Burning Man

Go green!



"Arcadia: 2007" California Modern Gallery, 1035 Market; 821-9693, www.fuf.net. Mon/23, 6pm, $125-$350. This soiree and art auction — featuring work by more than 100 artists and hosted by Jeffrey Fraenkel, Gretchen Bergruen, and Thomas Reynolds — will benefit Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit organization that provides financial, technical, and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups that want to plant and care for trees.

"Away Ride Celebrating Earth Day" Meet at McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park; (510) 849-4663, www.borp.org. Sun/22, 1:30pm, free with preregistration. The SF Bike Coalition and the Bay Area Outdoor Recreation Program join forces to host this moderately paced ride open to all levels of riders. They provide a helmet and a handcycle or tandem bike. You bring a sack lunch and water. Kids also get to decorate their wheels — bike, wheelchair, or skate.

"Biomimicry: The 2007 Digital Be-In" Mezzanine, 444 Jessie; www.be-in.com. Sat/22, 7pm-3am, $15 presale, $20 door, $100 VIP. Turn on, tune in, log out. In the spirit of the 1967 human be-in that epitomized San Francisco’s hippie generation and made Haight Ashbury famous, counterculture artists and activists have been hosting "The Digital Be-In" for 15 years. This year’s combination symposium-exhibition-multimedia-entertainment extravaganza focuses on Biomimicry as it relates to technology, urban development, and sustainability. There’ll be no Timothy Leary here, but the event will feature live music, DJs, projections, and appearances by modern hippie celebs such as Free Will astrologer Rob Brezsny and Burning Man founder Larry Harvey. Or join in the simultaneous virtual be-in in the Second Life online world. The revolution will be digitized.

"Earth Day Fair" Ram Plaza, City College of San Francisco, 50 Phelan; 239-3580, www.ccsf.edu. Thurs/19, 11am-1:30pm, free. View information tables set up by the CCSF and citywide environmental organizations, as well as a display of alternative fuel vehicles.

"EarthFest" Aquarium of the Bay, 39 Pier; 623-5300, www.aquariumofthebay.com. Sun/22, 12-4pm, free. View presentations and engage in activities provided by 20 organizations all dedicated to conservation and environmental protection, with activities including live children’s music, a scavenger hunt, and giveaways.

"McLaren Park Earth Day" John McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, 40 John F. Shelley; www.natureinthecity.org. Sun/22, 11am-7pm, free. What would Jerry do? Commemorate the park’s 80th anniversary with an all-day festival featuring birding hikes, habitat restoration projects, wildflower walks, tree planting, an ecostewardship fair, food booths, a live reptile classroom, puppetry, performance, music, storytelling, and chances to make art.

"$1 Makes the World a Greener Place" Buffalo Exchange local stores; 1-866-235-8255, www.buffaloexchange.com. Sat/21, all day, free. Buy something, change the world. During this special sale at all Buffalo Exchange stores, proceeds will benefit the Center for Environmental Health, which promotes greener practices in major industries. Many sale items will be offered for $1.

"People’s Earth Day" India Basin, Shoreline Park, Hunters Point Boulevard at Hawes, SF. Sat/21,10am-3pm. What better place to celebrate Earth Day than with a community of victorious ecowarriors? Help sound the death knell for the PG&E Hunters Point power plant with events and activities including a community restoration project at Heron’s Head Park, the presentation of the East Side Story Literacy for Environmental Justice theater production, and a display about Living Classroom, an educational and all-green facility expected to break ground this year. Want to get there the green way? Take the no. 19 Muni bus or the T-Third Street line.


"Berkeley Earth Day" Civic Center Park, Berk; www.hesternet.net. Sat/21, 12-5pm, free. Earth Day may not have been born in Berkeley (it was actually the idea of a senator from Wisconsin), but it sure lives here happily. Celebrate at this community-sponsored event, which features a climbing wall, vegetarian food, craft and community booths, valet bike parking, and performances by Friends of Shawl-Anderson Youth Ensemble, Alice DiMicele Band, and Amandla Poets.

"Earth Day Celebration" Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds, Sausalito; 339-3900, www.baykidsmuseum.org. Sat/21, 10am-5pm, free with museum admission. Happy birthday, dear planet. This Earth Day connect your family to the wonders of &ldots; well &ldots; you know, with a variety of special activities, including seed planting and worm composting, birdhouse building, a bay walk and cleanup, and presentations about insects from around the planet. For a small fee, also enjoy a birthday party for Mother Earth with games, face painting, crafts, and cake.

"Earth Day on the Bay" Marine Science Institute, 500 Discovery Parkway, Redwood City; (650) 364-2760, sfbayvirtualvoyage.com/earthday.html. Sat/21, 8am-4pm, $5 suggested donation. This is the one time of year the institute opens its doors to the public, so don’t miss your chance for music, mud, and sea creatures — the Banana Slug String Band, the Sippy Cups, fish and shark feeding, and programs with tide pool animals, to be exact. You can also take a two-hour trip aboard an MSI ship for an additional $10.

"Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Program" California State Parks; 258-9975 for one near you, www.calparks.org. Sat/21, times vary, free. The best way to celebrate Earth Day is to get involved. Volunteers are needed at California State Parks throughout the area for everything from planting trees and community gardens to restoring trails and wildlife habitats, and from installing recycling bins to removing trash and debris. All ages welcome.

"E-Waste Recycling Event" Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton, Pleasanton; 1-866-335-3373, www.noewaste.com. Fri/20-Sun/22, 9am-3pm, free. The city of Pleasanton teams up with Electronic Waste Management to collect TVs, computers, monitors, computer components, power supplies, telephone equipment, scrap metal, wire, and much more. There is no limit to how much you can donate, and everything will be recycled.

"The Oceans Festival" UC Berkeley, Upper Sproul Plaza (near Bancroft and Telegraph), Berk; Fri/20, 5pm-7pm, donations accepted. This event, sponsored by CALPIRG, Bright Antenna Entertainment, and West Coast Performer magazine, is meant to bring awareness to the problem of plastic in our oceans and to raise money, through donations and food sales, for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Featuring music and dance performances, as well as presentations by a variety of environmental organizations.

"People’s Park 38th Anniversary Celebration" People’s Park, Berk; www.peoplespark.org. Sun/22, 12-6pm, free. Celebrate the park with poetry, speakers, music, art and revolution theater, political tables, a Food Not Bombs lunch, clowns, puppets, and activities for children.


"Green Capital: Profit and the Planet?" Club Office, 595 Market; 597-6705. Wed/18, 6:30pm, $8-15. Can sustainable business renew our economy and save the planet? Can activists ethically exploit market systems? Environmental pioneers, from corporate reps to conservationists, will bust the myths and reveal realities of profitable environmental solutions at this panel discussion cosponsored by INFORUM; featuring Peter Liu of the National Resource Bank, author Hunter Lovins (Natural Capitalism), Steven Pinetti of Kimpton Hotels, and Will Rogers of the Trust for Public Land; and moderated by Christie Dames.

"An Inconvenient Truth 2.0 — A Call to Action" California State Bldg, 455 Golden Gate. Thurs/19, 6:30-9pm, $5 suggested donation. An updated version of Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation will be screened by Sierra Club director Rafael Reyes, then followed by a discussion of the impact of global warming and a progress report on national legislation by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

"The Physics of Toys: Green Gadgets for a Blue Planet" Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon; 561-0399, www.exploratorium.edu. Sat/21,11am-3pm, free with admission. The monthly event focuses on the earth this time around, giving children and adults an opportunity to build pinwheel turbines and other green gadgets. Materials provided.


"Agroecology in Latin America: Social Movements and the Struggle for a Sustainable Environment" La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 847-1262, www.mstbrazil.org. Wed/18, 7:30pm, donations accepted. Get an update on Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, the alliance between environmental and social justice movements in the Americas, struggles for Food Sovereignty, organized peasant response to global agribusiness, opposition to genetically engineered crops, and more. Featuring guest speaker Eric Holt-Gimernez, executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.


"Bio-Mapping" Southern Exposure Gallery, 2901 Mission, SF; (415) 863-2141, www.sf.biomapping.net. Sat/21, 6:30pm, $8-15. Everyone says going green feels good — here’s the chance to prove it. Participate in Christian Nold’s social-art project by strapping into a GPS device and skin censors. Then take a walk or a bike ride while the sensors record your feelings and location. Nold uses the data to make an "Emotion Map" of the city, which you can check out online. (Can’t make Saturday? Nold’s also there Thursdays and Fridays through April 28).

"ReCycle Ryoanji" San Francisco Civic Center Plaza; blog.greenmuseum.org/recycle-ryoanji. Thurs/19, 4-6pm, free. Judith Selby Lang, local students, and visitors to the Asian Art Museum have sewn together thousands of white shopping bags to make their own version of Japan’s most famous and celebrated garden as both an art exhibition and community education project. The 18-foot-by-48-foot scale replica of the raked sand and rock garden can be seen at this reception for the project and on display across from City Hall until Tues/24. (Take that, American Beauty.)

"Green Apple Music and Arts Festival" Venues vary; www.greenapplefestival.com. Fri/20-Sun/22, prices vary. Green Apple combines fun and education with a three-day, ecofriendly music festival in cities across the country. San Francisco’s festival includes shows by Yonder Mountain String Band, New Mastersounds, Electric Six, Trans Am, and others at venues across the city, as well as a free concert at Golden Gate Park. Green Apple provides venues with environmentally friendly cups, straws, napkins, paper towels, and compostable garbage bags, as well as doing its best to make the entire festival carbon neutral.


"San Francisco New Living Expo" Concourse Exhibition Center, Eighth Street at Brannan; 382-8300, www.newlivingexpo.com. April 27-29, admission varies according to day and event. Touting 275 exhibitors and 150 speakers (including Starhawk, Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and ganja-guru Ed Rosenthal), the sixth annual version of this event promises to energize, educate, awaken, and expand consciousness. You won’t want to miss the environmental activism panel discussion April 28 at 3pm — or the exhibition hall’s special crystal area.


"Harmony Festival" Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa; www.harmonyfestival.com. June 8-10, $125 plus $50 per car camping pass. This festival is so green it’s almost blue — in fact, its tagline is "promoting global cooling." There’s a waste diversion effort, a whole Green Team monitoring the EcoStation, compost cans, and tips on how to be an ecofriendly attendee. Plus, it just looks like fun. With Brian Wilson, the Roots, and Common performing and Amy Goodman and Ariana Huffington speaking, how can you miss it?

"Lightning in a Bottle" Live Oak Campground, Santa Barbara; 1-866-55-TICKET, www.lightninginabottle.org. May 11-13. $95-120. It ain’t just a party. It’s a green-minded, art-and-music-focused campout in a forest wonderland. Organized by Los Angeles’s the Do Lab with participation from tons of SF artists, this three-day event is powered by alternative energy, offers ecoworkshops in everything from permaculture to raw foods, and encourages rideshares — including a participant-organized bus trip from San Francisco. Also featuring performances by Freq Nasty, Bassnectar, Vau de Vire Society, El Circo, and other DJs and artists from San Francisco and elsewhere, LIB attempts to change the precedent that festival fun has to be ecologically disastrous.

"Sierra Nevada World Music Festival" Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville; www.snwmf.com. June 22-24, $125 plus $50 per car camping pass. Peace is green, right? I mean, what about Greenpeace? And peace is what this festival, which promotes "conscious" music, is all about. Plus, a range of representatives of environmental and social issues will be tabling at the festival — and registering voters.


"Burning Man" Black Rock City, Nev.; (415) TO-FLAME, www.burningman.com. Aug 27-Sept 3, $250-$280. With its Leave No Trace philosophy and its hippie roots, Burning Man has always been greener than most. But this year it’s getting even more explicitly so with the theme the Green Man, focusing on humanity’s relationship to nature (even though there is no nature on the dry lakebed surface). A pessimist might suggest this year’s theme is just another excuse to waste resources on leaf-themed art cars and that "Leave No Trace" usually translates to "Leave Your Trash in Reno." But an optimist might say this is Burning Man acknowledging and trying to address such issues. Either way, air out your dust-filled tent and pack some chartreuse body paint — it’s going to be an interesting year in Black Rock. *

NOISE: Burned out in Oakland


Guardian intern Sam Devine weighs in on this weekend’s Dustfish Burning Man camp benefit:

The Oakland Police Department busted the Dustfish Burning Man camp benefit party Sunday, March 11, early in the morning. It was a massive party of 3,000 in a warehouse on Mandela Parkway. The building was so huge that a charter bus company, seemingly indifferent to the bash, was coming and going from another part of the warehouse.

Thelony on Rye opened, playing strange, noisy bebop. Then came Dr. Abacus, playing a similar but grooving jazz that had the room jitterbugging and hopping around. In a side area, DJs spun drum and bass and industrial garage while people banged on a steel statue of a stick figure with large metal bolts.

Fuzzy hats were all around. A boat, converted to a hot tub, was filled with naked partygoers. Spiky, steel columns were licked with fire on one side of the main floor. Colossal metal statues of men and women decorated the space. There was a small wine bar inside a miners shack. Strange. It was Burning Man-ed out.

