Street Art

Southern light


FEAST: ITALY There are 22 Caravaggio paintings in southern mainland Italy, and we were determined to feast our eyes on every last one of them this past May. (We got up all the way up to 21: one was on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art.) As important: We would eat and drink a wide path to each painting, leaving no plate unlicked in that famously delicious part of the world. Here are some highlights.



While you’re basically tripping over ancient ruins and gorgeous people everywhere you turn, Rome’s chic bistro and cute street food scene will have your head in the culinary clouds. Several experiences really stood out: relaxing in the super old-school family feel of Trattoria di Carmine (squid casserole, insanely layered eggplant parmagiana, gorgeous citrusy anchovies); wandering through the Jewish ghetto devouring as many traditional fried artichokes as we could; scooping up all the gelato at Giolitti; dropping into the trendy spots of the Pigneto neighborhood (kind of like the Mission, gentrification woes and all); drinking and dancing all night at one of the best clubs I’ve been to, Frutta e Verdura.

But there are three I keep coming back to. One is the fantastic, kind-of-hidden lunch treasure Coso near the Spanish Steps, with its lovely takes on classics like hefty but somehow delicate polpette (meatballs) and cacio e vaniglia (a sweet twist on Rome’s eternal pasta dish, spaghetti with cheese and ground pepper). Another was the almost too-hip, yet still laid-back, scene at Barzilai — how those fashionable scruffy models could eat all that rich, irresistible sfumato de artichoke and asparagus flan, we couldn’t figure. But the top of it all was a trip out to the suburbs to visit the fabled Betto e Mary, which serves pretty much what the gladiators ate, but in a family atmosphere, its walls lined with socialist memorabilia. Here we had a vast assortment of interestingly prepared sweetbreads (thymus in lemon, fried pancreas), pasta sauce with more unfamiliar animal parts, and calf’s brain in a zingy orange tomato sauce. Those gladiators sure loved their organs!



Probably my favorite city in the world right now — brimming with chaotic energy, street art, and strange corners and ancient alleyways, which often overflow with music and partying until 4am. The city was bombed heavily in World War II, and it looks like instead of rebuilding all those Renaissance-era monastic buildings and 17th century armories, they just graffitied them with abandon. Pizza, pizza, pizza is what you’ll get here — who’s complaining? — and a lot of bold, full-bodied wines from the surrounding Campagnia region: Taurasi red and Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo whites. Fried balls of dough and zucchini make excellent street bites. Pasta with beans and pan-fried rabbit break up the pizza routine. But perfectly blistered thin-crust pies will make you weep with joy (especially if you’ve spent all day exploring the vast ruins of Pompeii. Hopping, affordable, late-night Pizzeria I Decumani is definitely a top choice.



The thin, winding cliff roads of this region are terrifying — but you’ll gladly risk death (preferably on a motorbike) for stunning views of pastel-colored towns sprawling up mountains, imposing 1,000-year-old Saracen towers left over from the coast’s Arab occupiers, and fantastic seafood galore. Every town boasts quaint delights, but my husband and I were really taken with tiny Atrani, with its staircase streets, large clock tower, and main plaza lined with good restaurants. Here we dived into octopus, sardines, squid, every kind of fish imaginable, and bright chartreuse glasses of limoncello liquor alongside the sparkling Mediterranean.



The sprawling, ancient cave city of Matera, in the central south, is a home base for cucina povera, peasant cooking that serves as some of the best comfort food in the world. Among the moonlit, picturesque stone buildings jutting from their original cave bases, warm dining spots serve orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or cavatelli (rolled up orecchiette) cooked with the region’s leafy species of broccoli rabe and sprinkled with lard-fried breadcrumbs. Sometimes they drown the whole plate in melted mozzarella. Paired with a local primitivo wine — the Basilicata region has been producing grapes since 1300 BC — it’s pure hog heaven. “You will never have orecchiette as good as this,” said our waiter at incredible neighborhood favorite Trattoria Due Sassi as he dropped off a giant bowl to share. Why? “Because my mother makes it.”



Trani is a seaside resort town on the east coast with some serious maritime history, and a cathedral — Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino — that dates back to the fourth century. When we were there, it was windy and cold. No beach weekend for us, but we took necessary solace in a magical little wine shop called Enoteca de Toma Mauro. Octogenarian owner Francesco was a perfect guide to the wines of Lucania, Salento, and Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot) in general. He also carried some killer Amaro, the favored digestif of the region — herbal and bittersweet, but with an exceptionally smooth finish, I couldn’t get enough of it. *


This Week’s Picks: Sept 17-23, 2014





Multiple Mary and Invisible Jane

Flyaway Productions, the aerial dance company that aims to “expose the range and power of female physicality,” will use an 80-foot wall offered up by the UC Hastings College of the Law to perform its new, site-specific dance created for the Tenderloin. If you’ve never seen aerial dance before, get ready to hold your breath as you watch dancers careen, tumble, and pirouette some seven stories up into the stratosphere. But the social justice themes for this performance keep its spirit on the streets, while dancers Erin Mei-Ling Stuart, Alayna Stroud, Marystarr Hope, Becca Dean, Laura Ellis, and Esther Wrobel fly through the air: Multiple Mary and Invisible Jane was choreographed by Jo Kreiter to narrate the experience of homeless women in San Francisco, in a neighborhood where extreme privilege and poverty collide. This afternoon’s performance will also have tabling with housing activists from Tenants Together. (Emma Silvers)

Wed/17-Thu/18 at noon and 8pm; Fri/19-Sat/20 at 8 and 9pm; free

UC Hastings School of the Law

333 Golden Gate, SF

(415) 672-4111







Some know quaaludes as a sedative that was popular in the disco era for its dizzying side effects. Others more hip to San Francisco’s independent music scene know Quaaludes as an all-girl quartet from the city by the Bay. Combining elements of grunge, post-punk, and riot grrrl, the band is unapologetically fierce when it comes to its live shows and lyric matter. In the band’s latest conquest to conquer a primarily male-dominated scene, Quaaludes is releasing its newest 7″ EP, dubbed Nothing New, on Dollskin and Thrillhouse Records this week. In celebration of this and their upcoming tour, the band will be playing with Generation Loss, Bad Daddies and Man Hands at everybody’s favorite Bernal Heights’ dive bar, The Knockout. (Erin Dage)

With Generation Loss, Bad Daddies, Man Hands

10pm, $7


3223 Mission, SF

(415) 550-6994






Eat Real Festival

Do you like noshing on food that’s as tasty as it is wallet-friendly? (If the answer is negative, the follow-up is: Do you have a pulse?) Oakland’s Eat Real Festival lures some of the most tempting food trucks and vendors in the Bay Area to Jack London Square, none of which will charge more than eight bucks for whatever’s on the menu. Besides affordable, sustainable and local are other key buzzwords at play, but the loudest buzz of all will be emanating from the hungry as they feast on mac n’ cheese, tacos, BBQ, falafel, vegan delights, sweet treats, and more. (Cheryl Eddy)

Today, 1-9pm; Sat/20, 10:30am-9pm; Sun/21, 10:30am-5pm, free

Jack London Square

55 Harrison, Oakl.





Cine+Mas 6th Annual SF Latino Film Festival

Filmmakers, young and old, parading their versions of the provoca-creative relationship between the eye behind the lens and the image in front of the camera. This 6th edition of the San Francisco Latino Film Festival not only highlights most genres and styles of cinematography but a substantial example of the new Latin American film current. The result might well outshine Hollywood. In El Salvador, there is still a lot to do to settle scores with one of its most prolific (and ignored) poets, and the film Roque Dalton, Let’s Shoot the Night! (Austria, El Salvador, Cuba) is one step forward. In Peru’s Trip to Timbuktu, teenagers Ana and Lucho use love to hide from the social unrest of the ’80s. The festival opens with LA’s Alberto Barboza Cry Now. Films will also be shown in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. (Fernando A. Torres)

Through Sept. 27

7pm, $15 (prices and times vary)

Brava Theater

2781 24th St., SF

(415) 754-9580





In case you hadn’t heard, the Nob Hill Masonic Center recently had a little work done — a nip here, a tuck there, the installation of 3,300 brand-new seats, a few new bars, food options, and a rather expensive state-of-the-art sound system. Kicking things off at the new-and-improved music venue that will henceforth be known as The Masonic is Beck, who seemingly never ages, and whom you can count on to christen the stage but good with his idiosyncratic blend of funk, rock, and melancholy blues (this year’s Moon Phase was on the mopier side of the spectrum, but in a darn pretty way). The last time we saw him we were freezing our butts off at the Treasure Island Music Festival, so we’re excited to see him moonwalk again (hopefully!) in slightly cozier pastures. (Silvers)

8pm, $85-$120


1111 California, SF

(415) 776-7475







“Silent Autumn”

Good news, SF Silent Film Festival fans: The popular “Silent Winter” program is now “Silent Autumn,” and its movie magic (with live musical accompaniment) arrives at the Castro months earlier than usual. The day is packed with top-notch programming, but if you must narrow it down: The British Film Institute-curated “A Night at the Cinema in 1914” showcases newsreels (think votes-for-women protestors and World War I reports), comedies (early Chaplin!), a Perils of Pauline episode, and more; while the freshly restored, memorably creepy German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) gets its US premiere. (Eddy)

First program at 11am, $15

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF





After the breakup of the original Misfits in 1983, Glenn Danzig built upon the horror punk foundation of his first band and added even darker lyrical content, and later on, a more metal sound to the mix, creating Samhain — a group that would go on to release three records before the singer re-tooled the lineup and adopted the eponymous moniker of Danzig. When original members Steve Zing and London May join Danzig on stage in San Francisco tonight — one of only seven gigs that the band is playing on this special reunion tour — you can be assured that “All Hell Breaks Loose!” (Sean McCourt)

With Goatwhore and Kyng

8pm, $30-$45

The Warfield

982 Market, SF








Berkeley World Music Festival

Telegraph Avenue is enough of a spectacle in and of itself on an average day, but on day two of this free fest — which marks the first time organizers have thrown a fall party in addition to the spring festival — the whole street will become a stage, as organizers have closed the Ave to cars between Dwight and Durant. Get ready to hear Zydeco and Canjun sounds, Klezmer tunes, Moroccan Chaabi pop, Zimbabwean dance numbers, Sufi trance, and just about every other kind of international music you can think of. A kids’ section will have puppet shows and street art, while a special beer garden on Telegraph at Haste serves to benefit Berkeley’s beloved Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center. No passport necessary. (Silvers)

Starts Sat/20, noon to 6pm, free

Telegraph between Dwight and Durant, Berk.

