Events: September 3 – 9, 2014


Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


“99 Poems for the 99 Percent” Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. Contributors read from a new collection that represents “the real America.” Poets include Dean Rader, Gillian Conoley, Barbara Berman, Keith Ekiss, Julie Bruck, and Hiya Swanhuyser.


Rose Caraway Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF; (415) 345-0400. 6:30pm, free. “Everyone’s favorite lusty librarian” reads from The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica, with help from Lily K. Cho, Malin James, and Jade A. Waters.

Vikram Chandra City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. The author discusses Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code. The Code of Beauty.

Hollye Jacobs Book Passage, 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; 6pm, free. The author, a nurse and social worker turned patient, discusses The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer.

“Night of the Livermore Dead: A Zombie Pub Crawl” Bothwell Arts Center’s Downtown Art Studios, 62 South L St, Livermore; 6-10:30pm, $20. First, get transformed into a shuffling member of the undead, then enjoy drink specials and deals as you lurch through downtown Livermore. The crawl ends at the Bankhead Theater with a “Thriller” flashmob, followed by a screening of Night of the Living Dead (1968).


“Art Break Day” Justin Herman Plaza, 1 Market, SF; 9am-5pm, free. Check website for locations in Berkeley, Novato, Oakland, San Rafael, and other locations. Art supplies are provided at this free community art-making event.


Autumn Moon Festival Chinatown, SF; Grand opening ceremony and parade, today, 11am. Festival, 11am-5pm, through Sun/7 (dog costume contest Sun/7, 2:30pm). Free. Cultural performances, an open-air street bazaar, lion dancing, and (new this year!) a dog costume contest highlight this 24th annual celebration of the Asian holiday.

Friends of Duboce Park Tag Sale Duboce between Steiner and Scott, SF; 9am-2pm. Community tag sale, with proceeds going toward making improvements to Duboce Park. Check out the website for donation information.

Mountain View Art and Wine Festival Castro between El Camino Real and Evelyn, Mtn View; 10am-6pm, free. Through Sun/7. With works by over 600 professional craftspeople and artists, plus live music, home and garden exhibits, a young-performers stage, a climbing wall, food and wine, and more.

“Projecting SOMA: Youth and Elders’ VOICES” Sixth St and Market, SF; 7pm, free. Also Sept 13, 20, and 27. YBCA in Community, South of Market Community Action Network, and Veterans Equity Center present large-scale, text-based video projections sharing messages and stories from the Filipino community.

SF Mountain Bike Festival McLaren Park, Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, 20 John F. Shelley, SF; 9am-5pm, free. Register in advance to compete — or just show up to spectate or test your skills in any of the non-competitive categories. Events include a short-track challenge, a 10-mile urban adventure ride, a cargo bike hill climb, a bike skills challenge for youth and families, and more, plus a box jump demo and a bike raffle.

“Yoga for Change” Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, SF; 9:30am-noon, $15 and up. Help raise funds for the Community Preschool at this yoga event with live music. All levels and abilities welcome.


Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival Haight between Masonic and Stanyan, SF; Noon-6pm, free. Yep, it’s another street fair on Haight — but this brand-new event has a highly local focus, since it’s sponsored by local merchants. Expect three stages of music, kids’ activities, a skate ramp, and more.

“Home [away from] Home” Eastshore Park, Lake Merritt, MacArthur at Grand, Oakl; 10am-8pm, free. Through Sept 11. Experimental art installation highlighting artists in the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities of the Bay Area.

“Seventeen Generations Why” Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th St, SF; 5pm, $20 and up. Rebecca Solnit brings together nine decades of San Franciscans (from a woman in her 80s to a seven-year-old) for this “variety show in celebration of Modern Times Bookstore’s last four decades and in support of its next four or so.”


Rowen Jacobsen Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF; 7pm, $15. The James Beard award winner discusses Apples of Uncommon Character. Author event held in conjunction with the JCCSF’s “Apple-Palooza” (5pm), a celebration of all things apple and harvest.


Daisy Hernández Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The author reads from her coming-of-age memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed. *


SFPD still searching for man who beat Feather; memorial fund set up


There have been no new developments in the case of Feather, aka Bryan Higgins, the Radical Faerie who was found beaten near Duboce Park, and who later died at SF General. 

Feather was found around 7:30am on Sunday, Aug. 10 near Church and Duboce streets. Police are still looking for a white man in his 20s or 30s wearing a grey hoodie at the time of the attack. Police are reviewing camera footage which supposedly contains images of the attack, but have yet to release the footage to the public.

Meanwhile, a memorial fund has been set up for medical, funeral, and other expenses incurred by Feather’s death. An emotional farewell gathering at Duboce Park and memorial at St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro brought the community together to mourn and celebrate Feather’s life. 

The volunteer Castro Community Patrol  put out the following flier:


At the Duboce Park farewell, Supervisor Scott Wiener talked to me about how he feels the area around Castro and Duboce has become more dangerous, and how he has been working towards increased police presence, which he says has dramatically decreased due to city budget reprioritization. Other attendees suggested alternative ways to increase security in the area, like redesigning the “dead corner” behind the Safeway to include more visibility, housing, businesses, or community activities.

Brian Hagerty, Feather’s husband, told me that most of Feather’s organs had been donated. “It was his decision. He was 31, a vegan for 10 years, did yoga daily: they were basically begging for his body, because he was in perfect condition and was so young.

My sister has typed up a really nice message to let people know that Bryan was a giver, and continued to give his heart, literally, even after his passing. He was a kind soul who is helping others to not die.   


Touch of class




Bask in the simplest element of electronic music — noise — and tickle your tech fancies simultaneously. This workshop is described as “not so much, or not only, a software workshop, but rather a composition course in electronic music which takes as its starting point the use of noise.” So treat your ears to the basics of sound and your imagination to the endless possibilities of music, without having to take your fingers off your precious electronics.

Aug. 23, noon, $10 suggested donation. NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa,



Have you stood in the cheese aisle at your favorite market, marveling at the choices, but feeling a little guilty for buying something you could make? 18 Reasons is offering a class that will give you the skills to finally create homemade creamy deliciousness. Cheese veteran Louella Hill, aka the San Francisco Milk Maid, will teach you everything you need — and want — to know about cheese and making feta.

Aug. 25, 6pm-9pm, $65 for non-members/$55 for members. 18 Reasons, 3674 18th St,



Up your street cred by having your nice leather belt — and making it, too. The class, taught by SF crafter and owner of leather shop Tilt Adornments, will teach you to make a custom leather belt, totally personalized, with perfectly placed holes. All supplies for dyeing and assembling your belt are provided. Bonus points: There will be alphabet stamps and beer.

Sept. 4, 7pm-10:30pm, $68. Workshop SF, 1798 McAllister,



Acid isn’t just for hippies. Editor, journalist, and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Schroder will discuss psychedelic drugs’ ability to heal and help those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and addiction. Recent trials show that drugs now associated with trippy artwork, the 60s, and Ken Kesey may be the secret to mental health. This lecture will cover the past, present, and future of psychedelic therapy. Far out.

Sept. 25, 7pm-9pm, $20 for non-members, $15 for members at door. CIIS, 1453 Mission,



Cycling past backed-up car traffic in SF feels badass enough, but the danger adds an extra edge. Prepare mentally and physically for accidents, whether they’re car- or pebble-induced, in a padded environment. This workshop is designed to help cyclists save face (and limbs) in the event of a collision. Plus, what motorist would want to mess with a cyclist who has ninja skills?

Sept. 9/Oct. 5, 1pm-3pm, Free. Mission Yoga, 2390 Mission,



Award-winning sommelier Eugenio Jardim will lead you through the wafting and sipping and lip smacking of wine tasting. This class promises to provide the necessary skills for enjoying great wines and being able to talk about them. Six wines will be tasted during the class. And after you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can pour your skills into the SF Cooking School’s region-themed tastings, including New Zealand, France, and Italy.

Oct. 2, 5:30pm-7:30pm, $85. San Francisco Cooking School, 690 Van Ness,


Everyone’s hospital


“I am a survivor of the AIDS epidemic,” Daniel volunteered, beginning to tell us his very San Francisco story.

He was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s. Working in fine dining rooms of San Francisco hotels at the time, he had health insurance, and had gone to Kaiser for an unrelated procedure. That led to a blood test — and then wham.

“They just bluntly, without any compassion, just told me: You have it,” Daniel said. “Like telling you that you have a pimple on your nose or something.”

All around him, friends were dying from the disease. “I didn’t freak out, because that’s just my personality,” he recalled. “I know a lot of people who have been diagnosed, and they want to take their lives or whatever.”

Today, he’s unemployed and living on a fixed income. He lost his left eye years ago to an infection linked to HIV; he now has a prosthetic eye.

“I’m single, disabled, and low-income,” reflected Daniel, who didn’t want his last name printed due to privacy concerns. Originally from El Salvador, his family came to the U.S. when he was 10 and Daniel has permanent resident status. But despite the disadvantages he faces, Daniel still isn’t freaking out. His medical needs are met.

He got on MediCal after having to drop Kaiser. “And then I ended up at SF General,” he said, “with some of the most professional staff, doctors rated worldwide. It has some of the most professional health care providers for HIV, all in one place.”

Daniel is one satisfied San Francisco General Hospital patient, and he might as well be a poster child for how public health is supposed to work in big cities. Rather than being deprived of primary care and then showing up at the emergency room with preventable complications stemming from his disease, he’s keeping everything in check with regular doctor’s visits — and he can access this high level of care even though he’s on a very tight budget.

There’s a concerted effort underway in the San Francisco Department of Public Health to give more patients precisely the kind of experience Daniel has had, while also expanding its role as the region’s go-to trauma center.

But a difficult and uncertain road lies ahead of that destination, shaped in part by federal health care reform. The new course is being charted amid looming financial uncertainty and with more patients expected to enter the system and the doors of SF General.

Not every General Hospital patient is as lucky as Daniel. For scores of others, SF General is the last stop after a long, rough ride.



Craig Gordon and Dan Goepel drive an ambulance for the San Francisco Fire Department, regularly charging through congested city streets with sirens blaring as they rush patients to SF General and other care facilities. They see it all: Patients who are violent and psychotic and need to be restrained in the back of the ambulance, folks who’ve just suffered burns or gunshot wounds.

Sometimes, in the thick of all of this, SF General’s Emergency Department is closed to ambulances — in public safety lingo, it’s called being “on diversion” — so the medics will have to reroute to different hospitals.

SF General might go on diversion because the Emergency Department is too slammed to take on anyone new, or because it’s too short-staffed to take on new patients without pushing nurse-to-patient ratios to unsafe levels.

For serious trauma cases, strokes, heart attacks, or traumatic brain injuries, however, the doors are always open. Patients with less-serious cases are the ones to be turned away when the hospital is on diversion.

Patients who wind up en route to SF General in Gordon and Goepel’s ambulance might be living on the margins. “If you’re kind of living on the cusp … you’re not likely going to pursue getting a primary care physician,” Goepel pointed out. “When something comes up, then you find yourself in the emergency room.”

Or their patients might be getting rescued from a spectacularly awful situation, like a plane crash. In this densely populated, earthquake-prone region, there is only one top-level trauma center between Highway 92 and the Golden Gate Bridge: SF General. Anyone in the city or northern San Mateo County unfortunate enough to experience a life-threatening incident — a car wreck, shooting, nasty fall, boating accident — winds up there, regardless of whether they’re rich or poor, indigent or insured. Ranked as a Level 1 trauma center, SF General is equipped to provide the highest level of care.

“In the summer, when school is out, we have a high season of gunshot wounds and stab wounds,” explained Chief Nursing Officer Terri Dentoni, who recently led the Guardian on a tour of the Emergency Department. “When it’s really nice outside, you have a lot of people who get into bike accidents, car accidents. … Last week, we were just inundated with critical care patients.”

Around 100,000 patients flow through SF General’s doors each year, and more than 3,900 need trauma care. On July 6, 2013, when Asiana Airlines’ Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, more than 60 crash victims were rushed to SF General with critical issues ranging from organ damage to spinal injuries.

“It was a very big tragedy,” Dentoni said. “But it was amazing how many people we took care of, and how well we took care of them.”

Aside from being the sole trauma center, SF General is also designated as the county’s safety-net hospital, making it the only healthcare option for thousands who are uninsured, poor, undocumented, homeless, or some combination thereof. This makes for complex cases. Patients might require translators, be locked in psychiatric episodes, or need a social worker to help them get to a medical respite facility after being discharged if they’re too weak to fend for themselves and don’t have anyplace to go. There isn’t always a place to send them off to.

“We’re seeing people who are dealing with poverty, and often homelessness, in addition to mental health issues,” explained Jason Negron, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department. “You’re seeing patients who often have a number of things going on. Someone who has multiple illnesses — HIV, heart failure, Hepatitis C — even under the best of circumstances, they would be juggling medications. So what happens when they’re out on the streets?”

San Francisco ranks high on the list of health-conscious cities, a haven for organic food aficionados, yoga addicts, and marathon runners. It’s also a world of high stakes struggles and mounting economic pressures. With the city’s skyrocketing cost of living, sudden job loss can spell disaster for someone without a financial cushion. SF General is the catchall medical care facility for anyone who’s slipped through the cracks.

But while rank-and-file hospital staff must tackle grueling day-to-day problems, like how to juggle multiple patients with complex health issues when all the beds are full and the hospital is understaffed, hospital administrators face an altogether different challenge.

For the past several years, the city’s Department of Public Health has been preparing for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, the federal policy that is reshaping the health care landscape. Since public hospitals are mandated to provide safety-net care, they are uniquely impacted by the ACA.

Even with a sweeping new rule mandating health insurance for all, some segment of the population will nevertheless remain uninsured. But they’ll still need medical care — and when health crises come up, they’ll turn to SF General. Trouble is, no one knows exactly how much funding will be available to meet that need as the financial picture shifts.



Even as ACA aims to increase access to medical care, it’s also going to trigger major funding cuts at the local level. With both state and federal funding being slashed, San Francisco’s county health system stands to lose $131 million in financial support over the next five years, a budgetary hit totaling around 16 percent.

That’s a significant shortfall that will directly impact SF General — but the cuts are being made with the expectation that these gaps will be filled by reimbursements riding in on the waves of newly insured patients enrolled in ACA. Before federal health care reform took effect, around 84,000 San Franciscans lacked health insurance. At the start of this year, 56,000 became eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan.

SF General serves most of the area’s MediCal patients, the subsidized plan for people living on less than $16,000 a year. And since the county gets reimbursed a flat rate for each patient, the expansion of MediCal under federal health care reform will presumably help San Francisco absorb the state and federal funding losses.

“There’s a certain set of patients who previously were not paid for, who now will have MediCal,” explained Ken Jacobs, an expert in health care policy and professor at the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

But there’s a catch. Since MediCal and insured patients will be able to choose between San Francisco’s public system (called the San Francisco Health Plan) and a private medical provider, SF General also runs the risk of losing patients. If too many decide to go with Anthem Blue Cross instead, the system could veer into the red.

“There’s some question of what share of those we’ll keep,” Jacobs noted.

Asked about this, hospital CEO Sue Currin sounded a note of confidence. “Because our outcomes and our quality of care has been so high…75 percent of everyone who’s enrolled in MediCal managed care default to the Department of Public Health,” she told us.

But the journey toward ACA has only just begun, and things are still falling into place. Costs are projected to rise if nothing is done to improve efficiency, while at the same time, the pending state and federal funding shortfalls could take a toll.

Retaining and attracting insured patients is the only way to avoid a resource crunch — but patients could always walk away if they’re dissatisfied. This uncertainty “makes financial planning and management of risk even more challenging,” according to a report issued by the City Controller.