Shortly after Dr. Abacus finished, the police moved in for the first time. The East Bay Rats, security for the night, supposedly couldn’t do much to stop them. There were reports of 10 police cars. The music stopped, and the lights came on. But the party continued.

I smoked a spliff and drank a Tecate while talking with a man named Mathew T. Whatley, esq. He claimed to operate a legal establishment, having attended Golden Gate University and a handful of other schools, one in Hong Kong. He said, while in China, he would regularly go about with a foreign ambassador, abusing diplomatic privilege to score free lunches. Fantastic.

The police finally came in at about 4 a.m. (or really 3 a.m. because of daylight savings time). They walked around, taking pictures. Seemingly cool with everything, they talked with a few people.

The room cleared out. The party was over.

The new woof


› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO "If you’re snorting coke out of the hollow end of a Parliament filter, you just don’t care anymore," quoth supervixen Beccalicious, standing outside Madrone Lounge, spattered by a light drizzle. But I did care — I do care. The night’s a mosaic of throbbing subbacultchas, and there’re far too many amateur jibber-jabberers hopped up on Bolivian marching powder out there already, waxing the floor with their tongues. Shut up and dance, say I. There’s spittle dripping from your numb mustache.

Thus concludes the soapbox moment portion of our broadcast. Anybody got a smoky bump?

I was heading to Basket, the monthly bear party at the Transfer. It was its last night there before moving to Eight in SoMa. The Transfer was suddenly sold three weeks ago under curious circumstances — its future is still in doubt — but Basket’s promoters, Kuma SF, had already planned a move because the place was too darn small and hot for them. (Old bear joke: "How was the bear bar?" "It was packed! There must have been 10 guys there!") My experience bore that out. There were a lot more than 10 hirsute revelers in attendance, and I couldn’t even squeeze in, let alone see in — the windows were steamier than Eros with a pipe leak. But from all the rumbling of the sidewalk to the boom of techno-lite beats, I knew it was a jammin’ jamboree.

What the heck happened to the bear community? Last time I looked — and, being the desirable cub that I am, I did a lot of looking — it was all flannel shirts, hairy backs, classic rock and country tunes, and an aversion to hip-hop and house that often bordered on racism. Bear with a capital "B" has been around for more than 15 years now — once an important corrective to mainstream images of gay men in the ’90s, it’s still going strong. (This weekend’s International Bear Rendezvous, hosted by Bears of SF, will flood the streets with yee-hawin’ roly-polies.) But any movement that fronted a chubby Marlboro Man masculinity — one composed, in reality, of screaming queens elated at the prospect of unselfconsciousness — was bound to warp into parody.

"It all started out with a philosophy of inclusion," says Orme Dominique of Kuma, which is hosting a giant glamourama IBR after-party, Kavity. "But there was all this rejection of youth culture that second-generation bears found too restrictive. We wanted to dance and be really creative outside the flannel-and-boots thing. A lot of the older bears became the pigs in Animal Farm."

There’s been some kicking against the C&W aesthetic for a while. Cute cub DJ Jew-C hosted a pumping bear-oriented house party at the Powerhouse in the early ’00s, and hairy dreamboat DJ Jonathan’s been swathing bars like 440 Castro (formerly Daddy’s) with hard techno for what seems like forever. The disco-tinged, mess o’ fun biweekly Planet Big at the Stud is almost two years old — and is throwing two big parties during the IBR. And then there’s Sweat, the giant bear monthly event from Gus Presents and Castro Bear (happening twice during the IBR), which many new bear promoters view as the standard their parties play against.

Kuma, which started out, according to Dominique, as the "Burning Man camp of Lazy Bear Weekend," now has several bear shindig-throwing chapters around the US. The success of its SF parties and the twice monthly, bass-heavy after-hours Bearracuda at Deco — thrown by notorious drag queen Rentecca and her luscious bf, Rob, and also hosting an IBR after-party — confirm the emergence of a new ursine outlook: bears don’t need to be line dancers to hit the floor. Just make sure there’re snacks.

Of course, with all the up-and-coming bear name DJs, shirtless stomping, and up-till-dawn antics, the new gen may be in danger of becoming the circuit queens their forebears railed against, but the promoters seem to be doing their best to prevent that by keeping in mind the prime reason for partying: wild fun. It’s Bear 2.0, and I think I’m absolutely intrigued. *






Fri/16, 9 p.m.–4 a.m., $18 presale, $35 door


1015 Folsom, SF

(415) 431-7444



Fri/16, 9 p.m.–2 a.m.; Sun/17, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.; $5


399 Ninth St., SF

(415) 863-6623





First and third Sat., 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $5


510 Larkin, SF

(415) 346-2025



San Francisco lovin’


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› culture@sfbg.com

Oh! What a web of tangled flesh we postbohemian, rapidly gentrifying, pandemic-aware, pre-spray-on-condom and mint-flavored chewable RU-486 San Francitizens weave! Folks still trot out the ol’ misty-eyed cynicisms: romance is dead, sex is boring, love is impossible, "I’m too fat"…. But that doesn’t stop ’em from doing it until their knees ache when they get the winky come-on (or hoping for Mr. or Ms. Right to ease the tax burden). Sure, in the age of the Internetz, sex is now a shopping trip — just log on for huge fake tits (aisle four), smart-mouthed ghettosexuals (aisle six), muffin tops gon’ wild (aisle nine), or guys who inject a gallon of saline into their shaved balls (clean up, aisle five). No need to be a bitch or a ho — you’re already both on the webcam, dude. Don’t forget your password.

But still. Love exists, right? Christina Aguilera tells us so. And love leads to sex. Or to real sex. Or the other way around. Something. And don’t even ask about the whole monogamy thing! Can’t it all be easier? Aren’t we robots yet? No, not yet. For good or ill we live in a magical place where impulse meets emotion in technology’s dark corner and heads upstairs with it to a small room marked "free love" ($29 an hour) — leaving behind a trail of used rubbers, hopefully. Below we delve into the sex-and-romance pros and cons of some especially San Franciscan things. Maybe it’ll help make things a little clearer. Maybe!


Carrie Bradshaw, Marissa Cooper, and Dr. Meredith Grey have their trumped-up Trumps, Shin-die schlubs, and Doc McDreamys, but what do so many straight, single women get in the Bay bohemia otherwise known as America’s gay mecca? Commitmentphobic Peter Pan–ders, crusty granola cronies who only cruise twentysomethings, workaholic geeks who seldom see the light of day (apart from the blazing orbs of Burning Man), and windburned adventurers with a never-ending thirst to mountain bike, lick that downward dog, and hike the closest REI. Face it: single straight sistahs have the toughest lot in this town. A 2004 San Francisco magazine story estimated that unmarried straight 20- to 44-year-old SF men outnumbered their female counterparts by about 12,000. But I bet most eligible gals feel — nay, know — that the ratio is weighted in the dudes’ favor. It doesn’t help that years of STD- and AIDS-inspired social conservatism seem to have spurred peeps and perps to hook up early and less often — despite our fair city’s freewheeling rep when it comes to sex roles, relationships, and gender politics. San Francisco’s single chicks sometimes find themselves wondering, "Whatever happened to dating? Where did everyone go? Is it my breath?" When one male friend told me his ex’s claim that she’s dating multiple fellahs in various NorCal cities, my bullshit detector started honking. Tell it to all the attractive, smart, independent, and nubile femme singletons I know who are sitting home Saturday nights.

Pros: Never having to worry about getting macked on at guycentric sports events, shows, and construction sites. Women are always free at the Power Exchange. There’s sisterhood in desperation. You can always join a girl gang and accost hapless men walking alone in dark parking lots. That yawning bore across the table is looking better every sec.

Cons: Dating. Shooting down poseurs who are into shopping for the pick of the litter. Resigning yourself to your anemic online-dating shopping options. And how depressing is it to go to a sex club by yourself? That yawning bore across the table is looking better every sec. (Kimberly Chun)


I worked security at the Endup for four years. As a straight guy, I found myself jealous of my gay compatriots out there on the dance floor, nuts to butts, letting it all hang out. Obviously, gay men have committed, complicated, and drama-filled relationships too. But boys will be boys, and it seemed things were so much simpler and, pardon the pun, more straightforward for gay guys in San Francisco. Less of a mating ritual and more mating. It’s the classic straight guy’s lament: if women acted like dudes, I’d be getting laid right now. Or, as Michael Dean once said in a Bomb song, "The girl that I miss is just me in a dress." Still, after 15 years in San Francisco, I’m starting to see the bonuses of being single, straight, and not so young in a city known worldwide for Rice-a-Roni, sourdough bread, and buffed-out, hunky young gay guys.

Pros: At 35, I may actually be starting to enjoy dating. No one’s lugging around that "my heart was broken, and I can’t go through that again" cross anymore. We’re all adults here, and like the young, restless, and gay, we’ve gotten in touch with our biological needs. Thirtysomething Bay City rollers know they need to get off and they don’t have to meet their soul mate to do it. Sure, the roller coaster of love is one hell of a ride, but sometimes it’s enough to get Indian food, hit a bar with a good jukebox, rent a movie, go home, and fuck.

Cons: People really do get married. Which means the thirtysomething dating pool shrinks and you can end up dating someone younger. This might seem like a pro, until you try to make a pop culture reference on a date and hear crickets chirp. There’s not a lot of eye-to-eye going on when your love interest ejects Mania, by the Vibrators, to put on Green Day. (Duncan Scott Davidson)


Oh, the burden! Straight guys think you get laid more than them. Straight girls think you get laid more than them. Both of them think you like turtlenecks and cologne. It’s horrifying! And history! Here you are over the rainbow, in the fiercely romantic-looking burg all those haters in high school screeched at you to move to, and you’re scrounging for any bit of affection you can find among the forest of online profiles and the coral reef of lopsided haircuts. Plus you’ve got billboards screaming "AIDS!" in your face on every corner. It’s enough to drive a lonely fag to the gym or a dyke to the (one) bar, if that weren’t just as fucked-up a defense mechanism as huddling with your old Smiths EPs and a tankard of Merlot in your cubby. But c’mon, at least you can walk home from your trick’s house….

Pros: Be all you can be! Journey of discovery! There’s a new opportunity around every corner. The hottest FTMs on the face of the planet. Boys aren’t wearing so much product as in 2002. Being the envy of the gay world. Invisible lipstick lesbians. Trash drag. Crystal meth played out (pretty much). Domestic partnership laws (if only …). Gay love is real (ask your serial monogamous friends). Hey, at least it’s not Chelsea!

Cons: Too many to choose from. No need to grow up. Too many bottoms. Ever-present feeling you should get more tattoos — or is that trying too hard? Everyone wants to be your fag hag. Monogamous or "negotiated"? Holier-than-thou activists, hotter-than-thou street life. "What if I’m really straight?" Knowing everyone’s as shy as you but not being able to do anything about it. (Marke B.)


What a difference a few screaming headlines make. Throw in a Scientology siren, underage cocktail gulpers, and a couple plowed society babes with fiercely straightened fright wigs and outta-hand cheekbones — and ya got yerself a mayor! All we need are some flesh-eating pigs and anesthesia-free surgery to dub this the return of the wild, wild, perhaps very wild, especially when tanked, west — a Deadwood of sorts, if that didn’t imply a kind of flaccid fumbling. Nonetheless, let’s call it the latest in a grand tradition of San Francisco’s romantic and sexual politico-explorers from days of yore — from Harvey Milk to Willie Brown — that we have Mayor Gavin Newsom finally unchained from his legal-eagle Victoria’s Secret model missus and free to allegedly cruise Cow Hollow’s finer drinking establishments after hours, as rumor has long had it. Oh, the list is long and ever growing: encompassing the CSI: Miami starlet and the city mag editor eager to vet her boy’s cover pic alike. Now comes the real test of testosterone: whether Newsom can summon that ironclad Clintonesque charm to weather the latest scandal. My question for the Gavinator: what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Pros: The ever-changing cast of hotties at parties and photo ops sure dresses up society pages. No more tacky Harper’s Bazaar fashion spreads. Plenty of heavily gelled, aerodynamic-looking helmet hair. The notion of a Scientologist mayor clears rooms. We can now use that hallowed line, "Is that your Plump Jack — or are you just excited to see me?" Feeling privy to the secret life of frat boys. He’s never boring.

Cons: Kennedy comparisons are starting to grate. Clinton comparisons are starting to chafe. And there’s too much chafing in general. The ever-changing cast of hotties is starting to resemble a sale crowd riding the revolving door at Neiman. Paris Hilton?! And we won’t be shocked to see Britney Spears stumbling out of a mayoral Four Seasons suite next. He’s so predictably not boring that it’s starting to get tiresome. (Kimberly Chun)


You see them everywhere but mainly on the Muni and at medical marijuana rallies. Some of them look saintly but a little crazed, as if they see a spaceship in your hair. Others resemble your sexy-yet-matronly high school French teacher, smiling indulgently but always ready to rap your knuckles with a day-old baguette if you get your future perfects wrong. Still others seem like they can’t wait to explode with rage at … well, anything, really. All of them are lovable in a historical light. When they’re off their meds — not so much. They’re living monuments to the golden age of free love, and, as medical science advances and rent-control laws stand, they’re not going away anytime soon. (Can young people afford to move here anymore anyway?) They also have a world of sensual knowledge to impart.

