Heart of the City Archives

TransitWatch: If something doesn't look "right," on the bus, in San Francisco, let them know.

Signs of life in the little City
by Hank Donat

They certainly are signs of the times. Even at a glance, the TransitWatch posters on Muni buses and trains look like they'll appear in a museum someday, or in a future art book about the terror era. "We can always use an extra pair of eyes," says TransitWatch, "If something does not look right, let us know."

On this day, I'm riding in a coach with a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, two women with shopping bags and a sleeping baby, a handful of Chinese seniors, three kids in hip hop clothes, and a homeless guy who's arguing aloud with an invisible friend with a fancy sounding name I can't remember. Everything looks as right as rain in San Francisco in January.

Jeff Thompson is a native San Franciscan and a longtime Oaklander, which makes him the perfect person to declare, "The City is the new Berkeley!" Thompson is speaking of our ban on smoking in parks and other City property and our movement to charge for grocery bags.

The latter policy is an anti-litter policy and has been cited in the public discussion as a European custom. However, it is only recently that most European grocery stores have had bags at all. I once had to walk several blocks back to a friend's house in Bavaria while balancing four potatoes, a schnitzel, and a bag of crisps in my arms because I didn't bring my own bag to the market.

The smoking ban was inevitable. Thompson says, "Now you can go to San Francisco if you want to smoke a joint but not a Marlboro."

According to your great email response, there are three titles necessary to complete my list of a few weeks ago that named the worst movies made in San Francisco. You are correct. Not even City backdrops could save EDtv, The Wedding Planner, and an unwatchable straight-to-video turkey called A Smile Like Yours.

Peggy Dohrman of the Metreon was ebullient at this year's Chief's Day at the IMAX. Dohrman invited 600 kids to take in the 3D Polar Express on the IMAX screen. Police Chief Heather Fong welcomed the grade school children and asked each of them to pay Dohrman's kindness forward.

Dohrman says Chief's Day provides an opportunity for kids to mingle with police officers as members of the community. No, I did not see the chief in 3D glasses. I don't think they're an approved uniform accessory. However, the sight and sound of 600 children spontaneously screaming over the preview for James Cameron's 3D Aliens of the Deep left an indelible impression and a smile that lasted all day long.

Speaking of kids today, who knew that hope for the survival of good grammar was so close to home? Carolyn Moore, a teacher at Mercy High School for the past 34 years, has been named a California Teacher of Excellence by the California Association of Teachers of English. Moore was recognized for her ability to encourage and inspire students. The award is the most prestigious recognition for English teachers in the state.

School of Soft Knocks: Bob Pritikin is one of those San Franciscans that people call eccentric because it takes too long to say, "magician, ad man, hotelier, entertainer," and all the rest. Pritikin is also a man of bravery, having handed over a staff and the keys to his Chenery Street mansion to old-school press agent Lee Houskeeper for Houskeeper's anachronistically and inaccurately titled, "Boys Night Out" co-ed dinner group.

The great room of the Chenery house, which Pritikin has said he will bequeath to the City for use as a future mayoral mansion, is an impressive gallery of fine art and sculpture. But the guest list was even more eccentric than even the Bufano animals, notorious Prince Philip portrait, or giant matchbook.

Mayor of Treasure Island, Tony Hall, with Vice Mayor of Treasure Island, Frank Gallagher, activist clown Wavy Gravy, acclaimed novelist Herb Gold, Peggy Dohrman, chanteuse Denise Perrier, the Dons - Blue and Sanchez, photographer Robert Altman, Dr. Hip Gene Schoenfeld, '06 quake memorial organizer Taren Sapienza, cartoonist Phil Frank, filmmaker William Farley, and the father of the Summer of Love, Chet Helms come to mind among the 40 or so guests.

Just as it does when it meets at Tommy's Joynt or The Stinking Rose, this group affectionately heckled its way through Houskeeper's lengthy introductions. "You've heard of singing for your supper? This part's listening for your supper," said a pal.

Perrier and the Rowan Brothers entertained. Pritikin joined in with his concert saw on "Cry me a River" and Hall got into the act, too, before dinner was served. The late Johnny Carson was a subject of toasts and shared memories.

At the end of a very fun evening, as others were heading back to the piano, Pritikin was engaged in an animated discussion about the state of locally produced newspaper cartoon strips.

In closing, here's a couple of upcoming events for anyone who loves San Francisco and San Francisco people:

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Valencia Rose comedy club, Tom Ammiano, Doug Holsclaw, Ron Lanza, Karen Ripley, and F. Allen Sawyer are scheduled to participate in "Valencia Rose Revisited." The evening of memories and performance footage gets underway at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 24 at the Main Library's Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room. The Valencia Rose helped launch the careers of several comedians including Whoopi Goldberg.

Jayson Wechter's 15th Annual Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt starts at Justin Herman Plaza at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, February 19. Check-in starts at 3:30. The amateur detective competition through the streets, alleys, and history of the City also uses the Chinese New Year Parade as a perfect backdrop. The hunt is great exercise and big fun.

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