Burning Man

Holiday Street Threads: Josh


SFBG photog Ariel Soto scoops SF street fashion during the holiday shopping rush. See the previous Look of the Day here.

Today’s Look: Josh, 18th Street and Castro


Tell us about your look: “I got this jacket for Burning Man and I didn’t expect it to come back, but it did.”

NIMBY warehouse is fighting for its life


By Steven T. Jones

Another East Bay workspace for Burning Man artists is being threatened by a code compliance crackdown. The operators at NIMBY warehouse – an amazing Oakland warehouse instrumental in the creation of artworks such as Streampunk Tree House, Colossus, and Dance Dance Immolation – have spent thousands of dollars getting up to code and are now have a hard time making rent.

The Shipyard, a workspace in Berkeley run by artist Jim Mason, barely survived a similar struggle two years ago, one that sidetracked his work on project using gasification technology that generates usable power from waste products such as coffee grounds and walnut shells. Mason says he’s donated $1,000 to NIMBY and he’s urging others in the Burning Man and artist communities to help out as well.

“Each of us has been here. Each of us is really still here in some manner. And each of us will most likely continue to be here in some manner or other forever,” Mason wrote. “I don’t really think these institutions are beatable. I’ve lost my idealism on this one. the best we can hope for is management of a chronic problem to a state of tolerable pain. And the next project we do, the creatives vs standards enforcement dance will start again, with blood soon flowing across the dance floor.”

For more information or to learn how to help, contact NIMBY’s Michael Snook – who was also involved with La Contessa — at snook@nimbyspace.org.

NIMBY warehouse is fighting for its life


By Steven T. Jones

Another East Bay workspace for Burning Man artists is being threatened by a code compliance crackdown. The operators at NIMBY warehouse – an amazing Oakland warehouse instrumental in the creation of artworks such as Streampunk Tree House, Colossus, and Dance Dance Immolation – have spent thousands of dollars getting up to code and are now have a hard time making rent.

The Shipyard, a workspace in Berkeley run by artist Jim Mason, barely survived a similar struggle two years ago, one that sidetracked his work on project using gasification technology that generates usable power from waste products such as coffee grounds and walnut shells. Mason says he’s donated $1,000 to NIMBY and he’s urging others in the Burning Man and artist communities to help out as well.

“Each of us has been here. Each of us is really still here in some manner. And each of us will most likely continue to be here in some manner or other forever,” Mason wrote. “I don’t really think these institutions are beatable. I’ve lost my idealism on this one. the best we can hope for is management of a chronic problem to a state of tolerable pain. And the next project we do, the creatives vs standards enforcement dance will start again, with blood soon flowing across the dance floor.”

For more information or to learn how to help, contact NIMBY’s Michael Snook – who was also involved with La Contessa — at snook@nimbyspace.org.

Nice apse



SUPER EGO Ever since Jack handed down the Key to the Wiggly Worm in 1987, dance music has flaunted its spiritual side. Sure, disco was about transcending the physical bonds of quotidian slavery, Parliamentary funk probed the cosmogenic recesses of inner space, and early electro froze out any organic interference with its ethereal pings and pongs. But house was “a feeling,” a “spiritual thing,” a “soul thing.” And techno explicitly mobilized the restless ghosts in Detroit’s rapidly antiquating machines. Merely read the titles of techno originator Derrick May’s late 1980s output — “Beyond the Dance,” “The Beginning,” “Strings of Life” — for the gist of that genre’s ectochromosomal blueprint.

Upping the metaphysical has led to some notable clubby excesses — think sage-smoked rave prayer circles, jungle and tribal house’s witch doctor shenanigans, the gamma states of trance, or whatever the hell Burning Man thinks it’s doing. For the better part of this decade, “ultra lounges” had to feature a giant golden Buddha somewhere on the property or risk excommunication from the Eternal Congregation of Bachelorettes. And how many times did some of us (me) find ourselves, after a crazed and filthy weekend, on the EndUp dance floor on a Sunday afternoon in the 1990s, twitching to a gospel house choir shrieking about the power of salvation through The Lord. (Answer: 42.)

Still, everyone calls their favorite club “church” because that’s where they go on the regular to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. So you’d think a club night in an actual church — let alone one in Grace Cathedral called EpiscoDisco — would be the ultimate theological expression of this nightlife strain. Not so, says Bertie Pearson, the young Episcopal priest, longtime club fixture, and on-point DJ who launched the electro-centric monthly last February. “We’re not out to convert anyone, or try to ‘bring youth into the fold,’ or anything like that,” he tells me. “The Episcopal church isn’t really about proselytizing, anyway — all paths to God are equally effective, and we’re more concerned with keeping our community fed and sheltered. We just wanted to open up this amazing space on a night when there wasn’t much happening here and have a great party.”

EpiscoDisco, with its heady mix of spiffed-up nightlife glitterati, up-to-the minute live acts and DJs, and edgy art installations curated by Paradise Now, offers a perfectly relevant and reverent early evening club experience — even without the cavernous gothic grandeur of Grace echoing every furtive stiletto-clack of the otherwise irreligious. (Pearson says he always wanted to be an Episcopal priest because the faith “appealed to all sides of me: social, spiritual, philosophical, artistic, intellectual … and now the nightlife side, apparently.”) Yet you are, indeed, in a spectacular candle-lit cathedral, navigating the vaulted apse with your plastic-cupped Chablis, gazing at luminous gold-flecked icons of MLK Jr. and John Donne, tracing the gorgeous meditative labyrinth etched in the nave’s marble flooring.

And despite the party-priest’s protestations about keeping his intentions earthbound, you can’t help but get lifted in a club-spiritual way. Upon entering Grace’s AIDS Interfaith Chapel, EpiscoDiscopalians are greeted by ultimate club kid Keith Haring’s wondrous “Life of Christ” triptych altarpiece. A panel of the AIDS Quilt memorializes Grace preachers who passed away from the disease and the “Book of Names” lists Bay Area victims. Given that some of the most exciting recent nightlife trends have been about exhuming the music and fashion buried by AIDS, the chapel offers a celebratory connection to the other side.

But there’s a connection to the living at EpiscoDisco, too. “San Francisco nightlife can be a bit clique-y,” says Pearson, a master of tart understatement. “Sometimes if you walk up to a group of people and just start talking to them, they look at you like you’re insane. That doesn’t happen here. Isn’t that great?”

EPISCODISCO with DJ John Friend and Pale Hoarse live. Saturday, Dec. 19 and every third Saturday of the month, 7 p.m.-10 p.m., free. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, SF. www.episcodisco.com

DERRICK MAY Yes, the Godfather is coming, throwing down one of his gleaming Hi-Tek-Soul soul sets to call the spirits down. Thu/10, 10 p.m., $10 advance. Vessel, 84 Campton Place, SF. www.vesselsf.com

AC SLATER Electro — saved by the bell? The latest banger boy wonder takes to the tables at Reverend Pearson’s other club playground, Blow Up. Fri/11, 10 p.m., $10/$15, 18+. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.blowupsf.com

LE PERLE DEGLI SQUALLOR DJ Bus Station John’s latest bathhouse disco and vinyl rarities monthly breaks cruise-y new queer ground at the Hotspot. Sat/12, 10 p.m., $5. Hotspot, 1414 Market, SF.

Drunk on holiday spirit



I have to admit it. I love Christmas. I don’t mean the day, or even the presents, though those both have their charm. But I love the whole damn holiday season and everything that comes with it. Little white lights wrapped around trees downtown, fake icicles dangling from apartment windows, plastic nativity scenes in storefronts and Muzak versions of "The Little Drummer Boy" playing in elevators. I like spray snow and real snow and cheap batting that’s meant to look like snow. Ribbons and dangling ornaments, train sets and Santa scenes, really sappy Christmas movies featuring washed-up TV stars. This time of year, I even like the mall.

I’m not sure who to blame this obsession on: My Jewish dad, who considered Christmas a national holiday and therefore only celebrated the season (not the reason)? My Christian agnostic mom, who could never find the right denomination but always found the best Christmas Eve candlelight service, complete with bell choir and carols? Or perhaps it’s something innate in me that made me love the cold weather and warm drinks, the dark nights and bright lights, finding it all comforting and safe and magical. There’s certainly an element of fantasy that’s consistently charmed me: as a kid, my favorite game of Pretend was called Tinsel Fairies – one whose garland outfits and Christmas Tree scenery rendered it purely seasonal. And now, my favorite game of Pretend is called Boyfriend at Christmas – a whimsical daydream that involves mistletoe, a fireplace, and that elusive creature: a man who likes this crap as much as I do.

Whatever the reason, while most people are gearing up for their "Christmas decorations in November?!?" complaints, I’m getting out my calendar to schedule two months of awesome. In fact, I attempted to make a spreadsheet of every holiday fair, festival, and destination I wanted to hit this year, but it turns out there are too many to fit into one calendar year. (Seriously, planners, what’s up with Dec. 5? Does everything have to happen the first weekend of the month?) Instead, I’ve compiled a list of those places, shows, and events that I simply cannot miss.


Best known as a drag bar, I’ve had my eye on this Hayes Valley watering hole for years, thanks to its Christmas tradition of drowning the place in Santa figurines (more than 800 of them) and twinkling lights. Add an enclosed smoking area, pool table, and amazing jukebox and it’s the perfect stop for a bit of holiday cheer any day of the week.

488 Hayes, SF. (415) 864-6672, www.marlenasbarsf.com

Union Square Ice Rink

Sure, there’s an outdoor ice skating rink at the Embarcadero too, but I prefer this one, situated beneath the giant tree amidst the glittering lights of San Francisco’s downtown. Despite the often annoying music, it’s one of the most beautiful spots to celebrate the holidays in the city. Now if only my pretend boyfriend would come with me and hold my hand&ldots;

Nov. 11-Jan. 18. Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. $4.50-$9.50 for 90 minute sessions. ($4-$5 for skate rentals.) 555 Pine, SF. (415) 781-2688, www.unionsquareicerink.com

Let it Snow!

As much as I love this season, even I get sick of the predictable storylines of the Christmas Carol/Nutcracker/Miracle on 34th Street trinity (and their endless adaptations). This year, I’m looking forward to watching the Un-Scripted Theater Company weave an entirely unique story, based on audience participation, and present it in spontaneous Broadway song-and-dance fashion.

Nov. 19-Dec. 19, except Nov. 21 and 26. 8 p.m., $8-$20. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m. SF Playhouse, Stage 2, 533 Sutter, SF. (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com

Black Rock Artumnal Gathering

Considering that Christmas Camp was one of the first theme camps at Burning Man, it seems only fitting to ring in the season with a playa-related event. This gorgeous gala benefiting the Black Rock Arts Foundation – an organization that supports Burning Man-style art outside of Burning Man — features performances by Fou Fou HA! and Lucent Dossier, beats by Freq Nasty, and visuals by Shrine and Andrew Jones.

