Let them eat pancakesi



Not too many years ago, the intersection of Church and 30th streets had a distinctly end-of-the-line, Hooterville flavor. It was there that Muni’s J-Church streetcars ran out of track and had to turn themselves around for the voyage back to Market Street. The restaurants were a motley crew too, a helter-skelter bouquet of old, dimly lit places — Italian, Burmese — and a few brash arrivistes, such as Valentine’s and Café J.

Nowadays the southbound J takes a left and disappears for hours, like that model train Monty Burns once gave Bart, briefly his heir, on The Simpsons. ("Where does it go?" Millhouse asks in awe as the toy train chugs into a tunnel, and Bart replies, "I don’t know, but it’ll be gone for three hours, and yesterday it came back with snow on it!") The expansion of public transport is doubtless a good thing, especially in times like these, but the growth of the J line has certainly helped end the backwater days at Church and 30th. In the past few years there has been a tremendous efflorescence of upmarket restaurants south of 26th Street, including Incanto, Bistro 1689, La Ciccia, Pomelo, and Pescheria (from Joseph Manzare of Globe).

A small lacuna in this splendid list — but a striking one, considering Noe Valley’s reputation as the city’s baby belt — has been a place families could eat with small children. Outer Church’s resurgent restaurant row is very much tilted toward hip young adults with money. The baby-stroller set does most of its prowling along 24th Street, with Savor serving as a kind of Grand Central Station for people with little ones. Of course there was Hungry Joe’s, an old-time, greasy-spoon hamburger joint — yet the nearest relation to Hungry Joe’s wasn’t Savor but Herb’s, a place where I’ve never seen many baby strollers or children.

But now that the Naser brothers (Eddie, Anis, and Kamal) have reinvented Hungry Joe’s as Toast — complete with fresh paint the color of sunshine, brilliant new windows, and a shiny redo of the lunch counter — the outer Noe neighbors need no longer herd their tykes, tots, nippers, and other small folk up the long blocks to 24th Street. Toast, launched early in September, is much snugger than Savor, and although it doesn’t serve crepes, the menu does offer pancakes from dawn to dusk and beyond.

If the place also lacks Savor’s rear terrace, where fantasies of being in Nice can plausibly be entertained, it offers plenty of sidewalk seating by way of compensation. This small amenity is already attracting a big brunch crowd on warm weekend afternoons. And lovers of toast will not come away disappointed. Toasted bread, a simple pleasure that really can’t be improved upon, is standard issue for many of the restaurant’s broad array of sandwiches, and while this might seem like a minor detail, minor details have a way of making the difference between good and merely mediocre cooking.

The only untoasted bread we came across was the little loaf of sliced baguette that appeared shortly after we were seated one evening. It was butterable, of course, but it also made nice chunks for dipping into a surprisingly excellent lentil soup ($4.75) dotted with diced carrots and celery and shreds of tomato but also bewitchingly perfumed with an eastern Mediterranean, perhaps Turkish, bouquet of spices. I definitely detected paprika (we associate paprika with Hungary, but the spice was brought there by Ottoman invaders) and possibly sumac. Another small detail that made a noticeable difference.

And yet another: pepper jack cheese, with its agreeable fruity sharpness, along with cheddar in the grilled cheese sandwich ($7.25), whose slices of white bread had assumed pale golden sheen, sign of a quick turn in oil rather than a toaster. And more: heavy gratings of parmesan, a wealth of nicely oily croutons, and a garlicky vinaigrette over perfect romaine leaves in the side Caesar salad, which is a 75¢ upgrade for most of the sandwiches. The corned beef in the Reuben ($8.75) seemed to have been house-cured, judging by the juiciness of the meat and the liveliness of the bits of fat still attached to it. Corned beef has nothing to do with corn, incidentally, except that the cattle might have been fed it in their last days. "Corn" refers to the coarse salt with which the meat is cured; the word used to mean "grain" or "granular" — hence "corn snow."

I did find the ground beef in the patty melt ($8.50) to have been slightly underseasoned, but this deficit was made up by plenty of excellent sautéed onions and slices of (toasted!) rye bread. The side of fries, though not of the elegant French matchstick variety, was flawless and must be counted among the better versions in the city. Like the Reuben, the bacon cheeseburger ($8.50) was made with Niman Ranch beef — 1/3 pound’s worth — but the quality of the meat was largely eclipsed by the intensity of the toppings: a heavy mat of melted cheddar cheese and lengths of well-crisped bacon.

One evening we sat near a young family whose little girls, while waiting for their evening pancakes, were crawling over everything like monkeys — up on the table, down the back of a chair, across the floor, making little squeaks and yips all the way — while their parents patiently shepherded them back toward civilization and kept a conversation going between themselves. The gist of their remarks seemed to be: When will the pancakes arrive, and perhaps, Will we be toast by then? Answers: soon and no, everybody happy. *


Mon.–Sat., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun., 7 a.m.–4 p.m.

1748 Church, SF

(415) 282-4EAT

No alcohol



Wheelchair accessible


Three stories, three papers, one reporter


The merger of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times with Dean Singleton’s Bay Area newspaper properties has already had one clear impact: There are fewer reporters and critics covering the news.
A former senior staffer at a Bay Area daily has been following the post-merger dailies, and he told us that the same bylines are now appearing regularly in the Merc, the Times and the Oakland Tribune. Where there were once several reporters covering a news event, several critics writing about music and culture, several sportswriters covering local teams, now there is often just one.
“Three months after MediaNews Group added two major Knight Ridder dailies to its far-flung Northern California newspaper group, news coverage is well on its way to being homogenized in this formerly competitive market,” the former staffer wrote.
We did our own checking, and his thesis holds true.
Before this summer, when Singleton began to take control of nearly every daily paper in the Bay Area, it was routine to see three different reporters covering major stories for the Merc, the Times and the Trib. In April, for example, each paper assigned a different staffer to cover the news of reports of how vulnerable the Delta levees were to an earthquake. The Times had Betsy Mason on the story; the Merc had Lisa M. Kriger, and the Trib had Ian Hoffman. Three different movie critics covered the release in May of the “Poseidon Adventure,” Barry Cain from the Trib, Bruce Newman from the Merc and Rnady Myers from the Times.
These days, it’s very different. The three papers all reported on a triple homicide in Oakland Nov. 24 – but all three stories carried the byline of Kirstin Bender. On Nov. 22, all three had headlines trumpeting new plans for a 49ers stadium – but the same story, by Mike Swift and David Pollack, ran underneath all three heads. A controversy on BART accepting liquor ads merited one story – by Kiley Russell – that ran in all three papers. When “History Boys” was released in late November, all three papers carried the same movie review, by Mary F. Pols.
In fact, out of ten major news, sports and culture stories we examined in November, nine carried the same bylines in all three papers.
None of the senior editors at the three papers returned our phone calls for comment. But Tom Barnidge, the Contra Costa Times sports editor, was willing to talk about the staffing changes. He told us that the use of single stories in all three papers was the result of the consolidation, and he argued that there was no need for all three papers to have beat reporters covering exactly the same things.
The problem with that theory is that it’s wrong: Even on straightforward beat stories, different reporters bring different perspectives to stories, develop different leads and sources, and provide different information. So when the Times, the Merc and the Trib lose their own independent staff reporters, the Bay Area readers lose, too.

The Downward Spiral


by Amanda Witherell

Ezra wanted to see The Departed and I was angling for Borat, so we decided to let public transportation pick the movie and time and just BART to the new Westfield shopping mall at Market and Fourth.

I loathe all malls, but it seemed the Westfield’s theatre had an ample supply of what we were looking for. And I was in a charitable mood, feeling like I could just forget about where the profit from the $10.00 ticket was really going. After catching a train and pinning down a non-popcorn based meal we were, of course, cutting it very close, possibly into preview time (boding well for me and Borat.)

DisemBARTing at Powell Station, we escalated up into the city’s functional levels and directly into the new shopping mall. This is when the Westfield revealed the true fascist nature of its architecture and mission.

