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This 'n' That
By Laura McHale Holland
With all the horrible news flowing from Iraq these days, it's a balm to hear some good news connected to that part of the world. It came from Carol Robinson, proprietor of the Tax Managers at 24th and Vicksburg streets. Her son, Darin, who grew up in the neighborhood and attended local schools, was stationed in Iraq and is now back in the U.S. safe and sound.
Darin was originally scheduled for release from the Army on March 29, 2003, after having served a total of four years at home and abroad in Kosovo, Germany, and Kuwait.
"They sent me back to the States in February 2003, so that I could out-process to get out of the service," recalls Darin. "My dad [Paul Robinson] was actually driving his car to visit me at Fort Benning in Georgia when they told me I had to fly back to Kuwait. I caught him in Arizona, so he flew out and saw me for a day or two, and then I had to leave."
Darin was part of the Third Brigade of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) that rolled across the border from Kuwait to Iraq on March 20, 2003.
"We didn't hear from him for about two months, most of March and April," recalls Carol. "It was during tax season, so I was working from 10 a.m. to midnight, which was fortunate. It kept me busy. Finally, we got a letter that was two months old, and then we got a phone call in May after they set up phone lines in Baghdad. Darin was there at the time when people were welcoming them, and when you knew who the enemy was," she says.
Darin says he would have liked to call home sooner, but he was so busy in Iraq that he didn't have a moment to himself. He returned to the States in July 2003 and was discharged from the service last October. His mom says, "We're relieved to have our son back, and our hearts go out to those families who have not been so lucky."
Now Darin, 25, is living with relatives in the Seattle area and attending Bellevue Community College.
"I'd like to thank all the people back home for their support. I know a lot of people asked my mom about me when I was gone, and it may sound corny, but it means a lot," Darin says.
Here's some good news from the field of health care. In January, California became the 13th state in the country to license naturopathic doctors. It was one of the last pieces of legislation that former Governor Gray Davis signed before leaving office last year, and Clipper Street resident Victoria Hamman is proud to have the initials N.D. after her name.
Hamman graduated from Bastyr University in Seattle in 1999. It is one of four accredited naturopathic medical schools in the country, and requires a four-year residency similar in hours and scope to conventional medical school. NDs are trained to diagnose patients using the tools of both conventional and alternative medicine, Hamman says.
Hamman can do physical exams, including pelvic exams and pap smears, but you won't see her scribble prescriptions for antibiotics. Her treatments include diets and nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, homeopathy, natural "bio-identical" hormones, and a variety of physical therapies and hydrotherapies.
NDs do not have hospital privileges in California, but they can order diagnostic tests including ultrasounds and CAT scans, and they can perform minor surgery to remove noncancerous skin lesions and cysts. NDs can also use intravenous procedures for administering high doses of vitamins.
How does a visit to Hamman differ from one with an MD? First, her office is in a cottage behind her home, not in a medical center. Her desk and bookshelves are stocked to overflowing with reference books and papers. She dresses in casual clothes, and water flows from a fountain nestled in a small courtyard outside her office door. An examination table is in the room, but patients sit on a soft leather couch for their initial interview, which typically lasts 11/2 hours.
"I get a detailed history, which in my case is slanted a bit towards a homeopathic history. Then I do a physical exam. Afterwards, I put together a treatment program that is comprehensive and holistic and includes things about diet and lifestyle. I really look at mental and emotional components as well. That's a full checkup. If it's an acute situation, I spend about half an hour with the patient and focus on the issue that's acute at that time," she says.
Hamman, who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry and planned to attend conventional medical school until she discovered naturopathic medicine, feels she has found her niche. "I have so many options in terms of treatments to try. I never feel restricted. We're trained in so many different directions and modalities, and I really enjoy listening to people tell their stories and sleuthing to find out how it all fits together," she says.