“We don’t know yet today how the Affordable Care Act will impact the safety net,” acknowledged Erica Murray, CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals, which represents 21 public safety-net institutions throughout the state. “How are these health care systems evolving to be competitive? How do we continue to fulfill our core mission of being the safety net? That is the fundamental challenge. And we don’t know today, and we can’t be certain, that these public health systems will have sufficient funding.”

It’s all “very dynamic,” Murray said. “We don’t have sufficient data to be able to draw any definitive conclusions. It’s just too short of a time to be able to make any predictions. It will take several years.”

For all the newly insured patients under ACA, a certain segment will continue to rely on the safety net. Undocumented immigrants who don’t qualify will be left outside the system. Some individuals can be expected to outright refuse ACA enrollment, or be too incapacitated to do so. Others will opt out of Covered California, the ACA plan for people who make more than about $29,000 a year, because their budgets won’t stretch far enough to afford monthly payments even though they technically qualify. They’ll need safety-net care, too.

Yet under the new regime, “We can’t, as a safety net, go forward only with uninsured patients — because there won’t be funding to sustain the whole organization,” explained hospital spokesperson Rachael Kagan. “We will still have uninsured patients, always. But it won’t be sufficient to serve only them.”

Mike Wylie, a project manager in the Controller’s Office, worked on the city’s Health Reform Readiness project, an in-depth assessment performed in tandem with DPH and consultants. “The million dollar question is: Are we going to be on target with the projections?” Wylie asked.

Instead of standing still, San Francisco’s health system must transform itself, the Health Reform Readiness study determined. Ask anyone who works in health care management in the city, and they’ll tell you that DPH has been working on just that. The idea is to focus on network-wide, integrated care that runs more efficiently.

“We need to switch from being the provider of last resort, to the provider of choice,” Wylie noted, voicing an oft-repeated mantra.

This could mean fielding more patient calls with nursing hotlines, or using integrated databases to improve communication. There’s also emphasis on increasing the number of patients seen by a care provider in a given day. The report urged the department to ramp up its productivity level from 1.5 patient visits per hour, where it currently stands, to 2.25 patient visits per hour. Currin noted that the hospital has also been looking into group patient visits.

“Part of getting ready for health care reform was creating more medical home capacity,” Currin said, referring to a system where multiple forms of care are integrated into a single visit, “so we knew we needed to have better access to primary care.”

If no changes are made, the Health Reform Readiness study found, the city’s General Fund contribution to DPH is projected to rise substantially — to $831 million by 2019, up from $554 million in 2014-15.

“We’re a little concerned about this rising General Fund support,” Wylie noted. And even though staffing represents a major expenditure, “They didn’t assume cuts in staff,” while performing the assessment, he said. “What they’re trying to get is more outputs, more efficiency. The managers went over this and said: in order for us to survive, we’ve got to get more out of our system. We may have to cut money — we may have to cut later, if city leaders don’t commit to this rising General Fund. We’ve got to do all these best practices.”

Throughout crafting this road map, he added, “There were some uncomfortable meetings and uncomfortable moments. But I think [DPH Director] Barbara Garcia got everyone to agree to these strategies.”

Talk to rank-and-file hospital staff, however, and some will tell you that getting more out of the system is a tall order — especially when the system already feels like it’s busting at the seams.



“We hit capacity every single day,” said Negron, the RN in the Emergency Department. Patients are regularly placed on beds in the hallways, he said. Wait times for the Emergency Department can last four to six hours, or even longer. The hospital is working on limiting those waits, not just because it’s better in practice, but because timely patient care is mandated under ACA.

“Now, we have 26 or 27 licensed beds in our Emergency Department,” Negron said. But in reality, on a regular basis, “We function with 45 to 50 patients.”

A nurse who works in the Psychiatric Emergency Services unit described her work environment as “a traffic jam with all lanes blocked. This is totally business as usual.”

The workload is on the rise, she added. “The psych emergency room used to see 500 patients a month,” she said. “Now we see 600 patients a month, sometimes more. People are moving faster and faster through the system.”

Her unit is the receiving facility for anyone who is placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, known as a 5150, for individuals who are a danger to themselves or others or gravely disabled.

“It doesn’t matter who they are,” she said. “We get homeless and destitute. We get CEOs. And we have had CEOs — it’s an experience for everyone involved.” Some patients have been involved in criminal activity. “I’ve had high profile people in my unit; people who have done things that, if I tell you what they did, you would easily be able to Google them.”

Patients who come to her wing need to be evaluated, because someone has determined that they are dangerous. It could be that they are “eating rotten food, or running naked in the street, or suicidal, or want to jump off Golden Gate Bridge, or their family thinks they’re out of control.” Sometimes, patients have to be let go once they’re no longer deemed to be a threat, but they still aren’t altogether recovered, she said.

In the psychiatric inpatient unit, meanwhile, the total number of beds has declined from 87 to 44 in the past five years — leading some staff members to voice concerns.

“There is more to do, and there’s less time to do it,” said another staff member who did not want to be named. This person said one psych unit was essentially shut down and another left open — “but then … a patient climbed up into the ceiling, broke some pipes, and flooded the room” in the open unit, so everything was shifted back to the closed unit.

In part, the daily patient crunch is due to a vacancy rate in the hospital nursing staff that hovers around 18 percent — but steps are being taken to address this problem, caused in part by the city’s Byzantine hiring process.

“The nurses are concerned about how, on a day-to-day basis, they don’t feel they have the support and resources they need,” said Nato Green, who represented the nurses’ union, SEIU Local 1021, in recent contract negotiations. “Staff was expected to do more with less. SF General chronically operates at a higher capacity than what it is budgeted for.”

Currin, the hospital CEO — who started out as a nurse herself — rejected this assertion, saying it is not the norm for the hospital to operate over budget. She added that she would like to reduce the nursing staff vacancy rate down to just 5 percent.

“We have had a fairly significant vacancy rate,” she acknowledged. “But just like any other hospital in the city and the country, you have countermeasures that you put in place to address staffing shortages. And so we use nurse travelers. We use as-needed staff, who work here part-time. We’ve been able to fill those gaps with these other staffing measures. We do want to have a more permanent workforce. We’re working with the city and [DPH] to bring in new hires.”

Roland Pickens, director of the San Francisco Health Network (the patient-care division of the Department of Public Health), said he was working with the city’s Human Resources Department to further streamline operations and get a jump on filling vacancies.

“[Chief Financial Officer] Greg Wagner is working with City Controller’s office and the Mayor’s Office, so everyone is addressing the issue of having a more expedited hiring process,” he said.

Negron, the RN, seemed to think it couldn’t happen soon enough. “For us, at the end of the day, who do we actually have that’s on the schedule, that’s on the floor?” he said. Being fully staffed is important, he added, “so we don’t have any more shortages. So we don’t close beds, or go on divert unnecessarily.”

Staff members, who deal hands-on with a vulnerable patient population, lament that there doesn’t seem to be enough resources flowing into the system to care for people who are at the mercy of the public safety net. After all, San Francisco is a city of incredible wealth — shouldn’t there be adequate funding to care for the people who are the most in need?

“Poor people are not profitable,” Green said. “Without regulatory intervention, poor people would not have adequate health care.”



For all the concerns about staffing and the financial uncertainty caused by ACA, SF General still has plenty to brag about. For one, it’s moving into a brand new, nine-story facility in December 2015, which will be equipped with a seventh-floor disaster preparedness center and nearly twice as much space in the Emergency Department.

It will have 283 acute care beds, 31 more than there are now. Most of the patient rooms will be private, and the new hospital will be seismically sound — a critical upgrade in a city prone to earthquakes. The hospital construction was funded with an $887.4 million bond approved by voters in 2008.

“In a new care environment, it will be more comfortable for the patients and the staff,” Currin said. “It’s just a much better environment. We’re hoping with the expansion … the wait times [in the Emergency Department], instead of taking four to six hours, we’re hoping to decrease that by 50 percent,” she said. “There will be more nurses, physicians, housekeepers.”

Pickens, the Health Network director, said he felt that “the stars had aligned” to have the hospital rebuild nearing completion just as ACA gets into full swing, since the new facility can help attract the patients needed to make sure the health system is fully funded.

The hospital has also launched an initiative to reduce patient mortality linked to a deadly infection. “Sepsis is a reaction the body has to a severe infection,” explained Joe Clement, a medical surgical unit clinical nurse specialist. “It causes organ dysfunction, and in some cases death. It’s very common, it’s growing, there’s more and more of it every year, and about a third of hospital deaths have been associated with sepsis in some way.”

In 2011, SF General began implementing new practices — and successfully reduced the hospital mortality rate from 20 percent in 2010 to 8.8 percent in 2014.

SF General was also recently lauded in The New York Times for being a top performer in quality and safety scores for childbirth. In San Francisco, low-income women who may be uninsured and dealing with harsh life circumstances can nevertheless get full access to multilingual doctors, midwives, lactation consultants, and doulas. The World Health Organization has even designated it as “Baby Friendly,” because of practices that support breastfeeding.

As things move ahead, management is projecting a sense of confidence that SF General’s high-quality care will allow the hospital to attract patients and maintain a healthy system that can continue to support the insured and uninsured alike.

“Value, we usually define as improving health outcomes, and optimizing the resources we have, for as many people as we can,” said William Huen, associate chief medical officer.

Speaking about the sepsis initiative, he said, “This is kind of our model program of, how do you focus on one area where you know you can improve health outcomes, with integration throughout the system, education at every level … and then having the data and perfecting the care. That can be applied to anything. So as a system, I think we’ve developed infrastructure to support that type of work.”

But for the staff members who are actively involved in the union, it continues to be a waiting game to see if the promises of new staffing levels are realized. Until then, many have said that the low staffing levels are a threat to patient safety. “They are waiting to see if DPH lives up to its commitment to hire the people they said they were going to hire, and staff it at the level they were going to staff at,” Green said.

It all comes down to providing care for people who really have nowhere else to turn, Negron told us in the Emergency Department. “I’m sure we see the highest portion of uninsured patients in the city,” he said. “We’re doing that in many different languages, with people from all over the world. I feel like it’s a real honor to be able to work there in that context. I feel honored to meet a need — that’s not always able to be met.”

King of the commons


When Susan King attends the Aug. 24 Sunday Streets in the Mission District — the 50th incarnation of this car-free community gathering, coming the week before her 50th birthday — it will be her last as director of an event she started in 2008.

That successful run was made possible by King’s history as a progressive community organizer who also knew how to do fundraising, a rare combination that has made Sunday Streets more than just a bicycle event, a street faire, or a closure of streets to cars that the city imposes on its neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

Instead, King took the ciclovia concept that started in Bogota, Colombia in the late ’70s — the idea was creating temporary open space on streets usually dominated by cars (See “Towards Carfree Cities: Everybody into the streets,” SFBG Politics blog, 6/23/08) — and used it as a tool for building community and letting neighborhoods decide what they wanted from the event.

“I regard the organizing as community organizing work rather than event organizing, and that’s significant,” King told the Guardian. “We’re creating the canvas that community organizations can use.”

San Francisco was the third US city to borrow the ciclovia concept to create open streets events — Portland, Ore, was the first in June 2008, followed quickly by New York City — but the first to do one that didn’t include food trucks and commercial vending, which Sunday Streets doesn’t allow.

“It’s not a street fair, it’s about meeting your neighbors and trying new things,” King said, referring to free activities that include dance, yoga, and youth cycling classes and performances. “It’s a really different way of seeing your city. A street without cars looks and feels different.”

Now, after seeing how Sunday Streets can activate neighborhoods and build community, and watching the concept she helped pioneer be adopted in dozens of other cities, King says she’s ready for the next level.

“I want to apply what I know on a larger scale, ideally statewide,” King said of her future plans. “This really opened my eyes up to the possibilities.”



After a lifetime of progressive activism — from grassroots political campaigns to city advisory committees to working with the Green Party — King knew the value of listening to various community stakeholders and earning their trust.

“We try to be culturally competent and work with each neighborhood,” King said. “We want to work with the neighborhood instead of dropping something on the neighborhood.”

That distinction has been an important one, particularly in neighborhoods such as Bayview and the Western Addition, where there is a long history of City Hall officials and political do-gooders trying to impose plans on neighborhoods without their input and consent.

“We worked really closely together and she gave me a lot of leeway to do Sunday Streets in a way that it worked for the community,” said Rebecca Gallegos, who managed public relations for the Bayview Opera House 2010-2013. “I can’t say enough great words about Susan. She was a truly a mentor to me. They’re losing someone really great.”

The first Sunday Streets on Aug. 31, 2008, extended from the Embarcadero into Bayview, opening up that neighborhood to many new visitors. King cited a survey conducted at the event showing 54 percent of respondents had never been to Bayview before.

“Susan wore a lot of hats. Not only did she create community in all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, but she knew how to go after the money,” Gallegos told us. “She walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk.”

Meaghan Mitchell, who worked with the Fillmore Community Benefits District, also said King’s skills and perspective helped overcome the neighborhood’s skepticism about City Hall initiatives.

“Susan came in and was very warm and open to our concerns. She was a joy to work with,” said Mitchell, who went on to work with King on creating Play Streets 2013, an offshoot of Sunday Streets focused on children.

The neighborhood was still reeling from a massive redevelopment effort by the city that forced out much of its traditional African American population and left a trail of broken promises and mistrust. Mitchell said King had to spend a lot of time in community meetings and working with stakeholders to convince them Sunday Streets could be good for the neighborhood — efforts that paid off as the community embraced and helped shape the event.

“It was nice to know the Fillmore corridor could be included in something like this because we were used to not being included,” Mitchell told us. “Community organizing is not an easy job at all because you’re dealing with lots different personalities, but Susan is a pro.”



It wasn’t community organizing that got King the job as much as her history with fundraising and business development for campaigns and organizations, ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to the San Francisco Women’s Building.

At the time, when city officials and nonprofit activists with the Mode Shift Working Group were talking about doing a ciclovia, King was worried that it would get caught up in the “bike-lash” against cyclists at a time when a lawsuit halted work on all bike projects in the city.

“I thought that would never fly,” King said. “We started Sunday Streets at the height of the anti-bike hysteria.”

But her contract with WalkSF to work on Masonic Avenue pedestrian improvements was coming to an end, she needed a job, and Sunday Streets needed a leader who could raise money to launch the event without city funds.

“I know how to raise money because I had a background in development,” said King, who raised the seed money for the first event with donations from the big health care organizations: Kaiser, Sutter Health/CPMC, and Catholic Healthcare West. And as a fiscal sponsor, she chose a nonprofit organization she loved, Livable City, for which Sunday Streets is now a $400,000 annual program.

King had a vision for Sunday Streets as an exercise in community-building that opens new avenues for people to work and play together.

Immediately, even before the first event, King and Sunday Streets ran into political opposition from the Fisherman’s Wharf Merchants Association, which was concerned that closing streets to cars would hurt business, and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors who were looking to tweak then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose office helped start the event.

City agencies ranging from the Police Department to Municipal Transportation Agency required Sunday Streets to pay the full costs for city services, something that even aggressive fundraising couldn’t overcome.

“We were in debt to every city department at the end of the second year. It was the elephant in the room going into that third year,” King said.

But the Mayor’s Office and SFMTA then-Director Nat Ford decided to make Sunday Streets an official city event, covering the city costs. “It was the key to success,” King said. “There’s no way to cover all the costs. The city really has to meet you halfway.”

King said that between the intensive community organizing work and dealing with the multitude of personalities and interests at City Hall, this was the toughest job she’s had.

“If I would have known what it would be like,” King said, “I would never have taken the job.”



But King had just the right combination of skills and tenacity to make it work, elevating Sunday Streets into a successful and sustainable event that has served as a model for similar events around the country (including at least eight others also named Sunday Streets).