Track stars


› a&
“Trolley Dances,” as a friend pointed out, really is a misnomer, at least when applied here: San Francisco’s rail-bound transportation is either on streetcar lines or the underground BART tracks. But “Trolley Dances,” which returned this year for the third time and presented four dance companies in four different venues, gets its name from San Diego, where trolley cars do exist. In Northern California the free event is produced by Kim Epifano’s Epiphany Productions. These relaxed performances are a hit for tourists as well as locals, and they both turned out in respectable numbers — between 60 and 100 at any one station — on the morning of Oct. 20. It was quite a splendid way to spend two balmy mid-October hours in the sun.
If I may nitpick for a moment: those who expected to ride from one performance to the next were happy only if they had walking shoes on. Two of the four locations were reached on foot (at a pretty clipped pace for some of the elderly audience members), and the rest were accessible by Muni, which — surprise, surprise — kept everyone waiting a good 20 minutes. No wonder some lost patience and hoofed it elsewhere. I am not a fan of walking behind a leader hoisting a placard ahead of me, but if I hadn’t done just that, I might never have found my way into the impressively spacious Spear Tower Atrium of One Market Street, site of Yannis Adoniou’s In the Crowd.
With his own Kunst-Stoff dancers Kara Davis and Julian DeLeon in red jumpsuits and 22 dancers from the Lines Repertory Ensemble in black leotards and tops, Adoniou and his crew looked quite at home amid these elegant environs. He took his inspiration from the central aluminum-rod sculpture, arranging his dancers stelalike around it. It was good to see him work with a large ensemble, giving the dancers relatively simple but nicely varied patterns that billowed and contracted to good effect. The excellently paired Davis and DeLeon were the wanderers in this crowd: alone and together, supportive of and indifferent to each other. Carey Lambrecht set the mood — at times quite melancholic — with her solo violin.
Next stop was Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton’s Tzigane, in front of 50 California Street. Tanya Bello, Jennifer Bishop-Orsulak, Nol Simonse, and the multitalented Heidi Schweiker romped through precision dances suggested by the loony music of the Fanfare Ciocarlia, which sounded like a military band that had plopped into a circus. Set tightly to the score, the piece — with performers all in black, including berets — had a bouncy, folk dance quality. Dancers took the lead in setting patterns, splitting courting couples, playing around with hand signals, and bouncing off each other and the surrounding flower boxes. At Tzigane’s core as a reluctantly shy ballerina, Schweiker was coaxed into taking the stage, accompanied by some grandmotherly wailing on the soundtrack.
Next, Seawall: Beneath the Surface, by Facing East Dance and Music, was performed against a glorious view of the bay and anchored boats on Pier 38. With the excellent Vijay Anderson on traps, a sextet of women engaged in fairly conventional partnering and ensemble moves. Seawall’s most intriguing parts came from the juxtaposition of the quintet’s sometimes feverish activity with Rae Chung’s stillness and her ability to place martial arts–like moves with exceptionally directed focus.
Finally, the singer-dancers in Epifano’s Love in Transfer, at the Fourth Street Caltrain Station, may have looked like down-and-out travelers, but their folk music–inspired celebration of community and love “for as long as it lasts” suggested a robustly joyous celebration of community. SFBG

Does Beauty Ravish You?


by Amanda Witherell

Did it ravish you, compel you, confuse you last night on the corner of 24th and Mission? That’s what a 20×30 foot red banner, spontaneously unfurled around 8 pm from the rooftop of “Chinese Food and Donuts,” was asking of many a surprised Mission hipster and inspiring the itinerant BART station population to look up and wonder why? As if the banner’s inquisitiions weren’t intriguing enough, the billboard, as dancer Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions are calling it, was merely an artful backdrop for an elegant aerial dance performance. Three dancers in boxes, suspended in front of the billboard, came alive like portraits caught in frames, pushing the edges of their tight parameters and the safety of their harnesses. A fourth woman, clad in shimmering red, lurched from the rooftop above the swinging frames, with graceful, raging footwork that oscillated between acquiescence and a suicide attempt. And I’d just been trying to figure out how to show my mother, visiting our dear city for the first time, that San Francisco is so much more than Fisherman’s Wharf…

The show is the first public Flyaway production since 2002, and is called the Live Billboard Project. It was conceived by Kreiter when she was driving home one day and the Top Model billboard at the intersection of Mission and 280 caught her eye. “Sequined and stripped down, they were spilling out of the garish billboard,” she wrote about the Top Models in a flyer advertising her show. “All hips, ass and titillation. Despite 40 years since The Feminine Mystique, despite the Guerilla Girls, and despite the activism of so many fed up women, the objectification of women’s bodies in public space persists.”

The free, live show premiered on Wednesday night, and ran through the weekend. It was lightly advertised because, as one organizer told me, they like the element of surprise to play a part in the experience. Don’t be sad — you didn’t totally miss it. Another round is set for this Thursday, October 12 through Saturday, October 14, with shows at 8 pm and 9:30. Schedule your BART traveling accordingly for this must-see.

Live bait


Sneak a peak at the California Cereals factory — a gray, boxy concrete sprawl looming over an otherwise peaceful West Oakland neighborhood lined with wood frame houses and a sugary spray of Victorians — and you immediately expect that mulchy aroma of processed wheat products to assault the senses. So why do you detect … barbecuing oysters? But that’s the overriding scent du jour — and the improvisatory, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-fun nature of the Cereal Factory, one of many unpermitted party outposts where the city’s rock, improv, noise, and punk scenes have survived and even thrived in the Bay Area despite fin de siècle real estate insanity, party-killing neighbors, and ticket-threatening cops.
Scruffy, T-shirted kids lounge on the front steps of Jason Smith’s two-story home, dubbed the Cereal Factory for the genuine, sugar-coated article churning out Fruity Pebbles and generic raisin bran across the street. Down a side path, in the small backyard, music scenesters, fans, punks, indie rockers, and cool dudes mingle on the grass and down the canned beer and grillables they’ve brought as CF housemate Daniel Martins of Battleship throws more oysters on the barbie. Double back, and in the basement you find a dark, humid, tiki-embellished crash pad, not uncomfortably crammed with bodies shaking to Italian punk-noise band Dada Swing. Or you catch Bananas, Mika Miko, or Chow Nasty killing the rest of the early evening for gas money.
“My whole thing is to make it free, make it so that people can go to it,” the extremely good-natured Smith says much later. “If there’s a touring band, I always run around with a hat and kind of strong-arm people into coughing up some change or a couple bucks to give them some gas, but otherwise the bands all play here for free. I just provide the coals, and I buy two cases of beer for the bands.” As for the oysters, he adds, “shit like that happens! People are just, like, ‘I caught this huge fish — let’s smoke it.’”
Smith is one of the proud, brave, and reckless few who have turned their homes into unofficial party headquarters, underground live music venues. San Francisco and Oakland are riddled with such weekly, biweekly, and even more sporadic venues — some named and some known by nothing more than an address. But oh, what names: Pubis Noir, 5lowershop, an Undisclosed Location, Club Hot, Noodle Factory, Ptomaine Temple, and the Hazmat House. Some, like the Cereal Factory, are only active during the summer barbecue season; others, like LoBot Gallery, host shows and art exhibits year-round. Why go through the headache of opening your home up to a bunch of hard-partying strangers, music lovers, and the occasional psycho who trashes your bathroom? Some, such as Oakland’s French Fry Factory, have bitten the dust after being busted for allegedly selling beer at shows. Others, such as 40th Street Warehouse and Grandma’s House, have bowed to pressures external (neighbors, landlords) and internal (warehousemates), respectively. Why do we care?
The Clit Stop can take credit for being one of the first venues in San Francisco to dream up the now-familiar cocktail of noise, indie rock, jazz, and improv. Ex-Crack: We Are Rock and Big Techno Werewolves mastermind Eric Bauer and Bran Pos brain Jake Rodriguez began booking shows in 1998 in Bauer’s 58 Tehama space, once dubbed Gallery Oh Boy. Shows began on time at 8 or 9 p.m. so that East Bay listeners could BART back before midnight, and as a result Bauer and Rodriguez would often open, under assorted monikers. A May 2000 lineup at the Clit Stop (named after Bauer’s band Planet Size: Clit by Caroliner’s Grux) combined scree-kabukists Rubber O Cement with improv rockers Gang Wizard, indies Minmae, and Bauer’s dada-noise Aerobics King; another bill matched the angsty indie-electronica of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone with the noise-guitar-funk of Open City and the jazz sax of Tony Bevan. The common thread? The fact that Bauer and Rodriguez both liked them. “It was kind of hard sometimes,” Bauer says today. “We got requests from tons of shitty bands, and it was, like, ‘No, no, we don’t like you guys.’”
A year after Clit Stop began, Kimo’s started showcasing the same combination of rock and noise characterized by such varied Clit Stop players as Cock ESP, No Neck Blues Band, and Nautical Almanac — a mix that has filtered to the Hemlock Tavern and 21 Grand and into the sounds emerging from Bay Area bands like Deerhoof, Total Shutdown, and the pre–Yellow Swans group Boxleitner, all of whom played the Clit. “The weirder and more fucked up, the better,” Bauer continues. “We wanted to push boundaries — we wanted to annoy people.” Bauer moved out in 2000, leaving Rodriguez to continue to book shows at the venue under, Bauer says, the name Hot Rodney’s Bar and Grill. Bauer went on to put on the first noise-pancake shows with ex–Church Police member and Bauer’s Godwaffle Noise Pancakes co-overlord Bruce Gauld at Pubis Noir, a former sweatshop at 16th Street and Mission. Gauld is expected to put out a DVD of Clit Stop performances this year.
“The cheapness factor is a huge part,” says Cansafis Foote, sax player for the No Doctors. “In Oakland right now, you have a lot of kids who are trying to make a go at being an artist or being a musician or whatever, and almost all of them are broke. But they’re all really excited about people making stuff, so they’ll go to Art Murmurs on the first Friday of the month or they’ll go to warehouse shows, and maybe at the end of the day they won’t have any money in their pocket — and we’re still going to let ’em in to see the show. That, or they’re underage.”
An improv seminar leader at Northwestern University and onetime music teacher in Chicago, Foote was accustomed to instigating music- and merrymaking when he took the lease in February 2005 at Grandma’s House in Oakland. “Everything was kind of funneling out of that experience and just having the background with Freedom From [the label the No Doctors ran with Matthew St. Germain] and free exploratory music.” Grandma’s House had already been putting on shows in the massive warehouse it shared with Limnal Gallery (and at one time the Spazz collective), and Foote threw his energy into doing two to three shows a month — including performances by Sightings, Burmese, Hustler White, Saccharine Trust, and Warhammer 48K — until March, when, he says, an especially loud show by USA Is a Monster brought the police on a noise complaint. Foote, a.k.a. Grandpa, was already bummed because housemates who had initially said they’d help with shows “totally weren’t coming through on that. So I was sitting in my car and watching the gate while everyone was watching the show and I was, like, ‘What’s the point of doing this? I don’t even get to see the show.’ So I took a ladder and put it outside the window. I thought it was fun too, because it was like a clubhouse and people could come up the ladder and through the window into Grandma’s House, and then the cops came, and one told me they’d unlock the seventh door to hell if I did it again.
“I was actually kind of excited — should I allow him to unlock the seventh door to hell for me? Is there going to be a special fire-breathing dragon there for me? It was amazing. It’s, like, ‘Dude, there’s some 16-year-old kid who’s going to shoot some other 16-year-old kid down the street — go deal with him.’”
The next show was the deal breaker: police returned twice to open that door as a brouhaha broke out at a Grey Daturas show between audience members and various warehousemates. Warehouse denizens put pressure on Foote to halt the shows, and now he’s moving out: “It was the only reason I was living there. It’s not real glamorous to be living in a warehouse with little mice and weird bugs in the summer.”
House-party spaces have come and gone, but one of the saddest passings had to be 40th Street Warehouse in Oakland, which put on rock, folk, and hip-hop shows, queer cabaret, and art events from 1996 until the collective shuttered last winter with a last loud musical blowout (This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb headlined) and a commemorative zine. From Monument to Masses guitarist Matthew Solberg lived there for three years and recalls that the onetime auto mechanic shop’s shows were initially started by members of the experimental Noisegate.
By 2003, Solberg says the Temescal space was putting on shows, plays, or benefits every weekend, with an emphasis on rock and metal: Parts and Labor, Tyondai Braxton, High on Fire, Ludicra, Merzbow, Masonna, Melt Banana, a Minor Forest, Lesser, Curtains, Neon Hunk, Hair Police, Deep Dickollective, Thrones, X27, Soophie Nun Squad, Toychestra, 25 Suaves, Monitor Bats, the Intima, Lowdown, the Coachwhips, Hammers of Misfortune, the Vanishing, Mirah, Gravy Train!!!!, Eskapo, and Microphones (last on the Microphones bill, beneath Loch Nest Dumpster, is Devendra Banhart, described as “acoustic ardor from San Francisco’s shyist [sic]”), with bands like Numbers getting a running start with multiple performances there.
The schedule, however, took its toll. “People would move into the warehouse and be really stoked to have that autonomous space, but they didn’t really know what they were getting into. They usually lasted six months, and then they’d be, like, ‘I can’t stand this anymore!’” Solberg says. “But certain people adapted because they were passionate about being able to create that sort of space and making it work: a DIY show space where 100 percent of proceeds went to the bands — and obviously, we’d cover some expenses, like electrical and providing food for the bands. But apart from that, the house didn’t take any money. It was all done out of, I dunno, community service.”
The collective itself got a reputation as a straight-edged vegan cabal that forbade hard drugs and meat in the fridge that sat on the outskirts of the barnlike communal show space. “We didn’t want to succumb to the crash pad–flophouse thing,” Solberg explains. “We just wanted to preserve sanity.”
All that came to an end when in 2004 the Oakland City Council passed the Nuisance Eviction Ordinance, which took aim at crack houses but covered “noise” as a reason for eviction. “The people at 40th Street all believed that was the reason we got so much police attention the last year we were there,” Solberg says. After joining his fellow tenants in a winning fight against their landlord, who had given them a month’s eviction notice in order to convert the space to condos, Solberg moved to Ptomaine Temple, which continues to stage experimental noise shows.
And despite the rewards, good times, and appreciative bands that get play and earn gas money to their next show, shutdowns are still a threat, casting a shadow even over spots like the Smith-owned Cereal Factory. After a neighbor began objecting last year to the soused kids milling in the street and lined up out the Factory’s front door to go to the bathroom, the Mothballs drummer slowed the shows, built a discreet bathroom in the basement, and then carefully began the music once more. Why bother? The chuckle-prone Smith, who works in the live-music department at KALX, bought the house with the intention of having shows. “At the risk of sounding like a stupid hippie, I think it’s important to contribute things,” he says before the last show of summer 2006 on Sept. 16, with Them There Skies, Sandycoates, and Dreamdate.
This last show likely went off smoothly: the model property owner checked in with his neighbors that evening during his walk home. “I said, ‘Donny, we’re having a barbecue show this Saturday.’ And he said, ‘OK, OK, baby, you’re cool. You’re cool.’ I’m hoping to have everything done by 9 o’clock, and that’s pretty tame on a Saturday night,” Smith explains. It’s guaranteed there won’t be any problem on at least one side of his summer house party — “there’s this Argentinean woman named Pepper and she’s fucking awesome. She’ll be, ‘Aw, yeah, it better be fucking loud because that’s how I know you’re having a good time. You gotta live life!’ SFBG

