Volume 45 Number 19

Psychic Dream Astrology

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Feb. 16-22

ARIES

March 21-April 19

Don’t allow other people’s crap to leak into your psyche and upset your sense of what’s real or not. Regroup and re-center yourself this week so you can allow your instincts to rise to the surface in a helpful way.

TAURUS

April 20-May 20

If you put on your humble hat, then you can look critically at your actions and the actions of others without getting all Judge Judy about it. Instead of analyzing, compassionately reflect.

GEMINI

May 21-June 21

It’s time to make peace with some unpleasantness so you can execute changes that have been brewing beneath your surface. No need to rush in or out of anything, but it is time to get on point. Focus so you can move forward.

CANCER

June 22-July 22

Anxiety feels terrible and can compel people to act in ways that only produce more anxiety. Avoid overthinking and overprocessing this week as your mind bends itself toward worst-case scenarios. Go for TLC instead.

LEO

July 23-Aug. 22

There is no love strong enough to outweigh your need for healthy self-care and moderation. Hold your relationships and their needs in balance with your own needs as an individual this week. Take yourself on a date, you charmer!

VIRGO

Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Tend to the needs of your heart, dear Virgo. Instead of soothing your emotional needs with the barbed wire of your thinking, ease your mind into your feelings and let simmer. Spice up your life with self-love.

LIBRA

Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Relationships change, this is we know. Your only job this week is to resist damning the flow of the inevitable by clinging to old ways in yourself or with others. Be authentic to who you are today.

SCORPIO

Oct. 23-Nov. 21

The hippies say “all you need is love,” and they are totally right. But don’t try to control it by getting attached to how it should play out. Seek out and act in the name of all forms of love this week.

SAGITTARIUS

Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Allowing your fear of vulnerability to guide your actions will only multiply those fears. Be willing to change, even if it’s scary. It’s time to deal with the things you’ve been avoiding.

CAPRICORN

Dec. 22-Jan. 19

If you take extra-good care of your foundations (as in pay your bills, eat well, and sleep enough), you’ll be ready to start something new, fun, and energizing! Stay grounded enough to identify the golden from the flashy.

AQUARIUS

Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Play well with others and share your toys, Aquarius. No matter how excited or upset you are, you have to remember that your actions affect those around you. Make sure your interpersonal input and output is equal this week.

PISCES

Feb. 19-March 20

The stars want you to boldly go where you haven’t been before! Initiate something new and take your life to its next level. Its time to trust your own energy and move with it. Invest in what you care about.

Jessica Lanyadoo has been a psychic dreamer for 16 years. Check out her website at www.lovelanyadoo.com or contact her for an astrology or intuitive reading at (415) 336-8354 or dreamyastrology@gmail.com.

Appetite: 1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Beer

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We San Franciscans are lucky to have a place like the Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts. Debuting last year at SF Cocktail Week as home base for the Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail, this year sees the launch of Boothby classes, tastings and events on all things drink.

Naturally, there’s cocktails and spirits heavily represented. But there’s also going to be coffee classes from many of our local favorites on everything from brewing to roasting. There will also be tea and wine seminars, and founder H. Joseph Ehrmann’s Mixology 101 series (with three levels of advancement) for budding and experienced bartenders. 

Price ranges will vary but at this week’s cognac class, a mere $20 provided over an hour and a half of cognac education from New York experts, a side-by-side sampling of four cognacs, and three well-made cocktails from classics to modern inventions. The room was a mix of bartending industry folk and curious tasters, all with a hunger to learn (and imbibe).

Watch for Boothby Center parties during big drink weeks like a whisky-themed event around Whiskies of the World next month. This week clear your calender on Saturday night for 1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Beer, a special SF Beer Week tasting where you’ll sample 15 beers and 15 whiskies (from rye to white dog) for the mere sake of discovering their complimenting flavors. Oh, and because they taste good.

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Beer
Sat/19, 6:30-9:30pm
$45 ticket
1161 Mission Street, Suite 120
bourbonscotchbeer-eorg.eventbrite.com 
www.sfcocktailweek.com

–Subscribe to Virgina’s twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot: www.theperfectspotsf.com

Editor’s Notes

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tredmond@sfbg.com

I had fun with the state budget the other day. The Sacramento Bee has a pretty good online simulation that lets you pick programs to cut and revenues to raise to see if you can get rid of a $26.4 billion deficit, and I gave it a shot. It took me exactly seven minutes to turn the red ink into a $2.1 billion surplus.

See, it’s not that hard. Extend the 2009 tax increases, as Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested. Force multistate corporations to pay taxes based on sales in California. Increase the corporate income tax rate to the same level as the personal income tax rate. Eliminate the Prop. 13 loophole for nonresidential property. Pass an oil severance tax. A few more mouse clicks and bingo: I’ve got $28 billion, without cutting much of anything. (Well, I cut prison spending.)

The lesson you get from playing, of course, is that cuts alone will never do the job; there’s not enough left to cut.

When I finished, I called the office of Asemblymember Connie Conway (R-Tulare). She chairs the Republican Caucus gave the formal GOP response to Brown’s State of the State speech and insisted that new taxes were not acceptable.

Her press spokesperson, Sabrina Lockhart, was very friendly and nice. I told her about the Bee game and asked: If you don’t like Brown’s taxes, what specifically should the state cut?

Lockhart’s response: “Our focus has been on creating jobs to bring in new revenue.”

Okay, I’m for that, too, but let’s be real. Even if 1 million new jobs materialized tomorrow, that wouldn’t bring in enough money this year to balance the budget. Brown’s proposing $12 billion in cuts. If that’s not enough, what else do the Republicans think should go?

Lockhart: “The Republicans are engaged in the subcommittee process and will be reviewing the governor’s proposals.”

But your boss said no taxes, I told her. There are really only two options; taxes or more cuts, right? Am I missing something here?

Lockhart hemmed and hawed for a moment. “That’s why we think job creation has to be a part of this,” she finally said.

Well, I do, too, but it’s just not that simple. If the Republicans don’t want taxes, why won’t they tell us what they want to cut instead? Seriously, what Brown is offering is brutal, bloody — what else would the GOP members put on the chopping block?

Answer: They have no proposals. Nothing at all. Just no new taxes. If I were Jerry Brown, I’d be drinking heavily.

To the bone

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DANCE/MUSIC There are a lot of interesting things in Brontez Purnell’s room. Giant self-made posters of Josephine Baker (“The most famous black party kid ever,” he says), Arthur Evans’ Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, and the legendary Harlem Renaissance publication Fire!!. An arrangement of Polaroid Instamatic nude shots of old flames and interview subjects from his zine, Fag School. A few more Instamatic shots – of him and his mom and grandmother. A framed letter from Kathleen Hanna. An autographed copy of the Go-Go’s’ Talk Show. A typewriter. Effects pedals. On a window ledge, a CD by his uncle, the late blues guitarist J.J. Malone. On his bed, a well-worn paperback of Lady Sings the Blues, next to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pillow. But the most interesting presence in the room is Brontez himself.

“I grew up with a strong Southern Baptist influence,” Brontez says, when I ask about the role of ritual in his dance projects. “These days I’m not as likely to disregard what that did to me and how it set my way of thinking about the world into motion. I talk to my mom, who is a devout Christian and also totally wild-ass, every day. But for the first 15 years of my life, I was at a place where, every Sunday, the most conservative people could scream their heads off. It wasn’t pretentious, it was to the bone. It’s part of the reason I’ve never had trouble dancing at [rock] shows or getting into the energy of the moment.”

Long before Brontez burned up the stage as a key member of Gravy Train!!!!, he was the talk of the Bay Area rock scene because of his uninhibited energy. “Sometimes, in Gravy Train!!!!, or especially when I was younger, people would sexualize me in this way that was weird to me,” he recalls. “I just felt like I was being more punk than sexy. Sometimes I’d jump in the crowd and people would finger me, or rip off my underwear, and I was put off or taken aback. I felt like I was this baby with whiplash.”

No longer a baby with whiplash, the Brontez of today is still punk rock, but also well-read – and a dancer. This Friday, he’s debuting a trio of live dance pieces, and a trio of dance films (The Beats are Falling Down, Itxel, and Free Jazz) made with Gary Gregerson, as part of a Berkeley Art Museum program curated by Betty Nguyen. Shot in black-and-white and kindred in spirit with works by Yvonne Rainer (“Her ideas about task-oriented choreography, and choreography that deals with the everyday, are so fact-based,” he says), the movies are a natural extension from the dynamic dance video that Irwin Swirnoff made for “Sha-Boo Lee,” by Brontez’s band, Younger Lovers. They’ve got an electric charge — they’re inspiring.

“What I like about Gary [Gregerson] and Irwin [Swirnoff] is that there is always a sense of naturalness with them,” says Brontez. “In the Bay Area, there can be this cult of clutter – everyone has their Cockette thing going, and everything has to be splattered with glitter and fuzzy purple rhinestones. With the art I make, there isn’t a lot of high concept and high camp going on. I’m literally trying to tell a story that I want to let breathe. Both Gary and Irwin are respectful of that.”

This directness is present in Rock Flawless (Bachelor), the latest Younger Lovers album, which features contributions from Bare Wires’ Matthew Melton and drummer Taaji Malik (who is also present in Gregerson’s films), as well as bandmate Mateo Corona. Recorded next door to Aunt Charlie’s Lounge at a studio on the corner of Turk and Taylor in SF, Rock Flawless trades the vagaries of romance for the truth. “When I wrote about a boy on [2008’s] Newest Romantic, it was ‘la la la’ and flowery, but on Rock Flawless I’ll write about a specific boy, in a specific neighborhood – like the Lower Haight – that fucked me over.”

Brontez also throws in a killer cover, of “Heartbroken,” by T2 featuring Jodie Aysha. He’s typically candid about its inspiration. “I first heard [the song] during this Adam4Adam trick,” he says. “I went to this guy’s house and he was a total freak. He had this way-too-close relationship with his dog. I hugged him and the dog ran off the bed and he said, ‘She hates when you take my energy away like that.’ We were fucking and he had on his Pandora and that song came on, and I was like, ‘What is this? This is what’s up!’”

What’s up for Brontez today? For starters, his neighborhood in West Oakland, where warehouse spaces like Sugar Mountain, Ghost Town, and Copland are putting on shows. “On the weekend, you see so many white kids it’s like Woodstock,” he laughs. “What’s happening here isn’t going on in San Francisco. But during the weekdays, you see the nice cars that drive by to get heroin and crack, and the regular neighborhood people.”  

