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Rumors: Back in the Saddle
DRIVING ON HIGHWAY 280 back from LaLaland to Noe Valley (after our annual August family vacation), all my wife and kids and I could think of was Dorothy's line from The Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home!"
Just north of Burlingame, we saw the wonderful summer fog streaming over the lush green hills from the great Pacific Ocean beyond. Wow! By the time we reached the San Jose Avenue exit, we were IN the fog. Yippee.
Our excursion to Santa Barbara, Long Beach, Anaheim (Di$neyland), Palm Springs, and then back through L.A. (hello, Auntie Popo) and Santa Barbara was GREAT. However, the level of refrigeration we had to submit to in order to survive down south was nearly subarctic.
The air in Orange County was, to put it mildly, "unhealthful" (the word used by the TV newsman).
In Disneyland temperatures were close to 100 degrees and the humidity wasn't far behind. The vendors were $elling battery-powered spritzing fans at 20 bucks apiece. There was a two-hour wait (or should I say bake?) to get on a fancy roller-coaster ride that lasted about 90 seconds. Even queuing up for the monorail took a half-hour.
The kids mercifully chose swimming in the hotel pool over taking the "shuttle" to MickeyMou$eland on two of the days in our four-day pass.
Jeez, in Palm Springs (which is in the beautiful Coachella Valley) the overnight LOW was 87 degrees. It was 115 in the shade at midday! Everyone tells you the weather's no big deal "because it's just dry heat." But we drank so much water and stayed in the pool so long we overdosed on sunscreen and chlorine. Yeecck.
Now I need a vacation to recover from the vacation.
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WHILE I WAS AWAY, the natives were also quite restless in Noe Valley. By mid-August, the Noe Valleons were stirring up some real seismic activity. What was shaking? Well...
First of all, there was the Beanie Baby stampede. (I guess we're all realizing these stuffed animals are a good hedge against the stock market.) For the past two months, long lines have been forming at the Ark and Small Frys toy stores on Beanie Baby shipment days.
The shops have been opening early to accommodate the throngs. Lately, the Ark has had to unpack its wares in secret and dole out limited quantities on Sunday afternoons. (If you're a Beanie fan, call the store for exact times. Or better yet, buy some sunscreen and go get in line.)
It's not earthshaking news that Home Savings, which was once Coast Savings and before that Olympic Savings, has been sold to Washington Mutual Bank. But it is something to shake your head over. New signs should go up within 90 days -- unless some other bank makes Washington Mutual a better offer.
A rolling tremor was felt among bookworms in Noe Valley this summer when Carroll's Books, next to Lovejoy's on Church Street, decided to depart Noe Valley for more bohemian pastures in North Beach. As many of you already know, owner Jim Carroll is also running a bookstore in Paris, the San Francisco Book Co., on the famed Left Bank.
Meanwhile, the rumor that Noe Valley Pizza was going to fill Carroll's slot on Church is not true. The new rumor is that the building has been sold and that a real estate company will occupy the space.
The main pizza chat has been about Extreme Pizza, which is trying to move in to the empty Bakers of Paris storefront (24th near Noe). Extreme Pizza is a pretty small, homegrown chain -- it has two stores on the north side of the city -- but it has encountered heavy resistance from Friends of Noe Valley, mostly because it walks, talks, and even smells like -- you guessed it -- a dreaded cafe.
Another food rumor I heard recently is that WrapWorks (the Chevy's offspring on 24th near Castro) may soon be sold to a Southern California chain of restaurants. It's not a wrap yet, though.
And then there are the rumors that Joe Cassidy may tear down the Planters Nursery building he recently bought at 24th and Church. Actually, Joe now informs me that his brother is the one who bought the building, not him. However, the brother does plan to tear it down and build five units, Joe says.
While we're still on 24th Street, the Star Magic space in front of Elisa's Health Spa has a new occupant. A home furnishings store called Home is being opened by T.J. Woodward. Hopefully, T.J. will offer some globes and telescopes in keeping with the Star Magic tradition.
Scope this out: The large glaring sign outside Rite Aid (across the street from Elisa's) will be downsized soon, as part of the drugstore's remodeling project. The neighbors should be happy about that.
On the Church Street beat, everyone seems blasé about the fact that Sonia's hairdressing shop has moved from next to Hungry Joe's cafe (at Church and Day) down the street a block (to Church and 30th). But they're all buzzing about what will fill the vacated space: a sushi bar. Yes, Church Street is certainly emblematic of S.F.'s fickle food tastes: Shall we have sushi or pancakes today, hon? Hey, why not both?
Speaking of signs, still on hold is the installation of the Audrey Rodgers memorial plaque (and bench) at the corner of Sanchez and 21st streets. The space is ready and the area has been beautifully landscaped, but City Hall is again cluttering up the works with red tape.
Oh, that reminds me: What do you think of Pasta Pomodoro's new outdoor seating arrangement -- those tables and umbrellas they've set up on the sidewalk at 24th and Noe? I'd like to know what happened to the simple, unobtrusive benches that Panos' put out for all of us to enjoy? Gee whiz.
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MORE HEARSAY: I heard that Noe Valley Merchants Association President Bob Roddick was a guest on KQED Radio's morning talk show, Forum, in mid-August. The topic was parking, and Bob was practically the only one on the show advocating for more parking spaces in neighborhoods like Noe Valley.
He was pitted against three or four other guests -- from the Sierra Club, Muni, and the city's Parking and Traffic Department -- who argued that San Francisco must remain a transit-first city, and if you allow more parking, you only encourage more people to drive.