Pros: Mother figures, father figures, lusty lovers, spiritual guides — these Baudelairean kickers against the pricks can do it all — and they bake a mean hash brownie to get it all started. Plus: years of experimentation have made them freaky. You may have to crank up the solar defibrillator, but they’re experts in how to "get your motor running."

Cons: Occasional bad-trip flashbacks. Always slightly wary. Strawberry-scented oxygen tanks. Pillow talk = Allen Ginsberg stories. Hairy. Half tantric. Forgot if they put out candles. Ponytail or braid can get caught in teeth. (Marke B.)


Burning Man is a sexual and emotional cauldron. Liberally mix together a world of sensory delights, a spirit of reckless abandon, beautiful exposed bodies everywhere, sudden sandstorms that send you scurrying into the nearest tent or trailer, countless peak experiences, exposure to a myriad of lifestyles and communities, and 40,000 people with time on their hands, goodwill in their hearts, and lust in their loins, and it’s no surprise that people end up hooking up left and right. This place oozes sexual energy while stripping away our emotional defenses and leaving us exposed to Cupid’s arrows.

Pros: Whatever you want, it’s here, often with no strings attached. When people come back from the playa all blissed-out and saying how it changed their lives, that’s usually not just the drugs talking. People do things they wouldn’t do in the everyday world — and then they do it again and again. And if you follow the sound advice of veteran burners to leave your expectations at home and just be open to the experience, then you’re also in the ideal place to not just get laid but truly find love. Believe it or not, I know of lots of lasting, loving marriages between people who met on the playa.

Cons: All the things that make Burning Man so conducive to sex and romance can also create problems. People get emotionally splayed by the often overwhelming nature of daily life on the playa. They’re vulnerable to everything from small slights that get exaggerated to the predators who invariably exist in any town. Couples get tested. Singles can at times feel lonely and desperate. Everybody has a few hard mornings after. And as a practical matter, dust gets everywhere — and I mean everywhere. (Steven T. Jones)


The Bay has a long and luxuriously twisted history of female sexual empowerment, full of Brights, Queens, Dodas, Califias, Blanks, Chos, and other sparkling heroines of don’t-do-it-and-die philosophy — some of whom have gone on to become heroes, even. The two major, classic phalanxes of gyno-horno-positivism to have arisen from the mists of all that groundwork are the Lusty Lady and Good Vibrations. The Lady, currently a worker-owned stripper co-op, has been baring a broad variety of intelligent, worldly-wise physical types for almost 30 years, and Good Vibrations, a women-centered chain of erotica shops that offer a plethora of workshops and training sessions for both women and men, has helped make vibrators the Tupperware of the new millennium. Despite the ubiquity of silicone enhancements and Girls Gone Wild antics in today’s culture, the Lusty Lady and Good Vibrations try to keep it real by focusing on the pleasures inherent in strong, natural femininity. In an era when guys are being forced like never before to question their physical attributes and sexual virility, thanks to size-queen porn and erectile dysfunction spam, the gals — who’ve had to deal with that kind of shit forever — may have a bit of an upper hand, self-image-wise, thanks in part to these two affirming San Francisco institutions. Not that it’s a competition.

Pros: Lusty Lady’s the best place to take your gay friends for a fabulous girls’ night out. Everything I know about labias I learned from Good Vibrations.

Cons: I have to hand-wash all my plates because my dishwasher’s usually full of Good Vibrations dildos. I have to hand-wash all my clothes because I spend all my quarters in the booths at the Lusty Lady. (Marke B.)


Right up the Peninsula from Silicon Valley, we find ourselves in techie heaven. Most of the global advances in online technology burst first and foremost from our fertile area. The bust and boom that locked the Bay in a violent coital grasp in the early ’00s exhausted us, but Web 2.0’s got us all atingle again. This time we’re sure we won’t make the same mistakes. We’ll keep it social, we’ll keep it personal. Most of all, we’ll keep it sexual. Thanks to advances in digital production and online distribution — and our wondrously pervy nature (not to mention our desirable market) — the porn industry in San Francisco has exploded. The city is now home to a majority of the biggest gay porn companies and quite a few straight and fetish ones.

The most barefaced manifestation of the lucrative intersection of porn and technology is the purchase of the ginormous Armory in the Mission by fetish header Kink.com to house its offices, studios, and online operations. (Personally, I can’t wait for them to open a Kink Café in there as well. St. Andrew’s croissandwich, anyone?) This may be a harbinger of things to come. We’re not exactly holding our collective breath for Bang Bus to take over the LucasArts HQ in the Presidio or for the former Candlestick Park to be rechristened Naked Sword Arena — but hey, it could happen. Alas, the fortuitous marriage of porn and technology may be about to hit the skids. Hi-def can reveal a whole lot of ass pimples and nipple lifts — Blu-ray killed the porn star? Then again, it might just provide more employment opportunities for digital touch-up artists. "Hey, man, what’s your new gig?" "I’m rastarizing Busty Fillips’s underarm stretch marks — full-time, plus benefits." Local HMOs are lining up.

The ever-rising tide of digital wonders raises more sensual — and sensitive — boats than porn, however. While no one’s yet perfected the vibrator–cell phone (what ringtone would I put on that? Oh yeah, Beyoncé), rest assured that some little tech elf is working fiendishly away in his or her bright pink laboratory to bring that dream to fruition. Which brings us to the new iPhone. It may not be dildo-ready, exactly — watch that touch screen! — but some of its romantic applications were immediately apparent on its unveiling here in January. What other piece of handheld technology allows a person to be rejected in so many different medias at once? Now when you want to break up with someone, you can call them, text them, and e-mail them all at the same time. Plus, you can share a break-up song on iTunes with them and even throw in a YouTube clip of yourself gently weeping to show how torn up you are inside (clip must be less than 10 minutes in duration and not imitative of copyrighted material). Send a slide show! Skype an e-card! Use PayPal to buy them a "Just Got iDumped" mug on eBay! The possibilities are infinite.

Now if only there were software that could mend a broken heart. Sigh.

Pros: Online hookups? No problem: anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to be physically present to enjoy an entire relationship. Everyone’s a winner: people unable to afford the latest gadget or upgrade get to feel more real. Soon everyone in the city will have a job at Kink.com.

Cons: Much of the Bay population is more interested in staying up all night with a two-liter of Coke, a cold pizza, and a roomful of servers than a warm body. Web 2.0 has brought a horny flood of freshly flush Googlers, Tubers, Diggers, ‘Spacers, and Mac heads on the make to already packed and overpriced Mission bars (watch for those hybrid Tundras parked on the median). You will literally go blind if you jack off to video iPod porn in the bathroom stall at work — that screen’s so small! Soon everyone in San Francisco will have a job at Kink.com. (Marke B.)

Les goofballs


› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO How many calories in a Quaalude? Who’s the secretary of the interior? The sexy nurse’s tits pop out of her too-snug latex uniform, a lewd sneer twisting her face, and my mind begins to wander gloriously — up past the ass-licking performance artiste, his cheesy beret slipping sideways as he rapidly splashes acrylic down a huge vertical canvas; over the heads of the middle-aged guys dressed as pirates, ecstatically frugging to a bebop reverb saxophone solo; quick left at the grope-a-clown booth; and through the ceiling of DNA Lounge, into a nighttime of odd ruminations. This is probably dangerous. As leapfrogging fire twirlers quickly suck the oxygen from the club, I realize that I’d simply die if my last, strangulated thought was: wow, the more we upload exotic animals onto digital film, the more they seem to disappear from the earth.

Ladies and gentleman, a bohemian rhapsody.

Appropriate, since me and Hunky Beau are at Bohemian Carnival, the breathtaking, burner-inflected monthly hosted by Boenobo the Klown, ringmaster of local audio headtrippers Gooferman, and Mike Gaines, director of the erotically acrobatic Vau de Vire Society. You want trapezes? They’ll give you trapezes.

Through a series of regular off-the-wall club nights, DNA Lounge has transformed itself into a weekend costume party — goth kids in Doom-era gamer kilts one night, mashup sluts in Santa suits another — and Bohemian Carnival hews to that theme: it looks like Costumes on Haight exploded in here. I’ve never been a fan of store-bought transgression — I’m allergic to polymer pink bobs and rainbow boas, or rainboas. Still, hey, it’s probably really hard for straight people to get freaky and still look cool, so go for it! At least it’s not a bunch of prissy gays in $400 jeans or North Beach guys in swirly shirts with moulding mud-stained collars. Thank goddess for cheap dyna.

The whole vaudeville-circus club thing — a stunning contortionist here, a bearded lady go-go dancer there, bared cleavage everywhere — has blown up big-time. One might even posit that its moment has passed as an underground trend (the $15 cover charge at DNA could be evidence of this if the night weren’t such an expensive-looking spectacle), but since it all sprang from two of our native mainstays, Burning Man and burlesque, it’s not tanking any time soon in San Francisco — and I’m glad for that, ’cause it’s kind of freakin’ fascinating.

Sure, as the carefully staged bacchanal spins before me and the day-job techies get wild, there are the usual thoughts to fixate on: How Burning Man drops the spirituality and focuses on the crudely sexual when translated into a night club. How stereotypes of gender and race — if not necessarily class — collapse and re-form in a swirl of burlesquing desire. How people with amazing muscular tricks can finally find an appreciative audience. How flammable my dress was…. But there are some surprises here too. Imagine my shocked tingle when, on entering, I was greeted by an extended slam-poetic freestyle from MC Jamie De Wolf, hooted on from the sidelines by a crew of suburban-looking gangsters. Has hip-hop — albeit white hip-hop (an upcoming Bohemian Carnival features heartthrob beat-boxer Kid Beyond) — finally entered the Burning Man vocabulary? And a bubbly house set by DJ Smoove brought quite a bit more soul to the dance floor than I ever thought possible at such events. Nice.

Another surprise: more Las Vegas connections on the 11th Street corridor. While uppity clubs like Loft 11 unabashedly pimp Vegas show–style rock nights, Bohemian Carnival’s concept sprang from the legendary 2005 Vegoose Festival, where Boenobo and Gaines hosted VdV’s Twisted Cabaret for 80,000 people. Vegas, hip-hop, house — I guess I should have known. Burning Man’s prime notion is to filter the far-flung fabulosities of pop culture through X-ray goofy glasses; clubs like Bohemian Carnival reduce them to a steamy spot of light. Well, goof on, say I. *


Third Sat., 9 p.m.–4 a.m., $15

DNA Lounge

375 11th St., SF







Burning Man goes green


Burning Man founder Larry Harvey chooses the theme for each year’s event — such as 2002’s the Floating World and last year’s Hope and Fear — but it usually doesn’t have much impact on the basic character of the event. This year’s theme, Green Man, is different.

"It’s the first theme that has any kind of practical, political character," Harvey told the Guardian, noting that Green Man has sparked big changes in how the event will be staged, a campaign to improve burners’ environmental practices, and a new way of reutf8g to the outside world.

"We’re looking at every aspect of the event: solid waste, energy, and materials," said Tom Price, who has filled the newly created full-time position of environmental director, which was a natural offshoot from his previous work as Burning Man’s lobbyist and the founder of Burners Without Borders, which formed to do Gulf Coast cleanup after Hurricane Katrina hit (see "From Here to Katrina," 2/22/06).

Harvey said it was the good that burners did in Mississippi that started him thinking about the green theme and the idea that Burning Man needed to start turning its energies outward at a time when global warming and other environmental problems are growing public concerns.

"We’re working our way back into the world. Maybe not the mainstream but certainly onto Main Street," Harvey said. "There’s a lot out there that needs reform. The time of the reformer is at hand, I believe."

Among the projects Price is now working on are expanding the already large recycling effort at the event, finding ways to use more solar panels and fewer generators, coordinating theme camps to share power sources, using the purchase of emissions credits to offset the greenhouse gases created by Burning Man, and creating incentives for art projects to use alternative fuels.

"The whole process is being driven by the community," Price said.

Ramping up Burning Man’s environmental activism and commitment has been the goal of several movements within the larger event, such as Cooling Man (www.coolingman.net) and Greening the Burn (tribes.tribe.net/greeningtheburn), as well as being a priority for many Burning Man employees, such as technology dominatrix Heather Gallagher, a.k.a. Camera Girl, and facilities manager Paul Schreer, a.k.a. Mr. Blue.

"We’ve been hippie busybodies pushing for this on the inside," Gallagher told us. "And when [Harvey] announced the theme, I was, like, ‘Yesss!’ "

"What’s exciting about the Green Man theme and this year’s event is it’s a perfect illustration of the power of community," Price said, noting that networking and experimentation have always been hallmarks of the event. "Going back 10 years, Burning Man has been a place for early adopters who are on the cutting edges of a lot of disciplines."

