Heart of the City Archives

Take a look at the City on Golden Hills
by Hank Donat

My husband gives me stink eye when I say such things as, "I don't like to leave the City unless I'm leaving the country." He thinks it's too pretentious. I guess you could say he's right because we usually agree to pretend I'm only kidding - I'm not - and forget about it until the subject comes up again.

San Francisco evokes an attachment beyond maudlin civic pride. But what is it about our town that makes it so special? Sometimes you have to take a look around and decide for yourself.

I notice from hill to hill that the star jasmine is back in bloom. It always arrives several weeks after the pink jasmine that's everywhere in the spring then here and there throughout the year. Both are sublimely fragrant. Your own favorite probably depends on the friend or lover whose memory is evoked by the sweetness of both varieties.

There are other returns worth noticing, too. PJ Corkery is back in the Examiner after more than a year. When "Heart of the City" started in 2001, PJ's was the only other regular column written from the singular point of view that is, "I love-love-love this town." Now that maudlin civic pride has become popular again it's nice to see PJ out in front, or at least on page 3.

Tori Ritchie of the Food Network's "Ultimate Kitchens" is back in her Cow Hollow neighborhood after five weeks in Italy for a language class. Signora fortunata! Tori is an ultimate San Franciscan - a native. Watch the other paper's Sunday Magazine for her food pieces with Sam Whiting.

The San Francisco Motorcycle Club celebrates its Centennial with a street fair and party Saturday June 19. In the 1970s, a motorcycle backlash in the U.S. left the club with only ten members. Today the club is 75 members strong.

The SFMC is a cool bunch of friends whose passion for the open road keeps a rich Northern California tradition alive. They're twice as old as the Hell's Angels and much nicer!

In 1937, SFMC member Hap Jones became the first person to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at its official opening when he broke from the crowd on the motorcycle he sneaked in to the pedestrian contingent. During the Golden Gate Bridge's 50th anniversary celebration in 1987, city officials invited Jones to repeat that historic ride, which he did along with several members of the SFMC on vintage motorcycles.

The Saturday street fair starts at 11 a.m. Folsom Street between 17th and 18th Streets will be closed to traffic. Visit sf-mc.org.

History in the remaking: Armistead Maupin wasn't the only one left cold by former Secretary of State George Shultz's tribute to Ronald Reagan. Shultz eulogized the late president onstage in the middle of Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon's 30th anniversary performance featuring Olympia Dukakis last Monday. Following the performance, our own food columnist Narsi David cursed all the way to his car. Narsi objected to Shultz's political break in the show - or should I say @#*! political break?

Maupin objected on the grounds that since Reagan ignored AIDS, Shultz should hardly have expected the president to be fondly remembered by friends and admirers of Silver and BBB performers who were lost to the disease. Shultz had said in part that Reagan did, "so much for the freedom and security of all Americans."

I'll object on the basis that that's untrue, Cold War notwithstanding. Astonishing as it may seem today, it is widely known that Reagan didn't speak of AIDS publicly until 1987, several years into the epidemic. In the January 11, 1987 Sunday London Times, Brian Deer wrote in an article about the impact of AIDS in the Castro. "The statistics are staggering," Deer wrote, "From 1981, when there were just 84 cases of AIDS diagnosed in the United States, the number has soared to 29,000, with nearly a quarter of them in California."

More recently, ABC News reported that experts believe AIDS, which has already killed more than 20 million worldwide, now poses a threat to global security.

The ABC report said, "the theoretical trail of wreckage goes something like this: AIDS decimates military, police and peacekeeping forces, erodes social services and local institutions and incites internal unrest by eroding faith in government." Of course we will never know what the world would look like had Reagan not cruelly chosen to look the other way when the number of infected was 29,000 or even 84.

By the way, the four-day Beach Blanket anniversary performances and celebrations shaped up as the party of the year. Kudos to BBB and producer Jo Schuman Silver.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick is sometimes criticized for being pedantic. He read an etymology of the term "commons" before the board on June 7. But sometimes it pays to be picayune. Last week McGoldrick also held up an item that would have authorized payment of unspecified legal fees related to getting rid of Tammy Haygood as head of the Elections Department. McGoldrick wanted to know, what was the tab? After the city attorney's office offered some numbers in the ballpark of a half million dollars the matter was continued to a closed session.

McGoldrick later said, "Even my PG&E bill comes with numbers on it."

Also at City Hall was a woman in green with great smiling eyes who was there one minute and gone the next. Regarding the death of Reagan she told me, "I cried when he died but not as much as when he was elected."

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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