What’s also going on is a strong dedication to making things happen, and making dance. “My biological clock is ticking, ticking, going ‘What have you done, girl?’,” Brontez jokes. “It’s nice to sit around waiting on boys to love you, but in the meantime…” In the meantime, he’s reading up on Rainer, Katherine Dunham, and Martha Graham. He’s watching AXIS Dance Company rehearsals. He’s drawing on his studies with choreographers Eric Kupers and Nina Haft. He’s getting set to act with Jesse Hewit and others in a film by Travis Mathews. He’s leading dance workshops. And he’s giving any “fucking squares” in dance a loving “a kick in the ass,” flyering shows punk rock-style, and choreographing pieces involving witch dancers and preachers, with titles like Whenever I Hit the Floor, I’m Like a Fucking Hurricane.

“Thank god I also read a lot of rock ‘n’ roll autobiographies,” Brontez says. “Because all of my favorite artists say the same thing: ‘They did not love me enough.’ This year, I’m going to find out who my brothers and sisters are, so we can start doing shows together.”

L@TE FRIDAY NIGHTS AT BAM/PFA: BRONTEZ WITH BRILLIANT COLORS
7:30 p.m. (DJ Myles Cooper at 6:30 p.m.), $7
Berkeley Art Museum, Gallery B
2626 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-0808

bampfa.berkeley.edu

Commercial, free

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MUSIC For a band with some of the horniest lyrics around, the members of Los Amigos Invisibles have remained remarkably faithful to one another. They’ve been together since the early 1990s, when they were teenagers rebelling against the goth- and rock-dominated Caracas music scene. It was then that these six amigos set out to make music with one purpose: to make people lose their shit on the dance floor. And 20 years later, they show no signs of being tardy for the party. We caught up with the group’s guitarist and main songwriter, Jose Luis Pardo, just after both he and Los Amigos Invisibles had released new albums.

SFBG A few weeks ago you guys released the seventh Los Amigos Invisibles studio album, Not So Commercial (Nacional Records), which is a follow-up to 2009’s Latin Grammy-winning Commercial.

JOSE LUIS PARDO/DJ AFRO Yeah it’s like a spin-off. Our intention with Commercial was to create an accessible pop album. But at the end we had all these extra tracks that were more trippy and not so pop. So we brought the idea of putting out an EP to Nacional Records and they were totally into it.

SFBG Did you have any clue when Los Amigos Invisibles first got together that it would be this kind of journey?

JLP Absolutely not. We were just having fun. But this year we’re turning 20, which is a miracle!

SFBG It’s almost unheard of that a band would stick together for that long and not take a break somewhere along the line.

JLP I know, I know, it’s crazy. We love it! But we’re old now, we don’t have that much hair anymore …

SFBG You still have a lot of hair, you’re DJ Afro after all!

JLP Ha, that’s right! We still love playing together. We don’t take it for granted. We were just an underground band in Caracas when David Byrne found us. After he put us on Luaka Bop we started touring the states. Our first plan was to move to San Francisco. But because the label was in New York City, we moved there and it’s been great. That was 2001, so we’ve been in the States for 10 years. We like it here!

SFBG And NYC’s winter isn’t cramping your tropical style?

JLP Not really. We go home to Venezuela on the holidays to get our beach fix.

SFBG Since you’re the principal songwriter of Los Amigos Invisibles, Julio Briceño (Los Amigos’s lead singer) has been your de facto muse for the past 20 years. He’s got that amazing machismo shtick when he’s performing. Just curious, is that a persona he takes on for the stage? Is it like his “Sasha Fierce,” or is that just who he is?

JLP It’s a little bit of both. He’s got a lot of charisma, but it’s kind of weird when people approach him off-stage because he can be shy and reserved too.

SFBG It must feel like you’re married to him because you’ve been together for so long …

JLP Exactly. We haven’t cheated on each other.

SFBG But just a few days ago you released your first solo album, Free (Nacional Records), where you worked with several other singers …

JLP Well, yes, Julio’s been my friend and my brother for all these years. So it was a challenge to write for new people. It was a totally new experience. But getting out of my element was awesome. Right after we finished Commercial I wanted to keep recording. Before that I’d always done remixes and a lot of work on the Los Amigos albums, but the thought of doing my own album never crossed my mind. I don’t like being the front man of anything. I like being part of a group.

LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES

With Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

Fri/11, 9 p.m.; $25–$35

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-3000

www.thefillmore.com

Valley of the (killer) dolls

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CHUCKY CHEESE It’s hard not to fall in love with Jennifer Tilly. Star of hits big (1997’s Liar Liar) and cult (1996’s Bound), she’s an Oscar-nominated (for 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway) actor who also happens to be a champion poker player. Though she specializes in dim-bulb sexpots, Tilly is no dummy — witness her hilarious turn in 2004’s Seed of Chucky. In addition to providing the voice for killer doll Tiffany (whom she also portrayed in 1998’s Bride of Chucky) she also plays “Jennifer Tilly,” a character who kinda but not really resembles the real Jennifer Tilly.

Seed of Chucky, directed by Child’s Play series creator Don Mancini, is the most gleefully campy Chucky film to date (John Waters cameo!) San Francisco’s favorite horror hostess, Peaches Christ, is bringing Tilly and Mancini to town for a special pre-Valentine’s Day screening. What better excuse to talk with Chucky’s main squeeze?

SFBG Are you excited about the Seed of Chucky event with Peaches Christ?

Jennifer Tilly We are so thrilled to be getting the Peaches Christ treatment. We loved the trailer — Don Mancini was like, “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” He’s the one who created the Chucky series. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but over the years the franchise has just gotten more and more warped, and I really think the true spirit of Don Mancini is starting to come through.

SFBG I remember the first few Child’s Play movies did actually try to be scary.

JT A lot of people say that they were so scared when they saw the first Chucky movies that they couldn’t have any dolls around. But by now, everybody knows what Chucky is about. When we did Bride of Chucky, I think, there’s a line where somebody goes, “Oh my God, Chucky isn’t even scary. He’s so ’80s.” So when Don did Seed of Chucky, he just decided to go to town with it. Don just kind of got free reign to do whatever he wanted — though the studio did give him some notes when they got the first draft. They said, “It’s too funny. It’s too gay. And there’s too much Jennifer Tilly.” When he told me that, I thought, “How could there be too much Jennifer Tilly”? (Laughs.)

SFBG Did you have a hand in creating the “Jennifer Tilly” character?

JT After Bride of Chucky, Don became one of my very best friends. When he said I was going to play myself in Seed of Chucky, I said, “Oh, you have to make me an over-the-hill, horrible, obnoxious diva.” The studio was saying, “She’s too unlikable. She’s the protagonist, she should be likeable!” They didn’t understand that we were sort of deconstructing the genre. But a lot of the lines that were in the movie, I actually came up with — like when Tiffany is dragging Jennifer Tilly’s unconscious body, she goes, “Fuck, she’s fat!” Which was something I just ad-libbed. There were a lot of lines about how my career was in the toilet, like the famous line “I’m an Oscar nominee, and now I’m fucking a puppet!” The only thing Don had me do that I didn’t want to do was throw up in my purse. But I’m a pro. (Laughs.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqtxZUvu4lQ

SFBG I heard that Don Mancini is planning a return-to-scary remake of Child’s Play (1988). Are you involved in that?

JT There are a lot of rumors — they definitely have the go-ahead to make the next Chucky movie, and I think that was one of the ideas. The other idea was to continue the Seed of Chucky story, because people really like the character of (Chucky’s child) Glen-Glenda. I honestly think we’ve come too far to turn back now. (Laughs.) I think the idea behind the remake is that we have so many more special effects, so you could do it so much more realistically. But I don’t think a good horror movie is about having the most brilliant special effects. It’s in the writing and the presentation and the acting.

Also, I just think the direction that Chucky is going — I’ve made over 60 movies, but everywhere I go, the No. 1 movie that people know me from is Bride of Chucky. I go to foreign countries where they don’t know any English at all, and they point at me and yell “Bride of Chucky!” And Don conceived Seed of Chucky as being a cross between Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Ordinary People (1980) — it’s not just a slasher film. There’s something for everybody!

WHEN CHUCKY MEETS PEACHES CHRIST

Sat/12, 8 p.m., $20

Victoria Theatre

2961 16th St., SF

www.peacheschrist.com

 

Appetite: Uni dreams

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Slick, tongue-like uni, or sea urchin (part of the same clan as sand dollars and sea cucumbers), earned its urchin moniker from a Middle English term for hedgehog due to their similar spiny exterior. Uni is an acquired taste. My adventurous palate took a couple years to come around to appreciating its briny richness (to be fair, the initial uni I tried was less than fresh, tasting more like a stale tidepool – yes, it matters where you have it). Three upscale dining destinations have been sourcing immaculate uni and giving it the inventive treatment.

FIFTH FLOOR’s Mendocino uni flan — With executive chef David Bazirgan recently on board at Fifth Floor, there’s a number of noteworthy new dishes, particularly Mendocino uni flan ($16). It arrives unceremoniously, a little bowl of foam. Dig into that “saffron air” and underneath lies lush Dungeness crab fondue and silky uni flan. Heightened by aged Kaffir lime and Sichuan pepper, you’ll be dreaming about it all week.

COMMONWEALTH’s seah urchin with sweet potato tempura — Commonwealth just gets better and better. Chef Jason Fox shines with a progressive menu that borders on the experimental and molecular, yet remains ever satisfying. Garden-fresh chrysanthemum leaves and shiso illuminate Fox’s current menu offering of sea urchin ($15) with the comforting contrast of sweet potato tempura, while yuzu kosho adds a gentle tart.

BENU’s risotto topped with sea urchin — Pricey, austere Benu is a gourmand’s dream, especially when it comes to decadent dishes like Chef Corey Lee’s risotto ($28). Creamy, laden with butternut squash, celery and black truffle, dollops of sea urchin dot the dish as its crowning glory.

Volume 45 Number 19 Flip-through Edition

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Garbage curveball

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sarah@sfbg.com

A newly released report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst has thrown a curve ball at the Department of the Environment’s proposal to transport the city’s garbage by truck and rail to Yuba County for disposal in Recology’s Ostrom Road landfill.

Recology’s proposal would kick in when the city’s disposal contract with Waste Management’s Altamont landfill reaches its 15 million ton limit, which is anticipated to occur in 2015, or beyond (see “A tale of two landfills,” 06/15/10). But as that much-anticipated proposal finally comes to a Board of Supervisors committee on Feb. 9, the debate has suddenly been significantly broadened.

The Budget and Legislative Analyst’s report recommends replacing existing trash collection and disposal laws with legislation that requires competitive bidding on all aspects of the city’s waste collection, transportation, and disposal system. It also recommends that the Board of Supervisors require that refuse collection rates for both residential and commercial services be subject to board approval, and that competitive bidding could result in reduced refuse collection rates in San Francisco.

The annual cost to ratepayers of the city’s entire refuse system is $206 million, but only the landfill disposal contract, worth $11.2 million a year, gets put out to competitive bid, the BLA observes.