That makes it a good place to experiment with new technologies and evangelize those that work well.

"I’ve always believed Burning Man would eventually partner in some way with the environmental movement," Harvey said. "It’s almost a historic inevitability."

Since the theme was announced, the organization has been overwhelmed with offers from individuals and groups that want to help green the event, from someone who donated $350,000 worth of solar panels to power the eponymous man and surrounding activities this year to artists such as Jim Mason, who has developed a gasification system he wants to use to turn center camp coffee grounds and other waste into fuel that would in turn power his machine (and probably shoot fire as well).

"So I’m proposing drag racing to a more responsible environmental future. As usual, the ravers are not going to save the world. But at least they can power their indulgent disasters with the fuel the local gearheads turned reluctant environmentalists have made for them," Mason, the controversial artist who helped spearhead the Borg2 revolt a couple years ago, wrote by e-mail to the Guardian.

Price said he’s excited by the implications of Mason’s project, noting that it simultaneously addresses energy issues and waste disposal.

"If he can do this, he will have solved two problems," Price said. "Our relationship to nature on the playa is very intimate. Just being at the event, we’ve learned in a way those in the city haven’t what it means to deal with your garbage and to provide your energy."

Harvey sees this year’s theme as a turning point.

"In some ways, we hope this year will be an environmental and alternative energy expo," he said, although he expects it to resonate on an even deeper level that participants will carry back into their communities. "It’s a much broader thing than environmental politics. It’s about our relationship to nature." (STJ)

The mystery of La Contessa


› steve@sfbg.com

La Contessa was a Spanish galleon, amazingly authentic and true to 16th-century design standards in all but a couple respects. It was half the size of the ships that carried colonizers to this continent and pirates through the Caribbean. And it was built around a school bus, designed to trawl the Burning Man festival and the Black Rock Desert environs, where it became perhaps the most iconic and surreal art piece in the event’s history.

The landcraft — perhaps like the sailing ships of yore — wasn’t exactly easy to navigate. It was heavy and turned slowly. The person driving the school bus couldn’t actually see much, so a navigator sitting on the bow needed to communicate to the driver by radio. Those sitting in the crow’s nest felt the vessel gently sway as if it were rocking on waves.

Inside, it was a picture of luxury: opulent, with a fancy bar, gilded frames, velvet trim — a cross between a fancy bordello and a captain’s stateroom. And adorning its bow was a priceless work of art, a figure of a woman by San Francisco sculptor Monica Maduro.

The ship and its captains and crew — most of whom are members of San Francisco’s popular Extra Action Marching Band — hit more than their share of storms in the desert, developing a storied outlaw reputation that eventually got them banned from Burning Man. By 2005 much of the galleon’s crew was dispirited and unsure if they’d ever return. The ship was no longer welcome at the Ranch staging area run by the event’s organizers and unable to legally navigate the highways without being dismantled. So it returned to its berth on Grant Ranch, on the edge of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where Joan Grant had welcomed La Contessa and two other large artworks since 2003.

Then late last summer someone looted the ship, stealing Maduro’s work, which was stored in a special box and hidden deep within the ship’s hold. Maduro and others have kept the theft a secret until now in the hope that they might find it, fearing that publicity and police involvement might drive the piece further underground, particularly after the reported sighting of a photo of the figurehead on Tribe.net, with a caption indicating it was the latest addition to someone’s living room.

And in early December, apparently without warning, prominent local landowner Mike Stewart set La Contessa on fire and had her charred remains hauled away.

It was a sad and unceremonious ending for La Contessa, a subject of ongoing legal actions, and an illustration of what an explosion of creativity leaves in its wake — a challenge that Burning Man faces as it seeks to become more environmentally responsible as it grows exponentially.

It was also a sign of the lingering tension between the giant countercultural festival and the residents of Hualapai Valley, who endure the annual onslaught of tens of thousands of visitors to their remote and sparsely populated region, along with the cultural and economic offerings they bring.

Grant had recently sold her 3,000-acre spread (although she retained a lifelong lease of her ranch home) to her neighbor, Mike Stewart, a landlord who didn’t share Grant’s love for the annual Burning Man event and its colorful denizens. In fact, Stewart led a legal and regulatory battle against Burning Man in 2003, trying unsuccessfully to shut down the Ranch and thus kill the event.

"I’ve been with them since they started out there, when they were just little bitty kids…. I adopted them, and they’ve always been supergood to me," Grant told the Guardian. Although she owned the Black Rock Salloon (which she spelled "like a drunk would say it" and later sold to the Burning Man organization), Grant said she was initially ostracized by many of the locals for supporting the event.

While La Contessa’s creator, Simon Cheffins (who also founded Extra Action), fruitlessly looked for land that might permanently house the galleon, it sat at the ranch, battened down against the elements and interlopers. When a grease fire destroyed Grant’s ranch house last year, sending her into the nearby town of Gerlach, La Contessa had nobody to watch over her.


Stewart is one of the biggest property owners in the region. In addition to possessing land and water rights that would be lucrative in any development project, he owns Orient Farms, Empire Farms, and a four-megawatt geothermal power plant.

He leased Grant Ranch (also known as Lawson Ranch) for five years before buying it in October 2005; in that transaction he gave Grant a lifelong lease of her house, a provision she believed also applied to the art pieces she stored within sight of her home.

That was before the fire, which police say Stewart set Dec. 5, 2006, around noon.

"My understanding was it was OK to park it there. But I guess he had it burned down," Grant told the Guardian. "As far as I’m concerned, it was arson."

Washoe County sheriff’s deputy Tracy Bloom also told the Guardian that he considers the fire to be third-degree arson, which is punishable by one to six years in prison under Nevada law. Yet Bloom said he believes Stewart thought he had a right to burn and remove the seemingly abandoned vehicle and therefore lacks the criminal intent needed to have charges brought against him.

"According to him, they had attempted to contact the owner to no avail, so he decided to set it on fire," Bloom told us.

He wrote in his police report, "I asked Stewart if he was the one that set the La Contessa on fire and he said, ‘YES, I DID.’ I asked him why he decided to burn it. Stewart said, ‘Because the property was abandoned and left there’ and ‘I was forced to clean it up.’ "

The report indicates that Bloom, who lives in Gerlach, helped organize a community cleanup at that time, in which a scrap dealer named Stan Leavers was removing old cars and other junk. "Stewart said that was the biggest reason for burning the La Contessa so that it could be removed by Leavers," Bloom wrote. Nonetheless, he told us that didn’t give Stewart the right to burn the artwork.

"I told him, ‘You can’t just do that, and if I found any intent or malice on this, you’re going to jail,’ " Bloom told us. "But I don’t believe there was any malicious intent. If I felt like there was any malicious intent, I would have arrested him right there. I thought that boat was really cool. It was one of the coolest things out there."

Many Burners who live in Gerlach — a town with a population of a few hundred people that happens to be the nearest civilization to Burning Man’s summer festival site — have a hard time believing Stewart made an innocent mistake. "I think it was a malicious arson," Caleb Schaber, also known as Shooter, told the Guardian. "He’s the guy who tried to shut down Burning Man, and he associated La Contessa with Burning Man."

Stewart refused to comment for this story, referring questions to his lawyers at the Reno firm of Robison, Belaustegi, Sharp, and Low. Dearmond Sharp, a partner in the firm, belittled the value of the piece and implied Stewart was within his rights as a property owner to burn it.

"What would you do if someone left some junk on your property?" he asked us.

Nevada law calls for property owners to notify vehicle owners "by registered or certified mail that the vehicle has been removed and will be junked or dismantled or otherwise disposed of unless the registered owner or the person having a security interest in the vehicle responds and pays the costs of removal."

"What he should have done is get letters out and make a good-faith effort to find a [vehicle license number] or see who the owner is, little things like that," Bloom told us. Nonetheless, after talking with the prosecutor, Bloom said criminal charges are unlikely. He said, "Chances are this is something they will pursue civilly."

Also destroyed in the fire, according to Schaber, was an International Scout truck with a new motor and a MIG welder inside, owned by Dogg Erickson, which he said he parked alongside La Contessa so it would be partly protected from sandstorms.

"Everything was toast," Erickson said. "I was pretty pissed, both about my truck and La Contessa. It floors me, and I don’t know what to do about it."

Cheffins, mechanical design engineer Greg Jones, and others associated with La Contessa and Burning Man all say they never received any message from Stewart asking for La Contessa to be removed. And Cheffins said he believed he had the implied consent of Stewart to store the ship where it was.

Jones and Cheffins said that while they were securing La Contessa for the winter of 2004–5, Stewart drove by and talked to them but said nothing about removing the ship. "We talked to him about all kinds of stuff, and we were impressed by him," Jones said.

La Contessa caretaker Mike Snook also said that he met Stewart in 2005 while he was with the ship and that Stewart didn’t express a desire to have the piece off the property. Jones said there were plenty of people in town connected to Burning Man through whom Stewart could have communicated: "It’s a visible enough art piece that if he really wanted to get it off his property, someone would have known where we are," Jones said.

Burning Man spokesperson Marian Goodell told us Stewart never contacted the organization and that if he had, it would have facilitated the piece’s removal from the property.

"We were surprised to hear about the fire, absolutely shocked," she said. "It was a very iconic piece, and a lot of people are going to miss La Contessa."

According to Bloom, Stewart also claims to have contacted Grant about removing La Contessa and other items from the property. "He contacted her and said, ‘What are you going to do with it,’ and she said, ‘Do what you want with it,’ " Bloom told us. But Grant (whom Bloom did not interview for his report) told us, "That’s not truthful," adding that she hasn’t spoken with Stewart in a very long time and wouldn’t have given him permission to destroy the artwork.

Sharp did not directly answer the Guardian‘s questions about what specific actions Stewart took to contact the galleon’s owners, but he did tell us, "He didn’t know the owners, and they weren’t identified…. The vehicle wasn’t licensed and had no registration and wasn’t legal to drive on the road. It wasn’t a vehicle."

Whether or not it was a vehicle is what triggers the notification provisions under Nevada law: the section on abandoned vehicles prohibits leaving them on someone’s property "without the express or implied consent of the owner."

"It was dumped there, and there is no written consent or implied consent," Sharp told us, responding to our question about implied consent. "In our eyes, it was a piece of junk."

But Ragi Dindial, an attorney working with the La Contessa crew, said that this "junk" was actually a valuable artwork and that he is working on filing a claim with Stewart’s insurance company, alleging the fire was a result of Stewart’s negligence. If that doesn’t work, he may file a civil lawsuit.

And then there’s the lingering question of the sculpture, which survived the fire because of the theft — but still hasn’t seen the light of day. "It’s one of the greatest mysteries in the San Francisco underground," longtime Burning Man artist Flash Hopkins said. "Where is the figurehead?"


La Contessa’s massive scale has created problems since the beginning, when Cheffins had the idea in 2002 of rejuvenating Burning Man and his own enthusiasm for it by building a Spanish galleon. It was a huge undertaking that created logistical nightmares.

"It was such an ambitious and, I think, exciting idea…. I wanted to do something fairly splashy, and the idea of a ship had always been powerful," Cheffins told the Guardian recently. "I was strong on the fantasy-imagination side of things and stupid enough to want to do it. Luckily, my ass was saved by Greg Jones."

Jones, a mechanical design engineer, had been playing trumpet in Extra Action for a few months when Cheffins pitched the La Contessa project at one of the band’s rehearsals.

"I said, ‘Who’s going to design it?’ " Jones told the Guardian, describing the moment when he took on the project of a lifetime. "That first night I had in my mind a way to do it…. For me, it was a challenge of how do you make it and how do you get it out there."

Hopkins said there should have been another consideration: "You have to build something that you can take apart. Sadly, that was part of its demise."

But that doesn’t take away from what he said was one of the best art projects in the event’s history: "What those guys did when they built that ship was incredible because of the detail of it. It was an incredible feat."

The idea of a ship fit in beautifully with Burning Man’s theme that year, the Floating World, so Black Rock LLC awarded Cheffins, Jones, and their crew a $15,000 grant, which would ultimately cover about half the project’s costs, even with the hundreds of volunteer person-hours that would be poured into it.

Cheffins researched galleons, learned to do riggings as a volunteer at the San Francisco Maritime Museum, directed the project, and insisted on materials and details that would make La Contessa authentic. Jones translated that vision into reality by creating computer-aided architectural designs for the ship’s steel skeleton, a hull that would hang from that skeleton and be supported by an axle and hidden wheels separate from those of the bus, and the decks that would support dozens of passengers and hide the bus and frame — all with modular designs that could be broken down for transport to Nevada on two flatbed trucks.

"In the beginning I thought they were crazy," said Snook, an artist and Burning Man employee who worked on the project and later took control of La Contessa after the Extra Action folks ran afoul of festival organizers in 2003 for repeatedly driving too fast and breaking other rules.