“The Mission one just blew up. It was instantly popular,” said King, who eventually dropped 24th Street from the route because it got just too congested. “But it’s the least supportive of our physical activity goals because it’s so crowded. It was really threatening to be more of a block party.”

That was antithetical to the ethos established by King, who has cracked down on drinking alcohol and unpermitted musical acts at Sunday Streets in order to keep the focus on being a family-friendly event based on fitness and community interaction.

Even the live performances that Sunday Streets hosts are required to have an interactive component. That encouragement of participation by attendees in a noncommercial setting drew from her history attending Burning Man, as well as fighting political battles against the commercialization of Golden Gate Park and other public spaces.

“It was my idea of what a community space should look like, although I didn’t invent it…We really want to support sustainability,” King said. “We’re not commodifying the public space. Everything at Sunday Streets is free, including bike rentals and repairs.”

As a bike event, the cycling community has lent strong support to Sunday Streets, with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition strongly promoting it along the way.

“The success of Sunday Streets has been a game changer in showcasing how street space can be used so gloriously for purposes other than just moving and storing automobiles. At every Sunday Streets happening we are reminded that streets are for people too,” SFBC Director Leah Shahum told us. “Susan’s leadership has been such an important part of this success.”

Eight up


DANCE The 36th annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival opened with an ambitious agenda: presenting India’s eight classical dances in one program. Yet this first weekend — EDF continues at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts through June 28 — didn’t quite meet the high expectations the festival had set for itself.

In part, this was because a shadow fell on the show. Last week, great kathakali practitioner K.P. Kunhiraman, who was to make his farewell appearance, died unexpectedly in India. With his wife, Katherine Kunhiraman, he had directed Kalanjali: Dances of India, one of the Bay Area’s oldest Indian dance schools, teaching both folk and classical Indian dance.

While bringing these classic forms together was a noble idea, EDF should have presented them on equal footing. This is particularly true because while bharatanatyam, kathak, and to a lesser extent odissi and kuchipudi are well known to Bay Area audiences, kathakali, manipuri, mohiniattam, and sattriya may have been unfamiliar even to many of the Southeast Asian families who attended the festival.

Performed by guest artists from out of town, these new-to-us genres were set to music that came out of loudspeakers. For a first exposure to an art, which so intimately depends on instruments and the human voice, recorded music was a disservice to both the practitioners and the audience.

One only had to look and listen to tabla player Samrat Kakkeri (and his colleagues) with the first-rate Chitresh Das Dance Company, which closed the program, to realize that the subtle give-and-take that flows between dancers and musicians should not be given up to expediency. No wonder the Chitresh dancers managed the intricacies of the multiple rhythmic patterns in Das’ kathak yoga with such confidence and joy. Many dance genres do just fine with unrelated music or no music at all. Indian dance, as this program proved, does not.

Also, while some of the less familiar dance forms might have been given more stage time — some others could easily have been shortened. What intrigued most in these first EDF appearances was how little use was made of the sophisticated rhythms that we have come to know as Indian dance.

More drama than dance, kathakali’s spectacular performances can last all night. The excellent Sunanda Nair gave us a glimpse of a work in which an evil demon — in the shape of a seductive woman, wouldn’t you know — gets her comeuppance from baby Krishna. She returned later in an example of mohiniattam which highlighted articulate arms and feathery hands. It was thrilling to see how her torso contrasted with her legs planted into wide plies, from which she smoothly sank into and rose from the ground.

Sohini Ray’s snippet of manipuri, however, disappointed because it looked stiff, and didn’t really develop those wonderfully gentle whipping turns that make the dancers look prayer wheels. She communicated much better in what seemed a more folkloric form of manipuri in which leaping, running, and turning on the knees conversed with a dual head drum.

Intriguing in its use of unisons and rolling wrists, sattriya — performed by two women, one in pants — conveyed the gently rocking geniality of two friends on the road. I have to assume that the one with a hat was Lord Krishna. For those familiar with the mudras, Indian dance’s gestural language, they were so beautifully clear that they were easy to follow. I recognized three for sure: a welcoming gesture, shooting an arrow, and riding a horse.

In its first appearance at the EDF, San Francisco’s Nava Dance Theatre proved itself a fresh, spunky, and musically-aware bharatanatyam company. In its piece, a love-struck young man (a dreamily handsome Arun Mathai) was comforted by a bevy of young maidens. A spectacular, theatrically savvy soloist, Bhavajan Kumar, may yet do for bharatanatyam what Joaquín Cortés did for flamenco.

In their celebratory kuchipudi — bharatanatytam’s younger, looser sister — the nine young women of San Jose’s Natyalaya school of dance handled the rigors of their geometries with considerable grace. Maybe one day we’ll see them perform to live music.

Charming, yet very serious in odissi were Maya Lochana Devalcheruvu (age 11) and Akhil Shrinivasan (10). Young as they are, they already showed odissi’s curved body position and light footwork. With good stage presence, they knew what they were aiming for. The duo then welcomed Sujata Mohapatra, an exquisite odissi dancer light but firm on her feet, floating on her toes, and her rippling neck enhancing the facial expressions.

Though in mourning, Kalanjali: Dances of India performed Tillana, the final section in a bharatanatyam performance, for which the dancers pull together everything they learned. These women probably did. *


Through June 29, $18-$58

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater

700 Howard, SF


Get some: ‘This Is What I Want’ fest continues through June 21


This Is What I Want — the Bay Area’s fifth annual performance festival devoted to performing and investigating desire — seems to want it all this year, with no less than three weeks of far-flung programming. It all started last Sunday with TIWIW’s first-ever film festival, Left Eye/Right Eye, an evening of short subjects curated by San Francisco and Kansas artist Peter Max Lawrence. It continues this weekend with a performance installation and party at the Dollhouse (CounterPULSE’s new space at 80 Turk) for female-identified audience members (a category TIWIW organizers say they’re prepared to interpret liberally), followed by performances through the weekend for the all and sundry.

The impressive Dollhouse lineup of artists includes Mara Poliak and Maryanna Lachman (of the SALTA collective), Elizabeth Cooper, Minna Harri, Ronja Ver, Pearl Marill, Kat Yoas, Montreal’s VK Preston, and SF-based arts collective the Lost Season.

There are also workshops, symposia, and fringe events throughout the festival — including (for anyone in Bristol, England, this month) My Favorite Auntie by Bristol-based performance artist Tom Marshman. A bit closer to home is a community discussion and video-share investigating the relation between feminism and dance, hosted by Oakland’s SALTA collective at the Underground Yoga Parlour for Self Knowledge & Social Justice.

Find information on all TIWIW events here!

Events: May 14 – 20, 2014


Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


“Carry It Forward: Celebrate the Children of Resistance” Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk; 7pm, $10-20. The Middle East Children’s Alliance hosts this benefit screening of a 2013 performance (featuring Angela Davis, Eve Ensler, and others) marking the 60th anniversary of the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

Rayya Elias Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; 6pm, free. The author reads from Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.

Museum of Craft and Design curator tour of current exhibitions Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 Third St, SF; Noon-1pm, free with admission ($6-8). Curator Marc D’Estout leads a lunchtime walk through the museum’s current exhibits.

“The Wandering Moon” Tenderloin National Forest, 511 Ellis, SF; 8pm, $5-10. Michelle Tea hosts this Radar Productions reading with Juliana Delgado Lopera, Erin Peterson, K.M. Soehnlein, Ben McCoy, and Gem Top.


California College of the Arts presents the 2014 MFA Thesis Exhibition CCA San Francisco, 111 Eighth St, SF; 6-10pm, free. Exhibit on display through May 24. Fifty MFA students in CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts showcase their works, in forms that include sculptures, paintings, video shorts, wiki platforms, and more.

“DIY Nightlife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF; 6-10pm, $12. Do-it-yourself is the theme, so Maker Faire artists display their wares; the Computer and Technology Resource Center turns recycled e-waste into usable machines; the Crucible and the Green Art Workshop curate creative activities; and more.

“Quick Draw SF” F8 Gallery/Bar, 1192 Folsom, SF; 6-9pm, free. Live-drawing event featuring over 10 artists creating and selling brand-new works.

Gabrielle Selz City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. The author discusses her new book Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction.

Harriet Elinor Smith Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; 6pm, $15. The Mark Twain Project editor discusses The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition.


“La Cocina: The Culinary Treasures of Rosa Covarrubias” Mexican Museum, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; Noon-4pm, free. Exhibit on display through Jan. 18, 2015. Folk art pottery, paintings, vintage cooking utensils, and other objects from the collection of Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias.


“Free Guided Walking Tour: Introduction to West Oakland Galleries” Meet at Transmission Gallery, 770 W. Grand, Oakl; 2-4pm, free. Visit galleries in West Oakland and get to know their curators. The event also includes a poetry reading at Transmission Gallery.

El Tecolote benefit Cesar’s Latin Palace, 826 26th St, SF; 9:30pm, $10. Cesar’s Latin All-Stars present a benefit dance concert to support bilingual newspaper El Tecolote.

“Yoga in the City” Marina Green, SF; 12:30pm, free. Multiple free outdoor yoga classes are offered throughout the day, with live music, healthy food samplings, and more.


“34th Annual Celebration of Old Roses” El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Ln, El Cerrito; 11am-3:30pm, free. A 100-foot display of rare and heritage roses, plus hundreds of rose-themed products for sale, display tables, activities for kids, and more.


Alysia Abbott Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The author reads from Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father.

Breanne Fahs in conversation with Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz Modern Times Bookstore, 2919 24th St, SF; 7-9pm, free. The authors discuss their writings on radical women, with a focus on Fahs’ Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol).

Russell Simmons Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; 5pm, free. The Def Jam Recordings founder and meditation enthusiast signs copies of In Success Through Stillness.


David Helvarg Bay Model Visitor Center, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito; 7pm, $5. The environmental journalist and activist discusses The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair with the Sea.

Howard Norman City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. The author reads from Next Life Might Be Kinder. *


This Week’s Picks: May 7 – 13, 2014




Science Talk: “The Mysteries of Sleep”

Wonderfest, “the Bay Area Beacon of Science,” is a nonprofit that has been organizing fun, funky science events and meet-ups for nearly two decades, and best of all, most of them are free. This talk, presented at the SoMa StrEat Food Park (with all of the delectable food truck and beer options that entails) will tackle one of the last great biological mysteries — something we spend one-third of our lives doing, yet something scientists still understand very little about. Matthew P. Walker, an associate professor of psychology at Cal, will describe the latest research that suggests sleep is actually a highly active process, necessary for improving our learning processes, memory, creativity, and emotions. So grab a friend, grab some grub and get your education on, then go home and get a good night’s rest — you’ll be smarter for it. (Emma Silvers)

7pm, free

SoMa StrEat Food Park

428 11th St, SF




Bike to Work Day 20th Anniversary

Got a bike? Ride it. Today marks the 20th anniversary of San Francisco’s Bike to Work Day, and it’s never been more rewarding to be a two-wheeled commuter. With thousands of cyclists on the road today, not only do tailpipe emissions decrease dramatically, but the visible presence of cyclists encourages motorists to share the road. What’s more, many small businesses will have special treats for bikers, and the SF Bicycle Coalition will have safety classes, workshops, parties, raffles, and energizer stations (snacks, beverages, and goodie bags) throughout the city. If you’re a two-wheeling newbie, don’t fret. The Coalition will also have Commuter Convoys leading you through the city. Keep an eye out for bike-friendly businesses: Yoga Tree is offering a free class to anyone who shows up on two wheels. Don’t forget your helmet! (Laura B. Childs)

All day, free

Various locations throughout SF



“The New Forty-Niners” and “Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure-Hunting”

For centuries, stories of treasure hunters and great explorers have dominated American history. From the Gold Rush millionaire Samuel Brannan to Huck Finn to Lewis and Clark, the thirst for adventure and wealth is a building block of the American Dream. Tonight, Rayko Photo Center presents two exhibits based on this dream. “Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting,” by Jenny Riffle, documents one man’s treasure hunt, accompanied by his metal detector. Riffle romantically captures the mythical adventurer as he ventures out into rural Washington like a 21st century Mark Twain character. The second exhibit, Sarina Finklestein’s “The New Forty-Niners,” is a four year-long photo project chronicling modern-day gold prospectors in California. In gritty and rugged photographs, the exhibit reveals a small self-sustaining society dependent on gold mining, reminiscent of the original Gold Rush. (Childs)

Opening reception 6pm-8pm, free

Exhibits on display through June 21, 2014

Rayko Photo Center

428 Third St, SF

(415) 496-3775





Katherine Hawthorne’s ‘The Escapement’

Last November choreographer Katharine Hawthorne premiered Timepiece at the Joe Goode Annex. Bringing a background in physics and dance to her artistic practice, she had created an intricately structured and intriguing piece of choreography in which she explored the concept of time — not just dance as a time-based art, but time as a way of structuring the way we live our lives and think about the world. In the new The Escapement, she continues that process by examining the way clocks have enabled us to divide time into regular intervals. The invention of the “escapement” mechanism, apparently, was central to the process. Performing with Hawthorne will be Jesse L. Chin, Katherine Disenhof, Suzette Sagisi, and Megan Wright. (Rita Felciano)

May 9-10, 8pm, $15-25

Joe Goode Annex

401 Alabama St., SF




#GIRLBOSS book signing with Sophia Amoruso

With advice like “money looks better in the bank than on your feet,” #GIRLBOSS is one giant kick in the butt. The CEO, founder, and self-proclaimed “chief troublemaker” at the online fashion retailer NastyGal, Sophia Amoruso isn’t your typical CEO. Before reaching meteoric fame with her $100 million brand, Amoruso was an anarchist who survived off dumpster-diving and shoplifting. Dubbed the “Cinderella of tech,” Amoruso started an eBay store while living in San Francisco, selling old clothes; some eight years later, it’s a global marketplace specializing in scandalous and trendy clothing for 20-somethings. Filled with quick-whips and snarky illustrations, #GIRLBOSS covers all the nitty-grittiness of owning a company, and demystifies any ideas that because you were popular in high school, you’re guaranteed success — you have to work for it. (Childs)

7pm-9pm, free

Books Inc. Bookstore Opera Plaza

601 Van Ness, SF

(415) 776-1111




Black Sabbath may be past their prime, but Berlin’s Kadavar is keeping the ’70s heavy metal dream alive — psychedelic, snarling, seething, dope-smoking, and very hairy. Drawing heavily —very heavily— from Sabbath and Pentagram (with some nods to Zeppelin), Kadavar have joined the time-travelling ranks of Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats in producing some seriously killer heavier metal tunes. Though Kadavar wears its influences on its sleeve, as these guys are singing through their prodigious facial hair about wizards, witchcraft, and lost souls, they are undeniably genuine. Their love for the music is clear, and entirely impossible not to headbang to. (Zaremba)

With The Shrine, Mondo Drag, DJ Rob Metal

9:30pm, $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St, SF

(415) 626-4455





Cat fight: Battle of the feline film fests

If you are a cat fan — or simply fond of Internet kitty videos — today is basically Christmas, Hanukkah, your birthday, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and every other awesome holiday rolled into one. In SF, the Roxie rolls out its “First Annual San Francisco Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans,” a meow-thful of a name befitting a fest that promises “a two-week film festival in the span of 12 hours.” In Oakland, OakCatVidFest presents an entire day of pussy magic; in addition to outdoor screenings, there will be cat-themed bands and dance performances, plus adoptable cats and the chance to sign up to be a kitten foster parent. Superstar Internet feline Lil Bub (of documentary, talk-show, and tongue-wagging fame) will appear at both events. And so should you! (Cheryl Eddy)

Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Fest

Noon, $12 ($30, all-access badge)