Debra Newman, an analyst with he BLA, told the Guardian that she has been asked why she brought up all these issues in advance of the Board’s Feb. 9 Budget and Finance committee hearing to discuss the Department of Environment’s recommendation that Recology be awarded the disposal contract. The company already has a monopoly over collection and transportation of waste in San Francisco thanks to an 79-year-old voter-approved agreement.

“Our position is that this is the only opportunity to address these issues with the board because of the way the city’s 1932 refuse collection and disposal ordinance reads,” Newman said. “This is the only vehicle we would have because nothing else is going to come to them. The residential rates don’t come to them, the commercial rates don’t even come to the Rate Board. This is our chance to discuss the whole kit and caboodle of waste collection, transportation, and disposal.”

The BLA’s Feb. 4 report notes that “Unlike water rates charged by the SF Public Utilities Commission, neither residential or collection rates are currently subject to Board approval, under the city’s 1932 refuse ordinance.”

Residential rates are approved by the director of Public Works, unless such rates are appealed, in which case they are subject to the approval of the city’s Rate Board, which consists of the city administrator, the controller and the SF Public Utilities Commission director. Recology sets the commercial rates, which are not subject to city approval.

Voters previously rejected two attempts to allow for competitive bidding for refuse collection and transportation (Prop. Z in 1993 and Prop. K in 1994). And the BLA observes that if the Board doesn’t go to the ballot box, it could ask DoE to analyze costs and benefits of using Recology to collect refuse, and using a separate firm to provide transportation, if that firm can avoid transporting refuse through San Francisco’s streets.

Under the never-ending waste ordinance that the city approved during the Great Depression, 97 permits exist to collect refuse within the city, and only authorized refuse collectors that have these permits may transport refuse “through the streets of the City and County of San Francisco.” Due to a number of corporate acquisitions, Recology now owns all 97 permits and so has a monopoly over refuse collected in and transported through the streets of San Francisco.

But the BLA report was unable to identify any portion of the city’s 1932 refuse ordinance that governs the transport of refuse that does not occur through the city’s streets.

“Therefore, it may be possible for a second firm, other than Recology, to transport refuse after it has been collected by Recology, if that second firm’s transfer station was located either outside the city limits or was located near marine or rail facilities, such that refuse from the transfer station to the city’s designated landfill could avoid being transported through the streets of the city and county of San Francisco,” the BLA states.

“These are nuanced issues and they’ve evolved,” Newman observed. “All we are doing is trying to help the board try and decide what to do on this matter. We are saying that the current approach is a policy matter for the board, and recommending that the board submit a proposal to the voters to amend the refuse collection and disposal ordinance.”

The BLA report comes 15 months after the city tentatively awarded the new landfill disposal agreement to Recology to deposit up to 5 million tons of waste collected in San Francisco in Recology’s landfill in Yuba County for 10 years. The award was based on score sheets from a three-member evaluation panel composed of City Administrator (now Mayor) Ed Lee, DoE Deputy Director David Assmann, and Oakland environmental services director Susan Katchee.

The trio scored competing proposals from Recology and Waste Management, and awarded Recology 254, and WM 240, out of a possible 300 points. Lee’s scores in favor of Recology were disproportionately higher than other panelists, and the BLA notes that the largest differences in the scoring occurred around cost.

The BLA concluded that the city’s proposed agreement with Recology was subject to the city’s normal competitive process, “because the landfill disposal agreement is the sole portion of the refuse collection, transportation and disposal process which is subject to the City’s normal competitive bidding process.” And it found that because the transfer and collection of the city’s refuse has never been subject to the city’s normal bidding process, approval of the proposed resolution is a policy decision for the board.

But while DoE’s Assmann has said that California cities must maintain a plan for 15 years of landfill disposal capacity, the BLA notes that such plans can include executed agreements and anticipated agreements. And WM officials confirm that Altamont has capacity for 30 to 40 years. This means the board need not rush its disposal decision.

The BLA report comes against a backdrop of intense lobbying around Recology’s proposal. Records show that in 2010, Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting recorded $82,500 from Recology, and Chris Gruwell of Platinum Advisors recorded $70,000 from Waste Management to lobby around the city’s landfill disposal contract.

And now both firms continue to press their case in face of the BLA report.

“Folks are trying to cloud the issue,” Recology’s consultant Adam Alberti, who works for Sam Singer Associates, said. He claims the BLA report concludes that Recology’s proposed contract is the lowest cost to rate payers, saving an estimated $130 million over 10 years, that Recology’s green rail option is the environmentally superior approach, and that the city’s contract procurement process was open, thorough, and fair. “In short, the process works—and it works well,” Alberti said. “The rate setting process is an important subject, and one the board should review, but the one before the board now is a fully vetted contract.”

Alberti claimed that contrary to the conclusions of the BLA, which found commercial collection rates are significantly higher in San Francisco than Oakland, Recology’s rates are cheaper than Oakland—once you factor in Recology’s recycling discounts.

Waste Management’s David Tucker said the BLA report “raises lots of good questions.”

“We have said from day one that transportation was a component of the request for proposals [for the landfill disposal contract] that no other company other than Recology had an option to bid on,” Tucker said. “Had we been able to bid on the transportation component, our costs would have been lower.”

Tucker believes that no matter who wins the landfill contract, the BLA report points to a lack of transparency and openness under the city’s existing refuse ordinance.

“Up until this time, no one has been able to understand the process,” Tucker said. “If the Budget and Legislative Analyst has shown that there are some inconsistencies in the statements made by the Department of the Environment, if the process has slight flaws, then the whole process from the request for proposals to the pricing needs to be revised. And time is on the City’s side. There is no need to rush into a decision. Yes, our contract with the city is ending, but our capacity at the Altamont clearly goes into 2030 and 2040. So, this is an opportunity to toss out [Recology’s] proposal and start again.”

Asked if Recology is planning to rail haul waste to Nevada, once its Ostrom Road Yuba County landfill, Alberti said that the city’s current procurement process prohibits that.

“Will that be around next time? I don’t know,” he said. “Recology’s first goal is reducing waste, and managing it responsibly. We believe rail haul is an integral part of that.”

And he insisted BLA’s report should not be connected to Recology’s disposal contract.

“Recology believes that the system is working very well, as evidenced by the fact that it’s yielded the best diversion rates, lower rates than average, and has an open and thorough rate-setting process set by an independent body,” he said. ” We feel the recommendations are separate from the matter-at-hand. But if the board so chooses to have this debate, we’re anxious and happy to be part of that discussion.”

David Gavrich, CEO of Waste Solutions Group, which transports waste by rail and barge from San Francisco, praised the BLA report for “finally peeling back the layers of the onion” on the city’s entire waste system. Gavrich notes that in June 2009, he and Port Director Monique Moyer advised DoE of an option on a piece of long-vacant port property that offers direct rail and barge transportation of waste and could result in tremendous long-term savings to ratepayers.

“But we never got a reply to our letter,” Gavrich said. “Instead, DoE pushed forward with Recology’s trucking of waste to the East Bay, the transloading of waste from truck to railcar in the East Bay, and the railing of waste east to Yuba County.”

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, which sits on the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee, is concerned that the city is considering enlarging Recology’s monopoly, without calling into question the reform of the 1932 charter.

“I don’t think these two questions should be disconnected in the way they are in the proposal to award Recology the landfill disposal contract,” Mirkarimi said. “The city and the DOE are very defensive about this and have a well laid-out defense to show that they followed the letter of the law in awarding this contract. But that leads to a secondary set of concerns: namely are we getting the best bang for our bucks, and is there something less than competitive about the current process.”

Mirkarimi admits that Recology has been committed to many of the city’s environmental policy advances. “But that’s aside from the larger question of what this mean in terms of institutionalizing further the expansion of a monopoly,” he said. “Our utilities are governed by monopolies like PG&E. So, should we be going in the same direction as 1932, or thinking if we want to diversify our utility portfolio?”

SF’s redevelopment miracle

2

OPINION While many of us (and most of the rest of the state) can tire from time to time when we hear San Francisco “exceptionalism” being touted, especially when Gavin Newsom is doing the touting, there are some cases in which it’s justified. One of the most salient is the way San Franciscans transformed the city’s Redevelopment Agency and used tax-increment financing to build housing and infrastructure that served its residents, not elite developers.

This is an exceptional story that Gov. Brown does not want to hear. He should both listen and learn from San Francisco’s experience.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency started out like all others: destroying low income neighborhoods to create what the San Francisco Planning and Renewal Association, a strong agency supporter at the time, called ” ‘clean’ industries [and a] population … closer to ‘standard white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’ characteristics … ” But the big difference was that San Franciscans fought back.

In the 1960s in the Western Addition and SoMa, community organizations were formed that sought legal assistance and stopped the agency in its tracks. In the 1970s, new community coalitions were formed to deny the agency new federal funding. By the 1980s, the agency was broke and its mission of urban renewal so blocked and discredited that SPUR changed the last two words in its name from “Urban Renewal” to “Urban Research.”

In 1988, Mayor Art Agnos brought in the opponents of redevelopment and asked them how to redesign the agency. The product of that collaboration was a new mission statement and an ordinance fully integrating the agency into city government — transforming it into a financing agency, with no operational role.

Since 1990, the agency has become the major funder of affordable housing in San Francisco, pouring more than $500 million into low-cost housing both inside and outside redevelopment areas. More than 10,000 units have been built for working and low-income residents, more than half of those units for families with children. The urban infrastructure needed to transform Mission Bay from a toxic rail yard to a residential and biotech center came from the agency. Since 1990, not one neighborhood has been bulldozed by the agency and two new ones are being created (Mission Bay and Transbay).

Yes, some of the tax increment has been used to do some infrastructure work at ATT Park, and former Mayor Gavin Newsom wanted to entice the 49ers with agency funds for a new stadium at the shipyard. And yes, former Mayor Willie Brown gave Bloomingdale’s some agency money for its Market Street store. But the reality is that 50 percent of all tax increment since 1990 has gone to affordable housing development, and the bulk of the remaining 50 percent has gone for critical needed infrastructural work that has produced new property taxes more than paying for the investments. As the state and federal government turned their backs on central cities it was the only form of financing available.

And now Gov. Brown wants to end tax-increment financing. He points to the excess of other redevelopment agencies in other places. He does not, however, look to us and our experience. He should. San Francisco should be the model for what is required of all redevelopment agencies.

After serving as mayor of Oakland, Brown is probably tired of hearing about how different San Francisco is, how exceptional we are. That’s too bad, because in this case it isn’t hype. It’s real. *

Calvin Welch lives and works in San Francisco.

Flipping out

0

Dear Readers:

I get a lot of press releases and ignore them unless they’re for books, kid stuff, or sex toys. But I have been remiss on one count: I have not solicited any samples of sex stuff aimed at men. There is something inherently humorous about fucking an inanimate object (see Portnoy, Alexander and Pie, American) that simply doesn’t seem to apply to the dainty art of buzzing yourself to glory . Object-humping is not dignified.