MONDAY/22 The Raveonettes Grafting lush harmonies, catchy song structures, and timeless production values from 1950s rock ‘n’ roll pioneers such as Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers onto a modern indie approach, The Raveonettes have created an ethereal sound that is virtually all their own. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have added fuzz-tone guitars and more on top of their history-steeped musical foundation over the course of several records to great effect, including their latest, Pe’ahi, which hit stores in July. Based on tracks like “Endless Sleeper,” it appears that living in Los Angeles has added a ripping surf twang to their guitar sound — along with other welcome, varied instrumentation. (McCourt) 8pm, $28 Bimbo’s 365 Club 1025 Columbus, SF (415) 474-0365 TUESDAY/23 Robin Williams Double Feature: The World According to Garp and The Birdcage What is there to say about the beloved comedian that hasn’t already been said? Better to let him speak — rant, sing, preach — for himself, in any of the countless, ridiculous voices in which he spoke. The 1982 adaptation of John Irving’s novel sees Williams in the title role of Garp, alongside Glenn Close making her feature debut, plus John Lithgow’s Academy Award-nominated turn as a transgender jock. And The Birdcage, Mike Nichols’ classic, uproarious 1996 adaptation of La Cage aux Folles, pairs Williams with two of the other finest comedic actors of his generation, Hank Azaria and Nathan Lane, for the original Meet the Parents, so to speak. (Hint: It’s funnier when one of the couples owns a gay nightclub in South Beach.) Shoes optional? (Silvers) 4:45pm, 7pm, 9:30pm, $11 Castro Theatre 429 Castro, SF George Thorogood Celebrating 40 years of bringing blues and booze-fueled good times to fans around the globe, George Thorogood and The Destroyers continue to be the unabashedly best bar band in the world. Just hearing the first few notes or verses of songs like “Move It On Over,” “I Drink Alone,” “Who Do You Love,” and of course, “Bad to the Bone” transports listeners to a jumpin’ juke joint of yesteryear, where you forget all your daily troubles and just dance the night away — and you know what to order when the bartender asks. Of course, it’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer!” (McCourt) 8pm, $38.50 The Fillmore 1805 Geary, SF (415) 346-3000 The Guardian listings deadline is two weeks prior to our Wednesday publication date. To submit an item for consideration, please include the title of the event, a brief description of the event, date and time, venue name, street address (listing cross streets only isn’t sufficient), city, telephone number readers can call for more information, telephone number for media, and admission costs. Send information to Listings, the Guardian, 835 Market Street, Suite 550, SF, CA 94103; or e-mail (paste press release into e-mail body — no attachments, please) to Digital photos may be submitted in jpeg format; the image must be at least 240 dpi and four inches by six inches in size. We regret we cannot accept listings over the phone.



Hidden in a strange, inward-facing compound at 18th and Folsom streets that is filled with small art galleries, hair salons, and oddly themed storefronts, Pirate Salon has always been groovy spot to get a killer hairdo with a rogue flair, particularly by the Barcelona-born-and-trained queen of color and style Ana Rivero Rossi for the last four years.

While Pirate Salon is still a small business worth recognizing and visiting, Rivero Rossi’s brand new salon on Valencia Street between 24th and 25th, HeartZilla, is really something special. Along with her boyfriend Todd Hanson, also a fellow artist, Rivero Rossi has scoured the Bay Area for groovy vintage chairs, fixtures, and other funky decor that ooze the same unique flair (for example, we dig the colorfully drip-painted walls) that she brings to her clients’ hair.

“It is important that each hair style that I do is custom designed, with love, to the desires and idiosyncrasies of the client. I collaborate with every client to create a look that allows each person to feel uniquely themselves, their inside worlds expressed outwardly, with freshness and finesse,” she said, describing the concept behind her new salon at “a love-hair monster.”

As a visual and conceptual artist (, Rivero Rossi (who is my stylist) has created some interesting street art pieces, including Aqui Love, a series of artistic custom hearts connected by shoestrings hanging from overhead electrical wires around the city — a play off of the hanging pairs of shoes that are the stuff of urban legends.

Now, Rivero Rossi is pouring her own heart into HeartZilla — which is just now getting off the ground in this high-profile location, and she’s still in the process of selecting the right stylists to fill out her other chairs — so we thought this newcomer to Valencia Street deserves some love from us and from you.

1380 Valencia Street, SF

Spread your wings




Dance Mission Theater has kept itself going by offering some of the most cutting-edge and exciting classes around. (Even the cast of The Real World dropped in recently for some schooling on how to vogue.) Here, instructor Bruce “Mui” Ghent of the Maikaze Daiko dojo will teach you how to bang your own beat out — on very, very large drums. The rigorously physical class (dress to sweat) introduces the basics of the ancient Japanese musical art form, taught with martial arts etiquette and discipline.

April 13- May 18, Sundays, 10:30am-noon, $99. Mission Dance Theater, 3316 24th St, SF.



Be the Brando of poets, as Alexandra Kostoulas — student of famed Method Writing sage Jack Grapes — “strips away the artifice of writing, the baggage that keeps us from the most essential building block of any writing: the Deep Voice.” The class is based on journal entries which are transformed using Method Writing techniques into stories and poems. Help your writing to leap from the page and roar with fire! Or at least try something passionate and different.

April 29-June 17, Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30pm, $395. Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF. Also April 30-June 18, Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30, $395. Wework Building, 25 Taylor, SF.



Give your music 3D expression — and a big boost of digital career potential — at this intensive course at Ex’pression Digital College. Students get an earful of learnin’: music production, electronic music and beat production, audio and visual composition, live performance engineering, audio engineering, recording and mixing, audio and music programming, and video game audio creation and integration. You get to make shapes with your sounds, very cool.

Classes start May 19 in Emeryville and San Jose. See for more information



Downtown SF street art nexus 1:AM, aka First Ammendment (winner of a Guardian Best of the Bay Award) offers this supercool class with artist Strider. “Learn to make your ‘mark’ on the world” by designing, cutting, and spraying intricate stencils — including on your own T-shirts. Ages 14+ are welcome: This class is great for budding protesters, free spirits, and guerilla artists.

June 28, 12:30-3:30pm, $55. 1:AM, 1000 Howard, SF.



Have you heard about this whole slow food movement thingie? Nonprofit Bauman College has spent the last 25 years teaching health and wellness through holistic nutrition and culinary arts. This 450-hour course is the whole megilla — kitchen basics, farm-to-table sourcing, world cuisine, client services, therapeutic applications, and more. Everyone’s gotta eat, so the field continues to grow. Graduates can go on to work as personal chefs or start their own delicious business.

Classes start in September and are offered in Berkeley and Santa Cruz, See for more information.



No, this program doesn’t consist of screaming at your ex. A graduate program at the California Institute for Integral Studies, regionally accredited and approved by the North American Drama Therapy Association, drama therapy draws on dramatic play, theater, role-play, psychodrama, and dramatic ritual, to free the mind and bring healing to others. “Freedom and possibility are two key words that begin to describe the essence of drama therapy. Life is finite; there are only so many experiences we can have. But in drama, the opportunities and options are endless.”

Register for fall 2014 semester by July 10. See for more information.


Spiking the box office


YEAR IN FILM It’s tough to remember much of the ’90s — what with the air horns and kindercore, flannel and Flavor Flav — but I seem to recall Spike Lee giving the orders that seemed to finally, fully come to pass in 2013: “Make black film.”

Irony of ironies, when it seemed like so many black filmmakers were following through and doing just that — telling their communities’ stories, visualizing their own histories, and fearlessly unlocking troubling and painful key themes — Lee sidled away from Red Hook Summer, last year’s murky return to the fabled Brooklyn stomping grounds of 1989’s Do the Right Thing, and seemed to move toward a fallback position as actioner-for-hire with his redo of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, as if to prove that, testify, he can crush skulls just like his old Amerindie-boys-club rival Quentin Tarantino.

Yet isn’t Lee’s Oldboy a “black film” concerning unjust incarceration or bondage, as much as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Hunger are? Perhaps. The connections were in place, if you cared to look: the stasis of 12 Year‘s near-still opening shot, as Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and other slaves facing the audience, waiting and listening to a white foreman’s directions, has its corollary in the multiple shots in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, of Forest Whitaker’s butler Cecil Gaines, face frozen. He’s the veritable “invisible man,” instructed to disappear into the background at White House dinners and forever listening for direction. And waiting — as if wondering when the moviemaking establishment will move on from its habit of bestowing statuettes for African American portraits in servitude, à la The Help (2011) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989).

It’s been a long time coming — much like a certain African American president that butler Gaines had waited a lifetime to meet. Five years into that presidency, the man who tried to “do the right thing” has, intentionally or not, changed the conversation on black representation on screens both big and small. The country’s ready to look at its past and break down the codes, whether they concern slavery, birthers’ loaded allegations about Obama’s “un-American-ness,” Paula Deen’s alleged workplace racism, or Julianne Hough’s wrongheaded Halloween costume — a blackface tribute to “Orange is the New Black” character Crazy Eyes.

This year’s contenders looked to not only historical role models like Jackie Robinson in 42 and Nelson Mandela in Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom) — in movies made by white filmmakers — but also lighter, aspirational figures such as Tyler Perry (who laid siege on the box office with two efforts, A Madea Christmas and Peeples), as well as the glossy buppies populating popular comedy sequel The Best Man Holiday. Fans blew up the Interwebs with indignation when some misbegotten USA Today editor came up with the headline “Holiday Nearly Beats Thor as Race-Themed Films Soar.”

The Best Man Holiday is bourgie worlds away from Spike Lee favorite Fruitvale Station. (One wonders if the acclaimed indie will serve as a model for Lee’s own Kickstarter-fueled Trayvon Martin project.) Filling out the many shades of his protagonist’s story, and leading with cell phone footage of the fatal shooting, director Ryan Coogler never overplays the naturalistic narrative centered on Oscar Grant, so often writ larger than life all over Oakland in posters and street art. Though it was released at height of Martin-related outrage, the film keeps sensation and sentimentality at bay, apart from a foreboding scene of a stray dog’s sudden death. Like that hound on the run, Michael B. Jordan’s Grant is a driving, hustling, partying study in movement. Fully immersed in a multicultural Bay Area where racism operates in subtler and more complex ways than ever before, he, like any other restless rider, is just trying to get home.

Whitaker threw his weight behind Fruitvale Station as a producer — but his Gaines and The Butler seem wildly different on their stiff, sad surfaces. So much is simmering within Whitaker’s stocky form, his steadfast servant with access to power that he’s forbidden to use, and those blank looks. “We got two faces: ours and the ones that we got to show the white folks. Now to get up in the world, we have to make them feel non-threatened,” mentor Maynard (Clarence Williams III of The Mod Squad) offers. Surrounded by Daniels players like Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, Gaines has one leg in a horrifying sharecropper past and another in upwardly mobile mid-century America, which filmmaker Daniels emphasizes by juxtaposing lynched black men with the stars and stripes at The Butler’s start.

The director goes on to unfurl his showiest stylistic flourishes in a series of jump cuts aimed at the spectacle of hypocrisy perpetually unfolding in the White House, as a table is carefully laid for a excruciating formal state dinner, and the Freedom Riders — Gaines’ son among them — are humiliated while staging a stoic sit-in at a Southern lunch counter. Passive resistance, in all its many forms, is the locus of both tragedy and heroism in The Butler.