The ship was built mostly at the Monkey Ranch art space in Oakland and a nearby lot the crew leased for three months. "My mom even helped," Jones said; she joined nearly 100 volunteers who pitched in, many of whom brought key skills and expertise that helped bring the project to fruition.

"The idea of the ship is it was a lady that you end up serving, and she took on a life of her own," Cheffins said. "We all came to feel like servants at some point."

Meanwhile, Cheffins commissioned Extra Action dancer, event producer, and sculptor Maduro to build a figurehead that would be the most visible and defining artistic detail on the galleon. Cheffins conveyed his vision — including the need for it to be removable so a live model could sit in her place — and Maduro added her own research and artistic touches.

"We wanted her to be beautiful, sexy, strong, and also unique," Maduro told us.

All the ship figureheads that she researched had open eyes, except one that had one eye closed, purportedly the same eye in which the ship’s captain was blind. That gave Maduro the idea of a figurehead with closed eyes.

"The figurehead is supposed to guide you through the night and see you to safety," she said. "We liked the idea that our figurehead would guide us blindly."

Maduro worked for six months in relative isolation from the ship site in Xian, artist Michael Christian’s Oakland studio. The face was designed from a mold of their friend: model and actress Jessa Brie Berkner. The armature was wood and metal, covered in carved foam coated in fiberglass veils dipped in marine epoxy, with sculpting epoxy over that, and wearing a real fabric skirt dipped in epoxy. The idea was to make it strong enough to stand being dropped by people and battered by the elements.

"This is one of the most emotional projects I’ve ever been a part of," said Maduro, who spent six years creating lifelike exhibits for natural history museums across the country, among other projects. "It was a magical mix of all these individuals that made it happen."

Yet there wasn’t enough magic to allow the shipbuilders to meet their schedule. They weren’t where they’d hoped to be when the trucks arrived to haul La Contessa to the playa, requiring a final push on location under sometimes harsh conditions.

"The intention was to build the whole deck and reassemble it," Jones said. "But we ran out of time."

Instead, the crew spent the final weeks before Burning Man — and most of their time at the event — frantically trying to finish the project, completing it on a Friday night just a couple days before the event ended. Jones recalled, "We stained it Friday afternoon during a sandstorm."

Ah, but once it was finished, it was an amazing thing to behold, made all the more whimsical by the large whale on a school bus that Hopkins built that year. La Contessa’s crew loved to "go whaling" that first year.

"The ship and the whale were the right size, and so it was like Moby Dick and the Pequod," Hopkins said.

Those who sailed on La Contessa insist it had a feel that was unique among the many art cars in Burning Man history. People were transported to another place, and many reported feeling like they were actually cutting through the high seas.

Cheffins said, "It was about creation. It was about inspiration. The whole thing was a gift."

"That’s what we heard a lot after the arson," Jones said. "This was the thing that inspired [people] to come out to Burning Man."


A lore quickly grew around La Contessa — and the ship and crew developed something of an outlaw reputation. There were the repeated violations of the 5 mph speed limit and what looked to some like reckless driving as they pursued Hopkins’s white whale. There were people doing security who Cheffins says "were overzealous and got very rude."

Some thought the Contessa crew members were elitists for excluding some people from the limited-capacity vessel and for making others remove their blinky lights while onboard.

There were minor violations that first year because, as Jones said, "we didn’t have time to read the rules for art cars." And there were stories that La Contessa’s crew insists never happened or were blown way out of proportion. But it was enough to convince Burning Man officials to tell the crew at the end of the 2003 event that it wasn’t welcome to return.

"They thought we were fucking terrorists," Cheffins said.

Goodell insists that the organization’s problems with La Contessa have also been blown out of proportion. "I don’t think we consider our relationship to be tumultuous," she said. "They were banned because they broke the rules on driving privileges…. Following driving rules can be a life or death situation out there."

La Contessa remained at Grant Ranch during the 2004 event, which the Extra Action Marching Band skipped to tour Europe. Snook negotiated with Burning Man officials to allow La Contessa to return in 2005 as long as he retained control and did not let Cheffins, Jones, or their cohorts drive.

The fact that there were inexperienced drivers at the wheel was likely a factor in what happened the Tuesday night of Burning Man 2005.

The crew had made arrangements to take a cruise outside the event’s perimeter and within 15 minutes crashed into a dune that had formed around some object, tearing a big gash in the hull and bending a wheel. The crew was instructed by Burning Man officials to leave it until the following day, and when its members returned, the sound system, tools, a telescope, and other items had been stolen.

It was a dispiriting blow for Extra Action and the rest of the La Contessa crew, one that played a role in the decision not to try to bring La Contessa back to the event last year.

"[Last year] we didn’t take her out because of a lack of enthusiasm on our parts," Jones said.

Yet they checked on La Contessa on their way to Burning Man and discovered that it had been looted again and the figurehead was gone.


As mad as she was about the theft of the figurehead and as sad as she was about the fire, Maduro said she feels a sort of gratitude toward the thief. "Assuming we get it back and it wasn’t the person who burned the ship down, then I actually owe this person a debt of gratitude."

Particularly since the fire, Maduro just wants the figurehead back, no questions asked. At her request the Guardian has agreed to serve as a neutral site where someone can drop it off without fear of prosecution; we will return the figurehead to its owners.

"I was really sad, and it surprised me how sad I was because it doesn’t belong to me personally," Maduro said. "I just always thought we would have her."

The mystery surrounding the figurehead grew after Burning Man employee Dave Pedroli, a.k.a. Super Dave, found a photo of it in someone’s living room on Tribe.net — before he knew about the fire and the theft.

"Right after the fire was reported, within a day, I put two and two together and talked with Snook," Pedroli told the Guardian, referring to his realization that the photo depicted the stolen figurehead. "Right after that I started to look for it."

But it was gone and hasn’t been seen since.

"I couldn’t imagine someone walked into that space looking at all the time and attention that went into every detail and wanting to defile it," Maduro said.

But in the world of Burning Man, where most art is temporal and eventually consumed by fire, it wasn’t the fact that La Contessa burned that bugs its creators and fans. It’s the fact that Stewart burned it.

"He still looked at La Contessa as a symbol of Burning Man, and he didn’t know it wasn’t really wanted at Burning Man anymore," said Hopkins, who has heard around Gerlach that Stewart has been boasting of torching La Contessa.

"If it had burned with all of us around it, as a ceremony, it would have been OK," Hopkins said.

That was a sentiment voiced by many who knew La Contessa. Jones said this was the ultimate insult. "If someone was going to burn it down, I wish it could be us." *

Private funeral services for La Contessa are planned for Feb. 2.

Burning Man vs. Straw Man


By Steven T. Jones
I was glad to see both the Chronicle and SF Weekly this week give some ink to the story I wrote last week on the lawsuits among the three founders of Burning Man. Or at least I would be happy if the Weekly’s Matt Smith was such a sneering, bitter, deceptive tool. I’ve never understood the disdain Smith has for San Francisco or why he’d want to live somewhere he so abhors. And I’ve never been terribly impressed with his skills or integrity as a journalist. But it was still surprising to see him reduce Burning Man to a cult worshipping Larry Harvey (half the people who go have never heard of Harvey, and most of the other half still goes in spite of him rather than out of some vague sense of reverence), although it was certainly convenient to the ridiculously illogical straw man argument that he makes (although I’m still baffled with his conclusion of trying to equate Cachophony Society culture jamming with opening the Burning Man name and icons up to corporate exploitation). And just to destroy any last shred of credibility and respectability that Smith might have retained, he had to equate Black Rock City with Nazi Germany, lying about the event’s supposed columned boulevards to make this ludicrous point. Puh-leeze.

Bus lust


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER What’s 40 feet long and 13 feet, 9 inches tall and fun all over? Sounding like a potentially lame "you’ve gotta be kidding me" joke and accelerating in Bay Area underground rockers’ imagination as a real alternative to your average bad show experience, John Benson’s converted Muni veggie-biodiesel bus is the latest in a bohemian nation’s short parade of party starters on wheels — driven by motorvators like the Merry Pranksters and Friends Forever in order to cavort, make art and sometimes community, and blow minds. Le difference is that this art ‘n’ good times vehicle is huge — able to fit an audience of 50 — and despite its whitewashed exterior, green.

Just join the scattered, happy misfits and in-the-knowsters wandering in from off the street on this particularly deserted stretch of the Mission-Potrero area Jan. 21. The bus is peacefully parked and perfectly inaudible beneath a pretzel of elevated freeway off-ramps, like the sweet overgrown offspring of Miss Open Road USA. Take a look under the hood as Benson — once in A Minor Forest and Hale Zukas and now with Evil Wikkid Warrior — opens up the works in the butt end of the bus with the cool little lookout tower on top. Two tanks hold the vegetable oil that primarily propels the bus and the diesel or biodiesel fuel that heats the radiator fluid, which keeps the vegetable oil liquid enough to course through the pipes. With a lot of help from friends, Benson spent only $300 to veggify the bus. And the beautiful part — especially to those in perpetually touring poverty-stricken bands who know what it’s like to spend all the money from a show on gas — is that he gets his fuel free from the pits of used grease behind truck stops and fast-food joints, which ordinarily pay people to take it away.

This is just the latest in a handful of vehicles Benson has vegged out (give or take a few fires caused to keep the vegetable oil flowing), including a Twin Towers dust–saturated ambulance retired after 9/11 service. In 2005, Hale Zukas ended up touring the country in the EMT vehicle alongside the mobile Friends Forever. "I really liked the whole paradigm shift of everything. People didn’t know what to expect," Benson recalls fondly. "We’d come in an ambulance, and everyone would say, ‘Someone got hurt!’ I was excited by the whole chaos and confusion and trickery, and you don’t have to rely on clubs or booking agents or soundmen." And of course there was that added sense of poetic justice, he adds, "driving it around on vegetable oil, the whole statement against the war for oil going on."

Inside the bus, far from maddened neighbors, the music goes on. Slight, skinny-mustached Carlos of Hepatitis C — in town from Bloomington, Ind., where Benson drove him around on his world-record bid to play the most shows in one day — is throwing the party. Living Hell, Ex-Pets, He-War, Noozzz, Erin Allen, and Russian Tsarlag are on the free-to-all, free-for-all bill, and Carlos runs down the street to the opposite street corner — the unofficial green room, where the bands and friends are milling — to tell them the first artist is starting. Backed by crunchy minimal beats, Sewn Leather is flailing around the small stage inside the bus, shouting, "Noise is dying, punk’s been dead, the only rock ‘n’ roll is in your head!" through a PA fed by a battery fueled by the bus’s solar panels. At one of Benson’s biggest events, which included Warhammer and Rubber-O-Cement among 13 bands, the overflow turned into a double Dutch jump-rope contest in the middle of the street. The vibe resembles a kid’s clubhouse taken to the next level — on the road and relatively off the grid.

"Another great thing about the bus is that during all that downtime usually spent staring out the window driving through Nebraska, you can actually plug in instruments. A full band can be playing in back like it’s a practice space," Benson says earlier over the phone of the bus that shall remain nameless (he likes the anonymity).

The all-ages club on wheels simply just "fell into my lap," he continued. "A retired Oakland cop was selling it, and I just saw it going by one day. It was a monstrosity."

The Oaktown police department had torn it up to convert it into a mobile police unit, he was told, and its last owner was going to remake it as a family RV. That intrepid soul was "so hilarious," Benson raves. "I was sold on it because of his personality. He was this 6-foot-7, really huge black guy with these huge hands — such a can-do person. He was sooo the antithesis of Burning Man, because my first reaction was ‘Oh, no, this is some big, gross Burning Man art-car thing.’ Being a retired cop, he said, ‘From driver’s seat back, it’s perfectly legal to rock out with your cock out’ — his exact words. ‘You can drink a fifth of JD and whatever,’ and he then did this funny little dance."

"It’s a surprising tidbit," Benson says. "You don’t have to have seat belts and can have open containers. And you can have a regular driver’s license. If the bus was any longer, you’d need a commercial license. It’s kind of shocking."

Shocking, especially when shortly after he finished converting the bus to use vegetable oil last summer, Benson took it on the road with a bunch of bands to the Freedom From Festival in Minneapolis, where they played before the Boredoms. Because of the bus’s height, they got stuck in an underpass in Chicago’s Wicker Park district. They also couldn’t get it into the Pennsylvania Turnpike and instead were forced to drive through the Poconos. "I got lost in a white-picket-fence neighborhood and was forced to turn around in this poor lady’s yard," Benson recollects. "She and her neighbors came running out, and she was, like, ‘What are you?!’ I was so busy trying to do a 20-point turn I could only yell, ‘We’re a bus!’ ‘What kind of bus are you?’ she yelled. And then someone in the bus jumped out and gave her a hug and said, ‘We’re a magic bus.’ "

You’ve gotta admit there’s a bit of magic going on when Sewn Leather finishes his riveting songs on dead lice, bad pickups, and the end of music genres and the kids pile out, over the oriental carpet cushioning on the floor, and share cookies and other comestibles outside. The cars rumble overhead, oblivious to this DIY snatch of culture-making quietly going about its beeswax. *


With the Fucking Ocean and other bands

Feb. 3, 8 p.m., free

Highway 24 overpass Shattuck and 55th St., Oakl.



