Meghan McCloskey

Fashion forward



Looking at fashion designer Miranda Caroligne today, it’s hard to imagine she ever did anything other than sew and sell clothing. In addition to running her namesake boutique on 14th Street, she manages the co-op Trunk, peddles her wares at events across the country, and was asked to write Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies (For Dummies, 2007). Thanks to her gorgeous, whimsical, reconstructed styles, as well as her dedication to environmentalism and artistic community, she has become a well-reputed force in the SF indie fashion scene and beyond.

But she didn’t start that way — and the road to the present was neither easy nor direct.

Caroligne grew up in the woodland areas of Rhode Island with her mom, an elementary school teacher and brilliant seamstress, and her dad, a textile scientist. As a child, she spent most of her time hiking, exploring, or working on creative crafts with her mom, developing equal interest in both art and science. By high school, she was passionate about three very different subjects: writing, health care, and fashion. But when she got to the University of Rhode Island, she chose her major based on which jobs she thought would be available after she graduated. Health care won by a long shot. "And I was afraid of this thing called writer’s block," she jokes. Sewing remained a captivating pastime.

After graduating with a MS in physical therapy in 2000, Caroligne began working with children who had sensory system problems in Washington, DC. "Being young and having a job that relied on my physical strength — that time was psychologically stressful," she recalls.

Caroligne’s stress level hit the roof after a bicycling accident in 2003, which left her with a crushed nerve in her neck. Her physical strength had failed her, and she was without a job. It was a sign that it was time to turn her lifelong hobby, fashion design, into a career. With her short-term disability insurance and unemployment checks, she moved to Boston and found an art studio, where she spent nearly all her time at the sewing machine. "Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I just do," she explains. "I’m not one to be idle." She spent so much time working at the studio that she decided to sublease her apartment, leaving her nowhere to sleep but on friends’ couches. After a few months of couch-surfing, she cashed her unemployment checks and moved across the country to pursue a career in fashion.

It was January 2005, and Caroligne lived in a closet in her friend’s apartment. Her only possessions were a disco ball, which hung from the ceiling next to the skylight, a sewing machine, and a few pieces of colorful fabric draped over a stretch canvas which served as sewing material by day and bedding by night. Soon, she found her dream store in the heart of the Mission District.

She opened the shop in November of that year. About the size of a large dorm room, the cluttered space is filled with radiant, one-of-a-kind garments that reflect many years of hard work. She stitches them with a beat-up machine that faces a window on the street, so she can smile and wave to people as they pass. Her wares are reconstructed garments (made from donated clothing that she dismantles and pieces back together in different ways), articles produced from original patterns, and offcut items (made from the leftover scraps she accumulates while working on patterned pieces).

And her reuse of materials is more than just style — it’s an outgrowth of the environmentalism she learned as a kid. Caroligne advocates sustainability and makes use of almost every shred of old fabric, no matter how big or small. "I have this philosophy of not having sizes," she says. "I alter everything to fit." Sometimes she lets her customers alter pieces with her, so inspired buyers can learn how to make clothing on their own. "Part of the reason the sewing machine’s out is to show people they can do it, too."

To share her philosophy, Caroligne agreed to write Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies in the fall of 2007, encouraging fellow fashionistas to reuse old materials. She was surprised to reach not only an earth-loving, crafty crowd but also a non-sewing, mainstream audience. People were motivated to salvage their materials, whether they made their own clothes or not. Now, her style is becoming so popular with typical shoppers that some conventional retailers have started "faking" reconstruction. But Caroligne says her authentic pieces are about reducing waste and avoiding conformity, not just about looking good.

Now, on a typical Friday afternoon at her boutique, as she sits at her old-fashioned sewing machine with a pile of white, ruffly fabric exploding out from under it, she waves playfully at a child strolling past the shop with his family. Another woman walks in and gives Caroligne a hug. "It’s less about fashion and more about meeting people, helping them get in touch with themselves," she says. She wants everyone to be able to express themselves by wearing clothes that reveal how they feel. While her designs are meant to be fashionable, they’re carefully crafted based on how they feel and move while wearing them. Her background in physical therapy helps her understand the way fabrics are supposed to flow with the body, as well as how light or heavy the materials should be. She tests most of her skirts and dresses for these characteristics, because she says the weight of a fabric can change the way someone walks in it, depending on his or her physical composition. "They don’t teach you that in fashion school," she says, noting that she’s glad she didn’t attend. "It’s rigid."