Nature, with its dripping moss, strange sunsets, and even Biblical pestilence, provides brief snatches of beauty in 12 Years a Slave, as McQueen foregrounds the mechanistic business of slavery in the tools used for cutting cane, the wheels of a river boat. Free-born violinist Northup is beaten into a kind of tool after he’s kidnapped and sold into slavery. His body, nude and exposed to traffickers and buyers, is transformed into a commodity that doesn’t belong to him. His talents are also forced into new uses, as when he fiddles frantically while a mother is torn from her children in a horror-show of a salesroom floor — and later, during a torturous, late-night dance staged by Michael Fassbender’s damaged, sadistic slave owner. The effect of seeing familiar white actors (like Fassbender, and the stars who play The Butler’s various commanders in chief) reel by in a parade of status quo perpetrators, not saviors. In both 12 Years and The Butler, it’s disorienting — as if everyone in Hollywood is also aching to “make black film.”

12 years a slave

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave

Bridging McQueen’s explorations of physical and psychological abjection, Hans Zimmer’s slow-burning, string-laden score picks up where it left off in McQueen’s 2011 Shame, about Fassbender’s sex addict enchained to his confused desires. In terms of desire, it’s all too clear where Ejiofor’s Northup stands (“I don’t want to survive — I want to live!” he declares), and to his credit, McQueen makes his nightmarish 172-year-old descent all too relevant, especially at a time when the Obama administration addresses the persistent crime of human trafficking. It’s just a small leap of imagination to think of one’s story, name, and legal status blotted out and turned around by force and a gnawing “you’re nothing but a Georgia runaway” counter-narrative, reminding the viewer that no one is truly free when others are enslaved. *




 (in alphabetical order)

Best second time around: 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, US/UK)

Luxe clucks: The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, US/UK/France/Germany/Japan)

Best off-base SF-by-way-of-Jersey: Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, US)

Finest funny-sad threesome: Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, US)

Bay pride: Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, US)

Best flouting of the laws of physics: Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, US)

Best use of entire songs: Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen, US/France)

Best tortured threesome: The Past (Asghar Farhadi, France/Italy)

Inspired grills and thrills: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, US) Rapturous apocalypse: This Is the End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, US)

The Performant: Home is where the art is


Valencia Street art space struggles to retain its physical and spiritual existence
Sometimes you stumble across places that just feel like home the instant you step across the threshold. Maybe not the kind of home where you lounge around in sweatpants binging on Dynamo Donuts and Netflix, but a home that offers comfort for the spirit, where creativity and intention reign. Curiosity shop, design showcase, and artist enclave, Viracocha at 998 Valencia Street has been one such home for many, from the poets who helped build its pallet-wood walls, to the neighborhood literati who donated to and borrowed from Ourshelves, the private lending library that until very recently occupied the back of the building, to the acoustic musicians and spoken-word artists who gathered in the basement to perform and to connect, to the visual artists whose work was treated as décor first and merchandise almost as an afterthought.

One part art installation, one part community outlet, and one part ostensible retail venture, the four year-old Viracocha feels far older, thanks perhaps in part to its proximity to the venerable Artists’ Television Access, or a lingering resonance from santería supply store Botanica Yoruba, which occupied the same space for many years. Stepping inside always feels like stepping through a cool, jazz-infused looking-glass into a parallel world where life is art and art is life, and all that other stuff doesn’t matter quite as much as you thought it did. Plus, typewriters.
But it’s a brave new Valencia Street, and in matters of merchantry (some of that “other stuff” we wish didn’t matter) it’s an increasingly challenging atmosphere in which to be experimenting with idiosyncratic business models. And as many creatives-turned-commercialists have discovered, sinking all of your energies into commerce can sap those same energies from creation, and balancing the two can be a constant struggle. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when Viracocha announced that it was raising funds in order to reorganize in the new year, a reorganization that includes proprietor Jonathan Siegel passing the baton to an as-yet unnamed group of successors, and applications for permits to legalize the heretofore “secret” performance venue below the floorboards of the retail space. Not a surprise, but still a sad shock. We like our quirky empires to remain unchanged and unperturbed by the pressures of the outside world, even when clinging onto the “old ways” can mean driving them out of existence. It’s an often unspoken conundrum, but retaining loyalty is a delicate balance too.
It began as much an experiment as anything else. The idea of a space that put the art before the consumption of it had come to Siegel years before while he lived in New York working as an actor and in the construction industry. After moving to San Francisco in 2005 he became a known denominator on the poetry scene, including as the organizer for the Poetry Mission reading series at Dalva, and as a member of the erstwhile Collaborative Arts Insurgency. And when he signed a lease on the space in 2009, it was to members of the latter that he turned for assistance in building the space up from scratch, a modern-day barnraising where a vision of community was constructed along with each new wall. A community Siegel refers to as “an orphanage for the lost creative spirit inside all of us,” where practitioners of many mediums might find a place to commune, and where patrons of same might come to discover new artists and new-to-them treasures in a non-pressured, almost anti-commercial environment.
While the future of Viracocha is still uncertain and dependent in large part on what repairs and modifications are deemed necessary by the city (ADA-compliant elevator and restroom for starters, an expense Siegel claims is manageable) and what kind of entertainment venue permits the space is able to secure in the new year. But from Siegel’s POV, he’s leaving Viracocha’s future in capable hands (“the (people) coming onboard don’t want to see the energy of the space shift into something radically different”). As for his own future, he alludes to completion of not one but four books in the works, and a reconnection with his own creativity.

“It’s time for me to let go of many things in my world and rebuild from within,” he muses via email, a sentiment which seems to apply also to Viracocha, and its current state of rebirth, and pretty apropos both for a space named for the Incan god of creation, and for the modern-day visionary who named it.

 (Full disclosure: the author’s collaborative literary bike map is currently for sale at Viracocha.)

The Performant: Alley up!


Clarion Alley Block Party still standing strong

It’s an age-old paradox of urban living that no matter how much there is to do and see it’s a) impossible to experience it all and b) so easy to take it all for granted. And it’s really not such a stretch to figure out that the more we take for granted the more chance there is that one day those things we love will disappear.

Of course a certain amount of flux is healthy, and part of what makes a city vibrant is that it’s a place where new ideas and new energies take root and flourish far more readily than in more insular, more homogenous spaces. And for every street corner band that’s moved indoors, every homey café long gone, every poetry brawl, punk rock peepshow, robot sex symposium, marching band parade, and nomadic dance party that have dropped off the radar, there’s bound to be a new crew of upstart art-agonists rising up to fill the empty spaces, it’s just finding the will or time to seek them out that can be daunting. They’re worth the effort. But sometimes we don’t want to have to put in so much effort.

Like comfort food for the underground, some perennial events are still staking out the remnants of, if not the long-distant past, at least the 90s, where the foundations for much of what is now taken for granted were formed. The Clarion Alley Block Party is one such remnant, and still going strong, as Saturday’s event proved.

Blessed by mild weather and a musically diverse lineup of beloved local bands, attending the annual celebration and fundraiser for CAMP (Clarion Alley Mural Project) was a bit like attending the reunion party that more reunion parties should aspire to be like, full of familiar faces and a distinct lack of hubris.

 A couple of new murals glowed from the colorful walls which have been evolving since 1992, a who’s-who of notable works including Chuy Campusano’s homage to Picasso’s Guernica; Jet Martinez’ fantastical, Tomi De Paola-esque landscape Lo Llevas por Dentro; and a venerable, twitchy elephant by Andrew Schoultz, crowded into a much too confined space. Of the newer works, a comic strip detailing the adventures of modern-day, anti-overdose superheroine, Narcania, by Erin Amelia Ruch and Mike Reger (of Mission Mini-Comix infame); an image of busy cartoon ants working over the pale blue corpse of a gadget-toting, tech-type by Mats Stromberg; and Megan Wilson’s playfully anti-capitalist Tax the Rich (with its bed of smiling flowers that carpet the sidewalk) are perhaps the most eye-catching, and provocatively relevant to some of the abiding concerns of the neighborhood.
Of course it wouldn’t be a proper block party without bands, and Clarion Alley always manages to put together a creative and raucous all-day show on its twin stages. Highlights for me this year included a bombastically sludgy set from three-piece doom metal outfit HORNSS; a noisy, drone-y, industrial meets hardcore set from masked musical marauders Death Cheetah; and a sweaty, climactic apotheosis of sound from the last band of the evening, old school rabble-rousers, Apogee Sound Club.

The smell of cigarettes, dope, cheap beer, and tamales mingled in the still evening air, revelers in their Halloween costumes bobbed their heads in time to the tunes, and the only real sign of the times was the occasional ipad lifted aloft for photo-taking, which, given the casual nature of the event, didn’t even seem that intrusive. Proving, at least in the moment, that art and innovation can coexist if we let them.

Best of the Bay 2013: BEST HORROR HOUND DECOR


To some, a house full of Alex Pardee visual art would reap naught but disturbed sleep and missed meals. A living dream catcher made of exposed sinew and dripping eyeballs dangling from tendons, ready to snatch a soul; a roaring “Sharkasus” with razor teeth, four legs, and wings; an endless parade of your favorite horror icons rendered somehow even more terrifying by his spindly, precise strokes. But given the fact there are now two Bay Area shops stocked primarily with his prints, originals, and tees — in addition to the unnerving yet painterly work of other artists like Dave Correia — plenty of us are digging it. While shopping for the creep-craver in your life, you’ll do no better than the Oakland or Lower Haight location of Zero Friends, which has become a ground zero of sorts for the street art marketing scene.

419 Haight, SF. (415) 418-9912; 489A 25th St., Oakl. (510) 735-9405 (open first Fridays of the month or by appointment only);

Best of the Bay 2013 Editors Picks: Shopping




Editors picks are chosen by Guardian editors for special recognition for brightening the Bay Area experience.


Get that paper, paper, paper — printed. Holed up in a cozy garage with a cute dog and a hunky Vandercock proof press (a rare specimen last produced in the 1960s), the letterpress-loving ladies of Western Editions create and design paper goods for all occasions and situations, from badass business cards with handmade charm to colorful and direct wedding invites that may just get your flaky San Franciscan friends to actually attend the soirée. “Letterpress is magic,” is the motto of Western Addition residents Taylor Reid and Erin Fong, two friends turned business partners who are down to customize and open to suggestions, meaning you can make all the cute shit your ambitious heart desires, or purchase some one else’s great idea from their online store. Oh, hey, and they offer supercool DIY workshops, too — just in time for the holidays.

555 Rose, SF.


We’re constantly on the hunt for the perfect outfit that will make it through our daily transition from work serf to night owl. Reversible scarves, tear-away skirts, all black outfits — those work OK. But what about then shoes? What pair of hoofers can glide us from the workbound bike lane to the underground dance floor? Welp, a local company has the solution to our woes: DZR Shoes, an SF-based (though they manufacture overseas) outfit that creates sneakers that can clip to all manners of pedal types, but look fly as all getout. Whether you go for high or low top, fully vegan design or whole grain leather, knee-high lace-up or slip-in, chances are you can find the kicks to complete your Lycra-free lane look in style. Our current favorite? The sleek, all-black Minna, designed by artist-DJ Jeremiah Bal.