Oral histories


By Marke B.
Thousands of fantastically perverse revelers (most of them gay) will flood San Francisco for the Folsom Street Leather Fair on Sept. 23, ensuring that every cranny of the city brims with wanton copulation — which really is the way it should always be in our famously lewd burg, no? Too bad that for the other 364 days of the year, good ol’ slutty San Francisco is considered by erotic tourists to be one of the most prudish cities in the world.
Unlike other civic dens of iniquity, San Francisco has no gay bathhouses, no sleazy back rooms in bars (well, none that the cops have sniffed out yet), and a dwindling amount of mischief in the bushes. This sorry state of affairs is due partly to the advent of Internet hookup sites in 1996 (thanks, AOL) and partly to the break in gay traditions caused by the loss of a generation to AIDS. But mostly it’s due to the “sex panic” of 1984, when well-meaning gay activists looking to protect gay men from their supposedly unsafe urges convinced the city to ban all bathhouses and enforce rules that separated public sex from any sort of alcohol consumption and unmonitorable activity. Gay folks would just have to go to Berkeley to get wet and have sex. That may have made BART more fun, but for many it seemed like a forced expulsion from SF’s sexual garden by Big Brother.
In 1996, gay city supervisor Tom Ammiano tried to get the baths reopened by proposing a set of HIV-risk-reducing regulations that included no private rooms, no alcohol consumption, safer-sex education materials and condoms on-site, brighter lighting levels, and the presence of staff monitors to ensure against unsafe activity. Pretty oddly, the city adopted most of his proposed regulations — leading to the rise of today’s slick, commercially licensed sex clubs — but kept the bathhouse ban. This means that it’s now OK to pay to have sex with strangers in a public setting, but if there’s any kind of water running other than from a broken toilet, you’re in trouble.
Whether or not gay men in San Francisco should be left to their own sexual devices is still a matter of polemical debate. Or is it? Not many people seem to talk about it anymore. But you can’t stop the party. From 1989, when the last bathhouse was closed by a city lawsuit, to 1997, when San Francisco began using commercial licenses to approve sex clubs, a vibrant sexual underground ruled. Often subject to raids by police, the underground included anonymous-encounter mainstays like Blow Buddies and Eros, both of which opened on a members-only basis in hopes of circumventing any legal trouble. It also included less formal play spaces like the Church of Phallic Worship and Orgasm, naughty nooks that live on only in legend.
This dark period — or golden age — of underground sex clubs (and with the lights off, it was probably both) has largely been forgotten. But exciting tales of the past still issue forth from it, and with the current revival of ’70s bathhouse nostalgia, it’s interesting to note that bathhouse culture extended well into the ’80s — yep, folks were dropping towel to Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake” — and poured out into the underground sex clubs of the early ’90s before being sucked toward the Ethernet of now. We asked a few of the scene’s regular, anonymous players for their memories of some clubs of the time.
“You’d ring a little bell at this house a few doors down from the Powerhouse — tingaling-aling — and they’d open the door, and at the top of this long flight of thickly carpeted stairs, there’d be this guy sitting in a chair who would say in this flat, uncommitted voice, ‘Welcome to my party. Friends tend to chip in $5 to help cover costs. My roommate’s in the kitchen if you want to check your stuff.’ That was Mike, and it was funny he said roommate, because you know no one really lived there.
“At the top of the stairs was this long hallway full of amateur erotic art — not like Tom of Finland, more like a horny Grandma Moses. I stole a drawing that I think was supposed to be of an S-M twink but more resembled a Christmas pixie in irons. I don’t remember much about the sex rooms, except there was a shoddy maze in the back and a sign that said ‘No talking in the fun zone.’
“In the kitchen there was a beer keg and a big aluminum bowl of shiny-looking Cheez-Its that I could just never bring myself to snack on. I knew where those Cheez-Its had been. There was also this kind of ‘Your Own Carnival Hot Dog’ maker that was more like a filthy aquarium with gray franks in tepid hot dog water that no queen would touch — despite the metal tongs provided ‘for your protection.’”
“Conga-line dance-floor fucking was what I remember most about this place. Which is pretty darn difficult if you take varying heights into consideration. Trouble was a totally anything goes kind of club — after-hours alcohol served, a big dance floor with professional-looking lighting, out-in-the-open nasty sex. Like Studio 54 if Liza was a go-go whore and, you know, a sexy guy. It was in SoMa around Folsom and, I think, First.
“There were dark rooms and a maze upstairs — it was in a big warehouse space with a high ceiling. It got raided three or four times before they finally shut it down. It only lasted like eight months. During the raids the cops weren’t all, like, ‘Let’s get the faggots,’ they were more, like, bored, flashing their lights around and saying in a polite voice, ‘Please leave — you have to go now,’ like they were ushers and we had overstayed our welcome at the opera.”
“The Black House was freakin’ scary. It was this old Victorian off Castro painted completely black. I had just moved here — in 1994. I was 23 and thought the Black House was where Anton LaVey used to live and they had Satanic rituals there, but really it was just a bunch of naked guys fooling around in the basement. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but somehow my drunk feet took me there after the bars closed.
“Mostly the guys were cute in a hustler sort of way — this was when tweakers left the house to get laid. But there would be some letches. One guy followed me around telling everyone I looked like an Etruscan statue. I got really embarrassed and had to leave and go look up Etruscan. One time the hot young guy doing coat check took out his teeth to blow some other guy. I wonder whatever happened to him.”
“Orgasm was across the street from Endup on Sixth, so you could just stumble there and have sex at any time of the day or night, it seemed. There was this huge stage, 10 feet deep, where they had live sex shows and some really crusty Goodwill couches. One time I tricked with a guy who asked me to drop him off at Orgasm, and the minute he got there, he shed his clothes and got up onstage for a show. Where did he get the energy?
“Like most other clubs, it was in a warehouselike space, very minimal. There was a door guy and another guy inside with a clipboard, but that was just to look official — there was never anything on the clipboard. The space was divided by curtains for ‘privacy’ and had a long overhead shelf with candles on it, which added atmosphere to the ‘lovemaking.’ There were turntables, and I remember it was around the time that Boy George came out with ‘Generations of Love,’ which was a surprisingly good record.”
“I think the Church in SoMa used to have ads in the back of the Bay Area Reporter, but everyone just seemed to know about it. It had a real rough, underground feel. I don’t know if it was officially religiously affiliated, but maybe they got free parking out of it. They served beer after hours — it was like a one-stop shopping hub of gay socializing: backyard barbecue, glory holes, music, the works.
“It was run by a Santa Claus–type character called Father Frank, and every time you called the info line, he’d answer the phone by reciting a homoerotic limerick in this hilariously effeminate voice, like Rona Barrett on 33 1/3. It was a cross between a house and a warehouse — pretty big, but it could get way too overcrowded. What was so great was that it went all night, yet no one seemed like they were on speed. Everyone was just drunk and having a great time.”
1808 CLUB
“This was a big house down by Guerrero and Market near where the LGBT Center is now. I remember this huge door with a tiny window you had to knock on, like it was a speakeasy in Communist Czechoslovakia. This totally hot bald guy would answer, and I’d kind of be intimidated because he was so muscular. Years later he became my personal trainer at Gold’s Gym.
“The place was painted all black on the inside and was on two levels, one overlooking the other. Balconesque, as the French would put it. There were these little cubbyholes all over the place that two people could fit in, and maybe you could squeeze in three on occasion. On weekends it was packed. It was cheap too: $5 for the whole night, and they’d stamp your hand so you could get in and out. I didn’t go too much, because it was in my neighborhood and I like being a little incognito. That’s a little more classy.” SFBG

