must be 21 or older to attend. Come for the inebriated entertainment, stay for the personal enrichment.

Thursdays, 6 p.m., $8-<\d>$10. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife


Retain a fond nostalgia for the 1990s swing revival scene? Swing Goth is the event you’ve been waiting for. Not quite swing and not even remotely goth, Swing Goth gives swing enthusiasts the go-ahead to boogie-woogie to modern tunes at El Rio. This isn’t your grandmother’s fox trot: rock, rap, ’80s, alternative, Madchester, Gypsy punk, and almost anything else gets swung. Held on the first and third Tuesday of each month and tailored for beginners, this event draws an eclectic crowd that includes dudes who call themselves "hep cats," Mission hipsters, and folks who rock unironic mom jeans and Reebok trainers. If you’re new to swing, arrive at 7:30 and take a one-hour group lesson with ringleader Brian Gardner, who orchestrates the event, to get a quick introduction to swing basics before the free dance. Lessons are $5, but no extra charge for ogling the cute dykes who call El Rio their local watering hole. Swing? Schwing!

First and third Tuesdays, 7 p.m., free. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.swinggoth.com


Who can take a sunburst of boomer rock inspirations — like The Notorious Byrd Brothers–<\d>era Byrds and Meddle-some Pink Floyd — sprinkle it with dew, and cover it with chocolaty nouveau-hippie-hipster blues-rock and a miracle or two? The fresh-eyed, positive-minded folks of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound can, ’cause they mix it with love and make a world many believed had grown hack and stale taste good. Riding a wave of local ensembles with a hankering for classic rock, hard-edged Cali psych, Japanese noise, and wild-eyed film scores, the San Francisco band is the latest to make the city safe once more for musical adventurers with open minds and big ears. What’s more, the Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound’s inspired new third album, When Sweet Sleep Returned (Tee Pee) — recorded with help from Tim Green at Louder Studios — has fielded much press praise for space-traveling fuzzbox boogie blowouts like "Drunken Leaves" and blissed-out, sitar-touched jangle rambles such as "Kolob Canyon." Consider your mind burst.



You can’t miss him. He has legs like tree trunks and arm muscles that ripple like lava. When he leaps you think he’ll never come down, and his turns suggest the power of a hurricane. He is dancer Ramón Ramos Alayo, Six years ago he founded the CubaCaribe Festival that now packs in dance aficionados of all stripes, and he’s one of the shaping forces behind the wild San Francisco Carnaval celebration. He runs Alayo Dance Company, for which he choreographs contemporary works with Afro-Cuban roots, and he teaches all over the Bay Area — as many as 60 people show up for his Friday salsa classes at Dance Mission Theater. But Ramos is most strikingly unique as a performer. Ramos is as comfortable embodying Oshoshi, the forest hunter in the Yoruba mythology, as he is taking on "Grace Notes," a jazz improvisation with bassist Jeff Chambers. No wonder Bay Area choreographers as radically different as Joanna Haigood, Sara Shelton Mann, and Robert Moses have wanted to work with him.



Toshio Hirano packs a mean sucker punch. At first glance he’s a wonderfully eccentric Bay Area novelty, a yodeling Japanese cowboy playing native songs of the American heartland. Yet upon further inspection, it becomes as clear as the skies of Kentucky that Toshio is the real deal when it comes to getting deep into the Mississippi muck of Jimmie Rodgers-<\d>style bluegrass. Enchanted by the sound of American folk music as a Japanese college student, Toshio soon ventured stateside to spend years traveling and playing from Georgia to Nashville to Austin before finally settling in the Bay Area. Today, Toshio plays once a month at Amnesia’s free Bluegrass Mondays to standing-room-only crowds. Stay awhile to hear him play Hank Williams’s "Ramblin’ Man" or Rodgers’s "Blue Yodel No. 1(T for Texas)." It’ll clear that Toshio’s novelty is merely a hook — his true appeal lies in his ability to show that there’s a cowboy lurking inside all of us.



A collective howl went up in 1995 when it was announced that the annual festival Black Choreographers: Moving into the 21st Century at Theater Artaud was ending due in part to lack of funding. But two East Bay dancers, Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes, actually did something about it, working to ensure that African-American dancers and dance-makers received attention for the range and spirit of their work. It took 10 years, but in 2005, Ellis and Kimbrough Barnes helped launch Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now, which takes place every February in San Francisco and Oakland. The three-week event is a fabulous way for a community to celebrate itself and to invite everyone to the party. While the choreographers’ range of talent and imagination has been impressive — and getting better every year — the performances are merely the icing on the cake. Master classes, mentoring opportunites for emerging artists, and a technical theater-training program for local high school and college students are building a dance infrastructure the next generation can plug into.



San Francisco can always use another all-female band — and Grass Widow satisfies that need beautifully, cackling with brisk, madcap rhythms and rolling out a happy, crazy quilt of dissonant wails. Drummer-vocalist Lillian Maring, guitarist-vocalist Raven Mahon, and bassist-vocalist Hannah Lew are punk as fuck, of course — in the classic, pre-pre-packaged noncodified mode — though many will instead compare the trio’s inspired, decentered pop to dyed-in-the-bluestockings lo-fi riot grrrl. Still, there’s a highly conscious intensity to Grass Widow’s questioning of the digital givens that dominate life in the late ’00s, as they sing wistfully then rage raggedly amid accelerating rhythms and a roughly tumbling guitar line on "Green Screen," from their self-titled debut on Make a Mess: "Flying low into trees. We exist on the screen. Computer can you hear me? Understand more than 1s and 0s?" Grass Widow may sweetly entreat the listener, "Don’t make a scene," but if we’re lucky, these ladies will kick off a new generation of estrogen-enhanced music-making.



Karaoke is one of those silly-but-fun nightlife activities that always has the potential to be awesome but usually isn’t. The song lists at most karaoke bars suck, the sound systems are underwhelming, and no matter where you go there’s always some asshole bumming everyone out with painful renditions of Neil Diamond tearjerkers. Well, not anymore! Steve Hays, a.k.a. DJ Purple, is a karaoke DJ — or KJ — who has single-handedly turned the Bay Area’s once tired sing-along scene into a mother funkin’ party y’all. DJ Purple’s Karaoke Dance Party happens every Thursday night at Jack’s Club. Forget the sloppy drunks half-assing their way through Aerosmith and Beyoncé songs. DJ Purple’s Karaoke Dance Party is all about Iron Maiden, Snoop Dogg, Led Zeppelin, and Riskay. No slow songs allowed. An actual experienced DJ, Hays keeps the beats running smooth, fading and blending as each person stumbles onstage, and even stepping in for saxophone solos and backup vocals when a song calls for it. And sometimes even when it doesn’t.

Thursdays, 9 p.m., free. Jack’s Club, 2545 24th St., SF. (415) 641-5371, www.djpurple.com


In this age of continual retro, it comes as a surprise that listening to mainstream ’90s alternative rock can give you, under the right inebriated circumstances, the kind of pleasure not experienced since heroin went out of vogue. Debaser at the Knockout has become one of the best monthly parties in San Francisco, largely because it gives ’80s babies, who were stuck playing Oregon Trail in computer class while Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland were rocking it out in Portland, the chance to live out their Nirvana-era dreams. Debaser promoter Jamie Jams is the only DJ in San Francisco who will spin the Cranberries after a Pavement song, and his inspired mixology is empirically proven to induce moshing en masse until last call, an enticingly dangerous sport now that lead-footed Doc Martens are back in style. Sporting flannel gets you comped, so for those still hung up over Jordan Catalano and the way he leans, Debaser is rife with contemporary, albeit less angsty, equivalents.

First Saturdays, 9 p.m., Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994, www.myspace.com/debaser90s


The shaky economy’s probably put your $60 concert plans on hold and relegated those high-rolling VIP nights to the back burner. So it’s a great time to return to the simpler forms of social interaction, such as shaking some dice and screaming, "Yahtzee, bitches!" or guffawing maniacally every time some poor fool attempts to pass your two hotels on Boardwalk. Fortunately, game night at On the Corner café on Divisadero fills your staid Wednesday evenings with enough card-shuffling, Pop-o-matic popping, I-want-to-be-the-thimble classics to sink your battleship blues. Plus, there’s coffee and beer. Working in collusion with the colossal collection of neighboring Gamescape, On the Corner provides a plethora of gaming options to fit its large tables and vibrant atmosphere. Stratego, Scattergories, and other trivial pursuits are all available, and the 7 p.m.-<\d>to-<\d>closing happy hour includes $2.50 draft beers and sangria specials. The tables fill up quickly, though — arrive early so you won’t be sorry.

Wednesdays, 7–10 p.m., free. 359 Divisadero, SF. (415) 522-1101, www.sfcorner.com


Perfect moments are never the ones you work hard to create. Too much effort kills the magic. Instead, the moments we treasure are those that steal up on us, slipping past our defenses to reveal, for just an instant, the sublime wonder of the universe. This is precisely what happens during one’s first encounter with the Lexington Street disco ball, innocuously spinning its multifaceted heart out on a quiet neighborly block in the heart of the Mission District. One moment you’re just walking down the street minding your own business — perhaps rehashing the "should have saids" or the "could have beens" in the muddled disquiet of your mind — when suddenly you spot it, the incongruously located disco ball suspended from a low-hanging branch, throwing a carpet of stars across the sidewalk for anyone to enjoy. All is still, but the music in your heart will lead you. Hold your hands in the air, walk into the light, and dance.

Lexington between 20th and 21st streets, SF


Amandeep Jawa’s bright blue, sound-rigged party-cycle — Trikeasaurus — is our bestest Critical Mass compadre and bike lane buddy, and an essential component of his impromptu FlashDance parties. This three-wheelin’, free-wheelin’, pedal-and-battery-powered funk machine has been bringing the party to the people — and leading spontaneous Michael Jackson tributes — from the Embarcadero to the Broadway tunnel for the past two years. Even if you’re just out for a stroll or a bit of that ephemeral San Francisco "sun"-bathing, when Trikeasaurus comes rolling along you just have to boogie on down the road, bust a move, get your groove thing on, let your freak flag fly, and insert ecstatic cliché here. We can pretend all we want in the privacy of our own hip sancta sanctorum that Destiny’s Child or OutKast will never move us, but somehow when Trikeasaurus comes bumping by, we just can’t help but bump right back. Don’t fight the feeling! Join the 500-watt, 150-decibel velolution today.