Most designers she knows went to fashion school, though, and have taken a more standard route: they’ve created clothing lines and sold them to national retailers. While this route is probably the easiest, Caroligne says she’ll never regret opening her neighborhood boutique and sewing her designs herself. "There’s a life that happens when hanging up a new piece," she says. Curiously, it’s the one people ooh and ahh over when entering the store, even though everything looks new to them when it’s their first time in. Caroligne gets new ideas when sewing one-of-a-kind articles, which she says wouldn’t happen if other people sewed the clothes for her.

This March, however, Caroligne and her sales rep plan to start taking orders for a nationally distributed clothing line — without abandoning her boutique. Her "adult contemporary" collection will comprise pieces she has crafted for her store and her fashion shows, which are usually fundraising events for groups such as the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

On top of everything, she runs a sustainable art-retail-fashion cooperative, Trunk, in Upper Haight. Formerly known as Pandora’s Trunk, the shop has been renovated inside and out since she and her business partner split last fall. Caroligne says the corporate structure and leadership has changed, and for the first time it feels like a true San Francisco co-op, where people encourage each other and each other’s art. "There’s a sense of community support in San Francisco," she says, thinking about the differences between the Bay Area and Boston. "People live better here." Now there’s more space for local designers in the store, including the San Francisco–born, world-renowned company Wildlife Works, whose proceeds benefit endangered species and help create jobs and schools in Kenya. Caroligne donates regularly to Wildlife Works, which gives her scrap fabric and clothing in exchange. She uses the leftovers for her reconstructed and offcut designs, noting that this swap is just another way she likes to support the community and reinforce its connectedness.

Years after accomplishing her goal of becoming a successful designer, she has only one piece of advice for others with a similar ambition: "Just do it." She remembers one of her college professors who’d had many different jobs in various fields, and back then she thought he was a failure. But now his story inspires her.

"There are different ways of looking at life: you can work to financially support the life you want to live, or you can figure out a way to make the thing you love to do a source of financial stability," she says. With a humble smile, she adds: "I think I’ve found success in that." *


485 14th St., SF. (415) 355-1900,


544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310,

Holiday Guide 2008: Pumpkin and pie



For most of us, pumpkin pie is as much an integral part of Thanksgiving as turkey and stuffing. It’s been that way since the beginning, when pilgrims included pumpkin-based delights in their harvest meal.

But early versions of the dessert were much harder to come by than our canned-puree (or Marie Callender’s) variety. The original New Englanders used pumpkins from the American Indians’ harvest, of which they received a large share after arriving in Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. They filled pumpkin shells with a mixture of pumpkin, milk, honey, and spices, and baked them in hot ashes to get that puddinglike, orange deliciousness that so many of us crave by mid-November.

Back then, every part of the pumpkin was used. Pumpkin seeds were medicine. Mats were made from flattened, dried strips of shell. It even came in handy if you didn’t like your freckles or wanted to get rid of a nasty snakebite, or so the pilgrims believed. The early Americans were so infatuated with the fruit (then known as pompion) that they even wrote songs about it: "We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon / If it were not for pumpkins, we would be undone."

These days, it’s hard to find anyone who uses a pumpkin for anything more than a table decoration or a Jack-o’-lantern. But it’s just as hard to find someone who’d say that the orange-colored custard tart doesn’t belong on the Thanksgiving table. So why argue with tradition? At the very least, you’ll be serving up some good, old-fashioned nutrition to your guests, in the form of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber.

Here are some ideas for pumpkin treats, whether they’re traditional pies or modern alternatives, store bought or homemade.