Nov. 20, dinner at 6 p.m., late entry at 9 p.m. $35-$200. Bently Reserve, 400 Sansome, SF. (415) 626-1248, blackrockarts.org

Dickens Fair

The endless iterations of Dickens’ Christmas tale might get stale (OK, fine. I’ll never tire of Bill Murray in Scrooged), but the festivity of the story’s setting never will. I can’t wait to don my Victorian finest (acquired from La Rosa on Haight Street) and get my Christmas geek on with dance parties, Christmas shops, holiday food and drinks, and hundreds of costumed players roaming winding lanes.

Nov. 27 and Sat.-Sun. through Dec. 20. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. $10-$22. Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva Ave, SF. (800) 510-1558, www.dickensfair.com

San Francisco Motorized Cable Car Holiday Lights Tour

So maybe we don’t have horse drawn carriages, but we do have those charming cable cars. Why not channel a West Coast version of Christmas in Central Park by grabbing a blanket and some roasted chestnuts and boarding festively-decorated public transportation for a tour of the city’s lights, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Polk Street Shops, the tree and menorah at Union Square, and stops to appreciate the Golden Gate Bridge?

Nov. 27-Dec. 15, Wed.-Sun., 5 and 7 p.m. Dec. 16-Jan. 3, 5 and 7 p.m. daily. $14-$24. Departs from either Fisherman’s Wharf or Union Square, www.buysanfranciscotours.com/tours/holiday_lights_tour_ccc.html

Women’s Building Celebration of Craftswomen

Who doesn’t love a good holiday crafts fair? Especially one that supports such a good cause. This four-day event features unique hand-made crafts and art pieces by more than 200 female American artists, all supplemented with live music, gourmet food, and a benefit silent auction.

Nov. 28-29, Dec. 5-6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $6.50-$12. Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, SF. (650) 615-6838, www.celebrationsofcraftwomen.org

Vandals Christmas Formal

The punk rock veterans host this year’s version of their legendary holiday show, where they’ll play nearly their entire Oi! To the World album, including (if we’re lucky) that heart-warming family classic "Christmas Time for My Penis." Now the only question is where to get a studded corsage.

Dec. 5, 8 p.m. $16 G.A.; $40.95 with dinner. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com

Cantare Con Vivo Choral Concert

My mom has a Master’s in music, so it’s probably no surprise that I can’t make it through a holiday season without seeking out some classic carols. This year, I’ll forego Handel’s Messiah for this stunning 100-voice ensemble, accompanied by brass and organ.

Dec. 6, 3 – 5 p.m. $10-$40. First Presbyterian Church, 27th and Broadway, Oakl. (510) 836-0789, www.cantareconvivo.org

The Making of Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Author Darrell Van Citters discusses his book about the first-ever animated Christmas special, a ’60s classic that’s all but forgotten to new generations.
Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., free. Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF. (415) CAR-TOON, www.cartoonart.org

The only thing more delightful than the sight of hundreds of Santas drinking, dancing, and causing a rukus in public is being one of those Santas. Perhaps the best known and loved creation of the Cacophony Society, this annual bar crawl/flash mob/guerilla art piece has become one of my favorite holiday traditions (at least, the parts I can remember). Plus, as a walking and transportation tour led by volunteers, it’s a fantastic way to see parts of the city I’d rarely visit otherwise.
Dec. 12, times and locations TBA. www.santarchy.com

Dance-Along Nutcracker
This year sees Tchaikovsky’s characters translated through a Western lens with "Blazing Nutcrackers," a Wild West-themed participatory dance event with accompaniment by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. My plan? To channel Clara, by way of Mae West.
Dec. 12, 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. gala, Dec. 13, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. $16-$50. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.dancealongnutcracker.org

MOCHA Makers’ Studio: Adult Art Night
Call it a throwback to my days doing Sunday School crafts (at any one of several churches), but there’s something appealing about learning to make paper – and then make holiday cards or 3-D shapes and sculptures – while enjoying beer, wine, and each other at this kids’ night for grown-ups.
Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., $5. Museum of Children’s Art, 538 Ninth St., Oakl. (510) 465-8770, www.mocha.org

Carols in the Caves
For more than 20 years, David Auerbach – better known as The Improvisator – has been sharing the solstice spirit by playing his impressive bevy of instruments in natural caverns and wine cellars. Wondrous, reverent, and – especially during the audience participation part – fun, this is the event I’m perhaps looking forward to most. (But don’t tell the Vandals.)
Weekends Dec.19-Jan. 10. $40-$65. Various wineries. (707) 224-4222, www.carolsinthecaves.com

Have different taste than I do? (Apparently, that’s possible.) Check out our events, music, and stage listings throughout the holiday season. For information on tree lightings at places like city hall, check out www.sanfrancisco.com. And if you’re a fan of Christmas Tree Lanes, visit www.lightsofthevalley.com, a not-for-profit Website compiling information on more than 460 decorated homes in 105 cities, to be updated the day after Thanksgiving.

Seizing space


steve@sfbg.com; molly@sfbg.com

San Francisco’s streets and public spaces are undergoing a drastic transformation — and it’s happening subtly, often below the radar of traditional planning processes. Much of it was triggered by the renegade actions of a few outlaw urbanists, designers, and artists.

But increasingly, their tactics and spirit are being adopted inside City Hall, and the result is starting to look like a real urban design revolution — one that harks back to a movement that was interrupted back in the 1970s.

One of the earliest signs of the new approach emerged in 2005 on the first Park(ing) Day, the brainchild of the hip, young founders of the urban design group Rebar. The idea was simple: turn selected street parking spots around San Francisco into little one-day parks. Just plug some coins in the meter to rent the space, then set up chairs or lay down some sod, and kick it.

It was a simple yet powerful statement about how San Franciscans choose to use public space — and the folks at Rebar expected to get in trouble.

“When we did the first Park(ing) Day in 2005, JB [a.k.a. John Bela] and I were just prepared to be arrested and hauled into court,” Rebar’s Matthew Passmore told us at a recent interview in the group’s new Mission District warehouse space. “But nothing like that happened.”

Instead, City Hall called. 079_realcover.jpg Rebar’s Blaine Merker, Teresa Aguilera, Matthew Passmore, and John Bela at their carfreee space at Showplace Triangle

“We got a call from the director of city greening, who said this is great, I want to meet with you guys and talk about how the city can support this kind of activity,” Passmore said. “Much to our surprise, the city was totally responsive as opposed to shutting us down and imprisoning us.”

Bela said the group discovered that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration was looking for just the sort of innovative, cool, environmental ideas that were Rebar’s focus. And that connection merged with other people’s efforts — like sidewalk-to-garden conversions being pioneered by Jane Martin, the urban gardening and bicycling movements, and the unique public art that was making its way back from Burning Man. That created a catalyst for a wide array of city initiatives, from the Sunday Streets road closures to temporary art installations that began popping up around the city to the Pavement to Parks program that creates short-term parks in underutilized roadways.

“It was a single interaction five years ago, and now we have things like Sunday Streets,” Bela told us on Sept. 18’s Park(ing) Day, in which various individuals and groups took over more than 50 parking spots around town. “It’s about reclaiming the streets for people.”

Park(ing) Day itself blew up, becoming a worldwide phenomenon that is now in 151 cities on six continents, and one that the Mayor’s Office is planning to turn into a more permanent plan, with the regular conversion of some parking spots on commercial corridors into outdoor seating areas.

“You had a few guys and a girl who had an idea and now it’s an international event,” Mike Farrah, a longtime Newsom lieutenant who now heads the Office of Neighborhood Services and has been the main contact in City Hall for Rebar and similar groups, told the Guardian.

Locally, the success of events like Park(ing) Day have changed San Francisco’s approach to urban spaces, particularly on land left dormant by the economic downturn. Rebar, the permaculture collective Upcycle, and former MyFarm manager Chris Burley plan to turn the old Hayes Valley freeway property near Octavia, between Oak and Fell streets, into a massive community garden and gathering space. Plans are being hatched for temporary uses on Rincon Hill properties approved for residential towers. “Green pod” seating areas are sprouting along Market Street and there are plans to extend the Sunday Streets road closures next year. And, perhaps most amazingly, most projects are being accomplished with very little funding.

How has San Francisco suddenly shifted into high gear when it comes to creating innovative new public spaces? The key is their common denominator: they’re all temporary. As such, they don’t require detailed studies, cumbersome approval processes, or the extensive outreach and input that can dampen the creative spark.

But San Francisco is starting to prove that dozens of short-term fixes can add up to a true transformation of the urban environment and the citizenry’s sense of possibility.



Rebar began as a group of friends and artists who came together to enter a design contest in 2004. Passmore was a practicing lawyer and Bela was a landscape architecture student at UC Berkeley. They chose the name Rebar for future collaborations, the first of which was Park(ing) Day.

Passmore, who had a background in conceptual art before going to law school, discovered a legal loophole that might allow for anything from a burlesque performance to a temporary swimming pool to be installed in metered parking spaces. Bela recruited Blaine Merker, a fellow landscape architecture student with whom he’d won a design competition, to join the effort.

Park(ing) Day was a hit, getting great press and igniting people’s imaginations. “We realized after we did it, like, oh, people are really getting this,” Merker said. And Rebar was off. In the following years they added a fourth principal, graphic designer Teresa Aguilera, and took on a number of acclaimed projects: planting the Victory Garden in Civic Center Plaza, building the Panhandle Bandshell from old car hoods and other recycled parts, creating COMMONspace events (from “Counterveillance” to the “Nappening”) in privately-owned public spaces, and designing the Bushwaffle (commissioned for the Experimenta-Design biennale in Amsterdam) to help soften paved urban spaces and create a sense of play.

Through it all, the group maintained its prankster spirit. When they were invited to present the Bandshell project at the prestigious Venice Biennale festival, Rebar members showed up costumed as Italian table-tennis players (a joke that mostly baffled other attendees, they said).

They told us every project needed to have a “quotient of ridiculum.” Or as Bela put it, “That’s how we know project has evolved to the right point — when we’re on the floor laughing.”

As Rebar found success, it was still mostly a side project for members who had other full-time jobs. “We were all playing hooky all the time,” said Merker, who, like Bela, joined a landscape architecture firm after he finished school. “It just got worse and worse.”

So now, they’re trying to turn their passion into a profession, recently moving into a cool warehouse office and workspace in the Mission. “We’re shifting our practice a little to have the same sort of spirit but trying to figure out how we can make that an occupation,” Merker said.

It’s also about moving from those short-lived installations to something a little more lasting, even while working within the realm of temporary projects. As Aguilera said, “A lot of the projects we started with were creating moments to maybe think about. But we’re shifting into more permanent ways to interact with the city.”

