Mister SF Hank Donat
with [former Vice] President Al Gore at the swearing-in of Michela Alioto-Pier
as District 2 Supervisor at San Francisco City Hall on January 26. The
selection of Alioto-Pier was one of a series of well-recieved appointments
made by Mayor Gavin Newsom during his first two weeks in office. (Joe
How to sew a San Franciscan quilt
of the rain, or perhaps because of it, the earliest signs of
spring are showing in what is sometimes inexplicably called a city of
One morning last week,
just as I wondered whether the copious blooms of jasmine in a plant
box on Broadway near Hyde Street had been there the day before, a flock
of fledgling sparrows presented itself from around the corner, bobbing
along on the sidewalk and chirping up a sweet commotion. City of no
It is certainly springtime for Mayor Gavin Newsom, who attended his
first national mayor's conference in Washington D.C. following a series
of highly praised appointments during his first two weeks in office
here at home.
In Portsmouth Square last week for a merchant walk in honor of the Chinese
New Year, Newsom affirmed his support for a subway to Chinatown. The
project took a step closer with the recent congressional appropriation
of $11 million in federal funds for a feasibility study.
A stroll through the neighborhood reveals something to counteract the
7-Eleven stores that are popping up on Market Street. The Chinatown
McDonald's, at California Street and Grant Avenue, is history. It closed
Emperor Norton died of a heart attack a few feet from the venue on January
8, 1880, about a century too early to blame Chicken McNuggets.
Even in the current economy, the plum location is not likely to remain
vacant longer than it takes to say "chain of fools." However, it is
a personal landmark. The first restaurant I dined at in San Francisco
was the Cathay House, which is still located directly over the former
fast food joint.
In other first-time experiences, Mark Bittner has at last hit the stores
with his eagerly anticipated book, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill"
from Harmony/Random House. Bittner's chronicle of San Francisco's magical
flock will ensconce its legend alongside Vivian and Marion Brown, Norton,
Beach Blanket Babylon, and all the great San Francisco institutions.
Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker Judy Irving will attend the
premiere of her new feature, also titled "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph
Hill," at the Lumiere on California Street at 6 pm Thursday [02/05].
Irving and Bittner are birds of a feather.
Foreshadowing "American Idol," Hunter S. Thompson once said, "The music
business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway
where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's
also a negative side."
The ten talented auditioners chosen from thousands who tried out at
the ballpark formerly known as Pacific Bell last September may or may
not become household names by making it into the finals of the nationwide
singing competition currently airing on FOX. One won't-be pop star is
already the talk of the town.
William Hung is the 20 year-old U.C. Berkeley student who came to the
city to sing Ricky Martin's 2000 hit "She Bangs," for the show's cranky
Hung's performance was truly awful in a hilarious fashion but his attitude
bowled over the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and the icy Simon
Cowell. Hung would not be humiliated even after Cowell told him, "You
can't sing and you can't dance."
Drive-time radio stations and comedians are clamoring for more from
the gutsy and guileless engineering major who remained cordial as he
told Cowell, "I already gave my best and I have no regrets at all."
Words to live by...
Here's one for the Unclear on the Concept file: Has anyone divined the
wisdom behind going to Mars but canceling BART to San Jose?
No matter how you look at it, it's sad that longtime activist Cleve
Jones and the Names Project are in litigation over the future of the
AIDS Memorial Quilt and Jones' function in the organization. Jones created
the world renowned quilt in a storefront on Market Street in the mid-1980s
not only as an object of grief and remembrance but also as a tool for
educating the world about the cost of AIDS in human lives.
Today, Jones says the organization is allowing the quilt to languish
in storage when it's needed most. Jones says he was fired from his job
as the organization's spokesperson after complaining about the lack
of an HIV-positive board member, a charge the Names Project denies.
Jones also clashed with Names Project leadership over a plan to bring
the quilt back to the National Mall in Washington D.C.
There are currently fewer than 20 local chapters of the declining organization
and no chapter in San Francisco. The quilt was moved to Atlanta in 2001.
Questions about the relevance of the quilt and its ability to have an
impact in today's culture are being asked in the LGBT community as a
result of Jones' lawsuit. His attorney is Angela Alioto.
Does the quilt belong in a museum? Jones says that would be like opening
a holocaust museum in 1939, when the danger is far from over. Others
have suggested that Jones should take stock, move on, and get a second
I have a copy of Cindy Ruskin and Matt Herron's 1988 book, "The Quilt:
Stories from the Names Project," that I picked up for a few dollars
at the Friends of the Public Library's annual book sale in 2001.
It's inscribed as follows: "Christmas, 1988. David, I hope you love
this as much as I do and I hope to God... well, you know. Love, Bob."
What's tragic is that it is obvious that neither David nor Bob made
it. The inscription, like the quilt itself, is intimate and confrontational.
As it was displayed on the National Mall in 1996, the quilt is a vast
canvas akin to Washington's Vietnam Memorial.
For the good of this symbol of San Francisco as a beacon of compassion,
let's hope for reconciliation between the man whose vision created the
quilt and those who are its custodians, the Names Project.
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