If you’ve done ketamine, you know what it’s like to get lost in the cosmic K-hole. To those who have entered the mystical D-hole, however, your ketamine story is child’s play. The Donuts dance party, thrown at various times and locations throughout the year by DJ Pickpocket and visual artist AC, provides adventurous club-goers with that most delicious of drugs: donuts, given away free. First timers, be careful: these potent little sugar bombs are highly addictive and can often lead to an all-night binge of ecstatic power-boogie, which can result in terrible withdrawal symptoms. Like many other popular club drugs, donuts are offered in powdered form, though they can also be glazed, which leaves no tell-tale residue around the mouth. But as long as you indulge responsibly, entering the Hole of the Donut is perfectly safe. Amp up your experience to fever-pitch perfection with Donuts’ pulse-pumping Krautrock, new wave, retro disco, and dance punk live acts and beats.



If there’s one thing all Slovenians have in common, it’s that they know how to deck a muthafunkin’ hall, y’all. It stands to reason then that Slovenians run one of the biggest and best halls in town. The Slovenian Hall in Potrero Hill is available for all your partying needs — birthdays, anniversary bashes, coming-out fests, etc. The rooms inside the hall are spacious and clean, the kitchen and bar spaces are outfitted to serve an entire army, and there are plenty of tables and chairs. But it’s the decor that makes this place unique: Soviet-era and vintage tourism advertisements are sprinkled throughout the place and banners promoting Slovenian pride hang from the ceiling. The hall also hosts live music events — recently an Argentine tango troupe took up residence there, making things border-fuzzingly interesting, to say the least.

2101 Mariposa, SF. (415) 864-9629


Odds are you’ve not yet heard of East Bay teen hip-hop talent Yung Nittlz — but one day soon you will. The ambitious, gifted Berkeley High student has already amassed five albums worth of smooth and funky material that he wrote, produced, and rapped and sang on. In August 2007, when he was just 13, the rapper born Nyles Roberson scored media attention when Showtime at the Apollo auditions came to town and he was spotted very first in line, having camped out the night before. And while Yung Nittlz wasn’t among the lucky final few to be picked, he did make a lasting impression on the judges with his strong performance of the song "Money in the Air" and choreography that included him strategically tossing custom-made promo dollars that he designed and made. The gifted artist also designed the professional-looking cover for his latest demo CD, which suggests fans should request the hit-sounding "Feelin’ U" on KMEL 106 FM. Stay tuned. You’ll likely be hearing it soon.



The crappy economy has ruined many things. It’s the reason both the Parkway and the Cerrito Speakeasy theaters — where you could openly drink a beer you’d actually purchased at the concession stand, not smuggled in under your sweatshirt — closed their doors this year. But even a bummer cash crunch can’t dampen a true cult movie fan’s love of all things B. Deprived of a permanent venue for his long-running "Thrillville," programmer and host Will "The Thrill" Viharo adjusted his fez, brushed off his velvet lapels, and started booking his popular film ‘n’ cabaret extravaganzas at other Bay Area movie houses, including the 4-Star and the Balboa in San Francisco, and San Jose’s Camera 3. Fear not, devotees of film noir, tiki culture, the swingin’ ’60s, big-haired babes, Aztec mummies, William Shatner, the Rat Pack, Elvis, creature features, Japanese monsters, and zombies — the Thrill ain’t never gonna be gone.



Much like travel agents, beepers, and modesty, pinball machines are slowly becoming relics of the past. But it’s difficult to understand why these quarter-fed games would fall by the wayside, since they’re especially fun in a bar atmosphere. What else is there to do besides stare at your drink, hopelessly chat up the bartender, constantly check your phone, and try to catch that one cute patron’s eye. At the Castro’s Moby Dick, pinball saves you from such doldrums. Sure, the place has the requisite video screens blaring Snap! and Cathy Dennis chestnuts, and plenty of hunky drunkies to serve as distractions. But its quarter-action collection — unfortunately whittled down to three machines, ever since Theater of Magic was retired due to the difficulty of finding replacement parts — is a delightful retro rarity in this gay day and age. So tilt not, World Cup Soccer, Addams Family, and Attack from Mars fans. There’s still a queer home for your lightning-quick flipping.

4049 18th St., SF. www.mobydicksf.com


Founded in 2002, the many-membered Brass Liberation Orchestra has been blowing their horns for social justice all over the Bay Area — from the San Francisco May Day March and Oakland rallies for Oscar Grant, to protests against city budget cuts and jam sessions at the 16th Street BART station. Trombones out and bass drums at the ready, this tight-knit organization of funky folk recently returned from New Orleans, where they played to support community rebuilding projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. With a membership as diverse as they come, the BLO toots their horns specifically to "support political causes with particular emphasis on peace, and racial and social justice" — especially concerning immigrants’ rights and anti-gentrification issues. But the most joyful part of their practice is the spontaneous street parties they engender wherever they pop up, and their seemingly impromptu romps through neighborhoods and street festivals. Viva la tuba-lution!



Is your idea of hell being trapped in a room with a white, collegiate, spoken-word "artist" — or worse yet, being forced to wear an Ed Hardy t-shirt? Are you a veteran of the 30 Stockton and the 38 Geary, with the wounds and the stories to prove it? Can you just not help but stare at someone who somehow can’t resist an act of street corner masturbation? Then you’re ready to lend an ear to Ali Wong, the funniest comedian to stomp onto a San Francisco stage in a long time. Some people get offended by Wong, which is one reason she’s funny — comedy isn’t about making friends, and she’s not sentimental. She draws on her family history and writing and performing experience in implicit rather than overt ways while remaining as blunt as your funniest friend on a bender.



Take a picture, it’ll last longer. Especially if you take it to — or even at — RayKo Photo Center, a large SoMA space that boasts a studio, a shop stocked with new and used cameras, a variety of black-and-white and color darkrooms, a digital imaging lab (with discount last-Friday-of-the-month nighttime hours), and classes where one can learn the latest digital skills as well as older and arcane processes such as Ambrotype (glass plate) and Tintype (metal plate) image-making. Devoted in part to local photographers, RayKo’s gallery has showcased Bill Daniel’s panoramic yet raw shots of a post-Katrina Louisiana and has likely influenced a new generation of shutterbugs affiliated with groups and sites like Cutter Photozine and Photo Epicenter. One of its coolest and truly one-of-a-kind features is the Art*O*Mat Vending Machine, an old ciggie vendor converted into a $5-a-piece art dispenser. And of course RayKo has an old photo booth, so you can take some quick candid snapshots with or without a honey.

428 Third St., SF. (415) 495-3773, www.raykophoto.com


The great myth about cab drivers is that they’re a bunch of underappreciated geniuses who write poetry and paint masterpieces when they’re not busy shuttling drunks around. Most cabbies, however, aren’t Picassos with pine-scent air fresheners. They clock in and out just like we all do, and then they go home and watch reality TV. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule: true artists who have deliberately chosen the cabbie lifestyle because it allows them the freedom to pursue their passions on the side. MC Mars is such a cabbie. A 20-year veteran on the taxi scene, Mars is also a hip-hop performer, a published author, and an HIV activist. You can check his flow every Wednesday night at the Royale’s open-mic sessions. Or, if you’re lucky enough to hail his DeSoto, you can get a free backseat show on weekends. And don’t forget to pick up his latest CD, "Letz Cabalaborate," available on Mars’ Web site.



The Bay Area knows poetry. And people in the Bay Area who know poetry today realize that the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the Language poets, and even the New Brutalists might inspire contemporary writers, but they don’t own them. You can encounter proof in places like Books and Bookshelves, and read it in publications like Try. As the Bay Area Poetics anthology edited by Stephanie Young made clear in 2006, Bay Area verse is enormous and ever-changing. One year earlier, David Larsen established a space for it in Oakland with his New Yipes Reading Series, which frequently paired poets with filmmakers. He’s since moved to the East Coast, but Ali Warren and Brandon Brown re-energized the concept, simplifying its name to The New Reading Series and refining its content to readings with musical interludes. It’s the best place around to hear Tan Lin and Ariana Reines and confront notions of the self through Heath Ledger. It’s also hosted a kissing booth, for all you wordsmiths who aren’t above romantic trappings.

416 25th St., Oakl. www.newyipes.blogspot.com


For 15 years, the much-loved and lovable warm weather Sunset parties have shaken various hills, isles, parks, patios, and boats with funky, techy house sounds. Launched by underground hero DJ Galen in 1994, the outdoor Sunset gigs have amassed a huge following of excited party newbies and familiar old-school ravers — and now even their kids. Early on in the game, Galen was soon joined by fellow Bay favorite DJs Solar and J-Bird, and the three — collectively known as Pacific Sound — have kept the vibe strong ever since. This year saw a remarkable expansion on the Sunset fan base: attendance at the season opener at Stafford Lake reached almost 4,000, and Pacific Sound just launched an annual — and truly moving — party on Treasure Island that had multiple generations putting their hands in the air. The recent Sunset Campout in Belden drew hundreds for an all-weekend romp with some of the biggest names in electronic music — true fresh air freshness.