Burning brand


› steve@sfbg.com

Larry Harvey started Burning Man on Baker Beach in 1986, but it was John Law, Michael Mikel, and their Cacophony Society cohorts who in 1990 brought the countercultural gathering and its iconic central symbol out to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where it grew into a beloved and unique event that last year was attended by 40,000 people.

Law hasn’t wanted anything to do with Burning Man since he left the event in 1996 — until last week, when he filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court seeking money for his share of the Burning Man brand. Even more troubling to Harvey and a corporation that has aggressively protected the event from commercial exploitation, Law wants to move the trademarks into the public domain.

The suit has roiled and divided the Bay Area’s large community of burners. Some support Law and the declaration on his blog that "Burning Man belongs to everyone," hoping to break the tight control that Harvey and Black Rock City LLC have exerted over their event and its icons, images, and various trademarks.

"If it’s a real fucking movement, they can give up control of the name," Law told the Guardian in the first interview he has given about Burning Man in years. "If it’s going to be a movement, great. Or if it’s going to be a business, then it can be a business. But I own a part of that."

Yet those who control the business, as well as many attendees who support it, fear what will happen if anyone can use the Burning Man name. They envision MTV coverage, a burner clothing line from the Gap, Girls Gone Wild at Burning Man, billboards with Hummers driving past the Man, and other co-optations by corporations looking for a little countercultural cachet.

"We’ve been fighting attempts by corporations to exploit the Burning Man name since the beginning," BRC communications director Marian Goodell wrote on the Burning Man Web site in response to the lawsuit. "Making Burning Man freely available would go against everything all of us have worked for over the years. We will not let that happen."

Harvey, Law, and Mikel became known as the Temple of Three Guys as they led the transformation of the event from a strange camping trip of 80 people in 1990 to a temporary city of burners experimenting with new forms of art and commerce-free community. By 1996 it had grown to 8,000 people.

"Plaintiff is recognized as the one individual without whose leadership and ability the event would not have been planned or produced," the lawsuit alleges. "Plaintiff alone became recognized as the ‘face’ of the event to local residents and authorities, and was the event’s facilitator, technical director and supervisor."

Law’s central role in the event has also been spelled out in Brian Doherty’s 2004 book, This Is Burning Man, and in Guardian interviews over the years with many of the original attendees. As Law told the Guardian, "I put everything I had into it."

Mikel, also known as Danger Ranger or M2, played a key role as the event’s bookkeeper and the founder of the Black Rock Rangers, who oversee safety and security and serve as the liaison between attendees and outside authorities.

The lawsuit minimized Harvey’s role in the 1990 event: "Harvey, however, did not participate at all other than to arrive at the event as a spectator after it was completely set up…. the 1990 event on the playa motivated Harvey to take a more active roll the next year, so he adopted the roll of artistic director thereafter." The three men entered into a legal partnership to run the event.

Harvey was always the one with the vision for growing the event into what it has become today — a structured, inclusive gathering based on certain egalitarian and artistic principles — while Law preferred smaller-scale anarchy and tweaks on the central icon.

"That was really the underlying conflict, but it got charged with emotion because 1996 was a harrowing year," Harvey told the Guardian, one of the few comments he would make on the record because of legal concerns.

That was the year in which Law’s close friend Michael Fury was killed in a motorcycle accident on the playa as they were setting up for the event. And on the last night, attendees sleeping in a tent were accidentally run over by a car and seriously injured, prompting the creation of a civic infrastructure and restrictions on driving in future years.

Law had a falling-out with Harvey and no longer wanted anything to do with the event, while Mikel opted to remain; today he and Harvey serve on the BRC’s seven-member board of directors. But Law didn’t want to completely give up his stake in Burning Man, in case it was sold.

The three agreed to create Paper Man, a limited liability corporation whose only assets would be the Burning Man name and associated trademarks, which the entity would license for use by the BRC every year for a nominal fee, considering that all proceeds from the event get put right back into it.

Harvey has always seen that licensing as a mere formality, particularly since the terms of the agreement dealing with participant noninvolvement have caused Law’s share to sink to 10 percent. In the meantime, however, tensions have risen in recent years between Harvey and Mikel, who has been given fewer tasks and even joined the board of the dissident Borg2 burner group two years ago (see "State of the Art," 12/1/04).

Harvey didn’t pay Paper Man’s corporate fees in 2003, but the corporation was reconstituted by Mikel, who was apparently concerned about losing his stake in Burning Man (Mikel could not be reached for comment). Harvey resisted formal written arrangements with Paper Man in subsequent years, but Mikel insisted.

Finally, on Aug. 6, 2006, Harvey drew up a 10-year licensing agreement and signed for Paper Man, while business manager Harley Dubois signed for the BRC. Mikel responded with a lawsuit that he filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Aug. 23, seeking to protect his interests in Paper Man. That suit later went into arbitration, which has been suspended by both sides since Law filed his suit. Law said he was prompted by the earlier lawsuit.

"I didn’t start this particular battle," Law told the Guardian. "My options were to sign over all my rights to those guys and let them duke it out or do this."

Most burners have seen Harvey as a responsible steward of the Burning Man brand, with criticisms mainly aimed at the BRC’s aggressiveness in defending it via threats of litigation. But Law still believes Harvey intends to cash in at some point: "I don’t trust Larry at all. I don’t trust his intentions."

Law is skeptical of Harvey’s claims to altruism and even sees this year’s Green Man theme — which includes a commitment of additional resources to make the event more environmentally friendly — as partly a marketing ploy.

"If they’re going to get money for it, then I should get some to do my own public events," Law told us. "And if they don’t want to do that, then it should be in the public domain."

Yet as Burning Man spokesperson Andie Grace wrote in response to online discussions of the conflict, "Our heartfelt belief in the core principles of Burning Man has always compelled us to work earnestly to protect it from commodification. That resolve will never change. We are confident that our culture, our gathering in the desert, and our movement will endure." *

Burning Man family squabble


By Steven T. Jones
The Burning Man world has been roiled by a legal fight among its three founders: Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel, and John Law — the latter of whom left this event in 1996 but this week filed a lawsuit seeking millions in compensation and/or the placing of Burning Man’s name, logos, and associated trademarks in the public domain. Laughing Squid broke the story yesterday and has lots of great links to Law’s suit and the discussion threads on Tribe and Law’s blog. You can also find M2’s lawsuit, which was a precursor to the current fight, here.
(although you might need to go here first to get the plug-in).
I’ve been talking to all the principles today and will write about this in our next print issue, so I’ll reserve comment for now. But suffice it to say this is a fascinating story that illuminates the roots of Burning Man and could have a major impact on its future. While some have cheered Law’s suggestion that “Burning Man belongs to everyone” and that placing it in the public domain returns it to the people, the reality is that it could lead to the commercial exploitation of the event by any heinous corporation that wanted a little counterculture cache.
BTW, tickets for this year’s event, with its hopeful Green Man theme, go on sale next Wednesday. See you in the long cyberline.


Rutting madly


› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Oh! Yes! It hurts! Oh yes! It hurts!

My virtual buttocks are on fire.

After my last little column about stuff I’d enjoyed in Clubland over the past year, I got spanked online for downplaying some of the Bay’s ongoing nightlife trends. Namely: breakbeats and house revivals, dubstep and kiddie rave, Burning Man, Burning Man, Burning Man. (Isn’t he burnt yet? Sheesh. It’s like a spiritual tire fire already.) That’s fine, baby: hit me one more time. Getting spanked online was my former profession. If my drag name weren’t already Pantaysia, I’d be known as Rudolpha the Red-Assed Tranny for sure. And luckily, it’s the new year — I can simply wad up my 2006 wall calendar and stuff it down my cut-off liquor store panty hose for some rough-year-behind-me relief. I’m just. That. Crafty. See?

My, but how the sting lingers, the echoing smack of keen reprimands. Whether or not the genres of clubalalia mentioned above — and I’m pretty sure one or more of my personalities has dished them all here in the past — are curvaceous and bearded enough to attract my one good eye is one thing. Whether or not my mouth is so big it can swallow all the wonders of what happens after dark and spit them whole back in your face is another. I’m just one slightly skinny leather hip-hop disco Muppet queer after all. My day job’s at a Wendy’s! I leave being everywhere to other gay peeps.

Yet the familiar finds its way into one’s regular carousing, no? What if I’m in a hot, wet rut? All those back room encounters, bathhouse sounds, bhangra parties, electro flashes, wet jockstraps, mad drag queens, hip-hop karaoke nights, bedroom DJs, shots of Cuervo … could they be of a party piece? Didn’t I once declare krumping the future? Where’s the damn risk?

Yes, I have my broad themes: 2005 was all about the democratization of Clubland via technology — and trying to get laid by a woman for the first time; 2006 was about how clubs reflected our culture’s apocalyptic visions and the return of the outlaw gay underground. Lord knows what the predawn rubble of 2007 will shape itself into. But here are some nifty things I’d like to stick my nosy pumps in.


DJ Jason Kendig, Claude VonStroke, and a giant swath of relocated Detroiters are injecting tiny bleeps and beats in the strangest of places: dive bars and back rooms. What’s the deal?


Bars like Gestalt in the Mission District are serving brewskis to Critical Massers. Clubs like LoGear at the Transfer are making frantic pedalers dance. Will the fixed-gear explosion spawn a raucous rocker renaissance?


Where are the ladies? The fierce rulers of the US club scene at the moment are women from New York City and Los Angeles. For years my money’s been on SF femmes like Jenny Fake, Forest Green, and Claire-Ahl to join them. Why are we still ruled by men?


Fine. For the 13th time I’m calling a house revival. House club mainstays like Fag and Taboo are still going strong. Legendary DJ Ruben Mancias is coming back from New York City for a while to restart his influential club Devotion, and DJ TeeJay Walton is launching a new club called Freak the Beat (www.freakthebeat.com), specifically aimed at attracting younger househeds. Fingers crossed.


Last year all the quotes were dropped from retro. People took the sounds and styles of the past seriously, no joke. It paid off in a lot of ways (notably, people stopped laughing and erroneously screaming, "Oh my god, I used to love this song!" when a record had claps or a guitar solo in it). But post-irony was, well, not much fun. Are people on the dance floor smiling yet? That’s better. *

It’s happening, and it’s happening now. Sign up at www.sfbg.com and you can flame my frickin’ column at will (I know you’ve got scandalous New Year’s Eve tales … better share ’em it before I do). Also: hit up the Pixel Vision blog (www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision) for more club news, reviews, and how-do-you-dos. It’s all about raving in the cubicles, baby.



› tredmond@sfbg.com
I started getting all the usual calls last week, from all of the usual national media outlets, with all the usual questions that a local political reporter gets when a local politician makes good. “Who is Nancy Pelosi, really? What do her constituents think of her? Is she going to bring Burning Man and gay marriage to Washington?”
My answer to everyone, from the liberals to the conservatives, was exactly the same:
Relax. There’s nothing to get excited about. Pelosi is by no means a San Francisco liberal. She’s a Washington insider, a born and bred politician who cares more about power and money than she does about any particular ideology.
I’m glad the Democrats are in charge, and Pelosi deserves tremendous credit for making that happen. But she’s not about to push any kind of ambitious left-wing political or cultural agenda.
Just look at her record. Pelosi was weak on the war and late in opposing it. She was the author of the bill that gave that well-known pauper George Lucas the lucrative contract to build a commercial office building in a national park. She worked with Republicans such as Don Fisher of the Gap on the Presidio privatization and set a precedent for the National Park System that the most rabid antigovernment conservatives can love.
Just this week Bloomberg News reported that Pelosi is working with Silicon Valley venture capital firms to weaken the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley law, which mandates strict accounting procedures for publicly held corporations.
And just a couple of weeks before the election, she told 60 Minutes that same-sex marriage is “not an issue that we’re fighting about here.”
I think it’s pretty safe to say she’s never been to Burning Man.
Pelosi, who is backing antiwar but also anti-abortion Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, has an agenda for her first 100 hours. It’s nice moderate stuff — raising the minimum wage (to all of $7.25 an hour), lowering interest on student loans (but not replacing loans with grants), and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower-priced drugs (but not making Medicare a national health insurance program for every American). Tactically, it’s brilliant: there won’t be a lot of national opposition, and Bush will look like a heel if he vetoes the bills.
In fact, as a political strategist and tactician, Pelosi has proven brilliant. She’s whipped together a dysfunctional party and led the most important electoral change to this country in more than a decade.
Along the way, though, she’s pretty much stopped representing San Francisco. On issue after issue, her constituents are way to the left of her. This fall she didn’t even bother to show up in the district (except to extract money for Democratic congressional campaigns around the country). She spent election night in Washington.
There are a lot of people who think that’s fine. Now that she’s speaker, she’ll be able to do a lot for this city, particularly when it comes to bringing in federal money. I appreciate the fact that her work on the national level, which often involved running away from San Francisco, will allow more-progressive Democrats like Los Angeles’s Maxine Waters to chair powerful committees that can go after White House cronyism and corruption.
But if the right-wing talk show hosts are worried about San Francisco liberals like me, they can take it easy: Nancy Pelosi is not one of us. SFBG

