Volume 48 Number 36
THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart (www.brokeassstuart.com) will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?
It was weird that Anthony wanted to go to Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones St, SF. 415-346-1735) for his birthday. “But you don’t drink,” I said, hoping to find out why someone who’d never had a drop of booze in his life, due to being born with a bum liver, would want to go to a fancy bar. “I know that, dummy,” he told me. “But I heard they have a secret room that opens up when you pull a book!”
He had me there. Bourbon & Branch has a few secret rooms that open up when you do various Hardy Boys-esque actions. It’s one of the bar’s many charms. When it opened in 2006, there were no mustache bars in San Francisco. You know what I mean by mustache bars — the ones where a bow tie and suspender wearing, mustachioed man squeezes tiny tinctures into your drink from a utensil clearly invented by alchemists. They are omnipresent in current-day San Francisco but when Bourbon & Branch opened, it was the first one in the city.
At this point, anyone who spends a lot of time in bars is pretty tired of cocktails that are too precious and take too much time, and most of us are waiting for the backlash when places go back to specializing in a shot and a beer. But the thing that makes Bourbon & Branch great is that, while it can take a lot of credit for kicking off the pre-Prohibition cocktail craze in San Francisco, it still does it better than any of them. Why? Because of it’s attention to detail.
They say you’ll always remember your first one. But often times your second one is far better. The first speakeasy style bar I went to was Little Branch back when I lived in NYC, and it was cool. But it wasn’t until I moved back to San Francisco that I saw the trope played out to its full potential. Walking into Bourbon & Branch that first time in 2008 made the history nerd in me squeal. It felt like a real speakeasy. It was full of dark wood and was low lit by candles and a chandelier. Bartenders in ties and fedoras shook things vigorously while making cocktails that hadn’t been popular in half a century. People were only served if they were seated and they were encouraged to speak quietly.
And then I got to the backroom where suddenly the bookshelf opened and an entire other bar was laid out before me, filled with people drinking similarly well-made drinks while laughing and talking loudly. “Where the fuck am I,” I asked myself before realizing I couldn’t afford the place and leaving out the backdoor.
So a few years ago when Anthony said he wanted to go here for his birthday my first reaction was, “Motherfucker, why are we gonna go somewhere with $12 cocktails when you don’t even drink?” His answer was relatable to any of us who have ever dreamed of traveling through time or going on the kind of adventures you only see in movies or read about in books. He wanted to go through the secret passageway and spend time in a San Francisco that no longer exists.
So do I.
Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com
THEATER Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s groundbreaking 1927 musical, Show Boat, transformed one of Broadway’s major theatrical forms from a light and episodic operetta-style divertissement into a red-blooded American art form. Wedding spectacular entertainment (its producer was none other than super-showman Florenz Ziegfeld) with a full-fledged drama, Show Boat‘s expanded canvas came nearer the realm of classical opera, as all elements of the production, beginning with the music, orbited tightly around the story — which in addition to humor and hijinx sported complex characters and serious social content.
Since 1927, opera and musical theater have continued to grow closer at various points — most famously in the work of crossover composers like George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. San Francisco Opera’s co-production of Show Boat, the first time the company has essayed the legendary musical, turns out to be a wonderfully successful case in point: a crowd-pleasing hybrid of musical-theater style, sharply delineated drama, rousing choreography (from Michele Lynch), and full operatic glory (including an appropriately-sized orchestra and chorus). It’s a muscular production with a light step and buoyant spirit that shows off the best in a story that not only affirmed a common humanity among those up and down the ladder of social status, but also registered the injustice and violence of the American racial caste system in tones boldly progressive for the time.
Of course Show Boat, for all its socially and artistically progressive aspects, was still a product of the 1920s. And while it has been revived many times, the dialogue and other details have also undergone revisions to keep pace with social attitudes, conventions, and sensitivities, especially with regard to race. The SF Opera production under Maestro John DeMain follows DeMain and General Director David Gockley’s former collaboration on the historic 1982 revival for the Houston Grand Opera, which restored for the first time since 1927 significant sections of the original dialogue and score. The opera opens on a beautiful riverside quay awash with Technicolor hues (in perhaps indirect homage to the 1951 MGM film version), while the backside of the ship rises from the stage at the War Memorial Opera House like a delicate three-layer cake in the first of set designer Peter J. Davison and lighting designer Mark McCullough’s consistently atmospheric scenic environments.
Based on the 1926 novel by celebrated author and Algonquin wit Edna Ferber (who with frequent collaborator George S. Kaufman brought The Royal Family to Broadway the same week that the musical version of Show Boat set sail), the story spans the 1880s to the 1920s and revolves around the crew and passengers of the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi show boat plying the river’s shoreline inhabitants with melodrama and comic fare. The boat’s operator is the warm-hearted Cap’n Andy Hawks (played by Broadway and local legend Bill Irwin in a memorable SF Opera debut) and his wife, the pants-wearing disciplinarian Parthy Ann (a comically fierce and ultimately redeeming Harriet Harris). Their innocent daughter and the story’s heroine, Magnolia (played with affecting pluck by a radiant Heidi Stober, the fine American soprano), falls for a rakish riverboat gambler named Gaylord Ravenal (baritone Michael Todd Simpson in a suave and graceful performance), whom she weds and follows to Chicago.
Magnolia and Gaylord’s doomed marriage, but enduring romance, makes up the central storyline, while a significant secondary plot involves the downward career of the talented actress and singer Julie La Verne (given a sultry and wrenching interpretation by soprano, and esteemed SF Opera regular, Patricia Racette). In an early scene, Julie’s husband, Steve (Patrick Cummings), fights with his wife’s spurned suitor (James Asher) and the latter takes revenge by tipping off the local sheriff (Kevin Blackton) to the illegality of their marriage under the state’s anti-miscegenation law. In this way we learn that Julie is of mixed-race ancestry. A bickering but loving African American couple among the Cotton Blossom‘s crewmembers, Queenie (the regal soprano Angela Renée Simpson) and Joe (bass Morris Robinson in a robust, beautifully measured performance), are also significant supporting characters. Indeed, the most of the show’s great songs are associated with these secondary characters, not least “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”
The show itself strikes a knowing stance with respect to narrative, making good fun of the stilted melodramas put on by Cap’n Andy while reveling in the backstage intrigue and the characters’ own double-playing onstage (a situation that nicely serves the woo-pitching in the number “Make Believe”). Even the fight that breaks out on the dock between Steve and Pete at the outset of the play gets co-opted by Cap’n Andy, who in a hasty bit of diplomacy tells the crowd it was just a preview of the night’s entertainment onboard. This covering is also an uncovering, however, since it hints at the complex relationship between the stories onstage and real life in all its messiness.
Of course, what “real life” the musical expresses is still very much idealized as well as stylized. But the SF Opera production proves there’s still a pulse to the 1927 narrative, and it’s as vital as the enduring score with which it’s intimately bound. With panache but also keen sensitivity, the show conveys Ferber’s original emphasis on the shared humanity of rich and poor, white and black, and the compassion a bird’s eye perspective on it all can breed. In Show Boat, absurd melodramas and life’s everyday triumphs and failures play out alongside each other as so many ripples on the surface of a deep and indifferent river — a dark and mysterious universe that, in the image of the show’s great recurring theme, just keeps rollin’ along. *
Through July 2, $24-$379
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness, SF
Positive reports are already rolling in for chef-owner Lauren Kiino’s newest project, Red Dog (303 2nd St., SF. www.reddogrestaurant) — woof! Not only did she open a restaurant in a funky part of town that needed more dining options, but her fresh, rustic food also offers easy, middle-of-the-week appeal: when you don’t know what you want, she gives you options. Maybe it’s her famed egg salad for lunch, or smoked duck hash browns with poached eggs for brunch, or a Massa brown rice and market vegetable bowl for dinner. You’ll also find a house-ground classic beef burger and fries any time of day. It’s a casual, neighborhood spot, with seating for 120, plus a bar area (and another 25 will fit on the patio soon). Swing by for a bite and cocktail before a Giants game — happy hour runs daily from 3pm–6pm, with both food and drink specials. And psssst, they make a mean Scotch egg. Opening hours are lunch Mon–Fri 11am–3pm, dinner daily 5pm–10pm, brunch Sat–Sun 10am–3pm. Breakfast will be added in a couple of weeks: Mon–Fri 8am–10:30am.
New life has come to the corner of 16th Street and Guerrero in the Mission, with the opening of Chino in the former Andalu, from the partners behind Tacolicious. The appetizing menu is going to ply you with housemade dumplings (made by a dumpling Jedi), flavor-packed wings, light dishes like yuba noodles with cilantro-ginger “salsa verde” and pickled shiitake mushrooms or cold sesame noodles with summer squash, lumpia from the chef de cuisine’s family recipe, shrimp wonton noodle soup, and four kinds of stuffed bao. It all sounds tasty and fun, doesn’t it? That’s definitely the point—the design is also playful and colorful, and there’s a bar with some cocktails, like the Boba Colada, that will have you feeling a little silly in no time. There are 66 seats, sure to be filling up with folks chowing down on this surprisingly affordable menu. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air in these days of $32 entrées (and they’re using quality ingredients too). Open daily 11:30am–1am.
Downtown workers have a new, and muy grande, taqueria to hit up, Uno Dos Tacos (595 Market St., SF. www.unodostaco.com). The original location was a short-term trial on Polk Street, in case the name seems familiar. The menu is divided up into tacos, burritos, salads, or a plate with your choice of meats: carne asada, chicken tinga, carnitas, lengua, fish (try the fried fish taco!), or vegetarian. Tacos are $3.25 each, $4.50 for fish, and burritos are $6.50 for vegetarian or $7.25 for meat. Considering the high-quality meats and produce, and the corn tortillas are made in-house (you can even check out the groovy machine), that pricing is pretty fab. Best of all: there’s a huge outdoor patio. We’re talking room for 80 people. And with the full bar, this place has you covered. Take over a picnic table with your after-work posse and you’re set. Open for lunch and dinner, 10:30am–9pm.
BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET
It’s that time of the year again, when SF restaurants offer some lunch and dinner specials for Dine About Town (www.dineabouttown.com), running now through June 15th. You can check out a special lunch at Spruce or Campton Place (lunch deals are a prix-fixe lunch of two or three courses for $18.95), or a three-course dinner for $36.95 at places like Dosa on Fillmore, La Mar, and M.Y. China. There are more than 100 restaurants participating, check it out.
The early May Sunday afternoon when I meet up with Fresh and Onlys frontman and songwriter Tim Cohen, he’s has just reached a milestone in his career: His firstborn child has just seen his band play for the first time in her life. The day before, Cohen and co. played the Hipnic IV festival in Big Sur to a seated audience. The mainstays of San Francisco’s garage rock scene were able to catch the attention of the one-year-old for a bit before her interest evaporated into the air like pot fumes at a music festival. It’ll likely be years before the child knows she had a profound influence on her dad’s band’s newest album, House of Spirits, due out June 10 on the Mexican Summer label.