Here's more good news coming from an unexpected place. In April, 24th Street resident Michael Fasman spent three weeks in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan directing a documentary for Relief International (RI), an international relief and development agency based in Los Angeles. His cinematographer on the project, Tom Chandler, also lives in Noe Valley.
Fasman, who by day produces videos for Hewlett Packard, got involved with RI because he had a chance meeting with a project manager for the organization last year at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. "We hit it off. It was pure happenstance, like it was meant to be," recalls Fasman.
He waited until April to make the trip to Central Asia largely because of weather. "The summers are dreadfully hot there, winters can be very cold, and in the fall it rains, so spring really is the time to go," he notes.
In Azerbaijan, Fasman and Chandler documented the plight of the more than one million refugees who were displaced from their homelands after war with Armenia. In Afghanistan, they filmed women's health and vocational centers, school programs, and poppy harvesting.
"I was very impressed by how strong these people are, and how weak we are," Fasman says. "I met a man in his 60s who once had a big farm with lots of animals but was now living in a chicken coop with his children and grandchildren. But they just plug along. They're very positive and are rebuilding their lives with the help of the international community."
He also met girls with such a strong thirst for knowledge after the Taliban reign that they studied in a school with no roof, few walls, and a bomb crater in the middle. And everywhere he went he was impressed with people's lack of animosity toward Americans. "They loved being photographed and loved looking at pictures, and they were honored that we would spend time with them and help them out," he recalls. "Traveling to these countries makes me appreciate our country so much, and the freedom we have, especially in San Francisco. We're living in the lap of luxury."
Fasman will complete work on the film project in his home studio this summer. "I'll do the first piece in July when the minister for women's affairs in Afghanistan is coming to the U.S. to speak at a conference in Aspen. She'll be using my footage to illustrate her speech. Then I'll do several versions for RI, which they'll use for fundraising. At the end of all that, I'll do my own documentary, and that'll be the one I'll try to get distributed," he says.
You can visit Fasman's company online at www.groundworkfilms.com or RI's web site at www.ri.org.
Travel is also in the stars for Mary Tan, who has been a lifelong religious educator and a pastoral associate at St. Paul's Church since 1991. She's retiring June 30, and one of the things she wants to do first is visit her family in the Philippines.
"I haven't had a real vacation for a long, long time," she says. "Something that inspired me to try to hang up my hat was my sister and her husband. They retired very young, and they volunteer their time. They are now volunteering with AmeriCorps in Alaska. Before that, they were helping out in an orphanage in Thailand. First, I'm going to take six months off, and then if I still have the energy, I'm going to volunteer, too."
Mario Farana, St. Paul's pastor, says that it was Tan's decision to leave and she will definitely be missed. "If she changed her mind, she'd be more than welcome to stay on," he says. "She's done really good work here and been involved in everything from teaching and liturgical duties to social and organizational aspects. We all like her so very much."
Tan, who lives across the Bay in Richmond, says she will miss the St. Paul's community and the many people in the neighborhood who have touched her life. A big highlight, she says, was the way "everybody came together" in 1993, when the Archdiocese threatened to close the parish. "That was an experience for me of what a church really is. It is us, the people. Not only did we come to petition, we came to pray. It was one very intense week, and afterward, when the bishop rescinded the closing, that was close to thanksgiving. I am so proud of how the community weathered the difficulties and rebuilt the parish. It was a gigantic effort," she recalls.
The parish will host a farewell party for Tan on Saturday, June 12. It will begin with a 4:30 mass in the church (located at Church and Valley streets) and finish with a spaghetti dinner in the parish center.
The St. Paul's Elementary School Choir is also in the news because the kids pleased the crowd at the Glen Park Festival on April 25 with a medley of songs from the "malt shop era" that included "Streets of Gold" and "Sing a Song."
Directed by Laura Flaviani, the choir is comprised of students in third through fifth grades. Fifth-grader Sara Moon says that Flaviani is "nice and entertaining" and that "singing is a great way to express yourself." She's also excited that they might get to sing at Disneyland next year.