They may not be sure where they’re headed as an organization, but they have a clear conception of their canvas, as well as the traditions they draw from (including movements like the Situationists and artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, who worked in urban niche spaces) and the fact that they are part of an emerging international movement to reclaim and redesign urban spaces.

“We’re not the originators of any of this stuff,” Bela said. “It’s like emerging phenomena happening in cities all over the world. We just happened to have plugged into it early on and we continue to push it.”



Rebar is strongly pushing a reclamation of spaces that have been rather thoughtlessly ceded to the automobile over the last few decades. “Street right-of-way is 25 percent of the city’s land area. A quarter of the city is streets,” Bela said. “And those streets were designed at the time when we wanted to privilege the automobile.

“So basically, there’s all this underutilized roadway,” he continued. “It’s asphalt and it’s pavement, and the city wants to reclaim some of those spaces for people. That’s a thread we’ve been exploring in our work for a long time, and now it’s elevated up to a citywide planning objective.”

The short-term nature of the projects comes in part from political necessity: temporary projects are usually exempt from costly, time-consuming environmental impact reports. Demonstration projects also don’t need the extensive public input that permanent changes do in San Francisco. But there’s more to the philosophy.

“It stands on this proposition that temporary or interim use does actually improve the character of the city,” Passmore said. “People used to think that if something is temporary or ephemeral, what good is it? It’s just here today, gone tomorrow. But I think now people are realizing that the city can be improved like this.”

And it goes even deeper than that. When people see parking spaces turned into parks, vacant lots blossoming with art and conversation nooks, or old freeway ramps turned into community gardens, their sense of what’s possible in San Francisco expands.

“What we’re remodeling is people’s mental hardware. It’s like stretching. You have to bend something a little more than it wants to go, and the next time you do that, it’s that much easier,” Merker said.

“There’s also a psychological aspect to that. When people see a crack in the Matrix open up, if you will, it can open up a whole lot more than just that one moment,” he said.

For those who have been working on urbanism issues in San Francisco for a long time, like Livable City director Tom Radulovich, this new energy and the tactic of conditioning people with temporary projects is a welcome development. “There is a huge resistance to change in San Francisco, no matter what the change is, and a lot of that stems from fear,” Radulovich said. But with temporary projects, he said, “you can establish what success looks like from the outset.”



The Rebar folks have been fairly savvy in their approach, making key friends inside City Hall, people who have helped them bridge the gap between their idealism and what’s possible in San Francisco.

“We are a process-driven city, and temporary allows you to create change without fear,” Farrah told us. He said the partnership between the Mayor’s Office and community groups that want to do cool, temporary public art really began in the summer of 2005 with the Temple at Hayes Green by longtime Burning Man temple builder, David Best.

Farrah had connections to the Burning Man community, so he facilitated the placement of the temple along Octavia Boulevard, then one of the city’s newest and least developed public spaces. Next came the placement of another Burning Man sculpture, Flock by Michael Christian, in Civic Center Plaza that fall. Both projects got funding and support from the Black Rock Arts Foundation, a public art outgrowth of Burning Man.

“I saw, after some of the temporary art and special events, how it’s changed people’s ideas about what’s possible,” Farrah said. “There has been a change in the way people view the streets.”

That got Farrah thinking about what else could be done, so he approached BRAF’s then-director Leslie Pritchett and Rebar’s Bela, telling them, “I need you to look at San Francisco like a canvas. Tell me the things you want to do, and I’ll tell you if it’s possible or not. And that’s led to a lot of cool stuff.”

Livable city advocates like Radulovich — progressives who are generally not allied with Newsom and who have battled with him on issues from limiting parking to the Healthy Saturdays effort to create more carfree space in Golden Gate Park — give the Mayor’s Office credit for its greening initiatives.

He credits Greening Director Astrid Haryati and DPW chief Ed Reiskin with facilitating this return to urbanism. “He’s really responsive and he gets it,” Radulovich said of Reiskin. “This is really where a lot of energy is going in the mayor’s office. It seems to have captured their imaginations.”

Another catalyst was last year’s visit by New York City transportation commissioner and public space visionary Janette Sadik-Khan, who met with Reiskin and Newsom on a trip sponsored by Livable City and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Radulovich said her message, which SF has embraced, is that, “There are low-cost, reversible ways you can reclaim urban space in the near term.”

The Mayor’s Office, SFBC, and Livable City partnered last year to create Sunday Streets, which involved closing streets to cars for part of the day. The events have proven hugely successful after overcoming initial opposition from merchants who now embrace it.

Then there’s the Pavement to Parks program — which involves converting streets into temporary parks for weeks or months at a time — that grew directly from the Sadik-Khan visit. Andres Power, who directs the program for the Planning Department, told us the visit was a catalyst for Pavement to Parks: “She came to the city a year ago and inspired my director, Ed Reiskin.”

“We’re rethinking what the streets are and what they can be,” Power said. “It’s rewarding to see this stuff happen and to be at the forefront of a national effort to imagine what our streets could be.”



Pavement to Parks launched last year, a multiagency effort with virtually no budget, but the mandate to use existing materials the city has on hand to turn underutilized streets into active parks. “It looks at areas where we can reclaim space that’s been given over to cars over the decades,” Power told the Guardian.

At the first site, where 17th Street meets Market and Castro, the city and volunteer groups used planters and chairs to convert a one-block stretch of street that was little-used by cars because of the Muni line at the site.

“We bent over backward to make the space look temporary,” Power said, noting the concern over community backlash that never really materialized, leading to two time extensions for the project. “But we’re now ready to revamp that whole space.”

Another Pavement to Parks site at Guerrero and San Jose streets was created by Jane Martin, whom Newsom appointed to the city’s Commission on the Environment in part because of the innovative work she has done in creating and facilitating sidewalk gardens since 2003.

As a professional architect, Martin was used to dealing with city permits. But her experience in obtaining a “minor sidewalk encroachment permit” to convert part of the wide sidewalk near a building she owned on Shotwell Street into a garden convinced her there was room for improvement.

“At that point, I was really jazzed with the result and response [to her garden] and I wanted to make it so we could see more of it,” she said. So she started a nonprofit group called PlantSF, which stands for Permeable Lands As Neighborhood Treasure. Martin worked with city agencies to create a simpler and cheaper process for citizens to obtain permits and help ripping up sidewalks and planting gardens.

“We want to de-pave as much excess concrete as possible and do it to maximize the capture of rainwater,” she said.

Martin said the models she’s creating allow people to do the projects themselves or in small groups, encouraging the city’s DIY tradition and empowering people to make their neighborhoods more livable. More than 500 people have responded, creating gardens on former sidewalks around the city.

“We’ll get farther faster with that model,” she said. “It’s really about engaging people in their neighborhoods and helping them personalize public spaces.”

San Francisco has always been a process-driven city. “We in San Francisco tend to plan and design things to death, so as a result, everything takes a very long time,” Power said.

But with temporary projects under Pavement to Parks, the city can finally be more nimble and flexible. Three projects have been completed so far, and the goal is to have up to a dozen done by summer.

“We’re working feverishly to get the rest of the projects going,” Power said.

One of those projects involves an impending announcement of what Power called “flexible use of the parking lane” in commercial corridors like Columbus Avenue in North Beach. “We’re taking Park(ing) Day to the next level.”

The idea is to place platforms over one or two parking spots for restaurants to use as curbside seating, miniparks, or bicycle parking. “The Mayor’s Office will be announcing in the next few weeks a list of locations,” Power said. “There have been locations that have come to us asking for this.”

“The idea is to do a few of these as a pilot to determine what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to use their trial implementation to develop a permanent process,” Power said. “We want to think of our street space as more than a place for cars to drive through or park.”

Rebar was responsible for the last of the completed Pavement to Parks projects. Known as Showplace Triangle, it’s located at the corner of 16th and Eighth streets in the Showplace Square neighborhood near Potrero Hill. For Rebar, it was like coming full circle.

“We started doing this stuff about five years ago, finding these niches and loopholes and exploring interim use as a strategy for activating urban space,” Bela said. “And to our surprise, what we perceived as a tactical action is now being embodied by strategic players like the Planning Department.”



The Rebar crew was like kids in a candy store picking through the DPW yard.

“These projects are all built with material the city owns already, so we had the opportunity to go down to the DPW yard and inventory all of these materials they had, and figure out ways to configure them to make a successful street plaza,” Bela said.

So they turned old ceramic sewer pipes into tall street barriers topped by planter boxes, and built lower gardens bordered by old granite curbs.

“We are trying to be as creative as possible with the use of materials the city already has on hand,” Power said. In addition to the DPW yard that Rebar tapped for Showplace Triangle, Power said the Public Utilities Commission, Port of SF, and the Recreation and Parks Department all have yards around the city that are filled with materials.

“They each have stockpiles of unused stuff that has accumulated over the years,” he said.

For her Pavement to Parks project on Guerrero, Martin used fallen trees that originally had been planted in Golden Gate Park — pines, cypress, eucalyptus — but were headed for the mulcher. Not only were they great for creating a sense of place, they offered a nod to the city’s natural history.

But perhaps the coolest material that had been sitting around for decades was the massive black granite blocks that Rebar incorporated into Showplace Triangle. “One of the most interesting materials that we used in Showplace Triangle was the big granite blocks from Market Street that were taken off because merchants didn’t like people encamping there. They were too successful as spaces, so they got torn out,” Merker said.

Bela said they couldn’t believe their eyes: “We saw these stacks of five-by-five by one-foot deep black granite. Just extraordinary. If we were to do a public project today, we could never afford that stuff. There’s no way. But the taxpayers bought that stuff back in the ’70s and now it’s just sitting there in the DPW yard. It’s a crime that it’s not being used, so it was great to get it back out on the street.”

Radulovich said the return of the black granite boxes to the streets represents the city coming full circle. He remembers talking to DPW manager Mohammad Nuru as he was removing the last of them from Market Street in the 1970s, citing concerns about people loitering on them.

“To see them put up again in JB’s project was symbolic of where the city went and where it’s coming back from,” Radulovich said. “It’s almost like the livability revolution got interrupted and we lost two decades and now it’s picking up again.”

Back in the 1970s, Radulovich said the city was actively creating new public spaces such as Duboce Triangle. It was also creating seating along Market Street and generally valuing the creation of gathering places. But in the antitax era that followed, public sector maintenance of the spaces lagged and they were discovered by the ever-growing ranks of the homeless that were turned loose from institutions.

“The fear factor took over,” Radulovich said. “We did a lot to destroy public spaces in the ’80s and ’90s.”

But by creating temporary public spaces, people are starting to realize what’s been lost and to value it again. “These baby steps are helping us relearn what makes a good public space,” Radulovich said.

For much of the younger generation, building public squares is a new thing. As Aguilera noted, “We don’t have a lot of public plazas anymore or places for people to gather. When Obama was elected, where did everyone go in the city? Into the streets. So we’re trying to give that back to the city.”