When the lights go down


› a& All opening dates subject to change, ’cause that’s how Hollywood rolls. The Protector and Jet Li’s Fearless Tony Jaa’s been trumpeted as “the future of martial arts” (and rightly so — did you see Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior? Holy scalp-cracking!); Jet Li’s said Fearless will be his last martial arts picture. Torch. Passed. (Sept. 8 and 22) This Film Is Not Yet Rated Kirby Dick’s doc about the creativity-smiting Motion Picture Association of America mixes Michael Moore–like first-person investigative work with feminist First Amendment points. And it’s funny. (Sept. 15) All the King’s Men Could’ve been an Oscar grubber in 2005, when this remake was originally slated for release. Now, who knows? The oft-nominated cast includes Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, and Anthony Hopkins. (Sept. 22) Feast Project Greenlight winner — a sure sign of doom? — John “Son of Clu” Gulager debuts his horror film about tavern dwellers fighting off flesh eaters. Henry Rollins has a role. (Sept. 22–23 midnight screenings) Jackass: Number Two Oh, shut up. You know you loved the first one. (Sept. 22) The Science of Sleep The title won’t win viewers, and the ad campaign and trailers aren’t much better, but Michel Gondry’s follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is like a darker b-side of that film, with adorable Gael García Bernal in a not-sweet role and daughter-of-Serge Charlotte Gainsbourg dealing with him. (Sept. 22) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning A prequel to the (so unnecessary) remake of the best goddamn movie of all time. Will this be good headcheese or real good headcheese? (Oct. 4) Shortbus Loved at Cannes and hyped for its sexual candor, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig follow-up looks like a major turnoff, at least going by the trailer. Of course, trailers aren’t features. Will a cameo by Justin Bond as Kiki cancel out the possible deadly air of self-satisfaction? (Oct. 6) Old Joy A big favorite at Sundance this year, the second film by Kelly Reichardt — whose River of Grass is a little-known gem — features Will Oldham in a starring role. (Oct. 20) Babel Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal are always worth a peek; they cancel out the tiredness of Brad Pitt at any rate. (Oct. 27) The Bridge Eric Steel’s controversial and ethically dubious documentary about suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge gets a theatrical release. Curiously, recently listed a codirector. (Oct. 27) Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Nicole Kidman as the photographer — the fact that the former looks and seems nothing like the latter matters little, we’re assured, because this is not a biopic but a speculation about three days in Arbus’s life. (November) Iraq in Fragments James Longley’s impressionistic and unembedded documentary isn’t “narrator-less,” as Entertainment Weekly claims. It is poetic and visually dazzling and provocative — perhaps problematic — because of it. (Nov. 10) Volver Pedro Almodóvar departs from masculine melodrama to reunite with Penélope Cruz and more excitingly, Carmen Maura; word is this riffs off Mildred Pierce the same way that Bad Education riffed off Vertigo. (Nov. 10 or 22) Casino Royale Daniel Craig as Bond. But nobody, and I mean nobody, better be trying to do “The Look of Love” — we all know it belongs to Dusty. (Nov. 17) Fuck A jazzy documentary about the most versatile and satisfying word in the English language. (Nov. 17) Tenacious D in “The Pick of Destiny” Will it be the greatest film in the world — or just a tribute? (Nov. 17) Bobby Emilio Estevez makes his directorial debut with this Altmanesque movie about Bobby Kennedy, played by Elijah Wood in a bad wig. Will it be a subtextual tribute to the Ambassador Hotel? Also, will the curse of Lindsay Lohan (who costars) continue? (Nov. 22) The Nativity Story Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) takes on the Blessed Virgin (Whale Rider’s Keisha Castle-Hughes). Nah, it won’t be controversial … (Dec. 1) Apocalypto … and neither will Mel Gibson’s all-Mayan adventure, sugar tits. (Dec. 8) The Pursuit of Happyness Remember when they built the fake BART station in Dolores Park? This is why. (Dec. 15) Charlotte’s Web Starring Dakota Fanning, with Julia Roberts as the voice of the spider. Will Charlotte urge us to join America Online? Why can’t they leave the classics alone? (Dec. 20) Rocky Balboa Sylvester Stallone wrote, directed, stars, punches things, and has a montage. Montage! (Dec. 22) Dreamgirls The (very) early Oscar favorite. And I’m telling you, Beyoncé’s not going to the Oscars unless she’s up for a statuette rather than delivering them. We’ll see … (Dec. 25) The Good German Steven Soderbergh directs a black-and-white George Clooney in this 1940s drama. Swoon. (Dec. 25) SFBG



CHEAP EATS Let’s see, last week I ate at TJ’s Gingerbread House in West Oakland, and it wasn’t cheap eats because it was dinnertime on Georgie Bundle’s birthday. He’d always wanted to go there. As have I, and as has anyone else who rides BART and looks out the window.
Unless you have a very, very special occasion — which, if you don’t know Georgie Bundle I can’t even imagine what such a thing might be — satisfy your curiosity over breakfast. Get this: a salmon croquette, two scrambled eggs, grits, fruit salad, and orange juice for $6.95.
That’s good. Lunch is … reasonable. You can get jambalaya for $10.95, or crawfish pie, red beans and rice, or dirty rice for under 10.
The jambalaya’s great. Dinnertime: $24.95!!!
So: not cheap eats, like I said. Moving right along. Another place I ate last week was I had boat sushi at Sushi Boat downtown. Earl Butter talked me into this. If I hadn’t been sitting in the sun since eight in the morning on Hippy Hill, drinking free coffee and watching my new favorite surf band, the Del Mars, my brain might not have been sufficiently addled. But it was. Maybe it was all the surfy sounds that made me susceptible. Any case, I don’t regret it, because sushi, as always, hit the spot. But … not cheap eats.
Of course, sushi never exactly is cheap eats, give or take No Name Sushi. So what am I supposed to do, never ever write about sushi?
Earl Butter — what a card! First, during the tugging-on-my-sleeve portion of the enterprise, he insists to me that boat sushi is as cheap as No Name. I don’t believe him. He insists. I still don’t believe him.
But he continues to insist until, after we’ve finally found parking downtown and are hoofing the 37 blocks to Geary and whatever, he acknowledges that, oh, by the way, he hasn’t been there since the ’90s, when he worked for Chuck Schwab and was generally flush. Whereas now he’s a retired cabbie toiling tenuously for my little brother and only eating, I sometimes think, when I feed him.
So it’s a little before noon on a Sunday, and while everyone else in the world is lined up out the door at all my favorite Sunday breakfast spots, like Just For You and, um, Just For You, me and Earl rock right into Sushi Boat, roll down the stairs, and buddy up to the counter, where the boats are docked — just setting there, no cargo, no go. We’re the only ones there.
They seem to want us to order from the menu. But that defeats the purpose of boat sushi: to pull good-looking plates of sushi willy-nilly and at random from the cute little wooden boats as they circle around the moat. This is great fun for small children and Earl Butter, but I can see the restaurant’s point too: why would they want to prepare all kinds of random sushi plates for two clowns to pick a few, on whims, and then have to throw everything else away if nobody else shows?
After hours of intense talks, threats, and heated negotiation (or, in the real world, about a half minute of pointing and one-word sentences) Earl Butter and our waitressperson have reached a historic compromise: they will set the boats a-spinning, and we will order from the menu. The boats are just atmosphere.
By the time we’re done eating, however, there are a couple other pairs of people sitting around the counter, and the sushi chefs are starting to load cargo into the boats. So, instead of being done eating, we eat more.
Good, but not cheap eats.
Anyway, what I really wanted to tell you about was the amazing rooftop party I went to in the Tenderloin, where my new hero, a cat named Jerry, cooked this incredible load of paella — on a Weber! Watching that happen, and then getting some, was the highlight of my weekend, if not the whole summer so far.
But I only have space left to induct Jan Swearingsomething into the Cheap Eats Hall of Fame for inviting me. While I’m at it, I’d also like to induct Johnny Del Mar, who has been sending me Frank Zappa tapes for 5 to 10 years, even though I still don’t get it. And, since good things come in threes: Rimma D., who drove all the way to Penngrove one time to see Lord Exister play in a lesbian bar, and gave me bonbons.
In other words: people continue to rock, and the chicken farmer keeps on dancing to it. SFBG
Last Saturday, 4 p.m. to whenever
Somewhere in the Tenderloin, SF
(415) 555-1212
Invitation only
Lots and lots of alcohol, etc.
Credit cards not accepted
Very, very noisy