From the outside, this Mission Street den doesn’t look like a place where you’d want to buy a pet mouse, let alone a dessert to feed your loved ones. But stepping inside the café is like opening the door to Oz: bright colors and friendliness offset the tattered exterior. The staff suggests preordering from the rotating menu of five popular holiday pies ($18) if you want a whole one in time for Turkey Day. And believe me, you will. Try a slice ($3.85, or $3.50 to go) with a dollop of chilled whipped cream and a cup of one of three house-blend coffees. You’ll find the pie’s as traditional as anything Grandma’s ever made for you.

2901 Mission, SF. (415) 282-1500,


It’s nutty. It’s succulent. And according to my findings, one person can devour the whole thing in a day. Beautifully wrapped in plastic and a pink bow, Miette’s pumpkin walnut cake ($14) is a staple dessert for anyone headed to Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving — but only if you can make it there with some still left on the platter. Not dressed to impress? Oh please, this cake is class-y. It will make up for a tattered sweater or a stained pant leg.

Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero and Market, SF. (415) 837-0300,


This avant-garde brand makes completely organic pies from rice milk, free-range eggs, and palm fruit oil — which all taste better than they sound. Plus, everything is wheat free, gluten free, and casein free, so dessert lovers who are allergic to wheat and dairy can pig out without losing sleep. Pick up an eight-inch pumpkin tart at Whole Foods, Rincon Market, RJ’s Market, Rainbow Grocery, Mollie Stones, Le Beau Nob Hill Market, or Andronico’s.

(415) 826-7187,


It’s always fun to mix things up. It’s even more fun when there’s pumpkin cheesecake involved. In my opinion, the cheesecake is a close second to its time-honored counterpart, the pie. And unlike most cheesecakes, Zanze’s (6-inch pie, $14; 8-inch, $22; 10-inch, $28) won’t weigh you down like a pile of bricks — you’ll have a turkey to do that. It’s light and carefully whipped, so there will be no need to embarrass yourself by unfastening your pant button and unleashing your belly bulge. It’ll all fit this year.

2405 Ocean, SF. (415) 334-2264


With its top layer of apricot jelly and delicate homemade crust, Peasant’s pumpkin pecan pie ($15.75, one-day advance notice necessary for ordering) will have you wishing Thanksgiving were a weeklong celebration. Peasant Pies’ menu was inspired by the savory tarts found in Sète, France, and was designed with health-savvy pie eaters (is there such a thing?) in mind. Bon appétit!

1039 Irving, SF. (415) 731-1978,


With its oh-so-desirable pumpkin pies available only through New Year’s, the bakery recommends placing an advance order to get your paws on one. It also offers pecan pie and harvest pie (with apples, cranberries, and caramel strudel) during the holiday season (pumpkin and pecan, $17; harvest, $20). Now we really have something to be thankful for.

1346 Martin Luther King Jr., Berk. (510) 526-2260


Maybe you’re the unpatriotic Scrooge who doesn’t serve pie on Thanksgiving. Fair enough. But this year, dish up a few pumpkin-flavored cream puffs ($2.25 for one, $11 for six) to give off that I’m-a-reformer-who-still-has-a-little-spirit vibe. They’re flaky on the outside, creamy on the inside, and lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar that will undoubtedly end up all over the place. It could be a fun new tradition.

845 Market, SF. (415) 978-9975,


If you’re really brave and have some time on your hands, be bold and bake a pie from real pumpkin, not the canned-puree stuff. To make the filling, follow this recipe from

Cut the pumpkin in half with a French knife or cleaver.

Scoop out the seeds. (Set them aside for roasting or use them in another recipe.)

Brush the cut sides with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake them in a 375-degree oven for about one hour, or until a knife pierces the skin and flesh easily.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Scrape the flesh from the skin and puree it in a blender or a food processor. Use it immediately or freeze it in one-cup portions.

A three-pound pumpkin yields three cups of puree.

Click here for more Holiday Guide 2008.

Shift happens



Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, Americans have been bombarded with one big concept summed up in one little word: change.

It was Barack Obama’s slogan from day one and represented many people’s hope for the future, an idea that so appeals to beleaguered Americans that the Republicans eventually adopted it as well. Both parties recognized that the country would have to make big adjustments to salvage the economy, environment, schools, and health care system.