Our rendez-vous is set at Cafe Abir on ever-buzzing Divisadero Street, which of course is being consumed with another hot new opening. This time, it’s 4505 Meats, which is making a splash of a debut with its inviting smells wafting over from salacious BBQ concoctions. The unofficial fogline of San Francisco feels foreign to Cohen, who’s been a resident of the adjacent Alamo Square neighborhood for almost 13 years. That’s because he’s just spent 15 months in rural Arizona. When we reach the inevitable topic of San Francisco’s recent changes, Cohen remarks, “I was gone for 15 months and almost everything changed in that time. I can see six places that weren’t here when I left. It’s a culture shock.”
For those 15 months, Cohen decamped with his wife, newborn baby, guitar, Korg keyboard, and drum machine to a horse ranch 10 miles outside of Sedona, Arizona. Later on during his stay, he picked up an eight-track recorder from a kid on Craigslist to record his demos on. “It’s simple and gives me a lower-quality song; it’s my favorite device to record on.” says Cohen.
The storyline behind House of Spirits lends a feeling of concept album, thanks to the songwriting’s foreign backdrop. It’s still very much connected to the feel, themes, and sounds of earlier Fresh and Onlys productions, but the intrigue lies in how noticeable an effect the desert environs had on the record.
Cohen ventured to the desert of Northern Arizona expecting a new jolt of creative energy and a deviation in his songwriting, but underestimated the effect absolute desolation — amplified by its contrast to San Francisco’s bustle — would have on himself and the album. “I went there knowing I would have a lot of time to myself, [but] I didn’t know how much or how dire that solitude would become, which definitely fed into my creative process…If you’ve ever spent any time in the desert or anywhere that’s just your environment, there’s no people walking by, trains, cars, planes, it’s just where you’re at and you. I had no way to contest the silence and openness of it all. I just sat there and took it in. Finally after living there for a months, I figured how to manage my space in the environment, and just dug out my space,” says Cohen.
Part of the reason for Cohen’s retreat was the idea of not raising a baby in a big loud city. He does concede that, in addition to learning how to negotiate the vacuum of the Arizonan desert, the album was significantly influenced by his other major learning experience, that of understanding how to be both “a parent with someone and to someone.”
Like a friend coming back from a sweet vacation, Cohen highly recommends the rural experience for fellow artists. “It made me more of a prolific artist, because I came back with tons and tons of material. I worked. I say if you can afford it, give yourself that emptiness and blank agenda.”
But Cohen’s foray into the desert wasn’t all artistic introspection and exploration. The lack of constant and face-to-face communication with his bandmates exacerbated tensions already simmering in the band. That inevitable and familiar dilemma of young parents trading time with their lifelong friends for time with their nascent families provided another strain.
“People were being pulled in a lot of different directions. It began with me moving away. When your buddy has a kid and moves away, a lot of times you can feel a sense of abandonment. In a lot of ways we think of this band as our own baby,” he says. “It was almost like running off and having a baby with someone else.” Not to mention, other bandmates were dealing with evictions and layoffs.
Did the stress ever seriously threaten the album? “Absolutely, at almost every turn,” says Cohen. “We had a limited amount of recording days when I came back to SF, which created a sense of urgency and contributed to inflammation of the issues afflicting the band. These were my songs and demos. [Normally] I send the demos to guys way in advance, they think ‘How can I hear this and contribute to it?’ and that’s how it pretty much works. This time around it was a little less of that.”
For all his recounting of the hurdles and “external and internal issues,” Cohen presents a stoic demeanor, and seems confident that the band has escaped its stormy period.
“In the end we won the big victory,” he says. “This album is definitely a grower.”
Fresh and Onlys record release show
With Cold Beat, Devon Williams
July 5, 8pm, $15
777 Valencia, SF
LEFT OF THE DIAL The words “folk music” conjured only cheesy things for me when I was a young teenager. I liked the standard Bob Dylan songs, Arlo Guthrie‘s “Alice’s Restaurant” at Thanksgiving. But to really give in to wind-blown, ocean- and redwood-shaped singer-songwriter stuff just felt like an impossibility to me: That was the music of my parents’ youth, after all. Joni Mitchell was (is) a great songwriter who made quintessential songs about the West Coast, but I just couldn’t quite get over that mental block of an association. Bring on the three-chord punk or bass-thumping hip-hop; anything but the f-word.
About a decade later, of course, I decided that my parents actually had very good taste (a timeless cycle in and of itself) and that I was being an idiot; folk is of course a very simple word for a very wide, complex umbrella of music. But I was thinking on all this recently when I realized that some of the most interesting music coming out of Northern California right now is music that’s for and about California itself — full of words penned by singer-songwriters who’ve been shaped by the coastline, by hikes up Mt. Tam, by the exhilaration of paddling out into the freezing, cleansing Pacific in a salty wetsuit at Ocean Beach. Call it folk, call it surf-pop: Some 46 years after Joni first sang “Song to a Seagull,” at least 20 years after a lot of us rolled our eyes at the stuff our parents wanted to listen to in the car on a family vacation, the nature kids are taking over — and it’s anything but boring.
“The plan is to go down the coast, strap our surfboards to the roof, and do a show one day, surf the next day, the whole way down,” says singer-guitarist Alexi Glickman enthusiastically, of his upcoming tour with Sandy’s. “We only want to go places with waves.”
Glickman has been writing and performing reverb- and sun-drenched love songs for the California coast — both literally lyrics about it and music that just begs to be played while driving down it — for more than a decade now. At the helm of the Botticellis, SF’s reigning surf-pop darlings from 2004 through 2008, he was responsible for the tightly-crafted, intricately composed nature of the band’s dream-moody pop songs.
That band is no longer, but if the Botticellis had to meet their end to get Glickman to sound like he does now, fronting Sandy’s, fans shouldn’t mourn too hard. Possessed of an immersive, wide open space of sound, the band’s debut album, Fourth Dementia, out June 3 on Um Yeah Arts, is just as thoughtfully arranged, but there’s room to breathe around it, maybe a druggier-end-of-the-Beatles-spectrum vibe, a sweet melancholy and nostalgia around shaping the edges of the surf-happy guitar.
“When the band broke up in 2009, I had some songs I’d been working on that just got shelved,” says Glickman, while on a break from his day job — he teaches music lessons at the Proof Lab Surf Shop up in Marin, and he’s happy to report that he just taught two nine-year-olds how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on guitar. Following the Botticellis’ demise, faced with the prospect of rebuilding a musical career from scratch, Glickman went out on the road with fellow surfer-musician Kyle Field, aka Little Wings.
“His approach is very different from mine; he writes these poems, basically, and the music is an accompaniment to that. It’s very lyric-centric, and playing in his group each night was this very spontaneous thing,” he says. “The songs were not super-arranged, not ‘Ok, you hit the crash cymbal three times, then the guitar goes like this and we do a jump-kick,’ none of the preciseness I was used to. So every show was different. A lot of the shows were amazing, a few were total shitshows. But that was a way to do things that had never really crossed my mind, and it had a big influence on me.”
He took the songs he’d shelved and rearranged them, playing them with open tuning, all in D major. “Especially when we play live, I think you can see an openness to the sound that’s new for me,” he says. Certainly it’s reassuring, in part, to have familiar folks at his side for that: The Sandy’s album features includes former Botticellis co-writer Blythe Foster, Zack Ehrlich (of Sonny & the Sunsets and Vetiver), Burton Li (Citay), Ryan Browne (Sonny & the Sunsets and Tortured Genie), Apollo Sunshine‘s Jeremy Black, and Range of Light Wilderness‘ Nick Aive.
As for the pervasive sense of melancholy, Glickman acknowledges that Chris Bell’s I Am the Cosmos — the epically composed folk-power-pop opus by the tortured and underappreciated Big Star songwriter — was on repeat during the year or so after the Botticellis broke up (a time in which Glickman also had a relationship end), during which Glickman was writing these songs.
And yet: “We have a lot of fun at our shows, and I get the sense that the audience comes to shows to smile and have fun, and that’s kinda new for me too,” he says with a laugh. “When I was in my 20s, I had a lot to say and I wanted to make this beautiful music and share this experience with people, but I don’t think anywhere in that experience was the word fun. Now there’s a lighthearted element there.”
ELECTRO-FOREST NYMPH JAMS?
“I think we’re both just naturally more inspired when we can be in nature,” says Emily Ritz, one-half of the psych-folk duo Yesway, who released their self-titled debut June 3. She and bandmate Kacey Johansing, who’ve been moving in musical circles around one another since meeting at the Hotel Utah’s open mic in 2006 (Ritz is in the noir-pop band DRMS, Johansing’s provided vocals for the likes of Geographer, and more recently has enjoyed local success as a solo singer-songwriter) have called from the road — they’re on a mini-tour of the East Coast, with our conversation providing the soundtrack for their drive from Brooklyn to upstate New York.
Though they forged their friendship and musical collaborations in San Francisco, both musicians have since moved to small beach towns in the North Bay, whose lush wilderness and dreamy pace of life unmistakably color songs like “Woahcean” and “Howlin’ Face.” The pair’s voices layer over and call-and-response to one another in unexpected ways over fingerpicked acoustic guitar that flits like light on water; throughout the album, there’s the soothing hush of being surrounded by tall trees as opposed to skyscraper, while electronic elements, vibraphones, odd time signatures, and the odd R&B/hip-hop percussive move keep you wide-awake. This isn’t easy-listening music.
It helps, of course, that they’re strong singers; there’s an easy harmony that feels like they’re letting you in on something. “We do have a really unique musical connection, and I think that comes across to people right away,” says Ritz. “We both have voices that are really different from each other, but they melt together in a way. I think it’s rare to see two front women, two kind of powerhouse vocalists come together, meet each other as equals musically, and create something totally different together.” They’ll headline the Rickshaw Stop June 25, so you can go suss out exactly what that is for yourself.
ALSO: This coming weekend is overwhelmingly packed with good shows, so time to make some decisions. Marcus Cohen & the Congress, who bring their funk-soul-hip-hop-R&B stew to the Great American Music Hall Fri/6, are one option that will not likely disappoint. Last time I saw them live I’m pretty sure no one left without a dancing-tired grin on their face. Check the Noise blog for a conversation with Cohen this week.
TREAT SHEET It’s almost summer time: Forget about that diet — you’ve got bigger things to worry about than whether you can fit into that bathing suit! (How to score Outside Lands tickets, for instance, or how to get to three street fairs at once.) For our first annual Treat Sheet, we asked our readers, our staff writers, and Tablehopper restaurant guru Marcia Gagliardi for their favorite summer treats under $10 that represent the Bay Area’s delicious, locally sourced, mostly organic bounty. Grab your picnic basket and dig in. (See the Treat Sheet all on one page here.)