In addition to the festival, which is a fundraiser for the library and children's programs in Glen Park, the choir recently performed at Yerba Buena Gardens. The group also performs on Sundays at the St. Paul's 9:15 a.m. family mass.
A different festival and a chance encounter last September led to some fun for children in St. Philip's Parish.
"A woman came in to Small Frys who wanted to post a sign calling for models for a Target store campaign," says Azia Yenne Bolos, manager of Small Frys. "She was looking for girls and boys who wore sizes 7 and 8. I suggested that she come to the St. Philip's Festival because there would be all kinds of kids there from different nationalities and backgrounds."
The upshot was that the photographer's rep attended the festival and recruited six students who attend St. Philip's School: Kate Mehl, Chris Cullen (the only boy in the group), Rebecca Ware, Sahara Clay, Nicole Nangoi, and Bolos' own daughter, Breiann Yenne Bolos.
The kids' pictures are now on the walls in Target stores throughout the West Coast, including Serramonte Shopping Center in Daly City.
"They are life-size, individual pictures, cut out and mounted on the walls in the girls' and boys' sections of the stores," says Bolos. "It's part of Target's spring/ summer campaign, so the pictures will be up until they start their back-to-school campaign."
While we're on the topic of neighborhood children, Lynn Hazen, a preschool director who lives and works on San Jose Avenue (sometimes called Baja Noe Valley) and has served neighborhood tykes for two decades, is also a children's book author. Her first book, Mermaid Mary Margaret, published by Bloomsbury U.S.A., is out this month. It is aimed at children 7 to 12 years old.
"It's about a spunky 10-year-old girl who is accompanying her recently widowed grandmother on a cruise to a Greek island. She's expecting a sort of Disney-type cruise, but it turns out it's a cruise for seniors only. She's the only kid aboard," Hazen says. "Mary Margaret is obsessed with everything relating to mermaids, so she's in search of mermaids on this journey, and she's a very funny character. But the story's also very tender. My mom, who's a senior citizen, says that this book is not only great for kids, but it's also great for seniors, because there are so many quirky senior characters aboard the boat with Mary Margaret. It might be a fun book for grandparents and grandchildren to read."
Hazen will introduce Mary Margaret at a book launch party at Cover to Cover, 1307 Castro Street, on Saturday, June 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Her web site, www.MermaidMary.com, is chock-full of fun facts and activities for children.
Mermaid Mary Margaret isn't Hazen's only literary success. Her picture book, Buzz Bumble, will be published next summer. And her young adult book Shifty won a Houghton Mifflin award at Vermont College. She's hoping to place that with a publisher soon.
Another neighborhood author, Zack Rogow, will also be holding court at Cover to Cover on Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. His translation of French author Colette's novel Green Wheat was published by Sarabande Books in May.
Rogow has always found Colette's work fascinating and thinks her life resembled a novel because she had so many obstacles to overcome.
"Her first husband exploited her literary talents. He published her first four books under his own name, and she never recovered the copyrights or the royalties from those books," Rogow says. "He insisted that she write a chapter a day, and when she was young, he kept her locked in a room until she wrote the chapter. Green Wheat was the first book that she signed with her own name, Colette."
Rogow, who lives on 24th Street, has written five books of poetry and has translated three other books and a play. He picked Green Wheat because he thinks it is very contemporary, and he wanted to make it accessible to a wider audience. "The previous translator was a British gentleman named Roger Senhouse. This book has a lot of dialogue between adolescents, and although Senhouse was a wonderful translator, he translated the dialogue to British prep school slang of the 1920s, which is now almost incomprehensible. I thought it was time for a new translation that would make this book more readable for people who enjoy a good novel," Rogow says.
"There are also wonderful descriptions of nature in this book. It's a great book for summer reading because it takes place all in one summer by the seashore in Brittany."
When he isn't writing or translating, Rogow coordinates the Lunch Poems reading series at U.C. Berkeley and teaches in the MFA writing program at California College of the Arts.
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