Her eyes scanning the abandoned lots and hillsides of the Stinson area and East Bay, Louesa Roebuck of Louesa Roebuck Flora isn’t afraid to snoop, sneak, or hustle in the name of foraging for flowers. Her mission: fetch that wild flora and arrange it in ways that exemplify the plant’s natural majesty. Gleaning armloads of budding branches, floppy magnolias, brilliant poppies, sweet mallow, bright berries, and sharp citrus from both public and secret locations, Louesa finds beauty in imperfection, a sublime bouquet in nature’s fantastic mistakes. She lets the blooms and leaves curl, crawl, and droop as they will, showcasing the fascinating juxtaposition between life and slow, dreamy decay. Visit her tiny Hayes Valley shop to see the day’s treasures and meet some of the gorgeous plants living right beside you.

597 Hayes, SF. (415) 686-5482,


Like a sweater for your insides, the names warm your gray matter: Broichladdich, Glayva, Mackillop’s, Benriach, Balvenie, Glenmorangie. Standing in the sweetly crammed back bottle room of downtown’s Whisky Shop can be a meditative experience for scotch lovers — the selection of malts and blends vies for the city’s best, with employees as helpful as their kilts are fetching. And should the Whisky Shop staff’s sartorial motif inspire, the front portion of the store is stocked with a rainbow of tartan, wool, and waxed fabric wardrobe. Score kilts and genuine, betasseled fur sporrans you’ll use to stash your new perfectly heart-shaped silver flask. And possibly a novelty gift or two — the Whisky Shop is also flush with crest-adorned coasters, canned haggis, and artisan lotions from the United Kingdom.

360 Sutter, SF. (415) 989-1030,



While there can be no debate that surf shops, in general, are selling a lifestyle, few are hawking a way of living as healthy as Mill Valley’s beloved Proof Lab. Need proof? The nine-year-old store (whose owners used reclaimed and reused materials wherever possible in its construction) stocks the best in sustainable men’s and women’s clothing, surfboard brands, and skateboard fixins, of course. But it also hosts a passel of community-minded offerings: sustainability workshops, toddler art classes, a native plant nursery, a biodiesel fuel station. On the lot next door you’ll find a teaching garden co-founded by Proof where one can take the occasional canning seminar, and buy fresh local produce. Plus: a new Equator coffee bar, to keep you up for those waves.

244 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley. (415) 380-8900,



We bow down to the business acumen and sharp eye for trends possessed by Floss Gloss duo Aretha Sack and Janine Lee. These two California College of the Arts grads eschewed inward-looking artistic exploration, instead embarking on a mission to paint the world with the sizzling neons and kick-ass, vintage-inspired shades that haunt their minds eye. Their canvas? The fingernails of the Bay Area’s young, hip, and gifted. How did they take their line of animal cruelty-free nail polishes from late-night study sessions to indie and corporate retailers around the globe? (All while remaining 100 percent free of DBPs, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals — these colors may scream “heavy metal,” but contain none.) Let us count the ways: perfect nacho cheese orange and bikini coral lacquers; irresistibly chic tones like Party Bruise, Dimepiece, Black Holy, Faded, Pony, and Blood, Suede, and Tears; endless pop-up nail salons, hard work … and the knowledge that you can do anything when you’ve got a perfect 10 to point the way.



It is a satisfying, luxurious — if fundamental — satisfaction, settling in to make dinner with a hiss-sharp passel of well-honed knives. Fans of cutting-edge pleasures will want to slip into Nob Hill’s Town Cutler, a well-hewn, immaculately organized shop of blades both wildly fabulous (a $1,050 Wilburn Forge Japanese chef knife, its silver nickel sharp marbled and lovely) and craftily utilitarian (a $100 handleless Takeda Kogotana meant for woodworking). Owner Galen Garretson will sell you these, sharpen the utensils you already own, teach you to work your own knives in a sharpening tutorial or informative class, and even help you get a handle on blunter culinary objects — the back of Town Cutlery is an elegantly hung array of those most-unsharp kitchen friends: spoons.

1005 Bush, SF. (415) 359-1519,



These are the facts: Reading is cool, books are rad, free books are even radder, and the best combo of all of these is the Bay Area Free Book Exchange. At any given moment, the space — run cooperatively by a cadre of indie booksellers and printed-page junkies — houses some 10,000 books, all free for the taking. (“It’s like an ever-changing treasure hunt among thousands of books,” its website declares, and we have to agree.) Since opening in May 2009, the Exchange has given away over 350,000 books during its weekend hours, with an ultimate goal of handing out a million, and beyond! Since it survives on donations, consider adding your own previously-read tomes to the stacks proudly bearing this stamp: “Not for Resale, This is a Free Book.”

10520 San Pablo, El Cerrito. (510) 705-1200,



A compellingly curated combination of artwork by some of San Francisco’s eye-catching countercultural artists — with noteworthy post-industrial tinge courtesy of the Burning Man diaspora — and intriguing flea market finds by diligent shoppers with an eye for the urban aesthetic, Carousel Consignment SF is an oasis of great pre-found finds. This welcoming and decidedly funky Mission whirl, set in motion by co-owners Kelley Wehman and Illy McMahan (who bonded over their passion for all things circus and vintage), can turn a quick fly-by into an afternoon-long exploration. Furniture, toys, lighting, textiles … Its quirky assemblage of wares preserves its surroundings’ penchant for the wacky and weird.

2391 Mission, SF. (415) 821-9848,



You know how it goes: surfing the www.aves of one’s sleek laptop, a stray image distracts. Suddenly, you’re no longer typing that return email — your mind has fixed on a different kind of click entirely. For you, sweets, SoMa brand Crave‘s line of tech-happy sex toys. Designed and produced by Ti Chang and Michael Topolovac, and assembled in the land of SF startup, each of the company’s gorgeous, whisper-quiet specimens have all the design and functionality of your favorite Apple toy. Our favorite is the Duet, a vibe with a double-pronged, silicone clitoral approach available in gold plating and with the option of eight or 16 GB of data storage thanks to a USB charging battery. That’s right: there is a USB port up in this vibrator. Adventurous souls can wear their pleasure out in public: Crave’s “Droplet” lariat necklace doubles as discreet nipple vibrators.


To some, a house full of Alex Pardee visual art would reap naught but disturbed sleep and missed meals. A living dream catcher made of exposed sinew and dripping eyeballs dangling from tendons, ready to snatch a soul; a roaring “Sharkasus” with razor teeth, four legs, and wings; an endless parade of your favorite horror icons rendered somehow even more terrifying by his spindly, precise strokes. But given the fact there are now two Bay Area shops stocked primarily with his prints, originals, and tees — in addition to the unnerving yet painterly work of other artists like Dave Correia — plenty of us are digging it. While shopping for the creep-craver in your life, you’ll do no better than the Oakland or Lower Haight location of Zero Friends, which has become a ground zero of sorts for the street art marketing scene.

419 Haight, SF. (415) 418-9912; 489A 25th St., Oakl. (510) 735-9405 (open first Fridays of the month or by appointment only);



Should you need a custom cabinet, a staircase rehab, perhaps a new cupola on your clock tower, you can turn to Clipper Construction’s Mathieu Palmer. But 501 Waller, the storefront Palmer owned and used as storage space — as he told local blog Haighteration — wasn’t the best use of a neighborhood-facing corner shop. Enter Palmer’s friend Dan Daniel, who created Clipper Repair from this clutter, a friendly place for fixing up, designing, or refurbishing anything you could imagine: lamps, cabinets, antique furniture, electrical things. The interior is a gorgeously organized wonderland of screws, nails, tools, gears, and random curiosities. And then! Garret Peters turned Clipper’s back storage room into a bike shop called Wiggle Bikes, conveniently located off the Wiggle, our crosstown thoroughfare for the two-wheeled. Could there be a more useful stop-off for lovers of sustainable transportation and reuse than the Clipper Repair-Wiggle Bikes complex?

501 Waller, SF. (415) 621-4733,



You could find no better brand rep than Swagger Cosmetics‘ Blake Karamazov. The tiny club kid (who came to us a few years ago fresh from the female drag-friendly land of Seattle) rarely leaves the house without her face immaculately, fantastically done — think ruby red 4mm glitter lips, sherbet orange eyebrows, or an exaggerated, smoky cat eye. The woman lives for everyday drag queen. But as a vegan, Karamazov bridled at many heavily pigmented makeup lines. Lucky us, because the Sanrio-obsessed entrepreneur started designing her own one-woman line of glitters, lipsticks, eye shadows — and most recently, fake eyelashes — manufactured 100 percent sans animal cruelty. Having recently made up one of her genderbending idols James St. James, there’s no question this babe’s got swag. Check her wares online, and don’t miss her wildly popular, glam inspiring Instagram game.


You don’t care if they work from home or not — the neighbors are taking too much pleasure from your lax approach to towels on the post-shower strut from the bathroom, and you sense an overeager, extra pair of peepers when you and your sweet are snuggled up watching Jessica Lange chew the scenery on American Horror Story: Coven. Thank goodness for Christine and Jeff Vidall, whose Art Shade Shop has been keeping neighborly boundaries firm in a densely-packed city since 1934. Wood slats, pleated blinds, sunbrellas, fabric coverings — this Castro couple has it all, perfect for the moment you need more privacy than those gorgeous bay windows will afford on their own. The basement shop (nook, really) also offers bead and reel clutch mechanisms, bottom-up lock pulleys, and Hauser roller shades. If you don’t know what any of that is, they’ll gladly install it all for you anyway.

698 14th St., SF. (415) 431-5074,



And then there are times when you just need a retreat from harsh illumination. Perhaps the fluorescent bars at the office seared your retinas too deeply today, or maybe you wish to give your date a softly lit, haloed-in-shadow version of ever-romantical you. These are the moments in which you’ll be grateful for Lamp Shades SF and its colorfully appointed showroom, ready to shield you from the ever-burning light. A leopard topper for that candlestick fixture? Modern puce shades for the chandelier in the foyer? A pair of matching onyx horse head bedside numbers? You will find them all here. Bring the base or bulb for which you need a topper, ring the doorbell to be allowed entrance, and let the decidedly unshady staff help you select the level of lighting best suited for your look.

199 Potrero, SF. (415) 431-6720



If you’re looking for a vintage instrument with a personal touch, Panhandle Guitar hits all the right chords. Rock fiends will swoon for the intimate, nicely overstuffed shop’s collection of prime and shiny vintage guitars, basses, amps, and effects. Panhandle buys old instruments too — on consignment, or trade-in — and offers on-site repairs. Owner Robert Williams is known for his encyclopedic knowledge, and there’s a laid-back and welcoming vibe we dig, charmed by store windows cluttered with neon signs and a child mannequin in an oversized Panhandle Guitar T-shirt. Guitar Center this is not; the stated store hours seem more like vague suggestions of when it might be open, and Mondays are simply listed as “some times” open with a smiley face. This kind of store is sadly uncommon these days — a unique, owner-run vendor of rare instrumental goods, tuned into the needs of fellow artists.