Bob said later that despite being attacked as pro-auto he remains steadfast in his belief that alleviating the parking situation will go a long way toward improving the quality of life for city residents. He defended the parking plans he's been promoting for the past year or so, and still thinks Muni should convert more of their 24th Street stops to "coach stops," Parking and Traffic should allow diagonal parking on Castro, and the city should free up some money in its special parking garage fund (established in the '70s) to buy garages or lots and lay down stripes in the neighborhoods. That "parking garage" money has been diverted to the general fund for years, he points out.
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MOVIE MADNESS is gripping Downtown Noe Valley. A snazzy new shop called Laser Cinema has opened on Castro Street, where the Allure clothing shop used to be. It sells and rents movies on laser DVDs -- digital video disks.
There's also a new video store moving into the complex erected by Joe Cassidy next to Bell Market. The store, which should open some time after Labor Day, will be called 21st Century Video. And -- guess what -- it's not a chain.
"My wife and I are opening the store," says Brian Dunleavy, "and it's our first and only store. We are very excited to come back to Noe Valley."
Brian lived here from 1957 to 1989. He's now anxious to return and "have my own family-run business in my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco."
He says 21st Century will offer both VHS and DVD movies. "VHS will probably be history in five years since the whole industry is converting everything to the DVD and DVD-ROM format," he says.
Of course, a DVD player is necessary, and they run anywhere from $150 "to $350 or more for a decent one," Brian says. But the images are much sharper than they are on tape. The only drag on the DVD revolution is that the dang thing plays but can't record.
Brian says he'll be offering his customers a grand opening deal: for $14.95, you can rent three DVD movies and a player for two days.
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THE GRAND OPENING of Cafe J -- the family-run coffee shop under construction in the bright yellow building on Church near 29th Street -- won't be until the beginning of October, says owner Harry Philibosian. Harry and his wife Denise, along with partners Linnea and Eric Alexanderson, first unveiled plans for the cafe in February.
"We must get 50 people a day asking us when we will open," smiles Harry. "But this is hard and it takes time if you are doing it the right way, get your permits, and build it up to code."
When it's completed, Cafe J (named for the J-line) will feature a nice patio in the back, he says. The two families -- with their five kids between them helping -- will open the doors for breakfast (bagels, breads, and pastries) at 6:30 a.m., then serve sandwiches, soups, and salads until closing at 9 p.m.
Harry notes that he is making a big career change. He was once the owner of Gibraltar Realty and has worked as a real estate agent since 1978. He says he'll keep a small real estate office off the back patio, just in case.
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CONGRATULATIONS to David Harnden, who along with three other Noe Valleons presides over Golden Gate Ale, a microbrewery located in the East Bay. The group saw all four of their beer entries in this year's California State Fair win ribbons. "We had two seconds, a third, and a fourth," says David proudly. That was out of more than 500 entries.
The microbrewery produces Golden Gate Ale and Golden Bear Lager, now available in Noe Valley at Greystone Wine and Liquor, Mikeytom Market, and even Bell Market. David recalls that back in 1994, he and his partners were just selling their draft beer to restaurants and bars from a small brewery in Emeryville. "We started bottling some of our batch," says David, "and found that it was quite popular, but we were too small to meet the demand." They moved to a larger spot in Berkeley in 1995, and now the bottles are bringing in barrels of revenues.
The head brewmeister, by the way, is Dan Aviles, who grew up in Noe Valley and still lives here with his family.
FYI, the brewery has an open house on the last Friday of every month where they hold a barbecue, basketball, and beer party starting at 4 p.m. The place is located at 1404 Fourth St., off the Gilman exit in Berkeley. Check it out and bring a designated driver.
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RUMORS that the old Cafe Sanchez on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Sanchez is the new headquarters for Fusco Plumbing or other rumors that another coffeehouse is opening in the spot are not true. The truth is the storefront will become an artist's studio.
The building was bought by Shelley Masters, who has been creating painted surfaces, faux finishes, and murals in the Bay Area for the past 15 years. Her works can be seen at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Hermes, Macy's, and the Ralph Lauren store in Palo Alto, as well as in the Showplace and Galleria Design Center lobbies. She also did Melvin Belli's kitchen.
Shelley, a resident of Noe Valley for the past seven years, says she is thrilled with her new digs. She also reports optimistically, "I will be ready to open the studio by the first of the year, and offer classes in wall glazing and decorative painting, followed by different seminars and workshops for the home and spirit!"
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A CALL FOR HELP is being sent out by Harry Stern of the residents group Friends of Noe Valley. He's looking for someone with a computer set-up who can volunteer about eight hours a month as editor of the Friends' monthly newsletter. This job requires attending those great and informative FNV meetings at the library, gathering the group's notices and reports, and getting everything ready for print.
Harry is taking a sabbatical in Paris after the first of the year (the lucky dog) and will no longer be able to serve as editor-in-chief of the four-pager.
Anyone interested should call Harry at 821-1086 or e-mail him at harrystern @aol.com. You will reap many spiritual rewards, he says, and may even get an extra cookie or two at the meetings.
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BEFORE I GO, I can't help but offer you a limerick inspired by all those Clinton revelations, rumors, and rubbish obsessing the world these days:
Mr. Clinton, if you're craving erotica,
Stay with your wife, not with young Monica.
She'll make your head spin,
And then turn you in.
And you'll be out of office by Hanukkah!
That's all, you all. Happy trails until we meet again.