According to murky local legend, sometime in the early ’90s a Finnish archaeologist named Mr. Floppy passed through Oakland on a quest to find an inverted pyramid rumored to hold the secret to eternal life. He didn’t find anything like that, of course, but he did discover a really cool apartment complex run by an obsessive builder named George Rowan. The sprawling place, which housed multiple dwelling units as well as an outdoor dance area and an out-of-use bordello and saloon famously frequented by Jack London in the 1800s, was an interconnected maze of rooms decorated with found objects and outsider art. It was a perfect spot to throw underground raves, which is exactly what Floppy and Rowan did until the day they got slapped with a fire-hazard citation. Nobody really knows what happened to the psychedelic archaeologist after that, although his spirit lives on: Mr. Floppy’s Flophouse has recently re-opened as a venue for noise shows, freaky circuses, and all-night moonlit orgies.
1247 E. 12th St., Oakl



Best of the Bay 2009: Classics




Editors Picks: Classics


Hey, are you gonna eat that? If the answer is "no," and you have a commercial kitchen of any kind, call Food Runners, the nonprofit associated with Tante Marie’s Cooking School and its matriarch at the helm, Mary Risley. The volunteer-powered organization picks up leftovers from caterers, delis, festival vendors, hotels, farmers markets, cafeterias, restaurants, and elsewhere, and delivers still-fresh edibles to about 300 soup kitchens and homeless shelters. For more than 30 years, everything from fresh and frozen foods such as produce, meat, and dairy, to uneaten boxed lunches and trays of salads and hot food, to pantry staples ordered overzealously and nearing expiration has been saved from the compost heap and delivered to those who could use a free meal or some gratis groceries. The result has yielded untold thousands of meals and a complete cycle that reduces food waste, feeds the hungry, and preserves resources all around.

(415) 929-1866, www.foodrunners.org


Remember those freaky goth kids your church leaders warned you against in high school? The ones who wore black lipstick, shaved off all their eyebrows, and worshipped Darkness? Well, they grew up, moved to San Francisco, and got really effin’ hot. If you don’t believe it, head to the comfortingly named Death Guild party at DNA Lounge. Every Monday night, San Francisco’s sexiest goths (and baby goths — this party is 18+) climb out of their coffins and don their snazziest black vinyl bondage pants for this beastly bacchanal, which has decorated our nightlife with leather corsets and studded belts since 1992. And even if you dress more like Humbert Humbert than Gothic Lolita, the Guild’s resident DJs will have you industrial-grinding to Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Bauhaus, Throbbing Gristle, and Ministry. Death Guild’s Web site advises: "Bring a dead stiff squirrel and get in free." Free for you, maybe, but not for the squirrel.

Mondays, 9:30 p.m., $5. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409. www.deathguild.com


A completely adorable acting troupe made up of schoolteachers and schoolteacher look-alikes, the Children’s Theatre Association of San Francisco — a cooperative project of the Junior League of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Education, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet companies — has been stomping the boards for 75 years. What the players may lack in Broadway-caliber showmanship, they widely make up for with enthusiasm, handcrafted costumes and sets, and heart. For decades, the troupe has entertained thousands of public school students during its seasonal run every January and February at the Florence Gould Theater in the Palace of Legion of Honor. This year’s production was a zany take on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which included a wisecracking mirror and rousing original songs. We applaud the CTASF’s bravery for taking on some of the toughest critics in the business — those who will squirm and squawk if the show can’t hold their eye.



We’re not sure if you can get a lube job at Kahn and Keville Tire and Auto Service, located on the moderately sketchy corner of Turk and Larkin. And if you can, we can’t vouch for the overall quality, or relative price point of the procedure. But the main reason we can’t say is also why we love the place so much. Instead of sensibly using the giant Kahn and Keville marquee to advertise its sales and services, the 97-year-old business has been using it since 1959 to educate the community with an array of quotations culled from authors as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gore Vidal — plus occasional shout-outs to groups it admires, such as the Quakers during their peace vigils a block away. Originally collected by founder Hugh Keville, the quotes range in tone from the political to the inspirational and tongue-in-cheek, and the eye-catching marquee was once described by Herb Caen as the city’s "biggest fortune cookie."

500 Turk, SF. (415) 673-0200, www.kk1912.com


The cozy Molinari Delicatessen in North Beach has been in business since 1896, just enough time to figure out that the secret to a really kick-ass sandwich is keeping it simple — but not too simple. The little piece of heaven known as the Molinari Special starts with tasty scraps, all the odds and ends of salamis, hams, and mortadella left over from the less adventurous sandwiches ordered by the customers who came before you. The cheese of your choice comes next, topped generously with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, roasted red peppers, and even pepperoncini, if you ask nicely. As for bread: we’re partial to Dutch crunch, but rosemary, soft white, and seeded rolls are available. Ecco panino: you get a sandwich approximately as big as a baby’s head — for only $6.25. It’s never quite the same item twice, but always sublime.

Molinari Delicatessan, 373 Columbus, SF. (415) 421-2337


Most clothes turn to garbage over time — but there are a few notable exceptions, timeless garments that actually gain value after being used up, tossed aside, and then rediscovered. Leather jackets are like that, so are cowgirl dresses and butt rock T-shirts. But none of that stuff maintains its integrity, or becomes more appealing when salvaged, like a great pair of jeans. And there’s no place more in tune with this concept than the Bay Area. Why? Well, it’s easy to say that we lead the thrifting pack simply because denim apparel was born here, but the truth is that we wouldn’t be anywhere without Berkeley’s denim guru, Carla Bell, who’s been reselling Levi’s and other denim products for 30 years. What began as a side project in Bell’s garage has grown into a palace of fine thrifting: Slash Denim the first and last stop when it comes to pre-worn pants and other new and used articles of awesome.

2840 College, Berk. (510) 841-7803, www.slashdenim.com


When you think about baseball and food, hot dogs inevitably come to mind, but that’s just because marketers have been pumping them at stadiums for decades. Real baseball fans can see through the bull. Sure, they might shove a wiener in their mouth every now and again out of respect for tradition. But when a true fan gets hungry, she or he wants real food, not mystery meat. Baseball-themed restaurant and bar Double Play — which sits across from the former site of Seals Stadium and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year — makes a point of thinking outside the bun. D.P.’s menu features everything from pancakes and burritos to seafood fettuccine and steak, with nary a dog in sight. Otherwise, the place is as hardcore balling as it gets. Ancient memorabilia decks the walls, television sets hang from the ceiling, and the backroom contains a huge mural depicting a Seals versus Oakland Oaks game — you can eat lunch on home plate.

2401 16th St., SF. (415) 621-9859


Most small businesses fail within the first year of operation, so you know if a spot’s been around a while it must be doing something right. For Schubert’s Bakery that something is cakes and they’ve been doing them for almost 100 years. To say they’re the best, then, is a bit of an understatement. When you purchase a cake from the sweet staff at Schubert’s, what you’re really getting is 98 years’ worth of cake-making wisdom brought to life with eggs, sugar, flour, and some good old S.F. magic. Schubert’s doesn’t stop with cakes — no way. There are cherry and apple tarts, pies, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, croissants, puff pastries, scones, muffins, and more. If it’s sinfully delicious, Schubert’s has your back. Just be careful not to peruse their menu in the aftermath of a breakup or following the loss of a job. Schubert’s may seem nice and sugary on the outside, but it gets a sick thrill out of sticking you where it hurts: your gut.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580, www.schuberts-bakery.com


If you compete in a category where you’re the only contestant, does it still matter if you win? In the case of the Xanadu Gallery building, yes, it does. The building that houses the gallery is Frank Lloyd Wright’s only work in San Francisco and provides a fascinating glimpse of him evolving into a legendary architect. The structure’s most prominent feature is the spiral ramp connecting its two floors, a surprisingly organic structure that reminds viewers of the cochlear rotunda of a seashell and presages Wright’s famous design for New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Visitors are delighted and surprised upon entering the Maiden Lane building, as a rather small and cramped walkway into the gallery expands into an airy, sun-filled dome: the effect is like walking out from a dark tunnel into a puff of light. The Xanadu Gallery itself features an extensive collection of international antiquities, which perfectly complements this ambitious yet classic gem.

140 Maiden Lane, SF. (415) 392-9999, www.xanadugallery.us


As the poor departed King of Pop would say, "Just beat it" — to ultimate Beat hangout Caffe Trieste in North beach, that is. And while Pepsi was the caffeinated beverage that set Michael Jackson aflame, we’re hot for Trieste’s lovingly created coffee drinks. Founded in 1956 by Giovanni "Papa Gianni" Giotta, who had recently moved here from Italy, Trieste was the first place in our then low-energy burg to offer espresso, fueling many a late night poetry session, snaps and bongos included. Still a favored haunt of artists and writers, Trieste — which claims to be the oldest coffeehouse in San Francisco — augments the strident personal dramas of its Beat ghosts with generous helpings of live opera, jazz, and Italian folk music. You may even catch a member of the lively Giotta family crooning at the mic, or pumping a flashy accordion as part of Trieste’s long-running Thursday night or Saturday afternoon concert series. Trieste just opened a satellite café in the mid-Market Street area, which could use a tasty artistic renaissance of its own.

601 Vallejo, SF. (415) 392-6739; 1667 Market, SF. (415) 551-1000, www.caffetrieste.com


We’re fans of the entire range of incredible dance offerings in the Bay, from new and struggling companies to the older, more established ones (which are also perpetually struggling.) But we’ve got to give tutu thumbs up to the San Francisco Ballet for making it for 76 years and still inspiring the city to get up on its toes and applaud. Those who think the SF Ballet is hopelessly encrusted in fustiness have overlooked its contemporary choreography programs as well as its outreach to the young and queer via its Nite Out! events. For those who complain about the price of tickets, check out the ballet’s free performance at Stern Grove Aug. 16. This year the company brought down the house when it performed Balanchine’s "Jewels" (a repertory mainstay) in New York. We also have to give it up for one of the most important (yet taken for granted) element of the ballet’s productions: the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, which provides the entrancing accompaniment to the oldest ballet company in America.



If the Spinsters of San Francisco have anything to say about it, spinsterhood isn’t the realm of old women who cultivate cat tribes and emit billows of dust when they sneeze. Instead it’s all about stylish young girls who throw sparkling galas, plan happy hours, organize potlucks, and do everything in their power to have a grand ol’ time in the name of charitable good. Founded alongside the Bachelors of San Francisco, the Spinsters first meeting was held in 1929. In the eight decades that followed, the Spinsters evolved into a philanthropic nonprofit that supports aid organizations and channels funds back to the community. Specifications for prospective spinsters are quite rigorous: applicants must be college-educated, unmarried, and somewhere in the prized age bracket of 21 to 35. At the end of the year, members decide by ballot vote to heap their wealth and plenty into the coffers of a single chosen charity. Past recipients include City of Dreams, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and the Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf.