1221 Fell, SF. (415) 552-1302,



When Cable Car Clothiers — venerable haberdasher to dashing gents since 1946 — announced it was vacating its Sansome and Bush location in 2012, our hearts sank. Was this incredible emporium of all things Mad Men-Rat Pack-Nautical Chic-Dressy Preppy about to vanish, like so many other San Francisco institutions? Where, oh where, would we get our crushable Trilby fedoras, handsomely polka-dotted navy blue ascots, and elaborate cherry-handled horsehair brush sets? Never fear: the relocation a few blocks away signaled a snazzy revamp. Jonathan Levin, grandson of original Clothier Charles Pivnick, had returned to the family business, determined to pump some classy 21st Century zazz into the joint. The large, handsome new showroom retains all the charm of the former space — but decks it out in voluminous racks and shelves of exquisite menswear treasures. Another reason to spend your entire afternoon here: the in-store barbershop with master barber Nicky and associates providing hot lather and straight razor shaves, hot toweling, scissor hair cuts, and more. You want full-service swank? This is the place, my man.

110 Sutter, SF. (415) 397-4740,


Wiggle your bike down to this sweet little corner shop near Duboce Park for lessons in fine and lovely things. Aline’s Closet is the three-year-old queendom of a one Aline Dazogbo, a seamstress whose French-inflected takes on dresses, skirts, and blouses may just lead you to the customized wardrobe item of your dream. Dazogbo designs and creates nearly everything in the shop: yoga pants, handbags, column skirt-tube top combos, and more. Though many items are ready-to-wear, a rack along one wall of the sunny store showcases the garments she can tailor-make just for you: a lace-paneled velvet slip, a clingy, cap-sleeved onesie. Should her sweet, sassy patterns stray even one iota from your fantasy outfit, don’t fret: Dazogbo loves to help customers concoct one-of-a-kind wearables based out of nothing more than their own visions.

101 Pierce, SF. (415) 312-3468,



Powerful chrome and polished enamel parts, operated by hand, executing a series of swift cuts and swooping motions. Classic design masterfully crafted, all building to — gasp! — the perfect slice of salami. Welcome to the world of Emilio Mitidieri, the man who brings the Bay Area’s venerable Emiliomiti “culinary toys” to life. Though his company is playfully named, Mitidieri’s creations mean business — wood fire and gas brick ovens that yield perfectly cooked pizza pies, pasta machines that extrude dreamy strands of fettuccini, and specimens like the Slicer Mito 300, an elegantly crafted meat slicer that mimics the classic designs of the deli of yesteryear. Mitidieri has been supplying restaurants and dedicated chefs with the tools needed for success for decades now, so chances are you’ve already sampled some of his playful perfection topped with marinara or nestled in a hoagie roll.



Bolivian-born David Forte’s SoMa workshop has one mission: to light up your life, and colorfully at that. Opened in 1971, Forte’s San Francisco Stained Glass Works is the place to go for those who would have blooming lilies twinkling above a front door, or an Art Deco Emerald City to enliven the upper strata of one’s workspace. The shop turns out devotional works for pane-minded churches and synagogues and extravagantly lovely flatware sets. Others flock to learn the craft themselves. A course on glass fusing and a stained glass 101 are both offered by Forte’s staff, not to mention monthly space rentals for artists in need of a communal glass grinder, firing kiln, and place to indulge a penchant for transcendent translucents.

1246 Howard, SF. (415) 626-3592,



Local artist Amos Goldbaum hand-draws and hand-prints some of the most recognizable, SF-centric t-shirts (and hoodies, tanks, and baby onesies) available on the streets — literally, on the streets, since he also hand-sells his wares from wire racks on Valencia, near the Ferry Building, at street fairs like the recent Castro Street Fair, and other open-air spots. Goldbaum’s complete repertoire goes far beyond the familiar tourist-friendly landscapes he’s known for: his web portfolio is packed with psychological, fantastical illustrated scenes you’d spot immediately in a gallery — but probably never witness out a Muni window. When it comes to uniquely Bay gifts, though, you won’t want to miss his quirky, amazingly detailed and vibrant line-drawing takes on local landmarks like Dolores Park, with old-school playground intact, and Bernal Hill — or his illo of the old-timey Sutro Baths, complete with Cliff House aflame in the background.



Inside the massive American Steel building, a relic of Oakland’s industrial past repurposed and managed mostly for the Burning Man art world, there’s a beautifully intricate two-story Western saloon made from recycled materials, originally built as the Dustfish Bordello for Black Rock City in 2009. In the intervening years, the structure has matured into what is now known as American Steel’s Oaktown Hall, an art gallery and event space that became a hub this year for a variety of ventures within what its organizers call the salvage and reuse arts. Skate ramps! Haitian art tours! Crazy, old-timey auctions! The hall is a gathering place and focal point for those who would find creative reuses for so-called junk, and build relationships among West Oakland’s diverse communities.

1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakl. (415) 794-1827,



It has been remarked that West Portal is quite the happy village in the middle of this teeming city. We concur. Tucked into the side of a hill topped by a Twin Peak, slung happily along a leafy central promenade, the neighborhood is not the worst model for Main Street, USA. Tip and Top Vacuum & Shoe Service, particularly seen in this light, is an all-American gem. Bring in your dirt sucker for a fix-me-up and the capable staff will get it back to dirt bunny-busting in two shakes of a dusty rug. And like any good member of a small community, Tip and Top is a multitasker, as evident from the boots in the window. The shop also repairs shoes, and will even custom-cobble you a boot or slipper. To recap: Tip and Top fixes vacuums and shoes, it’s cute as a button, and you kind of need to check it out.

173 W Portal, SF. (415) 664-9320



All over the news last year: Medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and other cities were being shut down by a spasm of overzealous and anachronistic enforcement by the federal government (see “Why?” 8/14/12). But a wave of young clubs were undaunted by the headlines. Indeed, many went through the entirely navigable local approval process for cannabis clubs and threw open their doors, come what may from Kamala Harris, Eric Holder, and the rest of the “drug warriors.” Among the best of the bunch? Bloom Room, an elegant establishment just a stone’s throw from hoity-toity Mint Plaza and the Chronicle Building in the heart of downtown. “Where medicine blooms wellness follows” is its somewhat logically fuzzy yet totally cromulent motto. Bloom Rooms got great weed — strains like Grape Romulan (I), Girl Scout Cookies, Chem Dawg, Pink Lemonade, and a special Bloom Blend — at decent prices, weighed out by super-nice and knowledgeable employees, in a classy, exposed brick interior. Here’s hoping Bloom’s given enough room to put down some roots.

471 Jessie, SF. (415) 543-7666,



“I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book,” SF literary legend Kenneth Rexroth once supposedly said. Many share his sentiment when it comes to music — especially as our city rapidly empties itself of neighborhood record stores (and book stores, too, for that matter). Rexroth himself used to live above Jack’s Record Cellar, one of our longest-operating vinyl concerns — since 1951! — and also one of the most poetic spots in the city. Packed with the rarest of 33s, 45s, and, miraculously, stacks of so-desirable-we-can’t-stand-it 78s, Jack’s has all the jazz you want — plus soul, opera, country, doo-wop, standards, and classic pop. Memorabilia papers the walls, and piles of records spill out onto the aisles. Like many spots in the area, it’s more of a relaxed hangout than a capitalist venture. Conversation is prized over cash receipts. Open hours are spare and unpredictable. Saturday afternoons are a good bet, proprietor Wade Wright might be there to let you in. Unlike Rexroth, he values the love over the sale.

254 Scott, (415) 431-3047



After a 25-year stint on 16th Street in the now-teeming Valencia Corridor, and years of rumors of impending closure, a steep rent increase nearly caused literary, cultural, and artistic hub Adobe Books to shut its doors for good. But supporters launched a fundraising campaign using crowd-funding platform Indiegogo and succeeded in raising $60,000, enough to secure a new home on 24th Street — which, along with the re-situated Modern Times Bookstore, has become somewhat of a haven for gentrification-fleeing libraries. “Adobe has been such an important part of our lives as artists, writers, book lovers, and Mission dwellers,” the bookstore and gallery’s boosters wrote, in what turned out to be a wildly successful pitch. “We couldn’t see the Mission without it.”

3130 24th St, SF. (415) 864-3936,


Feeling Fillmore: 5 stores that make the strip


The Fillmore Street Goodwill, I will tell anyone who listens, is the best in the city. I have a theory about this: Pacific Heights ladies-who-laze, on a motivated day when they’re not dressing their doggies in argyle or eating sandwiches with the crusts cut off, pack up their gently-used cardigans, sheath dresses, and colored pumps and bring them to the SF Symphony’s consignment shop. Should the cashier reject their finery, they sniff, and pick their way down the hill to the Goodwill. After dropping off the load they go get their hair blown out at a salon that doesn’t do cuts or colors, as its plate glass window proclaims to the world: only blowouts

Basically, there are always a ton of really nice, jewel-toned heels at the Fillmore Goodwill. And many more clothing stores with character, right down the block. Here’s some stand-outs.


Brooklyn Circus

Though I covet this brand (created in yes, Brooklyn by Bay native Gabe Garcia and Quincy “Ouigi” Theodore) for its current crop of chambray baseball hats, letterman’s jacket-style coats, and sleek leather boots for my own, menswear-loving self, I mainly pass through to check out what my dream boyfriend would be wearing. Urban dandy, grown and sexy — call it what you want to call it, the BKc look is hot. The Fillmore location is about to celebrate its fifth birthday, coinciding as ever with July’s Fillmore Jazz Festival

1521 Fillmore, SF. (415) 359-1999,

Pass by the baubles and grills at Mr. Bling Bling’s and you’ll happen across the phenomenal street art that lines one side of Avery Street. Thank you Richard Coleman for appropriately capturing my feelings behind a challenging day at the office. All photos from this point forward by Caitlin Donohue

Asmbly Hall 

Per our effusive writeup accompanying its Best of the Bay award last year, Asmbly Hall stocks San Francisco-style prep chic. Its colorful men’s and women’s fashions are highlighted by local labels — there’s cute-as-a-button Fashion Star alum Ronnie Escalante’s Powell and Mason line of striped scarves, Japanese fabric buttondowns made by Blade + Blue. Owner Tricia Benitez let me know that she’s always on the lookout for more Bay Area producers. I went south for my favorite piece the day I visited, however: a striped velour pullover from LA brand Slvdr’s Spring 2013 collection. Kinda reminded me of the onesies I rocked as a wee one. I had a great chat with Benitez about how the young business owners in the area have really banded together to re-envision the neighborhood — she often coordinates events with Social Study, the adorable wine, beer, and small plates bar that Harmony Fraga (previously bar manager at the TL’s Farmerbrown) opened on Geary and Fillmore. 