PORK BELLY DONUTS WITH MAPLE SYRUP AND MAKERS MARK GLAZE, $5.75
Yes, these things are just as rich and decadent as they sound. (Just one order of three is probably all you and your date will need.) When pigs meet donuts, it’s serious business
The Sycamore, 2140 Mission, SF, www.thesycamoresf.com
SLOPPY BUN, $6.95
A flavor-packed and abundant sandwich of red curry ground beef, plus garlic mayo, jalapeno, Thai basil, and shaved onion. Be sure to pay an extra $1 for an egg on top. More is more.
Bun Mee, 2015 Fillmore, SF; 650 Market, SF; www.bunmee.co
LEMON COOKIE ICE CREAM, $4.25 FOR TWO SCOOPS ON A WAFFLE CONE
Get your cookies and ice cream fix in this light, lemony two-in-one dessert.
Three Twins, 254 Fillmore, SF. www.threetwinsicecream.com
NABOLOM CINNAMON TWIST, $2
It’s been years since we’ve lived down the street and could hit them up practically every day, but these cinnamon-sugar-doused bars of gold (er, perfectly crispy-flaky-chewy croissant dough) still appear in our dreams. Get ’em fresh out of the oven if possible; the crispy caramelized sugar edges will become your new white rabbit.
Nabolom Collective Bakery, 2708 Russell St, Berk. www.nabolombakery.com
BLUES ON THE COB, $4
Baby Blues BBQ in the Mission has a great assortment of barbecued meats, and we try to mix it up — but we never deviate from one of our favorite sides: fresh roasted corn on the cob smothered in blue cheese. Yum.
Baby Blues BBQ, 3149 Mission, SF, babybluessf.com
EL FRIJOLAZO HOT DOG, $6.95
Guatemalan hot dogs, people. And believe us, you’ve never had a bacon-wrapped dog like this. The fresh-baked and toasted bun comes slathered with refried black beans, avocado, a Latin spin on mayo, and queso fresco. Finish with a squirt of the green salsa chapina on top.
Los Shucos, 3224 22nd St, SF. www.losshucos.com
MATEVEZA YERBA MATE IPA, $6
Need a buzzy kick? The folks at Cerveceria de Mateveza café near Dolores Park combined all the kick of caffeinated Argentinean necessity yerba mate with the downhome goodness of locally brewed craft beer. Olé.
Cerveceria de Mateveza, 3801 18th St., SF. www.cerveceriasf.com
PRETZEL CROISSANT, $3.50
Yeah, it’s just like it sounds: amazing. A dark-baked croissant topped with pretzel salt, ready to melt you. Fresh out of the oven every day at 11:30am.
Arlequin, 384 Hayes, SF. www.arlequincafe.com
BUFFALO BOYS, $8.50
Fried catfish in buffalo sauce, dipped in blue cheese dressing. ‘Nuff said. You could also save a buck and get the Buffalo Girls, made with seitan instead of catfish. (But why?)
Dante’s Weird Fish, 2193 Mission, SF. www.weirdfishsf.com
THOROUGH BREAD APPLE GALETTE, $2.15
Ooh la la: authentic French bakery Thorough Bread near the Castro overflows with goodies worth rising early for. But we’re saving our biggest oui oui for these delightful apple-filled pastries. Not too sweet, but your sweet tooth will thank you.
248 Church, SF. www.thoroughbreadandpastry.com
ROOSEVELT CAESAR SALAD, $10
This is one hell of a Caesar, the crisp leaves of Romaine are positively coated with the oh-so-creamy dressing, all topped with a mountainous flurry of Parmesan.
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, 2817 24th St, SF. (415) 824-2600
ESPERPENTO GAMBAS AL AJILLO, $7
This may be the single garlickiest dish we’ve found in the city, which therefore makes it awesome. Just one order of these babies — tender shrimp drowns in garlic sauce — and a couple baskets of bread to sop up every last drop of juice. You can run on the fumes for hours.
Esperpento, 3295 22nd St., SF, www.esperpentorestaurant.com
THE REBEL WITHIN, $7.50
This stealthy treat consists of a poached egg, bacon, and scallions baked into an otherwise normal-looking savory muffin. And they even seem to get the yolk right each time, running out perfectly as you cut into it.
Craftsman and Wolves, 749 Valencia, SF, craftsman-wolves.com
STARBELLY HOUSEMADE CHICKEN LIVER PATE, $10
This ain’t your grandma’s chicken liver — this is pure buttery goodness. Spread it on toasted bread with sweet onion marmalade and grain mustard, and it’ll warm your soul.
Starbelly, 3583 16th St, SF. www.starbellysf.com
PLANTAIN BURRITO, $7.25
If you’re a carnivore, this burrito will make you consider a conversion to vegetarianism. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re welcome.
Cuco’s, 488 Haight, SF (415) 863-4906
HASH BROWN SANDWICH, $6.55
A genius breakfast item from the Inner Richmond: imagine a folded taco of crisp hash browns, with cheese, bacon (or sausage, or ham and onions) inside, and eggs and toast on the side. Boom.
Art’s Café, 747 Irving, SF. www.artscafe.com
KINAKO MOCHI, $1.35
You might not be able to eat just one, and you might want to try an assortment of mochi treats — but start with this fresh green mochi with red bean filling from a true Japantown classic.
Benkyodo Co., 1747 Buchanan, SF. www.benkyodocompany.com
FENNEL AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO LAMB SAUSAGE, $7
It’s like a ballpark hot dog all dressed up with a gourmet twist. Comes with two free toppings, like sauerkraut, grilled onions, or sweet peppers. It is so perfect with beer!
Rosamunde Sausage Grill, various locations, SF.
TAYLOR’S TONICS’ CHAI COLA, $2
All the healthful goodness of chai — in cola form. The local heroes at Taylor’s Tonics have seen this unlikely but wondrous taste combo take off nationally. (You can get it at CostCo!) But the best place to procure this invigoratingly fizzy beverage is at one of Taylor’s Fizzary soda stores.
The Fizzary, 2949 Mission, SF; 1782 Haight, SF. www.taylorstonics.com
LENTIL AND YAM PIE, $3.55
Wholesome, fresh, and flavorful, try the vegan lentil and yam pocket pie, seasoned with cumin and onion. It’s simply good and healthy for your wallet, too.
Peasant Pies, multiple locations. www.peasantpies.com.
GREEN CHILE STEW $5; HOUSE SPECIALTY PIE, $8
Cross over to the savory side of the menu at this oasis of organic goodness. Try the pork, chicken, or veggie versions of the signature green chile stew. The cross back over to sweetness — with a kick — and dive into a slice of Green Chile’s house specialty pie: apple a la mode with a generous drizzle of red chile honey. Good lord.
Chile Pies Sweet and Savory, 314 Church, SF. (415) 431-9411 www.greenchilekichen.com
HONEYDEW SHAKE WITH PEARL, $3.25
When confronted with the list of pearl shake options, you might be tempted to just go for it and ask for the durian shake with pearl or the guyabano shake with pearl. But if you want sweet heavenly goodness to counterbalance a bowl of fiery noodles, take it from us that ordering the honeydew shake with pearl is the wisest move of all.
Kevin’s Noodle House, various locations. www.kevinnoodlehouse.com
TAO YEUN BAKED BBQ PORK BUN, LESS THAN $1
They are baked, they are filled with BBQ pork, and they are buns. You can find them practically anywhere in the bay. But there is good reason why everyone raves about these glazed clouds of perfection on the Internet. Pick up some sesame balls while you’re at it, why don’t you?
Tao Yeun Pastry, 816 Franklin, Oakl. (510) 834-9200
TU LAN #17, $7.45
No matter what Twitter has done to “clean up” (sweep homeless folks out of) the neighborhood, the real protests will begin when something threatens Tu Lan, the mother of all cheap, delicious Vietnamese noodle purveyors. The #17 pork kebab with imperial roll and rice noodles — a blend of sweet and spicy fried goodness — has cured many a hangover, and tops our pork kebab list. Long may she reign.
Tu Lan, 8 Sixth St, SF. www.tulan-vn-restaurant.com
PANNA GELATO WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALT, $7
Don’t be fooled by the odd-sounding flavor clash — servers will tell you flat-out that this decadent combination of sweet, creamy gelato, and light, fruity olive oil, accented with rock salt, is the best thing on the menu. We’re gladly working our way through all the items to find out.
Beretta, 1199 Valencia, SF. www.berettasf.com
PUERTO ALEGRE CHILAQUILES, $6.85
These fried tortilla slices scrambled with eggs and sauteed with a tasty red or green sauce are a magic hangover cure. Wash down with a house margarita — or, hell, a pitcher — to do it all over again. (Only on the weekend breakfast menu.)
Puerto Alegre, 546 Valencia, SF (415) 255-8201
CHILLED TRIPE “TRIPPERIA STYLE,” $8.50
This tripe is truly something special — it’s tender and served chilled, with lemon, chile oil, and sea salt (you get to decide how much to put on of each ingredient). A favorite of those who especially dig tripe or feeling incredibly Italian.
Pizzeria Delfina, various locations. www.pizzeriadelfina.com
MACARON ICE CREAM SANDWICH, $5
The delicate flavor of French macarons … the creamy sumptuousness of ice cream … the ungodly gobbling noise as you wolf it all down! Available in red velvet, chocolate chocolate, or “vanilla birthday.”
Cako, various locations. www.cako.com
MARLA BAGEL WITH HERBED FARMER’S CHEESE, $5
There are bagels, and then there are these amazing bagels baked by Amy Brown. Some of the best in the city, don’t miss ’em.
Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal, 613 York, SF. www.marlabakery.com
BUCKWHEAT WAFFLE, $9
This savory waffle also comes with crème fraîche, cucumber, and trout roe on top. Elegant! Brilliant for brunch.
Lt. Waffle at Linea Caffe, 3417 18th St., SF. www.lineacaffe.com
TROU NORMAN COPPA, $7
Some of the silkiest coppa you’ve ever had will be found here. There are actually about 14 kinds of housemade salumi for you to choose from, all $7 and under.
Trou Normand, 140 New Montgomery, SF. www.trounormandsf.com
CAFÉ VAN KLEEF GREYHOUND, $7
Feel a cold coming on? Get your daily dose of vitamin C and your weekly allotment of vodka with a fresh-squeezed grapefruit greyhound — featuring a stiff pour and a whole quarter of a grapefruit as a wedge — at this beloved, old-school Oakland spot.
Cafe Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph, Oak. www.cafevankleef.com
WISE SONS NOODLE KUGEL, $3.50
Totally not fair to put this contemporary version of a Jewish standby on this list — it is a figurative brick of delish, sweet noodles cooked into a heavy square topped with crumble and served in a puddle of berry sauce.
Wise Sons Deli, 3150 24th St, SF. www.wisesonsdeli.com
CHEDDAR CHEESE GRILLED SANDWICH, $9.75
This is one cheesy sandwich, filled with Shelburne Farms and Fiscalini cheddar with sage and apples on house-baked kale whole wheat bread. Just beyond.