Situated on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Scottish Rite Center boasts hand-carved ceilings, grand staircases, and opulent furnishings — hardly the typical ambiance of your average convention center. But if the ornate woodwork isn’t enough to distract you from whatever you came to the center to learn about, its history should: following San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, the East Bay saw a population explosion that quickly outgrew Oakland’s first Masonic temple and led to cornerstone laying ceremonies at this shoreline site in 1927. Today the center’s ballroom, catering facilities, and full-service kitchens — along with an upstairs main auditorium and one of the deepest stages in the East Bay — make it a favorite setting for weddings and seminars. It’s also the perfect place to wonder how many ghosts crawl out of the woodwork at night, and trace the carved wooden petals that decorate the hallways with the tip of a chilly finger.

1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakl. (510) 451-1903, www.scottish-rite.org


For more than seven decades, the name Manis has meant that a jewel of a jewelry store was in the neighborhood. Lou Manis opened Manis Jewelers in l937 at l856 Mission St. Three months after the Kennedy assassination in l963, he moved the store to 258 West Portal Ave. Manis Jewelers is still at this location, still a classic family-owned store with an excellent line of watches and jewelry, and still offers expert watch and clock repair, custom design, and reliable service. Best of all, that service is always provided by a Manis. Lou, now 89, retired six years ago, but his son Steve operates the store and provides service so friendly that people drop by regularly just to chat. Steve’s daughter, Nicole, works in the store on Saturdays, changing batteries in watches and waiting on customers. She was preceded in the store by her two older sisters, Anna and Kathleen, and Steve’s niece and nephew.

258 West Portal Ave., SF. (415) 681-6434

Since 1984, the Holocaust Memorial at the Palace of the Legion of Honor has been a contemplative and sad reminder of one of the biggest genocides in human history. The grouping of sculptures — heart-wrenching painted bronze figures trapped and collapsed behind a barbed-wire fence — sits alongside one of the city’s most breathtaking views and greatest example of European-style architecture. Yet it has never, in our opinion, fully received its due as an important art piece and historical marker. The memorial was designed by George Segal, a highly decorated artist awarded numerous honorary degrees and a National Medal of Honor in 1999. Chances are that many Legion of Honor patrons — plus the myriad brides posed in front of the palace’s pillars for their photo shoot — overlook this stark homage to the six million people exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. But it’s always there as a reminder that as we look to the future, we must remember the past.
100 34th Ave., SF. www.famsf.org/legion



Appetite: Hot pastrami, Little Feat, Omnivore books, Mizuna salad, and more


Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

Nice pastrami! Katz comes to the Great American Food Fest


6/13 – Great American Food & Music Fest at Shoreline (Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Little Feat and food from around the country)
I’m already saving room in my stomach for a rare chance to roam the country in one day of eating! Sure, it’s down at Shoreline Amphitheatre, but this is a fun one, y’all: The Great American Food and Music Fest is a gorge and feed feast featuring sentimental, all-American food favorites, with performances from the likes of Little Feat, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Marshall Crenshaw.

Yes, on the food front, we have some of our best in the mix:
Incanto’s (one of my top restaurants anywhere) chef and offal master, Chris Consentino, prepares homemade hot dogs
– Chuck Siegel, founder of Charles Chocolates, creates chocolate truffles
– June Taylor, of June Taylor Jams, makes her signature strawberry jam
Boulevard’s Nancy Oakes gives us crab cakes
– Bruce Aidells, of Aidells’ Sausages, brings on the pork
A16’s Nate Appleman cooks up a surprise
– Burger Meister and Bouchon Bakery serve their treats
– A “Best of Bay Area” showcase features local cheeses, meats, breads, chocolates, cherries, peaches, tomatoes
– West Coast wine tastings are curated by Best Cellars’ Josh Wesson and Gary Vaynerchuck, host of Wine Library TV

Take a deep breath. That’s just the Bay Area contingency.

None other than Bobby Flay is the event host, preparing his take on American staples: burgers, fries, milkshakes and, hooray, some Mesa Grill specialties, too. He’s judging a Burger Contest (starts at 4:45pm, with judging at 5:30), with SF’s Best Burger competitors being Mo’s, Burger Bistro, BurgerMeister and Pearl’s (like ’em all, but have to admit, I’m rooting for Pearl’s!) Other Food Network stars/guests are Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives), Anne Burrell (Secrets of a Restaurant Chef; Mario Batali’s former chief lieutenant on Iron Chef), and Aida Mollenkamp (Ask Aida).

And, finally, the part I’m probably most excited about is eating from some our nation’s best all-American food joints, especially the ones I’m homesick for from NY (Junior’s cheesecake, here I come!): Katz’s Deli (NY), Pink’s Hot Dogs (LA), Barney Greengrass (NYC), Graeter’s Ice Cream (Cincinnati), Southside Market & Barbecue (Texas), Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY; inventor of Buffalo wings), Junior’s (cheesecake; Brooklyn), Zingerman’s Deli (Michigan), and Tony Luke’s (cheesesteaks; Philadelphia).

Bring the pepto… it’ll be worth it.
June 13, noon-10pm
$35 (including first plate of food); kids under 6 free
For ticket info, visit: www.greatamericanfoodandmusicfest.com

Onmivore Books

6/11 – Nate Appleman, Chris Cosentino, and Traci des Jardins descend on Omnivore Books
I adore Noe Valley’s Omnivore Books – not only is it in my ‘hood and a bright, charming bookstore worthy of lingering, but the selection of new and used books on all things food and drink, from M.F.K. Fisher first editions (!) to Prohibition era cocktail recipe books, make it a rare and exciting place. They keep the calendar full with weekly visits from a "who’s who" in the food world, writers, chefs, sommeliers, brewers and the like. Check out Thursday’s line-up: Nate Appleman (A16; this year’s James Beard Rising Star Chef winner), Chris Cosentino (Incanto, Iron Chef America), and Traci des Jardins (Jardiniere), who’ll discuss the state of restaurants and cooking in our current climate. If you haven’t signed up for Omnivore’s email newsletter, what are you waiting for? You know you want to cram into a cozy bookstore with Alice Waters, Joyce Goldstein, and the aforementioned threesome!
6-7pm, free
3885A Ceasar Chavez Street



Lark Creek Inn re-opens as Tavern at Lark Creek
Larkspur’s shining jewel is Lark Creek Inn, a gorgeous yellow and white 1880’s Victorian where the classic restaurant resided for 20 years. In keeping with the economy, the inn closed some months ago to make way for a more affordable, casual Tavern at Lark Creek, which debuted June 4th. Open nightly, with brunch on Sundays, the new menu has nothing over $15, a kindly move, especially when you’re getting the likes of Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit terrine, Mizuna salad with Medjool dates, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, almonds and rhubarb, or a veggie or beef Tavern burger (for only $7.95, plus add-ons, like Hobbs’ bacon). Bar bites (like Ratatouille stuffed egg) are a mere $2.25-$5.95. As is common these days, beer and wine aren’t the only drinks on the menu. Classic cocktails feature prominently, as do new creations like Tavern Cobbler: Maker’s Mark bourbon, maraschino, simple syrup, strawberries, orange. In a Victorian under giant, soothing trees, it sounds like an idyllic gastropub experience.
234 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur

Arm race


Bionic Commando

(GRIN/Capcom; PC, XBOX 360, PS3)

GAMER Reading faithfully from Hollywood’s remake-happy script, the game industry has learned to cannibalize its history. Bionic Commando is the first in an ever-expanding series of big-budget 8-bit retreads; Splatterhouse (Namco Bandai) is due out later this year, and more are sure to follow.

Bionic Commando slots you into the futuristic combat boots of Nathan Spencer, voiced ably if bombastically by Faith No More’s Mike Patton. Spencer is equipped with a bionic arm, a telescoping grappling hook of a limb that enables him to cling to his surroundings and swing, Tarzan-style, through the game’s various levels. The arm is the game’s defining feature, imbuing an otherwise unremarkable third-person action title with a giddy, kinetic thrill.

Physics-based acrobatics are a passable reason to resurrect a moldering NES franchise, and it’s too bad Swedish developers GRIN couldn’t revamp the production values as well. The game is rated "M," for mature, which means the characters curse like it’s going out of style, but the story is insulting to anyone with intelligence even approaching maturity, when it makes sense at all. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a scientifically-augmented super-soldier is released from prison in exigent circumstances, made hostage by withheld knowledge of his missing wife-slash-daughter-slash-favorite toy, and charged with saving the world by sinister higher-ups who are totally not going to stab him in the back at a crucial moment.

Despite its free-swinging promise, the game’s lushly designed levels are disappointingly linear. Wide-open areas are liberally slathered with "radiation," an ugly blue texture that acts as a wagging finger of disapproval every time you try to go somewhere the level designers didn’t want you to. Swing too high? Death by radiation. Too low? Radiation. Too far to the left? You get the idea.

Also frustrating is a profusion of tepid, gun-based combat, and when you’re not using your arm to throw cars at things, you’re frantically trying to put bullet-shaped holes in the helmeted henchmen of Gottfried Groeder, a cartoon fascist with a German accent that would make Major Toht blush all the way down to the Headpiece of Ra-shaped scar on his palm.

Given these drawbacks, multiplayer proved to be a refreshing pleasure. Radiation-free and adrenaline-heavy, the game’s death matches make you feel like Master Chief crossed with Spider-Man, and the bionic arm provides all sorts of invigorating possibilities. There are possibilities of a sequel too, judging from the post-credits teaser. If someone makes the rounds at GRIN headquarters installing bionic brains, I might be interested.

Going postal



The ins and outs of stamp collecting can strike an outside ear as so much esoteric jabbering about phosphor bands and dandy rolls. But put a price tag on the rarest of finds, "the Holy Grail of philately," and the subject becomes intensely interesting to all — meaning characters and audience alike in the case of Mauritius, Theresa Rebeck’s sharp, tension-filled, and solidly entertaining 2007 caper-play now enjoying an invigorating local premiere at the Magic Theatre under helm of artistic director Loretta Greco.

