Heart of the City Archives

Evan Farmer, "While You Were Out."

Home is where the heart of the City is
by Hank Donat

As I stood at the bottom of the formidable Fillmore Street hill watching the crowd gather for the T Mobile bicycle tournament last week, I hoped Lance Armstrong would one day come back for more than just a photo-op. When he does, and if he actually rides in the race, it will be a great moment when an athletic legend inscribes a line in his legacy with the graces of a great City.

On Fillmore from Union to Lombard, I checked in with two storied San Francisco venues. The Silkroute import dealer, in business for 25 years at the location where Alan Ginseberg first read the literary landmark poem "Howl," is no more. The stage where Ginsberg read was a part of Silkroute's floor. Now it is dust; the place has been gutted.

The venerable Fredrickson's hardware store has a new paint annex. I wish them much success. The addition is no doubt attributable to the rise of the home improvement movement. Nesting is the order of the day.

My own nest is somewhat bi-polar. My marriage created a family with two apartments that fall just short of one. I divide my time between Districts 3 and 2. I married well, but briefly thanks to the California Supreme Court.

In District 2, there is no question there is a building boom. When I work here during the day, I share the sidewalks with the housekeepers, mommies, dog walkers, and no end of tradespeople.

I caught up with Evan Farmer, the host of The Learning Channel's "While You Were Out," at the South Bay Home and Garden Show on September 11.

Farmer says the 9/11 attacks, "gave birth to the popularity of our show and shows like Trading Spaces. People started gravitating toward their families, unlike in the 'anything goes' 90s."

Farmer's show focuses on the relationships between family members and loved ones and gives someone a renovated room of their dreams in each episode. After 75 episodes, Farmer has yet to remodel a room in San Francisco. I wished him luck in getting a permit when the time came.

Before he left to perform an hour of home improvement stand up for fans from the 'burbs and beyond, I asked the former MTV host to tell me what's the hottest trend in home improvement. "Me," he said. Judging by the audience response, he may be right.

Further evidence of a home-and-hearth zeitgeist came my way when I heard that Ggreg Taylor, the extraordinary promoter and party planner, was touting an intimate dinner party at the Phoenix Hotel's Bambuddha Lounge. The Gatti-esque Taylor has produced memorable parties for the San Francisco Opera and no end of events for the gay community.

Last week, Taylor announced, "The days of big clubs are over. Good, small parties are few and far between. There are very few environments where brains and real interactions are encouraged, where people can make new friends."

While I was in the South Bay, I heard about a great organization called PatchWorx. Its web site provides an online community for children with illness and disability. In addition to support and morale bosting, PatchWorx is able to create opportunities such as a virtual prom for some youngsters who were too sick to attend their own.

Amelia Stephens is a pediatric bone cancer survivor and a member of the original PatchWorx conceptual team. When my brother had pediatric bone cancer, he endured several painful regimens of chemotherapy and was cured before it was fully explained to him that what he had was cancer. In the early 1970s cancer was still a taboo subject. There wasn't the attention to the needs of kids with illness as there is today, thanks to the efforts of folks like PatchWorx founder Teresa Middleton. Visit PatchWorx.org.

In other comings and goings: San Francisco welcomes St. Mary's Square and the Cliff House back into the fold of great places to visit that are rich with history. Both were renovated this year.

St. Mary's Square is the best place to observe the inscription on the tower at Old St. Mary's Church at California Street and Grant Avenue. "Son, observe the time and fly from evil," is a Biblical verse that was directed at the customers of brothels that were located across the street in Old San Francisco. Benny Bufano's steel and granite statue of Chinese leader Sun Yat Sen has a great view of it.

News that the San Francisco Zoo may lose its accredation because of the way it treats its elephants comes as no surprise. Always at the ready with a quip, Supervisor Tom Ammiano had this to say before a recent board meeting. "There's always a discussion of public-private partnerships and whether they work. The elephant died; this one's not working."

Ammiano is a hometown hero who was demonstrating for labor on Labor Day while a lot of us were partying with Carol Channing at Bob Pritikin's house.

Even Pritikin is nesting. His Chenery Street house, which may become a future mayor's mansion in San Francisco, has a beautiful new addition. Pritikin calls it the mayor's suite.

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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