Escape pods


› superego@sfbg.com
SUPER EGO Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. Moonlight kisses the city’s knockoff gold metallic Fendi slingbacks, the ones with the sparkly diamantine heels, and slides up the back of its dime-store disco-ball dress — a little slap here, a little tickle there — until it reaches the ragged sunburst of hair at the nape of its neck and launches into daylight, where the real party is these days. And here we all are in our hot-pink neon escape pods, canoodling with the oceanic music, zipping past the anguished twists and turns, the endless downs and downers of the real world, with all the trashy grace and alien style we can muster. Because really, what else can we do? The real world’s moving on without us, easing its oily fingers into annihilation’s tight black hole, ringing torture’s doorbell, its xanthochroous eyes frothing like a million zillion bubbles of electronic beer shampoo. Kure kure takora! Gimme, gimme octopus!
Whoa. What was in that magic truffle? Oh, that’s right. Drugs. Never trust a tranny dressed as Little Bo Creep bearing gifts at a street fair.
Thing is, I’m pretty sure I never ate it — too many empty calories. But in the past month I really wouldn’t have had to. With LoveFest, the Folsom Street Fair, the new Summer Music Conference, and umpteen outdoor parties, we’ve finally found a way to stretch the wondrous, hallucinatory panties of Burning Man across an entire month.
Suits me just fine. Hey, some of us ain’t rich enough to spend a whole week toodling around the high desert in a crotch-scented sarong. Better we get the Man delivered right to our back door. (Oh, and to all you fabulous burners: I’m still waiting for my thank-you gifts. While you were out spiritually saving the universe, I was covering for your sandy, goddess-loving cracks at work.)
So with all the amazing things going on — the herd of giraffes raving outside City Hall, the leather corsets winking in the sunshine like semaphore come-ons, the perverts and the children joining hands — it was easy to let one’s mind wander, to drift like a sea monkey up to the top of the tank and climb out for a better look.
Was there any meaning to it all? Thousands and thousands of shiny, happy lovers taking to the streets again and again, completely unencumbered, it seemed, by any overt political message. Totally stripped of any frustrated protest. After a while it got kinda weird. I admit, I’m a little old-school. When people used to tell me it was foolish to think parties could change the world in a practical way, I’d hand my two good earrings to the sister standing next to me and tear into their skinny, cynical asses like a wet gremlin. But the whole “change the world” pie in the sky no longer seems on the menu.
I raised a brow this year when one of the LoveFest organizers told me the party’s big ambition was to be a “shining star of love in the current night.” I howled with laughter at the folks who paid $90-plus to go to one of the giant Folsom-oriented leather parties. (Guess we’re not all in this together.) And hardly a single call to any real-world revolution did my Cuervo-crossed eyes see, not even an artistic one. (What a horrible drag all that political stuff is. Embarrassing.)
Was it too much to ask for even just one giant Bush puppet? There was a time not long ago when you couldn’t climb out of the Dumpster without the papier-mache fingers of one of those goddamn things getting caught in your brand-new used wig.
Of course things happened behind the scenes. Folsom donates thousands of dollars to organizations for people in need. Burning Man and LoveFest and all the rest “keep the creativity flowing.” And who would argue that no greater good can come from a monthlong blast of mind-blowing music or a tattooed musclebear from Paris trying to pick you up? (Too bad I’d seen his pornos. I just couldn’t deal with his “sex face.”)
But I had some classic grumpy-hippie flashbacks: Where was all the anger!? What the heck are we fighting for!? Fuck the man! Have we become so disillusioned with our own outspokenness after six long years of virtual political ineffectiveness that we now channel all our practical energy into the personal realm? Or did we just need, for once, to escape the endless fighting and get it on? Are parties now just cosmic battery rechargers? I wondered: what exactly is “the love”?
Then I threw on my banana yellow poncho and break-danced with a blue gorilla, sparkling like a Texan’s sequined chaps. Truffle, anyone? SFBG

Notes from the underground


› kimberly@sfbg.com
Looking for hints of San Francisco’s renowned underground nightlife? It pays to keep your eyes and nose to the ground — and to be textable. That’s one of the few subtle signs that the hottest underground party in town is happening right here on an early Sunday summer morning: reedy, peg-legged hipsters standing out by the curb on this barren, bulldozed Hunters Point artery, busily texting and talking up fidgety, insomniac friends about their next landing strip. Beats bang gently in the background as fashion-damaged kids dangle from the railings along the short flight of steps to the door, smoking and guzzling from sacks like it’s recess at their own semiprivate too-cool school.
Upstairs in a long, tall space lined with huge rectangular windows, the Sixteens are getting ready for a set. And everyone else — and that’s every-fucking-body — is madly dancing on the other side to stabbing electrotech beats that come off so metallic and grimy that you could slice yourself open and get a nasty infection on ’em. Is that arch-retro-candy raver actually swinging a stretchy glow stick with one hand while trying to hold on to a mixed drink in the other? Swirling moiré patterns, projections of flames, and found industrial footage lick the walls of the room and the faces of the dancers. A burnt-orange slice of summer moon is slung low in the sky as if already hungover from the shit-hot party raging below.
Closing time — you may not know whom you want to take home, but do you know where your next party is? Above-grounders might say “you don’t need to go home, but you can’t stay here,” but you needn’t turn into a pumpkin and pass out in your car just yet. Bay Area underground parties like this one — and of every imaginable stripe and musical genre — are where sleepless scenesters flock.
So why is the underground scene continuing to blossom like a hundred Lotus Girls on a dust-caked playa in a city chock-full of wholly legit clubs? This summer, as a series of humongoid dance clubs including Temple Bar SF, prepped to throw open their doors, one had to wonder: why bother going off the grid?
Perhaps that’s where you can find the sounds you crave, a frustrating chore when clubs book conservatively — and an experience that may end all too soon with the city’s 2 a.m. last call. DJs such as Jamin Creed of BIG are seeing their grime and dubstep parties, for instance, starting to blow up now both over- and underground after gestating in after-hours soirees. “It’s a music-orienting thing, to be honest,” says underground breaks party thrower DJ Ripple, né Lorin Stoll. Citing undergrounds in Big Sur as well as the Harmony fest in Santa Rosa, the ex-Deadhead sees continuity between the city’s Left Coast vibe and “the merging of the counterculture of the ’60s with the rave culture of the ’90s, merging with the experience and professionalism of Burning Man culture in the 2000s. It’s created this nice renaissance in underground music.”
Dub it an unintended fringe benefit stemming from the failure to change the city’s last call two years ago, an effort led by Terrance Alan, chairman of the Late Night Coalition and legislative chair of San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission. That move failed — after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution urging the state legislature to make the change — when the proposed legislation got stuck in committee at the State Assembly. Despite the support of the city’s Entertainment Commission, Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Gavin Newsom, the bill was opposed by antialcohol groups and organizations such as the Oakland Police Department, whose officers testified that a later last call in San Francisco would create traffic accidents in Oakland. “Those observations were never supported in the data on changes in last call,” Alan says today.
The reality is that partly as a result of those quashed endeavors, the Bay Area underground party scene continues to flourish, via Tribe.net, lists, and those omnipresent flyers. Tomas Palermo — a DJ, Guardian contributor, and former XLR8R editor — thinks the underground warehouse and techno event circuit has been bubbling along nicely since 1988, with surges in house in the early ’90s and explosions in drum ’n’ bass during the dot-com years. And even a seasoned listener like him isn’t immune to the simple pleasures of an outdoor beatdown: “In the last two weeks I went to a free [breakbeat] sound system gathering in a tiny grassy nook of Golden Gate Park and a Sunset Party in McLaren Park,” he e-mails.
The latter gatherings, put on by Pacific Sound System, just may embody the resilient, oh-naturel vibe of the undergrounds in this area. DJ Galen began the daytime Sunset Parties on summer Sundays about a dozen years ago at Golden Gate Park. Old-school — yep. Family oriented — believe it. Ideal if you’re still tweaked the morning after — maybe. An outdoor dance floor of up to 3,000 — yikes. “I just feel events are very much the reflection of the people who put them on, and you can kind of tell when people are doing it for money or just the pure feeling of bringing people together through music and the outdoors,” says Galen, who co-owns Tweekin Records. When he started the parties, he was a shell of a raver, burned out from lifelong training as a swimmer for the 1996 Olympics. “I hadn’t felt like I lived life and came home and some friends took me to a party and just opened my eyes,” he recalls, citing the Wicked Crew’s Full Moon Raves as inspirational. “Looked at all these people having fun and a sense of community — I just got so excited that this whole other world existed and got immersed in it.”
He maxed out his credit card, bought a sound system, and began playing house music in the park as the audience grew. His three-person collective has since produced successful overground boat parties, but they’ve maintained that earthbound sense of perspective. “I think that’s one major reason why things have gone well — we’re not out of it for ego,” he says. “We are very respectful of everyone, and in turn people are respectful of us. When we leave these parks, they’re spotless, and a lot of people have told us, ‘Wow, that was a really crazy party, but everyone’s so mellow and nice!’ SFBG

More underground:

Live bait: the secret life of warehouse shows

Oral Histories: underground gay sex clubs of the early ’90s

Party primer: underground party web sites

Burning reentry


By Scribe
I returned from Burning Man a week ago today, one of the nearly 40,000 souls reentering the real world from the one that we call “home.” There are more of us than ever given that the population of Black Rock City jumped more than 10 percent this year to by far it’s largest level yet, with the Bay Area still the main source of BRC citizens. The event is growing fast, and at a time when there is increasing concern about global warming and other environmental problems associated with unsustainable consumption of resources. So I was pleased to see founder Larry Harvey and his board announce next year’s theme — Green Man — just as this year’s event was wrapping up. The idea is to better connect the isolated event with the larger world, to increase awareness of our impacts on the environment, and to start offsetting that impact with tree planting and other year-round projects. It’s a natural step in the evolution of an event that began on Baker Beach in 1986, but one that needed to be deliberately taken, a challenging move than will test whether Burning Man is ready to return from the desert and project its values outward.

Who’s in Dufty’s “corner?”


By Tim Redmond

Okay, so I tweaked Sup. Bevan Dufty a couple of weeks ago about an item that appeared in Matier and Ross Aug. 20. The item suggested that “mud balls are being lobbed” in the District 8 supervisorial campaign; someone apparently sent the dynamic duo at the Chron a “1995 news clip from the Chicago Tribune describing how Rosenthal, then a 22-year-old senior at Northwestern University, abruptly resigned as student body president rather than face an impeachment hearing over a campaign finance scandal.

“Her sin: Exceeding the campaign spending limit by $26.06”

I picked it up and raised the question: Since Dufty has made a huge point (rightly so) of refusing to engage in negative campaigning, who exactly was flinging this mud?

Well, it’s turned into a fascinating little teapot tempest.

Dufty came in for an endorsement interview last week (we’ll post the full tape, all 90 minutes of it, on sfbg.com in a day or two), and tore into me for implying that he was somehow involved in dishing dirt on another candidate. He said he’d called Matier and Ross and complained that they never asked him for comment on the item (true); he then told us that the boys had apologized and promised to run a correction. He swore nobody affiliated with his campaign had done it, and suggested that it might have come from anywhere — even Rosenthal herself.

That’s not how Andy Ross remembers it. Ross told me that Dufty had, indeed, called him to complain, but that he had never promised to correct anything — the item, he insisted, was entirely accurate.

No, Dufty wasn’t the source for the dirt — but it was, Ross promised me, “someone in his corner … that’s why we said mud was flying.”

So someone allied with Dufty — perhaps an overzealous supporter — dragged Bevan the clean campaigner’s name through the, uh, mud by dredging up a silly and pointless item from a decade ago and tossing it to the Chron.

Dufty disavowed the hit, and told me that anyone who would do something like that “shouldn’t claim to be a supporter of mine.” But it raises an interesting question: Why would any of Dufty’s allies waste time on this sort of stuff? (Among other things, the B.A.R. has made a point of playing up Rosenthal’s attendance at Burning Man). Could it be that, as the latest Progressive Voter Index shows, District 8 is still a pretty left-voting part of the city? Rosenthal has some real political challenges — she’s not well known, she’s a straight woman running in what has traditionally been a gay district, and Dufty has most of the key endorsements — but on the issues, especially tenant issues, Rosenthal may be more in touch with the voters.

Frankly, Dufty’s the clear front runner at this point. For anyone in his “corner” to give Rosenthal additional press and credibility by attacking her for something everyone with any sense knows is irrelevant — that’s either a sign of world-class stupidity or a signal that the incumbent is vulnerable.