Le Marais, 2066 Chestnut, SF. www.lemaraisbakery.com
LIGURIA BAKERY PIZZA FOCACCIA, $5
If you manage to get to North Beach’s justly-famed Liguria early — very early — enough, you’ll be rewarded with soft, spongy, fabulously oily tomato bomb focaccia, sprinkled with green onions on top.
Liguria Bakery, 1700 Stockton, SF. (415) 421-3786
BUFFALO WINGS, $10
Or you can have Angry Korean wings, or dry rub, or seven other kinds, 10 flappers for just $10. Yeah, and it’s quality chicken too: air-chilled Mary’s birds. Piping hot and finger lickin’ good.
Wing Wings, 422 Haight, SF. www.wingwingssf.com
BACON BACON BANH MI, $8
This killer banh mi comes stuffed with pork and bacon patties, pickled vegetables, jalapenos, cilantro, and sriracha mayo. Good stuff, served specially from the Bacon Bacon café or truck.
Bacon Bacon, 205 A Frederick, SF. www.baconbaconsf.com
THE AUTHENTIC BANH MI, $5
Just try to find a bigger banh mi at that price. Comes with roasted pork belly, roasted five-spice pork shoulder, housemade headcheese, and Vietnamese pork sausage, plus a slew of vegetables. Grab some napkins.
Mission Banh Mi in Duc Loi, 2200 Mission, SF. www.ducloi.com
FROZEN GREEK YOGURT, $4–$5
Move over fro-yo, this tangy number is going to steal the show. Baklava crumbles on top with syrup, are you kidding? Or how about olive oil and flaky sea salt? Greek sour cherry syrup? However you want it, here in Hayes Valley.
Souvla, 517 Hayes, SF. www.souvlasf.com
THRICE-COOKED FRIES, MANIMAL STYLE, $7
These fries are bonkers: They’re thick and hot, and come smothered in “doggie sauce” (housemade aioli with ketchup, sriracha, and chow chow relish), shredded cheddar cheese, charred scallion, and a sprinkling of piment d’Espelette for extra kick.
Trick Dog, 3010 20th St., SF. www.trickdogbar.com
BANANA CREAM TART, $7.25
Pretty much the benchmark for banana cream pie in town. Almost too good with that touch of dark chocolate and caramel. Almost.
Tartine Bakery, 600 Guerrero, SF. www.tartinebakery.com
TURTLE TOWER PHO GA, $8.25
One of the finest chicken noodle dishes in the city, this enormous bowl of pho will cure whatever ails you: hangover, cold, or just hunger. Perfect for fog-drenched afternoon.
Turtle Tower, various locations. www.turtletowersf.com
PORK BELLY BAO, $6.75
Imagine a tender baked bun, stuffed with pork belly, turmeric-pickled daikon, and green shiso. (Or you can get it in a steamed bun for $3.75.)
The Chairman Truck, www.thechaimantruck.com
LA TORTA GORDA TINGA TORTA, $9.25
This torta can last you the entire day and then some; this monster is stuffed with shredded chicken stewed in chipotle and onion, refried beans, avocado, queso fresco, onions, mayo, and jalapenos. A junior is $6.95, and plenty.
La Torta Gorda, 2833 24th St, SF. www.latortagorda.net
CRANKSHAFT SANDWICH, $10
An excellent tuna melt, this one comes with a decadent mayonnaise-based tuna salad made with albacore, plus house pickles, Shelburne cheddar, and arugula to lighten it up a little.
Machine, 1024 Market, SF. (415) 913-7370
DECONSTRUCTED SAMOSA, $7
This dish is a crazy mountain of garbanzos, a meat or tofu of your choice, pico de gallo, chutney, and crispy sev noodles on top, plus mini samosas on the side. Delicious confusion.
Curry Up Now, 659 Valenica, SF. www.curryupnow.com
WHITE SPINACH SLICE, $4
This unassuming pizza shop in the Mission makes one hell of a New York-style slice, and the white spinach slice (spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic) is rich and tasty. Great crisp crust.
The Pizza Shop, 3104 24th St, SF. (415) 824-1840
BEEP’S PINEAPPLE SHAKE, $3.50
This creamy, citrusy, brainfreezing rush is a legend — people have been talking about it for generations. The rest of the Ingleside diner’s menu is your basic ’50s throwback drive-through diner fare (plus teriyaki bowls), but the shake goes down well with some salty fries.
Beep’s Burgers, 1051 Ocean Avenue, SF. (415) 584-2650
TONKOTSU KOTTERI RAMEN, $8.45
Some of the richest pork broth you’ll find, this bowl of ramen also comes with black garlic oil. It’s fatty and decadent and something you should try at least once.
Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan, SF. www.ramen-yamadaya.com
BEEF PHO ROLLS, $8
Swing by this happening Vietnamese cafe for weekend brunch and don’t pass up these rolls of tender rice noodles (made fresh!) with ground beef and Thai basil inside.
Rice Paper Scissors, 1710 Mission, SF. www.ricepaperscissors.com
CHINESE MAI TAI, $9
Nothing says hot summer nights like a great big cup of “erase your brain.”
Li po Lounge, 916 Grant, SF. www.lipolounge.com
OLD JERUSALEM HUMMUS, $7.50
Not only do you get a platter of pitch-perfect hummus, but you get a bowl of fluffy, warm pita — plus pickled beets, olives, a couple more dips, and some old-school charm.
Old Jerusalem, 2976 Mission, SF. (415) 642-5958
CANCUN SUPER NACHOS, $5.99
Sure, Taqueria Cancun’s tortilla chips are notoriously meh, but the perennially popular spot loads so many toppings onto these overflowing nachos that you’ll hardly notice. (You can add meat for $2.)
Taqueria Cancun, 2288 Mission, SF. (415) 252-9560
BISCUIT BENDER BISCUIT AND BUTTER, $3.50–$4
Take your pick of buttermilk biscuits, from double bacon-maple to cheddar to Mexican hot chocolate, and add on special butters like espresso butter, or bacon-bourbon jam.
Biscuit Bender, Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Ferry Building, SF. www.biscuitbender.com
BEST DAMN GRASS-FED CHEESEBURGER, $8.75; FRANKARONI $5
The burger at this new Divis hotspot lives up to its name, with a housemade sesame-scallion bun, dry-aged meat, secret sauce, Gruyere, red onion, and lettuce. You can add housemade bacon for $1.25, or an egg for $2. And hey! Why not pick up another perfect summer treat: A side of frankaroni, basically fried mac and cheese with hot dog inside, is five dollars.
4505 Burgers & BBQ, 705 Divisadero, SF. www.4505meats.com
YUZU CHICKEN WINGS, $9.50
These are some mighty juicy chicken wings, with a flaky exterior (they’re fried in potato starch); get them for $6 during happy hour (Monday through Friday from 5:30pm–6:30pm).
ICHI Sushi + NI Bar, 3282 Mission, www.ichisuchi.com
EL DORADO TACO, $3.75
These off-menu tacos at La Taqueria are like the precursor to the chalupa. A crispy taco is folded within a soft one, and melted cheese holds the two together. Magic. You have to get the carnitas, of course (it also comes with beans). And it’s worth ponying up for some guacamole on top.
La Taqueria, 2889 Mission, SF. (415) 285-7117
FILM The B-movie is alive and well in modern cinema, running the gamut from SyFy dreck like Sharknado (2013) to the populist (and Oscar-winning) entertainment of Quentin Tarantino. But there was a time when an even “lesser” kind of film thrived, something less commercial than the genre film or the indie. These were films experienced communally, in dark, dirty movie theaters, with like-minded cinema adventurers, as well as in the company of perverts, weirdos, and people looking for a cheap place to sleep. Yep, we’re talking about the grindhouse: grade-Z movies and X-rated films.
Vinegar Syndrome knows all about the grindhouse. As one of a small crop of emerging, genre-focused home video releasing companies, VS was born in 2012 when film collectors Joe Rubin and Ryan Emerson raised $10,000 via Kickstarter to restore and release a set of lost H.G. Lewis films. Rubin and Lewis used their profits to keep going, their mission to preserve a number of niche exploitation films that have been forgotten over time, including bizarro action and horror flicks and a good deal of what is basically ’70s and early ’80s porn.
Possessing a preservation spirit similar to that of the late Mike Vraney’s fanatical Something Weird Video, VS shares its Connecticut headquarters with film restoration lab OCN Digital Labs (also run by Rubin and Lewis) and has built its small cult following through delivering consistently high-quality releases of long-forgotten gems, all mastered in-house from original camera negatives. The year ahead bristles with promising releases from San Francisco luminary Alex deRenzy and gay icon Wakefield Poole, as well as a streaming service called Skinaflix, which promises rare erotica in full HD. VS also caters to horror fans, teasing a slew of titles that includes a 4k restoration of Troma’s groovy Graduation Day (1981), as part of a multi-title deal with the company.
Some of these films are tremendously amateur and that’s half the fun. For today’s burgeoning cinephile audience, it’s exciting to see films that give the finger to established tenets of scriptwriting and mise en scène. In many ways, the crazy-passionate filmmakers of the grindhouse circuit were closer to true auteurs than the filmmakers we see today, and they were thriving in a time when low budgets led to some truly inventive shortcuts. Below, some highlights (and/or lowlights, and I mean that in the best way possible).
THE TELEPHONE BOOK (1971)
Alice, a young New York City hippie, receives an obscene phone call and is so taken by the experience that she sets out to find the caller. Along the way she bumps into a number of colorful characters who would impede her quest, and the film culminates in a surreal series of scenes involving a man in a pig mask and hypersexual animation. Shot in black and white, and featuring a magnetic performance from Laugh-In performer Sarah Kennedy, writer-director Nelson Lyon’s film is a quirky and calculated trip into the New York underground.
GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF (1978)
In 1954 Kansas, Miss Wyckoff (Anne Heywood) is a teacher who discovers that her solitary lifestyle has resulted in early-onset menopause. Her psychiatrist (the ever-delightful Donald Pleasence) suggests she find a lover, and her attempts to embrace the unfamiliar landscape of her femininity result in disappointment, sexual assault, and a thoroughly unhealthy relationship with the school janitor. Based on the novel by William Inge (with a screenplay by Polly Platt, who also wrote that year’s Pretty Baby), it offers a fearless look at sexuality and racism in an era that rarely engaged such hotbed issues.
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)
Horror anthologies were big in the 1980s, but Night Train to Terror came about in an altogether unfamiliar fashion. Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen took three feature-length films, chopped them down to about 20 minutes each, inserted claymation gore scenes and crude-looking monsters, and filmed a wrap-around story about God and the devil on a train with a New Wave dance band. All these poorly advised decisions came together to create a truly disorienting, hilarious throwback experience that would play well at your favorite bad movie night.
VIRGIN AND THE LOVER (1973)/ LUSTFUL FEELINGS (1978)
There’s no getting around it: a good portion of what VS releases comes from the era known colloquially as “porno chic.” These are full-on hardcore adult pictures, but the stigma of the X rating doesn’t indicate a lack of creativity. Often, the sex scenes were a commercial concession to gain financing. The fact that they attracted raincoaters and other negative attention was merely the price of doing business.
