Heart of the City Archives

In 1990, a young Mister SF hitchhiked out of L.A. for the pages of Our World travel magazine. Photo by Richard Valdmanis.

Don't call it 'Cali' in the war of the state
by Hank Donat

"Children in San Francisco are taught two things: to love the Lord and hate Los Angeles." - Will Rogers.

When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared last week that the Bay Area would be on its own for multi-billion dollar cost overruns associated with the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, he tossed another log on the always-smoldering S.F. vs. L.A. fire. A new book by "The Portable Curmudgeon" author Jon Winokur provides a few splashes of kerosene.

In "The War Between the State," from Sasquatch Books, Winokur has assembled quips and barbs from the likes of Raymond Chandler, Alan Alda, Martha Smilgis, Phyllis Diller, Herb Caen, Ambrose Bierce, Joanie Greggains, Herb Gold, Barnaby Conrad III, Johnny Carson, and Carrie Fisher, among an extensive index of writers and Hollywood types.

Comedian Judy Tenuta weighs in: "In San Francisco when a guy says, 'Let's go to a great Italian restaurant,' that's what he means. In L.A. when a guy says, 'Let's go to a great Italian restaurant,' what he means is, 'Wait in the car while I shoot you through the head."

Lest you think that San Francisco goes unscathed between Winoker's 155 pages, novelist Carolyn See calls us, "A hand-tinted postcard left inside the house too long to molder and fade. Its ink is blurred, the message trivial."

Look for something from this writer - that's journalese for "me" - on page 93.

I caught up with Herb Gold at the ceremonial rehydrating of the Vaillancourt Fountain earlier this month. Gold was one of the faithful who contacted Supervisor Aaron Peskin to express horror over the thought of razing the fountain after it was suggested this spring.

While Peskin and Mayor Gavin Newsom flipped the switch, Gold and I reminisced about the fountain and Justin Herman Plaza. As a lad, Gold's son, filmmaker Ari Gold, was one of the countless kids who over the years were baptized as San Franciscans by falling in the Vaillancourt.

I remembered hearing Gerladine Ferraro give a speech in the plaza in 1984. Later the same year, I got food poisoning from tacos - 3 for 99 cents - at a takeout joint there. It takes a San Franciscan to get sentimental over salmonella. And you quote me on that, Mr. Winokur!

In miscellaneous beats from the heart of the City I see and hear all the things that make San Francisco an object of affection: North Beach poet Jack Hirschman bounces a rubber ball off the brick wall outside Specs on Columbus Avenue... Someone practices the piano near Baker and Filbert... Someone else practices the guitar near Castro and 26th... Trevor Haley greets guests for her umpteenth "Cruising the Castro" tour at Harvey Milk Plaza... A blazing red and pink sunset fills an August sky...

A sign in the window of a Baker Street home takes its queue from a credit card commercial. It says, "Flowers and shrubs: $100. Dog repelling product and fence: $50. Cost of keeping your dog off my flowers: Priceless."

Supervisor Tom Ammiano on what a Mr. San Francisco should do with his refund from a rescinded gay marriage license: "Buy yourself a new hat and have a couple of martinis."

One bright spot in the California Supreme Court's decision to invalidate the gay weddings is that Molly McKay of the organization Equality California may finally stop wearing that wedding gown everywhere. I know you've seen McKay in her photo-op frock. Actually, I'm told she has five.

San Francisco's gay community is in desperate need of a strong public speaker. Ammiano, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and Carole Migden have been carrying the mantle for decades in a field where few others are able to inspire people into action with words alone. While it was the images of loving couples that brought thousands to City Hall this spring, today's gay activists will ultimately have to do more than dress the part.

Degrees of Separation: New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove says that the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, will attend a gay wedding on September 11. Washington DC-area beautician Erwin Gomez shapes the twins' eyebrows. Gomez married his longtime partner, real estate developer James Packard, in San Francisco earlier this year. The couple expects the president's daughters to attend a second ceremony back east, according to Grove's August 18 column. Packard is my "Chronicle husband," the name with which I was paired when the paper scrambled the couples in a mass mailing.

Ammiano, newly minted Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, and this writer - him again - were among the guests onstage on August 15 for a final toast to the old Stern Grove. A striking remodeling project is now underway. The makeover is scheduled for completion next May, which will allow the summer festival's concerts to continue uninterrupted.

Continuing with Supe soup, District 5 candidate Lisa Feldstein's slogan "The Woman for the Job," calls to mind Louise Renne's long ago mayoral campaign, "Not just one of the boys." With so many candidates in the running for Supervisor Matt Gonzalez's seat, a catchy slogan may be just the thing to set one apart. Here's one, "Tys is nice, but Ross is boss."

Arguing that ranked-choice voting makes the race a shot in the dark, a cabbie I know offered, "Vote for Mo," as in eenie-meenie-minie-mo. Mo has held more City offices than Dick Hongisto. Feel free to send your own slogans by phone or email.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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