Newsom loses control



In the early days, the mayor tried to sound like a practical, hands-on executive who was ready to run San Francisco.

Mayor Gavin Newsom used his inaugural address on Jan. 8, 2004, to emphasize that he was a uniter, not a divider and that he wanted to get things done.

"I say it’s time to start working together to find common purpose and common ground," he proclaimed. "Because I want to make this administration about solutions."

It’s a mantra he’s returned to again and again in his rhetoric on a wide range of issues, claiming a "commonsense" approach while casting "ideology" as an evil to be overcome and as the main motive driving the left-leaning majority of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

"Because it’s easy to be against something," Newsom said on that sunny winter day. "It’s easy to blame. It’s easy to stop…. What’s hard is to hear that maybe to come together, we need to leave behind old ideas and long-held grudges. But that’s exactly what we need to do."

But if that’s the standard, Newsom has spent the past 17 months taking the easy way.

It’s been a marked change from his first-year lovefest, when he tried to legalize same-sex marriage, reach out to BayviewHunters Point residents, and force big hotels to end their lockout of workers.

A Guardian review of the most significant City Hall initiatives during 2005 and 2006 as well as interviews with more than a dozen policy experts and public interest advocates shows that Newsom has been an obstructionist who has proposed few "solutions" to the city’s problems, and followed through on even fewer.

The Board of Supervisors, in sharp contrast, has been taking the policy lead. The majority on the district-elected board in the past year has moved a generally progressive agenda designed to preserve rental units, prevent evictions, strengthen development standards, promote car-free spaces, increase affordable housing, maintain social services, and protect city workers.

Yet many of those efforts have been blocked or significantly weakened by Newsom and his closest allies on the board: Fiona Ma, Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Bevan Dufty. And on efforts to get tough with big business or prevent Muni service cuts and fare hikes, Newsom was able to peel off enough moderate supervisors to stop the progressives led by Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, and Ross Mirkarimi at the board level.

But one thing that Newsom has proved himself unable to do in the past year is prevent progressive leaders particularly Daly, against whom Newsom has a "long-held grudge" that has on a few recent occasions led to unsavory political tactics and alliances from setting the public agenda for the city.

Balance of power

The Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors are the two poles of power at City Hall and generally the system gives a strong advantage to the mayor, who has far more resources at his disposal, a higher media profile, and the ability to act swiftly and decisively.

Yet over the past year, the three most progressive supervisors along with their liberal-to-moderate colleagues Gerardo Sandoval, Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, and Sophie Maxwell have initiated the most significant new city policies, dealing with housing, poverty, health care, alternative transportation, violence prevention, and campaign finance reform.

Most political observers and City Hall insiders mark the moment when the board majority took control of the city agenda as last summer, a point when Newsom’s honeymoon ended, progressives filled the leadership void on growth issues, problems like tenants evictions and the murder rate peaked, and Newsom was increasingly giving signs that he wasn’t focused on running the city.

"Gay marriage gave the mayor his edge and gave him cover for a long time," said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a queer and tenants rights activist. "About a year ago that started to wear off, and his armor started to be shed."

Daly was the one supervisor who had been aggressively criticizing Newsom during that honeymoon period. To some, Daly seemed isolated and easy to dismiss at least until August 2005, when Daly negotiated a high-profile deal with the developers of the Rincon Hill towers that extracted more low-income housing and community-benefits money than the city had ever seen from a commercial project.

The Newsom administration watched the negotiations from the sidelines. The mayor signed off on the deal, but within a couple months turned into a critic and said he regretted supporting it. Even downtown stalwarts like the public policy think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association noted the shift in power.

"I think we saw a different cut on the issue than we’ve seen before," SPUR executive director Gabriel Metcalf told us. "Chris Daly is not a NIMBY. I see Chris Daly as one of the supervisors most able to deal with physical change, and he’s not afraid of urbanism…. And he’s been granted by the rest of the board a lot of leadership in the area of land use."

SPUR and Metcalf were critical of aspects of the Daly deal, such as where the money would go. But after the deal, Newsom and his minions, like press secretary Peter Ragone, had a harder time demonizing Daly and the board (although they never stopped trying).

Around that same time, hundreds of evictions were galvanizing the community of renters which makes up around two-thirds of city residents. Newsom tried to find some compromise on the issue, joining Peskin to convene a task force composed of tenants activists, developers, and real estate professionals, hoping that the group could find a way to prevent evictions while expanding home ownership opportunities.

"The mayor views the striking of balance between competing interests as an important approach to governing," Ragone told the Guardian after we explained the array of policy disputes this story would cover.

The task force predictably fell apart after six meetings. "The mayor was trying to find a comfortable way to get out of the issue," said Mecca, a member of the task force. But with some issues, there simply is no comfortable solution; someone’s going to be unhappy with the outcome. "When that failed," Mecca said, "there was nowhere for him to go anymore."

The San Francisco Tenants Union and its allies decided it was time to push legislation that would protect tenants, organizing an effective campaign that finally forced Newsom into a reactionary mode. The mayor wound up siding overtly with downtown interests for the first time in his mayoral tenure and in the process, he solidified the progressive board majority.

Housing quickly became the issue that defines differences between Newsom and the board.

Free-market policy

"The Newsom agenda has been one of gentrification," said San Francisco Tenants Union director Ted Gullicksen. The mayor and his board allies have actively opposed placing limitations on the high number of evictions (at least until the most recent condo conversion measure, which Dufty and Newsom supported, a victory tenants activists attribute to their organizing efforts), while at the same time encouraging development patterns that "bring in more high-end condominiums and saturate the market with that," Gullicksen explained.

He pointed out that those two approaches coalesce into a doubly damaging policy on the issue of converting apartments into condominiums, which usually displace low-income San Franciscans, turn an affordable rental unit into an expensive condominium, and fill the spot with a higher-income owner.

"So you really get a two-on-one transformation of the city," Gullicksen said.

Newsom’s allies don’t agree, noting that in a city where renters outnumber homeowners two to one, some loss of rental housing is acceptable. "Rather than achieve their stated goals of protecting tenants, the real result is a barrier to home ownership," Elsbernd told us, explaining his vote against all four recent tenant-protection measures.

On the development front, Gullicksen said Newsom has actively pushed policies to develop housing that’s unaffordable to most San Franciscans as he did with his failed Workforce Housing Initiative and some of his area plans while maintaining an overabundance of faith in free-market forces.

"He’s very much let the market have what the market wants, which is high-end luxury housing," Gullicksen said.

As a result, Mecca said, "I think we in the tenant movement have been effective at making TICs a class issue."

Affordable housing activists say there is a marked difference between Newsom and the board majority on housing.

"The Board of Supervisors is engaged in an active pursuit of land-use policy that attempts to preserve as much affordable housing, as much rental housing, as much neighborhood-serving businesses as possible," longtime housing activist Calvin Welch told us. "And the mayor is totally and completely lining up with downtown business interests."

Welch said Newsom has shown where he stands in the appointments he makes such as that of Republican planning commissioner Michael Antonini, and his nomination of Ted Dienstfrey to run Treasure Island, which the Rules Committee recently rejected and by the policies he supports.

Welch called Daly’s Rincon deal "precedent setting and significant." It was so significant that downtown noticed and started pushing back.


Board power really coalesced last fall. In addition to the housing and tenant issues, Ammiano brought forward a plan that would force businesses to pay for health insurance plans for their employees. That galvanized downtown and forced Newsom to finally make good on his promise to offer his own plan to deal with the uninsured but the mayor offered only broad policy goals, and the plan itself is still being developed.