The play opens as an unassuming but determined young woman named Jackie (a terrific, fierce, yet vulnerable Zoë Winters) enters a somewhat sad-luck collector’s shop — its proud but lonely bookcases, high wooden reading table, and low-cushioned chairs (courtesy of scenic designer James Faerron) helping to project a librarial, if not quite funereal, atmosphere. Dour and feisty middle-aged proprietor Phil (a nicely understated Warren David Keith) is fussily refusing to even glance at the young neophyte’s binder of stamps, an inheritance from her recently deceased mother.

Instead, Dennis (a vital James Wagner), the friendly and self-assured younger man lounging at the back of the room, comes forward to help with an appraisal. Almost immediately we note the change in his demeanor as something catches his eye. He follows the woman home surreptitiously, then contacts a foul-mouthed, vaguely disreputable associate named Sterling (a delightfully dark and deranged Rod Gnapp) whose initial disbelief soon turns to a determination bordering on frenzy.

These hyperarticulate, fast-thinking guy’s guys getting their con on inevitably have one mentally swapping stamps for nickels, being rather reminiscent of Mamet’s American Buffalo. But things soon pull in other directions, or at least elaborate on that model. Dennis and Sterling, with a reluctant Phil in tow, circle around Jackie like slavering wolves, but she’s no easy prey. In the ensuing zigzagging, table-turning plot, we see her unfurl a coiled strength born of years of physical and psychological damage in a familial hell-hole — a fate to which her seemingly more refined and unbearably upright half-sister Mary (Arwen Anderson, in another perfectly pitched turn) abandoned her years before, returning only now after their mother’s death with a prior claim on the stamps via her fraternal grandfather, their original owner.

Rebeck’s control of her themes — including the fraught histories and "errors" that make both the stamps and the people interesting — is strong and sure throughout, and Greco’s direction is firmly paced and generally spot-on. Performances are all intensely focused and captivating. Tension mounts steadily and superbly, and the payoff, to employ caper jargon, is rewarding even down to the smiling, cherry-on-top ending — which might have tasted a tad too sweet in another context but here feels justly earned. Among much else, Mauritius is something of a belated but welcome introduction to an established American playwright too rarely produced in the Bay Area.


Wed/10–-Sat/13, 8 p.m.; Sun/14, 2:30 and 7 p.m., $25–$45

Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF

(415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

India Jones


Small may be beautiful, but so is big — especially if it is spelled "Bolshoi," Russian for big. The Moscow company’s current production, La Bayadère, a tale of love and revenge, is set in an India whose Orientalism will make politically correct viewers shudder but that called up paroxysms of delight from the balletomanes who packed the Bolshoi Ballet’s recent performances at Zellerbach Hall.

As a huge unwieldy spectacle, this Bayadère is a hoot and a wonder. Some of it — the flailing fakirs; the high-leaping "Indians" — could have come straight out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. Everything is huge, from the extensions and leaps to the speed and elevations. The excess is impressive and fun to watch, although the show does drag.

In the wedding scene, divertissements spilled over each other: a fan dance, a children’s dance, a parrot dance, the water jug "Manu" (a sprightly Chinara Alizade), and a "Golden Idol" (Ivan Vasiliev) who sits in the air like Buddha. The packed stage left little room for the royal couple’s pas de deux except to dance in parallel — which they do. For the finale, the bride (Maria Alexandrva) topped off a pyramid of adoring bodies.

This Bayadère is probably the only ballet in which two ballerinas try to kill each other by launching themselves as missiles in grand jeté. The duel between the strong-willed Gamzatti (Alexandrova) and Nikiya (Svetlana Zakharova) injected a much-welcome sense of drama. The man they fight over is Solor (Nikolay Tsiskaridze), an Indian noble. Tsiskaridze is a little self-involved but a spectacular dancer in terms of speed, elevation, and ballon.

With beautiful comportment, Alexandrova’s nuanced Gamzatti evolves from young girl to a revengeful wife. With her arms interwined and her liquid torso, Zakharova’s Nikiya looked like a fragile flame. But there is steel in that spine and those feet. But Bayadère‘s heart beats in the 32 women in tutus who make their way down a ramp in long arabesques. Zellerbach’s stage was too shallow to carry it off, and the overlapping lines didn’t coalesce. But when, as if by magic, they melted into a block of shimmering white, it was heart-stopping.

To Serge, with love


"Some people have their hang-ups about making music on a computer," opines tech house DJ and producer Serge Garcia, a.k.a. Greco Guggenheit. "Then again, some cinematographers during the silent era believed that the introduction of sound to films was fraudulent."

A relatively fresh face in the Bay Area, the 24-year-old Los Angeles native Garcia has more than a few bass monsters he’s itching to unleash. Wielding the Detroit techno scene and its forefathers as his beacon, he compounds elements from minimal house and peak-time techno into one banging track after another.

Garcia spent part of his youth in Mexico City, then Barcelona, where he played a lot of soccer (his "first love," he confesses). His introduction to electronic music began thanks to what he describes as "random CDs with the label ‘Techno/House Music’" that his older sister would mail to him. "Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Kerri Chandler, Derrick May," he incants, when asked about some of the DJs and producers who appeared on these CDs. "Basically, dance music that came out of Detroit and its surrounding areas in the 1980s and early ’90s."

In the last year, Garcia has split his time between San Francisco, Stockholm, and Berlin. He plans to make Berlin his home base later this summer, citing record label interest in and around Germany and an aversion to SF’s 2 a.m. curtain calls as motives for his move. "After visiting Berlin and experiencing places like Panorama Bar, Cookies Club, and Watergate, I remember coming home and feeling very alive and creative," he explains. "Here in the states, electronic music isn’t part of mainstream culture [the way] it is in many parts of Europe."


With Buttercream Gang, Magnanimous

Wed/10, 9 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


Domestic disturbance



Equal parts Antonio Gramsci and Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Dillinger is Dead (1969) is cultural critique masquerading as a one-man show. Michel Piccoli plays Glauco, with his forehead mostly: the fleeting pleasures of food and gadgetry are registered in satisfied wrinkles, though the slack glaze of boredom is never far off. The film opens with Glauco touring a factory using a gas mask of his design. In case we somehow miss this as a marker of alienation, the factory guide waxes Society of the Spectacle: "The introjections of these obsessive, hallucinatory needs do not produce an adaptation to reality, but mimesis, standardization: the cancellation of individuality."

Subtly may not be Italian auteur Marco Ferreri’s strong suit, but he achieves a weirdly frantic stasis once Dillinger settles in to Glauco’s chintzy bourgeois palace, a masterpiece of set design. Glauco tucks in his lolling girlfriend (Rolling Stones ingénue Anita Pallenberg, mostly naked here), snivels at the meal she’s left him and gets to cooking. Looking for something in the closet, he finds an old gun wrapped in a newspaper covering John Dillinger’s death. The film’s unforthcoming slowness reaches its apotheosis as he painstakingly cleans the revolver, keeping a close eye on the sauce.

Not satiated by his feast for one (Ferreri would later direct 1973’s La Grande Bouffe, a film about four men eating themselves to death), Glauco licks honey off the maid’s bare back, gives his firearm a Pop Art makeover, and finally endeavors to see if it still goes bang. Ferreri’s listless deadpan can’t help but pale after countless Coen brothers knockoffs, but Dillinger is saved from obsolescence by its prescient observations of technology’s ascendance in the domestic sphere. Glauco is ever fiddling with a machine, at one point documenting his sleeping wife with a tape recorder (this guy would be a nightmare with an iPhone).

All this mechanical action has a masturbatory quality to it, especially when Glauco watches his Super 8 home movies. He greedily reaches out for the breasts of a woman he’s filmed and tries to swim in a projection of the sea (a significant image given the film’s nautical conclusion). When a halved watermelon broaches sex, viewers may wonder if Tsai Ming-Liang knew of Dillinger before making The Wayward Cloud (2005). This fleshy interlude is the closest thing to life in Ferreri’s film; even murder, it seems, cannot bring these people back from the dead.


Thurs/11–Sat/13, 7:30 p.m.; Sun/14, 2 p.m., $8–$10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

When in roam


Involving no catatonic housewives, no mortally botched abortions, and no luminous pools of blood in the kitchen either, Sam Mendes’ latest film presents a somewhat happier tale of domesticity than 1999’s American Beauty or last year’s Revolutionary Road, if "tale of domesticity" is a fair description for a road movie in which the stated goal is a home.

In Away We Go — from a screenplay by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida — 30-something couple Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) find themselves unexpectedly ditched during Verona’s second trimester by the only set of theoretically adoring grandparents available, Burt’s flakily self-absorbed parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels). Thus unsettled, the two set off in search of a place to provide their child with an "epic," "Huck Finn-y" childhood, as Burt wistfully envisions it. Some parents might quibble with this aim, given Huck’s epic stint as a runaway on a river, but some offspring, even grown ones, might find it pleasurable to imagine their parents dreaming for them a heroic, adventurous youth, rather than the anxious rigors preparatory to an Ivy education and a professional life.

In any case, away they go to visit friends in Phoenix, a sister in Tucson, a cousin in Madison, Wis., and so on — each stopover offering interludes with the film’s excellent ensemble cast and presenting Verona and Burt with various slices of parenting life to digest or spit out. We don’t see much of these places; Away We Go is, until the end, only vaguely concerned with geography, focusing its lens on private scenes even in public places. At a Phoenix dog track, Allison Janney provides hilariously, wildly inappropriate commentary on life with pre-postal husband (Jim Gaffigan) and silently resentful children. In Madison, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton ooze sanctimony as a noxiously evolved couple raising their children via the Continuum school.

During calmer, more sober moments, you may find yourself idly pondering your investment in the drama and domestic arrangements of this financially solvent, utterly in love, ideally suited pair. But the dialogue is clever enough, the protagonists engaging enough to patchily override such cynical thoughts. If you can handle the twee whimsy of a shot in which the itinerant couple’s plane is transformed into a leaping dolphin in the reflection of skyscraper windows, you’re more than halfway home.

AWAY WE GO opens Fri/12 in San Francisco.

The zone



CHEAP EATS I believe it’s called "garbage time." Can’t speak for soccer, but in American football it’s when the team in the lead runs the ball up the middle, again and again. The game is decided. It’s just a matter of letting the clock wind down.