3125 16th St, SF




20th Anniversary Serial Mom Tribute with Ricki Lake

“I don’t like to read about movies. They’re so violent,” picture-perfect suburban hausfrau Beverly R. Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) tells a couple police officers during a brief non-lethal moment in Serial Mom. John Waters’ 1994 comedy about a secretly demented wife and mother with very, very high etiquette standards — you really do not want to wear white after Labor Day around he r— remains his personal best since the breakthrough of Hairspray (1988). That film’s discovery Ricki Lake, cast as Sutphin daughter Misty, will appear in person for Peaches Christ’s “Mother’s Day celebration to die for,” also featuring a pre-show performance with D’Arcy Drollinger and “the erotic dance stylings of SexiTude.” There will be blood. (Dennis Harvey)

8pm, $35-55

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120



Old 97’s

Reassuring us all that growing up doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of humor, the Old 97’s — the solid, steady fathers of alt-country, who never quite exploded (or imploded) like some of mid-’90s their counterparts did — are currently touring the country with their tenth studio album, Most Messed Up. The tour also functions as a 20th anniversary party for the band, and the record serves as perfect accompaniment: Never have songs about the ravages of road life and the slights of middle age sounded so fun. The band’s die-hard fans know they’re in for a helluva rocking live show, too, though the guys claim to never rehearse; if you’ve only heard a few radio singles, this is your chance to see what the fuss is actually all about. (Silvers)

With Nikki Lane

8pm, $25

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF






Let’s start with the burning question: Is this guy for real? Part of the intrigue of Riff Raff’s over-the-top, ultra-campy hip-hop persona is that it might be totally genuine. This caricature-like white guy from Houston with a BET tattoo, a grill, and cornrows, who raps about Dolce and Gabbana, could be an elaborate joke. Nut authentic or not, Riff Raff is a hot commodity; “Feat. Riff Raff” seems to be the most popular phrase on iTunes. He’s tight with Drake, Justin Bieber, has over 50 million views on YouTube, and scored some seriously solid guests for his upcoming record Neon Icon — Action Bronson, Childish Gambino, and Diplo, to name just a few. Love him or hate him (it’s one or the other) Riff is undeniably fascinating, and this performance won’t be one you forget any time soon. (Zaremba)

With Grandtheft

8pm, $25

Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter, SF



The San Francisco Moth StorySLAM

You know the upside to life’s hideously embarrassing moments, right? Like that time you broke your ankle by slipping on a banana at the Muni station, at rush hour, and had to have Muni employees help you off the platform while covered in banana mush? And also you were headed to a job interview? (Note: this recently happened to an actual friend.) The upside, of course, is that you have an awesome story to tell, and this monthly “story slam,” based on the award-winning New York-based series The Moth, rewards naked honesty as much as it does storytelling flair. Fact-checkers won’t be on hand, but stories must be true and take five minutes or less to tell; contestants can’t use notes or cheat-sheets of any kind. But beyond that, anything goes, so start your storytelling engines.(Silvers)

7:30pm, $8

The Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell St, SF


Ms. Lauryn Hill

Sure, she’s had her share of troubles over the years: prison time for tax evasion, comments about race that gave PR people across the nation simultaneous heart attacks, a laundry list of tardiness and other diva-tastic behaviors. But at the end of the day, Lauryn Hill is still among the most gifted musicians of the last two decades; her Grammy-sweeping album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which turns 16 this August, still graces many a Top 10 list (this critic’s included). Live, she’s been experimenting with a more reggae-fied and big band sound over the last few years, giving hits like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” the weight of a pseudo-religious revival experience. And if the new music she dropped following her release from prison in the fall of last year is any indication, this tour should be a good one. She might be late, she might be ornery — she won’t be boring. (Silvers)

With Daniel Bambaata Marley

8pm, $49.50-82.50

The Warfield

982 Market, SF

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, 225 Bush, 17th Flr., SF, CA 94105; 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.

Events: May 7 – 13, 2014


Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


“The Gulf of Guinea Island Expeditions: Academy Adventures at the Center of the World” California Academy of Sciences, Tusher African Hall, 55 Music Concourse Dr, Golden Gate Park, SF; 7pm, $10-12. Cal Academy biologist Robert Drewes discusses the latest Academy research in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea Islands.


Kim Bancroft Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; 6pm, $15. Bancroft presents a performance inspired by her new, abridged edition of early 20th century historian (and Bancroft’s great-great-grandfather) Hubert Howe Bancroft’s Literary Industries: Chasing a Vanishing West.

“Bike to Work Day” Citywide, SF; All day, free. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day by pedaling to work. The SF Bicycle Coalition hosts 26 “Energizer Stations,” as well as bike safety classes and other related events.

“Frankly Speaking: A Book Party!” Take 5 Café, 3130 Sacramento, Berk; 7-9pm, free. A celebration of the life and work of performance artist Frank Moore.

“The Secret Lives of Microbes: Amoeba in the Room” Koret Auditorium, SF Public Library, 100 Larkin, SF; 6pm, free. Botanist Nicholas P. Money discusses microbial biodiversity.


Sophia Amoruso Books Inc., Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness, SF; 7-9pm, free. The founder and CEO of popular online fashion retailer Nasty Gal shares her debut book, #GIRLBOSS.


“Fillmore Spring Fling” Check in at Kiehl’s, 1971 Fillmore, SF; 1-5pm, $20. Fillmore Street’s merchants (including boutiques like Alexis Bittar, Benefit, James Perse, Steven Alan, etc.) combine forces for this raffle giving away gift certificates, wine tastings, yoga classes, and more.

“I Was a Teenage Zombie Prom” El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 9pm, $10. Get gussied up in your finest zombie-prom attire (tiaras, pouffy gowns, brrraaaaiiiinnnsss) and raise money for AIDS LifeCycle by enjoying performances by Ana PocaLips, Johnny Rockitt, Rita Dambook, Florence Frightengale, and others.

“Red Bull Ride + Style” Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero at Market, SF; 11am-4pm, free. Fifty of the world’s best fixed gear racers and freestylers compete in this annual battle, a spectator-friendly event which also makes use of custom-built, artistically-designed race courses and ramps.

“Valencia Corridor Sidewalk Sale” Valencia St, SF; All day, free. The merchants of Valencia and its adjacent streets (826 Valencia, BellJar, Mission Bicycle Company, Paxton Gate, etc.) offer deals and specials.

“Writers with Drinks” Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF; 7:30pm, $5-10. With Bich Minh Nguyen, Ariel Gore, David Winter, and Baruch Porras-Hernandez.


Nike missile site tour Park at Marin Headlands Visitors’ Center (meet at missile site gate), 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito; RSVP required to 11:15am, free. Congregation Kol Shofar presents this private tour by a Golden Gate National Recreation Area ranger, visiting the historic, Cold War-era Nike missile site. All ages and nonmembers welcome.


“Anarchism: Its Past, Present, and Future” Global Exchange, 2017 Mission, SF; (510) 776-2127. 6:15pm, free. Panel discussion with Ramsey Kanaan (AK Press and PM Press), Liz Highleyman (journalist and historian), and Joey Cain (Bound Together Bookstore, LGBT activist).

“The Story of the Human Body” California Academy of Sciences, Tusher African Hall, 55 Music Concourse Dr, Golden Gate Park, SF; 7pm, $12-15. Biologist Daniel Lieberman discusses the major evolutionary transformations that have shaped the human body.


“Brown vs. Board of Education at 60: Examining Racial Equity in SF in Education” California Historical Society, 678 Mission, SF; 6-8pm, free. San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, USF School of Education, and Coleman Advocates present this conversation honoring the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education court decision.

“Litquake’s Epicenter: Kaui Hart Hemmings and Michelle Richmond” Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter, SF; 7pm, $5-15. Hemmings (The Descendants) discusses her latest book, The Possibilities, with Michelle Richmond, author of Golden State.

“Odd Salon Presents: Evolve” DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; 7pm, $15. Speakers Danielle Vincent, Chris Ventor, Chris Carrico, and Chris Reeves share stories of change and adaptation. *


April Fools Day in San Francisco: Acrobats block Google bus

“Everyone say, GMuni!”

Activist “Judith Hart,” clad in corporate attire and donning thick glasses without lenses, called into a microphone as she stood on the sidewalk next to a stationary Google bus. She was there as part of a tech bus blockade staged near 24th and Valencia streets this morning (Tue/1), around 9am.

“GMuni!” The crowd chanted.

“GMuni!” Hart repeated.

“GMuni!!!” Came the enthusiastic response.

Some acrobats stood in the street nearby, blocking the bus with dance-like motions. Occasionally leaning on the front of the bus for support, they lifted yoga balls high into the air while the Google shuttle remained parked with passengers aboard, awaiting departure.

The April Fools Day bus blockade – staged by Heart of the City, a group that has blocked corporate tech shuttles several times now – was more absurdist street theatre than protest.

The prank was to hand out “GMuni” bus passes to anyone wishing to board the Google bus. Hart posed as a Google executive launching a new program to provide free transit to all. But when one of the activists tried to climb aboard, waving the pass issued by the activists, the bus driver blocked him from entering, saying it was a private bus and nobody had informed him of this new program.

Eventually, a police officer arrived and asked activists to move to the sidewalk. They complied, but when the bus drove off, it had some signs affixed to the front that activists had placed there.

The street theatre protest was meant to draw attention to today’s scheduled Board of Supervisors vote to determine whether to approve an appeal of a Metropolitan Transportation Agency pilot program to allow private shuttles to stop in Muni bus zones for a fee of $1 per stop.

The Board is scheduled to vote at 3pm this afternoon. To have your say, go to San Francisco City Hall.

San Francisco’s untouchables


In one sense, San Francisco’s homeless residents have never been more visible than they are in this moment in the city’s history, marked by rapid construction, accelerated gentrification, and rising income inequality. But being seen doesn’t mean they’re getting the help they need.

Not long ago, Lydia Bransten, who heads security at the St. Anthony’s Foundation on 150 Golden Gate, happened upon a group of teenagers clustered on the street near the entrance of her soup kitchen. They had video cameras, and were filming a homeless man lying on the sidewalk.

“They were putting themselves in the shot,” she said.

Giggling, the kids had decided to cast this unconscious man as a prop in a film, starring them. She told them it was time to leave. Bransten read it as yet another example of widespread dehumanization of the homeless.

“I feel like we’re creating a society of untouchables,” she said. “People are lying on the street, and nobody cares whether they’re dead or breathing.”

Condominium dwellers and other District 6 residents of SoMa and the Tenderloin are constantly bombarding Sup. Jane Kim about homelessness via email — not to express concern about the health or condition of street dwellers, but to vent their deep disgust.

“This encampment has been here almost every night for several weeks running. Each night the structure is more elaborate. Why is it allowed to remain up?” one resident wrote in an email addressed to Kim. “Another man can be found mid block, sprawled across the sidewalk … He should be removed ASAP.”

In a different email, a resident wrote: “The police non-emergency number is on my quick dial because we have to call so often to have homeless camps removed.”

It’s within this fractious context that the city is embarking on the most comprehensive policy discussions to take place on homelessness in a decade.

In 2004, city officials and community advocates released a 10-Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness. One only needs to walk down the street to understand that this lofty objective ultimately failed; people suffering from mental illness, addiction, and poverty continue to live on the streets.

Most everyone agrees that something should be done. But while some want to see homelessness tackled because they wish undesirable people would vanish from view, others perceive a tragic byproduct of economic inequality and a dismantled social safety net, and believe the main goal should be helping homeless people recover.

“The people living in poverty are a byproduct of the system,” said Karl Robillard, a spokesperson for St. Anthony’s. “We will always have to help the less fortunate. That’s not going to go away. But we’re now blaming those very same people for being in that situation.”


Sabrina: “The streets can be mean.”

Guardian photo by Rebecca Bowe



A common framing of San Francisco’s “homeless problem” might be called the magnet theory.

The city has allocated $165 million to homeless services. Over time, it has succeeded in offering 6,355 permanent supportive housing units to the formerly homeless. Nevertheless, the number of homeless people accounted for on the streets has remained stubbornly flat. The city estimates there are about 7,350 homeless people now living in San Francisco.

Since the city has invested so much with such disappointing results, the story goes, there can only be one explanation: Offering robust services has drawn homeless people from elsewhere, like a magnet. By demonstrating kindness, the city has unwittingly converted itself into a Mecca for the homeless, spoiling an otherwise lovely place for all the hardworking, law-abiding citizens who contribute and pay taxes.

That theory was thoroughly debunked in a Board of Supervisors committee hearing on Feb. 5.

“The idea of services as a magnet, … we haven’t seen any empirical data to support that,” noted Peter Connery of Applied Survey Research, a consultant that conducted the city’s most recent homeless count. “The numbers in San Francisco are very consistent with the other communities.”

He went on to address the question on everyone’s mind: Why haven’t the numbers decreased? “Even in this environment where there have obviously been a tremendous number of successes in various departments and programs,” Connery said, “this has been a very tough economic period. Just to stay flat represents a huge success in this environment.”

As former President Bill Clinton’s campaign team used to say: It’s the economy, stupid.



For Sabrina, it started with mental health problems and drug addiction. She grew up in Oakland, the daughter of a single mom who worked as a housecleaner.

“Drugs led me the wrong way, and eventually caught up with me,” she explained at the soup kitchen while cradling Lily, her Chihuahua-terrier mix.

“I had nothing, at first. You have to learn to pick things up. Eventually, I got some blankets,” she said. But she was vulnerable. “It can get kind of mean. The streets can be mean — especially to the ladies.”

She found her way to A Woman’s Place, a shelter. Then she completed a five-month drug rehab program and now she has housing at a single room occupancy hotel on Sixth Street.

“You don’t realize how important those places are,” she said, crediting entry into the shelter and the drug-rehab program with her recovery.

Since the 10-year plan went into effect, Coalition on Homelessness Director Jennifer Friedenbach told us, emergency services for homeless people have been dramatically scaled back. Since 2004, “We lost about a third of our shelter beds,” she explained. About half of the city’s drop-in center capacity was also slashed.

“Between 2007 to 2011, we had about $40 million in direct cuts to behavioral health,” she said at the Feb. 5 hearing, seizing on the lack of mental health care, one of the key challenges to reducing homelessness.

“The result of all three of these things, I can’t really put into words. It’s been very dramatically negative. The increase in acuity, impact on health,” she said, “those cannot be overstated.”

The need for shelters is pressing. The city has provided funding for a new shelter for LGBT homeless people and a second one in the Bayview, but it hasn’t kept up with demand. And for those who lack shelter, life is about navigating one dilemma after another, trying to prevent little problems from snowballing into something heinous.

Consider recent skirmishes that have arisen around the criminalization of homelessness. Department of Public Works street cleaning crews have sprayed homeless people trying to rest on Market Street. Sitting or lying on the sidewalk can result in a ticket. There are few public restrooms, but urinating on the street can result in a ticket. There are no showers, but anyone caught washing up in the library bathroom could be banned from the premises. Sleeping in a park overnight is illegal.

“The bad things that happen are when people don’t see homeless people as people,” said Bevan Dufty, the mayor’s point person on homelessness. “That’s the core of it — to be moved away, to be pushed away, citing people, arresting people.”

Friedenbach said the tickets and criminalization can ultimately amount to a barrier to ending homelessness: “You’re homeless, so you get a ticket, so they won’t give you housing, because you wouldn’t pay the ticket. And so, you’re stuck on the streets.”



A man slumped over his lunch tray and fell to the floor. Within minutes, a medical crew had arrived on the scene, set up a powder-blue privacy screen, and cleared away a table and chairs to administer emergency care.

Throughout the dining hall, most continued lifting forkfuls of mashed potatoes, broccoli, and shredded meat to their mouths, unfazed. Volunteers clad in aprons continued to set down heaping lunch trays in front of diners who held up laminated food tickets. At St. Anthony’s, where between 2,500 and 3,000 hot meals are served daily to needy San Franciscans, this sort of thing happens all the time.

