Noe Valley Voice March 2004

Short Takes

24th Street Open Late

Is Second Thursdays on your radar yet? Kicked off in December, Second Thursdays is a new neighborhood tradition where shops and restaurants in Noe Valley stay open for business until 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. This month, that would be March 11.

"It's an alternative for working people to be able to shop in the evening and enjoy the charms of Noe Valley," says Julie Andersen, owner of Chatterbox Gift Gallery on Church Street and the instigator behind Second Thursdays.

Chatterbox and the gift store Just for Fun, on 24th near Noe Street, each have a growing list of Second Thursdays participants. But in mid-February, the stores on 24th Street included A Girl and Her Dog, Ambiance, Cradle of the Sun, Global Exchange, Guys & Dolls, Just for Fun, Martha & Bros. Coffee, Nomad Rugs, Panetti's Gifts, Phoenix Books, See Jane Run, Toko Arts, The French Tulip, The Pickled Hutch, Small Frys, Yoya, and Xela Imports.

Beyond the Sea and Cover to Cover bookstore, on Castro Street, will also be open late. And the Church Street corridor has at least five participants: Chatterbox, Danu, Forbeadin', Nifty, and Noe Valley Pet Company. (Some of these shops may be open until 8 p.m. on other days, too.)

Call Andersen at 647-0900 if you'd like to join the club, and let her know if you have talents that could enhance the creativity and community participation in this event.

Going Beyond Guinness

Two Noe Valleyans, musician Colm O'Riain and poet Pireeni Sundaralingam, will help kick off Crossroads: An Irish-American Festival 2004, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 6, at San Francisco's Main Library. Their program, entitled "Irish History Through Poetry, Music, and Song," will also feature a musical journal narrated by Jean Halvorsen and the Irish music ensemble the Gasmen. Following the music will be a panel of Irish-American scholars and writers, discussing their hybrid-Irish histories.

Spanning a full week, from March 6 through 13, the festival was founded by New College of California's Irish Studies Program and the San Francisco Irish Arts Foundation, in conjunction with the San Francisco Public Library. The event aims to uncover the strands of the Irish-American story and to showcase San Francisco as a cultural crossroads.

Further highlights will include a literary and musical variety show on Sunday, March 7, at Delancey Street Theater, 600 Embarcadero. A panel discussion, "The Irish Language in America," will convene on Monday, March 8, at New College's Cultural Center, 777 Valencia Street at 18th Street. A series of Irish film screenings will be held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, March 10 and 11, at Delancey Street Theater. On March 12, the central role of Irish Americans in American labor history will be the topic for a panel, also at New College of California.

The festival's final day, March 13, will begin with a children's program of dance and music at the Main Library at 11 a.m.

Events at the Main Library and New College are free. For showtimes and further details, visit irishstudies or phone 437-3427.

The Odds of March

The Odd Mondays series, a project of the Noe Valley Ministry, is beginning its third year of showing off a variety of creative artists, professionals, teachers, and activists in and around the neighborhood.

On Monday, March 15, Dan Bessie, author and filmmaker, will read from his family memoir, Rare Birds, and show his film Hard Traveling, which is based on his father Alva Bessie's novel Bread and Stone. Alva Bessie was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s when he refused to answer questions in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, headed by Senator Joe McCarthy.

On Monday, March 29, Dorothy Patterson, a human rights activist and retired public health educator, will discuss the ramifications of the U.S. Patriot Act.

Lined up for April 5 is Mary Quinn, a nurse, social worker, and author of a book titled Elder Abuse. On May 3, writer and biographer Emily Leider will read from her books on Mae West and Valentino.

Following Leider on May 17 will be San Francisco Chronicle business columnist David Lazarus, who has written extensively on Nutraceutical's closure of Real Food Company on 24th Street.

All events are free and begin at 7 p.m. Each evening is preceded by no-host pizza at Noe Valley Pizza at 24th and Sanchez streets at 5:30 p.m.

The Noe Valley Ministry is at 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street. Call 282-2317 if you need further information.

Good Reason to Clean Closets

The local chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive-minded straight men, is holding its second annual Spring Cleaning Clothing Drive throughout March. All donations will be given to the Rita da Cascia program, a Catholic Charities project that serves families impacted by AIDS or HIV.

"We [the fraternity] discovered the program when we adopted a family during Christmas of 2002. They have four young children, two of whom were orphaned when they lost their mother to AIDS. Their aunt, who was already a low-income mother of two, adopted them," recalls Paul Pratt, the coordinator of the drive.

The drive began in the spring of 2003 when Pratt cleaned out his own closet and filled a garbage bag with clothing he didn't wear anymore. He inspired the rest of his fraternity to do the same. Then their friends got involved to the point where they collected more than 30 bags of clothing, shoes, and children's supplies.

This year, the drive went citywide. As of press time, the closest drop-off place to Noe Valley is Sit and Spin Laundromat, 4023 18th Street at Noe Street. Call Pratt at 724-1092 if you want to offer your site as a drop-off point or you have questions.

Donald Rumsfeld as Lyricist

Composer and pianist Bryant Kong and soprano Elender Wall are celebrating the release of their debut CD, The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld: Fresh American Art Songs, with a concert at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street, on Saturday, March 13.

At the show's core are seven poems crafted by humorist Hart Seely and set to music by Kong. The songs' words have been lifted verbatim from the Pentagon briefings and other public appearances made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is famous for his temper tantrums and convoluted logic.

