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Rumors Behind the News: Bring Back Summer
LET'S HEAR IT for those balmy Indian summer weekends in Downtown Noe Valley. They sure put people in a good mood.
On Saturday morning Oct. 9, lines of smiling parents and children waited patiently in front of Walgreen's for a lift on the Merchants Association's hayride, clip-clopping down 24th Street from Castro to Church.
As the horse and driver (they were from Sebastopol) pulled the hay wagon down 24th, the Saturday traffic slowed to a sane and safe 5 to 7 miles an hour. Meanwhile, happy crowds browsed the Merchants' sidewalk sales.
The temperature was in the 80s -- almost sweltering -- but hey, it was a great ride.
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THEN THERE WAS the tropical Saturday night of Oct. 16, when people again flocked to our main street. The temperature at 8:00 in the evening was at least 75. We -- Renée and I and our two kids, Shayna and Joshua -- planned to go have a "quick" hamburger on the famously cool patio at Barney's.
On our way up 24th Street, we passed by Pasta Pomodoro and noticed that the Sidewalk Astronomers were out. They'd set up their telescope on the corner and trained their lens on the moon. It was hard to tell which was longer: the line for the moon or the line for Pasta Pomodoro.
Well, of course, we had to stop to have a look. And another. And another. By the time we finished our lunacy and took off in search of burgers, Jupiter and Saturn were rising above 24th Street. Everyone agreed we'd have to return.
But up at Barney's -- forget sitting outdoors -- the patio was jammed and jammin'. So we ate inside. The burgers and salads were great and came at a very fair price, but the news is -- here's your Rumors item -- the cafe has removed the Heinz ketchup bottles from the tables. They now dole out the ketchup in little plastic cups. Were we using too much Heinz? Or just making a mess?
After din-din, we joined the parade of pedestrians strolling down 24th Street. Everyone was stopping at the store window of Cottage Industry, which was so cluttered it looked like a page from a Where's Waldo? book.
I was not surprised when we passed by La Salsa and noticed that the tortilla chain had folded and the place was now "For Rent." Did anybody ever eat there?
My attempts to contact the corporate headquarters in Santa Barbara were foiled by an automated answering system that failed to produce anyone who could tell me why their Noe Valley "unit" had shut down.
Anyway, by the time we got back to the corner of 24th and Noe, the Pasta Pomodoro line had gotten shorter, but the line at the telescope was longer than ever. And there were two dogs in it -- one a svelt Russian borzoi. Still, we waited.
My 7-year-old Shayna's response when she looked through the lens was: "Oh, my goodness!" There was a very big Jupiter with its four moons in view, the last one just rising above the Jovian horizon. (The four moons are Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io.)
The crowd then began clamoring for Saturn. After some minor adjustments, my 6-year-old Joshua was told to take a peek. He gasped: There was the planet with "all its rings," and the large moon Titan, lumbering along at its side.
By 10 o'clock the crowd on the corner had swelled to include more dogs and kids, and we were joined by four police officers from Mission Station. The men and women in blue had just finished their 10-7 (police code for out of service) at Tung Sing Restaurant and were returning to the squad car to 10-4.
By the time I turned my eyes away from Saturn, my kids had already been invited into the front seat of the Ford squad car to await further orders from headquarters. One knob led to another, and the next thing I knew all those blue and red lights were flashing.
The kids thought the whole thing was "totally cool." Knowing the value of good police-community relations, Officer Raymond Lee pulled out his Polaroid and snapped a mugshot of the kids in the squad car. (See photo this page.)
By the time we bailed out of the squad car and out of Downtown Noe Valley, it was almost 11 and we were exhausted from having too much fun.
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THAT BLUE STORE on the corner of Duncan and Sanchez may soon become history. That's because the owners of the property are proposing to demolish both it and the adjoining house (and the four garages next to the house) and build two three-bedroom residences.
It appears that the builder and the neighbors are working together -- wow, what a concept -- and plans are being revised by local architect Ross Levy, who has applied for permits.
Rumors regulars will recall that several years ago two fellows had remodeled the interior and tried to open the space as a full-service restaurant, That Blue Place. When notices were posted, the neighbors banded together in opposition and won.
Oh, that reminds me: All of you who live around that corner and park your cars up on the Duncan Street Hill should think twice about it.
For decades, the block of Duncan above Sanchez has been a parking haven. There is no street cleaning there, and thus no real necessity to move your car (yeah, right). A lot of Noe Valleons park on the hill when they're going out of town for over a week, thereby avoiding making arrangements for someone to move their car or enduring a streetsweeping ticket.
