Heart of the City Archives

Mister SF observes historic highs and lows firsthand. Here, Mayor Gavin Newsom makes history by presenting Kind Abdullah II of Jordan with the Key to the City. The Arab leader told those assembled at Davies Symphony Hall that the United States needs to "clearly and explicitly commit to a Palestinian state." A week earlier, Newsom drank from a tailpipe to promote a clean environment. Now that's commitment!

Making history from Bonds to Space Lady
by Hank Donat

Part of the joy of writing this column and a San Francisco-themed Web site comes from having the opportunity to share items that don't normally get reported - until a few days later when some other outlets catch up. (And you thought I did for the pleasure of seeing my picture with Rosie O'Donnell on someone's hate site.)

In recent weeks, Armistead Maupin sold a new novel about his Tales of the City character Michael Tolliver to HarperCollins. Animal sculptures by Benny Bufano were installed at the Randall Museum. The Space Lady, who performed on the streets of San Francisco for almost 20 years, released new recordings on ComfortStand.com. Owners of the Silkroute Oriental rug shop at 3119 Fillmore Street, the address where Alan Ginsberg first read "Howl" in 1955, announced plans to close the store after 25 years. And you heard it first right here. Only Mister SF covered the Bufano installation in person. The museum's photographer, Michael Strickland, also attended. Aren't you glad you're in with the in crowd?

For many locals, the arrival of new Space Lady recordings is a major date in history. It is encouraging that local media have reconnected with San Francisco's penchant for neighborhood pride and an endless fascination with its own brief past. At the heart of the City are people who love the City. It has always been as simple as that.

I receive voicemail like one from a woman who told me through tears that the Vaillancourt Fountain was also her favorite public art in the City. An email from Biff Gudmundsen in Sparks, Nevada, recalled the individual shakers of sesame seeds on every table at the long gone Hippo Burger on Van Ness Avenue. A San Franciscan can get misty for sesame seeds!

It's sometimes difficult to know what's important history when history is all around you all the time. Last week, it seemed just as significant that Barry Bonds had tied then topped Willie Mays' 660 homeruns as it did that both balls were caught by the same Giants fan. The fact that the fan's name happened to be Larry Ellison, but not the Larry Ellison, was almost unbelievable.

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I don't know if I'd believe that Gavin Newsom, the mayor that knows how, drank a cup of water collected from the exhaust pipe of a car.

Newsom drank the liquid in order to demonstrate the environmental safety of the hydrogen fuel cell in the Honda FCX. The City has leased two of the cars. "Pure," Newsom said with a grimace before making San Raphael Mayor Al Boro take a swig, too. Now that's commitment. No word yet on whether you'll see auto water on the menu at PlumpJack. (See it for yourself in the photo series!)

Newsom made history by making San Francisco the first city to add hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to its fleet. While the media surrounded Newsom and the auto dealers at Civic Center Plaza, only a few feet away on a folding chair sat Pastor Roger Huang. Huang stared straight ahead, quietly resolute on day 8 of his hunger strike to bring attention to social problems with drugs, alcohol, and pornography in the Tenderloin.

Get out your pens! Following are some items suitable for future publication.

On May 22, at 1 pm, San Francisco City Guides celebrates the 20th anniversary of Adah Bakalinsky's book Stairway Walks in San Francisco by conducting six simultaneous walking tours in Russian Hill, Bernal Heights East, Golden Gate Heights, Forest Hills, Eureka Valley, and Fairmount Heights. For more information visit sfcityguides.com.

Lillian Sizemore of the San Francisco Mosaic Studio offers a walking tour of mosaic sites in the Castro titled, "Fractured and Fabulous!" For more information visit sfmosaic.com.

Connecting the dots... The Canvas Gallery, 9th and Lincoln, hosts a benefit performance by jazz vocalist Claudia Villela on Thursday, [April 22]. Proceeds benefit the community project to create a stairway mosaic on the steps at 16th Avenue and Moraga. This cause should thrill you if the last two items interested you at all! For more information visit tiledsteps.org.

Lately it seems that someone is always whispering about changing the name of Bush Street.

Louis K. Lowenstein, the authority on San Francisco street names, wrote that the origin of the name was unclear. Lowenstein named some possibilities including a local Dr. J.P. Bush, Bush Street in Philadelphia, and a bush. A reader named Gerald Bush emailed with a reference to San Francisco pioneers Henry and O.N. Bush, though it's not known what connection they have to the street name, if any.

Activists occasionally change the name of Bush Street to Puppet Street using decals, but officially changing a street name is difficult. The latest rumor on the subject says there's enough steam for a "Hope Street" initiative if some community activists can get just one Supervisor to support the idea.

Graffito on the north side of Union Street between Larkin and Polk - "Hurry: the 8th Deadly Sin."

Also on the streets of the City - MUNI cuts! We knew they were looming. Now comes the sting. A public hearing is scheduled today for 4 p.m. at City Hall, room 400. The meetings are not heavily publicized. Don't say you weren't warned. For more information call Caroline Ceslava at 554-4129.

The Sunset History Project needs your photo albums to boost the under-represented archive of neighborhoods west of Twin Peaks. Contribute material to the San Francisco Public Library's History Center at the Ortega Branch Library on Photo Day, Sunday, April 25. For more information call 752-2483.

The Women's Building hosts a benefit performance of Dr. Mercilee Jenkins' new play "She Rises Like a Building to the Sky," on Friday, May 14. The topic is the Women's Building's own incredible 25-year history. For information and tickets call 474-5580.

Three other great online resources for stories and events are: Punmaster's MusicWire by David Gross, available by writing musicwire@punmaster.com; HAPS by Mad Jack Rackham of the Meme Factory, available by writing memefactory@msn.com; and This Week's Queer Things by Larry-Bob Roberts, available by writing larrybob@io.com.

Welcome to MisterSF.com. Please visit the site often to keep in touch with San Francisco, for your own amusement, and to use the Local Joints section as a portal for independent businesses. Keep your money in the neighborhoods... Watch this space for observations, interviews and more from around town. All other sections of MisterSF.com are also updated continually, so come back and watch us grow!

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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