"Elender is the Rumsfeld character, and the songs catch him in different moods. Sometimes he's holding forth pounding on his podium. Sometimes he's introspective, caught by surprise, and even sounds vulnerable. To me, these extremes are the logical result of the situation in which Rumsfeld finds himself, because he's trying to justify a war that is hard to justify," notes Kong.

Also included in the concert are songs by contemporary composers William Bolcom, Jerry Mueller, and John Duke. All of the work is what Kong describes as "fresh and accessible classical music."

Showtime is 8 p.m. General admission is $15; students and seniors pay only $10. Call 665-2996 to find out more.

Comfortable Nudes

Renowned Noe Valley photographer Laurie Toby Edison is in the middle of a national tour for her latest book, Familiar Men, and Julie Andersen of Chatterbox Gift Gallery caught her between flights and booked a show of Edison's photographs for this month.

The show opens at Chatterbox at 1185 Church Street on March 8. It will run through April 5, with a reception for Edison on March 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. On display will be 24 archival digital prints from both Familiar Men and Edison's first book, Women En Large. Both books were collaborations with Debbie Notkin, who handled editorial content.

"I do respectful nude portraits that are both fine art and social change," explains Edison. "I photograph real people who are comfortable in their homes, everything from sewing machine operators to college professors, not models against white sheets in an artist's studio."

Women En Large is in its ninth year in print and is an international small-press bestseller. Familiar Men is a Lambda Book Award finalist for 2003.

"Women En Large puts fat women on the continuum of beauty in a society with multibillion-dollar diet and medical industries, and Familiar Men shows what men from ages 19 to 92 really look like. They reflect a broader masculinity than the perfect bodies we see in the media," says Edison.

Both books will be on sale throughout the show for $25 apiece, and the 13-inch-by-19-inch archival prints will sell for $200 each. Call Chatterbox at 647-0900 for more information.

Stranger Than Fiction

Strange de Jim will bring whimsy and philosophy to Cover to Cover Booksellers for a book-signing and slide show on Friday, March 26, at 7 p.m.

A San Francisco original, Jim contributed over 300 items to Herb Caen's columns from 1972 to 1997, and was honored to speak at Caen's funeral. "I think my favorite contribution to his column was 'Monogamous is what one partner in every relationship believes it to be,'" Jim says with a laugh.

He's making a splash now because of his third book, San Francisco's Castro. Published last November by Arcadia Publishing and already in its second printing, the book contains more than 200 photos and descriptions of the Castro/Eureka Valley from the 1870s to the present.

In describing his prior books, Jim says Visioning is about "how to believe your dreams into reality," and The Strange Experience has photographs of 100 friends he "attracted accidentally."

Take all of your Strange questions to Cover to Cover, 1307 Castro Street near 24th Street; 282-8080.

Alternative to American Idol

Senior Action Network, San Francisco's largest advocacy group for seniors, is producing its 11th annual Gray Cabaret on Thursday, March 11. Hosted by Supervisor Fiona Ma, the festivities will run from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and will be held just over the hill in the Castro Theater movie palace at Castro and 18th streets.

"We do it because the seniors love to perform, the audience loves it, and it's a great fundraiser for us. We had auditions to pick performers and all that, and we wound up with all kinds of acts," says Mel Beetle, a volunteer who is co-chairing the event. The acts include seven vocal soloists singing everything from Elvis covers to Broadway show tunes, an accordionist, a mime, a choral group, a belly dancer, a magician, a percussionist, and Chinese and Spanish dance troupes.

General admission is $10. For advance tickets, call the Network at 546-1333. If you want a group discount, ask for Juanita.

Playback Theatre Rewinds Life

Would you like to see stories from your life come alive on stage? That's what Pacific Playback Theatre has in mind for audience members at its "Tricksters & Fools" improvisational shows, running Thursday, April 1, through Saturday, April 3, at Traveling Jewish Theatre.

Thursday night's performance will focus on stories from the workplace.

"It should be a little like Dilbert meets The Office," says Pacific Playback Artistic Director Nan Crawford, referring to the popular comic strip and the BBC television "mock-umentary."

When Crawford, a longtime Noe Valleyan, and her ensemble of 13 actors, dancers, and musicians aren't booked for a public performance, they are busy leading seminars and workshops for business and non-profit organizations.

"We go into the workplace and listen to people's stories and enact their experiences, with humor and compassion," says Crawford, whose clients range from Hewlett Packard, Target, and IBM, to the Stop AIDS Project and Mill Valley Middle School. "Most people spend most of their time at work. Playback helps them to feel trust and respect. It helps them to be less frustrated and more productive," she says.

In addition to the private and public shows, the troupe holds open-rehearsal workshops on the third Monday of each month, at Mariposa Studio, 2808 Mariposa Street at Florida Street. The next two workshops are March 15 and April 19, at 7 p.m.

The "Trickster" shows are at 8 p.m., at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida Street between Mariposa and 17th streets.

Tickets for both the performances and the workshops are sliding-scale, $15 to $20. Reservations are recommended. For more information, call 282-8558 or visit

By the way, Crawford and her partner have lived in Noe Valley for the past nine years. Four years ago, their building was seriously damaged in a two-alarm fire. The story of the fire, and of the friends and neighbors who helped them to "dig through the rubble" and reconstruct their lives, is a "wonderfully healing" Noe Valley tale that Crawford has had "played back" for her a number of times, she says.

Short Takes were compiled and written by Laura McHale Holland.