1850 Fillmore, SF. (415) 567-5953,

A case of Stance socks at Asmbly Hall. Love the Mondrian-esque owl design


Scotch and Soda

I had to check out this Amsterdam brand, a recent arrival to the strip (the company also opened up a Financial District location this year), and even if its entire spendy collection of Spring Breakers neons set off with faux bleach swaths and leather feather accents didn’t set me to “stun”, I did fall in love with a floral-print hoodie with the world’s most complicated wrap neckline. When arranged just… so, the two pull strings protruded out over each other, like some carefully balanced work of modern art, or Sloth’s eyeballs. I found the linen and general color palette of this store to be a younger person’s version of the stock up the street at fancy-pants boutique Erica Tanov. I don’t imagine, however, that Tanov would ever spell out the word “Malibu” on a t-shirt with neon love beads.

2031 Fillmore, SF. (415) 580-7443,

Tropical sweatshirt lifestyle at Scotch and Soda

Steven Alan

Once on a trip to Stockholm, a friend reverently dragged me to an Acne Studios sample sale, where I could do nothing but run my fingers across complicatedly draped tunics and diaphanous silk dresses. The Acne items that this chain store sells are a bit more wallet-friendly (also, f**k the kroner’s enviable stability and impossible exchange rate), and everyday: mainly, tons of colored jeans. Steven Alan is good for basics-with-flair — classic Levi’s styles, and smaller name brands abound at the men’s and women’s store. 

1919 Fillmore, SF. (415) 351-1499,


Yes, elder richer women shop here — but the eccentric kind, the sort who drop dimes in the museum gift shop so that every outfit they wear is comprised of conversation pieces. I spent a good stoned second staring at a rack of tightly pleated and ruched crepe-y Issey Miyake garments that stood, colorfully, in complete defiance of the laws of physics. And loved the preponderance at Mio of Miyake’s line of geometric Baobao bags (which are without a doubt the kind of gems that I’ll be wearing, once that lottery ticket comes through). 

2035 Fillmore, SF. (415) 931-5620,

Seriously guys, this shirt at Mio. It’s command of/refusal to live in three-dimensional space is impressive.

The hawk and the rat: Hugh Leeman’s artistic ‘social experiments’


The artist talks about his upcoming exhibit, depictions of the homeless, and art-related capitalism
If you’ve walked through the Tenderloin, along Market Street, or around SoMa, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Hugh Leeman’s art. (He’ll be showing new work Thu/4 at SOMArts Gallery as part of the “Dial Collect” show.) Leeman is best known for his drawings of the distinct and arresting faces of Sixth and Market’s homeless, which he used to wheatpaste onto billboards and buildings. His iconic work has been characterized as “street art,” but Leeman views his homeless art project through a more enterprising lens.

The power latent in billboards and marketing campaigns – both to make a statement and to expose vulnerabilities held by the viewer – inspired Leeman to plaster his friends’ faces around town. (Leeman met most of the homeless men he’s depicted by engaging in street-side conversation, usually with the help of a trusty pack of Camel cigarettes.) He aimed to get as many eyes on his work as possible by giving away free posters of his drawings and by allowing people to download posters off his website for free. He also screen printed his drawings onto t-shirts and gave them away to men and women on the street to sell for a 100% profit.

“All along, my thought was, ‘I’m not making street art – I’m making advertisements,'” Leeman says. “It was a social experiment into whether we could use the idea behind selling a product, but do it for the betterment of society as opposed to just for the betterment of a corporation. The high aspiration was that you could connect disparate demographics this way.”

Leeman will be exhibiting a piece as part of Dial Collect – a group show comprised of large-scale interactive installations – at SOMArts Thursday, April 4 through Friday, April 26. Leeman’s exhibit will explore disparate demographics – a concept he has explored during his wheatpasting past – social vulnerability, paranoia, and relationships. Leeman’s best friend Blue, who plays harmonica on the street for cash and lives in an alley near Sixth and Mission, and Leeman’s father, an attorney, will be participating in the interactive exhibit.

Blue and his wife Sam inspired Leeman’s mural concept, which will function as the backdrop of his piece. “Over the past several years, Blue’s been telling me stories about this hawk who lives in the alley,” Leeman says. “The hawk’s been swooping down and eating rats and pigeons out of the alley, and the way Blue always tells the story is like: ‘You know, man, I was just fixing my gear shift then BOOM – the fucking hawk ate a goddamn rat!’”

Leeman’s mural depicts a stern hawk with outstretched talons reaching out to snatch up an anxiety-ridden rat to prey upon. He used white paint to depict the hawk and the rat and painted them against a black background. The hawk represents formality and our society’s flawed concept of strength, whereas the rat represents those who “just put their sail up and go wherever the wind takes them.” Leeman sees himself as both the hawk and the rat at times and considers his father and Blue – two men with whom he has an extremely special yet complex relationship – to represent aspects of the hawk and the rat respectively.

“My father has a more structured, formal process within his being than I have ever had or been capable of. And I think the opposite of him is someone like Blue, who has always ran with the wind. I find myself somewhere in between,” Leeman says.

Leeman’s reflection on his existence as an artist in a capitalistic economy – something he’s been thinking about a lot recently – also ties in with his exhibit. The hawk in him wants to market himself, maintain a style, and gain notoriety, wealth, and fame through his work. As an artist, developing a style – and exposing it, often relentlessly – can be key to success, and Leeman says he’s felt pressure to conform. But his more rat-like sensibilities tell him to be free-spirited in his process; to make whatever he feels like making whenever he feels like making it, regardless of what other people want or expect.

“It all started to become more sport for me than art,” he explains, with regard to becoming established in his homeless, philanthropic art realm. “And the sport was all speaking in quantifiers: ‘what gallery do you show at? Who do you show with? How often are you showing? How much do your pieces sell for?’ But this has nothing to do with the beauty of taking off your fucking clothes and dancing” – one of Leeman’s many metaphors for art and the creative process.

Recently, Leeman has been creating free-form paintings of sea life and skulls and depictions of angelic women via blowtorch and cement. When asked what he’ll do next and where his art is going, Leeman shrugs. “I’m just going to do whatever I feel. I can’t really say what I’ll do in the future. If there is one certainty, it’s that there is no destination. Life is just a constant transition and journey through the gray.”

Dial Collect
Opening reception Thurs/4, 6pm, free
Show runs through April 26
934 Brannan, SF
(415) 863-1414

Mike Shine’s “Flotsam’s Harvest” at White Walls


By Molly Champlain

A promise that all our ailments will disappear and our wildest dreams will come true … for a small price. Or for the price of your soul? Dr. Flotsam and his self-described “crew of carny bastards,” sprung from the wild mind of San Francisco artist Mike Shine, ask us the worth of that exchange. The question is scattered through the paintings, performance, and graphic novel of his show, “Flotsam’s Harvest,” up now through April 6 at White Walls.

According to the show’s press release:

“‘Flotsam’s Harvest’ will be a sweeping installation of street art, paintings, films, a medicine show performance and the launching of Shine’s graphic novella. Each aspect of the show will provide different coded tips and hints, offered to help viewers solve the dark ‘World Riddle’ posed by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book, Thus Spake Zarathustra.”

Intrigued? The opening at White Walls Sat/16 had enough stimulation to dissolve even the hardest anti-consumerist into clapping, grinning, and Irish drinking-song singing. But the mystical “Hell Brew” the medicine show promoted wasn’t for sale. Whether it was ploy to sell the art or vice versa is still up for debate.

Shine’s devilish paintings of animals and figures fuse illustration and graffiti styles. Their rustic colors are blockish and thickly lined like cartoons, while the dripping paint, stray marks, collaged tickets, and spray paint give an urban art feel. These hip but simple paintings are enhanced by frames carved with animal figures and hung on walls painted with radiating text that’s as inscrutable as gang tags. Similar murals are also painted around in the city with Banksy-esque portraits of the “carny bastards.” But despite how cool they are, the artworks were not the selling point for me.

Shine’s opening night performance (similar to those he has done at Outside Lands and SFMOMA), was equally as rich and cryptic. It began in some form of Gaelic or Old English with subtitles on cards and continued with Dr. Flotsam selling his mystical tonic in a thick, comical accent. We all knew the audience volunteer selected to test the brew was a plant (in the form of YouTube dance star takesomecrime): he hobbled on stage but was “cured” after swigging from Dr. Flotsam’s flask, and began shuffling to electro swing by Skewiff.

This wildly entertaining evening can’t be isolated as the meat of what Shine has made either, but it began to make sense of what was going on. The sense of irony was ripe when Dr. Flotsam noted that the government doesn’t permit medicine shows because they “lie to you.” (This sense of danger in the promise was deepened in his disclaimer that you can have your widest dreams come true, if you’re willing to part with your soul.)

A similar theme emerges in the accompanying graphic novel, in which Dr. Flotsam intervenes in the lives of people who have notably impacted history, like the caveman who made fire, Jesus, or the inventor of penicillin. But each one pays a heavy price for the advice they receive. The conflation of good and bad creates a wild sense of anarchy which gives reason for, and holds the key to, the intense and scattered information Shine draws upon for his work.

In a culture where added dimension in art and immersive stimulation in film are often confused with creative quality, Shine has created a show which uses both to convey his meaning. But after the whole experience puzzling out the riddle, I was left wanting. The entertaining trail of information ended in a simple answer, but opened up a number of new questions: was it about merging the body and soul by processing his art in order to gain a stronger sense of identity? Or about how commodities are sold with flair and gusto, but in their mass production fail to truly appeal to the individual? Or is Shine just trying to fuck with people? Maybe you should take a look at the riddle and figure it out for yourself.

Mike Shine, “Flotsam’s Harvest”

Through April 6

White Walls Gallery

886 Geary, SF

On the Cheap listings


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1960’s Go-Go Groove Make-out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. 7pm, free. Bust out those white go-go boots and learn some standard ’60s dance moves like the twist, jerk, pony, watusi, hully gully — even the tighten up! If you’re in need of some liquid courage before you shake it, head over to the Make-out Room at 6pm for some sweet happy hour deals.


“Bold Local NightLife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF. 6-10pm, $12. Art and science converge as the Bold Italic website takes over this week’s Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences. Meet the local merchants, designers, artists, and producers from the ‘hoods we know and love. Folks from Misdirections Magic Shop, bakery co-op Arizmendi, wine delivery service Rewinery, and more will all have tables alongside the alligators, jellyfish, and penguins.

“Growing Pains, The Business of Cannabis in San Francisco” San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, 654 Mission, second floor, SF. 6:30-7:30pm, free. RSVP suggested. SF Appeal editor Eve Batey and writers Heather Donahue and Chris Roberts will explore the state of marijuana in SF, and possible impacts of proposed cannabis legislative reforms. If you have a specific topic or question you would like addressed, email before tonight’s talk.


“Dance Anywhere” Various locations throughout the Bay Area. Noon, free. Why wait until tonight to get your groove on? In this global event — offshoots are taking place in major cities around the globe — participants are encouraged to stop whatever they’re doing when the clock strikes 12, and bust a move. Performances by professional dancers will take place at the SFMOMA, City Hall, and Yerba Buena Center.