Perhaps the most high-profile laboratory for these ideas is the Hayes Valley Farm, a temporary project planned for the 2.5 acres of freeway left behind after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The publicly-owned land between Oak and Fell streets is slated for housing projects that have been stalled by the slow economy.

“The site’s been vacant for 10 years. They came up with a beautiful master plan. And the moment they’re ready to move on the master plan, there’s an economic collapse, so nothing is happening,” Bela said.

In the meantime, the Mayor’s Office and Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association pushed for temporary use of the neglected site. They approached the urban farming collectives MyFarm and Upcycle. Later, Rebar was brought in to design and coordinate the project.

Now the group known as the Hayes Valley Farm Team has an ambitious plan for the area: part urban garden, part social gathering spot, and part educational space. There will be an orchard of fruit trees, a portable greenhouse, demonstrations on urban farming, and a regular farmers market.

“The different topography of ramps allows for different growing conditions. These ramps are prime exposure to the south,” Merker said. “They create these areas that can produce some really great growing conditions, so it’s kind of funny that this freeway is responsible for that. The ramps actually create different microclimates.”

Most remarkably, the whole project is temporary, designed to be moved in three years. “We’re interested in developing infrastructure and tools and machinery and implements that are sort of coded for the scale of the city: a lot of pedal-powered things, a lot of mobile infrastructure, and smaller things that are designed to be useful in a plot that is only 2.5 acres,” Bela said. “Then when we need to move on, we’ll be able to do that. It’s about being strategic with some of the investments so we can take some of the tools we develop here and move it to the next vacant lot down the street.”

The project has lofty goals, ranging from creating a social plaza in Hayes Valley to educating the public about productive landscaping. “We’re getting away from ideas of turning parks into food production — it can be both,” said David Cody of Upcycle. “We want to just crack the awareness that cities can be multi-use and agriculture doesn’t mean farm.”

This is perhaps the most ambitious temporary project the Mayor’s Office has taken on. “Rebar pushed the envelope on what is possible. I told them it would be a tough one,” Farrah said of the project. But he loves the concept: “You can argue that putting gardens in temporary spaces changes attitudes.”

Symbolically, this land seems the perfect place for such an experiment. “This really is a special spot. If you look at a map of the city, Hayes Valley is in the very center, and this is right in the heart of Hayes Valley,” Aguilera said. “And right now, in the heart of a neighborhood in the heart of the city, there’s this vacant, fallow reminder of what used to be there. We’re looking to turn it into a new beating heart that brings together lots of different parts of the community.”



Activating dormant spaces in the city isn’t easy, particularly for properties with pending projects. In Hayes Valley, for example, the Rebar crew was required to develop a detailed takedown plan.

“A lot of development is hesitant to get involved with these interim uses because at the end, they’re worried that it’s going to be framed as the evil, money-hungry developer coming in to kick out artists or farmers,” Passmore said. “But the reality is, they are very generously opening up their space is the first place.”

With last year’s crash of the rental estate and credit markets, development in San Francisco stalled, leaving potentially productive land all over the city. “As the city has gone through an economic downturn, like now, the city has a lot of vacant lots with developer entitlements on them, but nothing is being built right now. Those are spaces the public has an interest in,” Merker said, citing Rincon Hill as a key example.

Michael Yarne, who facilitates development projects for the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, has been working on how developers might be encouraged to adopt temporary uses of their vacant lots.

“How can we credit them to do a greening project on a vacant lot?” Yarne asks, a problem that is exacerbated by the complication that neither the developers nor local government have money to fund the interim improvements.

He looked at the possibility of using developer impact fees on short-term projects, but there are legal problems with that approach. The courts have placed strict limits on how impact fees are charged and used, requiring detailed studies proving that the fees offset a project’s real cost and damage.

“But there is other value we can give as a city without spending a dollar — and that is certainty,” said Yarne, a former developer. He said developers value certainty more than anything else.

Right now, developers have to return to the Planning Commission every year or so to renew project entitlements, something that costs time and money and potentially places the project at risk. But he said the city might be able to enter into developer agreements with a project proponent, waiving the renewal requirement for a certain number of years in exchange for facilitating short-term projects.

“Everyone wins. We get a short-term use, and the developer gets certainty that they won’t lose their rights,” Yarne said, noting that he’s now developing a pilot project on Rincon Hill. “If that works, that could be a template we could use over and over.”

Radulovich is happy to see the new energy Rebar and other groups are infusing into a quest to remake city streets and lots, and with the use of temporary projects to expand the realm of the possible in people’s minds: “Let’s get people reimagining what the streets could be.”


Fall Feast 2009


Man (and woman) cannot live on PBR and pasta alone. I should know. I spent the whole summer trying. But now that my leftover Burning Man groceries are gone and the weather’s getting colder, I can’t help but crave real food again. And what better time and place is there to be really, really hungry for a substantial meal made with fresh ingredients than right now in San Francisco? Despite the struggling economy, innovative restaurants keep popping up — and the old classics are offering better deals. Plus, the changing culinary landscape has led to all kinds of fun, cheap, gourmet alternatives like pop-ups, lunch carts, and temporary restaurants-within-a-restaurant. This edition of FEAST, our drinking and dining magazine, focuses on what we love about the Bay Area’s food scene, from innovative locales to cross-cultural alternatives, from wintery suppers to summery desserts (after all, how cold does it ever really get here?), and from new restaurants to a niche bookstore that only a foodie-city like San Francisco could support. Whether you’re ready to start your Thanksgiving feasting early or are simply transitioning out of your warm-weather diet (or budget), we’re sure you’ll find something in the coming pages to satisfy your cravings. Unless, that is, you’re looking for PBR and pasta. You’ll have to take care of that one on your own — or wait ’til next summer. (Molly Freedenberg)

>>10 latest, greatest openings

>>6 supper-worthy soups

>>4 fine wine bars

>>6 innovative ice creams

>>4 phenomenal falafels

>>A readable feast: Q&A with Omnivore’s Celia Sacks

“Burning Opera”: The fire’s almost out


By Molly Freedenberg. Photos by Michael Rauner.

Time is running out on the beloved (and only a bit controversial) Burning Opera: How to Survive the Apocalypse, the Mark Nichols/Erik Davis vehicle that attempts to both explain and capture the ethos of SF’s favorite (and favorite to ridicule) festival: Burning Man. The wildly popular show that opened October 5 at Teatro Zinzanni ends its three-week run (extended an extra week due to demand) tomorrow (Wed, Oct 21) night, with a limited number of tickets still available for tonight and tomorrow’s shows.

Librettist Erik Davis opens the Burning Opera by transforming from middle-aged geek to heckling dessert bunny “Bulldada,” whose commentary throughout the show is not only funny, but accurately captures one element of playa culture: irreverence for everything, including Burning Man itself.

Despite some technical difficulties (sound is hit-or-miss, and some lyrics are hard to decipher) and occasionally coming off as unpolished, the show has been delighting audiences with its remarkable range, combination of history and present-day culture, inside jokes, and a surprising mix of earnestness and irony.

Of course, most of those delighted are burners – people who get the jokes. If Burning Man were a summer camp (and in many ways it is), this opera would be what the counselors do for each other at the end of the year talent show – if the counselors were trained in musical theater. Which is exactly what makes it fantastic and hilarious, but potentially off-putting to non-burners, jaded old-schoolers, and anyone who doesn’t genuinely enjoy musicals and satire. I’d also argue that the longer one has gone to Burning Man and the more one knows about it, the more you’ll get from the show. (In particular, even my veteran burner friends had questions about historical references, most of which I could answer because I’d read Brian Doherty’s fantastic book This is Burning Man.)

Burning Man’s contribution to urbanism


By Steven T. Jones

Time.com’s “5 Things Cities Can Learn from Burning Man”

Gabriel Metcalf was just giddy when he heard about Burning Man’s 2010 art theme: “Metropolis: The Life of Cities.” It beautifully brought together two of his two passions. In addition to being a four-time attendee of the event, he’s the executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

“I can’t believe the Burning Man theme. It’s just so awesome,” he said, palpably giddy. “Black Rock City is one of the great cities of the world.”

That’s high praise from someone whose days are devoted to studying urban life and its myriad challenges, and a testament to the fact that Black Rock City has successfully made the transition from frontier to city. Metcalf was equally excited about the other Burning Man news that I reported in today’s Guardian: how Black Rock LLC wants to create a year-round retreat and think tank on the playa and how they want a high-profile headquarters in the vicinity of SPUR’s new Urban Center, which opened earlier this year.

“One thing I love about Burning Man taking on the question of urbanism is it’s going to not just be about physical placement, how you lay out the blocks and streets, but about community in a larger sense,” Metcalf said. “The exploration of different forms of community is what I think is so interesting and transformative for the people who go there.”

Urban man



Maybe Burning Man can’t save the world, but its leaders and participants are increasingly focused on using the models and principles involved with building and dismantling Black Rock City in the Nevada desert every year to help renew and restore urbanism in the 21st century.

The arts festival and countercultural gathering that was born in San Francisco 23 years long ago defied the doomsayers and became a perpetual institution, particularly here in the Bay Area, where it has become a year-round culture with its own unique social mores, language, fashion, calendar, ethos, and infrastructure.

Now, the SF-based corporation that stages the event, Black Rock LLC, has set its sights on taking the next big steps by trying to create a year-round retreat and think tank on a spectacular property on the edge of the playa and by trying to move its headquarters into a high-profile property in downtown San Francisco — perhaps even the San Francisco Chronicle Building.

Complementing those ambitions is the art theme that Burning Man honcho Larry Harvey recently announced for 2010 — "Metropolis: The Life of Cities" — which seeks to connect the event’s experiments in community and sustainability with the new urbanism movements in places like San Francisco and New York City. Harvey told us the idea came to him earlier this year as he attended the Burning Man regional event called Figment and toured some of New York’s efforts to reclaim public spaces from automobiles.

"I found that inspiring," Harvey said of the recent changes to Times Square, marveling at the conversation circles people set up in the gathering spaces that used to be traffic lanes. "Here we have New York City creating a civic space that works like the city we create. It would be even better if they’d put up some interactive art."

In a video segment on the 2009 event by Time.com entitled "5 Things Cities Can Learn from Burning Man," Harvey spelled out some key urban living principles cultivated in Black Rock City: ban the automobile, encourage self-reliance, rethink commerce, foster virtue, and encourage art.

"It’s become a better and better social environment," Harvey said of Black Rock City, the population of which peaked at about 43,000 this year, down slightly from last year. "People have come to respect its urban character, so we’re ready for a discussion like this."