“A lot of our guests are subject to seizures, for one reason or another,” Robillard told me by way of explanation. Behind him, a pair of medics hovered over the man’s outstretched body, his face invisible behind the screen. “In almost all cases, they’re fine.”

Seizures are just one common ailment plaguing the St. Anthony’s clientele, a mix of homeless people, folks living on the economic margins, and tenants housed in nearby single room occupancy hotels.

Jack, an elderly gentleman with a gray beard and stubs on one hand where fingers used to be, told me he’d spent years in prison, battled a heroin addiction, and sustained his hand injury while serving in the military. He previously held jobs as a rigger and a train operator, and said he became homeless after his mother passed away.

St. Anthony’s staff members mentioned that Jack had recently awoken to being beaten in the head by a random attacker after he’d fallen asleep on the sidewalk near a transit station.

A petite woman with a warm demeanor, who introduced herself as Kookie, said she’d been homeless last August when she faced her own medical emergency. “I was in the street,” she said. “I didn’t know I was having a stroke.”

She’d been spending nights on the sidewalk on Turk Street, curled up in a sleeping bag. When she had the stroke, someone called an ambulance. Her emergency had brought her unwittingly into the system. At first, “They couldn’t find out who I was.”

She said she’d stayed in the hospital for six months. Once she’d regained some strength, care providers connected her with homeless services. Now Kookie stays at a shelter on a night-by-night basis, crossing her fingers she’ll get a 90-day bed. She’s on a wait-list to be placed in supportive housing.

Kookie unzipped a tiny pouch and withdrew her late husband’s driver’s license as she talked about him. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she lived in Richmond while in her early 20s and took the train to San Francisco, where she worked as a bartender. She’s now 60.

“When I was not homeless, I used to see people on the ground, and I never knew I would live like that,” she said. “Now I know how it is.”


Kookie: “I used to see people on the ground, and I never know I would live like that.”

Guardian photo by Rebecca Bowe


Way back in 2003, DPH issued an in-depth report, firing off a list of policy recommendations to end homelessness in San Francisco once and for all. The product of extensive research, the agency identified the most important policy fix: “Expand housing options.”

“Ultimately, people will continue to be threatened with instability until the supply of affordable housing is adequate, incomes of the poor are sufficient to pay for basic necessities, and disadvantaged people can receive the services they need,” DPH wrote. “Attempts to change the homeless assistance system must take place within the context of larger efforts to help the very poor.”

Fast forward more than a decade, and many who work within the city’s homeless services system echo this refrain. The pervasive lack of access to permanent, affordable housing is the city’s toughest nut to crack, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

At the committee hearing, Friedenbach, who has been working as a homeless advocate for 19 years, spelled out the myriad funding losses that have eviscerated affordable housing programs over time.

“We’ve had really huge losses over the last 10 years in housing,” she said. “We’ve lost construction for senior and disability housing. Section 8 [federal housing vouchers] has been seriously cut away at. We’ve lost federal funding for public housing. There were funding losses in redevelopment.”

A comprehensive analysis by Budget and Legislative Analyst Harvey Rose found the city — with some outside funding help — has spent $81.5 million on permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless.

That money has placed thousands of people in housing. Nevertheless, a massive unmet need persists.



Following the hard-hitting economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, San Francisco saw a spike in families becoming homeless for the first time. Although a new Bayview development is expected to bring 70 homeless families indoors, Dufty said 175 homeless families remain on a wait-list for housing.

Yet the wait-list for Housing Authority units has long since been closed. And many public housing units continue to sit vacant, boarded up. Sup. London Breed said at a March 19 committee hearing that fixing those units and opening them to homeless residents should be a priority.

DPH’s Direct Access to Housing program, which provides subsidized housing in SROs and apartments, was also too overwhelmed to accept new enrollees until just recently. Since the applicant pool opened up again in January, 342 homeless people have already signed up in search of units, according to DPH. But only about a third of them will be placed, the results of our public records request showed.

Meanwhile, the city lacks a pathway for moving those initially placed in SROs into more permanent digs, which would free up space for new waves of homeless people brought in off the street.

City officials have conceptualized the need for a “housing ladder” — but if one applies that analogy to San Francisco’s current housing market, it’s a ladder with rungs missing from the very bottom all the way to the very top.

In the last fiscal year, HSA allocated $25 million toward subsidized housing for people enrolled in the SRO master-lease program. “It’s often talked about as supportive housing,” Friedenbach notes. “But supportive housing under a federal definition is affordable, permanent, and supportive.”

In SROs, which are notoriously rundown — sometimes with busted elevators in buildings where residents use canes and wheelchairs to get around — people can fork over 80 percent of their fixed incomes on rent.

“An individual entering our housing system should have an opportunity to move into other different types of housing,” Dufty told the supervisors. “It’s really important that people not feel that they’re stuck.”

Amanda Fried, who works in Dufty’s office, echoed this idea. “Our focus has to be on this ladder,” she told us. “If people move in, then they have options to move on. What happens now is, we build the housing, people move in, and they stay.”



Homelessness does begin somewhere. For Joseph, a third-generation San Franciscan who grew up in the Mission and once lived in an apartment a block from the Pacific Ocean, the downward spiral began with an Ellis Act eviction.

After losing his place, he stayed with friends and family members, sometimes on the streets, and occasionally using the shelter system (he hated that, telling us, “I felt safer in Vietnam”). He now receives Social Security benefits and lives in an SRO.

Homelessness is often a direct consequence of eviction. Last year, the city allocated an additional $1 million for eviction defense services. Advocates hope to increase this support in the current round of budget talks. The boost in funding yielded measurable results, Friedenbach pointed out, doubling the number of tenants who managed to stave off eviction once they sought legal defense.

There’s also a trend of formerly homeless residents getting evicted from publicly subsidized housing. Since 2009, the Eviction Defense Collaborative has counted 1,128 evictions from housing provided through HSA programs. Since most came from being homeless, they are likely returning to homelessness.

Dufty said more could be done to help people stay housed. “Yes, we’re housing incredibly challenged individuals. And we have to recognize that allowing those individuals to be evicted, without the city using all of our resources to intervene to help that person, that’s not productive,” he said. “It’s debilitating to the person. It’s just not good.”

Fried said the city could do more to provide financial services to people who were newly housed. “You were homeless on the street — you know you didn’t pay some bill for a long time. Really that’s the time, once you’re housed and stable, to say, ‘let’s go back and pull your credit.’ Once we have people in housing, how are we increasing their income?”


Gary: “If I knew how to fix it, I would.”

Guardian photo by Mike Koozmin


The reopening of [freespace], a community space at Sixth and Market temporarily funded by a city-administered grant, attracted a young, hip crowd, including many tech workers. A girl in a short white dress played DJ on her laptop, against a backdrop where people had scrawled their visions for positive improvements in the city. Some of the same organizers are helping to organize HACKtivation for the Homeless, an event that will be held at the tech headquarters of Yammer on March 28. The event will bring together software developers and homeless service providers to talk about how to more effectively address homelessness.

“The approach we’re talking about is working with organizations and helping them build capacity,” organizer Ilana Lipsett told us. The idea is to help providers boost their tech capacity to become more effective. And according to Kyle Stewart of ReAllocate, an organization that is partnering on the initiative, “The hope is that it’s an opportunity to bridge these communities.”

Other out-of-the box ideas have come from City Hall. Sup. Kim, who stayed at a homeless shelter in 2012 during a brief stint as acting mayor, said she was partially struck by how boring that experience was — once a person is locked into a shelter, there is nothing to do, for 12 hours.

She wondered: Why aren’t there services in the shelters? Why isn’t there access to job training, counseling, or medical care in those facilities? Why are the staffers all paid minimum wage, ill-equipped to deal with the stressful scenarios they are routinely placed in? Her office has allocated some discretionary funding to facilitate a yoga program at Next Door shelter, in hopes of providing a restorative activity for clients and staff.

More recently, Sup. Mark Farrell has focused on expanding the Homeless Outreach Team as an attempt to address homelessness. Farrell recently initiated a citywide dialogue on addressing homelessness with a series of intensive hearings on the issue. He proposed a budgetary supplemental of $1.3 million to double the staff of the HOT team, and to add more staff members with medical and psychiatric certification to the mix.

But the debate at the March 19 Budget and Finance Committee hearing grew heated, because Sup. John Avalos wanted to see a more comprehensive plan for addressing homelessness. “I’m interested in people exiting homelessness,” he said. “I’d like there to be a plan that’s more baked that has a sense of where we’re going.”

Farrell was adamant that the vote was not about addressing homelessness in the broader sense, but expanding outreach. “We have to vote on: do we believe, as supervisors, that we need more outreach on our streets to the homeless population or do we not?” he said.

Sup. Scott Wiener defined it as an issue affecting neighborhoods. “When we’re actually looking at what is happening on our streets, it is an emergency right now,” he said. “It’s not enough just to rely on police officers.”

When other members of the board said homeless advocates should be integrated into the solution, Wiener said, “The stakeholders here are not just the organizations that are doing work around homelessness, they are the 830,000 residents of San Francisco … It impacts their neighborhoods every day.”

Asked what she thought about it, Kim told us she believed sending more nurses and mental-health service providers into the city’s streets was a good plan — but she emphasized that it had to be part of a larger effort.

“If you’re just going to increase the HOT team, but not services,” she said, “then you’re just sending people out to harass homeless people.”



Mike is 53, and he’s lived on the streets of San Francisco for five years. He was born in Massachusetts, and his brothers and sisters live in Napa. We encountered him sitting on the sidewalk in the Tenderloin. “I don’t like shelters,” he explained. “I got beat up a couple times, there were arguments.” So he sleeps under a blanket outside. “It’s rough,” he said. “I do it how I can.”

A few blocks away we encountered Gary, who said he’s been homeless in San Francisco for 17 years. He was homeless when he arrived from Los Angeles. He said he’d overdosed “a bunch of times,” he’s gone through detox five times, and he’s been hospitalized time and again. “Call 911, and they’ll take care of you pretty good.”

Gary is an addict. “If I knew how to fix it, I would,” he said. “Do yourself a favor, and lose everything. It’s like acting like you’re blind.”

Gary and Mike, chronically homeless people who have been on the streets for years, are HOT’s target clientele. “My slice of the pie is the sickest, the high-mortality, they’re often the ones that are laid out in the street,” said Maria Martinez, a senior staff member at DPH who started the HOT program.

“I went through years of the 10-Year plan,” she added. “Do I feel like I could take this money [the HOT team supplemental] and do something effective with it? Yes. Do I think there’s a lot of other things that we could address? Yes.”

Pressed on what broader solutions would look like, she said, “There has to be an exit into permanent housing. I’ve seen that we’ve been creative around that. We can make lives better. I say that vehemently. And permanent housing is critical to exiting out of homelessness.”


Guardian photo by Mike Koozmin

This Week’s Picks: February 26 – March 4, 2014



Fresh and Onlys

Yeah, Ty Segall moved to LA and Thee Oh Sees are on an indefinite hiatus, but chin up! The Fresh and Onlys aren’t going anywhere. Keeping the SF garage rock scene alive, these hometown heroes are tireless, performing almost constantly around the city since their inception in 2008. Sure, you’ve seen ’em before and you’ll probably see ’em again, but this is prime: headlining the city’s greatest (and most fitting) down n’ dirty rock club as a part of Noise Pop, the city’s greatest (and most affordable!) arts festival. And if you haven’t seen ’em before, get on it! These dudes can write a catchy tune with just the right amount of melancholy like nobody’s business. (Haley Zaremba)

With Sandy’s

8pm, $14

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission, SF

(415) 800-8782



Com Truise

It is only fitting that Com Truise embarks on a national tour at the same time the new RoboCop film is in movie theaters. Both the electronic funk producer and the futuristic peace officer are products of the ’80s, borrow heavily from the era, rely on shiny technological weaponry, and owe a shout-out to Michigan. Since 2010, Ann Arbor’s trendy Ghostly International label has championed Truise’s artistic exploits, including the shimmering Wave 1 EP released this year. Truise concocts muddled, vintage, bass-heavy synthwave, the type of emphatic sound that might arise if Joy Division or New Order were selected for RoboCop reprogramming. (Kevin Lee)

With Phantoms, Kauf, DJ Dials

9pm, $19


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880



Forget the music, watching Jel repeatedly punch drum machine pads and twist sampler knobs on bulky, last-gen machinery would be worth the price of admission. The East Bay-based electronic hip-hop producer manages to keep his appendages intact while stabbing out a dizzying array of kick drums, snares and percussion in ever-shifting breakbeat arrangements and tempos. On his latest LP, Late Pass (Anticon), Jel balances bass with shoegaze melodies, hints of psychedelia, electric guitar chords and some of his own emceeing. In line with the political undertones throughout the album (“Don’t get comfortable,” the title track advises), this show marks the two-year anniversary of the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, a medical cannabis nonprofit. (Lee)

With Maus Haus, Grown Kids Radio DJs

7pm-10 pm, free (RSVP required for non-Noise Pop badge holders)


1256 Mission, SF

(415) 252-7727




It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Bleached’s Clavin sisters are longtime friends of Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino. Bleached dishes out the same brand of blissed-out, beach-blonde pop morsels that has been pouring out of Southern California (San Fernando Valley, in the Clavins’ case) for the past few years. This isn’t to say that there’s nothing special about this sister act: The Clavins have an amazing aptitude for earworms and feel-good noises paired with feel-bad lyrics, and Bleached’s recent debut album establishes that the band is not to be dismissed as one of the crowd — the sisters have been sneaking into punk shows and honing their musical chops for years, and it shows. (Zaremba)

With Terry Malts, Mystic Braves, Tropical Popsicle

8:30pm, $15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


Other Minds Festival

What do jazz saxophone legend Roscoe Mitchell, experimental composer Joseph Byrd, and an African grey parrot have in common? They’re all sharing a bill at the 19th annual Other Minds Festival, a two-day celebration of avant-garde music, taking place for the first time at the SFJAZZ Center. This year’s festival also includes performances by award-winning pianist Myra Melford, the premiere of synthesizer superstar Donald Buchla’s Drop by Drop, and a specially commissioned performance of Roscoe Mitchell’s Nonaah for four bass saxophones — a rare instrument in its own right. The LA Times calls this the “West Coast’s premier festival of new music,” so if you’re not afraid to get a little out there, this is the place to be. (Emma Silvers)

8pm, Fri/28 – Sat/1, $25-$65


201 Franklin, SF

(866) 920-5299



James Bond

While most people are probably familiar with James Bond as a character from the film and literary worlds, the iconic spy has also had his danger- and damsel-filled missions and adventures featured in comics and newspaper strips around the globe. Suit up and join Alan J. Porter, author of the book James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007, for a discussion and slideshow highlighting the secret agent’s other realm of action. Cartoon Art Museum chairman Ron Evans and artist Mike Capozzola will host this evening’s festivities, which will also include a look at vintage Bond memorabilia, prizes, an auction, and of course, martinis — shaken, not stirred, naturally. (Sean McCourt)

7:30-9:30pm, $7

Cartoon Art Museum

655 Mission St, SF

(415) CAR-TOON


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Perhaps Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. should transition into full-time DJ work. On one track of their new (and free to download) mixtape Produce Vol. 1, indie rockers Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott cheekily layer vocals from both the Notorious BIG and the Beach Boys over 16-bit video game beats, creating an unexpected and playful mashup. “Beach Blanket Biggie” epitomizes the irreverent approach and wide-ranging musical influences of the Detroit-based duo. Their sophomore LP The Speed of Things (Warner Bros. Records) collects bright vocals, moody folk, electronically shifted acoustic samples, and a splash of uptempo synth-pop, as evidenced by the recent single “If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor]”. (Lee)