So I owe men’s sex toys an apology and sent away for something. What arrived was essentially a featureless white cylinder with some recessed white buttons. Very classy. It’s called a “Flip Hole.” Uh, maybe a little less so. Do you want to fuck a flip-hole?

I don’t know anyone who does but I might know someone willing to try it. On the first go, my reviewer gave it about a B, and admitted, modestly, that it seemed to run “a tad small.” And the tight fit caused some of the lining to squish out the front in a disconcerting manner. On later investigation I was impressed with the internal topography, a ribbed-and-bumpy silicone sleeve the texture that maps very creditably to my own mental impression of what the inside of a vagina ought to look like, if was clear more jellylike. The company, Japanese fancy sex-stuff outfit Tenga, did its research. And also implies in its materials that it’s supposed to be that tight. It is called, rather baldly, an “ultratight masturbator.”

So the Flip Hole, ickily named or not, is well-designed and functional. It is easy to clean, which is what all the flipping is about; the sides wing open to give full cleaning access, avoiding the “squishy can full of jizz” impression given by earlier generations of men’s toys. It’s so tidy looking and hygienic that it hardly seems sexy, but when it comes to things you are supposed to stick your one and only precious into, you could do worse than well-designed and hygienic. And I will avoid rude jokes about those adjectives not applying to perhaps the majority of partners picked up in haste at the end of a drunken evening.

Does the thing have any downsides, besides the price, which is, to be fair, standard for boutiquey sex toys? Yes. Although the business end is made of silicone, we quickly noted a lingering industrial solvent scent, like a freshly opened cheap vinyl shower curtain that clung to the object and to anything inserted therein, as well as our hands and everything we touched, requiring showers and extra tooth brushing to get rid of. A long shower just for the Hole, followed by a nice air bath, only just began to diminish the pong. I’m pretty sure extended exposure to sunlight would help, but as deepest city dwellers we are at a loss to find a place to air it out not visible to passersby or accessible to children. So it stinks like the plasticy-est of plastic things, and I can’t recommend that part unless you have yourself some very serious Barbie fantasies. In which case, have at it.

Love,

Andrea

Got a question about sex? Email Andrea at andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com

Meat-cute

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS The things that New Orleans throws at you! Example: a wall of doors, so metaphoric it hurts. My goal is, for the length of this column, to not let it mean anything, just … a wall of doors. Yep.

So this wall of doors separates our yard here from the neighbor’s, which isn’t a yard so much as a couple of feet between houses, a walkway. And, instead of a picket fence, door door door door door. All wooden, all weathered to varying degrees and in different ways. A few still have their knobs on, and these sparkle in the sunshine — albeit meaninglessly. One has no knob, but yes hardware, which is rusty and does not sparkle.

Shine or no, each door is beautiful in its own way; some are bare, others getting there but with swaths of prehistoric primer still, or paint. One had been covered so thickly, so many times, in a now-yellowing white, that the cracks in it resemble giraffe skin. Another has window panes, four quarters: two still have glass, and two are blank space. I could pass a cold beer through to the workers working on the dilapidated house next door.

New Orleans is a ragged and broken city, which is of course part of its charm. The streets have potholes the size of swimming pools. The sidewalks end, drop off, bend and crack. I’m afraid to ride my bike. Walking is an extreme sport. The zoo is just across the street, and I take the Doughboy there because it is safe and smooth. We are becoming friends with the zookeepers, and already they have let us pet a snake.

End of the day, when I told his mummy about this snake-petting business, she wondered what my own personal “spirit animal” was.

“Giraffe,” I said, without even thinking about it. Before, as you know, it was chickens. Why — since I am famous for eating me my meat — do I always identify with the vegetarian, and the prey?

My new New Orleans friends, the human ones, are meat meat meat eaters, and music music music lovers, which makes perfect sense because food and tunes are what this town is all about. You can imagine my giddiness. Hedgehog, the one I am kissing, works on a TV show I’ve never seen, because I don’t have a TV, let alone HBO, so I feel especially qualified to give it an especially objective review. I mean, how much more objective can you be than to never have even seen a thing? So: not enough plot. Or character. Oodles of fantastic music.

I base this impression solely on comments made by my TV-having friends back home when I’ve mentioned that, yo, I’m hanging with someone from Treme. Then when I tell them that she does sound, then they are impressed.

On Monday, Hedgehog and me walked along the Mississippi River, drank vodka in a gay man bar, and ate at a place called Green Goddess, which (hee hee hee) is all about meat — pulled pork flapjack for me, and a bacon meatloaf samwich for her.

Mind you, that’s at the Green Goddess. So you can imagine what goes down at the restaurants called Butcher, and Pig — but in French, which here doesn’t mean pretentious. I’m in heaven!

Next evening, four of us gathered after work for $2 taco night and $2 Red Stripes at the Caribbean-influenced Rum House. Just some of the stuff my own personal tacos featured: lamb vindaloo, barbecued ribs, roasted duck, and goose cracklin. Um, that’s four different animals crammed into only three $2 tacos.

You know how after-work gatherings go: the televisionistas are unwindingly griping, their shitty day this, their shitty day that, and I’m just serenely sipping my Red Stripe because I’d had an awesome day, changing diapers.

Tomorrow we’re eating at Patois, and Sunday we’re having a little Super Bowl party. I’m making my patented barbecued eggs, and Hedgehog is bringing her patented gumbo tacos, and what the fuck? I can’t get me no lesbian love in queer central, San Francisco, where I’m popular. Or in Boston, where I rock. Whereas one week into New Orleans, where my most ardent admirers are a nine-month-old boy and a handful of zookeepers, and I’m squeezing me a hot hot hottie who’s won a goddamn Emma.

Or whatever that’s called. Bragging? Not really. I’m just looking out my window at a wall made of doors.

NEW ORLEANS

The only place in this country that’s cooler than San Francisco.

Flush with tips

0

culture@sfbg.com

CULTURE I floated drunkenly into the second-story bathroom at 1015 Folsom. It’s a tiny affair, and my head was just enough obscured to make navigating past the waiting bodies a sure difficulty. I did my business and realized that the man that I had squeezed by, near the sink, wasn’t another patron, but some sort of bathroom attendant. In my inebriated state, it appeared to be an elaborate joke.

He was Latino, wearing a nice suit, and stood in the narrow space between the sink and one of the three urinals, his back against the middle pissoir. He had a mountain of curiosities piled over the sink, and a towel for drying hands draped over one arm.

“Have you worked here long?” I asked.

He shook his head. No. Just a little while.

“Do you keep your tips?”

No. He shook his head again, indicating that there was some sort of split. Reluctantly using the towel, I thanked him and dropped a Washington into the tip jar.

Somewhere, after more French techno, I drifted off to sleep. When I awoke, I wondered, had that really happened? Had I dreamt it? Had I hallucinated?

I sent 1015 Folsom an e-mail inquiring about the attendant. Apparently it was true. Barnaby May, who describes himself as a seven-year veteran of the nightclub scene, took credit for the hookup. He felt that something was lacking from 1015, that it would be better to have a bathroom attendant than not. He put me in contact with Shaun Fausz, who runs a company called Refreshus, which trains and supplies bathroom attendants.

According to Fausz, the service is tailored to appeal to a lackluster economy: it costs the clubs nothing. “Clubs would rather have a free service than have to repaint every few months and replace a trashed sink,” Fausz says. Which makes good sense in a city where one of the dominant aesthetics of the nightlife is a sort of high-class posturing that can quickly be ruined by a Magic Marker. Other clubs have resorted to taunting taggers. Look how fucked up our bathroom is, the Rickshaw Stop seems to say, what else can you do? Put up another sticker? The Independent has painted its water closets black to nullify vandalism.

Bathroom attendants from Refreshus act as security, whether they’re at a nightclub, like 1015, or at a strip club, like the Century Club, where one of Refeshus’ longest standing employees, Gary Lawton, has worked for nine months. Lawton says it’s “a good public service,” although he never imagined performing it. Positioned in the bathroom, he’s able to monitor illicit behavior. “As you hear the snorting, you know what’s going on and you just let them know that they have to take it outside,” he says. “Or they’ll approach me and ask me if its cool, and I’ll just inform them that it’s zero tolerance, as well as alcohol, because there’s no drinking with full nudity.”

This was news to me. (My Catholic upbringing and feminist programming at university makes it impossible to attend a “gentleman’s club.”) If a club includes full nudity, and not just topless dancing, alcohol is verboten. “Our beloved senator is responsible for that, Dianne Feinstein.” says Lawton. “It doesn’t make any sense — I mean that’s what security is for. If you see someone being belligerent, you just tell them to go get some fresh air or something.”

Lawton, who looks like he could be a bouncer, doesn’t necessarily tell people he’s a bathroom attendant as much as “a member of security, who’s stationed in the bathroom.” But no embarrassment shows when he discusses the details. He loves his work, where he gets to act as liaison, recommending girls to patrons and occasionally getting a peek himself. He gets to meet people from all over, and show them a piece of the world that he never glimpsed before being at the Century. “It’s something I can’t explain,” he says. “You know you’re stuck in the bathroom, and then you see them doing something like ‘School Girl Night.’ It’s wild. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s just amazing every time I get out there. They have several girls who actually lift their legs up and climb all the way to the ceiling. It’s like being at the circus, but they’re stripping.”

It’s an experience that, to put it simply, Lawton is generally priced out of, a world where “private dances” can cost upwards of $100. In terms of straightforward class, Lawton has no shortage — he’s a polite man who chooses his words with the precision of someone who makes a living speaking to people — but if we’re talking economics, he’s low on the ladder. Once or twice before meeting me at the Barbary Coast coffee shop off Market Street, Lawton had to drop appointments at the last minute, his housing situation in tumult. Truth is he’s on General Assistance, in the shelter system, and shared tips from a few nights work a week aren’t enough to get over.

The income for a bathroom attendant, the flow of tips, breaks down across class lines as well as cultural ones. In Lawton’s experience, middle- to upper-class white men tip well. With African American or Indian men, he doesn’t count on tips. In some ways, bathroom attendants perform an obsolete service that only older generations know how to handle. (Think of the bathroom attendants at Bimbo’s, and that club’s retro style.)

Fausz has his own observations: “European people don’t tip. They don’t have tipping over in Europe. Women don’t tip as often — they like to let the guys pay for everything when they go out.” To my knowledge, Refreshus doesn’t have female attendants.

While Lawton can’t enforce any specific prices, he sometimes has to step in, politely explaining that the service isn’t complimentary. “Everyone under 32, they’re oblivious,” he says. “They come in and see the candy and go, ‘Oh, it’s free.’ And you have to remind them that, no, this is a service. But you don’t force any prices. Like I’ll have a jar with a $5 bill and I’ll just let them use their own discretion, just remind them that the colognes are usually this amount because it’s expensive and I have to pay for all that. You just make them feel comfortable and let them know that even though it’s complimentary, this is how I make a living. I’m responsible for all this. Because they think the club provides the service.”