This double feature from notable adult filmmaker Kemal Horulu is a formidable starting point for someone unfamiliar with the genre. Virgin and the Lover is a lighthearted tale of a young man having difficulty with his strange feelings of love for a mannequin, and Lustful Feelings is the downbeat ordeal of a woman who enlists in the sex trade to pay off her drug dealing boyfriend’s debt to the mob. If you’re too young to have seen an adult film with a plot before, prepare to have your assumptions shattered.
A LABOR OF LOVE (1975)
For a deeper look at the adult film industry of the 1970s, A Labor of Love is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Iranian filmmaker Henri Charr, who ran out of money while making his independent film The Last Affair. Desperate for funding, Charr agreed to shoot a number of adult scenes to increase the likelihood of a profit for his investors, and what follows is an account of a cast and crew with no background in the adult scene attempting to make a professional and meaningful adult film. The actors and crew are brutally honest in their unfamiliarity with the production’s new direction, and a number of the challenges that arise on set are a far cry from Hollywood’s usual horror stories. *
FILM Documentaries are often the best section of any given film festival. But even die-hard fans admit to occasional Social Issue Fatigue — that feeling you get when you’ve just seen too many all-too-convincing portraits of real life injustices, reasons why the planet is dying, etc. “It was great — I’ll just go kill myself now” is a reaction few want to experience, you know, three times in one day. Yet it’s a typical plaint heard on queue at events like Toronto’s Hot Docs, let alone the touring United Nations Association Film Festival (a virtual global wrist-slitting orgy).
You’d be hard-pressed to have such a hard time at our own SF DocFest, however. For 13 years it’s managed to emphasize the entertaining and eccentric over grim reportage. To be sure, the latest edition, opening Thu/5 (with programs primarily at the Roxie and Oakland School for the Arts) has its share of films on topically important subject themes. Centerpiece presentation The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz poignantly recalls the short history of the brilliant young programmer-activist whose fate is especially chilling given the potential imminent death of net neutrality. Of Kites and Borders examines the harsh lives of children in the Tijuana area; Goodbye Gauley Mountain has Bay Area “eco-sexuals” Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens uniquely protesting the mountaintop removal industry in the Appalachians. But among 2014 SF DocFest’s 40 or so features, only Ivory Tower — about the increasingly high cost of higher U.S. education — offers straight-up journalistic overview of an urgent social issue.
More typical of DocFest’s sensibility are its numerous portraits of peculiar individuals and even more peculiar obsessions. In the jobs-make-the-man department, there’s An Honest Liar, whose magician subject The Amazing Randi has made it his personal mission to expose those who’d use his profession’s tricks to defraud the vulnerable; The Engineer, profiling the sole criminologist working in gang crime-ridden El Salvador; Bronx Obama, in which one man’s uncanny resemblance to the POTUS sets him on a lucrative but discomfiting career of impersonation for (mostly) audiences of hooting conservatives; and Vessel, whose protagonist Dr. Rebecca Gomperts sails the world trying to make abortions available to women whose countries ban the procedure.
There are no less than three features about people trying to succeed among the professionally tough: Fake It So Real (the South’s independent pro wrestling circuit), Bending Steel (a Coney Island performing strongman) and Glena (struggling mother hopes to hit paydirt as a cage fighter).
On the obsessive side, Wicker Kittens examines the world of competitive jigsaw puzzling. Jingle Bell Rocks! examines the netherworld of serious Christmas-music aficionados; Vannin’ observes the 1970s customized-van culture still alive today. Magical Universe is Jeremy Workman’s very first-person account of his friendship with an elderly Maine widower who turns out to have secretly created epic quantities of bizarre Barbie-related art. Hairy Who and the Imagists recalls the somewhat less “outsider”-ish achievements of Chicago’s ’60s avant-garde art scene, while Amos Poe’s 1976 The Blank Generation, DocFest 13’s sole archival feature, flashes back to punk’s birth throes at CBGB’s.
Another legendary moment is remembered in Led Zeppelin Played Here, about an extremely early, ill-received 1969 Zep show at a Maryland youth center that few attended, but many claim to have. Portraits of artists expanding their forms in the present tense include Trash Dance (a choreographer collaborates with truckers and their big rigs) and When My Sorrow Died (theremin!).
Exerting a somewhat wacked fascination is the cast of We Always Lie to Strangers, which is somewhat spotty and unfocused as an overall picture of tourist mecca Branson, Mo. — Vegas for people who don’t sin — but intriguing as a study of showboy/girl types stuck in a milieu where gays remain closeted and Broadway-style divas need to keep that bitching hole shut 24/7. Further insight into your entertainment options is provided by Doc of the Dead (on zombiemania) and self-explanatory Video Games: The Movie.
One pastime nearly everyone pursues — looking for love — gets sobering treatment in Love Me, one of several recent documentaries probing the boom in Internet “mail order brides” from former Soviet nations. Its various middle-aged sad sacks pursuing much younger Eastern bombshells mostly find themselves simply ripped off for their troubles. Those looking for quicker, cheaper gratification may identify with Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story.
Of particular local interest is the premiere of Rick Prelinger’s No More Road Trips, culled from his collection of nearly 10,000 vintage home movies. A preview screening of First Friday offers a first peek at this forthcoming documentary about tragic violence at the monthly arts festival in Oakland last year. True Son follows 22-year-old Michael Tubbs’ attempt to win a City Council seat and reverse the fortunes of his beleaguered native Stockton. The “Don’t Call It Frisco!” program encompasses shorts about the Bay Bridge troll, a Santa Rosa animal “retirement home,” and a salute to South Bay hardcore veterans Sad Boy Sinister.
DocFest ends June 19 with that rare thing, a documentary about downbeat, hard-to-encapsulate material that’s won considerable attention simply because it’s so beautifully crafted and affecting. Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos’ Rich Hill focuses on three kids in worse-than-average circumstances in a generally depressed Missouri town of 1,400 souls. Harley is an alarmingly temperamental teen housed on thin ice with his grandmother while his mother sits in prison for reasons that explain a great deal about him. Potty-mouthed Appachey is a little hellion perpetually setting off his exasperated, multi-job-juggling single mother, living in near-squalor.
Still, both are at least superficially better off than Andrew, an almost painfully resilient and hopeful boy constantly uprooted by an obscurely damaged mother and a father who can’t hold a job to save his life. “We’re not trash, we’re good people,” he tells us early on, later rationalizing his continuing dire straits with “God must be busy with everyone else.” He’s the heartbreaking face of a hardworking, religious, white American underclass that is being betrayed into desperation by the politicians who claim to share its values.
Check website for venues, times, and prices
SUPER EGO “The Mission has changed so much since we started the party. Just so many strollers and $10 tacos… It’s crazy … ” DJ Oz McGuire (aka Señor Oz) was telling me. Along with his brother Joey (aka Pleasuremaker) and the cutest crew ever, Oz has thrown fantastic panglobal funk weekly Afrolicious at Elbo Room for the past seven years.
Uh oh. This sounds like the start of a break up talk. An “it’s time to move on” soliloquy. An “it’s not you, it’s them” kind of thing. Don’t make me pull out my wet telenovella hysterical dramatics on you, Oz!
“Elbo Room has always been a special place and it will continue to be,” he continued, gently. “But Afrolicious has developed into something bigger than a club night. We got to try out so many things and expand our horizons. We never planned on becoming a live band, but like everything else about Afrolicious it happened organically. We’re now on Thievery Corporation’s label and touring all over.”
Hot tears welling …
“When we started the party, it was truly what we thought the Mission was about. It wasn’t exclusive and it wasn’t exclusionary, it was open to everyone. Every Thursday has been an adventure, full of live music, great guests, and a room full of awesome people. The youngest person in our collective is the rising soul singer Ziek McCarter who started with us at 19. Our oldest member is Baba Duru, who moved to SF in 1970 and toured with Stevie Wonder. Our vocalist is from Trinidad and our drummer is from Brazil. We all congregated in SF over our love of the universal groove. There are rhythms that connect all dance music from the beginning of time to the present day and we believed we could transmit them. Now it’s time to take that original Mission feeling to the world.”
Oh, I see. So now we’re supposed to share you?
“It’s not like we’re leaving SF. Pleasuremaker and Izzy Wise are starting a new night on Thursdays at the Elbo Room called Hi Life, full of Afrolicious regulars. We just wanted to end while Afrolicious was still hot and relevant. We never wanted to have a bad party, we batted 1000 percent. We’ll always love the vibe here.”
Fine then. Go. But I’m keeping the damn dog. And the purple Camaro!
AFROLICIOUS GRAND FINALE Thu/5, 9:30pm,, $10–$15. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com
Seminal Detroit house player will turn the weekly Housepitality party out with his deep and freaky Harmonie Park sound. A midweek must.
Wed/4, 9pm, free before 11pm with RSVP at www.housepitalitysf.com/rsvp, $10 after. F8, 1192 Folsom, SF.
Original techno ambassador (and exemplary Canadian chap) Daniel Bell brings his live show — which slayed everyone last month at the Detroit Electronic Music Fest — to the As You Like It party.
Fri/6, 9pm-4am, $20. Monarch, 101 Sixth St, SF. www.ayli-sf.com
Longtime dirtybird crewmember and essential SF DJ/troublemaker Worthy is dropping gorgeously funky album Disbehave featuring one of my favorite people in the world, vocalist Audio Angel. This is the party for that. It will be bonkers.
Fri/6, 9pm-3am, $5 before 11pm with RSVP (details at www.mighty119.com). Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.
One of the best selectors brings her great energy from Berlin to the Honey Soundsystem party, bearing rare, groovy, and just plain lovely house and techno cuts galore.
Sat/7, 9pm-4am, $15–$20. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com
The legendary turntablist (he started the Beat Junkies in 1992, but has been scratching up Cali since the mid-80s) hits F8’s decks with all-star support from Kevvy Kev, Vinroc, Dials, and Napsty. Expect pyrotechnics.
Sat/7, 10pm, $7–$20. F8, 1192 Folsom, SF. www.feightsf.com
WICKED 23: THE MAGICK BALL
So stoked to celebrate 23 years with this genius crew and a dance floor full of true SF underground flavor. It’s a bittersweet party, though: DJ Thomas — who found global fame as one half of Rub N Tug — has announced this will be his final gig.
Sat/7, 10pm-6am, $20–$25. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com
DANCE The third Walking Distance Dance Festival — basically three programs of two pieces over two days — was modest in scale. Audience members may have traveled only half a block between venues for this fringe-style event, yet as curated by ODC Theater Director Christy Bolingbroke, these short trips became adventures.
Running through the festival was a simple question: What do we do with what we have? Dance works used to be considered moments in time that left behind only fading footprints. No longer. Dance historians have unearthed huge chunks of the past, and the Internet, with YouTube at its core, opens much of it at the click of a key. Besides, like it or not, the past is part of who we are. We can’t get away from it.