With Chad Valley

9 pm, $20

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000


Afrika Bambaataa

Without Afrika Bambaataa, hip-hop as we know it would not have existed; he is credited for coining the term “hip-hop” back in 1982, more than three decades ago. That same year, Bambaataa released his seminal single “Planet Rock,” a daring electrofunk track featuring vocoders and synthesizers that transformed rap and electronic music genres. Part of the hip-hop patriarch’s staying power can be attributed to the connections he fostered in the ’70s and ’80s, when he hosted gatherings to promote peace and social change, and shaped a generation of artists. Continuing to DJ and produce tracks that mix funk, breaks, fusion, and rock also helps to ensure fans that hip-hop’s godfather isn’t going anywhere. (Lee)

With DJ Jahi

10:30 pm, $26

Yoshi’s San Francisco

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 655-5600



SF History Expo

With the city by the Bay going through yet another period of transformation, now is the perfect time to look back on its incredible history and learn some of the stories that shaped the modern metropolis we know and love today. The 2014 San Francisco History Expo will feature more than 50 exhibitors creating special “mini-museums” and booths onsite, along with a variety of presentations, films, displays, and more — all taking place at the Old Mint, one of the few buildings to survive the earthquake and fire of 1906. (Sean McCourt)

$5, 11am-5pm Sat, 11am-4pm Sun

The Old Mint 88 5th St, SF


Isness Productions Presents First Sundays Yoga

Who’s trying to get downward dog tonight? For those who like to get down on the dance floor as well as on their yoga mats, head to the Regency for an evening of yoga, live music, organic food, eco-vending and holistic healing. Isness Productions’ Scott Franklin Manning has been using music as a healing power and a means to break down barriers since the ’90s, but this event marks the grand opening of his First Sundays gatherings. Practice yoga with two Yoga Tree instructors, Laura Burkhart and writer/spiritual man-about-town Mark Morford, with an electronic soundtrack by DJ Little John. Later on, DJ Garth will start the dance party, followed by an all-vinyl set by Wicked Sound System. The all-ages event will also feature a yoga class for kids and holistic activities from tarot reading to collective chair massages and an organic tea and raw chocolate lounge. As if it couldn’t get anymore wholesome, 100 percent of the proceeds fund school garden projects in San Francisco. (Laura B. Childs)

3pm – 9pm, $35

The Regency

1290 Sutter, SF


Murder in Pigalle launch party with Cara Black

French private investigator (and magnet for trouble) Aimée Leduc is back at it again in Murder in Pigalle. San Francisco Library Laureate and best-selling author Cara Black celebrates her latest installment in the French mystery series with a book reading and signing. Inspired by a true-crime story during the summer of 1998, Murder in Pigalle follows Aimée Leduc as she tries to slow down her hectic lifestyle — until a serial rapist wreaks havoc on Paris’ Pigalle neighborhood. When the criminal strikes too close to home, Aimée can’t help but become involved. The suspense will leave you au bout de souffle. (Childs)

3pm, free

Books Inc. at Laurel Village

3515 California, SF



Marshall Elementary School Second Annual Best Tamales Contest

There are few Central American delicacies as exceptional as the tamale. Wrapped up like a present, the masa dish can be filled with gooey cheeses, spiced meats, or an assortment of veggies. But what makes a tamale the best tamale? Marshall Elementary School is a on a quest to find el major tamale de la Mission. After its immense success last year, the tamale contest will once again bring the community together to help raise money for the underfunded school. Parents of students and the school’s Mission neighbors will cook up a variety of homemade tamales based on their places of origin, ranging from the Yucatan to right here in San Francisco. Expect tastes from many other regions of Mexico and Latin America as well! (Childs)

6pm – 8pm, $30

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor

2817 24th St, SF




Tosca is the sound you hear in a dimly-lit lounge, resplendent with plush velvet seats and sensual wisps of scented candle smoke. Austrian downtempo luminaries Richard Dorfmeister and Rubert Hubert make a rare foray this side of the Atlantic with a six-stop trip through North America. Sophomore studio album Suzuki (!K7 Recordings) remains a gold standard in the lounge music genre, as refreshingly lush and catchy today as when it was released at the turn of the millennium. Their newest LP, Odeon, is a vocal-laden voyage that entices listeners through layered atmospherics and dramatic tones. This live performance will feature the longtime pair alternating between piano and electronics, accompanied by vocalists and visuals from Austria’s Ars Electronica Futurelab. (Lee)

With Cath Coffey and Robert Gallagher

8pm, $35

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF (415) 771-1421


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Evolution of yoga


YOGA Being suspended upside down in an aerial yoga swing in Peaceful Warrior position, transitioning into Happy Buddha as I reached for the Quantum Playground to deepen my stretch, I gained a new perspective on the world — and the ongoing evolution of yoga in the Bay Area.

Innovation and the cross-pollination of various ideas and practices are as quintessential to the Bay Area as yoga and other mindful approaches to self-improvement and secular spirituality. So it makes sense that local yoga teachers and entrepreneurs are developing new twists on a timeless art.

My yoga practice began in 2001, and I was fortunate to have an instructor who emphasized that yoga is about breathing more than stretching or exercise. It’s about being present and maintaining that presence through the pain of life and its contortions. Inhale to lengthen, exhale to deepen; breathe in, breathe out, repeat indefinitely.

When aerial yoga instructor Jen Healy first hung me upside down in her San Rafael home and “Healyng Sanctuary” while we were dating in 2012, that focus on breathing was essential just to keep my lunch down (or up, in this case). Yoga can have that disorienting quality, particuarly in the inverted postures.

And then I worked through it, finding a new world opened up on the other side where previous limits yielded to new openness and flexibility. It can be playful, as in Healy’s Aerial Yoga Play swings and teacher trainings; or the partner-based AcroYoga that emerged here about 10 years ago.

“You get to play your way to a healthier and happier state of being,” Healy says, calling her swings and jungle-gym-like Quantum Playground she built tools for “awakening the courageous inner child.”

Or the new approaches to yoga can cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness, purpose, and integration of our mental, emotional, and physical bodies, as instructor Dina Amsterdam strives for with her InnerYoga approach.

“Yoga is about finding balance. We are walking around so out of balance as a culture,” Amsterdam says, describing her teachings as helping people better understand their inner landscape “so they can discover what is out of balance within them…InnerYoga is not a style, it’s an approach to life.”

San Francisco’s progressive, humanist values have also helped project yogic teachings onto the sociopolitical scene through groups such as Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM), with the mission “to use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.”

A new local company called YOL is trying to marry that sense of activism with the yoga retreats to exotic locales that have become so popular, creating trips that combine yoga and meditation with volunteer work on service projects.

“I do think it’s part of yoga’s evolution,” says YOL co-founder David Cherner. “It’s taking that good feeling you get from yoga and channeling it into giving to someone else.”



In this hustle-bustle world of ours, it feels grounding and luxurious to take a full day to breathe, to meditate, and to practice yoga. Retreats of a day to a week have become big in the yoga world, but my first one was Feb. 23 at Amsterdam’s home near Mt. Tamalpais.

“Yoga in the United States, particularly in the Bay Area, became very focused on the physical component,” says Amsterdam, who instead strives “to really make self-awareness and connection to essence the primary purpose of yoga.”

She developed her InnerYoga approach in 2008 during the economic crash — since then graduating 36 teachers who now employ her approach — using the mindful evolution of her own practice to meet the growing anxiety and imbalance she saw in the community.

“What I was most effective at teaching is what people were really needing,” Amsterdam said. “My classes slowed way down.”

I met Amsterdam through the YinYoga classes that she teaches at Yoga Tree, classes that involve holding postures for extended periods of time — from a few minutes up to a half-hour — which can open up both joints and deep emotions as practioners breathe through their resistance.

But Amsterdam says that YinYoga is just part of InnerYoga, which involves active and passive poses, meditation, and teachings and exercises designed to connect yoga with a mindful approach to life. Its four foundations are “awareness, kindness, breath, and ease.”

“I’m teaching people self-care practices both on the mat and off the mat,” Amsterdam said.

That idea was the basis for OTM, which is “in the business of creating leaders and helping leaders connect to their passions,” says Rebecca Rogers, who splits her professional time between teaching yoga and working for OTM on its seva fundraising campaigns.

“When you slow things down, you have more time to make choices,” Rogers said, describing the notion of mindfulness that yoga helps create. “A big part of mindfulness is the ability to tune into the world.”

That bridge between the yoga and political worlds will be tested this year as yogini and renowned author Marianne Williamson runs for Congress in Southern California, promoting mindfulness, a campaign that OTM’s Yoga Votes project is supporting.

Between the connections to self and to the world, AcroYoga is a hybrid of yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage, a fluid practice where partners use one another for pressure or as a plaform for poses.

“I don’t think there’s enough safe touch in the world, so AcroYoga allows that,” says Tyler Blank, who discovered the practice in 2004 and became one of its first certified teachers.

Later, in Hawaii, Blank discovered the concept of ecstatic dance — with its “contact improv” techniques that are similar to AcroYoga — and brought it to the Bay Area, where its twice-weekly events in Oakland have grown in popularity.

“I realized we could take partner yoga and start to dance with it very slowly,” Blank said. “I think yoga is evolving into dance.”

However yoga evolves, the Bay Area is likely to be at the center of that process.

Beautiful path to now


VISUAL ART/YOGA I attended my first yoga class in 2000, at the Mindful Body on California Street. I’d arrived by way of much prodding from a journalism colleague who thought yoga might help with an increasingly debilitating chronic pain condition I’d mysteriously developed. A Brooklyn-raised fiery gym rat in my early 20s, I had just moved to San Francisco and simply couldn’t fathom doing this New-Agey exercise routine. I’d also recently been to India (to see the country — not to learn yoga), and I’d resented the hippie Westerners who seemed to be eagerly consuming yoga study, but staying clear of the places where starvation and disease had riddled the practice’s homeland.

With all of this emotional baggage — and an additional few suitcases that I’ll leave unpacked for the moment — I put on a pair of old blue leggings and an oversized T-shirt, and dragged myself to yoga class. And then I went back again.

It was a good workout. But, more significantly, by the time each class was midway through, my pain would temporarily disappear. Plus, the practice made me feel a way no native New Yorker ever expects to feel: peaceful. I committed myself to yoga harder and faster than I had to anything in years. It was doing something to me, changing me in some way.

Now it’s 2014; I’ve become a yoga teacher. And tonight I’m at the opening party for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco’s “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” the first ever comprehensive art exhibit on yoga’s history. Upstairs, yoga teacher-rapper-celebrity-activist MC Yogi is performing his signature ditty “Ganesh is Fresh” to a crowd of fans, some dressed in colorful spandex yoga clothes, others in traditional Indian garb, and still others in contemporary SF duds. Downstairs, some people are engaged in high-level philosophical discussion about the winding path of yoga history, while others are learning AcroYoga maneuvers, drinking “all-natural, gluten-free” margaritas, or striking yoga poses for Instagram-able photos in the museum entranceway.

From an anthropological perspective, it’s quite the scene. And though I’m intimate with my own personal trajectory, there’s a bigger question at hand. How did we all get here?



Though many of us have been taught (or have simply assumed) that ancient Indian sages were waking up at dawn to do sun salutations, we now know that this was likely not the case. Recent scholarly research tell us that the yoga we practice today in our heated, hard wood-floored, lavender-smelling classrooms is a new breed of practice, most of which was developed in the last century. So, what is the origin of this practice?

In town until May 25, this gorgeous 135-piece sprawling exhibit — which includes towering Tantric stone goddesses, colorful renderings of intricate yogic energy systems, and exciting film footage of 1930s yoga masters — offers some answers. Originally created by art historian Debra Diamond for the Sackler and Freer Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the exhibit’s just arrived to town amid great enthusiasm. “San Francisco has such a long rich history with yoga,” says Qamar Adamjee, in a recent phone conversation, who, along with Jeff Durham, curated the local presentation of the exhibit. “It was a no-brainer to bring the exhibit here.”

Though yoga’s origin is typically thought to go back at least 2,500 years, the exhibit’s scope is from 100 CE to the 1940s; the museum, along with a board of local yoga advisers, also created supplemental content, like a California yoga timeline, and supplemental programming, including talks with local luminaries. “It’s important to have a sense of where you came from,” says senior yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater, founder of both the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco and Yoga Journal magazine, and one of the exhibit’s advisers, told me over the phone. “That helps us define who we are.”

The art here is laid out by topic, less than it is chronologically, because yoga’s history did not develop in a straight line; different aspects of the practice appeared in different places at different times. “When talking about the exhibit, I like to use the word histories instead of history,” says Adamjee. “While we associate yoga as primarily a Hindu practice, its history is actually shared by three main religious systems of ancient India: Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism.” She adds that connections to Islam and Sufism are also seen in the exhibit. “This multiplicity is what makes it so fascinating and rich.” It’s important to remember, too, that this is yoga’s history as depicted primarily by visual art, not by texts — and that the story could change (and likely will) as new findings surface. Yoga research is currently one of the fastest growing fields in South Asian studies.

But for now, our journey begins not where some might expect — say, with a serene yogi practicing Tree Pose by a river bank — but with practices of extreme austerity in the name of enlightenment.



In modern yoga culture, we use the practice to help heal the body — I know I did. But some of the earliest yogis had a different point of view. Well-preserved stone sculptures from the first millennium depict worshippers starving themselves in the hopes of being released from the cycle of reincarnation. (Mortal life here was viewed as pure suffering and these devotees were hoping not to come back again.) An emaciated, pre-enlightenment Buddha is depicted here, too, in an intricate ivory carving from 700-800 CE.

A thousand years later, the art becomes more sophisticated and more focused on deity worship, but practices of austerity and self-mortification remain. For instance, detailed paintings with tiny strokes show devotees of Shiva uncomfortably hanging themselves upside down from trees, or standing or sitting in one position for years. In the mid-late 1800s, photographs begin to appear showing Indian ascetics doing extreme things: lying on a bed of nails, wearing an irremovable contraption around one’s neck, even piercing one’s penis with a heavy metal object.

The images themselves are hard for our soft Western eyes to endure, but even less palatable is the story behind them. With the British invasion, the rights of wandering ascetics were restricted, so they moved from forests into cities, where they were forced financially to parade their devotional practices to local audiences for a quick rupee. Many of the photographs on display were shot by professional British photographers, and were then turned into postcards that the photographers sold for great profit throughout Europe. Non-yogi locals took note that money could be made from Europeans by staging tricks, and it soon became hard to tell who was a true ascetic, and who was a random yoga hack laying on a bed of nails for cash.



Though yoga was initially seen as a practice of bodily transcendence, some practitioners decided that, so long as they were in their bodies, it might be useful to score some superhuman psychic and physical abilities. During the Tantric era, these yogis are believed to have used practices like mantra, visualization, and goddess worship (sometimes occurring at cremation grounds) to channel these powers.

One of the exhibit highlights is a room filled with striking stone goddesses from this time. The slate-gray statues of worship, which date from 900-975 CE, show large-breasted, small-waisted female yogis (yoginis) complete with fangs and pet snakes, holding cups meant for liquor or blood. Today the word “yogini” is used when simply referring to female practitioners, but these original figures were fierce and to be feared. (They were also sculpted with perfect bods, offering an interesting parallel to the depictions of female practitioners in modern day yoga magazines.)

Later on, in 1830, Indian watercolor and gold paintings show the mystical use of yogic superpowers: to win battles by creating a flood where enemies are charging forth, and to magically fly through the sky. Of course, a hundred years later, the West chimes in, and starts making a mockery of yogic powers in the cinema and in profitable magic shows like “Koringa, the Female Yogi.”



