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Rumors Behind the News
We're Off to See the Wizard!WORD GOT OUT QUICKLY last month that author J.K. Rowling would be appearing Oct. 30 at Cover to Cover Booksellers (3812 24th St.) to read from and sign copies of her latest children's novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The book, Rowling's third, was released on Sept. 8, and Cover to Cover was offering up to three tickets each (to the reading) to the first 50 people who bought it. The store opened at 10 that morning, but the line started to form at 6:30 a.m. By opening time, it stretched around the corner and up Church Street.
According to Cover to Cover manager Tracy Wynne, all the tickets were gone within a half hour. Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, released in the U.S. in September '98 (June of '97 in Europe), "has been the best-selling book we've had in the 26 years this store has been in business," says Tracy. Rowling's second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, has also been a big seller for Cover to Cover, a 24th Street mainstay for 17 years.
"I see kids that are 6-and-a-half and 7 years old, all the way up to adults, coming in for the Harry Potter books," Tracy adds. "It is really quite phenomenal."
So phenomenal, in fact, that Rowling was recently profiled on TV's 60 Minutes, and her hero, Harry Potter, made the cover of Time magazine (Sept. 20) with the headline "Wild About Harry: The exploits of a young wizard have enchanted kids and adults alike and brought a new kind of magic to children's literature."
Cover to Cover will mark Rowling's only San Francisco appearance, so the store has had to set ground rules for the event. According to Tracy, the Scottish author will start her reading promptly at 10 a.m. and finish at 11. You must have a ticket for entry. "We even had to hire some security people," Tracy says.
Rowling will stay until 1 p.m. while signing up to three books per customer (personalized signings limited to one), although she will not be signing any European editions.
So how did Rowling select Cover to Cover for her appearance? "Well, when her first book came out, [we] were very supportive. I guess the publisher is rewarding us for our efforts," Tracy says. She went on to note that Cover to Cover rejected the idea of having the reading at a larger venue. "We wanted to keep it in the neighborhood, which has been so loyal to us."
Cover to Cover will also host some other notable children's book authors this month. Newbery Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis will appear on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m., to sign his new book, Bud, Not Buddy.
The following evening, Oct. 6, the paper engineering genius Robert Sabuda (The Moveable Mother Goose) will be on hand at 7 p.m. to demonstrate his marvelous artistic talents. And then on Friday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m., PBS TV star Bill Nye, "The Science Guy," will greet your kids and sign his new book, The Big Blue Ocean.
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CONTINUING IN THE KID VEIN, it was fun, fun, fun for all the kids celebrating the grand reopening of Douglass Park playground on Sept. 20. Not surprisingly, the place has been jammed, jammed, jammed ever since.
There were also miles of smiles on the faces of local parents, especially those in the Noe Valley Neighborhood Parks Improvement Association. The NVNPIA had begged and cajoled various city agencies -- particularly the Rec and Park Department and its representative Marvin Yee --to get the park upgraded. It also had solicited money from the community to help install the elaborate new play structure, donated by equipment manufacturer GameTime.
Miraculously, the park reopened after being closed for only three weeks -- the amount of time it took the contractors and inspectors to remove the old equipment and sandbox, lay the new matting, install the new swings and climbing structure, and bring in 200 tons of new sand.
Douglass Park Director Steve Bell says, "I was amazed at how many different people kept everything on the fast track and running without a hitch."
The new drinking fountain should be spouting that Hetch Hetchy H2O by the time you read this, and the new community billboard should also be in place on the wall.
Steve says they're still expecting another 50 tons of sand and preparing for phase two of the improvements. "I'm also hoping for two more picnic tables," he says.
According to Marvin Yee, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the end of October, attended by a star-studded cast of characters. First will be the local luminaries from the NVNPIA, who have been working for two years to make this project happen. We'll all be able to applaud Krista Keegan, Debra Niemann, and Dorthe Deubler (who unfortunately for us moved to the East Coast this summer) for their tireless efforts. And then there will be representatives from Friends of Noe Valley (they donated $1,000) and the East & West of Castro Improvement Club (they gave too), not to mention the local realtors, who chipped in lots of dough.