It was in this climate that many of Newsom’s big-business supporters, including Don Fisher the Republican founder of the Gap who regularly bankrolls conservative political causes in San Francisco demanded and received a meeting with Newsom. The December sit-down was attended by a who’s who of downtown developers and power brokers.

"That was a result of them losing their ass on Rincon Hill," Welch said of the meeting.

The upshot according to public records and Guardian interviews with attendees was that Newsom agreed to oppose an ordinance designed to limit how much parking could be built along with the 10,000 housing units slated for downtown. The mayor instead would support a developer-written alternative carried by Alioto-Pier.

The measure downtown opposed was originally sponsored by Daly before being taken over by Peskin. It had the strong support of Newsom’s own planning director, Dean Macris, and was approved by the Planning Commission on a 61 vote (only Newsom’s Republican appointee, Antonini, was opposed).

The process that led to the board’s 74 approval of the measure was politically crass and embarrassing for the Mayor’s Office (see “Joining the Battle,” 2/8/06), but he kept his promise and vetoed the measure. The votes of his four allies were enough to sustain the veto.

Newsom tried to save face in the ugly saga by pledging to support a nearly identical version of the measure, but with just a couple more giveaways to developers: allowing them to build more parking garages and permitting more driveways with their projects.

Political observers say the incident weakened Newsom instead of strengthening him.

"They can’t orchestrate a move. They are only acting by vetoes, and you can’t run the city by vetoes," Welch said. "He never puts anything on the line, and that’s why the board has become so emboldened."

Rippling out

The Newsom administration doesn’t seem to grasp how housing issues or symbolic issues like creating car-free spaces or being wary of land schemes like the BayviewHunters Point redevelopment plan shape perceptions of other issues. As Welch said, "All politics in San Francisco center around land use."

N’Tanya Lee, executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, said the Newsom administration has done a very good job of maintaining budgetary support for programs dealing with children, youth, and their families. But advocates have relied on the leadership of progressive supervisors like Daly to push affordable housing initiatives like the $20 million budget supplemental the board initiated and approved in April.

"Our primary concern is that low- and moderate-income families are being pushed out of San Francisco," Lee told us. "We’re redefining what it means to be pro-kid and pro-family in San Francisco."

Indeed, that’s a very different approach from the so-called pro-family agenda being pushed by SFSOS and some of Newsom’s other conservative allies, who argue that keeping taxes low while keeping the streets and parks safe and clean is what families really want. But Lee worries more about ensuring that families have reasonably priced shelter.

So she and other affordable housing advocates will be watching closely this summer as the board and Newsom deal with Daly’s proposal to substantially increase the percentage of affordable housing developers must build under the city’s inclusionary-housing policy. Newsom’s downtown allies are expected to strongly oppose the plan.

Even on Newsom’s signature issue, the board has made inroads.

"In general, on the homeless issue, the supervisor who has shown the most strong and consistent leadership has been Chris Daly," said Coalition on Homelessness director Juan Prada.

Prada credits the mayor with focusing attention on the homeless issue, although he is critical of the ongoing harassment of the homeless by the Police Department and the so-called Homeward Bound program that gives homeless people one-way bus tickets out of town.

"This administration has a genuine interest in homeless issues, which the previous one didn’t have, but they’re banking too much on the Care Not Cash approach," Prada said.

Other Newsom initiatives to satisfy his downtown base of support have also fallen flat.

Robert Haaland of the city employee labor union SEIU Local 790 said Newsom has tried to reform the civil service system and privatize some city services, but has been stopped by labor and the board.

"They were trying to push a privatization agenda, and we pushed back," Haaland said, noting that Supervisor Ma’s alliance with Newsom on that issue was the reason SEIU 790 endorsed Janet Reilly over Ma in the District 12 Assembly race.

The turning point on the issue came last year, when the Newsom administration sought to privatize the security guards at the Asian Art Museum as a cost-saving measure. The effort was soundly defeated in the board’s Budget Committee.

"That was a key vote, and they lost, so I don’t think they’ll be coming back with that again," Haaland said, noting that labor has managed to win over Dufty, giving the board a veto-proof majority on privatization issues.

Who’s in charge?

Even many Newsom allies will privately grumble that Newsom isn’t engaged enough with the day-to-day politics of the city. Again and again, Newsom has seemed content to watch from the sidelines, as he did with Supervisor Mirkarimi’s proposal to create a public financing program for mayoral candidates.

"The board was out front on that, while the mayor stayed out of it until the very end," said Steven Hill, of the Center for Voting and Democracy, who was involved with the measure. And when the administration finally did weigh in, after the board had approved the plan on a veto-proof 92 vote, Newsom said the measure didn’t go far enough. He called for public financing for all citywide offices but never followed up with an actual proposal.

The same has been true on police reform and violence prevention measures. Newsom promised to create a task force to look into police misconduct, to hold a blue-ribbon summit on violence prevention, and to implement a community policing system with grassroots input and none of that has come to pass.

Then, when Daly took the lead in creating a community-based task force to develop violence prevention programs with an allocation of $10 million a year for three years Measure A on the June ballot Newsom and his board allies opposed the effort, arguing the money would be better spent on more cops (see “Ballot-Box Alliance,” page 19).

"He’s had bad counsel on this issue of violence all the way through," said Sharen Hewitt, who runs the Community Leadership Academy Emergency Response project. "He has not done damn near enough from his position, and neither has the board."

Hewitt worries that current city policies, particularly on housing, are leading to class polarization that could make the problems of violence worse. And while Newsom’s political allies tend to widen the class divide, she can’t bring herself to condemn the mayor: "I think he’s a nice guy and a lot smarter than people have given him credit for."

Tom Radulovich, who sits on the BART board and serves as executive director of Transportation for a Livable City (which is in the process of changing its name to Livable City), said Newsom generally hasn’t put much action behind his rhetorical support for the environment and transit-first policies.

"Everyone says they’re pro-environment," he said.

In particular, Radulovich was frustrated by Newsom’s vetoes of the downtown parking and Healthy Saturdays measures and two renter-protection measures. The four measures indicated very different agendas pursued by Newsom and the board majority.

In general, Radulovich often finds his smart-growth priorities opposed by Newsom’s allies. "The moneyed interests usually line up against livable city, good planning policies," he said. On the board, Radulovich said it’s no surprise that the three supervisors from the wealthiest parts of town Ma, Elsbernd, and Alioto-Pier generally vote against initiatives he supports.

"Dufty is the oddity because he represents a pretty progressive, urbane district," Radulovich said, "but he tends to vote like he’s from a more conservative district."

What’s next?

The recent lawsuit by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Committee of Jobs urging more aggressive use of a voter-approved requirement that board legislation undergo a detailed economic analysis shows that downtown is spoiling for a fight (see “Downtown’s ‘Hail Mary’ Lawsuit,” page 9). So politics in City Hall is likely to heat up.

"There is a real absence of vision and leadership in the city right now, particularly on the question of who will be able to afford to live in San Francisco 20 years from now," Mirkarimi said. "There is a disparity between Newsom hitting the right notes in what the press and public want to hear and between the policy considerations that will put those positions into effect."

But Newsom’s allies say they plan to stand firm against the ongoing effort by progressives to set the agenda.

"I think I am voting my constituency," Elsbernd said. "I’m voting District Seven and voicing a perspective of a large part of the city that the progressive majority doesn’t represent."

Newsom flack Ragone doesn’t accept most of the narratives that are laid out by activists, from last year’s flip in the balance of power to the influence of downtown and Newsom’s wealthy benefactors on his decision to veto four measures this year.

"Governing a city like San Francisco is complex. There are many areas of nuance in governing this city," Ragone said. "Everyone knows Gavin Newsom defies traditional labels. That’s not part of a broad political strategy, but just how he governs."

Yet the majority of the board seems unafraid to declare where they stand on the most divisive issues facing the city.

"The board has really, since the 2000 election has been pushing a progressive set of policies as it related to housing, just-taxation policies, and an array of social service provisions," Peskin said. "All come with some level of controversy, because none are free." SFBG

One down, one to go



As the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. prepared to finally shut down its Hunters Point power plant May 15, environmentalists were gearing up for another task pressuring the Mirant Corp. to replace its 40-year-old, pollution-spewing cooling system near Potrero Hill. The two plants have been blamed for a wide variety of health problems in the southeast part of San Francisco.

Community groups aren’t the only ones decrying the aging facility. Sup. Sophie Maxwell, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin, and San Francisco Public Utility Commission general manager Susan Leal all plan to appear at the May 10 Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting to call on Mirant to update the cooling system of its Potrero Unit 3 with more modern technology.

Critics claim the current unit absorbs nearby polluted sediment through its cooling system and discharges it into Bay waters.

The water board will be considering whether to green-light a discharge permit drafted by its staff. But the RWQCB staff proposal, according to Hererra spokesperson Matt Dorsey, is really an extension of a permit Mirant was granted all the way back in 1994. The permit was extended by the water board in 1999 and again in 2004, meaning that the permit has fallen "out of compliance with current environmental standards," Dorsey said.

SF-based Communities for a Better Environment says the permit does not take into account new technologies that would eliminate the need to suck up Bay water for cooling purposes. If Mirant does not switch to the alternative "upland cooling," CBE says, the plant should be closed.

"We’re hoping for there to be as big a turnout as we can get," CBE’s Greg Karras said in a phone interview. "This is the most important issue for the community’s goals on the existing Potrero plant. This plant’s ancient cooling technology is known to kill hundreds of millions of larval fish every year and poison the fish people rely on for food."