Throughout the early years, we see all manners of meditators, perhaps practicing classical yoga (as handed down by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), often sitting with legs in a lotus-like position, gazing up or inward toward a third eye. But as the years pass, the physical body starts to take more prominence, in the Tantra and Hatha Yoga traditions, as a tool on the yogic path of self-realization. One treasure here is a 10-page excerpt from an early 1600s Muslim Sufi book called Bahr al-hayat (Ocean of Life), said to contain the earliest illustrated renderings of physical yoga poses. Most of the poses shown here are seats like lotus pose, but there is one drawing of a guy rocking a headstand.

Around the 1700-1800s, intricate Tantric renderings of the energetic yoga body, including the chakras (energy centers), appear. A total must-see: a watercolor scroll that contains detailed, gold-laced drawings of Ganesh and his two wives (at the root chakra), and Shiva and Shakti joined together (in the crown chakra).

In the final gallery, we come into the 20th century. Yoga made its big debut in the US when Swami Vivekananda, who practiced Raja Yoga, based on Hindu philosophy and meditation, made a speech about yoga at the first World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. Seven years later, he set up the Vedanta Society in San Francisco to offer his teachings. (Many of his materials are displayed here.) The early 1900s is also where we begin to see evidence of the more athletic yoga practice most of us do today. This new form came about as prominent Indian yoga teachers began to blend ancient postures and energetic techniques with strength-training exercises that had been brought in by their British invaders.

A mesmerizing video shows T. Krishnamacharya (often considered the grandfather of modern day yoga) and his young disciple BKS Iyengar performing expertly executed postures in smooth, rhythmic flows — now things are really starting to look familiar. Displayed here are also numerous books promoting yoga as a way to improve one’s health, including a book by Indian bodybuilder Raja of Aundh called Surya Namaskars (The Ten-Point Way to Health). According to the exhibit, this text from the 1920s is where our beloved sun salutations were initially birthed.

While the new physical fitness-form of yoga may have looked different than its predecessors of seated meditation, goddess worship, and self-mortification, it required the same intense attention and dedication. It arrived to the US on the tails of Vivekananda’s yoga, so by the mid-1900s, West Coasters already had different practices from which to choose.

Yoga caught on quickly here in San Francisco. By 1955, Walt and Magana Baptiste (parents of famed modern-day yogi Baron Baptiste) had founded the Center for Physical Culture, one of SF’s first bona fide yoga studios. The 1970s saw the opening of Integral Yoga and the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, as well as the birth of Yoga Journal magazine. Yoga soon became not only a practice, but a business and a lifestyle. Over the years, Americans here and throughout the country started blending various yoga teachings, shaping the practice to address our cultural, health, fitness, community, commercial, and varied spiritual (or anti-spiritual) needs and interests. Today, San Francisco is one of the world’s most booming yoga communities. Every offering one can imagine exists here: from contemplative retreats to sweaty flow classes to corporate yoga, ecstatic chanting, naked yoga, scholarly study, and yoga therapeutics.


The exhibit helps us get a sense of where the practice came from — but it still begs the question of what yoga actually is. Is yoga a practice of transcending the body in an effort to attain enlightenment? Is it a way of gaining supernatural powers so you can beat your opponents at war? Is it a seated meditation practice focused on stilling the mind, or a physical fitness routine designed to rid the body of impurities? Is it something you do on the weekends in your Lululemon leggings to feel good before going for mimosas at a hipster brunch spot?

“The exhibit forces some interesting self-reflection about our beliefs,” says Kaitlin Quistgaard, the former longtime editor of Yoga Journal magazine, in a phone conversation. “What do we actually know to be true about yoga?” Quistgaard was part of the advisory board that helped to create the exhibit’s supplementary content. “For me, the thing that ties it all together is self-awareness. Through any yoga practice, even one that would seem completely physical, there’s a process of coming to know yourself.” She adds that it’s the development of this deeper awareness that can enable us to lead more connected and fulfilling lives.

In the same vein, Adamjee reflects that one of the key aspects uniting all of the yoga paths over the years is the “radical insight that human beings possess the ability to transcend our own suffering.” Looking back at my own path, it’s easy to see the truth in this. Whether a yogi is engaged in intense physical or energetic practices, deep meditation, scholarly pursuit, or singing the names of Indian gods, the goal has always been — through devotion and attentive awareness — to find peace. To experience, if only briefly, that delicious taste of freedom.

As a writer and practitioner, I love the study of yogic history. But there is also a part of me that knows that the history is not as important as our actual practice — what we do each day, how we show up to our lives. As any yoga devotee will tell you, the past and the future don’t really exist; all we can ever really know is this very moment.

“Yoga will live on,” says Adamjee, somewhat wistfully. “But it will become something different. We are just another moment in that long timeline.”


Through May 25

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

200 Larkin, SF.

(See next page for more details)


Yoga started as a spiritual discipline. Now, it’s reportedly a $27 billion dollarindustry in the US with an estimated 15 million practitioners, not to mention high fashion clothing, expensive yoga vacations, and “yogalebrity” teachers. Some say that commercialization is just what the practice had to do to survive in a capitalist culture. Others, like Indian American graphic artist Chiraag Bhakta, find the face of modern day yoga disturbing. Bhakta’s art installation, #WhitePeopleDoingYoga, will be on view at the Asian Art Museum as a supplement to the larger yoga exhibit, March 26-May 25.

A 13-by-30-foot wall of Western yoga marketing materials (from the 1960s-80s), it includes book covers, advertisements, and album covers that depict white folks promoting yoga for all kinds of spiritual, dietary, and fitness purposes, wearing everything from canary yellow leotards to traditional Indian garb. The idea of putting all of this ephemera on one wall, he says, is to give the viewer a feeling of being suffocated — which is how the onslaught of these images have made him feel. “It’s fascinating to me that this ancient practice from my culture is being mined and then appropriated and commodified, while removing everyone that looks like me,” he adds. “The philosophy of yoga is the dissolution of one’s ego — and the irony is that there’s so much ego being attached to all of this.”

Bhakta’s exhibit is part of *Pardon My Hindi, a project he created to explore first generation Indian American identity using humor and serious social commentary. Bhakta admits that he himself practices yoga at studios in the Bay Area, and he’s not against the popularization of the practice. He simply questions the way in which it’s being done. “My goal is just to bring this discussion to the table,” he says.


The museum is offering some amazing activities during the show’s run. Highlights include storytelling, dance, and yoga, as well as lectures by yoga luminaries. Among the scheduled speakers are Senior Iyengar teacher Manouso Manos, director of UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Dr. Margaret Chesney, curators Debra Diamond and Qamar Adamjee, AcroYoga co-founder Jenny Sauer-Klein, mindfulness educator Meena Srinivasan, Google’s Gopi Kallayil, graphic designer Chiraag Bhakta, and yoga historian Eric Shaw. For the full list of events, go to

Karen Macklin is a writer and yoga teacher living in San Francisco. Find out more about her at .

Ignore less


CAREERS AND ED Often called the first feminist, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz could well be your guiding spirit heading into this bright new year. Born in 1651 in colonial Mexico, Sor Juana defied societal expectations about women at the time to study herself into becoming one of the smartest people in New Spain. She became a nun rather than marry, and eventually amassed one of the largest libraries in the Americas.

One of Sor Juana’s enduring catch phrases was “I don’t study to know more, but to ignore less,” a prettily humble bon mot from a woman who constantly had to defend her right to learn. Sadly, threats of censure by the church slowed her educational roll — but nonetheless, her unlikely influence on the fight for women’s rights is still honored today.

Will you ignore less in the new year? Surely there are fewer obstacles in your way than Sor Juana’s. Here are some excellent ways to engage with the world around you in 2014.



So you say you’re a boor? For all the menfolk — or anyone, really — boggled by feminism, this monthly book club may be the ticket. Held at Noisebridge, the Mission’s tech learning center (check its calendar for amazing, mainly free classes and meetups), the club will start with bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody and feature conversations about how to be the best ally possible. All gender identities welcome.

Second Wednesdays starting Wed/8, 7pm, free. Noisebridge, 2169 Mission, SF.



The stand-up school with the most working comedians on staff of any similar institution in the country wants to get you in front of an exposed brick wall talking about your boyfriend’s crazy roommate.

Wednesdays Jan. 8-Feb. 12, 6pm, $239-279. SF Comedy College, 442 Post, Fifth Fl., SF.



Instructor Tika Morgan explores the hip-hop, dancehall, Cuban salsa, and other influences that create the pounding rhythms of reggaeton.

Wednesdays, 8-9:30pm, $13. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF.



Two-step, skiffle, country swing, and waltz your way through these inclusive country-western lessons and dance parties run by community advocates Sundance Association.

Thursdays 5:30pm, Sundays 7pm, $5. Sundance Saloon, 550 Barneveld, SF.



Learn about qigong, the Chinese chi-balancing practice that involves breathing, other physical movements, and mental exercises. This free class is taught by Effie Chow, a qigong grandmaster who founded her East West Academy of Healing Arts here in 1973, and has served on White House advisory boards concerning alternative medicine.

Fri/10, 7-9pm, free. Polish Club, 3040 22nd St., SF.



Support your local community college through its battle to retain its accreditation by enrolling in one of its class offerings — there’s no charge for non-credit courses (though you may have to buy books and materials). This class examines the hidden and explicit messages sent out through mass media, and helps students pinpoint how these cues affect the decisions that they and other members of society make.

Fridays Fri/10-May 23, 8am-12:50pm, free. City College of San Francisco, 1125 Valencia, SF.



Start at the Aquatic Center next to Fisherman’s Wharf where you’ll learn safety and equipment basics, then head down with this SF Rec and Park class to Lake Merced’s scenic bird estuary to get down on some core-strengthening, stand-up paddle boarding action. Bring your own wetsuit, kiddies — it gets cold on those waters!

Sat/11, 1-4pm, free. Aquatic Park, Beach and Hyde, SF.



To do anything these days, you need a website. To have a website, you need a web designer. So basically, you may need to sign up for one of the Bay Area Video Coalition’s intro courses on dynamic layouts and client interfaces so that you can continue living your life as a functional citizen in 2014.

Sat/11-Sun/12, 10am-6pm, $595. Bay Area Video Coalition, 2727 Mariposa, SF.



With 51 species of this lovely, placid bloom sprinkling the premises, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the perfect place to learn about the majesty of the magnolia. The garden offers daytime walks if you’re scared of the dark, but we think the nocturnal stroll sounds divine.

Jan. 16, 6-8pm, $20. Register in advance. SF Botanical Garden, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF.



Sure the price tag is steep for this class on raising buds in bright indoor light, but you’ll be supporting your green thumb and your local pot movement institution, which has surfed the tsunami of federal persecution and will live to blow clouds right through legalization (we reckon).

Thursdays Jan. 16-March 20, 10:30am-1pm, $1,195. Oaksterdam University, 1734 Telegraph, Oakl.



Accessing the subconscious’s potential for healing is the name of the game in this extremely mellow yoga class, during which you’ll be put into a trance-like state through a hybrid method developed by a Reiki, yoga, and hypnotherapy professional. The dream state is said to be highly beneficial for psychic health -– and sounds hella fun.

Jan. 18, 2:30-5:45, $40-50. Yoga Tree Telegraph, 2807 Telegraph, Berk.



Each month La Urbana, the chic new taqueria on Divisadero, hosts fancy mezcal tastings. But you’re not just getting your drink on: A different producer of the agave-based spirit comes in each time to present a signature mezcal alongside tales of its production. Educated boozery, this is it.

5-6pm, $10-15. La Urbana, 661 Divisadero, SF.



Valentine’s Day (sorry for any unwanted reminders) is on its effusive, heart-shaped way, giving you the perfect excuse for you to drop in on this class with Sin Sisters Burlesque co-founder Balla Fire to learn how to swish, conceal, and reveal with the best of them for your sweetheart.

Jan. 21, 7-9pm, $30. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.



Does paying $40 to learn how to parse affordable wines make sense? Depends on how many bottles of Cab Sauv you’re consuming — and one would think that after partaking in this one-off seminar with Bar Tartine’s old wine director Vinny Eng, that tally will increase.

Jan. 22, 7-9pm, $40. 18 Reasons, 3674 18th St. SF.



A full weekend of learning about ways to cook fish from around the globe will go on at this friendly North Beach cooking school (which tends to book up its workshops early, so book now). On the menu: black cod poached in five-spice broth, brodo di pesce, and much more.

Feb. 1-2, 10am-3pm, $385. Tante Marie’s Cooking School, 271 Francisco, SF.



Do you have a staring problem? Fix your gaze on this 10-session course including anatomy tips, representational tricks, and a focus on the art of portraiture.

Thursdays, Feb. 6-April 10, 6:30-9:30pm, $360. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF.



If the only thing you can depend on in this wacky 2014 is yourself, it’s time to hone those financial security skills. This free class is held once a month at the LGBT Community Center, and should give you a couple things to think about when it comes to money management.

Feb. 11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market, SF.



In addition to a more long-running courses and a by-donation, student-staffed herbal health clinic that is open to the public, Berkeley’s Ohlone Herbal Center offers practical classes in Western herbalism for regular folks. Your loved ones will thank you for brushing up with this one — it teaches preventative anti-cold and flu measures, and home remedies for when you inevitably catch something. Yes, tea is provided during classtime.

Feb. 12, 7-9:30pm, free. Register at Ohlone Herbal Center, 1250 Addison, Berk.



If you are looking for educational opportunites as to changing the face of culture, look no further than this public lecture hosted by the California Institute of Integral Studies. For two hours, Orange is the New Black breakout star Laverne Cox will discuss her journey to becoming the most visible black transwoman on television (not to mention the first ever to produce and star in her own program with VH1’s “TRANSForm Me”). The talk won’t be lacking in looks-ahead to the important activism that still remains for Cox and her allies.

March 19, 7-9pm, $25-75. Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes, SF.



You will finally be able to get that organic farmstand delivery service to sponsor your yearly watermelon seed-spitting contest (or whatever) after you take this crash course on getting money to hold events. The secrets to obtaining event sponsorships are divulged during this one-day class: how to pitch potential partners, going market rates, and more, all in a group discussion-centric format.

April 26, 9am-5pm, $300. San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, 835 Market, SF.


House party


MUSIC It was decided — my BFF-roommate and I would host a rock ‘n’ roll show, and like many of our favorite activities (feasting, boozing, twirling), we became set on throwing said party from the comfort of our own home. Denying our fears of venue hunting, financial commitments, and general hassle, we focused on the power rewarded to the classic hostess with the mostest; the ability to control all elements of a dirty bash and adjust them to our liking.

What bands will play? Ones we like, who also like each other. What kind of liquor will be present? Whiskey, no exceptions. What kind of snacks might we serve? None, people should bring us burritos (or in my case, homemade kimchi and quinoa — a foul smelling food for a social event that did wonders for curbing my potential hangover). Not only was this party to be at our house, but this little rock shindig would blast from our backyard on a (hopefully sunny) Sunday afternoon. Day drinking to shredding guitars? The neighbors were going to love it.

We nailed down a date and who would play, rounding out the bill with some hip DJ acquaintances. A buddy drafted a flier and the process of inviting humans began. The presence of close friends was expected and offers for help were not denied. Then we cast the net, awkwardly approaching yoga teachers, favorite baristas, local celebrities, and secret crushes. The boyfriend promised to roll deep with eligible males of various sexualities and I may have plotted some (later to be discovered unsuccessful) matchmaking. We urged bands to cart along their musician homies and peed at the thought of John Dwyer or Wymond Miles walking up our stoop in the halo of afternoon light.

Of course we had no legitimate way of predicting who would actually show up. Expect everyone who confirms to flake and everyone who rejects to bring a pack of wingmen. We crossed our fingers and braided our hair, then calmed our nerves by remembering that even if all bailed, the bands were confirmed. A show in our yard is still a show in our yard. Guaranteed win. Oh yes, and we had a fuck-ton of beer — free of charge. We miraculously managed to get the party “sponsored,” which allowed us to collect donations for the dudes on stage. Major bonus.