In the festival’s opener, the question for Lionel Popkin became how he, with an Indian mother, was supposed to look at Ruth St. Denis, the pioneering modern dancer who dabbled in what she saw as Indian dance. With the brilliant and sharp Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Popkin attacked the complexities of these issues with humor, much of it self-effacing, and vigorous dancing for himself, Emily Beattie, and Carolyn Hall. They pushed along the floor and rolled over each other; they also dived into the unholy mess of St. Denis’ fixation on veils as they subverted her pedantic instructions for Nautch, her most famous work. Master accordionist Guy Klucevsek’s score, performed live, was superb.
The festival ended with Amy O’Neal’s cheekily titled solo The Most Innovative, Daring, and Original Piece of Dance/Performance You Will See this Decade. O’Neal is a stunningly captivating performer who slides in and out of hip-hop, club, modern, and even some balletic dancing. She may have been alone on stage, but with her are Dorothy’s red slippers and choreography from music videos by Ciara and Janet Jackson, freely adapted but still recognizable. An accompanying projected text addressed issues of influences (borrowed, stolen, honoring, or accidental) on the creative process. Make them your own, O’Neal asserted. She did.
So did Doug Elkins Choreography, Etc.’s high wire comedy act Hapless Bizarre, in which voguing and musical theater ran smack into vaudeville and physical clowning. The superb Mark Gindick played the clueless outsider who wormed his way into an haute monde — in every sense of that term since all but one of the other performers towered over him. Starting with an elaborate hat trick, the dancers marvelously picked up on voguing’s haughty and competitive struts and poses. As Hapless moved on to romance, the intensity of pratfalls, rejections, and increasingly hopeless entanglements become even more frantic. Glad to say that Gindick finally got the girl.
Three local groups also participated in this fine festival. Garrett + Moulton Productions reprised its A Show of Hands, which premiered last October in the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco’s airy lobby. Dan Becker’s excellent score, performed live, still sounded wonderful.
At ODC, Show, inspired by Charles Moulton’s drawing of hand gestures that were projected as a backdrop, looked tighter and more focused. Hand gestures — so often neglected in Western dancing — came into their own. They poked, touched, and reached. With the dancers stacked on pedestals, their fingers resembled trembling butterflies. But the hands also lifted and carried three of the musicians in a funeral procession, leaving an elegiac cellist behind.
Show offered marvelously full-bodied and fluid dancing with phrases that flew, sank, or simply disappeared into the wings. Nol Simonse injected a comedian’s touch into his duet with Dudley Flores. Newly blond Vivian Aragon, a fiercely balletic dancer, attacked every move as if it were her last. No wonder she could grab and lift Simonse like a puppet.
Show was paired with an excerpt of Bhakti: Women’s Liberation of Love by Kathak dancer Rachna Nivas, in which she attempted to portray Hindu mystic and poet Meerabai as a proto-feminist. An exquisite dancer with a refined sense of rhythmic acuity who is well-schooled in male-female roles, Nivas charmed as the girl devoted to Krishna, but her telling of other aspects of Meerabai’s life needed more complexity.
The festival’s most haunting dancing came from Headmistress dancers Amara Tabor-Smith and Sherwood Chen. Shame the Devil explored the process of what Tabor-Smith calls becoming a crone. Hopping in place and becoming very still, her intensity mesmerized as she called up several lifetimes’ worth of states of being. She should, however, ditch her auxiliary performers.
Mummified in layers and layers of clothing, Chen’s Mongrel channeled Dervish dancing — until he stripped down to acquire a more authentic but also more vulnerable identity. Though it’s a borrowed metaphor, Mongrel convinced because of the rigor and consistency that Chen imposed on his dance making. Replacing Moroccan with Brazilian music, however, seemed just a touch too simplistic. *
Former Mayor Willie Brown was infamous for keeping the workings of San Francisco government secret. Now his successor, Mayor Ed Lee, has codified government secrecy into written policy.
A Bay Guardian review of Lee’s newest public records retention schedule found the mayor granted himself the ability to destroy public records with broad power: deleting emails deemed “routine,” drafts of legislation, and records of telephone calls to the office of the mayor.
The policy should have anyone interested in government transparency up in arms. It potentially flouts the California Public Records Act, as well as the city’s Sunshine Ordinance, state and local laws granting citizens and journalists alike the legal right to keep tabs on what goes on under the hood of the political machine.
Emails, which Lee’s policy says the Mayor’s Office can destroy, are a particularly powerful tool for keeping government in check.
“Sources can be less than reliable, but an email speaks for itself,” said James Wheaton, senior counsel for the First Amendment Project, a group that defends the public’s right to government information. “Emails are a unique window into the way an institution functions. We call these things ‘paper trails.'”
But the paper trail used to track the mayor is kept in the shadows by his new policy, the most recent crack to appear in an eroding wall of public trust in open government.
LET THE SUNSHINE IN
Reporters and engaged citizens depend on access to public records to do the everyday dirty work of keeping an eye on government.
In 2010, reporters from the Los Angeles Times investigated the town of Bell’s corrupt network of city officials (including the mayor and police chief), who swindled money from city coffers. Public record requests of their emails revealed brazen exchanges: “I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money?!”
Closer to home, public records allowed a Sacramento Bee investigative reporter to uncover perilous corrosion in the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, leading to a public outcry over a threat to public safety.
The Guardian, long critical of mayoral backdoor deals, often requests emails from government agencies to track people in power. “Behind the Tweets [3/11],” relied on emails obtained from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to chronicle how Twitter wrangled local lawmakers into weakening the benefits it had to supply the city in exchange for its much-contested tax breaks.
A recent Guardian investigation led us to the mayor’s newly minted policy. When Guardian Editor in Chief Steven T. Jones requested email correspondence from the Mayor’s Office, we were told the emails may have been deleted, leading us to ask a reasonable question.
“What the hell?!”
VANISHING PAPER TRAIL
On April 22, the Guardian made a Sunshine Ordinance request to the Mayor’s Office for communications involving Tenderloin power broker Randy Shaw and the Tenderloin Museum project that he and Lee launched at a press conference the previous day.
A week later we obtained two emails from Shaw copied to city government officials: one supporting Ellis Act reform, and another calling for a city crackdown on the Turk and Leavenworth Smoke Shop.
We spoke to Kirsten Macaulay, who handles Sunshine requests for the Mayor’s Office, and asked about something quite curious: Even though Lee and his office were involved in a press event with Shaw on April 21, there were no emails or other messages setting up that event or coordinating when the mayor would speak.
We asked where those emails were, and got an astounding answer: They may have been deleted, she said, a regular practice for emails deemed to be “routine.”
“We don’t have a record retention policy against deleting emails,” she said.
That seemed to explain a number of suspicious responses to routine records requests we’ve made after politically charged decisions.
After a controversial behind-closed-doors political move by power broker (and Lee ally) Rose Pak to replace progressive Police Commissioner Angela Chan with a former Ed Lee campaigner, Victor Hwang, the Guardian requested emails from the mayor’s office concerning either candidate.
“This office is confirming that we do not have any responsive documents,” Macaulay wrote in reply to our request.
When we made similar requests of city supervisors, we received more than 70 emails per supervisor, supporting and decrying both candidates. The emails were like a trail of bread crumbs leading back to power broker Pak, revealing all the community members who had stepped in as proxies on her behalf to flex political muscles.
No such luck with the mayor.
The idea that not a single soul would send an email to Lee, nor would he or his staffers send a single email regarding the appointment of Chan, or of her opponent, just isn’t credible.
The Guardian pushed on the issue and obtained a copy of the records retention policy from the Mayor’s Office. The Mayor’s Office drafted a new version of that policy, which was quietly approved by Lee’s Chief-of-Staff Steve Kawa as well as City Attorney Dennis Herrera in February.
We’ve been pushing for more information on how that policy differs from previous versions, and whether it complies with state and local public records laws. But the staff member from Herrera’s office who dealt with the policy was unavailable for comment, and we haven’t gotten a straight answer from the mayor himself.
“San Francisco has the strongest open government and sunshine laws in the country,” Christine Falvey, a spokesperson for the mayor, told us. “The Mayor’s office fully complies with the spirit and letter of the law.”
She would not grant us a direct interview with the mayor. When the Guardian asked the mayor if he has the legal right to delete his emails when we saw him outside a campaign party Tuesday night, he said “I’ll answer your questions later,” and shut his car door in front of us.
One thing is for sure: The new policy has holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through, and that has open government advocates worried.
POLICY EXPERTS WEIGH IN
The most troubling language in the mayor’s new “Records and Document Retention and Disposal Schedule,” as it’s formally called, can be found on page two under the heading “No Retention Required.”
“Documents and other materials (including originals and duplicates) that are not required for retention, are not necessary to the functioning or continuity of the Department and which have no legal significance may be destroyed when no longer needed,” the section states. “Specific examples include telephone message slips, notes from ongoing projects, preliminary drafts that have been superseded by subsequent versions, routine emails that do not contain information required to be retained under this policy, miscellaneous correspondence not requiring follow-up or departmental action, notepads and chronological files.”
Emphasis ours. Attorneys we spoke with were concerned the exemptions would keep the public in the dark.
“The city should be retaining all records that bear on the operations of government and public oversight thereof,” David Greene, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told us. “The listing of telephone message slips — which sometimes might be the only record of a communication — is a disturbing example. Same for ‘routine emails’ — whatever that means.”
Terry Francke, lead counsel at open government group Californians Aware, went further, saying the records the Mayor’s Office claims it can destroy flouts state law.
“State law,” he said, “sets a minimum retention period of two years for any records of a city or county.”
We asked, does that mean any records destroyed in under two years would run afoul of state retention policies?
“Other than duplicates,” he said, “yes.”
He pointed to California Government Code 34090, which states cities cannot destroy records affecting the title to real property, court records, and records required to be kept by statute. Importantly, cities also cannot destroy records that are less than two years old.
Contrary to that law, emails the Mayor’s Office said may have been deleted were less than a few months old.
Rick Knee, a longtime member of the city’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, was cautious.
Alarmingly, he said, “the list of documents of which retention is not required allows the destruction of records that should remain open to public scrutiny, and gives the mayor’s office far too much discretion to decide what is or is not ‘necessary to the functioning or continuity of the department.'”
The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force is the only city body specifically tasked with enforcing government transparency laws, which are in place to ensure that government conduct remains open to public scrutiny. But the power of that entity to act effectively is under threat, as city supervisors recently rejected two strong new appointments from the Society of Professional Journalists, one of whom litigated against the federal government to obtain public records regarding the National Security Agency, domestic drones, and more.
San Francisco politicians interested in deleting documents wouldn’t benefit from strong government watchdogs on the task force.
We can only hope local open government advocates and journalists alike will challenge the mayor’s policy, which potentially flouts state and local open government laws. But that may not be enough.
Even if we had ironclad rules safeguarding government email, Wheaton, an attorney with the First Amendment Project, pointed out there are ways around transparency.