A lot of this has to do with exposure. While a number of clubs — Vessel, Harlot, Trigger — reportedly have similar services, bathroom attendants aren’t common. Lawton had never encountered one before landing his job, just seen them on TV, and he describes the position as obsolete. “Each generation wants their own type of representation,” he says. “So naturally anything they think of as obsolete just doesn’t apply to them.” At the same time, Lawton acknowledges that a genuine amount of surprise plays in his favor, and patrons admire that the service is still on offer.

Whether bathroom attendant work at the nightclubs provides enough income is unclear. In a place where people pack singles, like the strip clubs, the tips are expected to flow more freely. That’s fine with Lawton, who doesn’t like the more amphetamine-infused nightclub culture as much, having had close family members ruin their life over addiction.

Fausz has seen turnover, most often when attendants steal or are headhunted by clubs. Some just aren’t a good fit ,or can’t work in the environment, or can’t hold the right amount of conversation. (The attendant I met at the beginning of this piece no longer works for Fausz.) But there are people willing to work for Refreshus wherever the opportunity arises. On a recent night I ran into Russ, a lean fellow in a sharp jacket stationed in the more luxurious main bathroom at 1015 Folsom. He described the job as “a good way to supplement my income,” adding “I’m a personal trainer.”

Fausz wants to fit bathroom attendants into more of the city’s nightclubs, even if an event tends to draw a crowd for whom a bathroom attendant is an obscure novelty. He puts it simply: “I’m kind of training the next generation of people to tip.”

Real fiction

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE There is a guy in town named Jess Curtis who has the most gorgeous mop of white hair and a smile to match. His body is taut and muscular; it also shows signs of wear from working hard and probably playing hard. Curtis used to be part of the now-legendary Contraband, for a while the most radically inventive dance troupe in the country. Then he and his buddy Keith Hennessy took off for France where the ministry of culture — anybody listening at the NEA? — set up a special, nicely funded section for Circus Arts. This should have made red-blooded Americans recoil in horror. Instead it invigorated the two guys’ ideas about performance and its role in society. Above all, they got in closer touch with their own bodies and how they wanted to use them.

Coming back, Curtis took off for Davis (Hennessy was to follow), the former agricultural college, now a production line for the Bay Area’s starving dancers, who want to acquire (a wee bit of) wealth, wisdom, and perhaps a job in a university. A body-based, anarchical perspective, so integral to the critical theory thriving in academia, also generally opened a universe for dance, which for so long had been intellectually suspect because it had no “text” that could be studied, analyzed, and turned into a dissertation.

For Curtis, a socially committed artist since his Contraband days, who wants his work to at least chip away at the conflicts, prejudices, and histories that divide us, body-focused thinking was a good place to start. The body, after all, is all we have; it’s our home and our hell. As artistic inspiration, the idea is not new. Take one look at Picasso, and you see a patriarchal guy obsessed with the human female body.

Along comes Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies, Jess Curtis/Gravity’s two-hour extravaganza for six artists — Curtis, Claire Cunningham, Matthias Hermann, Jörg Muller, Maria Francesca Scaroni, and Bridge Markland — who keep shifting and revealing new sides of who they are or might be. It’s a fun game to see how new individual “fictional bodies” pop up like corks from what sometimes is a morass of images and information. that in turn fatigue, delight, and surprise. This stripping away and putting on of new identities is often accomplished by changes in attire. (PhD dissertation, anyone?).

Dances lives off the talents of its protean performers. Muller, who under his Red Riding Hood outfit hides a rabbit in his crotch (take that, Freud), levitates so that an object can scoot under his horizontally-stretched body. Curtis passes out philosophical treatises but creates another type of enlightenment by engaging in what amounts to a 20-mile stationary bike ride to illuminate a string of holiday lights. Scaroni dons a fat suit and dumpy clothes yet turns herself into an elegant roller skating virtuoso. She’s also a karaoke singer and, with the help of Mueller, a cross-dresser.

My favorite chameleon, however, was Cunningham, whose dainty feet and delicate fingers use crutches as pincers. For much of the first half, she scoots around like a Roomba, busily rearranging props and — if I saw correctly — audience members. In the end, donning a red boxing outfit and sitting in a bathtub, she reveals herself as a soprano, delivering a respectable Bach aria.

For all its embrace of egalitarianism and plenitude, to the extent that Dances works it is because of the care and shape-shifting craft that these artists imposed on a rich mix of physical props, performance ideas, and individual talents. Like it or not, this is an elite collection of performers. During the post-show discussion, Curtis explained that artist-activist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who was present, had been helpful with Dances‘ timing. It became quickly evident that Gómez-Peña does not want to be a consultant; he wants to join the circus.

DANCES FOR NON/FICTIONAL BODIES (COMMUNITY CHORUS INSTALLATIONS)

Thu/10, noon–2 p.m.; free

Yerba Buena Gardens

Third and Howard, SF

(415) 978-2787

www.jesscurtisgravity.org

Pizza Nostra

0

paulr@sfbg.com

DINE Nice — I speak of the French city, not the human quality, of which I must be one of life’s least accomplished practitioners — isn’t quite Italian, but it isn’t quite not, either. Like Alsace in the north — another locus of French pizza — it has been the subject of international contention for centuries. Maybe pizza helps settle nerves frayed by all this struggle, but whether it does or not, pizza served with a distinctly French flair (and often a pitcher of local rosé) is what you’ll find at the many outdoor cafes in the heart of Nice, just a few blocks from the beaches of the Cote d’Azur.

It’s what you’ll find, too, at Pizza Nostra, our own little slice of Nice — complete with outdoor tables! — at the north foot of Potrero Hill. The neighborhood will never be mistaken for the Cote d’Azur, and of course the weather here is considerably fouler, but there is something sublime about pizza — really a whole Italian menu, with many interesting small courses, salads, soups, and starters — served with Gallic style.

The restaurant opened some years ago, as Couleur Cafe, in a small shopping center with a parking lot and buildings of a shed-like, provisional quality, like a PX on Guam. It then became Pizza Nostra, changing hands last year from Jocelyn Bulow to Winona Matsuda. She hasn’t changed much, and maybe that’s because there isn’t much in need of change. Despite the faux-suburban setting, the interior has wonderful candlelit atmospherics under a high ceiling that melts into shadow. The service is impeccable. And the food travels well beyond the country of pizza; you could do quite nicely here without pizza at all. But the pizzas are lovely, and if you were stuck with just that, you’d be happy too.

But I do question the wisdom of bringing basket after basket of complimentary focaccia to people who are in all likelihood waiting for pizza. White flour in our diet is like atmospheric radiation left over from those 1950s tests in the South Pacific: insidious, omnipresent, unnoticed. I think this every time I go by Tartine Bakery and see people queuing like Soviet-era Muscovites. As Michael Pollan noted in his polemic In Defense of Food, white flour is so devoid of nutrition that even bugs don’t want it.

Having said that, I note that Pizza Nostra’s focaccia is addictive, with a pillow-like softness and bewitching olive-oil breath. If you can restrain yourself from gobbling it down straight, you will find it’s useful for dunking and sopping applications. We found its spear shape ideal for sticking into a bowl of mushroom-eggplant soup ($6) that was possibly the most gratifying use of eggplant I’ve ever come across. Its subtle, bitter bite was like a sheen around the earthy weight of the fungi.

The focaccia was also useful in wiping up the savory oil left on the plate after we’d demolished the halved brussels sprouts ($5), pan-roasted with fat chunks of pancetta. I would have let the sprouts cook through and caramelize a little more, but they were tender and flavorful nonetheless.

Sicilian-style tuna salad ($12) seemed like a close relative of salade niçoise, except without anchovies. But there was a wealth of halved pear tomatoes, pitted nicoise olives, and cannellini beans nested in a jumble of arugula and frisée, with the tuna arranged in a berm that partly enclosed the greens.

The pizzas are thin-crust, made (according to the menu) in the style of Recco, a town in the northern Italian region of Liguria, not far from Nice. The array of toppings is mostly conventional, although the kitchen does throw together various specials, including a pie ($16) topped with hot Italian sausage, red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, a red-onion confit, and broccoli florets — all of which runs against the basic article of American faith that more is better. Sometimes more isn’t better. Broccoli doesn’t translate well to pizza, and we found the red-onion jam to be jarringly sweet.

But — on the subject of sweets — the olive-oil cake ($6), a cupcake-like disk, was dense and moist. It could have stood without assistance from the large pat of limoncello gelato on the side, although the gelato was a nice touch.

PIZZA NOSTRA

Dinner: nightly, 5:30–10 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., noon–3 p.m.

300 De Haro, SF

(415) 558-9493

www.pizzanostrasf.com

Beer and wine

AE/DC/MC/V

Not too noisy

Wheelchair acccesible

 

Beige to the bone

0

arts@sfbg.com

FILM What if The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) got so Parks and Rec‘d at The Office party that he ended up with a killer Hangover (2009)? What then, huh? Just maybe the morning-after baby would be Cedar Rapids — named for the determinedly downtempo, unpretentious Iowa city where the smell of cooked oats hung in the air and students from nearby Iowa City, like yours truly, communed regularly at the local arena to bang head to big boys like Metallica. Sweet. And likewise director Miguel Arteta (2009’s Youth in Revolt) wrings sweet-natured chuckles from his banal, intensely beige wall-to-wall convention center biosphere, spurring such ponderings as, should John C. Reilly snatch comedy’s real-guy MVP tiara away from Seth Rogen (Reilly would never pull a Green Hornet on us, would he)? Is this the every-bro coming-of-ager that last year’s Due Date wanted to be before stumbling on its own smugness?

Consider Tim Lippe (Ed Helms of The Hangover), the polar opposite of George Clooney’s ultracompetent, complacent ax-wielder in Up in the Air (2009). He’s the naive manchild-cum-corporate wannabe who’s never been on a plane, much less partied with the competition. Lippe never quite graduated from Timmyville into adulthood: he’s banging his seventh-grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver) and still working at the small-town insurance company in Brown Valley, Wis., that took him on as a teenaged file clerk when his mother passed.

So when his insurance company’s star employee perishes in an autoerotic asphyxiation accident, it’s up to Lippe to hold onto his firm’s two-star rating — bestowed on upstanding insurance peddlers with good Christian values — and make its case at an annual convention in Cedar Rapids. Life conspires against him, however, and despite his heartfelt belief in insurance as a heroic profession, Lippe immediately gets sucked into the oh-so-distracting drama — in the form of playful playa Joan (Anne Heche); buttoned-up roommate Ronald, whose sole guilty pleasure seems to be The Wire (Isiah Whitlock Jr. of The Wire); and the dangerously subversive "Deanzie" Ziegler (John C. Reilly), whom our naif is warned against as a no-good poacher.

