Noe Valley Voice February 1998

Florence's Family Album: How I Spent My Winter Vacation

By Florence Holub

After reading young Rayne Wolfe's funny piece in the December Voice on the advantages of drafting one's own obituary, I was tempted to spend the holidays writing mine. After all, I was about to celebrate my 79th birthday in January. But having survived the Christmas rush -- and all the high-fat goodies that go along with it -- I decided that it would be unwise to tempt fate.

So instead, I devoted the rest of December to sending off the greeting cards that our printer son Eric made from a drawing I did of St. Mark's Basilica when Leo and I visited Venice in 1982. The beautiful 11th-century basilica has been carefully tended and preserved over the ages, despite the fact that it is threatened year after year by water lapping at its front door.

Meanwhile, scientists say that the North and South Poles are melting at an alarming rate. They predict that all of the shorelines around the world will be under water in time -- including ours!

With this in mind, I would like to renew my plea to keep San Francisco's own most valuable institutions of art and science -- the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences -- on the high ground where they now stand in Golden Gate Park!

There would be no reason even to consider relocating them except that over the past seven or eight years, the Recreation and Park Department has restricted car access to Golden Gate Park on Sundays and is now planning to do the same on Saturdays. I am against these restrictions, and so I composed the following letter to include in my greeting card to various civic leaders:

"On the morning of Sunday, November 23, I had a little research to do at the de Young Museum, where I work as a volunteer docent. My husband Leo drove me to Eighth Avenue and Fulton Street, where we noted that all the nearby streets were solidly lined with automobiles. The park roads had been closed off to motor traffic, in order to accommodate strollers, skaters, bikers, and skateboarders.

"But where were the pedestrians? Once upon a time, the concourse would have been alive with activity at 10:30 on a sunny Sunday morning. Yet up and down JFK Drive as far as the eye could see, the thoroughfare was devoid of either cars or people. Inside the mu-seum, only the guards ambled through the galleries, although the previous Sunday paper had announced in full color the arrival of the dazzling Ikat exhibition of splendid silks from Central Asia. What a waste -- of the park as well as the facilities within the concourse!

"Long ago -- after 1894 for the deYoung and following the 1906 Earthquake for the Academy of Sciences -- a wiser Recreation and Park Department granted space in Golden Gate Park to these two worthy cultural establishments, and a beautiful oasis of culture was created. But more recently, in an undemocratic act of betrayal, they adopted a plan that denied public access on the most popular day and so curtailed needed entry fees that finance operation and education.

"I write to you as a docent at both the de Young and the Academy of Sciences who fully realizes how many young minds are opened and informed by these institutions, which offer much that cannot be duplicated in the public schools. It is now urgent that something be done to reverse and control the Recreation and Park Department's mindless and ruinous actions.

"For this reason I applaud Supervisor Michael Yaki's well-thought-out proposal to keep open at all times the thoroughfares from 10th Avenue eastward to the concourse."

Wishing to be sure that the man with the most clout received my message, I hand-delivered it to Mayor Willie Brown's office. His secretary then graciously directed me to another office where I needed to attend to a different matter. Six months earlier, I had offered to give the city a painting of City Hall, which I had done to honor the reopening of the newly retrofitted building (scheduled for 1999).

I sat waiting in a bustling office full of cubicles, until finally a woman came striding toward me, smiling and extending her hand. She had recognized the name on my card, from having read the Voice when she used to live on Chatta-nooga Street in Noe Valley.

Her name was Naomi Weinstein, and she kindly explained how my offer to donate the painting would have to slowly wend its way through a bureaucratic maze before reaching the San Francisco Art Commission, where a final decision would be made.

I took my leave thinking that although this process might well take more years than I've got, it was still a pleasure to meet such a helpful civic employee -- one with fond memories of Noe Valley.

To show my gratitude, I sent her a note on our Venice greeting card, with my December column tucked inside.

I am including the same illustration for this article as the one we used for our card, along with my best New Year's wishes to all the good people of Noe Valley. In addition, as a reward to those of you who have stayed with me so far, I would like to share an amusing item from a column by Ken Garcia, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 27, 1997.

Garcia (who is a fine writer, by the way) wrote that his sister, a nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Marin, had tipped him off to a psychiatric hotline joke:

If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

If you are co-dependent, ask someone to press 2.

If you are a multiple personality, press 3, 4, 5, and 6.

If you are paranoid, we know who you are and are tracing the call.

If you are schizophrenic, a little voice will tell you what to do.

If you are depressed, it doesn't matter what you do, nobody cares anyway.

In my opinion, if you do not fit into any one category, that means you are a well-balanced person -- and probably one who lives in Noe Valley!