They each cited factors that point to the big changes that are coming — but they didn’t mention a huge one that has been bearing down on our species for nearly 5,200 years: the colossal transformation of solar system and our collective psyche that the ancient Mayans and their modern day supporters believe will take place Dec. 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar comes to an abrupt end.

Erick Gonzalez, founder and spiritual leader of Earth Peoples United, a nonprofit organization that works to bridge indigenous values with modern society, says the event will deeply disturb our minds and bodies here on earth. Nearly 300 people from around the world gathered Oct. 31-Nov. 2 during a 2012 conference at Fort Mason Center.

Some enthusiasts predict an apocalypse, while others foresee a shift in human awareness. Yet they all believe that big change is coming.

The Mayan calendar was developed by ancient astronomers who concluded that Dec. 21 was the sun’s birthday, noting that the winter solstice marked the beginning of the sun’s return from around the world.

Gonzalez, who has been studying Mayan culture for 33 years, says Dec. 21, 2012 will be a monumental birthday for our sun, when it will shift to the dead center of the Milky Way galaxy, on the galactic equator, for the first time.

The Mayans believed this was the precise spot where the sun — and all life — was created. Followers of the ancient theory claim the Milky Way will give birth to a new sun and a new galactic cycle on this day, marking the beginning of our world’s transformation.

"For the Maya, this is like the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve," said philosopher Roderick Marling, a Tantric yoga teacher who has spent the last 36 years researching yoga meditation and expanding consciousness, in addition to writing numerous papers on religion, mythology, history, and archeology. "The galactic clock will be set at zero point, and a new processional cycle will begin," he said.

As our planets shift overhead, believers say our awareness of the Earth, political issues, and each other will also change. Conference co-organizer Christian Voltaire says many of the changes in 2012 will be tangible, such as revising our current financial model or switching to alternative fuels. He points to former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who advocated for extreme change in monetary policy — abolishing the IRS and the Federal Reserve, for example — and Obama, who has pushed for transforming the economy with green jobs. "They’re at least conscious of the fact that something has to change," he says. "And, as we’ve been told by our prophesies, change is coming."

But skeptics have their doubts. Wouldn’t we be pushing for green energy anyway? And how could the shifting planets cause the financial meltdown — or even the actual meltdown of our polar ice caps? University of Florida anthropologist Susan Gillespie says the theory is a media myth and nothing more. Susan Milbrath, author of Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars and curator of Latin American art and archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, believes it’s unlikely the Mayans could have predicted such events.

Believers remain undeterred. Last Gasp Books employee and conference attendee Eliza Strack says her 2012 obsession started as an innocent topic of conversation many years ago. She believes alternate realms of existence and multiple dimensions of time could collide, allowing us to access our past, present, and future in one moment. "We spend a quarter of our lives in a dream state where alternate realities are playing themselves out," Strack says. Gonzalez backs her up, arguing that the alignment of the sun in 2012 will create a powerful magnetic force, and human protons and electronic will react to it.

Lifelong Mayan researcher John Major Jenkins, who has written several books on 2012, brings up the possibility of the sun inverting the earth’s magnetic fields. But according to Vincent H. Malmström, professor emeritus of geography at Dartmouth College, there’s no hard evidence to support Strack’s claim. Besides, how could a magnetic pull bring our dreamlike realities to life? Malmström writes in his paper The Astronomical Insignificance of Maya Date ( "It would seem that Jenkins has advanced our understanding of the Maya from the sublime to the ridiculous."

Although we have four years before the astral shift, Voltaire says it’s crucial to hold 2012 conventions now. "The weekend before the election carries a vibration of anticipation of the future. We wanted to connect with that." The Southern Californian didn’t know much about the 2012 theory before last March, but he says he’s constantly alert and keeps a subtle ear out.

"I kept hearing the subject of 2012 in my consciousness — at events, on the radio, at yoga class," he says. "Everyone was talking about it." After making a few phone calls, he partnered with 2012 author and filmmaker Jay Weidner, a native Oregonian who has been studying the subject for nearly 20 years. Sponsored by Weidner’s company Sacred Mysteries Live, they organized their first convention in Hollywood in March 2008 and were blown away by the response.