Temptations lie around every PowerPoint and potato skin: be it bribery in the presidential suite, cream sherry debauchery in the atrium pool, crack pipes at sketched-out farm parties, or hot convention sex. As Deanzie warns Lippe’s Candide, "I’ve got tiger scratches all over my back. If you want to survive in this business, you gotta daaance with the tiger." How do you do that? Cue lewd, boozy undulations — a potbelly lightly bouncing in the air-conditioned breeze. "You’ve got to show him a little teat."

Fortunately Arteta shows us plenty of that, equipped with a script by Wisconsin native Phil Johnston, written for Helms — and the latter does not disappoint. If The Hangover‘s "Dr. Douchebag" didn’t win over comedy fans, then his all-in, affectionate portrayal of a man with a child in his eyes might, even while Reilly threatens to steal the show with his troublemaking party/fire-starter, the sad-eyed life of the office who’s loathed by the boss.

He, too, has a place amid Cedar Rapids‘ stalwart brownness, and face it, the ’10s are shaping up to be pretty darn brown. Camel is chic, wood-grain is the freak, tea parties are geek, and the reality of hum-drum office-park Carell culture has come to look kind of sexy from across a crowded recession, after such widespread unemployment. It follows that the blandest towns become the sites of transformation; the smallest victories for the most conventional of conventioneers, the stuff of authentically feel-good comedy. Cedar Rapids may poke fun at the flyover states, but it pledges allegiance to those denizens’ essential decency.

CEDAR RAPIDS opens Fri/11 in San Francisco.

Rise up and reflect

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM A 10-part anthology film marking the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, Revolución derives most of its resonance from bits of Mexico’s landscape and cultural identity rather than head-on treatments of the revolution and its ideals.

However, this should only be read as a shortcoming if one approaches the film anticipating overt political or nationalist engagement. Instead, as might be expected from independent-minded, festival-focused directors such as Fernando Eimbcke (2008’s Lake Tahoe) and Carlos Reygadas (2007’s Silent Light), these 10 short films by Mexico’s most recognized directors and actors (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna coproduced the entire project and directed segments) shape up in unexpected ways.

Taken as a whole, Revolución presents an ordinary, dignified, beautiful Mexico (in contrast to its increasingly violent image, courtesy of sensationalized news reports). Apropos to the diversity of the nation is the diversity of cinematic styles employed.

Patricia Riggen’s Beautiful and Beloved is a heartfelt and comedic story of familial duty leading to a small revelation. When a second-generation immigrant has to sneak the corpse of her father across the border to fulfill his wishes of being buried in Mexico, she is initially resentful. But something in her changes amid the massive funeral procession when she engages with her dad’s garrulous old pal. Beautiful offers one of the more conventional narratives in the film; it also includes the most direct references to the revolution and outlines an easily discernible conflict. Rodrigo García’s 7th and Alvarado, on the other hand, is a dreamlike juxtaposition of ordinary pedestrians and traditional horseback soldiers on the streets of a Hispanic area of Los Angeles.

Similarly, the three segments that portray celebrations in order to consider how the revolution is remembered today are all poignant yet quite distinctive from each other. Eimbcke’s graceful The Welcome Ceremony opens the film on a quiet, observant note by depicting a taciturn tuba player preparing for a concert that never happens. Reygadas’ This is My Kingdom is a vérité-style depiction of raucous outdoor activities that contrasts middle-class enjoyment with the rituals of the homeless who share the space. Rodrigo Pla’s vision, 30/30, may be Revolución‘s most cynical — it explores the dissonance experienced by Mexican Revolutionary general Pancho Villa’s grandson when he is both superficially honored and callously ignored at a centennial event.

REVOLUCIÓN

Thurs/10–Fri/11, 7:30 p.m., $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787
www.ybca.org

Free at last?

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Deep in East Oakland, in the 80s blocks of MacArthur Boulevard, I arrive at the locked door of a hole-in-the-wall barbershop. A handwritten sign says “closed for a private appointment,” but I knock anyway and gain admittance. Inside, Mistah FAB, a.k.a. the Prince of the Bay, lounges in the chair, getting a mural of a crown and the Bay Bridge shaved onto the back of his head. It’s a very hip-hop ‘do, befitting his present mood. For the occasion of our interview, in part, is his new release, an Internet mixtape of all-original music called I Found My Backpack. As the title suggests, it’s a return to his roots, FAB’s most straight-up hip-hop project since his pre-hyphy debut, Nig-Latin (Straight Hits, 2003).

“I wanted to start off this year with that vibe,” FAB says, over the low buzz of the clippers. “I went into the music I made before I had any success, music that made me happy.”

To be sure, 2010 was a difficult year for FAB. Not only did he have his first child, a daughter, but his mother (“my best friend,” he calls her) died of cancer, leaving him with no parents just as he became one. (His father, as chronicled on his breakthrough album, Son of a Pimp [Thizz, 2005], died of AIDS when FAB was 12.) FAB’s closest cousin also passed away, while his older brother — after a lifetime in and out of institutions — was sentenced to life in prison.

“A party song — that can’t express my pain,” FAB says. “I’m not going to ignore it because when you ignore it, it only grows more. I want to allow people to see the stresses and the pain that I go through.”

For someone who emerged during the Bay’s hedonistic hyphy era, FAB has had more than his share of stress. For the past three-and-a-half years, he’s been signed to Atlantic Records, which never released his projected album, Da Yellow Bus Ryder. Meanwhile, thanks to a dispute with KMEL’s former managing director, Big Von Johnson, FAB got no local radio play from the station since 2006, even when he was on Snoop Dogg’s 2008 hit “Life of Da Party,” which reached No. 14 on Billboard’s rap charts. Finally, as its most conspicuous proponent, FAB was hit hard by the backlash against hyphy that flared up in 2007.

Any of the above qualify as a career-killer, but FAB has refused to surrender, and his persistence is paying off. He’s finally negotiated an end to his contract with Atlantic, and plans to sign with L.A. Laker Ron Artest’s Tru Warrior label to release a full-blown album, Liberty Forever, later this year. His versatility has allowed him to reinvent himself even as he defiantly claims hyphy on Backpack‘s Droop-E-produced opener, “Blame Me.”

“People treated hyphy like it was witchcraft,” FAB laughs. “Like when the townspeople came to hunt for everybody who’d been involved, and everybody was like, ‘No! I did nothing hyphy! I never wore stunna shades!’ But I’m not ashamed of anything we done then. I had to get it off my chest because I wanted people to realize how fake they were being.”

Most significantly, FAB is being broadcast again by KMEL. Backpack‘s hip-hop vibe aside, he hasn’t renounced his commercial ambitions. A new single, “She Don’t Belong to Me,” featuring Universal Records R&B crooner London, has recently begun getting spins, following a regime change at the station; program director Stacy Cunningham was fired last year, while Johnson, though still a DJ, is no longer manager, replaced by assistant program director Kenard Karter.

“If you go around the country and hear Rick Ross, T-Pain, Lupe Fiasco shout out Mistah FAB, then it’s odd that you’re not playing him on the radio station you control,” FAB points out. “But [Karter] is about change and giving artists such as myself a fair shot. He reached out to me a few weeks ago, and they’ve been playing my new record here and there, which is better than never there.”

This development potentially goes beyond FAB to the entire Bay, whose artists are seldom represented on Clear Channel-owned KMEL. But is Karter really about change? In an e-mail interview two weeks ago, he acknowledged that he hopes to increase airplay for local artists. But when asked what’s preventing it, he was inconclusive at best. “Its all about the music,” he wrote. “Quality, mass appeal music that garners passion is the standard for KMEL.”

This is the same line KMEL has pushed for years, implying that Bay Area artists are at fault for not making quality music. For a concrete example of an artist meeting his criteria, I asked about J-Stalin. Stalin has one of the most passionate followings in Oakland; I hear his music slappin’ in passing cars, on BART, even in the elevator in my apartment building. Yet KMEL put nothing in rotation from last year’s The Prenuptial Agreement (SMC, 2010), which debuted at No. 1 on Rasputin’s rap chart.

“I can’t comment,” Karter wrote, regarding Stalin. “I don’t know much about him.”

When I asked about FAB, Karter stopped replying, refusing to confirm even meeting with him. I can’t say for sure why, though I imagine his reluctance to discuss FAB stems from not wanting to acknowledge the ban in the first place.

I don’t want to criticize Karter. I’m thrilled he’s playing FAB, and he deserves some time to show and prove. But the Bay needs the radio. Radio made FAB a star back in 2005 when KMEL was banging “Super Sic Wid It,” while his later lack of airplay gave Atlantic cold feet about releasing his album. With his current single, FAB is merely testing the waters; he has an arsenal of bigger singles to release — if the radio will play them. “I have crazy records people would be amazed by,” FAB says. “Records with T-Pain, Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, one with Rick Ross and Jadakiss over a Justus League beat — you know, just playing the power names, like, look what I been doing over the years. So if they give this a run, they gonna love what I have in store for them.”

Where the Magik happens

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Because of the rusty pieces of corrugated sheet metal crudely affixed to its exterior, I almost mistake Tiny Telephone, a recording studio, for a very large, dilapidated storage unit. But on a brick-red door, alphabet letter magnets spell out “tiny,” and only bits of dried glue and fragments of “telephone” remain. This must be it.

Through the door, a two-wall art installation made of reclaimed redwood (by resident artist Claire Mack) in the lounge/kitchen area catches my eye. I’ve seen pictures of it on the studio’s website. This is it. It’s easy to imagine Death Cab For Cutie or San Francisco songstress Thao drinking beer, shooting the shit, and jamming in this room.

Once I plop down on the couch, pop-folk icon John Vanderslice, owner and manager of Tiny Telephone, pulls up a chair. Minna Choi, the artistic director of Magik*Magik Orchestra, the studio’s official house orchestra, takes a seat on a tan area rug.

“It’s probably like how everyone feels when you’re from San Francisco and you move to the East Coast and there are no good taquerias,” Vanderslice says, laughing, when I ask him about the history of Tiny Telephone. “I was in a small local band,” he elaborates. “We wanted to make a record. We toured every local studio. It was like there were only either rehearsal places with garbage on the floor, or posh, unaffordable, hardwood-floor, uptight-owner situations. There was nothing in the middle.”

In September 1997, Vanderslice opened Tiny Telephone to give independent musicians the opportunity to make affordable hi-fi recordings. Magik*Magik Orchestra entered the picture in 2008. “We wanted to simplify the process of incorporating classically-trained musicians into a nonclassical environment,” Choi says. “So I e-mailed [John].”

“It was like genius!” Vanderslice blurts out.