As part of next year’s theme, Harvey said he plans to invite urban planners and architects from around the world to come experience Black Rock City and share their ideas about encouraging vitality in cities, before and during the event. Cultivation of the vast interdisciplinary expertise that creates Burning Man each year is also why the organization is seeking to buy Fly Hot Springs on the edge of the Black Rock Desert.

"That’s what the think tank is about: Let’s get together and think about the world and use Burning Man as a lens for that," Harvey told us. "I think art should imitate life, but I’m not really happy until life imitates art."

Harvey is reluctant to talk much about his plans for the property until they can seal the deal — something the attorneys are now actively trying to hammer out — but he said the basic idea is to create "a laboratory for ideas." To try to raise capital for the project, Burning Man bused 100 rich burners — including Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Laura Kimpton of the Kimpton Hotel chain — to a dinner at the site on Aug. 27.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, where Black Rock LLC was earlier this year forced to move from its longtime Third Street headquarters because of plans by UC Mission Bay to build a hospital on the site, Burning Man and city officials are collaborating on plans for a showcase space.

"While all this is going on, we have been talking to the city about moving downtown. They really want us there," Harvey said.

The organization came close to landing on a big space in the Tenderloin, but that fell through. Recently, Harvey and city officials even toured the San Francisco Chronicle building at the corner of Mission and Fifth streets, which Hearst Corporation has had on the real estate market for some time, exploring the possibility of it becoming the new Burning Man headquarters.

For that site and other high-profile spots around downtown, city planners and economic development officials are actively courting significant tenants that would bring interactive art and creative vitality to street life in the urban core. "Well, that’s like a theme camp," Harvey said. "That’s what we do."

In recent years, Black Rock LLC has expanded what it does through Black Rock Arts Foundation (which funds and facilitates public art off the playa), Burners Without Borders (which does good works from Hurricane Katrina cleanup to rebuilding after the earthquake in Pisco, Peru), Black Rock Solar (which uses volunteer labor to do affordable solar project for public entities), and other efforts.

But simultaneously creating a think tank, retreat, and high-profile headquarters — with all the money that would require — could reshape the institution and its relationship with San Francisco in big and unpredictable ways. Harvey describes it as entering a new era, one he says he is approaching carefully and with the intention of maximum community involvement in key decisions: "You want to build trust and enthusiasm as you go along."

Beats get nuked on the Bay


By Michael Krimper

Sub Swara at Burning Man 07

The first use of the word “glitch” traces back to fairly recent innovations in computer technology, initially describing a sudden burst or drastic change in voltage charge. More recently, glitch has become a frenetic pathos, an unexpected musical phenomenon, an intensely dissonant way of looking the world, and a methodology for mother fucking slaying crowds. I’m not even talking about genres; fuck a genre. Enter “Beats by the Bay”, a powerhouse dubbed out nastiness, glitch melter party featuring some of the most ridiculous production innovators of our day. Expect ferocious units geared with space age machinery and foot soldiers parading the illest beats. These cats together posses a schizophrenic style that blasts through free-jazz out thereness, supernovaeing (can I make that a verb?) hip-hop’s monster funk loudness into another dimension of “here I am”. And look at that, it’s right before Burning Man!

Beats By The Bay presented by Infinite Music & ArtnowSF
With Sub Swara, Marty Party, The Gaslamp Killer, Lazersword, The Flying Skulls, Djunya, Majitope, Emancipator, Bogl
Mission Rock Cafe, $20
817 Tery Francois St., SF
415 626-5355
More info: www.myspace.com/artnow


Is Burning Man right to control images from the event?


By Steven T. Jones
Will Burning Man send us a take-down notice for my unauthorized use of this photo of myself?

As I prepare for my seventh trip to Burning Man this weekend, I came across a fascinating discussion about restrictions on the use of photography from the event. Electronic Freedom Foundation fired the first shot, criticizing Burning Man for controlling the use of images from the event, and BM’s Andie Grace responded with a long defense of their reasons for doing so, and lively discussions ensued on other blogs.

I’ve written quite a bit about Burning Man over the years, including a piece called “Burning Brand” that touches on some of these issues. I also have a contract to write a book about the event (look for “The Tribes of Burning Man” next year), so I wrestle with the restrictions on the use of images from the event more than most people.

But for now, I’m going to keep my opinions to myself and just appreciate the great debate that has ensued. What do you think?

Fall fairs and festivals


AUG 28-30

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival Golden Gate Park, SF; www.sfoutsidelands.com. 12-10pm, $89.50-$225.50. SF’s best alternative to That Thing in the Desert is back for its second year, with headliners Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Tenacious D playing for you and two thousand of your closest friends.


Eat Real Festival Jack London Square, Oakl; eatrealfest.com. Fri, 4-9pm; Sat, 10am-9pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. Free. Buy from your favorite street food vendors, sample microbrews at the Beer Shed, or shop in the market for local produce at this sister event to La Cocina’s Street Food Festival.

AUG 29-SEPT 20

SF Shakespeare Festival Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, between Graham and Keyes; www.sfshakes.org. Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2:30pm, free. The genius of Shakespeare in SF’s most relaxed setting.

SEPT 1-30

Architecture and the City Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.

SEPT 5-6


Millbrae Art and Wine Festival Broadway Avenue between Victoria and Meadow Glen, Millbrae; (650) 697-7324, www.antiquesbythebay.net. 10am-5pm, free. The Big Easy comes to Millbrae for this huge Labor Day weekend event.



Antiques and Collectibles Faire Alameda Point, Alameda; www.antiquesbythebay.net. 9am-3pm, $5. California’s biggest and best antiques and collectibles extravaganza is back with 800 outdoor booths, with something for everyone.

SEPT 9-20

Fringe Festival Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy; 931-1094, www.sffringe.org. Times and prices vary. An ever-changing collection of unusual and lively experimental theater pieces will be showcased over the course of 18 days.

SEPT 12-13

Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square; www.ghirardellisq.com. 1pm, free. Indulge in chocolate delicacies, sip wine, and enjoy chocolate-inspired family activities at this annual event benefiting Project Open Hand.

Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.powertothepeaceful.org. 9am, prices vary. Michael Franti and Guerrilla Management present the 11th annual festival dedicated to music, arts, action, and yoga. With Alanis Morrisette, Sly & Robbie, a special after party at the Fillmore, and workshops all day Sunday.


Mountain View Art and Wine Festival Castro Street between El Camino Real and Evelyn Ave, Mountain View; (650) 968-8378, www.miramarevents.com. 10am-6pm, free. More than 200,000 art lovers will gather for the 38th installment of one of America’s top art festivals, featuring crafts, live music, food, and drink.


Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45; 929-8374. Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.

SEPT 17-21


Symbiosis Gathering Camp Mather, Yosemite; www.symbiosisgathering.com. $180, includes camping. This synesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable learning is quickly becoming one of NorCal’s favorite fall festivals. This year’s headliners include Les Claypool, Yard Dogs Road Show, Bassnectar, and the Glitch Mob.

SEPT 19-20

Autumn Moon Festival 667 Grant; 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm, free. Chinatown’s annual street fair features continuous Asian entertainment, lion dances, costumed artisans, cultural demonstrations, arts and crafts, and food vendors.


Folsom Street Fair Folsom Street between Seventh and 12 St; www.folsomstreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The world’s largest leather event covers 13 city blocks with entertainment, vendors, and plenty of spectacle.

OCT 2-5

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.strictlybluegrass.com. Check website for times. Free. Natalie MacMaster, Emmylou Harris, Aimee Mann, Neko Case, and many more perform for free in Golden Gate Park.


LovEvolution Civic Center Plaza; www.sflovevolution.org. 12pm, free. The event formerly known as Love Parade may have a new name, but the music, color, and fun remains.

OCT 3-4

World Veg Festival San Francisco County Fair Bldg, Lincoln and Ninth Ave; 273-5481, www.sfvs.org/wvd. 10am-6pm, $6. The San Francisco Vegetarian Society and In Defense of Animals present the 10th annual award-winning festival featuring lectures, cooking demos, vegan merchandise, and entertainment.


Castro Street Fair Castro at Market; www.castrostreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The festival founded by Harvey Milk returns with the theme "Come Get Hitched in the Center of the Gay Universe," in an effort to keep the embers burning in the fight for equal rights.

OCT 9-17

Litquake Locations vary; Times vary, most events free. To commemorate its 10-year anniversary, the storytelling festival kicks off with the "Black, White, and Read" ball and continues with nine days of lit-themed programming.

OCT 11

San Francisco Decompression Indiana Street; www.burningman.com. Break our your still-dusty Burning Man costumes and welcome hard-working BMORG staff back to "Real Life" with this BRC-themed street fair and festival.

OCT 15

West Fest Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park; www.2b1records.com. 9am-6pm, free. 2b1 Multimedia Inc., the Council of Light, and the original producer of Woodstock 1969 team up to celebrate Woodstock’s 40th anniversary with a free show featuring Country Joe, Denny Laine, Alameda All Stars, Michael McClure, and tons more.

OCT 16

WhiskyFest San Francisco Marriott, 55 Fourth St; 896-1600, www.maltadvocate.com. 6:30-9:30pm, $95. America’s largest whisky celebration returns to SF for the third year with more than 200 of the world’s rarest and most expensive whiskies.

OCT 17

Potrero Hill Festival Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro. 9am-5pm. This benefit for the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House features a jazz brunch catered by students of The California Culinary Academy and continues with a street fair along 20th Street between Missouri and Arkansas.

OCT 17-18

Treasure Island Music Festival Treasure Island; www.treasureislandfestival.com. Fri-Sat, 11am. $65-$249. The Bay Area’s answer to Coachella (minus the camping, heat, and Orange County douchebags) is back, this year featuring The Flaming Lips, The Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, The Streets, and about 100 other indie favorites and up-and-comers.


Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Main Street at Highways 1 and 92, Half Moon Bay. 9am-5pm, free. Jim Stevens and Friends will return to the world famous festival featuring music, crafts, parade, and children’s events.

OCT 23-24
Exotic Erotic Expo Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva; www.exoticeroticball.com. Fri, 2-10pm; Sat, 12-6pm; $20. Part Mardi Gras, part burlesque, and part rock concert, this two-day fest is a celebration of human sexuality and freedom of expression, with its crowning event the Exotic Erotic Ball on Saturday night.
Day of the Dead Starts at 24th and Bryant, ends at Garfield Park; www.dayofthedeadsf.org. 7pm, free. Celebrate this traditional Latin holiday – and SF institution — with a procession and Festival of Altars.
NOV 13-15
SF Green Festival San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St; www.greenfestivals.org Fri, 12-7pm; Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 11am-6pm. $15-$25. A joint project of Global Exchange and Green America, this three-day event features the best in green speakers and special events.
NOV 27-DEC 20
Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva; www.dickensfair.com. Fri-Sun, 11am-7pm. Check website for ticket prices. Channel Charles Dickens’ Victorian London with this 90,000 square-foot theatrical extravaganza.