The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution April 25 asking the water board to reject the current draft discharge permit and adopt an alternative "community permit" that includes the requirement of a new cooling system.

Lila Tang, chief of the wastewater division of the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, said the water board needs more time to "fully assess and analyze alternatives for compliance" before addressing new pollution rules that were passed in 2004. But she insisted that the current draft permit includes updated toxicity monitoring requirements and imposes discharge limits on copper and mercury concentrations where such requirements haven’t previously existed.

The water board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10 at 9:00 a.m. at 1515 Clay St. in Oakland (near the 12th Street Oakland City Center BART station). The deadline for submitting written remarks has passed, but interested parties can still show up at the meeting to make a public comment. Call the water board at (510) 622-2300 for more information.

The Mirant plant has become the new target for environmentalists now that the Hunters Point plant is finally closing. PG&E announced in late April that the long-awaited closure of the plant would finally be completed by May 15. Energy production was transferred to another transmission line April 29. Construction of the new transmission line began in January 2005, but BayviewHunters Point residents have waited for nearly a decade to see the old plant closed as concerns over widespread asthma symptoms in the area grew.

Longtime Hunters Point power plant closure advocates Greenaction and the Huntersview Mothers Committee will throw a community celebration of the plant closure May 12 in the Huntersview public housing project, 227 West Point Rd., near Evans, in San Francisco. All are welcome. SFBG

Business ethics 101



Marcoa Publishing seems to be at the top of its game. The San Diegobased company bills itself as the "nation’s largest publisher of advertising-supported, local business publications."

It rarely misses an opportunity to remind prospective advertising clients and employees alike about its exclusive contract to print industry-specific guides and an annual membership directory for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, of which it is also a member and business partner.

In fact, Marcoa’s San Francisco offices are located just four floors below the Chamber in the heart of the Financial District, at 235 Montgomery St. But what the oldest Chamber of Commerce in the western United States may not have known is that its "exclusive publisher" is being investigated by the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) for possible violations of the state’s labor code.

And now the question is: Does the business community’s biggest booster have a blind spot for dubious ethics?

Paula Ceder went to work as an ad sales specialist for Marcoa’s SF office from her home in November 2004. But despite the fact that she quickly became the San Francisco office’s top seller, she realized that Marcoa had no interest in reimbursing her for business expenses. High-end salespeople regularly spend thousands of dollars a year making personal contact with their clients money that employers generally reimburse.

It’s perfectly common, and in fact legally required, for employers to reimburse workers for such expenses. And Marcoa has even promoted the claim that it offers expense reimbursements in its job postings on

But by the time Ceder left Marcoa, in August 2005 having worked much longer than many former Marcoa employees she told the Guardian she had accrued $2,500 in reimbursable business expenses. Over that nine-month period, she didn’t meet another employee who’d received reimbursed expenses, meaning former Marcoa employees could still be awaiting thousands of dollars in compensation. Marcoa did, however, claim to offer a taxable $10 "parking bonus" for each ad contract that the sales specialists managed to sell. But even then it took her four months to get the "bonus," Ceder said. Some ad buyers can commit as much as $12,000 to a two-page spread.

"As soon as I went to work for Marcoa, it became clear that there was no program for expense reimbursement, and I was aware that that was against the law," Ceder said recently. "That was entirely different than any experience I had ever had. Had I known I was going to have that experience, I would have never gone to work for them."

Section 2802 of the state’s labor code reads: "An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer."

Believing she’d never see the money, she approached the California Labor Commission, which ruled in her favor and granted her $1,693 of the expenses in January. At the hearing, Marcoa CEO Stewart Robertson told the administrative judge he would produce the company’s policy regarding expenses. He never did.

During her tenure, Ceder had managed to squeeze a substantial raise out of Marcoa, due mostly, she said, to her top performance. But she said others weren’t so lucky.

Ceder said she concluded that the company not only failed to maintain any sort of policy regarding expenses but also seemed to systematically shortchange workers, from declining to pay simple business expenses to withholding commission payments for months on end or never making the payments at all. Salespeople often earn a percentage of each ad contract in the form of commission as an incentive to sell, which Marcoa portrayed as a significant part of its compensation package.

"My entire point for pursuing a claim for myself was not to receive my expense reimbursement back, although it’s always nice to get the money you put out," Ceder said. "My aim was twofold: One, to have the state investigate and prosecute Marcoa, so that the result of that investigation and prosecution would be an across-the-board change in Marcoa’s current noncompetitive business practices. And second, to get the Marcoa story out into the public."

Former Marcoa workers we interviewed appeared to corroborate Ceder’s claims.

Mario Sarafraz worked as a salesman at Marcoa for 13 months, but he’s worked elsewhere in sales for 17 years. He said he only "tolerated" Marcoa for so long because he liked working closely with the hotel and restaurant industries for the company’s semiannual Business Meetings and More publication.

"Everything else was a nightmare from the beginning," he said. Sarafraz claimed he never received a single commission check, and added that even in a profession where workers move on quickly, Marcoa "had an extremely high turnover rate."

Virtually everyone we talked to said the sales staff had to share two old computers and the company didn’t allow them access to the database of businesses that had purchased ads. Repeated phone calls to businesses that had already grown disenchanted with Marcoa were common, they complained.

A former office manager who asked not to be identified said she believed the Chamber was largely kept in the dark about annoyed advertisers waiting for sometimes long-delayed publication dates and embittered former Marcoa employees.

Carol Piasente, the Chamber’s vice president of communications, said the group had no comment and that the issue was a "personnel matter between Marcoa and their employees." Steve Falk, the Chamber’s CEO and a former publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote in an e-mail that he "had not heard any complaints about Marcoa" but failed to respond to follow-up questions. No one at the Chamber would confirm whether the group received annual fees from Marcoa for revenue generated from ads placed in Chamber publications.

"It was by far the most shady company I’ve ever worked for," one saleswoman, who also requested anonymity, said. "They turn and burn employees like you would not believe."

Although she too became a top seller for the company, she said she never received commission and never saw her last paycheck.

Dean Fryer, a spokesperson for the DIR’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, told us that agency officials pursue an investigation based on the case’s merit.

"On all cases that involve wages due employees, we’ll move forward to collect those wages," he said. "Our primary goal is to collect money due employees."

In Marcoa’s San Francisco office of 10 or so employees, sales can reach anywhere between $1 million and $3 million annually. The company also publishes industry, relocation, and real estate guides in at least four other major cities, including San Jose, Dallas, Austin, and Houston. Elsewhere, Marcoa publishes local resource guides for new trainees at 80 of the nation’s military installations, according to the company’s Web site.

Marcoa’s San Francisco publisher Bart Lally and CEO Robertson declined to respond to a series of detailed e-mail questions.

"Marcoa absolutely believes that it is in compliance with all relevant labor laws," Robertson wrote in an e-mail. "However, we are not going to provide specific responses to any of your questions."

Sarafraz insisted it’s not his nature to complain.

"As far as training and having a working system, I’ve never heard of an organization so out of place," he said. "Every organization has shortcomings. But these people just didn’t care." SFBG

Small Business Activist: Comet Skateboards


458 Brannan, SF
(510) 625-9045

What if we saved our precious natural resources by not transporting our food and clothes halfway around the world? What if Oakland had its own BART-accessible skate park? And what if everyone there were riding skateboards made from stuff that wasn’t gnarly on the planet?

The proprietors of Comet Skateboards, founders Jason Salfi and Jonathan Reese and co-owner Don Shaffer, want to make all of these grand ideas realities. They’re already doing so with their stylishly designed skateboards, with many decks sporting artwork by Oakland youths. Manufactured by Glissade Snow Board Company, a solar-powered facility in SoMa, the boards are made from sustainably grown bamboo or maple and will be glued together with a soy-based resin.

By "merging sustainability ethos with pop culture," as Salfi explains, "[Comet] can help push things over the edge" in terms of influencing youth to think more about the environment.

But their eco-consciousness doesn’t just end with the manufacturing of their boards. The entrepreneurship would also like to foster other small businesses in the Bay Area while saving the planet at the same time.

For the past two years, Shaffer has been busy working toward his vision of living economies. He started the San Francisco office of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which connects local agriculture with local business to encourage people to sell Bay Area–made goods locally. The organization, which has chapters in Philadelphia and Victoria, British Columbia, also supports the principle that when businesses stay small and local, they better serve the community, labor, and the environment.

As for that skate park, the company is planning the Hood Games block party for May 13 at 15th and Franklin Streets in downtown Oakland, all to help fund the park on Jefferson Square.

While Shaffer works with BALLE, Salfi involves himself with Earth Alliance Institute, which gets youth involved in solving global environmental problems. Looks like Comet Skateboards will have many successors in the next generation. (Deborah Giattina)

Throwing the books, Pitney passes, Jew know what I mean?


Give a brother a book, won’t you? Xiu Xiu‘s Jamie Stewart performs solo and Guardian contributor Devin Hoff brings his Platform (his catchall name for solo projects) to a benefit for the Prisoners Literature Project. Hoff tells me he has friends who work at the project who say they’re in dire need of cash, and as luck would have it, his sometime collaborator Stewart also volunteers there when he’s in town.

Tuesday, April 11, 8 p.m., at the AK Press warehouse, 674-A 23rd St., Oakl., between MLK and San Pablo. It’s $8 or $7 if you bring a book in good condition. All proceeds go to PLP.