Supervisor Burning Man


By Tim Redmond

I’ve been around a long time in city politics, and seen a lot of strange things, but even by my standards, it’s pretty darn wierd to see the Bay Area Reporter, a queer community paper, taking issue with the fact that a candidate for supervisor dresses in (mildly) outrageous clothes at Burning Man — and (gasp!) admits she might have even taken drugs at that annual desert party. Lordy, lordy, she even calls herself a “freak.”

Nice to see that Robert Haaland, who had endorsed Dufty, agrees with me that it’s “distasteful to hear politicos make snide remarks about her, about her attendance at Burning Man, and about her fondness for freaks.”

Has District 8 become so straight that the folks there can’t handle a “freak?” Even in these uber-gentrified days, that’s pretty hard to imagine.



› steve@sfbg.com
There’s an intriguing confluence of anniversaries coming up that together offer an opportunity for societal awakening.
This week I’ll be among thousands of Bay Area residents leaving for Burning Man and the 20th birthday of the most significant countercultural event of our times. Five years ago, right after my first Burning Man, the Sept. 11 attacks ushered in radical changes to US foreign policy and political dialogue. And last year during the festival, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, another event of international significance, which New Orleans writer Jason Berry explores in this week’s cover story commissioned by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.
Burning Man, Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina — aside from the timing of their 20th, 5th, and 1st anniversaries, what’s the connection? Before I answer that, let me layer on a more personal anniversary: this summer marks my 15th year working as a reporter and editor for various California newspapers.
I got into the business mainly because I felt like the American people were being duped, at the time about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a war used by the first President Bush as a pretext for establishing permanent US military bases in the oil-rich Middle East.
American bases in Saudi Arabia caused Osama bin Laden to threaten a terrorist war against the United States unless we withdrew — a threat that we seemed to ignore while he carried through with a series of attacks that culminated in Sept. 11. Rather than reevaluating our relationships with oil and the Islamic world, this Bush administration upped the ante: invading and occupying two more Islamic nations, adopting energy policies that increased our oil dependence, and withdrawing the United States from international accords on global climate change and human rights.
Then Hurricane Katrina hit, opening up a second front of attack on the choices this country is making. I was already at Burning Man, in an isolated bubble of ignorant bliss that was eventually popped by the news. As we left the playa, burners gave significant money, supplies, and people to the relief effort. An eight-month cleanup and rebuilding encampment turned into a movement dubbed Burners Without Borders, which is still developing ambitious goals for good works and greening the event.
I believe Burning Man will be using its 20th birthday as a transition point. We’ve built our community and allowed it to mature, and now we’re talking about where we go from here. Most of those discussions are happening right here in San Francisco, where Burning Man was born and is headquartered. There is tremendous will to use our creation as a force for good.
Progressives will use the anniversaries of Sept. 11 and Katrina to urge our government to reevaluate its relationships with oil, other countries, and its own cities and poor people. Unfortunately, San Francisco isn’t where those decisions will be made.
But if there is a will to change this country’s direction, what better place to launch that movement than here? And what better army than Burning Man’s attendees, expected to number more than 35,000 — people known for their resourceful ability to build a city from scratch, clean it up, and leave no trace?
We’ll be back in a couple weeks, ready for what’s next. SFBG

Clubber’s index


› superego@sfbg.com
SUPER EGO To paraphrase an even bigger Gaye than me: what the fuck’s going on? Bloodshed and glitter, testosterone and falsies, international hatred and asymmetrical haircuts, Katyusha missiles and fuchsia Converse. It’s the middle of summer: Clubland’s on fire and the world’s going to hell. Everything’s a water-based-mascara blur, a streak of tears and soju. Can’t we keep the wars on the dance floor, where they belong? Help us, Willie Ninja! Save us, Amanda Lepore! Rescue us, what’s-her-name from the Gossip!
It’s really all gone, Pete Tong.
Well, fine with me: I’ve got my apocalyptic outfit all picked out, with two different pairs of tangerine pumps to match the flames. The problem, of course, is which hair — Meyer lemon yellow for the toxic blast or Bing cherry red for the fallout? The earth’s gonna ’splode and I’m going down like an atomic Carmen Miranda, child. But first I’ll be glowing under the black-light sleaze. Our politics of dancing may have lamed out (no mosh pits, break wars, or vogue balls), but there’s still no escaping the thrill of the electric boogaloo, especially when the brink wiggles ever closer, its plutonium-lashed antimatter Betty Boop eyes blasting through you. Party time!
Unfortunately or fortunately, that means I’m writing to you from a denial-induced metafabulous blackout. The last two weeks are coming back to me in strobe-lit flashes, a wet jockstrap here, a fogged-up Prius there, and everywhere the stink of cheap whiskey on my breath. Oh, but I’m dutiful. Below is a Harper’s-like rundown of my recently recalled Clubland affairs, a fortnight of forthright escapist fandango.
Soundtracks: DJ B’ugo, a.k.a. Ugo N’gan’ga Gitau of Montreal (www.bugo.dj). All three discs of the new Defected Records Eivissa 2006 Balearic house mix. Old Slits. CNN in the liquor store
Shoes: brown suede Emericas. Grape Kool-Aid shell toe Adidas. Fuzzy gorilla slippers. No Crocs
Outerwear: Home Depot and ImagiKnit
Underwear: conceptual
Drag queen out of drag most encountered: Peaches Christ
Drag queen out of clothing most encountered: Rentteca
Burning Man camp fundraisers successfully avoided: 157
Number unsuccessfully avoided: 36
Cute Israeli refugees I managed to drag home: 2
Cute Lebanese refugees who thanked me politely but said they “weren’t having it”: 12
Number I continued hitting on anyway: 12
Roller-skating-oriented nightlife events attended: 5
Bruised inner thighs: several
Trampled wigs: half
Efforts to really go check out that new club Shine (shinesf.com) being derailed by more focused pick-up efforts of eager, scruffy bicyclists on South Van Ness on the way there: many
Formal reprimands received at the Dore Alley gay leather fetish fair for doing something that “wasn’t allowed”: 1
Times I got away with it: roughly 3
Thwarted attempts to register for the upcoming San Francisco Drag King contest just so I could hang out in the dressing room: 2
Trips to the bathroom during the Guardian Best of the Bay party to puke up free petite sirah: still counting
Amount of self-respect somehow retained throughout all of the above: pricey SFBG
Call for time and price
DNA Lounge
375 11th St., SF
(415) 626-1409

SF’s real sister city


By Scribe
Like most of the roughly 16,000 San Franciscans who attend Burning Man, I had a hard time focusing on work this morning because of the announcement of where all of this year’s theme camps would be placed in Black Rock City. It’s like suddenly finding out whether you get to live in a cool neighborhood like the Mission or the Haight, in a party zone like SOMA, or whether you’re going to be way out in the avenues or the Excelsior (Tribesters spent the morning commiserating or celebrating). Personally, I was stoked that my Ku De Ta camp was placed right next to Camp Katrina, the Burners Without Borders project that did hurricane cleanup on the Gulf Coast after last year’s festival (which I covered and wrote about). In addition to burning art projects in the neverending campfire, just like we did in Mississippi, they’ll be collecting used lumber at the end of the event to recycle through Habitat with Humanity. It’s just the beginning of a concerted movement within the burner community to offset our environmental impacts. My sources say to look for some big announcements coming soon. I’ll keep you posted on an exciting effort to combat criticisms of the event’s consumptive role.



By Scribe
Tis the season to burn bright, what with all the fire arts festivals and other events leading up to Burning Man’s 20th anniversary. And burners have definitely been stepping things up recently. A couple months ago, San Francisco and Black Rock LLC (the group that stages the event) teamed up to throw an amazing fire arts festival at Candlestick Park, going bigger than the Crucible in Oakland usually does for its annual Fire Arts Festival with a stage of great acts, cutting edge pyrotechnics, and, of course, amazing fire spewing contraptions. Well, Michael Sturtz and his Crucible crew accepted that challenge and blew up this weekend’s festival to crazy proportions. This place was just GOING OFF! San Francisco’s Flaming Lotus Girls showed why they’re still queen of the hill with the debut of their new project: Serpent Mother (OK, perhaps I’m a little biased). And the festival’s stage rocked with the Mutaytor, a fantastic entrance and performance by the Extra Action Marching Band, super fresh fire dancing by the San Francisco Fire Conclave, and Dr. Megavolt and friends rockin’ the Tesla coils. I was already excited about this year’s Burning Man — now, it’s all I can do to not want to flee to the desert immediately. The man burns in 48 days. How are your preparations going?

After the game


By Steven T. Jones
I just wanted to throw in an “amen brother” to Tim’s post below about the great coming-together of community at Dolores Park yesterday for the World Cup finals. It was a glorious day and half the staff here have sunburns and hangovers from attending. It was the ideal antidote to the city’s recent crackdowns on public fun. But in addition to our German hosts and the hordes of happy fans, one other group deserves a shout-out: the Space Cowboys. They kept a party of thousands rocking for hours after the game ended, turning the park into a fun outdoor dance party and serving up a subtle reminder that it’s Burning Man season in San Francisco. Theme camp applications were due July 1, so much of the city’s counterculture has officially divided up into tribes working on building Black Rock City on the event’s 20th birthday in late August.
I’ll have more to come on Burning Man throughout the summer, so check back.

For bicyclists, some good news…


› steve@sfbg.com
San Francisco’s southeastern waterfront is a natural jewel buried under the city’s industrial past.
The coastline is warm and often beautiful but marked mostly by collapsing piers, rusting skeletons of industrial centers, two power plants, and other long abandoned maritime projects.
But city and port officials, with the support of civic groups, are embarking on an ambitious effort to open up the waterfront with new bicycle and pedestrian trails, rotating public artwork, improved aquatic access, spruced up waterfront parks, rebuilt piers, and the transformation of industrial property into public spaces that would teach visitors about San Francisco’s past.
The recent opening of Pier 14, with the Passage sculpture from last year’s Burning Man festival as a temporary centerpiece, was a big step forward. And the imminent announcement of what the Farallon/Shorenstein development team is proposing for Piers 27–31 will be another important piece of the central waterfront puzzle.
Yet it is the so-called Blue Greenway initiative — which was formally launched June 24 with a bike and boat tour ending with a party at India Basin Shoreline Park on Hunter’s Point — that takes on the toughest terrain: the 13-mile coastline stretching from China Basin all the way down to Candlestick Point.
A Blue Greenway task force was set up six months ago by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sup. Sophie Maxwell, with support from the Livable City Initiative and Neighborhood Parks Council. They shared their vision with a group of almost 100 bicyclists on a guided tour led by Newsom’s director of greening, Marshall Foster.
“We’re still imagining the way,” Foster said at the first stop of the Imagine the Way tour, Aqua Vista Park, where artist Topher Delaney is still covering the pier in shimmery blue sequins and installing horizontal bike rims trimmed with reflectors at the tops of colored poles.
Another art installment planned at Third Street and Cargo Way, Red Fish by William Wareham, was also not yet complete, like much of the Blue Greenway.
“You’ll notice on Illinois Street how there were no bike lanes. There were supposed to be bike lanes,” said Foster, noting how that project was recently appealed to the Board of Supervisors, only to have that and most other bike projects around the city stopped by a judge’s injunction (see sidebar).
At Pier 70 — once the main employment center of San Francisco, first with Union Iron Works and later Bethlehem Steel — getting access to the waterfront is nearly impossible now. The buildings are dangerous ruins and only broken pilings remain from the once-bustling piers.
“We think ultimately we can get in here and get access to the waterfront,” Foster said.
The Port of San Francisco’s planning and development director, Byron Rhett, who was also pedaling along on the tour, supported Foster’s hopes and said the port has consultants analyzing the site.
“We are just starting the process of declaring this an historic district,” Rhett said. “Bicycle and pedestrian access will be part of those discussions.”
Just south of Pier 70, the tour wound through the weed-strewn and graffiti-covered shoreline park and pathway at Warm Springs Cove. “This is a park that needs love,” said Michael Alexander, an historian and task force member who helped Foster narrate the journey.
A group of eight kayakers who were shadowing the bicyclists showed up while Alexander was talking, and he explained that there will be improvements to water access for them, both at Warm Springs and the next stop, Islais Landing, which was once a busy deepwater port channel, but which is now mostly hidden from view by roadways and underground culverts.
“We want to create places where we can open up Islais Creek,” Foster told the group.
The final two spots of the tour were on either side of the recently shuttered Hunter’s Point Power Plant: Heron’s Head Park and India Basin Shoreline Park, which are connected by a coastal trail that most San Franciscans probably don’t know exists.
At the final stop, Newsom, Maxwell, Assemblymember Mark Leno, and other luminaries gathered to promote the project.
“The Blue Greenway is already in each and every one of us, and we’re going to make sure that dream comes true,” Maxwell said.
The project will be a public-private partnership. Newsom committed the city to the effort but said the public has to get involved: “Without getting the enthusiasm to pull this off, it won’t happen.” SFBG
www.sfbg.com on the Pier 14 opening.