The Guardian Drug Issue: a baggie full of links


The Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi crew — Rocker T, Irie Dole, I-vier, and Jah Yzer — photographed for our cover by Jeffery Cross.

Editor’s Note: People like getting high. Whether to just shake off the busy day with a joint or cocktail, or to break free of normal sensory reality and explore the wild beyond, drugs have always been part of the human experience, shaping our societies for good, ill, or a complex and fascinating mixture of both.

Media portrayals of drug use tend toward the extremes, telling either dark tales of dysfunction or else celebrating some counterculture. But we at the Guardian take a more nuanced view, recognizing the often-subtle role that narcotics and their related hysteria play in a wide variety of human endeavors.

That’s why the Guardian‘s Drug Issue isn’t contained in a single section, but laced throughout the paper, from Paul Krassner’s op-ed on the early acid pioneers all the way back to Dennis Harvey’s list of the top freakouts on film.

In the news section, we explore the growing movement to decriminalize marijuana, rising meth-related emergencies among women, and drug use at Burning Man. Super Ego takes a muddled journey to the bathroom stall, flashing back to the alphabet soup of yesterday’s dance floors, while in Lit, we hunt for shrooms and hallucinatory reading, and take a hard look at addiction in Bayshore. And in music, Shady Nate shares the purple you can drink.

Enjoy the trip, and we’ll see you on the other side. (Steve Jones)


>> Chronic debate: Marijuana decriminalization moves forward on several fronts

>> Fewer young people using drugs: When it comes to illicit substances, SF’s kids are alright.

>> Cranked up: Are party girls starting to catch up with the boys?

>> Packing for the trip: The art of taking drugs to — and at — Burning Man

>> LSD as gateway drug: Paul Krassner reflects on acid pioneers


>> Confessions of a Bo-Fessional: Leanin’ on codeine and promethazine with Shady Nate and Livewire

>> Alphabet soup: A brief meditation on the recent history of club drugs

>> The elephant in the shroom: It’s time to start being realistic about magic mushrooms

>> This land is Methland: A new book tracks a drug through America’s cracks and faultlines


>> Drunk on words: 12 hallucinogenic novels and 8 inebriated memory pieces

>> Made in USA: Under the overpass, Righteous Dopefiend finds a different kind of San Francisco drug story

>> Mothership connections: George Clinton has used, not abused, drugs

>> Letts dance: Tracy Letts’ play August: Osage County makes family dysfunction fun again

>> Time passages: Taking a listen to Coil’s music to take drugs to


>> This is your film on drugs: One film critic’s top movie freakout scenes

>> Hittin’ the tube: A&E’s Intervention — do junkies ever watch it?

>> Intoxicated rhythms: Recordings by musicians under the influence

Packing for the trip



San Francisco has always been a big recreational drug town, from its opium dens of yore to the pill-popping beats and acid-eating hippies to business elites doing bumps in bathrooms to ravers on E and cranked-out clubbers, not to mention the tattered street souls scoring fixes of crack or smack.

But in terms of sheer numbers of Bay Area partiers stocking up on the full illegal pharmacopoeia all at once, it’s hard to top right now, the month of August, the run-up to Burning Man.

Now I know what they say. This event — which started in San Francisco 23 years ago and now occurs in the Nevada boondocks — isn’t simply a big drug fest. Many burners don’t even do drugs anymore. It’s about "radical self-expression" and "radical self-reliance" and all kinds of other radical stuff, like a gift economy, public nudity, and massive fire cannons. Radical, dude.

But let’s get real, m’kay? Burning Man may be many things, but among those things is that it may be the best time and place on the planet to ingest mind-altering substances, something recognized even by attendees who don’t regularly do drugs — although most burners also do them here.

Why? Because DRUGS ARE FUN!!!

OK, so you’re getting ready to head to the playa. You’re part of a mid-sized Burning Man camp that’s giving away peach schnapps Sno-Cones from a big peach-shaped art car and you’re all calling yourself James. Or whatever. Not important.

You got your goggles and combat boots. Your bike is covered entirely in fake pink fur and wrapped in blue electro-luminescent wire. You’ve packed enough costumes for a month, from the fire-crotch thong to an elaborate Ming the Merciless getup, complete with death ray. Again, whatever, not important.

What is important are the drugs. You’re going to spend a week frolicking through the planet’s preeminent adult playground, past all manner of tripper traps and the weirdest, most mind-blowing shit you’ve ever seen, mixing with a multitude of beautiful souls with Cheshire Cat grins. You’ll want one too.

I suppose you could do it sober, and I’ve heard stories about people who do. But why? This particular party environment is a lifeless desert that sucks the moisture out of you and everything around you, so booze just isn’t the best choice of intoxicant. I’ve known many people who have ended up in the medical tent from drinking, but none from using drugs.

In fact, it’s safe to say that drug cocktails are the cocktails of Burning Man.

Everyone has his or her drug combo of choice, but mine is flipping out. Candy-flipping (LSD and ecstasy) or hippie-flipping (shrooms and ecstasy), depending on my mood and agenda. It’s the perfect combo: E for the euphoria and psychedelics to amp up the weirdness. It’s like a wild, joyful ride into a parallel universe.

On a big night, I’ll often re-up several times, taking another dose of one or the other every few hours, balancing my buzz like the pro I am. And then, as dawn approaches after a long night of flipping around the playa, that’s the best time to get into the Ketamine. Believe me, Special K is just the right dessert for a meal like that, bringing all the night’s adventures into a sort of twisted focus.

Of course, you’re going to want to vary your experiences night to night, and for that you’re going to need to be well stocked. One year, I took K, MDA, MDMA, acid, shrooms, pot, Foxy, nitrous oxide (maybe that doesn’t count), cocaine, 2CB, 2CT7, mescaline, and, well, I’m sure there were others. I think I counted 15 in all, all consumed over the course of nine days. At that level, you begin count sobriety as its own drug.

By the end of the week, once the tolerance has been ratcheted up by daily drug use, some burners start to really pile on the chemicals, trying to regain the high highs from the early part of the week. Burn night, the week’s penultimate party, can get downright ugly, walking zombies with glazed expressions and wan, serotonin-depleted smiles.

It can take weeks to fully recover your senses after a run like that. But we do come back. Humans are remarkably resilient creatures.

Serious week-long benders aren’t for everyone, but almost everyone dabbles in the desert. Newbies want to maximize their experience and veterans just know, including the fact that (no matter what they’re intentions going in) they’ll want drugs, which can be tough to score out there.

Cops with night-vision goggles and plain-clothed narcs prowl the playa and we’ve all heard outrageous stories of vile, sneaky busts. As a result, we’re so guarded around people we don’t know that uninitiated newbies sometimes sadly conclude that nobody does drugs at Burning Man, despite all the giddy grins and oversized pupils. Remember: you aren’t paranoid if they really are out to get you.

So we down our drugs carefully and stock up here. But most of us are professionals — more so in the working than party worlds — who don’t have dealers on speed dial. So right now, we’re all banding together to place ridiculously large orders — hundreds of pills, pounds of fungus, all just for personal use — with the handful of multidrug dealers who can make more money in August than the other 11 months put together.

But drugs busts don’t spike in August, and busts at or en route to Burning Man have also been flat in recent years, despite eager law enforcement. That’s because we’re smart, creative professionals who really don’t want to get caught. And we’ve devised crazy, inventive ways of hiding them — systems I won’t reveal. We all have drugs, but bring your dogs and all your cop knowledge, and you still won’t find them.

We are determined and we love our drugs.
For great advice on dosage and warnings about various drug combinations, consult www.erowid.org.

Editor’s Notes



People like getting high. Whether to just shake off the busy day with a joint or cocktail, or to break free of normal sensory reality and explore the wild beyond, drugs have always been part of the human experience, shaping our societies for good, ill, or a complex and fascinating mixture of both.

Media portrayals of drug use tend toward the extremes, telling either dark tales of dysfunction or else celebrating some counterculture. But we at the Guardian take a more nuanced view, recognizing the often-subtle role that narcotics and their related hysteria play in a wide variety of human endeavors.

That’s why the Guardian‘s Drug Issue isn’t contained in a single section, but laced throughout the paper, from Paul Krassner’s op-ed on the early acid pioneers all the way back to Dennis Harvey’s list of the top freakouts on film.

In the news section, we explore the growing movement to decriminalize marijuana, rising meth-related emergencies among women, and drug use at Burning Man. Super Ego takes a muddled journey to the bathroom stall, flashing back to the alphabet soup of yesterday’s dance floors, while in Lit, we hunt for shrooms and hallucinatory reading, and take a hard look at addiction in Bayshore. And in music, Shady Nate shares the purple you can drink.

Enjoy the trip, and we’ll see you on the other side.

Best of the Bay 2009: Shopping






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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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



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

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


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

2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

728 Divisadero, SF. www.theperishtrust.com


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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



Hold the pickle



SUPER EGO Enough with the gourmet street food carts, already. What this joint really needs is some gourmet street cocktail carts. I can barely see it now: fixie-powered blenders, home-brewed Fernet shots, "shit coke" smuggled Cuban rum margaritas with powdered-sugar rims and laminated dollar-bill straws, bacon-wrapped hot dog martinis, 5-HTP power boosts … Anyone for an heirloom finger banana and Prather Ranch taurine daquiri? No?


DJ Richie Panic promises "cupcakes, piñatas, condoms, fashion tragedies, and those that understand the power of songs like ‘Surfin’ Bird’ recontextualized for these fucked-up times" at this tastelessly amazing Wednesday banger. Trust.

Wednesdays, 10 p.m., free. Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, SF. www.beautybar.com


Mashups — in or out? The scene’s still lively, and this SF360 Film + Club night brings together SFs top mashers Adrian and Mysterious D and London’s Eclectic Method, with a screening of mashup doc RiP: A Remix Manifesto.

Thu/23, 7 p.m., $12–$17. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


The leader of the legendary, decade-old Turntables on the Hudson party just dropped the stellar, border-hopping Sun People (Eighteenth Street) disc, full of interesting, upbeat tribal tracks. "Positivity" is no longer a dirty word.

Fri/24, 10 p.m. –4 a.m., $10. Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom, SF. www.paradisesf.com


The heartthrobs of glitch-hop, now whittled down to a trio, bring their effed-up laser sound to Mezzanine’s tables, with L.A. future bass pioneer Daddy Kev opening up. Gangsta rap meets Burning Man? You better believe it.

Sat/25, 8:30 p.m., $22.50 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


The night before the raucous and naughty Up Your Alley fair, get your big gay fetish on with this giant man-meet for charity. Am I scared of the kiki party music by DJs Ted Eiel and Luis Cintron? Yes, sir! But scared equals horny here, hello.