That’s where we were at. In this case, my team, the good guys, had a big lead. The other team, the bad guys, had just scored but it was way too little, way too late, and we were going to win the championship. In 40 years of playing team sports, three different ones, three cities on two coasts and a cornfield, in two pretty different bodies, it would be my first championship. Well, second. My first since I was 11.

I’m 46. Just to give you some idea how great everyone else on my team is. To win it all, with me on your side, takes 35 years!

My team is an old team, the oldest in our league. We don’t have a lot of subs, none for the women, and it was our third game of the day. The other team had played three games too. You have to, in a tournament, if you keep winning. So everyone on the field was in a similar boat. Outcome decided. Garbage time. Tick. Tick.

I thought: if ever I was going to score a goal, now would be the time, while everyone else was sleeping. And as our goalie returned the ball to midfield, I sneaked myself from my usual position (fullback), right up there too, along the left sideline. I leaned in a slightly droolish way that let our forwards know exactly what I was thinking.

One tapped the ball to the other, and there was my pass, the pass, the one you wait for all your life, perfect and perfectly unexpected by everyone on the field but me. Nobody was there. The ball rolled like a lullaby on a green sea before me. Nobody, nothing, between me and it, and the net. Even the goalie seemed gone, as I hoofed and huffed and entered into "the zone." You know that zone where athletes go, where they are the ball, where the roar of the crowd, the elements, everything else just peels away and you can pretty much do whatever in the world you want?

This wasn’t that zone. It was a different, dreamier one, where everything peels away, including the ball and the goal. I realized in that moment what an intensely, insanely sociable creature I have become. I felt lonely. Actually lonely. Where was everyone? It just seemed all wrong all of a sudden.

What I did … I stopped running and stood there, and the ball just dribbled slowly away from me and over the end line. Then I turned to face my incredulous teammates and the whistle blew. Game over. Winners!

I didn’t know, though.

I touched hands with the other team and said, "Good game, good game," and they said so too. I posed for the team picture. I took off my uniform and put on my jeans and my new championship T-shirt. I checked my cell phone to see if President Obama was trying to call or anything. (He wasn’t.) And then I got in my car and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Brewing Company, because that’s where the team was going to meet for pitchers of not-cold-enough beer and overdone, overpriced hamburgers.

It was three in the afternoon, and I had just played three soccer games on basically a bowl of oatmeal and some cherries. So you can imagine my hunger. Are you imagining? The reverberating weirdness of that breakaway loneliness moment, with all its psychological and philosophical implications — on an empty stomach!

And the guitar duo out on the patio, where we sat, played "Amy," and "Sweet Caroline," and worse.

Boasts the menu: "The Marin County Health Dept. is of the opinion that any meat cooked below medium-well (157 degrees) is undercooked. We proudly prepare your burger to any temperature you request."

"Rare," I said. (Are you still imagining my hunger? My excitement?)

It was one of the deadest burgers I ever ate. It was over well-done, gray, not a drop of moisture to it, save ketchup. Yet I was too insanely hungry, or nice, or sociable, to send it back.

Where would I be without this column?


Sun.–Thu. 11:30 a.m.–midnight;

Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m.

1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur

(415) 461-4677

Beer & wine


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

It’s Cougartown, Jake



Dear Andrea:

I’m 19 and still a virgin. I’ve never been on a date, kissed a girl, held hands, hugged … you get the picture. I’ve never really had the time to take interest in girls, or the courage to ask one out. I’m now starting to feel pretty lonely, and tired of my lack of "experience." However, after talking with several different girls my age on different occasions, my question has come to this: are virgin guys really worthless for experienced women?

Most women I talk to say that’s the answer to the question. If this is true, I think I’m going to have serious nervous breakdown. Since this is apparently the case, and such a bad thing, I was wondering what I should do — if anything at all — to fix the problem?


Another Lonely Boy

Dear Boy:

In light of recent discussions of sexual opportunities found on craigslist, among the (barely) used fitness equipment and the remarkably ugly couches, I’m suddenly seeing your problem in a whole new light. In your usual fictional treatments of the "desperate male virgin seeks state-change" trope, you see the hapless hero attempt, unsuccessfully, to get age-mates interested, or to trick them with false-bottomed popcorn buckets or what-have-you. Then you have your prostitute scene, which never goes well. I have no compunctions about suggesting seeing a pro, actually — it may not be legal, but as far as I know I can recommend what I like as long as I don’t recommend whom I like, as in "See my friend Lavinia, she’ll fix you right up."*

In fact,I AM going to suggest you see a pro, since this has been going on way too long and I’m afraid you’re going to get what they used to call "a complex." But I do realize it’s not a solution that fits everyone’s tastes, morals, or pocketbook, and it isn’t much help if what you’re seeking is a boon companion and a chance to get your blank-blank-ed (I hate all those phrases and can’t even bring myself to type the one about cherries. Ick.

We’ll get back to craigslist, but first, no, I don’t think inexperienced men are "worthless" to women. I think very few people can truly be considered worthless (even the worst can be repurposed as mulch, for instance), and I’d hate for you to judge your own worth by what some chicks at a party said. Your "worth" is irreducible and inborn.

How useful you can be to other people may depend on things like skills and history, but probably not as much as you think. I think we’re having some confusion here about what question those girls thought they were answering. Would they really, at the advanced age of 19 or so, reject a serious and otherwise appealing suitor on the grounds of sexual inexperience? Or was it more a case of "I’d rather do it with guys who know what they’re doing"? The latter is understandable, the former a bit sad.

I really think young women of a slightly less hardened persuasion are your best bet, for many reasons, but there is that craigslist option (craigslist is in some senses sui generis, but it could also be considered to stand in here for any online meeting place where "casual encounters" ads are acceptable). I’m thinking that your chances of a cute 19-year-old picking up on your ad in a place like that and thinking, "Sweet! He doesn’t know a thing!" are virtually nil. But if there really is such a thing as a "cougar," then … mrowr.

I am personally still unconvinced that any such widespread social phenomenon of older, slightly stringy but glossily well-preserved ladies prowling for young man-meat yet exists, or ever will. You couldn’t prove it by the presence of the stereotype, though. Not only is there the SNL sketch and a number of ad campaigns featuring "cougars," there’s even an upcoming series staring the ancient and wizened Courteney Cox (I believe she’s 45) in something called Cougar Town. This is not good.

Reservations about the designation and the ugly light it casts on women over, say, 35 who still like sex aside, this could all be good news for you. Try running an ad that says "19-year-old virgin seeks cougar for important life lessons" and see how that works out for you. While it’s true that most female grown-ups are not seeking utterly inexperienced partners half their age, there are certainly some who would find you an interesting experiment.

All this nonsense about pros and ladies on the prowl aside, I do have two other suggestions, both of which seem to have escaped you. One, you can talk to girls and even ask them out without revealing a certain embarrassing biographical fact upfront and, two, you could date virgins.



* No, I don’t know anyone named Lavinia.

Don’t forget to read Andrea at Carnal Nation.com.

Recession, renewal



REVIEW When it comes to the negative impact that economic recession has upon the art world, there are as many problems as missing dollars. Yet among contemporary artists, such times tend to skew various views back toward those whose work isn’t epically expensive to begin with, a development that can be welcome. Moreover, careful budgeting can inspire reflection rather than a mad dash to acquire the newest, most expensive, and trendiest work.

At least two significant survey shows in 2009 follow this impulse in search of revelation. Next month, SFMOMA is opening "Not New Work," for which artist-curator Vincent Fecteau has selected art owned but rarely-to-never shown by the museum. Currently, Berkeley Art Museum executive director Lawrence Rinder taps into his curatorial insight with "Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible in the Night Sky," a multifloor epic exhibition that reveals the breadth of that institution’s art collection, and allows elements of it to ricochet off of each other in provocative ways.

Rinder is no stranger to such huge undertakings, having curated an installment of the Whitney Biennial and also co-conceived the landmark 1995 queer art survey "In a Different Light," one of the Berkeley Art Museum’s largest undertakings and banner shows of the previous decade. With "Galaxy," Rinder’s playful and subtly lively sensibility might even use a recent contemporary BAM exhibition as a trampoline of sorts. Last year, the site played host to Trevor Paglen’s "The Other Night Sky," a present-day photographic installation that provocatively muses on literal presences up above. With "Galaxy," Paglen’s literal stars and spy satellites are traded for the metaphorical celestial brilliance of artwork by Rembrandt, Rousseau, Dürer, Klee, and Rubens. One of the exhibition’s strongest facets is its tremendous array of remarkable etchings and engravings. Blake’s 1825 With Dreams upon My Bed and Behold Now Behemoth Which I Made with Thee are pettily awesome — worth an afternoon worth’s of scrutiny on their own.

While this excavation of canonical treasures tiny and large might be a new endeavor for Rinder, whose focus has primarily been on contemporary art, his selections and their arrangement are designed to trigger unpredictable associations and make a case for some comparatively-undiscovered contemporary local artists, such as Todd Bura. Thus a 2008 ink-on paper piece by Ajit Chauhan — who recently had a terrific show in a small side gallery at the de Young — holds its own and takes on added resonance next to works by Bruce Conner and Barry McGee, who might or might not count as Chauhan’s kin. In Chauhan’s A Mid Summer Night’s Cream … and McGee’s Untitled (2008), patterns of lettering and faces metamorphose into one another. Conner is one of a handful of recurrent artistic presences within "Galaxy" — his reappearance a testimony to his strong but varying presence and his influence upon Bay Area art.

Louise Bourgeois is another signature personality within "Galaxy," an impish creative force that darts in and out of different eras, styles and materials without ever seeming out of place. Rinder’s curatorial freedom allows for elliptical echoes that span centuries and floors of the museum. Bullfighting stampedes into the show in two different galleries, via an 1815-16 etching by Goya and a 1986 geutf8 silver print by Zoe Leonard. Etchings of village life congregate on one wall, landscapes and seascapes occupy a different area, experiments with color join up in groups of three and four. There are wave-like rhythmic patterns to the shifts between large-scale and miniature pieces.