Two months ago, the California Court of Appeals ruled in City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith) that personal emails and text messages of government officials are not public record.
“It’s just handing every corrupt politician an absolute get out of jail free card,” Wheaton said. “Now all they have to do is get a Gmail account to stay out of the public eye.”
Or, corrupt politicians could take the route of Mayor Brown, who barred digital devices in his presence during staff meetings and famously does not use email.
In his column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Willie’s World, Brown explained his position on email to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“These days, Schwarzenegger appears to be more into tech than politics. Do I do Twitter? he eagerly asked me. Do I do e-mail?
‘No, no, no,’ I said. ‘Let me remind you of something, governor. Do you know what that ‘E’ in e-mail stands for?
Steven T. Jones contributed to this report.
UPDATE: The Bay Guardian was given a brief quote by Christine Falvey, the mayor’s spokesperson, for this story on Monday. Though we used the quote in the print version of this story, an error on our part led to it not being included in the web posting. We have corrected the web posting and apologize for the error.
Below we’ve embedded the document retention policy for download and viewing.
Randy Shaw is a Tenderloin power broker who has a cozy relationship with the Mayor’s Office, regularly promoting its interests and perspective on his blog, BeyondChron, and through other avenues. In return, Shaw quietly gets tremendous city support — including big infusions of public funds — for his projects and initiatives.
The biggest recipient is Shaw’s main organization, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which holds city contracts worth millions of dollars to manage single-room occupancy hotels for the poor, including supportive rooms for the formerly homeless. But that’s just one of Shaw’s many projects.
The most recent example is the Tenderloin Museum project, which Shaw has been working on for five years (see “Test of the Tenderloin,” 9/28/10). In addition to getting official support from Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Jane Kim — both of whom Shaw and his closest associates helped get elected — Shaw has also gotten a commitment of public funds that he appears to be trying to hide.
During the April 21 press conference celebrating the Tenderloin Museum project, flanked by Lee and Kim, Shaw described how the once-vibrant Tenderloin went into economic decline in the ’50s, but that he and others have been trying to restore it and spur more investment.
“Fortunately, we have those of you in the room who did believe, and none greater than the mayor,” Shaw said, parroting the lavish praise he regularly heaps on Lee at BeyondChron, praising his leadership on the Twitter tax break. “With the mid-Market/Tenderloin tax exemption, it’s often forgotten that the Tenderloin is in there, but the mayor insisted on it.”
Actually, as a Guardian investigation showed at the time (“Behind the tweets,” 3/15/11), it was Shaw who took the lead role in orchestrating the deal and ensuring the Tenderloin was part of it, benefiting some of Shaw’s business allies in the process (see “Selling the Tenderloin,” 3/29/11).
Now, a Guardian review of recent emails between Shaw and city officials shows that he has once again used his political influence and connections in the Mayor’s Office to tap public funds for his Tenderloin Museum project — something Shaw conveniently failed to mention at the April 21 event, even as he praised the pro bono work of contractor Webcor Builders and structural engineer Rodrigo Santos, the conservative pro-development advocate whom Lee appointed to serve on the City College Board of Trustees (see “Words and deeds,” 9/11/12).
Shaw regularly trades emails with officials in the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, both of which are working on funneling funds to the Tenderloin Museum project. Shaw peppered those conversations by sharing his sympathetic blog posts with the officials, urging them to “please send it around.”
Shaw did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
In association with the museum project, Shaw’s Uptown Tenderloin Inc. was recently awarded a $20,000 contract with OEWD to help fill commercial vacancies in the Tenderloin, a role made easier by city officials who regularly refer business leads and official inquiries to Shaw, the emails show.
An April 7 email from Shaw to John Harris of the Mayor’s Office of Housing outlines the funding arrangements, and illustrates the influence Shaw appears to hold with key city officials.
“Per your discussion with Sarah [Wilson, who is helping open the Tenderloin Museum] last week, Brian [Cheu, director of community development at MOHCD] and I had previously agreed that MOHCD funding also covers museum exhibit design costs and project management once we tap out OEWD funding. The exhibit design funding would cover costs for our exhibit designers, West Office Exhibition Design (WOED), and their exhibit fabricator. Selection of this fabricator is currently in a bidding stage — there are a total of 3 bids being collected. Brian agreed that the exhibit fabricators would not be subject to prevailing wage since all fabrication is occurring off-site. To confirm, the MOHCD grant would be paying for invoices from Webcor, Sarah Wilson, WOED and WOED’s fabricator. Sarah can keep you updated on the selection of the fabricator. We expect to have this confirmed in early May,” Shaw wrote in an email CCed to Cheu, who didn’t dispute the arrangement.
Other emails and the project’s official city grant application detail how much public funds are quietly being committed to the project: $175,000 from OEWD, on top of the other $20,000 grant the Uptown Tenderloin has already received. Another $660,000 in General Fund dollars would be filtered through MOHCD, of which $200,000 would go to the West Office Exhibit Design budget, and $460,000 to Webcor Builders, even though Shaw praised the company for doing its work for free.
A Guardian request for more information on the grants shows the $175,000 grant was awarded on Nov. 1, 2013. Before that and after, Shaw wrote glowing posts about Lee and tried to spin the ballot box defeat of the 8 Washington project and problems facing the Warriors Arena in ways that benefited Lee. Among them was his 11/12/13 post, “8 Washington Was Not a Referendum on Mayor Lee.”
How did Shaw manage to get so much support from the city and politically connected players like Webcor and Santos? At the April 21 event, he did mention one powerful figure who has been at the intersection of political and economic powers under the last three mayoral administrations: Chief-of-staff Steve Kawa.
“Steve Kawa played an instrumental role to make all this happen,” Shaw said.
But Lee said it is Shaw who deserves the credit.
“I want to congratulate Randy,” Lee said at the event. “He’s fought so hard for this for so many years.”
By Suzy Loftus
OPINION Sasha’s only 9 years old, but she has already experienced significant trauma and adversity. Whenever her father drank too much, he would hit and verbally abuse Sasha and her mother. After her father went to jail, Sasha’s mother lost her job, the family became homeless and eventually moved into subsidized housing. Sasha had also witnessed high levels of community violence. Exposure to trauma has taken its toll on Sasha; she has a hard time focusing on assignments in class and struggles with reading and math. She gets frustrated and acts out at home and in class. Her teacher thinks Sasha has learning problems, and has recommended her for special education.
We have often looked at childhood trauma such as Sasha’s as a social problem or a mental health problem — but emerging data provides a more complete picture. At the Center for Youth Wellness, in Bayview Hunters Point, we are part of a growing national movement that is looking at childhood exposure to chronic adversity through a different lens: as a public health threat.
Children, like Sasha, are screened for exposure to chronic adversity and toxic stress during their pediatric visits, through a partnership between the Bayview Child Health Center and the Center for Youth Wellness.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris discusses ACEs and toxic stress as the next massive public health threat.
In the Bayview and across California, chronic adversity and toxic stress stand in the way of the health and success of many children. Now more than ever, we are beginning to understand the impact of early adversity — known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — on the developing brains and bodies of children like Sasha.
ACEs are traumatic experiences over which a child has no control. Examples include abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, exposure to community violence, homelessness, discrimination, involvement in foster care, and others.
A study conducted by Dr. Burke Harris, founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, found that a majority of the 700 participants, all patients from Bayview with a median age of 8 — 67 percent —were exposed to one or more ACEs.
Beyond the Bayview, exposure to childhood trauma is surprisingly common among Californians. In fact, a San Diego study found that two-thirds of 17,000 participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience, and 20 percent of participants reported three or more ACEs.
ACEs can result in toxic stress, which can affect the fundamental biological functioning of the body and, in many children, the healthy development of their brain architecture. Without support and protection from adults, children who experience toxic stress are at higher risk for health problems, like asthma, diabetes, and obesity. Toxic stress also may make it difficult to sit still in school or to control emotions in challenging situations. If left untreated, toxic stress can lead to increased risk of adult diseases including heart disease and cancer as well as behavior problems such as depression, substance use, and suicide.
That’s why exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences has been called the greatest unaddressed public health threat of our time. This is a public health crisis with clear implications beyond health — from education to public safety to our economy.
Our approach: screen every child for toxic stress and pilot and evaluate interventions that heal the impact of ACEs. Our goal is to share best practices in ACEs treatment with others around the country. We believe that the pediatric home offers an important entry point into addressing ACEs and toxic stress with families.
Even before a child goes to school or interacts with other systems, he or she usually visits a pediatrician for a routine well-child check. With the ability to touch countless numbers of children exposed to ACEs, pediatricians can be on the frontlines of preventing, screening, and healing toxic stress. Other healthcare professionals who work with children, such as school nurses, also are in a unique position to screen for toxic stress and help families access the services they need.
The science is clear — we must do more to prevent, screen, and heal the impacts of ACEs and toxic stress. A crucial first step in addressing this crisis is raising awareness among parents, pediatricians, educators, and policymakers that ACEs are a public health threat that we cannot afford to ignore. We must do more to identify toxic stress in our kids before it leads to a lifetime of challenges for children, families and our communities.
Suzy Loftus is chief operating officer of the Center for Youth Wellness and a member of the San Francisco Police Commission.
By Jolene Torr
On May 23, the city’s oldest alternative nonprofit art space announced that it would suspend programming due to a fragile financial situation. Indefinitely.
Intersection for the Arts began in the 1960s as a multidisciplinary organization, a coffeehouse ministry seeking to bridge artistic and spiritual ideas, a breeding ground for art and politics. It hosted all the stars of the Beat movement: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima; and it’s maintained that same social and political responsibility in its current role, serving as a space where conscientious objectors, radicals, misfits, artists, spectators, and the rest of the community could engage their curiosity.
It was never about the money.
“No one expects to make money from this; that’s not why we do it,” said Kevin B. Chen, Intersection’s visual arts director for the past 15 years, whose job ended June 1, along with those of his fellow longtime program directors Sean San José and Rebeka Rodriguez. “We do this for the same reason we always have,” Chen said. “You come to Intersection for spirit. For heart. For ideas.”
CULTURAL INSTITUTION THREATENED
The sudden decision was a shock to everyone. In addition to the program directors’ positions, the communications team would be cut. None of the staff knew of the drastic cuts in advance, nor were they aware of how financially challenged the institution was when they were given their two weeks’ notice.
Its financial troubles might appear to be an inescapable fact of present-day arts life in San Francisco: a cultural institution facing the economic and environmental realities of the development boom, another community disrupted by the aggressive pursuits of a new “frontier.”
However, rather than an eviction notice or rent increase, as was the case for Meridian Gallery, Root Division, and most recently Marcus Bookstore, this news came from the institution’s own board of directors, which said it had to act in the face of a financial instability.