Their conference last weekend was even bigger. With interactive panels and community circles, participants could share their ideas about 2012. Voltaire and Weidner say it represents something different for everyone: change, chaos — even beauty. In the midst of it all, the organizers premiered 2012-themed films and documentaries that filmmakers submitted along with an entry fee of — $20.12.

The conference also offered critical analyses of some related prophecies: the Mayans, Tibetan Buddhists, Incas, and the mysterious Cross of Hendaye. They lived in different times, and had different notions about the events that would take place around 2012. Conference organizers say Inca texts prophesized "a world turned upside-down" around that year, while Tibetan Buddhists predicted the mythical city of Shanballad would be constructed at the end of the current era.

Voltaire says the Cross of Hendaye — a 400-year-old monument in the coastal town of Hendaye, France — holds the key to the paradigm. The cross was first described in the 1926 book The Mystery of the Cathedrals, written by an alchemist named Fulcanelli. In 1995, before learning of the 2012 stories, Weidner was hooked on this book. He worked for years to decipher the messages behind the cross, deconstructing a Latin inscription carved into its top, and finally claims to have discovered its meaning: "It represents a world crisis that will end this time period.

There’s exactly one presidential term left before the end of this time period, which has witnessed everything from financial crises to homelessness to global warming. But will a new era end the problems of the current one? It’s hard to imagine how thousands of San Francisco’s poorest residents will acquire homes, or how our ozone layer will suddenly thicken.

After rifling through more books, Weidner says he discovered another secret behind the cross: that the Earth’s greatest changes will take place between 1992 and 2012. During that time so far, we’ve seen the birth the Internet, economic globalization and overextension, mass extinctions and global warming, terrorism and imperial hubris, exploding populations and rising discontent, and the end of the age of oil coming into sight. Then again, 20 years is a long time and life moves fast these days, with or without a mystical cross.

Nevertheless, since his supposed discoveries, Weidner has written two books and one film about the Cross of Hendaye’s secrets. In addition to a simpler belief that attributes a natural, geological pattern to these changes, three other prophecies predict some version of disaster or shift around 2012. Weidner admits this could be an incredible coincidence, but he thinks we should be aware of today’s experiences anyway. "There’s no doubt this is one of the most incredible time periods in human history."

While no one knows what will go down Dec. 21, 2012, Strack likes to put a positive spin on the brewing events. She wonders if 2013 will bring sweet-smelling city air, friendly neighbors, and tricycles for old folks to ride to the grocery store. After all, who believes that a shift in consciousness would be a bad thing?

Many followers even look forward to the date and equate it with the second coming of Christ, when they will be blessed with knowledge and euphoria. "Those are the happy thoughts," Strack says. "Yin-yang that shit and you find the darkest, most terrifying possibilities." She says she has had multiple apocalyptic dreams, leading her to ponder World War III, death, chaos, betrayal, and everything else that could hit the fan in 2012.

This sort of anxiety has led some people to use the term "doomsday" when describing the last day of the Mayan calendar. Although the theory has no solid academic backing, it is catching on. YouTube hosts countless videos of asteroids striking earth, tsunamis, tornados, and incidents of chaos linked to the date. Many devotees are preparing for hell on earth. But Voltaire says 2012 isn’t all about doom and gloom. "Our prophecies are about facing the facts and bringing up new ideas, acknowledging indigenous cultures of the past and present and truly listening to what they have to say, not brushing them off."

During our country’s time of change, we may not have heard many full-blown prophecies coming to pass, but we have all witnessed powerful people raising fresh ideas, such as rapidly shifting to new energy sources, developing international standards of human rights and controls on the use of force, and attacking poverty and disease worldwide. Like the 2012 followers, we’re listening and trying to remain open-minded.

If you chose to listen — to the prophecies or the new president — you might ask yourself how you’re supposed to prepare for the future. Voltaire says that "if you’re conscious of the changes, you’ll be able to roll with them, like if you’re in the ocean swimming with the tide. But if you’re unconscious and you suddenly wake up, it’ll be a lot harder to deal with."