A great sense of detail or flair has been given to the matter of framing many of these works, and Rinder’s use of framing extends to the show itself, which begins and ends with metallic or kinetic sculptural works that evoke Peter Selz’s 1966 Berkeley Art Museum exhibition "Directions in Kinetic Sculpture," while making a case for the tactile today. "Galaxy" begins with spinning metal discs and white button of Harry Kramer’s 1966 Jorg’s Chair, and closes with Edward Krasinski’s well-titled 1964 Perpindiculars in Space and Vassilakis Takis’ 1962-63 Tableau magnetique. In between these, there is a sense of queer flirtation and enjoyable perversity, thanks to the Caravaggio-esque crotch-pointing of Guiovanni Caracciolo’s 1610 oil-on-canvas The Young Saint John in the Wilderness, the eerie singed fringes of David Dashiell’s Dionysian 1992 Study for Queer Mysterties, the deathly delicacy of D-L Alvarez’s 1992 "In a Different Light" contribution Shawl (a net made of hair that likely degrades or is at least altered each time it is shown or moved), and a 1947 foam breast by Marcel Duchamp which asks to be touched.

Associations aside, "Galaxy" also is remarkable simply for exposing works so powerful that they stand alone. Such is the case with a 1955 untitled painting by Clyfford Still that takes the visceral and mortal concerns of the show into its deepest sense of experience. Gazing at this work is like passing through a threshold of elemental muck. In Still’s colors, beauty and horror entwine.


Through Aug. 30

Berkeley Art Museum

2625 Durant, Berk

(510) 642-0808


Finally, justice


It’s not every day a journalist helps overturn life sentences and win multimillion dollar settlements for the aggrieved parties. But that’s exactly what happened last week when San Francisco reportedly agreed to pay $4.5 million to John Tennison, who spent 13 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

Tennison and his alleged accomplice, Antoine Goff, who were sentenced to life for the execution of Roderick "Cooley" Shannon in 1989, were still behind bars when former Guardian reporter A.C. Thompson dug into their case in 2001.

At the time police linked Shannon’s murder to a war between hoodsters in Visitation Valley and Hunter’s Point over control of the drug trade. Tennison and Goff both had alibis. As Thompson revealed ("The Hardest Time," 01/17/01), witnesses were coached to lie that the pair had committed the murder. In addition, defense lawyers weren’t told about witnesses who said the men were innocent or that a man named Lovinsky Ricard confessed to the crime.

When the Guardian published "The Hardest Time" as a cover story in 2001, Tennison’s brother, who worked in a parking lot near the Keker & Van Nest law office, put copies on the windshield of every car hoping lawyers would read it and offer to help. That’s what happened.

Two of the Keker firm’s associates, Ethan Balogh and Elliot Peters, picked up the case and helped SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi and a team of lawyers win Tennison and Goff’s freedom, working for three years pro bono.

Although it’s a triumph that the city agreed to compensate Tennison (a similar claim by Goff is pending), Shannon’s killer is still at large. In addition, former SF Police Chief Earl Sanders, detective Napoleon Hendrix, and prosecutor George Butterworth walked away without so much as a reprimand, even though Thompson ("The Chief’s other legal problem," 03/05/03) suggested they may have unethically helped put Tennison and Goff behind bars.

In 2003, when Tennison’s sentence was overturned, Thompson wrote: "After my journalistic probe, I felt fairly certain that a terrible injustice had been done, that Tennison and Goff had not killed Shannon, that police and prosecutors had engaged in dubious behavior, and that the real executioner was walking the streets. Still, I never expected the two men to go free. The criminal justice system is stacked against convicts who assert their innocence."

Which kind of poison?



GREEN CITY The push from city leaders to shut down Mirant’s aging Potrero power plant advanced another step June 2 when the San Francisco supervisors approved an ordinance sponsored by Sophie Maxwell and Michela Alioto-Pier that urges closing the entire facility by the end of 2010 and directs the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to update a plan charting the city’s energy future.

But the current city proposal for closing the Mirant plant appears to rely entirely on replacing that power with the output of other private fossil fuel plants — in someone else’s backyard.

The city is following the same script as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which wants to upgrade and expand the lines bringing its own private power into the city — instead of San Francisco generating power of its own.

In fact, Mayor Gavin Newsom has introduced legislation to sell four city-owned combustion turbines that are currently collecting dust in storage in Houston. Obtained as part of a 2003 lawsuit settlement, the turbines were almost employed last year to build four small city-owned power plants to fully replace the Mirant facility — but that plan was ultimately shot down.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), a federally regulated body that oversees grid reliability, currently requires Mirant’s dirty San Francisco facility to stay in service to provide in-city generation capacity in case of catastrophic power grid failure. But city officials now say a new underwater power cable from the East Bay could replace Mirant Unit 3, which spews fumes into the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

Last month, Newsom, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, SF Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington and Sups. Sophie Maxwell and Michela Alioto-Pier sent a letter to Cal-ISO making the case that with the installation of the TransBay Cable — which would link the city with generating facilities in Pittsburg — and other planned system upgrades, the entire Mirant facility could be retired by next year.

Maxwell’s ordinance references that letter, and urges PG&E to "develop expeditiously" its transmission-upgrade projects to pave the way for the plant’s closure. Cal-ISO spokesman Gregg Fishman says that so far, it hasn’t reviewed PG&E’s plans.

Joe Boss, a longtime member of the city’s power plant task force, says he has little confidence that Mirant can be shut down without being replaced with new in-city electricity generation. He told us he believes it’s a bad move to sell off the publicly owned combustion turbines.

The TransBay Cable is essentially a 10-inch thick extension cord that would connect a PG&E substation in Pittsburg with another PG&E substation in Potrero Hill. It’s being bankrolled by the Australian investment firm Babcock & Brown, which ran into serious financial trouble during the economic downturn, and its San Francisco branch was bought out last month. Currently under construction, the cable project is being built in tandem with the Pittsburg power company, a municipal utility that would retain ownership of the cable and converter stations. PG&E customers will ultimately pay for power transmitted over the line.

The way the theory goes, once the cable goes live next March, Potrero’s Unit 3 — a natural-gas fired generator that runs about 20 hours a day — could finally be shut down. "But the question is, is it just going to bring dirty power to SF?" asks Sierra Club Energy Board chair Aaron Israel.

Near the Pittsburg end of the cable, there are two gas-fired Mirant-owned power plants, operating since 1972 and 1964.

There are proposals for two new Mirant natural-gas fired power plants in that area as well, plus a 530 MW plant called Gateway owned by PG&E that became operational this year.

So the future looks like this: San Francisco gets rid of a pollution source, and shifts the problem to a poor community 40 miles away. And PG&E and Mirant retain their hegemony over the city’s electricity supplies.

"’Which poison would you like?’ is kind of where the debate is," says Greenaction for Environmental Health & Justice Executive Director Bradley Angel. "We’ve got to keep advocating for a dramatic increase in renewable energy, here and elsewhere," Angel says. But that’s not going to happen with PG&E and Mirant calling the shots.

The deadbeat church



The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco is trying to duck paying as much as $15 million in city taxes, according to documents filed by the city assessor’s office.

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting argues that the archdiocese, which governs a collection of churches, schools, parking lots, commercial buildings, and other real property in the city, shifted 232 parcels of land from two church-held corporations to another church corporation in April 2008, triggering real estate transfer taxes.

The legal issues are complicated, and church lawyer Philip Jelsma wouldn’t return our calls, but the city officials say the deal amounts to this: The archdiocese is moving valuable property out of the hands of a corporation that might be liable for legal claims and into a separate entity that would be exempt from those claims.

And the church is taking two contradictory positions on the reorganizing. According to documents from the Assessor-Recorder’s Office, when the archdiocese is discussing the protection of its assets from litigants, it claims that the legal entities in question are separate and distinct under civil law. However, when the city comes calling for much needed transfer tax dollars, church officials argue that the entities are merely interdenominational under the common banner of the Roman Catholic Church and that the transfers are considered "gifts" under canon law.

The issue comes before the Transfer Tax Board of Review on June 16. If the board, made up of the controller, the tax collector and the head of the Department of Real Estate, upholds Ting’s position, the city will be able to collect between $3 million and $15 million, depending on the assessed value of the transferred parcels.

Major corporations in San Francisco have a long history of using bogus property transfers and shifts in corporate ownership to avoid paying property and transfer taxes. But this case is a bit more curious: why is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, self-proclaimed champion of the poor, fighting tooth and nail to keep the city from collecting tax dollars that would help fund public welfare programs?

Tears of a thug



The first time I interviewed Shaheed Akbar, a.k.a. the Jacka — in December of 2007, during a midnight session for Tear Gas (Artist Records/SMC), due June 16 — he was rolling purple and green weeds plus two types of hash into a Sharpie-sized blunt. I felt like Paul Bowles interviewing Bob Marley. Having known him three years, I can assure you that even in the Bay’s smoky atmosphere, Jacka blazes like a forest fire.

I dwell on this because it’s one facet of the Tear Gas concept, beyond the title’s literal meaning. The perpetual cloud enveloping Jacka is as much a part of his persona as his mobbed out tales of street life, based on experience. Like many artists, the MC enlists his favorite plant in the service of music.

"Weed helps you concentrate on certain things," Jacka observes, during a follow-up interview last month. "Nothing that contains too much multitasking. But if you don’t rap, try writing one; it’s hard as fuck. Weed gets you outside your normal realm so you coming up with crazy shit."


Yet, considering his consumption, Jacka barely raps about weed, or at least no more than most rappers; he has other things on his mind. When I e-mail Paul Wall, one of several big-name features on Tear Gas, to ask why he wanted to work with Jacka, he emphasizes the authenticity of his collaborator’s verses.

"He speaks from experience when he rhymes," Wall writes. "Like he’s rapping from a hustler’s perspective for other hustlers."

The experience Wall cites consists of details which, in the aggregate, might make for improbable fiction. Jacka’s rise to local notoriety at age 18 as a member of C-Bo’s Mob Figaz — whose eponymous debut (Git Paid, 1999) moved something like 140,000 units — is fairly well documented. But the story begins much earlier. Born of 14-year-old parents, young Jacka saw his mother get addicted to crack, and his father go to prison for a decade only to be murdered shortly after release. The result was an impoverished childhood in various hoods in Oakland, Richmond, and finally Pittsburg, where the Mob Figaz began.