Well, the rumor is that one or more of the residents on the hill has been complaining to the authorities. Parking and Traffic has started posting 72-hour abandoned-car notices on all the offending vehicles and towing the mechanical critters away. Bye-bye.
My last rumor on the Sanchez Street corridor is, dare I say it, there are grumblings that the pigeons have found new sources of food and continue to plague the non-pigeon lovers as well as the out-and-out pigeon haters who live there.
Rumors readers might remember the 17-year battle that residents had with the "Pigeon Lady" of Sanchez and 26th streets. She used to scatter seed for her beloved birds on almost a daily basis. Her flock would wait perched on the telephone wires and then swoop down after her as she walked down the street. (She hid the birdseed in her trenchcoat pockets.) The Pigeon Lady developed such an enormous following that the Health Department habitually cited her and ultimately had to go to court to get an injunction against her birdfeeding activities.
Then a few years ago, the city and her neighbors "helped" her sell her house for big bucks, so she could afford a plane ticket back to her native Estonia. Let's hope she's living in the lap of luxury, and has a garden twittering with birds.
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UPDATING THE UPDATES: The closure of Wong's Cleaners out on Church and Duncan has been followed by the opening of a new cleaners. It is now called Crown Cleaners, and Susan Yu reopened the doors with laundry and folding, dry-cleaning services, and several sewing machines for doing alterations.
Up Church Street next door to the Sun Valley Dairy, you will notice that Cash and Carry, which sold beauty supplies at that location for 22 years, has lost its lease and has moved to 2585A San Bruno Ave. (cross street is Silver).
My sources say there's a lot of interest in the space. People are talking flower shop, gift and jewelry shop, a secondhand clothing store, and an exercise studio.
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THE TALK of Uptown Noe Valley is the revival of Star Bakery, which has stood at 29th and Church since 1889. The bakers say the regulars have returned and the big round table in the corner is filled with oldtimers chatting up a storm.
Star's star, Bill Phillips, has hired a pastry chef who is making the popular almond croissants and the all-new fresh-fruit danish pastries.
Bill has also commissioned local artist Doug Martin to paint a mural on the 29th Street side of the building. Many of Doug's flowers, vines, cactus butterflies, and birds are already up on the wall.
"I don't have a name for it yet," says Doug, "but I am enjoying the project and all the neighborhood people I am meeting. I have talked to about 500 people in the last couple of months while I've been working on the mural."
Doug adds, "About 10 neighborhood kids have come by and made some artistic contributions after I tell them that this is 'no-fault' art and not to worry."
When I talked to Doug, he had just finished painting a thousand-petal lotus flower "for meditative purposes."
Before I leave 29th and Church, I got to tell you that the new and also popular Cafe J is no longer serving dinner. New hours are 6:30 to 4 weekdays, 7:30 to 4 on Saturdays, and 7:30 to 3 on Sundays.
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HERB'S FINE FOODS, Hungry Joe's, Java 'n' More, and Peasant Pies are the four Noe Valley eating establishments that made Dan Leone's new book, Eat This, San Francisco, which he describes as "a culinary expedition through the plastic-tableclothed jungle of cheap eateries in the Bay Area."
The Bay Guardian's "Cheap Eats" columnist raves about Peasant Pies as "a one-idea place, and lucky for them it's a great idea...the dough was perfect, and the fillings, according to the menu are 100 percent natural and according to me, 100 percent delicious."
Of Herb's he says: "As far as I know, [this] is the only really realistic eating place for the empty-pocketed and malfashionedably attired in this otherwise upwardly hip neighborhood. Not to Noe Valley bash; it's a great place for children and dogs and Sarnos and coffee. It's got Noe Valley Ministry, Peasant Pies, and a couple of fine record stores, but let's face it: It's no haven for cheap eats." (The review must have been written before Aquarius Records left.)
Leone's favorite dish at Herb's was the chicken-fried steak.
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THAT'S ALL, you all. Make sure you vote on Nov. 2. I am voting Yes on A and No on Mayor. If you're writing in anyone's name, make sure you take a pen with you to vote, write the office (e.g., "mayor"), and then write the person's name. But don't worry about the spelling.
If you don't know whether there is, for example, one o or two in my name, just spell it phonetically: M-a-z-o-o-o-o-o-o-k. We will have the local poll results next month and most probably runoff news. Willie and meeee. Ciao for now.