Voltaire and Weidner say that our president will need to prepare too. They think that for him to be successful, he will have to address issues such as green energy and global warming brought forth at the 2012 conference.
Whether we’re believers or not, our country’s in for some big changes, whatever the solar alignment.

Feast: 8 great game-day bars


As the nation kicks off another football season and gears up for baseball playoffs, San Franciscans may be wary of spending Saturday afternoons in ass-numbing bleachers or watching boozy out-of-towners roam the city in 49ers and Giants garb. But you don’t have to rub up against the sweaty enthusiasts who paint their potbellies and holler like animals in the stands in order to enjoy a good game. Why not show your spirit in sports bars instead? I’ve spent weeks eating spicy wings, drinking pints of beer, and enduring painful hangovers to track down the best lounges and pubs for catching a buzz and cheering on your teams.


With 18 beers on tap and 25 high-def TVs, Greens was made for big groups enduring hazy weekends of Niner mania. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you hear rowdy applause echoing from the pub’s front patio throughout the otherwise quiet neighborhood. It’s BYOF (but with all those drink specials, who needs food?) and gets super packed — in a good way — by game time.

2239 Polk, SF. (415) 775-4287


Native Pennsylvanians first opened Giordano Bros. to sell Pittsburgh’s famous "all-in-one" sandwiches — complete with fries and slaw packed between scrumptious bread slices. They’ve since transformed it into Steelers Central. During games, bartenders are known to pass out bottles of original Pittsburgh draft shipped from the source — and after big wins, they might even pour you a glass of bubbly on the house. (Sorry alkies, no hard liquor.) An East Coast vibe resonates throughout the joint, from outdoor seating to endless memorabilia. The staff says the question isn’t if you’re from Pittsburgh, it’s about what part of Pittsburgh you’re from. Good thing I can fake an accent.

303 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-2767


Ask any pigskin junkie where to watch last year’s Super Bowl champs, and you’ll get one answer: Ace’s, where on Sundays the dive transforms into a funky buffet house chock-full of barbecued chicken, salad, and New York Giants fans. Add the extra-stiff $5 Bloody Mary to the carte du jour, and you’re headed straight for football-watching paradise.

998 Sutter, SF. (415) 673-0644,


The good news: the Royal Exchange is loaded with finger-lickin’ gorgonzola garlic fries ($6.95), rows of cozy booths beneath a massive TV, a savory dinner menu, and Monday Night Football specials (Firestone Double Barrel Ale and Pale 31 pints for $3.95). The bad news: it’s not open on weekends. Big deal. Cal alums and students still party here on Friday nights to pump up for Saturday Golden Bears games. More good news: the staff accommodates private parties of up to 300 people. And the owners are Bears alums, too.

301 Sacramento, SF. (415) 956-1710,


With five plasmas devoted to University of Oregon games and bartenders who knock back shots with fellow Duck fans, it’s no wonder regulars call this place the Oregon headquarters of San Francisco. Its full bar is dirt cheap; splurge for the two-dollar cans of Michelob during Saturday matchups or special events, which sometimes involve the staff barbecuing brats and burgers outside for customers. I recommend wearing green and yellow, unless you want to brawl.

1176 Sutter, SF. (415) 567-7441


You can watch a San Francisco Giants game in just about any well-respected sports bar in the city, but you can — and you should — watch the Chicago Cubs in only one spot: Monaghan’s. For starters, it’s got a new drink special every day of the week — $3 for 20-ounce pints of any Irish beer on Wednesdays and $2.50 Red Stripes on Fridays, to name two. Extra points for its daily happy hour: $2.50 well drinks from 4-7 p.m.

3259 Pierce, SF. (415) 567-4466,


Two words: chicken wings. They’re damned spicy, but the zing doesn’t linger uncomfortably on your lips or in your throat for hours afterward. Or maybe it does, and I just eat so fast and drink so much I don’t notice. Either way, they’re a perfect addition to a pitcher of Coors and a soccer game. For dinner, choose from fish and chips, barbecued sandwiches, and salads. Plasma televisions transmit all kinds of sports, from baseball to rugby, and the pool tables and large seating areas draw crowds you’ll want to party with.