Adding the orchestra to Tiny Telephone is in tandem with Vanderslice’s evolution as an artist. On 2004’s Cellar Door (Barsuk), he strayed from electric guitar and used acoustic guitar and keyboards. “[Electric guitars] really take up a lot of territory,” he explains. “It’s a little bit like a cock-block. [Keyboards] can sit in one area, and then you can put something directly above them and below them in the frequency spectrum, so there’s plenty of room for, like, a French horn.” This year’s White Wilderness (Dead Oceans), finds Vanderslice’s tenor accompanied by acoustic guitar and a 19-piece ensemble gleaned from Magik*Magik Orchestra’s roughly 180-person membership.

“It’s great to go in a different direction,” Vanderslice says. “It’s great to move on.”

We all stand to start the tour. As I walk across the aqua blue floor, my hand grazes Fender amps that line the walkway to the main recording room. Inside, it’s dimly lit. When Vanderslice flips a switch, a white deer head becomes illuminated — like a statue of an idol — by Christmas lights strung on a pump organ. In one breath, he enumerates some of the equipment that is available: 14 guitar amps, a Hammond b3, a grand piano, keyboards, an EMT reverb plate. The lexicon of music recording equipment is dizzying. Vanderslice points to the walls: “These are all untreated cedar panels. This is cotton batting.” As we leave the room, he pauses to mention that the studio has been booked for more than 400 days in a row.

We climb a few rickety stairs to enter the control room, where we’re joined by Ian Pellicci, Tiny Telephone’s house engineer. With its UV meters, faders, and colored knobs, the room’s Neve console, built in 1976 for the BBC in London, looks like a prop taken from the bridge of the original Star Trek‘s Enterprise. This is the tape machine,” says Choi. “I’m proud to say that I was here when they put all of the light bulbs in, then all of a sudden it came alive like Wall-E.”

To encourage analog recording, Tiny Telephone provides free two-inch tape to clients. “Not that digital is terrible. But the technology has a ways to go,” Pellicci says. “There’s a greater dimension to the sound [of analog].”

Next we shuffle into the isolation room. “We’re basically in an anechoic isolation room where people can do vocals, drums — ” Vanderslice begins to explain. But with the room’s door open, I can hear the raucous sounds of construction taking place down the hallway.

Next door, what once was an auto shop is being converted into a separate studio, a “B Room” Opening in June, the B Room will be set up as an arts nonprofit modeled after The Bay Bridged and 826 Valencia. Unlike Tiny Telephone, which costs $350 per day plus engineers, the B Room will cost $200 daily. “We wanted to give bands a low-cost option to record on a tape machine, on a real console with microphones, in a space where they can make as much noise as they want,” says Vanderslice.

“With this other price point, [Vanderslice] is tapping into another group of bands and artists,” Choi adds. “There are probably so many diamonds in the rough — crazy talent waiting to be discovered.”

As the tour winds down, Vanderslice shares his vision of Tiny Telephone and the B Room: “We’re going to put a picnic table outside, a basketball hoop — we’re going to build community. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Butch blooms

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culture@sfbg.com

V-DAY So you want to buy a nice little floral arrangement for that hot JD Samson look-alike who works behind the butcher counter — or perhaps you’re having a hard time picking out a rose for the tall, dark flannel-clad bear you met on  Fuzzy4Fuzzy.com. Does ze even like flowers? Hell, it can even be rough finding the right bloom for your beloved bio male. Anyone who has ever been romantically involved with a masculine-presenting honey bun knows that carnations, lingerie, and other frilly V-Day accoutrement just ain’t cuttin’ it. So what kind of bouquet can you give a butch? Something spiky? Flowers made from aged leather? Pieces of wood? We asked the city’s florists for their best bets for the rough and tumble.

 

CHURCH STREET FLOWERS

Stephanie Foster is one of three owners at Church Street Flowers, a shop that does made-to-order arrangements featuring locally grown botanicals. “We do bouquets for masculine people all the time,” she tells us. “Guys love getting flowers too.” Foster recommends “brighter colors, like orange, yellow, green, or white.” And less is more when you want to impress a tough type. “As opposed to something very feminine and garden-y, we’d do something simpler. Plus, in our shop you’ll probably find things other places don’t carry, like seed pods that hold a structural quality instead of a flowery quality.”

212 Church, SF. (415) 553-7762, www.churchstflowers.com

 

PAXTON GATE

We were sure that this Mission gem — SF’s O.G. go-to for fanciful taxidermy, flora, and low maintenance landscape design — would have the goods for area hombres, and it didn’t disappoint. Come V-Day, Paxton Gate will be selling special holiday arrangements fit for a butch, each complete with a shiny preserved beetle garnish. “We wanted the arrangements to be long-lasting, so we’ll incorporate some rugged South African plants like proteas, maybe succulents, and some dried components,” says floral designer Sean Quigley. The store will be bundling its buggy blooms in advance for lovers on the go. At $38 a bunch, they’ll be a little pricey — but think of what you’ll save on your butcher bill.

824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com

 

THE FRENCH TULIP

“I’m from Eastern Europe,” says owner Andre Abramov in a phone interview. When asked what flowers he would recommend for a dude, Abramov immediately recommended orchids. “In Greek, ‘orchid’ translates to ‘testicle.’ That would be perfect for a man.” If you’re not sold on highlighting your valentine’s testicles (or lack thereof), Abramov also stands by roses, cala lilies, and anthurium lilies for the butch in your life. “They’re strong, colorful, and they make a very big statement.” Just like your lumberjack love.

3903 24th St., SF. (415) 647-8661, www.frenchtulip.com

 

THE FLOWER GIRL

Mieko Takahashi Obermuller has owned and operated this Inner Sunset neighborhood floral shop since 1978. She understands the butch bloom conundrum: “First of all, tropical flowers are very bold,” she says. “Birds of paradise would look nice with some interesting greens, and I love proteas.” Obermuller, who specializes in Eastern floral design, says arrangement is crucial. “You have to know how to put it together. One, two, or three orchids with some greens — it’s simple but it makes a statement. I can take feminine flowers like tiger lilies, blue irises, or curly willows but still design the arrangement for a masculine look.” It’s not quite studded leather, but it sounds like something that’d look great on that meat counter.

1127 Irving, SF. (415) 731-0230, www.flowergirlsf.com

Delicious love

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V-DAY What if this year Valentine’s paired romance with a visit to one of SF’s best new restaurants? Here are new additions to the local dining scene in 2010 that will please food lovers (and who isn’t, in this city?) while offering a range of price points in love-worthy settings.

 

FOR AMOROUS EXPERIMENTALISTS: COMMONWEALTH

Anthony Myint and chef Jason Fox are reinventing fine dining. Your edgy foodie date will be impressed. Myint was a mastermind behind Mission Street Food and Mission Chinese Food. Here at Commonwealth with Chef Fox, he delves into deliciously experimental creations with a fresh, unpretentious approach. And shockingly, no dish costs more than $16. Dine on goat cooked in hay while sipping a liquid nitrogen aperitif, finish with porcini thyme churros with huckleberry jam. You may be packed in tight in the spare, modern space, but you’ll both leave glowing from stimulating flavors and presentation.

2224 Mission, SF. (415) 355-1500, www.commonwealthsf.com

 

FOR OLD WORLD ROMANTICS: COMSTOCK SALOON

The Barbary Coast comes alive in this bar-restaurant gem that feels like a timeless classic … and isn’t too taxing on the wallet. From Victorian wallpaper to restored dark woods, the spirit and history of the space entice. Filling up on rich beef shank and bone marrow potpie or bites like whiskey-cured gravlax on rye toast is happy respite on chilly nights. Pair with a perfect Martinez cocktail or a barkeep’s whimsy (bartender’s creation based on your preferences), and see if your date doesn’t cozy up with you next to that wood-burning stove. Comstock exemplifies the best of what a modern-day saloon with Old World sensibilities can be.

155 Columbus, SF. (415) 617-0071, www.comstocksaloon.com

 

FOR LOVING LOCAVORES: GATHER

Gather is the best thing to come along in Berkeley in ages, and ideal for your local or locavore-y date. It reads typical Bay Area yet goes further: local, sustainable, organic everything, including spirits, wine, and beer. A rounded room with open kitchen is holistically casual and urban. All the raves you’ve heard about the vegan “charcuterie” are true. Marvel at the artistic, affordable array of five different vegetable presentations on a wood slab, like roasted baby beets with fennel, dill, blood orange, horseradish almond puree, and pistachio. Executive chef Sean Baker and team do meat right, too, whether sausage/pork belly/chile pizza or house-cured ham topped with crescenza cheese. Gather displays an ethos and presentation one can only dream of becoming a standard everywhere.

2200 Oxford, Berk. (510) 809-0400, www.gatherrestaurant.com

 

FOR BEEF-LOVING BEAUS: THE SYCAMORE

Skip the Valentine’s Day’s hoopla and take your sweetie out for a night that will make you feel like kids again — to the Sycamore, which offers a delicious “famous” roast beef sandwich. A glorified Arby’s staple on grocery store-reminiscent sesame buns with BBQ sauce and mayo, the sandwich salutes the native Bostonian owners’ roots. But the roast beef sandwich isn’t the only item that shines at this humble Mission eatery, which doubles as a cozy beer and wine bar. Pork belly-stuffed donut holes in Maker’s Mark bourbon glaze are pretty near orgasmic. A slab of pan-fried Provolone cheese is enlivened by chimichurri sauce and roasted garlic bulb. I applaud its all-day hours and prices under $9.

2140 Mission, SF. (415) 252 7704, www.thesycamoresf.com

 

FOR PURIST PARAMOURS: HEIRLOOM CAFÉ

The menu (less than 10 starters and entrees) is so simple I almost got bored reading it. But each dish served in this Victorian-yet-modern dining room was so well executed that my skepticism vanished. More than a little Chez Panisse in its ethos, Heirloom will delight that special someone with a purist take on food, with ultra fresh, pristine ingredients, impeccably prepared. Savor a mountain of heirloom tomatoes piled over toasted bread with pickled fennel, cucumbers, and feta, or a flaky bacon onion tart loaded with caramelized onions. Heirloom’s added strength is owner Matt Straus’ thoughtfully chosen wine lists covering wines from Lebanon to Spain.

2500 Folsom, SF. (415) 821-2500, www.heirloom-sf.com

 

FOR SENTIMENTAL GOURMANDS: SONS & DAUGHTERS

Like Commonwealth, Sons and Daughters is another opening where young, visionary chefs create fine molecular fare at reasonable prices ($48 for four-course prix fixe, à la carte from $9-$24). But this space particularly lends itself to romance: intimate, black and white, with shimmering chandeliers and youthful, European edge. Dishes are inventive and ambitious, like the highly acclaimed eucalyptus herb salad of delicate curds and whey over quinoa, or the seared foie gras accompanied by a glass of tart yogurt and Concord grape granita. It’s a place to hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes while never neglecting your taste buds.