Yee is hopeful that Rec and Park's general manager, Joel Robinson, Superintendent Audree Jones-Taylor, and other department staff will attend. Also invited are members of the Park Commission and, of course, Mayor Brown. (I am sure the mayor will not turn down such a pre-election opportunity.)
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PHASE TWO of the park renovation is what Debra Niemann wants to talk about, not the ribbons. "We still have to raise about $15,000 more," she says, "so we can build the other two play panels and install a new merry-go-round to replace the one lost in the renovations."
Evidently everyone has agreed on a new "whirl," which is guaranteed to make every supervising parent even dizzier than the old merry-go-round did.
Debra is also hopeful that Rec and Park will complete the remodeling of the bathrooms (for A.D.A. compliance) before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Me too. After all, if they could rebuild a playground in three weeks, it should take them no more than three days to fix the restrooms, right?
And then can somebody please figure out how to keep the bathrooms open longer hours on weekends to accommodate the parksters who stay late? Now when nature calls, they either have to go home or use the bushes, since the facilities are open only when a director is present (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 4 on Sundays).
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THE HALLOWEEN DAY PARADE of children on 24th Street should be packed this year, say Downtown Noe Valley insiders. The merchants have really been supportive in the past several years. Last year, probably a thousand kids went door to door trick-or-treating in some pretty outlandish costumes.
Then on Halloween night, it will be over the hill to the Castro or down the hill to Fair Oaks to see the adult parade.
To see which costumes are most in demand this year, we checked with the One Stop Party Shop (Church and 28th streets), where they take Halloween very seriously. (It's a great place to visit even if you're not shopping.)
According to One Stop's number one expert, Mardie Van Dervort (she opened the shop 11 years ago), the most popular costumes are Darth Maul and Queen Amidala of Star Wars fame. "I've run out of them both twice now, and the season is just starting," cackles Mardie. She says that Darth Maul's mask, costume, and light saber will run you about $60 at One Stop (which, if you shop around, still turns out to be a good deal).
Mardie says the next runner-up is Austin Powers (Mike Meyers' spy-spoof flick). But if Dr. Evil's not your bag, One Stop has more than 40 different costumes to choose from -- in adult sizes too -- at prices starting at 14 bucks.
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ONWARD AND UPWARD to Upper Noe Neighbors, who had their "picnic in the park" at the Upper Noe Rec Center on Sept. 25. Indian summer weather finally arrived in Noe Valley just in time for the affair, which attracted over 100 fun seekers. There were lots of snacks and a dynamite deejay from the Mission Rec Center (David Rodriguez), who set up amps and speakers and then rocked the house.
It was also the first time I've seen Rec and Park's very own "Playmobile," which was an instant hit. The director of the truck, Matthew Dudley, set up 15 different games, including table-top games and a soccer field. He even offered his face-painting services.
According to Dudley, the playmobile can be booked for special occasions. Perhaps Rec and Park can ask him to bring the playmobile for the ribbon-cutting at Douglass Park. Or better yet, how about a Saturday in November at Noe Courts?
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LAST BUT NOT LEAST, you might want to attend the Upper Noe Neighbors meeting at Upper Noe Rec Center on Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. I hear that mayoral hopeful Clint Reilly has accepted an invitation to speak at the meeting, and Mayor Brown has also been strongly urged to attend.
You know the old political axiom about San Francisco elections: "As Noe Valley goes, so goes the city."
I suggest that this year, rather than holding a mayoral election, San Francisco should simply work out a trade with Oakland: Willie Brown for Jerry Brown, with Oakland getting a first draft pick next season.
I'm outta here, sports fans. Happy trails to you, until we meet again.