Heart of the City Archives

SFMoMA: How many licks does it take?

Many common treasures of an uncommon City
by Hank Donat

Despite our reputation to the contrary, it's simply not true that you can't find a Republican in San Francisco. A favorite of mine is Marguerite Rubel, a longtime garment maker in the City.

"Where are the weapons, Marguerite?" I asked my friend somewhat unfairly out of the blue the other day. Rubel, who was born in 1925 and has seen her share of despots, shot back, "Saddam Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction. And you can quote me on that."

Rubel and I don't let our political differences get in the way of a pleasant time. We have Johnny Cash in common. Rubel once told me, "A good sewing machine is like a polio shot. It should last a lifetime." Friendship is a wonderful thing that thrives in San Francisco. Following are some others, which may or may not have anything in common.

I caught up with John Lipp, the executive director of Pets are Wonderful Support (PAWS) at the Coffee Roastery on Union Street. PAWS is one of my favorite organizations. They help people with AIDS and other disabling illnesses keep their pets.

"Jef and Lou" are neighbors of mine who are literally a walking advertisement for PAWS. Jef, who has mobility challenges, cares for his lab/boxer mix Lou with help from PAWS. Lou has only three legs, the result of being abused as a puppy.

Since Jef adopted Lou, the difference in Jef's life is obvious to friends and neighbors. "He gets me out even when I'm feeling depressed or isolated," says Jef.

PAWS helps Jef pay for vet bills and special food for Lou. Talking with staff and volunteers also gives Jef valuable support. It's a great thing - PAWS helps Jef; Jef and Lou help each other.

I checked with Lipp, just for the record, about whether PAWS is following the movement to refer to pet owners exclusively as "guardians." Some other sources refer to a person as an animal's "person." This was actually discussed in front of the Board of Supervisors recently. PAWS is going with "guardian," as has the City.

Upcoming PAWS events include a swing dance party and the 9th annual Fun Run in Golden Gate Park. Currently, the organization is low on canned cat food for its clients. To donate to or otherwise assist in a cat food drive, visit paws-sf.org.

It's interesting to see how out-of-town newspapers describe the City. They still refer to cable cars as trams from time to time. The New Zealand Herald writes of the "striped lolly-like stumpiness of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art." I never thought of SFMoMA as a lolly before, but it's refreshing to hear a new metaphor once in while for something that's become so familiar.

The Herald will see an entire eye candy store in the New de Young, which is under construction and scheduled to open in 2005. A hard hat tour reveals a stunning work-in-progress.

The copper exterior is a stipple of concave and convex dimples patterned after actual photographs of the park's trees. The walls where its three major wings connect create mystifying spatial relationships by bending and bowing in unexpected ways. And then there's the tower.

It's great for the City to have modern architecture that's as good as any in the world.

Plans for the future renovation of Stern Grove are also very attractive. The weekend concert on July 11 with Lila Downs and Souad Massi was a blast.

There's nothing dull about the cool grey of a Sunday afternoon in Stern Grove in July. We wouldn't have it any other way, particularly with sounds of guitar strings and melodies of the world filling the air. I can't wait for the San Francisco Ballet's performance in the grove on August 8!

Winningest cable car belling ringing champ and SFPD officer Carl Payne reveals the secret to his jingle. "It's all about patience, practice, and fun," Payne tells me, "and that's it."

A controversy in the Castro continues to grow steam as a gay bar owner is accused of discriminating against black customers and employees. Badlands owner Les Natali came under scrutiny when his intention to purchase the Pendulum bar across the street became public. The Pendulum has long had a black following.

Natali vehemently denies claims that he screens out blacks from Badlands. Authorities are investigating while the community rancorously compares notes on the subject.

Meanwhile, the very same Castro shopping and historic area has become decidedly less Chinese. Both the China Court at Castro and 19th and the South China Cafe on 18th near Castro have closed.

China Court had wicker cabanas that made every table a private one. South China Cafe was more divey but also had great food and private booths. Both restaurants, which had different owners, were fixtures in the neighborhood.

From Famous Melissa of the Artemis Gallery on Sutter Street comes "When I was a Smurf," an exhibit of works by artists who grew up watching the Smurfs on television. The portraits of adolescence as reflected in the cartoon elves range from whimsical to horrific. The Artemis is a cool gallery on a block with the Jean Shelton theatre near the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Powell. Alas, a Walgreen's marks the corner these days.

Congratulations to Brian Copeland, whose one-man show "Not a Genuine Black Man" at the Marsh has been extended through August. I was honored to present the mayor's Brian Copeland Day proclamation when the show opened in April. "Not a Genuine Black Man," the comedian's story about growing up in San Leandro, is being touted as our longest running one-man show in years, not counting Willie Brown's.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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