708 Bush St., SF. (415) 391-8311, www.sonsanddaughterssf.com

 

FOR NEW YORKER HEARTS: UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA

Yes, this one’s casual, and you’ll have to wait outside in line. But if your sweetie has New York roots, she will thank you. Pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri closed his beloved New York City institution, Una Pizza, and moved west. As in NYC, Una Pizza is a one-man show with Mangieri single-handedly crafting each pie (which partly explains the no take-out policy and long waits; popularity accounts for the rest). All this may make it hard to frequent Una Pizza, but if you make the commitment, you will be rewarded with doughy heaven. With only five vegetarian pies, I dream of the Filetti: cherry tomatoes soaking in buffalo mozzarella, accented by garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, and sea salt. On the plus side: all that waiting in line for a hand-made pie will give you and your sweetie pie plenty of time to talk.

210 11th St., SF. (415) 861-3444, www.unapizza.com/sf

 

FOR AMORE ITALIANO: BARBACCO

True, Barbacco can get obnoxiously noisy and crowded. But it’s a good alternative to its parent restaurant, Perbacco, offering the same outstanding quality at a great value ($3-$14 per dish). For a bustling Italian enoteca-style date, this is the place. Heartwarming food and a thoughtful wine list make it an ideal urban trattoria and a comfortably affordable night out. Order a glass of Lambrusco, the fried brussels sprouts, and raisin and pine nut-accented pork meatballs in a tomato sugo, then marvel at the minimalist bill.

220 California, SF. (415) 955-1919, www.barbaccosf.com

 

FOR YOUR SWEETIE PIE: BAKER AND BANKER

With dark brown walls and booths, the space exudes a warm elegance. Husband and wife team Jeff Banker and Lori Baker get it right from start to finish with his dishes (vadouvan curry cauliflower soup, brioche-stuffed quail in a bourbon-maple glaze) and her memorable desserts (XXX triple dark chocolate layer cake, pumpkin cobbler with candied pumpkin seed ice cream). Extra points if you buy him a box of pastries to go for the next morning from Baker and Banker bakery next door.

1701 Octavia, SF. (415) 351-2500, www.bakerandbanker.com

Local tokens

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V-DAY No need to go far for an anti-lame gift for the Feb. 14. C’mon hot child, live in the city — and snag your valentine a lil’ somethin’ from this list of SF-made gift ideas, sure to show your honey that you care about the local economy as well as that special something you guys have going on.

>> Rickshaw Bags’ precious Pipsqueak handlebar bag ($25) means an end to your valentine fumbling about in their messenger tote for Chapstick or a cell phone. Bike safety: so, so sexy.

Rickshaw Bags, 994 22nd St., SF; (877) 503-9542, www.rickshawbags.com

>> Your love’s got roots, but not without healthy soil. Get a pound of red wigglers ($20) for your favorite gardener from this vermi-composting stay-at-home-mom. Mama’s Worm Composting, available for pick-up in SF.

www.mamaswormcomposting.com

>> Blakely Bass, owner of RAG clothing gallery, makes Native American-inspired leather hair wraps ($15-20) with hides she buys at a SoMa tannery. Not only are the accessories uber local, but they’re beautiful and will be a hit with the long hairs who can’t be bothered with strands in their face.

RAG Residents’ Apparel Gallery, 541 Octavia, SF. (415) 621-7718, www.ragsf.com

>> Convinced your fates are intertwined? Have a batch of customized fortune cookies ($5 for a batch of 100) baked to reflect your bright future together, with a crunch. Same-day printing is available.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookies, 56 Ross, SF. (415) 781-3956

>> We get it: you wanna be original. But hey Juliet, sometimes the tested-and-true got to be that way for a reason, so spring for some chocolate. Sweeten ’em up with some Poco Dolce popcorn toffee squares ($16) — these ain’t your grandma’s box of brittle. Available in various SF grocery stores.

www.pocodolce.com

>> Your baby deserves a nice new ‘fit to step out in. We’re betting the sweet pleats dress ($110) from Noo Works — a chic company that sells its well-fitting, stylin’, yet casual clothes out of its Mission District storefront — will bring some spring to her strut.

Noo Works, 395 Valencia, SF. (415) 821-7623, www.nooworks.com

>> Blossom Organics Pure Pleasure Arousal Gel ($16) has amassed quite a following in the city — which shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, if you can’t make a lube to light up San Franciscans’ x’s and o’s, then we’re going about it all wrong.

Good Vibrations, Various SF locations. www.goodvibes.com

>> No sk8r boy (or boi) is gonna coast off from a love note accompanied by these Spitfire skateboard wheels ($24 for four) — a V-Day gift like these says “I’ll never bolt my ledges.”

DLX Skateboards, 1831 Market, SF. (415) 626-5588, www.dlxsf.com

>> Kitty-cats and doggies need love too! Jeffery’s Natural Pet Foods stocks great options for your four-legged friend — the foods come in raw varieties that go easy on their fuzzy tummies.

Jeffery’s Natural Pet Foods, 3809 18th St., SF. (415) 864-1414 and 1841 Powell, SF. (415) 402-0342, www.jefferysnaturalpetfood.com

>> Zine-and-crafteria Needles and Pens has all sorts of SF-made goodies that look swell wrapped up in red construction paper. Try Matt Furie and Sam Gaskin’s recently released zine Hot Topik ($5) for your boo-boo who is into stoner humor or vinyl heart earrings made from repurposed records ($20) for LP lovers.

Needles and Pens, 3253 16th St., SF. (415) 255-1534, www.needles-pens.com

>> But enough of the hearts and kitty-cats — when do we get to the dead bug gifts? Local jeweler Bug Under Glass makes a surprisingly sweet butterfly wing necklace that’ll give your little love bug ants in their pants — in a good way. Available at various SF stores.

www.bugunderglass.com

>> SF-made fetish wear: a real turn-on for City by the Bay pervs. Hook her with the heartbreaker pasties from Madame S — encourage her to give them a test drive and hey howdy! Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

Madame S, 385 Eighth St., SF. (415) 863-7734, www.madame-s.com

Meet-cute 2011

1

V-DAY Maybe your hands brushed while browsing the vinyl jazz bins at Amoeba. Maybe she caught up with you on the new Valencia Street bike lanes to compliment your ride. Or perhaps your kite strings got entangled on Marina Green one windy afternoon …

For this year’s Valentine’s Issue, we asked our readers in relationships to submit their “meet-cute” stories — the improbable, mystifying, funny, weird, or, yes, mushy ways they met their snuggle bunny. We received dozens of responses, from the heartwarming to the bizarre. It was incredibly hard to choose, but below are our 10 favorites.

We also chose one lucky entrant at random to win a date (dinner for two and a live show) at Yoshi’s San Francisco. Congratulations, Sam Dahan!

 

MISTAKEN MAKE-OUT

Friday the 13th. Full Moon. Make-Out Room in the Mission. I was supposed to meet my roommate’s cute single friends in the front booth, but they were long gone. So I accidentally introduced myself to this pretty lady, thinking she was one of them. Bought drinks. Flirted. “So how long have you worked with Dana?” “Who the heck is Dana?” “Ummm … wanna go out sometime?” Now we’ve been married for seven years.

 

CELL IT, SWEETIE

My cell phone just wouldn’t charge anymore, and I needed a replacement. I walked into my cell phone carrier’s local storefront and spotted a hot “must have” at the end of the counter, who just happened to be matched with me for support on the floor. Due to the nature of the transaction, he didn’t get a commission. But after giving me his card, he soon got a call. Thank goodness my battery was charged! Two years and at least four phones later, he’s still in my cell phone “top five” and he’s No. 1 in my heart.

 

CARNAVAL OF LOVE

There was a big Carnaval party in the Mission, and a friend promised to fix me up with a cute Brazilian musician. They arrived well past midnight, when the party was winding down. The musician was starving after playing a gig. His English was minimal, but so cute with the accent. “There is no food in this house,” he said. “I’ll cook you breakfast,” I said. “To have breakfast, I must sleep in your home,” he said — to which I replied, “I don’t think you’re gonna get much sleep.” Our 20th anniversary is June 21. And yes, I cooked him breakfast … eventually!

 

MORE THAN A-PEELING

He was a San Francisco native, and so was she. They went separately to see live music at the Edinburgh Castle. Sitting next to one another at the bar, they began to chat. In the first 10 minutes, they discovered they had the same favorite movie, Wings of Desire. Before leaving, she gave him her number written on the only thing she had handy — a banana. This March, 10 years later, they will celebrate their tenth “Banana Day”: the anniversary of the day they met.

 

TWO SNAPS UP

I was a nightlife photographer. He was a nightlife promoter and manager. One day, we found ourselves venting to each other about all the drunk people we had to baby-sit all the time. Just as our eyes met, someone threw up at the bar across from us. The rest is history!

 

BOOKED FOR LOVE

It was a normal Saturday afternoon as I took my post at the front desk of a library at Cal. A few hours into my shift, a guy passed me by on his way to the exit, tossing a small folded note onto my desk before quickly boarding the elevator. I looked up and said, “Thanks!” not really thinking. I opened the note to find, “Hey, you’re cute.” Blushing, I folded it up and, four days later, finally decided to go for it. Three years later, I couldn’t be any happier or more thankful that I did.

 

CORNY?

On the first Saturday of March Madness, my buddy hosts an annual Corn Dog Day party in Oakland. Although it’s an unlikely place for vegetarians to get together, I first met Kerry at CDD 2004. While other partygoers tried to score a triple-double of 10 dogs, 10 servings of tots, and 10 beers, I tried to score a glance from the adorable redhead. We chatted briefly while waiting for veggie dogs during halftime of the Stanford-Alabama game. I was smitten; she was mostly just hungry. But seven years later, we’re preparing to celebrate our first CDD as husband and wife!

 

SHACKED UP

I can say without much exaggeration that I met the man of my dreams in a dirty shack. My first October in San Francisco, a friend invited me over for Sukkoth, the Jewish harvest celebration involving a temporary structure made of branches and flora — a sukkah. On arrival, his roommate Carlton greeted me. We talked all night in that sukkah. I’ve been smitten since! In our four years, Carlton’s inspired me to song many times. As I wrote in a song for my band, My First Earthquake: “Starry night in a twig hut/ Man, did I have the pot’s luck!”

 

PORN AGAIN

My then-boyfriend and I filmed an artistic amateur porn as a birthday gift for a friend of mine. We wound up hooking up together with the director, an insanely cute and talented nightclub videographer. After my BF and I broke up and I moved overseas for a couple years, I came back and reconnected with the videographer over a camping trip. We’ve been cuddle bunnies ever since.

 

NEVER GIVE UP

“Cute Fat Girl Seeks Cute Fat Boy for Romance and Companionship” was the headline. I was ready to give up searching, but a friend talked me into placing a personal ad (probably my umpteenth at that point) on Craigslist. I met Dub on a Thursday night and I was smitten from the start. Two weeks later, he presented me with a beautiful handmade garnet necklace as a token of his affection. Seven years later, we are happily married, still cute and fat, and I’m just as smitten — if not more.