“Intersection’s problem is not that it has no funds,” explained Vice Chair Lawrence Thoo (de facto board leader Yancy Widmer was traveling internationally and unavailable for comment). “It has quite a large amount of funds, but all of those are dedicated to specific projects. We’re cash rich but liquidity poor.” That’s meant a shortage of cash for day-to-day operations, he added. “For several years, Intersection has borrowed to help meet its costs, but it has become harder and harder to repay the borrowing in a timely manner.”
Through a press statement, the Board declared that it had “embarked on a deep organizational examination that led to a substantial rethinking of our role in the community.”
But how does the board define the community it’s serving? Depends whom you ask.
Thoo views the community as being specific to the place, which includes the Sixth Street Corridor, SoMa, and Mid-Market areas extending to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — though Intersection hasn’t always occupied its space in the Chronicle building, most recently relocating from Valencia Street. Historically the organization operated out of North Beach; it originally opened up shop in the Tenderloin. The organization has always been deeply entrenched in its neighborhood, and Thoo says, “Our ability to bring in the best artists to work with the community in a highly participatory capacity is terrifically important, given what’s going on presently in the community.”
Yet Rodriguez, the education and community engagement program director, describes Intersection as being about people and relationships. “We get to use art and creative processes as a way to think through difficult conversations,” she said. “Intersection has always been a place for communities to gather, share stories and look for solutions.”
Its most recent collaboration was the Artists in Residence program, at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School.
“It is really a big loss on our school if there will be no more program like the Intersection for the Arts,” said kindergarten teacher Evangeline Tiongco. Teacher Irene Aragon noted, “I am deeply saddened by this news. My students and I only have positive things to say about our experience with Intersection for the Arts.”
“Healthy communities need this,” said Rodriguez. “We all need this.”
Thoo said it’s still too early to know what Intersection’s future holds, but that it would be exploring an arts-centered entrepreneurial approach. “Really what Intersection is going to focus on at this time is helping to build stronger communities that are more engaged and are economically and culturally vibrant,” he said. The rental space model is one way to help stave off financial problems, which Thoo says is “a new way to engage the community.”
But what’s this new entrepreneurial approach mean for artists who have been showing their work at Intersection for years?
Resident artist Bernie Lubell said the “restructure” came as a shock: “The Intersection board speaks of a new ‘arts-centered entrepreneurial approach’ but I cannot see how this can be the basis for a community arts organization. The market becomes the only curator. The idea of the commons — and with it, any sense of public good — is rapidly disappearing from our landscape.”
Thoo says, “Like many organizations, the nature of Intersection’s individual patron constituency doesn’t immediately pay the bills. That’s not the demographic, and Intersection had historically not engaged with its constituency that way.”
Yet many community stakeholders felt blindsided by the decision, saying they weren’t given the chance to respond to the abrupt change.
“I think it is tragic to lose an institution that has supported the thousands of us, all diverse and different,” says artist Ana Teresa Fernandez, “without letting us have the opportunity to fight for them.”
While the press release stated that the public could get involved by sending their responses, comments, and memories to the address email@example.com, submissions are returned with an error message. So who’s listening?
“I understand having to tighten belts and make decisions, but this came out of left field,” said Wendy MacNaughton, who interviewed the residents from Fifth and Sixth streets for an Intersection installation that was later featured in her book, Meanwhile in San Francisco. “It’s terribly frustrating. I’m not sure what Intersection for the Arts would be without programming, curators or outreach and engagement staff. Working directly with artists and local communities is at the heart of what Intersection does.”
“If we really had the chance to mobilize the community, we could have had deep-down discussions,” says Chen. “If you’re going to have a major ideological shift, shouldn’t the community stakeholders have a say, too?”
Grassroots networks that enable people to move information and ideas to a broader audience are ultimately the ones to make change happen. In light of all of this restructuring, a Facebook group has materialized. The “After Intersection” group is engaged in online dialogue about what’s next and what’s being lost with the removal of the creative positions and programming.
Playwright Chinaka Hodge, whose latest show Chasing Mehserle was the last show to go up under the old framework, says that although she doesn’t know or purport to understand the intricacies of keeping a nonprofit afloat in an environment hostile to the arts, “I will say that the way the decision was made by the board and shared by the interim executive directors stands in stark opposition to the ethos and modus operandi I’ve always experienced at Intersection. I have considered Intersection my artistic home for over a decade, and in that time, most major decisions, tragedies and concerns have been shared in an open and honest space for dialogue. No gigantic shifts like this would have taken place under former leadership or in our old building without a real conversation with members of the full time staff, Campo Santo or with Artists in Residence, like myself.”
With this decision, Intersection is somewhat of a poster child for what’s going on in the arts in San Francisco. It’s often fought against the privileged members of the dominant cultural hegemony. But if that curatorial dimension is lost, what type of space will Intersection become?
This week’s primary election on June 3 occurred after Guardian press time for this issue, but there’s one conclusion that we can draw about it without even knowing the results: This is a pretty shabby form of democracy that few voters cared about. California’s experiment in open primaries is a disaster, and it’s time for a new model.
Turnout for this election was expected to hit historic lows, and for good reason: There was nothing of any real significance on this ballot, except perhaps for Proposition B on the San Francisco ballot, to require voter approval for height increases on waterfront development projects.
Even the hotly contested Assembly District 17 race between David Campos and David Chiu was simply a practice run for a rematch in November, thanks to an open primary system that sends the top two primary finishers, regardless of party, to the general election.
The system was approved by voters at Proposition 14 in 2010, placed on the ballot by then-Assemblymember Abel Maldonado as part of a deal with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to break a budget stalemate caused by their fellow Republicans. Such horse-trading should have been a bad sign that this change wouldn’t live up to its idealistic hopes.
Its backers promised that it would favor more moderate candidates and reduce negative campaigning, but that hasn’t happened. Indeed, at press time it appeared Gov. Jerry Brown would be facing the most radically right-winger in the race, Tim Donnelly, in November.
What it has instead done is reduce the primary election to a boring and meaningless waste of time and money, turning off voters and creating low-turnout elections that are more prone to manipulation by wealthy special interests.
We at the Guardian are all for greater experimentation in our electoral models. We were big supporters of the ranked-choice voting system that is working well in San Francisco and Oakland. We support even more aggressive models for publicly financing campaigns and reducing the role on private money in electoral politics. Hell, we also support a proportional representation system and other wholesale transformations of our political system.
But while we’d love to see even more electoral experimentation, we also need to recognize when experiments are failing, as California’s open primary system now is. It’s time to try something new.
San Francisco PR consultant Ryan Chamberlain was apprehended by the SFPD on the night of June 2. The well-connected social media and campaign consultant allegedly possessed explosives in his apartment, and was described as being on “armed and dangerous.” But in a letter he wrote to personal contacts via iCloud that many interpreted as a suicide note, Chamberlain recalled the road to his depression.
Many of the examples he cited involved his time as a political consultant in San Francisco. “He’s a classic political operative — crafty, cynical, but also really nice,” Adriel Hampton, a former SF Examiner political reporter, told the Guardian. “I always liked him, even when I was busting him in a story.”
Some San Francisco political insiders were up in arms about the FBI’s manhunt for Chamberlain, and the law enforcement agency’s assertions that he was a dangerous individual.
“I’ve known the guy for a decade,” wrote Alex Clemens, founder of prominent San Francisco PR firm Barbary Coast Consulting, in a Facebook post. “I hired him as a contractor for a month or two in ’09 to handle some social media efforts for a client in North Carolina. And that for the second time in a few months, I am head-spinning surprised to learn of these allegations against another SF political operative. What. The. Hell?”
As a City Hall insider and San Francisco political moderate (and former member of the Republican Central County Committee), Chamberlain helped run former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s successful mayoral campaign as a field organizer. In a letter released on Chamberlain’s iCloud June 2, he singled out the aftermath of that experience as one of his life’s major losses.
“Getting left out of the Newsom win was hard,” Chamberlain wrote. “But I was always able to override it by forcing some common sense onto my brain … but every time it would somehow come back … I’d hit bottom again.”
What did he mean by “getting left out” of the Newsom win? Apparently he thought he’d be awarded a job in exchange for his efforts, but that never happened. Political consultant Johnny K. Wang, who worked on the Newsom campaign with Chamberlain, filled us in on the details of working alongside Chamberlain during Newsom’s first mayoral bid.
“We started off working for free,” Wang said. “Then we worked seven days a week, day and night, with extremely low pay. We gave it our all. The people in the campaign became like brothers and sisters, because they practically lived together. The understanding was, in return, ‘you’ll take care of us,’ because we are good workers and we have proven our loyalty.” Instead, Wang said, “We were burned by the campaign,” an outcome that he said Chamberlain was particularly upset about at the time.
Yet Wang insisted that in more recent history, Chamberlain had been acting normal and exhibited “zero signs” that he was capable of domestic terrorism. He said his last contact with Chamberlain had been at the end of 2013.
Many details of the FBI’s targeting and pursuit of Chamberlain were still sketchy as of press time.
The FBI alleged that he possessed explosives, but would not elaborate on what type of explosives agents claimed to have found in his home. Another unanswered question: How did the FBI come to the conclusion Chamberlain was a suspect in the first place? Was Chamberlain digitally surveiled, as he hinted in his online note?
“The whole thing is weird,” Wang said. “None of the FBI’s stories make sense. First he’s a domestic terrorist, then he’s made no threats to anyone. What do they know for sure? I’m assuming they know something, because you don’t start a raid and a national manhunt without some facts.”
“It’s unacceptable,” Wang added. “I want to see some real bomb making materials. I want to see a car that’s rigged to explode. Because otherwise, it’s just accusations.”
There are many unknowns, but Chamberlain’s note revealed that his political losses weighed heavily on him. One such loss was in 2006, when he helped run the group SFSOS, which politically battled San Francisco progressives. The group aided Rob Black, then a candidate in the District 6 supervisor’s race, in a campaign against progressive Chris Daly, who prevailed.
A Fog City Journal report, shortly before the election, described Chamberlain’s disdain for Daly.
“As Chamberlain speaks, he gets more inflamed about Chris Daly,” FCJ wrote. “Clearly, he believes in the work he’s doing.”
Chamberlain was so impassioned against Daly that he wrote a free e-book called The Case Against Chris Daly.
Daly said he holds no grudges. “In terms of what’s been going on,” he told us, “I’ve felt a bizarre mix of vindication and pity.”
As San Francisco media add context to Chamberlain’s story, right-wing bloggers have tried to paint Chamberlain as the second coming of Leland Yee — another liberal gone wild.
But by San Francisco standards, Chamberlain was a far-right “Marina moderate.” He was far from a lefty liberal.
“There are some folks on the Internet trying to malign the guy as a San Francisco leftist,” Daly told us. “I mean, the guy isn’t.”
In Chamberlain’s letter, he wrote of making progress with what he described as feeling “dark.”
“I was still fighting,” he wrote in the note to his friends. “One day at a time, I was pushing through…Today was going to be a good day. I got great friends…. But so much was broken from this past year-and-a-half, and from moments way back before that, I guess it was just insurmountable, and the time’s up.
“Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.”
Rebecca Bowe contributed to this report.