It’s all about words and action with Xiu Xiu.


Crooner Gene Pitney was a kind of Roy Orbison, only with more tears and more of that insurance-salesman style.


reports that Pitney died Wednesday, April 5, of natural causes:

An autopsy on singer Gene Pitney, who was found dead in a hotel room in the Welsh capital Cardiff on Wednesday morning, showed he died of natural causes, police said.

Pitney, 65, who shot to fame in the 1960s with hits including “Town Without Pity” and “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” died after having given a concert the previous night that had won him a standing ovation.

“The post mortem results show Gene Pitney died of natural causes and there will not be a police investigation,” a spokesperson for South Wales police said. He added the body of the singer had been released to relatives and will be flown to the United States.

Pitney was in the middle of a 23-show tour of Britain when he died.


Rob Tannenbaum wields an iron editorial hand at Blender but apparently he’s been spending his off hours productively, waxing wittily as part of the musical comedy duo What I Like About Jew. Tannenbaum and Sean Altman have been dubbed “the Bart Simpsons of the Yeshiva” by Time Out New York and hyped with a cover story on “The New Super Jews.” Astonishingly, this CD, chock full of ethnic humor [sample song titles: “Hot Jewish Chicks,” “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat),” “JDate”], is actually funny.


They play two HEEB Magazine-sponsored shows at 7:30 and 10 p.m., Tuesday, April 18, at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $15. (415) 861-5016.

SUPERLIST NO. 813: Bling it on


Grills, plates, slugs, pullouts — whatever you want to call them — the gold tooth phenomenon, once a staple of hip-hop culture, has now become fashionable among indie rockers, parents, and high schoolers of all ages and races. Though the American Dental Association has strongly advised against bringing the bling to your gum line, as long as Oscar-winning rappers are dropping $30K on their choppers, the golden craze will surely blaze on. Caps are removable, can be made of yellow or white gold, silver, or putf8um, and usually come in two settings: solid, which covers the entire tooth, or open-faced, which has a square cutout to expose the normal tooth. Most grill shops specialize in custom designs and will cater to whatever your fancy might be — whether it’s grilling your teeth into white gold vampire fangs with diamond tips or etching your dog’s name into your caps with emeralds, rubies, or sapphires. Though we can’t vouch for the quality of a gold tooth, and prices may vary depending on the griller at each of these jewelry stores, we can certainly point you in the right direction for getting your pearly whites to shine through all that Bay Area fog.

Bling Master Jewelry (3746 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante. 510-669-0457, has just the thing for your bling. On the Web site you can check out various designs of four-cap and six-cap grills in 14-karat yellow or white gold with diamond-cut settings. Service prices range from $80 for two 14k caps to $900 for six 22k caps.

For more than seven years, EJ Jewelry (2605 International, Oakl. 510-434-0700) has set polished grills into the smiles of folks all over the Bay Area. The glass cases within this bustling shop display a selection of open-faced and diamond fronts. One yellow gold tooth will cost you $20; a white gold tooth goes for $25.

Located on a gritty SoMa corner, Gold Teeth (986 Mission, SF. 415-357-9790) offers a twinkling assortment of gold caps and bars, adding luster to the dingy posters plastering its walls. Inside, you can get your grills cast in putf8um or 14k, 16k, or 18k gold and get your favorite stone inlay for $40 and up.

Gold Tooth Master (10623 International, Oakl. 510-636-4008), in East Oakland, has posters of rappers flashing their glistening fronts covering the peach-colored walls. Two display cases flaunt an impressive collection of fangs etched with various letters and designs. A 14k gold cap starts at $20, and dental gold costs $50.

A giant set of golden incisors grafed to the storefront of JC Jewelry (1940 Broadway, Oakl. 510-763-5556) welcomes visitors as they set foot in this boutique, located just off the 19th Street BART station in the heart of downtown Oakland. Here you can buy or trade gold teeth and even get repairs done for $25. Your options for grills include a solid or open-faced cut with diamond initials or gemstones ranging from rubies to sapphires.

Koko Gold Teeth (4838 International, Oakl. 510-533-2345, gives you the most bling for your buck. Choose from an astounding array of beautiful designs and features. If the heart-shaped caps with rubies don’t have you salivating, then the jagged 3-D bars with diamonds will have you forking over your rent money in no time.

The original Mr. Bling Bling (1836 Geary, SF. 415-928-5789,, which is also the sister shop of Koko Gold Teeth, is crammed into a row of shops across the street from the Fillmore. Like Koko, this pocket-size store offers customers gold and silver fronts in a variety of diamond-fanged cuts and designs. Get there early because business tends to boom once the local high school lets out for the day.

Mr. Bling Bling Jewelry (13501 San Pablo, San Pablo. 510-215-0727) specializes in making repairs to damaged caps in need of a "bling-tastic" makeover. The store will also brighten your choppers with a tooth cast in yellow or white gold for $25.

Grilling at Nomad Body Piercing (1745 Market, SF. 415-563-7771) has gotten off to a slow start, due in part to its employees still trying to perfect the gold cap craft, but you can have your mouth cut in yellow or white gold for $25. Or you can just get your tongue pierced.

Tom’s Jewelry (693 E. 14th St., San Leandro. 510-430-8087) is a hop and a skip from the San Leandro BART station. Here you can get your plates filled with 14k and 18k gold, dental gold, and putf8um, as well as with different cuts and engravings with shimmering diamonds and colored gems. *

Paige two


I WAS TURNED  on to my new favorite restaurant, Jodie’s, by Satchel Paige the Pitcher’s dad, Mr. Paige the Pitcher. Indirectly. Mr. Paige the Pitcher ate there with a friend, and then raved about it to Satchel Paige the Pitcher, who told me. "It’s a tiny place. Six seats. A counter. The guy working it’s supposed to be a character."

 "What kind of food?" I said.

 "He said they have everything."

 "Like what?"

 Satchel Paige the Pitcher called Mr. Paige the Pitcher on the phone (this was months and months ago, when Satch was visiting from Thailand), and asked him what kind of food.

 "They have all kinds of stuff, Satchmo," his dad said. "You wouldn’t believe it."

 "What kind of stuff?" asked Satchel Paige the Pitcher.


 Satchel pressed. "Like what?" he said. "For example."

 And here’s what Mr. Paige the Pitcher said. He said, "Hamburgers."

 We got a big kick out of that. We’re easily amused. And I made a mental note: "Jodie’s – everything, even hamburgers." And I underlined hamburgers three times, mentally, and filed it between my memory of raisin pie in the backseat of Grandpa Rubino’s Buick and how I know how long to cook the spaghetti. I need a better filing system.

 Months passed.

 Then my brother Phenomenon told me he’d been to a great place in Albany – Jodie’s.

 "Oh, yeah? Cool. Did you try the raisin pie?" I said.

 He said, "Huh?" And he told me how to get there, but the first time I tried, I couldn’t find it, to give you some idea how small of a hole-in-the-wall this is. It’s on Masonic Street just south of Solano, across from the BART tracks. The second time I tried, first thing in the morning after we got back from Idaho, there it was and there I was, wrapping myself around a barbecue omelet with hash browns and an English muffin. Guy down the counter, only other person there, was taking care of my coffee needs, and his.

 The overall feel of the place is reminiscent of Ann’s Café, RIP. Check your attitude at the door. Everyone’s friends. And Jodie is putting on a show. He showed me the menu, but he was quick to point out that that wasn’t everything. "What’s not on there," he said, pointing to the menu, "is on there," and he gestured over his shoulder to a wall full of oddball specials printed out on little paper signs. "And if it’s not on the menu and it’s not on the wall, then I keep it up here," he said, pointing to his head.

 I hope he has a better filing system than I do.

 What I really wanted was fried chicken, but Jodie only makes fried chickens on weekends, so that left me with only a couple hundred things to choose from. Really the decision was easy. As I might of mentioned last week, I’d been eating barbecued chicken, beef, and pork all weekend in Idaho, so, by way of a change of pace, I went with the barbecue omelet. Off the wall.

 You can have it with beef, pork, or "American" sausage, whatever that means. I got pork. The sauce on top of the omelet, a homemade tomato- and vegetable-based concoction, was delicious. The hash browns were delicious. Everything was great.

 But it wasn’t fried chicken, so I had to go back on Sunday morning, bright and early, because Jodie told me it goes fast.

 Hey, happy 40th birthday to Grandma Googy-Googy, who lives up the hill from Jodie’s, runs past it every morning, and was supposed to meet me for breakfast all sweaty and shit, but showed up showered and s weet-smelling instead, ruining everything.

 She did let me taste her sausage, and it was delicious and all, but God damn I love fried chicken for breakfast. Only they don’t have waffles to go with it. You can get it with pancakes, eggs, or French toast. Nine bucks. Your call: white meat, or dark. And here’s where Jodie blows the chicken farmer’s mind. In a good way: White meat is the breast, and dark, against everyone else in the world’s worser judgment, is a leg, a thigh, and a wing. For this, if it was up to me, I’d award Jodie the Nobel Prize in Physics, or Peace, or both.

 But it’s not up to me, so I’m going to give him a carton of eggs the next time I see him. And a waffle iron for Christmas because pancakes are good, but they’re not waffles. As I’ve pointed out time and time again.

 Jodie’s. 902 Masonic Ave. (at Solano), Albany. (510) 526-1109. Tuesday-Sunday: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; closed Monday. Takeout available. Credit cards not accepted. No alcohol. Wheelchair accessible.  

 Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).