Sat/25, 10 p.m. — 4 a.m., $40–$50.181 Eddy, SF. www.folsomstreetfair.org


It’s the 12-year reunion of promoters Ramiro Gutierrez and Mikey Tello’s progressive house and chunky techno outfit — get that post-old-school rave feeling back with good ol’ Doc Martin headlining and a roster of other well-knowns.

Sat/25, 9 p.m.- 4 a.m., $15. Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.unitingsouls.com


To the Batmobile (let’s go)! Wonder Woman Underoos are totally go at this huge, charitable outdoor affair. Heroic tunes by Opulent Temple, Afrolicious, Supersonic Salsa Collective, Pacific Sound, Smoove, and more mutant decks X-Men.

Sat/25, 1 p.m.–midnight, $10 with superhero costume, $20 without. Indiana and Cesar Chavez streets, SF. www.superherosf.com


This massive gathering of pretty much every Bay techno and house crew benefits NextAid.org, which helps AIDS-affected African kids. Staple, Green Gorilla, Stompy, Dirty Bird, Om … 15 DJs, 14 hours, perhaps a few oxygen tents.

Sun/26, noon–2 a.m., $10–$15. Cafe Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.cafecocomo.com


They don’t come any cheaper than drag queens Anna Conda and Monistat — or do they? We’ll find out when they host this koo-koo pageant where all the contestants must put themselves together (and fall apart) for less than the price of an, er, Estonian bride?

Tue/28, 10 p.m., $10. EndUp, 401 Sixth St., SF. www.endup.com

Collision Fest, Convergence Fest, and ‘Faux Real’


By Johnny Ray Huston

Dynasty Handbag: she’s real

Children, go where I send you. Seek out the wild women of the Mission Creek Music Festival Collision Fest.

Sure there are some sweet boys — any pleasure-seeker with eyes and ears should enjoy Mike Mantle of the Mantles (headlining July 22 at Hotel Utah), or Myles Cooper’s solo journey outside the Passionistas (opening a June 24 El Rio bill). But this year’s MCMF says here’s to the ladies who launch — the women who make new musical rules in order to break them.

Ryder Cooley reps recent Bay Area ingenuity on Thursday at the LAB. But the double bill bonanza crazier than any acid trip involving Tony Danza goes down same place, same time the next night, when Dynasty Handbag and Ann Magnuson take the stage. Dynasty girl Jibz Cameron is a treasure as classy as your mom’s favorite perfume — not even Lypsinka sinks her teeth into the art of lipsyncing with such ferocity. Try not pee yourself as she puts the p in performance and prepares you for the musical dramatics of Ms. Magnuson. What can be said about the queen of Bongwater, besides that on the cover of Power Of Pussy (Shimmy Disc, 1990), she was both outdoing and lampooning Burning Man before it even became a phenomenon?

Since Magnuson rubbed extremely pointy shoulders with Klaus Nomi back at the Mudd Club, it’s safe to assume she would be intrigued by the Nomi-esque stage theatrics of Fauxnique, a.k.a. Monique Jenkinson, who is bringing her recent show Faux Real back for a weekend stint outside of the Mission Creek rubric. Word has it that the show is brilliant — for real.

While Magnuson and Dynasty Handbag exemplify the Collision Fest’s cross-disciplinary antics, the Convergence Fest is a trip into filmdom. And in the case of Ira Cohen’s 1968 cinematic mirror-warp The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (Sun/19 at Artists’ Television Access), I do mean trip. Along with a documentary about Krautrock godheads Faust (Sat/18 at ATA), Cohen’s movie is one of MCMF’s screen gems.

FAUX REAL Thurs/16–Sat/18, 8 p.m. $20. Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St., SF.(415)704-3260, www.climatetheater.com


Collision Fest, Convergence Fest, and “Faux Real”


PREVIEW Children, go where I send you. Seek out the wild women of the Mission Creek Music Festival Collision Fest.

Sure there are some sweet boys — any pleasure-seeker with eyes and ears should enjoy Mike Mantle of the Mantles (headlining July 22 at Hotel Utah), or Myles Cooper’s solo journey outside the Passionistas (opening a June 24 El Rio bill). But this year’s MCMF says here’s to the ladies who launch — the women who make new musical rules in order to break them.

Ryder Cooley reps recent Bay Area ingenuity on Thursday at the LAB. But the double bill bonanza crazier than any acid trip involving Tony Danza goes down same place, same time the next night, when Dynasty Handbag and Ann Magnuson take the stage. Dynasty girl Jibz Cameron is a treasure as classy as your mom’s favorite perfume — not even Lypsinka sinks her teeth into the art of lipsyncing with such ferocity. Try not pee yourself as she puts the p in performance and prepares you for the musical dramatics of Ms. Magnuson. What can be said about the queen of Bongwater, besides that on the cover of Power Of Pussy (Shimmy Disc, 1990), she was both outdoing and lampooning Burning Man before it even became a phenomenon?

Since Magnuson rubbed extremely pointy shoulders with Klaus Nomi back at the Mudd Club, it’s safe to assume she would be intrigued by the Nomi-esque stage theatrics of Fauxnique, a.k.a. Monique Jenkinson, who is bringing her recent show Faux Real back for a weekend stint outside of the Mission Creek rubric. Word has it that the show is brilliant — for real.

While Magnuson and Dynasty Handbag exemplify the Collision Fest’s cross-disciplinary antics, the Convergence Fest is a trip into filmdom. And in the case of Ira Cohen’s 1968 cinematic mirror-warp The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (Sun/19 at Artists’ Television Access), I do mean trip. Along with a documentary about Krautrock godheads Faust (Sat/18 at ATA), Cohen’s movie is one of MCMF’s screen gems.

FAUX REAL Thurs/16–Sat/18, 8 p.m. $20. Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St., SF.(415)704-3260, www.climatetheater.com


Gold Club: Anniversary party shiny but not new


By Molly Freedenberg

Gold Club’s Website cover girl knows what you want (what you really, really want).

It all started with this:

Are you into booze???

What about food??

How do you feel about boobies, then??

Gold Club’s giving ’em all away next Thursday evening…

That was the email from a friend whose expertise – besides playing Magic, drawing octopi, and arguing with me about why Macs aren’t better than PCs – is finding free shit to do. This time? It was free nudity. And there was no way I was missing out.

Thing is, after several years of going to Burning Man – hell, even just of living in San Francisco – seeing naked people isn’t really a big deal. And after spending six years in sexually-progressive Portland, where going to the strip club was as normal as going to the local pub, the idea of seeing nudity in a bar isn’t a big deal either.

But I’ve never been to a strip club in San Francisco. Would it be weird, seedy, and full of mainstream guys ogling surgically-enhanced women, a la Southern California? Would San Francisco culture have seeped inside its walls, meaning tattooed dancers with plug piercings and pink hair? I had no clue what to expect.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my curiosity. When we got to the 5th Anniversary party at Gold Club, the line to get in snaked around the block. As per the invite’s instructions, most people had “dressed to impress,” most men in some version of business casual and most women in dresses and heels. There were more men than women, by far, but the ratio was considerably closer for this event than I suspected it normally would be.

Inside, the club felt like Vegas. Carpeted floors, special areas separated by artificial glass walls, their insides rippling with neon bubbles. An ice sculpture of a naked pole dancer slowly melted in front of a glassed-off smoking room (which, itself, was much like a slightly swanky airport smoking area). The one stage was surrounded by heavy-duted scaffolding, which held arena-worthy lights. And on the stage, from the event’s start at 7pm until its finish at 9pm, was a steady rotation of topless dancers.

Though heavier on neon and glass than I’d prefer, the decor of Gold Club is still classy enough for me to consider it a “gentleman’s club,” rather than a mere strip joint.

Shake your Bootie, burners, and buy the book


By Steven T. Jones
The fabulous DJ Adrian Roberts — of Bootie SF and Piss Clear fame — will be headlining a pair of equally fabulous events tonight and tomorrow night, the latter in support of his new book: Burning Man Live: 13 year of Piss Clear, Black Rock City’s alternative newspaper.

It’s a great book, and I’m not just saying that because I contributed a few essays to it (which, like almost everything in the book, were reprinted from issues of Piss Clear). If you attend Burning Man or are curious about the event, it offers a great overview from decidedly hedonistic point-of-view. And supporting the book release party tomorrow night at Mighty will be a bevy of burner all-stars, as if they just stepped off the pages, as well as a showing of the Burning Man film Dust & Illusions.

And tonight’s gig is the Guardian’s Explore SF party at Temple party, where Adrian’s Bootie SF will be squaring off against their Popscene nemesi. See you there.



P>I’ve been aware of the intersection between alternative culture and bicycles since 1996, when I saw my first tall bike at Reed College in Portland, Ore. Since then, I’ve seen bikes at Burning Man tricked out with paint, fun fur, and EL wire. Bikes at Critical Mass made to look like animals or disco balls. Bike-powered carnival rides at Coachella. And punk girls, dressed in pink, dancing on minibikes at Tour de Fat.

But it wasn’t until "The Art of the Bicycle," an underground multimedia art show and party held in a warehouse in the Mission District last May, that I came to understand how these were each parts of a greater whole — spokes in the wheel of a bicycle culture that centers around creativity, empowerment, and, above all, fun. It also became clear, as I sipped cheap beer and listened to live punk rock in an unpermitted space, that this culture was very different from the road bike culture my dad (and his Spandex shorts) was a part of in the 1980s — or even the activist culture my friends in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are in now.

No, this bike culture is something else. Rooted in DIY principles, punk and anarchist values, a good dose of geekiness, and rejection of the mainstream, the alternative bike culture that exists in San Francisco and beyond is an entirely different animal — and it’s growing up fast.

In the Bay Area alone, there’s Cyclecide, a bicycle club known for mutating found and rejected bikes into new forms and pedal-powered rides, as well as for their carnie aesthetic and rodeo-inspired antics; the Derailleurs, a group of women who dance on, with, and about bicycles; and the Trunk Boiz, an Oakland-based community of kids who pimp out their bicycles the way their older brothers might’ve pimped out their low-riders; and many others — all of whom operate outside the realm of traditional bike culture or politics.

And each of these are connected to a greater network of bicycle artists across the country and the world. The past decade has seen the birth of the Portland-based Bicycle Porn festival, which screened films showing the sexiness of (or near) bikes at Victoria Theater last November; as well as the New York City-based Bicycle Film Festival, which had its first West Coast showing in San Francisco several years ago and now visits 39 cities per year. There are now more than 120 bicycle clubs all over the world, with originals like Black Label growing so big it has 40 chapters of its own. And only five years after the first bicycle dance troupe, the Sprockettes, was formed in Portland, there are 11 bicycle dance troupes worldwide.