770 Stanyan, SF. (415) 386-9292


This super mellow hole-in-the-Haight draws everyone from free-spirited bohos to scholars downing extra-large pitchers of Anchor Steam, Guinness, and almost every other kind of beer. You can’t order food, but check out the killer German sausage joint across the street. Nosh on one at Mad Dog while watching European football and playing pop trivia on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This combo is right on the money.

530 Haight, SF. (415) 626-7279

>>More Feast: The Guardian Guide to Bay Area Dining and Drinking

From parking to parks



GREEN CITY It’s a typical San Francisco love affair: boy meets boy, they fall in love, and 18 years later, they get married. But not in City Hall, and not in a crowded banquet room with a dance floor and a DJ. Instead they wed in a 9-by-18-foot parking space in front of their home in the Lower Haight. No, they’re not crazy. Just crazy in love — with each other, and with PARK(ing) Day. On Friday, Sept. 19, Jay Bolcik and Michael Borden made both love affairs official.

(PARK)ing Day, a San Francisco–born event now spreading around the world, takes place every September when people transform metered parking spaces into public parks — or in Bolcik and Borden’s case, a marriage locale — for the day, or at least until the meters expire. The point? Event organizers say that more than 70 percent of San Francisco’s downtown area is designated for private parking, and 24,000 metered spaces exist throughout the city. It’s about time we reclaim the streets for the public, clearing more space where folks can gather to chat, make friends, and celebrate community parks. At least this was the thinking behind PARK(ing) Day when Bay Area–based art collective REBAR developed the idea in 2005.

"It was motivated by the spirit of generosity and public service," says director Blaine Merker, thinking back to when the group’s artists stumbled upon a sunny spot that was perfect for a park, but dedicated for a vehicle, in November 2005. They plunked their change into its meter and built a grassy hangout, and as a result expanded the public realm for a whole two hours. "We provided an additional 24,000 square-foot-minutes of public open space that Wednesday afternoon."

The effect was outstanding, and the word about PARK(ing) Day spread to metropolitan areas across the globe. This year thousands of mini-grasslands and lounging areas proliferated in 600 vehicle-inhabited regions worldwide, including first-time participant the Dominican Republic.

San Francisco’s metered spaces were filled with everything from a lemonade stand to a quaint outdoor living room setup, complete with a Scrabble board, a coffee table covered with magazines, and even a dog. "The meter man didn’t know what was going on," says PARK(ing) Day buff Ariane Burwell. She spent the day on a 12-foot hunk of grass she’d purchased at Home Depot and stuffed into a Toyota Camry that morning before settling in Chinatown. Kid-size plastic chairs with the words "have a seat" on them lined her turf. Aware of the going rate for this precious real estate (25¢ for six minutes), some strangers dropped their extra coins into her meter as they passed. One Good Samaritan even went to the bank and brought back an entire roll of quarters.

Since 2005, San Franciscans have honored this unique holiday not only by creating mini–public parks but also by raising awareness about certain societal issues. In 2007, CC Puede, a grassroots coalition dedicated to making Cesar Chavez Street safe, used its PARK(ing) spaces on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Valencia streets to provide free food and health exams.

And this year, in light of the upcoming election, some activists even used their spots as political venues. Bolcik and Borden chose to marry in their PARK(ing) space because — in addition to the fact that City Hall was booked — they think it’s part of a societal evolution that includes acceptance for same-sex marriage, which they hope California voters will affirm in November. Two No on Proposition 8 campaigners stood front and center at the ceremony, and many curious bystanders and media professionals were gathered along the sidewalk, which proved REBAR’s point: (PARK)ing Day has become about more than making an individual statement. It’s about promoting change.

After the ceremony, the two bald, salt-and-pepper-bearded men stood arm in arm in their wedding space and discussed what PARK(ing) Day means to them. Borden’s eyes were glassy with tears. "It’s a great way to bring people together," he said. Later he turned to his new husband and added, "I’m honored to stand here at home, in a city that I love, with my partner of 18 years."