While party planning seemed to be sailing, our biggest concern loomed: the noise complaint. A similar party we hosted in June garnered 22 calls to the SFPD — thankfully our only injury was a slap on the wrist and some sneers. In anticipation of upset, I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies from mom’s recipe and skipped up the stairs of the neighboring stoop, treats in tow.

With the oldies next door sugared up, I called the SFPD for the lawful scoop and learned that cop arrival is completely tattletale-based. Officers can only issue a citation if the party pooper signs a citizen’s arrest. This is why you ALWAYS INVITE THE NEIGHBORS. If the uniforms still rap on your door: answer it, shoot the shit, and promise to cool it, ASAP. Our biggest takeaway: short sets. By the time the doorbell rings, they’ll be singing the encore. “It’s their last song, officer. I promise,” perfectly compliments a drunk wink.

So, after weeks of planning and a morning full of chaotic setup, we were crazy high on anticipation. I forgot to shower. I drank everyone’s coffee. I zoomed down the block for incense — “to set the mood,” I shouted. And then all we could do was wait for the madness to begin.

Heads banged. Hair was tangled. Happiness was found at the bottom of countless empty cases. People climbed the fire escape for a better view of the bands, while my exes pleasantly mingled in the garden below. The cops dropped by, as anticipated, but left without trouble. My dream of getting a mug shot will have to wait.

The freedom of a privately hosted show put everyone in a tender mood and it felt overwhelmingly blissful to support local music in independent fashion. The party was a complete success, depending on how you measure extreme happiness and unfathomable coolness. And OK, we were hammered. Everything is a delightful blur and I ended up wrestling in the gravel. You can do what you want at your own house — people can’t say shit. All the more reason why we’re already planning the next round. See you there.


O+ Festival trades health care for music and art performances


Artists struggle for their art, but they shouldn’t also have to also sacrifice their health. That’s the basic premise behind this weekend’s three-day O+ Festival in San Francisco, where musicians and other artists will perform in exchange for medical, dental, and wellness services at a pop-up clinic at The Center SF art space on Fillmore Street and other offices around town.

“Bartering the art of medicine for the medicine of art,” is the tagline for a festival that is making its debut outside of New York, where it began. The lineup includes local folk rockers Papa Bear & Friends, soulful singer Quinn DeVeaux, mashup DJ Zack Darling, and many more, performing in venues that include Inner Mission and the Make-Out Room.

The festival began in 2010 in Kingston, NY, when painter Joe Concra had a dentist friend who had the idea of bringing a band he liked up from Brooklyn and paying them in free dental services. The idea resonated with Concra, who knew well how much New York’s artists struggled to make ends meet.

“Artists are not only being pushed out, but they’re not able to get the healing they deserve,” Concra told the Guardian, saying the first festival was such a hit that it took on a life of its own. “Once we do it, once people go, then they really get it. And it goes back to the age-old idea of trade.”

Long before modern health insurance debacles, doctors and dentists were members of their communities, and people would pay them with whatever they had to offer. But today, larger and larger companies providing care in collaboration with insurance companies, even the basic community clinic is becoming a thing of the past.

“We’re breaking down that access to care barrier, because some many people don’t know where to start,” Concra said, saying he was surprised at the flood gates opened by his simple idea. “Now, we’re at the point where we have 220 bands applies for 40 spots…We were not prepared for the amount of need in the artist community.”

Concra had started thinking about where to expand the festival when he was contacted by Deborah Gatiss, San Francisco-based artist and event coordinator, who had heard about the concept from a friend in the Burning Man Project.  

“It goes back to May of last year, and I was lamenting the fact that I have no health care, because I had a really bad toothache. I was talking with a friend of mine and we were discussing things people could do for health care when they have no dental insurance and this was one of the things that came up,” she told us.

Concra was already talking about a Bay Area event with Aimee Gardner, who he knew from an art gallery in Kingston before she moved to California, and Gardner and Gatiss ended up spearheading the creation of O+ Festival-San Francisco.

“Coming from New York, I feel like San Francisco is going a similar direction,” Gardner said of artists who can’t afford to live here. “I think it’s a really revolutionary idea. It’s activism in a very thoughtful way.”

The pair managed to line up sponsors and a list of volunteer health practioners from a variety of disciplines, people that Concra called “the real rock stars of this event.” So while the performers get free health care, those who buy the $25 tickets get three days of free music and art, discounted drinks at various venues, and even free yoga classes at Yoga Tree’s new Potrero Hill studio.

The festival opens tomorrow (Fri/15) at 6:15 at The Center SF, 548 Fillmore, with a health care panel discussion featuring Concra, Artist Xavi Panneton, Dan Kitowski of the Actors Fund, and me, Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones.

Gatiss said it’s been a challenge to pull together such an ambtious festival and she hopes that Bay Area residents — who love art and music and are accustomed to gift and barter economies through things like Burning Man — will turn out to show their support.

“I thought that people were used to that mindset, so they’d be up for the idea of bartering their musical talents for health care and vice versa,” Gatiss told us. “It’s been harder than I thought. But it’s been fulfilling and magical and I’m glad that I did it, and I think Aimee would say the same thing.”


Promo: O+ Festival is this weekend


The O+ Festival – an art, music, and wellness festival that began in Kingston, NY – is making its way to the left coast and will be hosted for the first time in San Francisco from November 15-17. Participating bands and artists perform in exchange for free and discounted healthcare and medical services, while wristband holders receive free yoga all weekend and access to some of the best music, art, and public health and wellness activities around. This is promised to be the year’s best and biggest push for community-based urban renewal with creativity and fun at it’s core, and there is bound to be something for everyone. Check out for a complete schedule.

Break on through


 I drive up into the East Oakland hills, past 19th century “Poet of the Sierras” Joaquin Miller’s odd little cabin, to visit Michael McClure. Based on his youthful good looks, you’d never guess he was a few days shy of 81, but the trail McClure has blazed through literary history testifies by length, stretching back to 1955 when — alongside Philip Lamantia, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder — he was the youngest participant in the famous Six Gallery reading at which Allen Ginsberg debuted “Howl.” It was a seminal moment in postwar American poetry. “We all put our toes to the line that night and broke out,” he says. “And we all went our own directions.”

Beginning with his first book of poems, Passage (1956), McClure would find himself going in many directions, writing novels, essays, journalism, and even Obie-award-winning plays like The Beard (1965). As a countercultural figure, he could roll with the times, reading at the Human Be-In in 1967 in Golden Gate Park; associating with high-profile rock acts like Bob Dylan, the Doors, and Janis Joplin (for whom he co-wrote the 1970 classic “Mercedes Benz”); and appearing in movies like Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand (1971) and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (1975). In the mid-’80s, he even began performing with the Doors’ Ray Manzarek on piano, releasing such CDs as last year’s The Piano Poems (Oglio Records). And though I’ve come to discuss Ghost Tantras, his 1964 self-published book of “beast language” reissued this month by City Lights, we inevitably touch on the recently deceased keyboardist with whom McClure played over 200 gigs.

“Ray died at a very wonderful time,” McClure says. “He’s 74 and at the height of his powers. People say, ‘You must feel broken up about Ray,’ but I’m actually happy to know someone who stepped out in his own glory. The last time I saw him was [last] November. We had just done a performance at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. That night Bobby Weir sat in. It was like the Doors and the Grateful Dead embraced.”



But Ghost Tantras predates most of these famous exploits. The origins of what McClure calls its “beast language” can be traced back to his early play The Feast, performed in 1960 at SF’s Batman Gallery.

“The walls had Jay DeFeos and Bruce Conners on them,” he recalls. “The actors were dressed in Indian blankets and torn white tissue paper beards, seated before a long table that carried black plums and white bread, black wine. Thirteen of them performed a Last Supper-like rite and spoke in beast language and English of the melding of opposites and the proportion of all beings, from the incredibly tiny to the cosmic.”

“Beast language” might be described as a roaring deformation of language into something less oriented toward signification and more toward the physicality of the body, poetry as “a muscular principle,” as he writes in the original introduction, rather than as a mimetic text conveying images and ideas. Take, for example, these lines from tantra 46: “NOWTH / DROON DOOOOOOOOR AGH ! / Nardroor yeyb now thowtak drahrr ooh me thet noh / large faint rain dreeps oopon the frale tha toor / glooing gaharr ayaiieooo.” Signification isn’t the prime motivation here, nor is it entirely absent, as snippets of sense emerge and dissolve amid a sea of syllables. Such moments almost suggest reading Chaucer or Finnegans Wake, texts in some distant version of our own tongue, but they just as quickly vanish into phrases that resist intelligibility (“gaharr ayaiieooo”).

Yet despite this resistance, the writing of Ghost Tantras was also bound up in visionary experience. McClure began Ghost Tantras in 1962 while working for the Institute for Personality Assessment and Research, for the University of California.

“My role with IPAR was to give psilocybin to artists and to film them in that timeless state of the high,” he says. “I was probably an ideal person because I had given up the use of psychedelic drugs myself. Already, after a lot of experimentation in psychedelics and several essays that had been published by City Lights in Meat Science Essays (1963), I wanted to write a deep exploration of these highs after reading Henri Michaux’s gorgeous Miserable Miracle (1956), which was his — I felt personally — inaccurate description of the mescaline high. That inspired me to want to write clearly about this experience. Meanwhile, I had begun practicing Kundalini yoga, which is a chakra-centric yoga, and I was beginning to have powerful experiences.”



This desire to convey visionary experience might seem at odds with Ghost Tantras‘s frequent resistance to signification, yet the apparent paradox might be resolved through Abstract Expressionism, which McClure insists was “one of my most profound sources, the art with no edges, the art with no limits.” Viewed thusly, Ghost Tantras aspires to the degree of autonomy accorded to nonrepresentational art by not referring to experience but rather offering it.

“Allen Ginsberg had introduced me to Mark Rothko, and I got Rothko’s phone number,” McClure recalls. “I had Ghost Tantras and I wanted to show them to him but in the meantime I lost his number, as you did in those days. I always thought Rothko would be the right person to see the fields of letters in Ghost Tantras, as you see in one of his field paintings. If you look at Ghost Tantras in a different way, you see that each one is a field, a work of visual substance. Or nonsubstance.”

“I knew I was tangoing with my own personal ridiculousness when I wrote these. I don’t mind that, because in my writing when it’s at its most intensely serious it’s also at its most comic. And I call to mind what I think are some of the most important poems of the 20th century, Federico García Lorca’s ‘Gacela of Unforeseen Love,’ which is among the most intense love poetry I’ve ever experienced. It’s also kinda comic. My own poetry, when I believe in it the most, also has an edge to it that is not serious, or it’s serious, all right, but real seriousness has an edge that breaks on through to the other side.”

“It was part of the massive and inspired creativity that was rushing around me,” he concludes. “That’s probably the best clue I can give to anyone who wants to understand the sources behind Ghost Tantras, as part of the huge energy that was amassing itself and pouring through California at the time.” *


Nov 20, 7pm, free

City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus Ave, SF


Let’s talk about death


DEATH ISSUE  Death comes for all of us, sometimes with advanced warning, other times suddenly.

Loved ones get a chance to say goodbye in fewer than half of all deaths, so I was fortunate to see my 92-year-old Grandma Elinor Bonin in the week between her massive heart attack and her passing on Oct. 7. And I was doubly lucky to catch her while she was still fairly stable and lucid, before she went downhill, wracked by pain, fighting for each breath, and wishing for the relief of death.

Her health had been deteriorating for years and she was ready to die, as she told me in her room at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo, the same hospital where my daughter Breanna and I were each born.

Grandma was already suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure when she had a massive heart attack in the early morning hours of Oct. 1. The prognosis wasn’t good, so she worked with my mom and others to craft an exit plan: creating an advanced care directive with do-not-resuscitate order, setting up home hospice care paid for by Medicare, and going home to die.

“I’m ready,” she told me — sweetly if wearily, with a resolute resignation in her voice — as we waited for the ambulance that would take her home from the hospital. “I just don’t want to live in agony anymore.”

We all want to believe that we’ll show that kind of grace, clarity, and courage as we greet death. Society is beginning to wake up to the realization that extraordinary efforts to prolong life as long as possible can be as inhumane as they are costly, finally opening up a long-overdue conversation about death.

As we explore in this issue, the Bay Area is the epicenter for evolving attitudes towards the end of life, from the death midwives movement and home funerals to the complex discussions and confrontations of taboos now being triggered by the Baby Boomers facing death, both their parents’ and their own.

“The reality now is we’re kickstarting the conversation about death. We’re at the very beginning of this,” says San Franciscan Suzette Sherman, who just launched, an information clearinghouse designed to elevate the end of life experience. “Death is a wonderful part of life, it’s a profound moment.”


Read more about: death midwives, AIDS obit archives, passing pet care, and Death with Dignity in California


We honor and celebrate death in San Francisco more than they do in most American cities. The AIDS crisis forced San Franciscans to grapple with death in once unimaginable ways. We continue to pioneer comforting passages with programs such as Hospice by the Bay and the Zen Hospice Project.

Our iconic Golden Gate Bridge has the dubious distinction of being the site of more suicides than any bridge in the world, with more than 1,200 people choosing to end their lives there, including 10 in August alone — a sad statistic considered local officials approved a suicide barrier in 2008, but they still have yet to find funding to build it.

Death Café salons that started in Europe have begun to catch on here, and from Latin America we borrowed and popularized Day of the Dead, which on Nov. 2 will fill the streets of the Mission District with thousands of people and Garfield Park with creative shrines to the dead.

“The way that we used to talk about death in the United States was as a sudden event. Now, it’s an anticipated event,” Death Café facilitator Shelly Adler told a small crowd that had assembled on Oct. 23 in the Great Room of the Zen Hospice Center. “The dying process is now thought of, not as something you can prevent, but as something you have a little control over.”

That’s what my grandmother had: a little control over her death, but not a lot. She was able to choose the place of her death, but not its time or manner, like she might have been able to do in Oregon or other places that allow the terminally ill to gather loved ones together and self-administer a lethal final cocktail.

death statistics

I was able to get some final quality time with this amazing woman before she passed, watching her light up at the memory of teaching me to ride a bike, laughing at the distant thought of running alongside her wobbly five-year-old grandson. And then she laughed again when I said that I still ride my bike everywhere I go, and that I even brought it down with me in the car I borrowed from my girlfriend because I don’t own an automobile anymore.

It was the last laugh she had, my mom told me later. The next day, propped up in a rental hospital bed in her living room, was when she really began the slow, arduous descent into death. The pain and morphine sapped her spirit and fluid steadily filled her lungs, slowly drowning out the last of her life.

But longevity runs in my family, and Grandma could have hung on for days or weeks like that. Her husband, my 97-year-old Grandpa Bonin, had suffered a similarly massive heart seven years earlier, also looking for awhile like his time had come, but he fought his way back and was healthy and strong as he sat by her bedside. You just never know.

So, with pressing deadlines at work and lots of other extended family members flying in to say their goodbyes to Grandma, I said mine on Thursday evening, Sept. 26.

Four days later, I got the call from my mom, a voicemail waiting for me as I returned from yoga class. I was struck by the fact that Grandma died almost at the precise moment that I was finishing my shavasana, coming out of my corpse pose as my grandmother was permanently going into hers. It’s left to the living to ponder confluences like that and to search for meaning within the mysterious expanse of death.

That’s been the central preoccupation of religions for centuries, offering assurances to the flock that we needn’t fear death, that it’s a natural part of life, a view that has been reinforced by modern secular society as well, from atheists to ecologists.

So let’s confront death, bring it out of the hospitals and mortuaries and into the open. Let’s have the long-overdue societal conversations about it that we need to have. Let’s talk about death. 

Janina Glasov contributed to this report.




Best of the Bay 2013: BEST DREAMY DRESSMAKER


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,