But who are these people? Why are they so inspired by bikes? And why make art with or about them, rather than just ride them? The answer is complex. For some, the bike is simply a beautiful machine, an engineering problem whose solution hasn’t changed much since the 1600s but whose application is infinite. For others, it’s the bike’s democracy that’s so appealing: cheap, accessible, and available to all kinds of riders. Some see the bike as a vehicle for change, undermining car culture and the politics involved in non-people-powered transportation.

But what seems to tie all these people together is a counterculture instinct. These are artists, musicians, and math geeks. They’re the same people who may have been drawn to skateboarding or surfing (before both became commercial and mainstream), punk shows, Dumpster diving, or even Stitch ‘n’ Bitch parties. It’s a community of people dissatisfied with the status quo and filled with the imagination and ambition to work outside it — if not against it.

"We wanted to have fun," said Jarico Reesce, about founding Cyclecide in 1997. "And we wanted to break every rule we could." (Molly Freedenberg)

Uphill climb



Bicyclists generally try to avoid hills, so one of the most popular bike routes in town is a series of turns called the Wiggle, which snakes along a valley through the Lower Haight. The route — a sort of bridge between east and west — is traveled by a growing number of bicyclists, from hipster kids on colorful fixies to grizzled seniors on comfortable touring bikes.

I ride the Wiggle every day. Coming from the Panhandle, the most harrowing approach is the three blocks I have to travel on busy Oak Street, competing for space with impatient motorists who often seem to forget that they’re wielding deadly weapons. Many times I’ve had cars zip by me within inches, honk (a very startling sound when you’re not wrapped in metal and glass), zoom up right behind me, or flip me off.

But then I turn right onto Scott Street — and the world suddenly changes. My heart rate drops and I breathe deeply. Rain or shine, there are almost as many bikes there as cars. The cyclists smile and nod at one another and even the motorists seem more respectful, sometimes waving us through the stop signs even when it’s their turn. It feels like an informally functional community. It’s how traveling around this city ought to be.

Even though the citywide percentage of vehicle trips taken by bicycle in San Francisco is still in single digits (compared to more than 20 percent in many European cities), and even though a court injunction that’s expected to be lifted this summer has banned any new bike projects in the city for the past three years, bicycling is booming in San Francisco, increasing by almost 50 percent since 2006. I’m never alone these days on my solo commute.

My decision to ride a bike and sell my car wasn’t about joining a movement. I just like to ride my bike, a simple joy that I really began to rediscover about 10 years ago. It’s fun, cheap, and an easy way to get exercise. And it connects me with my surroundings — the people, buildings, and streetscapes of this beautiful city — in a way I didn’t even realize I was missing when I drove.

But as pressing political and planetary realities have welled up around my personal transportation choice, I’ve come to see that I am part of a movement, one that encapsulates just about every major issue progressive San Franciscans care about: public health, environmentalism, energy policy, economics, urban planning, social justice, public safety, sustainability, personal responsibility, and the belief that we can make our communities better places, that we’re not captive to past societal choices.

As a bicyclist and a journalist, I’ve been actively engaged in these struggles for many years. I understand that bicyclists are criticized in many quarters as a vocal minority with a self-righteous sense of superiority and entitlement, and that I’m personally accused of bias for writing empathetically about bicyclists in dozens of bike-related stories.

Well, guess what? I don’t apologize. We are better than motorists, by every important measure. We use less space and fewer resources and create less waste and pollution. Bikes are available to almost every segment of society, and we don’t need to fight wars to power them. They improve the community’s health and happiness. And when we get into accidents, we don’t kill or maim the people we hit.

And you know what else? This really is going to be the Year of the Bicycle, as it’s been dubbed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the city’s largest grassroots civic organization, with more than 10,000 dues-paying members. There are more of us than ever, politicians now listen to us, and San Francisco is on the verge of the most rapid expansion of its bike network that any American city has ever seen.

This is the moment we’ve been moving toward for many years, a turning point that the Guardian has meticulously chronicled and proudly promoted. The bicycle has become a metaphor for progress that is long overdue. So mount up on May 14, Bike to Work Day, if you’d like to be a part of the solution to what’s ailing our city and planet.

I love my bike, and so do most people who see it. San Franciscans appreciate the little things, like someone who rides a silly-looking bike.

It started as a basic used mountain bike, but I styled it out for Burning Man a few years ago, covering it with heavy red acrylic paint that looks like stucco, a big basket covered in fake fur and ringed with electro-luminescent wire, and custom-welded high handlebars topped by a lizard horn.

Maybe you’ve seen me around town — and if so, maybe you’ve seen me blow through stop signs or red lights. Yes, I’m that guy, and I only apologize if I’m stealing a motorist’s right-of-way, which I try to avoid. Rob Anderson, who successfully sued San Francisco to force detailed studies of its Bike Plan (and blogs at district5diary.blogspot.com), regularly calls me and my ilk the "bike fanatics."

I’ve interviewed Anderson by phone a few times and tangled with him online many times. He’s actually a pretty well-informed and well-reasoned guy, except for his near pathological disdain for bicycling, which he considers an inherently dangerous activity that government has no business promoting and is not a serious transportation option.

But San Francisco would be a gridlocked nightmare without bikes. Transportation officials say this is already one of the most traffic-choked cities in the country (second after Houston), a big factor in Muni never reaching its voter-mandated 85 percent on-time performance. During peak hours, most Muni lines reach their holding capacity. Imagine 37,500 additional people (the estimated number of San Franciscans who primarily travel by bike) driving or taking Muni every day.

Conversely, imagine the transportation system if bicycling rates doubled and some of those bulky cars and buses became zippy bikes. Quality of life would improve; the air would be cleaner; we would emit far less greenhouse gases (transportation accounts for about half of the Bay Area’s carbon emissions); housing would get cheaper (building parking increases costs and decreases the number of housing units); pressure would decrease to drill for oil offshore and prop up despotic regimes in oil-rich countries; pedestrians would be safer (about a dozen are killed by cars here every year); and public health would improve (by reducing obesity and respiratory ailments associated with air pollution).

Increase bicycling rates even more, to the levels of Berlin, Copenhagen, or Amsterdam, and San Francisco would be utterly transformed, with many streets converted to car-free boulevards as the demand shifts from facilitating speeding cars to creating space for more bicyclists and pedestrians.

Sure, as Anderson points out, many people will never ride a bike. The elderly, those with disabilities, some families with kids, and a few other groups can credibly argue that the bicycle isn’t a realistic daily transportation option. But that’s a small percentage of the population.

For the rest of you: what’s your excuse? Why would you continue to rely on such wasteful and expensive transportation options — a label that applies to both cars and buses — when you could use the most efficient vehicle ever invented?

At the SFBC’s annual Golden Wheels Awards banquet on May 5, SFBC director Leah Shahum described a bike movement at the peak of its power, reach, and influence. "In the last two years, we’ve seen an unprecedented political embrace of bicycling," she said, praising Mayor Gavin Newsom for his championing of the Sunday Streets car-free space and calling the progressive-dominated Board of Supervisors "the most bike-friendly board we’ve ever seen."

In just a few years, the SFBC went from fighting pitched battles with Newsom over closing some Golden Gate Park roads to cars on Saturdays — a two-year fight that ended in a compromise after some serious ill-will on both sides — to Newsom’s championing an even larger Sunday Streets road closure on six days this spring and summer, even fighting through business community opposition to do so.

As with many Newsom initiatives, it’s difficult to discern his motivation, which seems to be a mixture of political posturing and a desire to keep San Francisco on the cutting edge of the green movement. Whatever the case, the will to take street space from automobiles — which will be the crux of the struggles to come — is probably greater now than it has ever been.

Because at the end of the day, Anderson is right: bicyclists do have a radical agenda. We want to take space from cars, both lanes and parking spaces, all over this city. That’s what has to happen to create a safe, complete bicycle system, which is a prerequisite to encouraging more people to cycle. We need to realize that designing the city around automobiles is an increasingly costly and unsustainable model.

"The streets do not have to be solely — or even primarily — for cars anymore," Shahum told an audience that included City Attorney Dennis Herrera, top mayoral aide Mike Farrah, and several members of the Board of Supervisors (including President David Chiu, a regular cyclist and occasional bike commuter), drawing warm applause.

Shahum was certainly correct when she called the politically engaged community of bicyclists "one of the strongest and most successful movements in this city," one she believes is capable of moving an ambitious agenda. "During the next six weeks, we have the opportunity to win a literal doubling of the city’s bike network."

She’s referring to the imminent completion of environmental studies that support the city’s Bike Plan, which will allow the courts to lift the nearly three-year-old injunction against new bike projects in the city. The SFBC has been aggressively organizing and advocating for the immediate approval of all 56 near-term bikeway improvements outlined in the plan, which have been studied and are ready to go, most with grant funding already in the bank.

"I think San Francisco is hungry for a higher use of public space," she said. "Imagine streets moving so calmly and slowly that you’d let your six-year-old ride on them."

That’s the standard advocated by the international car-free movement, which I interacted with last year when I covered the International Carfree Conference in Portland, Ore. These influential advocates believe bikeways should be so safe and insulated from fast-moving traffic that both the young and old feel comfortable riding them.

"Streets belong to us — they are the public spaces of the city — but they don’t feel like they belong to us," said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, a sponsor of Sunday Streets, which was honored at the Golden Wheel Awards. The streets, he told the crowd, "don’t need to be the objects of fear."

Later, as we spoke, Radulovich said it’s not enough to create narrow bikes lanes on busy streets. One of the great joys of riding a bike with a friend is to be able to talk as you ride, something he said transportation advocates around the world refer to as the "conversational standard."

Politically, there’s a long way to go before San Francisco embraces the conversational standard, the creation of permanent car-free bike boulevards, or traffic law changes that promote bicycling. Anderson and his ilk reacted with outrage last year when the Guardian and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission began discussing adopting Idaho’s bike laws here, in which bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs (see "Don’t stop: Bike lessons from Idaho," 5/14/08).

Yet until bicycling is taken more seriously as a real transportation option, all this talk about sustainability and green-everything is going to continue falling woefully short of its objectives.

The powerhouse environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council held a gala awards dinner May 9 at the California Academy of Sciences for its first Growing Green Awards, an effort to honor innovators in the growing sustainable food movement.

The award selection panel was chaired by journalist Michael Pollan, whose The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin Press, 2006) and other works have made him a leading voice calling for recognition and reform of a corporate food system that is unsustainable, unhealthy, and harmful to the environment.

That movement has garnered some high-profile support and attention, but has so far failed to effectively counter the influence of agribusiness interests, he told me. "We need an organization like the NRDC in the food area, or we need to get NRDC to embrace our issues."

The awards banquet showed that Pollan and his allies have made progress with the NRDC, which should be a natural ally of advocates for better food and transportation systems, two realms that have the biggest impact on this country’s natural resources.

But when I left the ceremony as hundreds of guests were being seated for dinner, I rode away — on the only bicycle there.