“PhotographsPlus” Dogpatch Café and Art Gallery, 2295 Third St., SF. Through May 10. Opening reception 6-8pm, free. This exhibit features local artist Shawn Ray Harris includes three distinct series of works created over the last 15 years. Endowed with a whimsical charm, Harris’ work offers a look into urban landscapes and the creatures that inhabit them.

“Game On” 1AM Gallery, 1000 Howard, SF. Through April 20. Opening reception: 6:30-9:30pm, free. We need not remind you that nerds are the new cool kids. Instead, we’ll let the new show at street art-centric 1AM Gallery lend more evidence to prove the point. Its new group show highlights videogame characters rendered in vinyl doll and canvas by graf artists like Vogue TDK, Estria, and Mike “Bam” Tyau.


Easter egg hunt for dogs Golden Gate Park, Marx Meadow, SF. Noon-2pm, $15. Purchase tickets online. Help your pup sniff out some of the 2,000-plus plastic eggs containing treats and prizes at dog and cat resort, Wag Hotel’s fourth annual fundraiser benefiting local animal rescue organizations. Attendees will also enjoy complimentary hor d’oeuvres and beverages, have a chance to see how their doggie bud feels about the Easter Bunny.

Art Explosion spring open studio Art Explosion Studios, 2425 17th St., SF. 7-11pm, free. Also Sun/24, noon-5pm. One of San Francisco’s largest art collectives will be holding its 13th annual spring open studio this weekend. Check out work from over 140 artist, painters, photographers, fashion designers, jewelers, and textile designers from around the city.


Backyard Foraging book signing Omnivore Books, 3885A Cesar Chavez, SF. 3-4pm, free. You don’t need to trek into the forest to forage edible plants. Ideal for first-time foragers, Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat by Ellen Zachos features 70 edible weeds, flowers, mushrooms, and ornamental plants typically found in urban or suburban neighborhoods. Head over to Omnivore Books today to meet Zachos, listen to her speak about her book, and get a signed copy.

SF Mixtape Society exchange The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. 4-6pm, free. The San Francisco Mixtape Society is dedicated to the art of making and exchanging music mixes. Attendees are invited to assemble a mix according to the theme (this month is “anchors and sails”) in cassette, CD, or USB form. Come ready for newness: a magically random raffle will send you home with someone else’s mix at the end of the night. Record yours in cassette form and score yourself a free drink.


Izzies Awards Ceremony Z Space, 450 Florida, SF. 6-8pm, free. The Oscars may be over but award season has not come to a close just yet. The 27th Annual Izzies awards will take place tonight, honoring outstanding achievements in dance across the Bay Area. Hosting the ceremony is AileyCamp director David McCauley, and CounterPULSE executive and artistic director Jessica Robinson. After the ceremony, mingle with some dance big shots over dessert and coffee.


French cinema class Alliance Française, 1345 Bush, SF. 6:45pm, $5. To help non-French speakers discover French cinema, the Alliance Française of San Francisco is offering this weekly Tuesday night class, which includes a French film screening followed by a discussion. The class will take place in the Alliance Française’s intimate theatre where free wine, refreshments, popcorn (and English subtitles) will be provided.

“Remnants of San Francisco: Pieces of the Bygone City” St. Philip’s Catholic Church, 725 Diamond, SF. 7:30pm, $5. San Francisco’s architecture is decorative, meticulous, and often begs the question of passers-by: “what is the story here?” Get that tale tonight as historian Christopher Pollock will present before and after photos of significant architecture around the city, explaining the buildings’ significance and why they were built the way they were.


Bay Area muralists trek to Bogotá and Cape Town in the name of water rights


The Bay is blessed with street artists who take seriously the responsibility that comes with painting on a surface thousands of people will see every day on their way to work and school. See: the Estria Foundation, which was started by graff legend Estria Miyashiro and just released this video of the group’s latest trip to Bogotá, Colombia as part of its #WaterWrites mural program.

Stop by Bissap Baobab on Thu/7 for a dinner presentation on the group’s trip to Bogotá and recent voyage to Cape Town, where it completed another mural that examined the issue of water rights.

You can check out more photos of the project on the collective’s Flickr page. Here’s what the Estria foundation sent us about the making of the Bogotá mural

Our Executive Director, Erin Yoshi, recently returned from working on the #WaterWrites Mural Project in Bogota, Colombia. The 2000 square foot mural was created in collaboration with the APC Crew, one of the largest graff crews in the nation. It was painted next to a community center that hosts music and arts workshops for youth. 

The mural is dedicated to raising awareness about the current water conditions in Colombia. It portrays nature and humanity joining forces to evict water polluters and exploiters of natural resources. Nature is painted as a character, surrounded by trees, flowers, life, and water. Animals, insects, and people are housed in the hair and along the body. The left arm directs the attention towards a barge in the river containing the impact of resource extracting industries; mining, fishing, logging, and plantation farming. Graffiti on the sides of the ship attest to the history of resistance it has met everywhere it has traveled.

#WaterWrites mural projects dinner and reports

Thu/6, 6:30-9:30pm, regularly priced dinner menu

Bissap Baobab

3388 19th St., SF

Guerrero gallery bites Zero Graffiti convention


“The difference between art and vandalism is permission.” So said Dwight Waldo, retired San Bernadino cop, at the Zero Graffiti convention earlier this month in San Francisco. The event drew law enforcement officials from multiple countries, convening them for lectures on graffiti prevention, on street art’s connection to gangs and hate speech, and on ways to apprehend graffiti artists (“the Internet” figured prominently here, judging from the talks I managed to catch during the convention’s public portion.) In his talk, Waldo prided himself on shutting down a graffiti-inspired legal art show because it was being organized by an illegal graffiti artist. 

But it would appear that the art community isn’t satisfied with allowing those that hold the anti-graffiti wipes to be the arbiters of taste. The folks at Guerrero Gallery have branded their show opening Sat/2 with Zero Graffiti’s imagery to put scrutiny on San Francisco and other cities’ efforts to repress graffiti.

As for stopping graffiti… we should nourish it,” wrote gallery owner Andres Guerrero to me in an email. “The city’s effort to rid us of graffiti is a concern but graffiti will always be around. It’s an inspiring form of creativity that all demographics have accepted and have supported. It’s a growing culture that should be embraced and developed with the help of local communities. It’s a leading contemporary movement.”

The convention’s program, including ad for “spraycan sensor” that SF DPW officials confirmed have been purchased by the city. It’s been announced that next year’s conference will take place in Phoenix

The exhibit’s artists, Tim Diet and Remio, are both established gallery artists who got their start doing illegal graffiti. “It’s an exciting show for all of us at the gallery and they also represent a progressive intelligent community,” wrote Guerrero.

Given the dire state of arts education in the San Francisco Unified School District, perhaps city officials should start looking at graffiti artists in a different light. After all, if young people can’t find canvases elsewhere, why shouldn’t they make their mark on their neighborhood?

Project One opens “Project One Walls,” an indoor mural show, on Feb. 7. It’ll feature the work of current and former street artists and looks real cool. 

Here’s the Guerrero Sat/2 opening’s featured artists, both of whom started developing their art on the street: 

Norweigan-born artist Remio’s cluster faces still drip — but they’re emblematic of his transition from street work to showing in galleries

Bay Area artist Tim Diet’s “Sorry I Party” still embodies the chaos of work born in public space

“Man In Transition” and “This is Me”: Remio and Tim Diet

Through Feb. 23

Opening reception: Sat/2, 7-11pm, free

Guerrero Gallery

(415) 400-5168

Are your friends criminals?


STREET SEEN Nearing the climax of her presentation at last week’s Zero Graffiti International Conference, Vancouver PD’s graffiti-fighting specialist Valerie Spicer despaired over graffiti’s affects on its perpetrators.

“He didn’t die because of graffiti,” she said sadly, a deceased Canadian graffiti artist’s childhood photo on the PowerPoint screen behind her. “But I’m quite sure that the behaviors he learned in the subculture didn’t help him confront the man who stabbed and killed him.”

It wasn’t the only conflation between societal decay and graffiti made at the conference (, held Jan. 16-18 in the soaring white St. Mary’s Cathedral on Geary and Gough — the one designed so that God sees a cross when he looks down at it.

Organized by the SF Graffiti Advisory Board, anti-graffiti nonprofit Stop Urban Blight, and citizen’s group SF Beautiful, the conference gave law enforcement and city officials the chance to attend lectures on prevention and investigation of graffiti, tours of Mission and Tenderloin murals on Academy of Art buses — the school was one of the event’s sponsors, in addition to the SF Arts Commission — and a play put on by a Sacramento anti-gang and graffiti group. This last, “performed in the colloquial dialect of youth and street culture,” as the program delicately put it.

As Spicer wrapped up her tragic tale, the lights came back on in the St. Mary’s basement. I fumbled with my things I was targeted by one of the graffiti fighters present.

“Are your friends into crime?” said Monty Perrera, professional buffer for the City of Oakland. “I assume you’re probably in the subculture,” he continued (my pink-and-purple hair made for poor camouflage, I guessed.) He was wearing a T-shirt screen printed with one of Oakland street artist Gats’ enigmatic visages.

“I’ve met many of the main [graffiti artists] in Oakland,” Perrera continued, after apologizing for “promoting graffiti” with the shirt. “They don’t really trust me or like me, but…” The admission hung between us in the air.

Perrera has a healthy interest in street art — so much so, he told me, that he buffs selectively, paying special attention to “bubble taggers” (“we call them the ego artists”) and new artists (“if someone’s new I get you because you’re new. Maybe you’ll go away.”) Despite having attended East Bay street art blog Endless Canvas’ “Special Delivery” mural exhibit in an empty Berkeley warehouse twice, Perrera was adamant that the work he does removing graffiti is vital to his community. “The ego taggers just have no mercy,” he told me.

Between public and private enterprise, as the police chief asserted from the Zero Graffiti podium, San Francisco spends $20 to $30 million dollars a year combating graffiti. The Department of Public Works, which takes responsibility for quickly removing graffiti deemed motivated by gang activity, drops a cool $3.6 million alone.

But to be fair, no one has ever asked me for cash to buy a spray can. That dollar figure is what graffiti removal costs us. And behind the rows of folding chairs at the conference, the rows of sponsoring vendor booths gave hints as to what that money could go towards. Graffiti Safe Wipes, suitable for removing paint from stone walls with a swipe. This Stuff Works! brand anti-graffiti wall coating.

Perhaps the most ominous is one of the tools our own city uses, according to SF’s DPW director of public affairs Rachel Gordon. Meet the GraffitiTech graffiti detection system, a 10″ x 3.8″ box that mysteriously detects tagging as it happens by means of “advanced heuristics and algorithms,” according to its company’s website. The sensor’s inner workings are left unexplained for fear of vandalism attempts but I’ve taken the liberty tracking down GraffitiTech’s US Patent Office full text description for those interested.