"As a kid, everywhere I lived was in the projects," he says. "A nigga’s whole thing is to get out of there." Such ambition led Jacka to start dealing crack as early as age 11.

"Say you’re in school," Jacka continues. "Moms ain’t working. Pops ain’t around. The other kids at school have everything you don’t, as far as clothes and packing they own lunch. All that matters when you’re a kid. You go to junior high and you eating free lunch, people are like, ‘What kind of nigga is you?’ So when you’re from the hood and can hustle, that’s definitely helping your self-esteem. You pulling out wads of cash and motherfuckers who used to laugh at you ain’t got shit. That made me feel hella good."

"Things I had to do to survive is one thing," he says. "But how I feel about it now is another."


Jacka’s willingness to probe psychological wounds reveals another implication of Tear Gas. Paradoxically or not, in a genre where emotions are usually limited to elation and anger, a large part of Jacka’s appeal is his emphasis on the melancholy ambivalence of street life. It’s subtle, of course, sprinkled into stories of coke-dealing and cap-busting. But contrary to his assertion on the Traxamillion-produced "Girls," an infectious thug-pop remake of the 1986 Beastie Boys classic, Jacka doesn’t just "knock hoes and live it up."

"You can only shoot the breeze so much; you gotta drop a jewel on people," says Jacka, citing 2Pac, to whom he pays homage in "Hope Is for Real." "He had to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing because he had to reach me, the niggas in the hood, but look what you learn from him. So I have to study and get wiser to even make a song."

To be sure, Tear Gas isn’t a sociological treatise; like the blues, it voices the despair of a culture rather than proposing solutions. But such articulation is exactly what makes the music of both Pac and Jacka so powerful.

"Listen to Marvin Gaye," Jacka continues. "I guarantee he’s going to grab your soul. He knows something and could put it together with the music. And what he talked about was the struggle, the pain. I try to make shit that’ll stick to your soul. Like the music my parents used to listen to."

Besides his social consciousness, Jacka’s success rests squarely on quality. Last year, his single "All Over Me" — included on Tear Gas — hit No. 7 on KMEL’s playlist and No. 15 on Billboard’s "Bubbling Under" singles chart. Yet he refused to rush his album to capitalize on this exposure. Instead, he released 11 side projects. Two of them debuted on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart: Drought Season (Bern One), a collaboration with rapper Berner, at No. 55, and The Street Album (Artist Records), a "mixtape album" with KMEL DJ Big Von, at No. 91.

"Motherfuckers like shit that make them think," Jacka says, when asked about his appeal. They also like real albums and, taken as whole, Tear Gas is among the best rap discs in recent history, major or indie. Despite its array of producers and perhaps a few too many guests, Jacka has fashioned a tight, coherent album where every track is vital — an extreme rarity in contemporary hip hop. With its minor-key, exotic flute and harp textures, the new single "Glamorous Lifestyle," also produced by Traxamillion and featuring André Nickatina, epitomizes the overall feel.

"It’s not an easy process unless you really listen to music, and follow all kinds of genres," says Jacka. "Some people just listen to rap, but other music helps you grow as an artist."


Being a rapper, Jacka’s voice is ultimately his most important asset, an instantly recognizable, rounded, mellow drawl — even when he raps fast — that is never raspy, despite the steady diet of blunts. His melodic, half-sung delivery, moreover, perfectly fits his vocal texture and mournful themes.

"My style really comes from the struggle," he says. "I’m not trying to make you like what I’m saying — I’m trying to get into your soul." This spiritual goal reflects what he credits as his primary influence: chanting the Koran. Surprising or not, given his gangsta themes, smoking, and even drinking, Jacka is a devout Sunni Muslim. It’s the result of a spiritual quest he began at age 9, when he joined the Nation of Islam.

"They showed me how to be black, because I really didn’t know," he explains. "I just knew we were in America, we used to be slaves, but I didn’t know why it was so tough for us. They made me read books that taught me to be proud of who I am. They can be a little strict sometimes, but they have to be; there was so much taken away from us."

When Jacka began intensively reading the Koran, however, he began to question some of the Nation’s teachings. "I realized that what it said in the Koran is what I should do," he says. "Not that plus something else."

The development of Jacka’s faith toward more orthodox Islam accelerated circa 2000. The Mob Figaz’ momentum slowed when C-Bo went to prison and Jacka caught a robbery case that landed him in county jail for a year.

"In jail, I was reading the Koran and realized the Sunni Muslim way is for me," Jacka remembers. "It’s the way I can pray directly to God." Following his release, Jacka took his shahada, declaring his formal adherence to Islam. But as rap money dried up in the Bay during its leanest years (2000-04), he returned to crime at a whole new level, even while beginning his solo career with The Jacka (Akbr Records, 2001).

"When I started working on my album, things changed for me — I really got into the streets," Jacka says. Rap celebrity gave him connections he otherwise would have lacked. "Whatever rap niggas was talking about, we were living," he says with some pride, although he feels he’ll one day have to answer to Allah for his misdeeds. Details of his criminal past are necessarily vague, though if you consider that fellow Mob Figa Husalah was arrested for transporting "over five kilos" of cocaine, a case culminating in his 2006 sentence to 53 months in federal prison, you get the picture.

"The streets are dried up for me," says Jacka. "Once the feds knock your boy, you can’t fuck around for the rest of your life. I’m hot. So I stay with the music now."

"I didn’t take the business as seriously as I should have," he admits. "So I had to start from ground zero." Fortunately, by the time Jacka’s second "official" solo album The Jack Artist (Artist Records, 2005) was ready to drop, the Bay began to heat up again. Even in the heyday of hyphy, the conspicuously non-hyphy Jack Artist sold some 20,000 copies, or "more than all those niggas put together," in the words of the man behind it. Yet despite this success, Tear Gas sounds little like its predecessor. Instead, it reflects Jacka’s artistic growth now that he’s settled down to music full time.

"I wouldn’t trade this for those times again — never," Jacka says, when asked to weigh yesterday and today. "This is something legit we’re doing that’s real. My dream as a child was to do this."


Fly on Sutter



Although Brick shuffled off this mortal coil toward the end of April, it did leave part of that coil behind, in the form of an impressive brick wall. That wall now belongs to the city’s second iteration of Fly and remains the dominant physical feature of the space, along with stretches of purple paint and hangings of wall art fashioned from bottle caps that glint in the changing light.

In good times and bad, the death of restaurants isn’t unusual. But what is noticeable in the current go-round is the spread of trusted brand names — Pizzeria Delfina, for instance (which opened a second outpost in the onetime ZAO noodle bar on California near Fillmore), Dosa, and now Fly, which for years has been a stalwart on Divisadero in the Western Addition.

The new Fly has a pool-hall feel and offers more natural light than its older sibling, while the Tendernob setting is more about real grit than the hipster faux kind. Even San Francisco, one of the most yuppified cities in America, still has its patches of dingy storefronts, ratty-looking apartment blocks, and populations of people with missing teeth. Stepping into Fly can feel a bit like stepping into an oasis, but one steps in with a distinct sense of ambivalence nonetheless. Prices aren’t particularly high and the setting isn’t at all posh, but it’s all still a world apart from the one on the other side of the large windows.

Apart from the name-giving brick wall, the chief legacy of Brick is the Brick burger ($9), a hefty lump of well-seasoned Angus beef, capped with melted white cheese and threads of pickled white onion, nestled in a soft, shapely bun, and served with either salad or fries. The fries are excellent, as is the burger. In fact I’ve never had a better one in these parts, and while the price isn’t low (Carl’s Jr. has made an entire ad campaign out of the exorbitance of the $6 burger), it’s not unreasonable either.

Otherwise, much of the menu resembles that of the original Fly. The food is friendly and non-narcissistic, the sort of stuff that supports and propels conversation rather than preening for attention and itself becoming a subject of conversation. We recognized a plate of hummus and tapenade ($6.75), served with warm pita triangles and some spare change of cucumber and tomato coins — just as satisfying as six years ago, and only 50¢ more. The kitchen also turns out a broad array of pizzas, some the regular kind, others covered Fly-style with salad.

This sort of all-in-one idea seems very American, but if you prefer your pizzas and salads to coexist rather than cohabit, your wish can be easily accommodated. We found the La Tortilla salad ($8) to be a jumble of mixed baby greens with corn kernels, black beans, tomato dice, shards of crisped tortillas, and a cilantro vinaigrette — it was as if a bowl of ordinary mésclun had collided with one of those Mexican salads served in a giant taco bowl. The vinaigrette didn’t quite appeal; it did taste like cilantro (whose flavor can dissipate rapidly once the leaves are cut), but it could have used a bit of counterpoint — some sweet or sour, or both — for fullness.

Considering that the pizzettas are showered with salad, the distribution of basil leaves atop a pizza margherita ($9) was notably continent. The other toppings (mozzarella, chopped tomato) were applied with equal restraint, which meant, for once, that the crust wasn’t merely a beast of burden but a worthy dimension of the whole in its own right. Fly’s crusts rise to the occasion by managing to be both thin and puffy at the same time.

The barbecue pork sandwich ($9) was just absolutely stuffed with dense, juicy meat and plenty of provolone. It reminded me of those meat-and-cheese Jack in the Box ads from a few years ago: no frills, just the good stuff, on a nice fresh baguette. And fish tacos ($8 for three) were very tasty and crunchy. Their only flaw had to do with their swaddling clothes, which consisted of flour rather than corn tortillas. Flour tortillas do have a silken softness their corn brethren can’t match, but they also raise an authenticity issue and aren’t as good for you. (Corn tortillas are made from masa, a whole-grain flour.) Most of us eat far too much wheat flour anyway, and too much of that is refined white flour.

The mood of the place is leisurely and undramatic, and it encourages drifters-in. Drifting is better than flying. Of course, what isn’t?


Continuous service: Tues.-Sun., noon–2 a.m.;

Mon., 5 p.m.–2 a.m.

1085 Sutter, SF

(415) 441-4232


Full bar


Potentially noisy

Wheelchair accessible