The second and final lecture open to the public that day was that of Dwight Waldo, a retired San Bernadino cop who proudly recounted tales of shutting down legal street art shows and murals by proving associated artists had drug convictions. He described the “five types” of graffiti to the crowd, and lauded the use of the Internet for its utility in researching crime (you can start by searching “tag crews fighting” on YouTube, he advised.)

“You’re going to hear things in trainings where you’ll go ‘oh I can’t do that’ because your political climate doesn’t allow it,” Waldo told Zero Graffiti attendees.

An hour later Mohammed Nuru, director of the DPW, used the podium to announce plans to fight for higher mandatory fines for convicted taggers, and to require commercial truck owners to rid their vehicles of graffiti before their registration could be renewed. Perhaps the political climate in the Bay Area is changing when it comes to the war on graffiti.


Mestranda Cigarra kicks ass


HEALTH AND WELLNESS It is impossible to climb the stairs to the San Francisco chapter of Abadá Capoeira and not know that you are in the Mestranda’s house.

Márcia Treidler founded the Mission District capoeira school, and she is there in the first photograph you see when you come in off the street. In it, she strikes her customary pose, an improbable one-handed flip (kick?) Her washboard abs challenge visitors to trade sedentary habits for the rich traditions and fat-carving core moves of the Brazilian martial arts form, the love of which made Treidler beg her mom for classes as a teenager, brought her from Brazil to the Bay Area, and led her to start a chapter of her teacher’s school right here in San Francisco.

In person, seated at a table next to Abadá’s statue of Iemanjá, orisha goddess of the Southern seas and patron deity of Rio de Janeiro, Treidler is hardly as intimidating. Mestranda Cigarra (her capoeira-given name) is in fact incredibly patient while explaining Brazilian history and basic tenets of the martial arts form to a stranger. She does do it for a living, after all.

Sharing information is a guiding principle of capoeira, which began as a covert form of fighting practiced by African slaves in Brazil who certainly couldn’t rely on written record to educate new generations in the martial art. After escaping servitude, some used their martial skills against the law enforcement sent after them. Capoeira helped fend off colonial attacks on their newly formed quilombos, the settlements ex-slaves built in remote locales.

Even after abolishing slavery in 1888, the Brazilian government considered capoeira subversive. It was officially banned in 1890, a tool used by authorities to put black men in jail. When waves of immigration brought new labor forces to the country and left many Africans jobless, public perception often equated capoeira with criminal activity.

The sport’s rise to acceptance and spread to other countries is a relatively recent occurrence. Treidler, who is now one of two of the highest ranking females in her school Abadá’s 41,000-member international organization, started practicing 31 years ago in Rio de Janeiro. She lived in Botafogo, a middle class beachfront neighborhood. At the time, capoeira still wasn’t considered respectable — and certainly not an obvious choice for an ambitious young woman. After becoming entranced by the sport at a school performance, the current Mestranda had to work on her mother for a year before she would agree to finance her classes.

“Women in capoeira was not popular at all,” Treidler says. “[My mother] was like ‘are you crazy? What are you thinking?'” Treidler had been active in sports — swimming and gymnastics — since she was six, but her mother insisted on observing capoeira classes before she’d agree to let her high school age daughter enroll.

“The [sport’s] reputation was really bad at the time,” Treidler remembers. “But when I first started, I never stopped.” Prepped by her athletic background, she took easily to capoeira’s acrobatics. She graduated through levels quickly, and struck a deal with her instructor to pay when she could after her mother withdrew financial support. Treidler credits the sport with teaching her patience, and became close with Mestre Camisa, the founder of Abadá.

The importance of their relationship today means Abadá students benefit from the vision of the founder, who still lives in Brazil. “She follows his vision 100 percent,” Treidler’s student and fellow Abadá instructor Antonio Contreras says. Camisa and Treidler are in constant contact, and he was present at the school’s January batizado graduation ceremony at Dance Mission Theater.

Eighty-plus students take classes at Abadá San Francisco chapter. They perform at places like the Academy of Sciences and in the Ethnic Dance Festival. The studio also offers Portuguese classes. Although there are only three adult Brazilians who currently take classes, the studio is somewhat of a center for Brazilian culture here in the city. Displays that tell of the legacy of capoeira line the walls in the main room, interspersed with statues of figures in traditional poses. Brazil’s world-famous street art duo Os Gemeos have whimsically rendered Abadá practitioners in large paintings that hang in the studio’s front stairwell, alongside the Mestranda’s portrait.

It is perhaps indicative of Treidler’s own start in the sport that her students are nothing if not diverse. At the recent batizado, the spotlight lingered on tiny children, middle-aged practitioners, developmentally-disabled capoeiristas sparring, flipping, playing musical instruments, and smiling tremendously in an immense roda, the circle of practitioners that encloses a capoeira presentation.

Treidler is the only instructor that Contreras, her only other full-time teacher at Abadá SF has ever had. An ex-personal shopper, he has called the studio home since 2000, when the sounds of single-stringed berimbaus and tambourine-like pandeiros pulled him into the studio after dinner at a Mission Street restaurant. He was amazed by the maculelê, the traditional dance that accompanies capoeira, and impressed by Treidler’s presence.

“I was like, ‘whoa, who’s that’ — this larger than life person,” he remembers. He was back that Tuesday for his first class. A cardio-weights gym rat who still employs a personal trainer, Contreras says that first day was the best workout of his life. He started noticing the changes in his body “immediately.”

“To me, it was very natural to learn from Márcia,” Contreras says, sitting next to a jar full of juice one afternoon at the studio. “The advantage is that she had it tough. She identifies with the difficulties you face because she has had her own.” He himself felt unflexible and uncoordinated when he first started his practice. He’s convinced that many instructors would have given up on him long ago.

But Treidler’s teaching eventually brought Contreras to a level of mastery that compelled him to quit his day job, to stop having to rush to the school from the stores every day at 5:45pm. Contreras says that the decision to commit to teaching is a natural part of capoeira.

Unlike other martial arts forms, in which the progressively more masterful levels of belt reward physical mastery of the form and discipline, capoeira reserves the next stage of training — and corresponding 10 colors of cords worn around your hips — for those who have displayed their ability to role model for others.

Treidler originally made ends meet here in San Francisco by working construction jobs, starting to teach capoeira a few times a week at SoMa’s Rhythm and Motion dance studio. She was deemed eligible for an “alien of extraordinary ability” visa by the US government and opened her first studio on Mission in between 19th and 20th Streets, moving to the current space 11 years ago.

Capoeira’s divergent skill sets — singing, playing musical instruments, sparring, and dancing — do seem to be a sport that can reward many kinds of students. Treidler resists generalizing when it comes to her students, but will say that the “women are very rational. Men identify with the power. I think that’s why it’s unique. We help each other in class.”

Capoeira is a good opportunity to let go of the “I’m sorry” hair trigger that plagues some females. “Women are too careful with each other,” the Mestranda says. “It’s like, I’m sorry? There’s no sorry! You get out of the way. That’s the challenge, for women not to think about it so much.” It’s difficult to picture Treidler hesitating — but then, she has been in rodas since she was 17 years old.

At the batizado in December, the Mestranda’s values of inclusion are as visible among her white-uniformed students as the high fives they can’t stop giving each other in the roda. After each class of graduates’ names are called, honorees “play games” — capoeira terminology for the minute-long sparring sessions that show off the flowing acrobatics and feigned violence of the sport. These run the gamut from the younger kids’ hyper, sky-high flips — done alongside each other as much as at each other — to the more focused bouts between older students. The latter range in tone from comical to rapid-fire serious. Everyone looks really good — er, healthy.

After a 2012 packed with performances, Treidler’s ready to expand her flock, make it possible for her part-time instructors to follow her path and leave their construction or restaurant job to focus on their passion for the sport. “What’s next you know?” she asks, somewhat rhetorically. “How can we use capoeira to make the world a better place?”

Abadá Capoeira 3221 22nd St., SF. (415) 206-0650,


The Haight Street Banksy rat is looking for a good home


Kerfuffle attended the publication of my Street Seen column on the reappropriated Banksy street art that popped up at Context art fair during Art Basel week in Miami last month.

Hamptons gallerist Stephen Keszler wrote to tell me that my account of him taking two of the pieces from Palestine and affixing $400,000 price tags to the them was so boring that it made him fall asleep in the bathtub (probably just part of growing old, darling.)

But I also received an interesting communique from a man who claimed responsibility for getting the Banksy rat originally painted on Haight Street’s Red Victorian hotel and cafe to Miami. He says it needs a home.

Brian Greif wanted to clarify that the San Francisco rat was not under control of Keszler or Robin Barton of London’s Bankrobber gallery, Keszler’s partner in the Banksy scheme (Keszler and his staff had neglected to mention this fact in our back-and-forths.) Greif actually wants to donate the rat to a museum, but the process is proving a little complicated.

“I hate to see something important, beautfiul, something I think should be preserved painted over a day later, a month later, a year later,” Greif told me in a phone interview. Greif, who is general manager at KRON and self-described artist active in the SF creative community, had been considering making a documentary on street art when Banksy came to town in April 2010 for his spree of SF stencil art. (Now largely removed by thieving art merchants or painted over, the trip’s sole remaining piece is the bird and tree design on Public Works. The nightclub’s integrated the design into a multi-artist collage mural.)

Greif decided that the process of saving a Banksy piece from obliteration would make for the perfect documentary plot. But it took months to get clearance to remove the rat from the Red Vic. Owner Sami Sunchild was incensed when Banksy “vandalised” her building, as she described it to me when I contacted her to find out how the rat wound up in Miami. (She declined to comment about the rat’s fate.) Greif says the rat was scheduled to be painted over when he finally got permission to remove it intact in December 2010.

But then he couldn’t figure out what to do with the thing. Museums, you see, require authentication from the artist or estate to display a work, and Banksy won’t authenticate street pieces past sporadically putting them on his website for as long as they exist IRL.

A deal with SFMOMA fell through, Greif says. Enter Keszler, who Greif and his documentary team originally interviewed in the role of “bad guy” after the gallerist relocated pieces that the artist had completed on his trip to the West Bank. When Keszler found out about Greif’s rat, he asked to show it alongside his own Banksys at Context. 

“At first I wasn’t sure about that,” says Greif. Banksy’s representative agency Pest Control has condemned Keszler for his reappropriation of the Bethlehem murals. “My partner in the documentary and I discussed. We thought it could be a good part for the documentary.” He consulted street artist friends about the morality of the situation and they told him to go for it as long as he intended the piece to wind up in a museum and not a private collection. Last month, the rat was reassembled for the first time since being removed from its original wall in Miami. Conde Nast named the rat one of the hottest draws of the Art Basel season.

Though he hoped to find a museum interested in displaying the piece through the Miami exposure, Greif was instead deluged with private buyers untroubled by the lack of authentication. The highest offer he received, he says, was $500,000.

But financial gain from once-public art wasn’t the goal when he fought to safely remove the rat. “I think street art is one of the most important movements ever,” Greif told me. He wants the piece to be seen. And now he’s saddled with an incredibly valuable piece of wall. 

Anyone know of a worthy venue for the rodent? Contact Greif at