Noe Valley Voice June 2009

Short Takes

Quest-ions Answered

You can reward your pursuit of Noe Valley knowledge at a prize drawing for players of Quest, the neighborhood trivia hunt, on Wednesday, June 17, at the Upper Noe Recreation Center.

At the party, you'll be urged to eat, drink, meet fellow Questers, and see photos of the spots you might have missed while searching for answers in the Noe Valley quiz. The game's organizers, a motley group of neighborhood merchants, will draw the names of winners and award prizes valued at $50 to $350, ranging from an acupuncture session to a watch from Wink to a recipe organizer and book from Omnivore Books on Food.

Co-organizer Gwen Sanderson, of Video Wave on Castro Street, is hoping for a big turnout at the drawing, which is open to all, whether or not you played the game. "Come and show us if you liked it," she says.

Sanderson says more neighborhood stores have joined the fun since the game started in May. Consequently, players who did not turn in their slips by the May 31 deadline can be eligible for a second-chance drawing of smaller prizes just by bringing their game sheets to the rec center party. The sheets are available at participating stores, including Cooks Boulevard, Cover to Cover, Fima Photography, Forbeadin', Just Awesome!, Ladybug Ladybug, Neon Monster, Omnivore Books, Peekabootique, Purple Iris Healing Center, Small Frys, So Tell Me More, Video Wave, and Wink.

The Quest fest runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (drawing at 6:15 p.m.) at the rec center, located on Day Street between Church and Sanchez streets. For the latest news, visit

--Heather World

FUF Goes Back to Its Roots

Friends of the Urban Forest has already held a June meeting for the participants in a July tree-planting in the neighborhood. But if you hurry, you can still join the leaf brigade and plant a tree on your sidewalk this summer.

FUF's bargain trees--at $195 each--will be planted on Saturday, July 11, over an area loosely bounded by 24th Street, Dolores, 30th, and Diamond Heights Boulevard. Applications to join the tree-raising are due Tuesday, June 11.

FUF takes care of the bureaucracy by obtaining permits from the city, identifying underground utilities, ordering trees and supplies, and providing tools. Residents, aided by FUF staff and volunteers, pick the species, then pitch in to plant the tree. Once the trees are staked and steadied, everyone washes hands and digs into a community potluck. (The cost also includes a follow-up visit to check on the tree's health after 12 to 18 months.)

The planting area, available for viewing online, encompasses parts of windy Diamond Heights, where species like the fruitless olive tree or the New Zealand Christmas tree thrive. Tree choices are based on sidewalk space, soil type, amount of sunlight, and the tree's growth rate.

FUF planting manager Doug Wildman says Noe Valley is particularly hospitable to Victorian box trees, magnolias, and a variety of ornamental fruit trees. Noe was one of the first sites his 28-year-old nonprofit staked its roots, Wildman says. "We've planted Noe Valley oodles of times. A lot of people have trees."

Participants are asked to send two forms to FUF: a letter of agreement and a tree-planting application from DPW, both of which are available on the FUF's website at If you want the forms faxed or mailed to you, call 415-561-6890, ext. 103.

--Heather World

Teens Talk About Gender

Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up, a new documentary film by Noe Valley's Oscar-winning director Debra Chasnoff, will screen this month as part of the 33rd annual San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.

The 66-minute documentary features California high school youths speaking candidly about stress caused by rigid gender roles and homophobic attitudes. The subjects range from girls confronting pressures surrounding body image to boys who've become sexually active just to prove they aren't gay.

"It's about the ways that young people are pressured to be a certain way and about the courage it takes to break out of the box and be yourself," says Chasnoff, 51, an Elizabeth Street resident who, with her partner, has two children, ages 15 and 20.

Straightlaced includes interviews with several Noe Valley teens who were students at International High School during the film's shooting. The film will show on Friday, June 26, 6 p.m., at the Roxie Film Center, 3117 16th Street.

Chasnoff picked up a 1991 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary for Deadly Deception, a film about General Electric's shady involvement in the nuclear weapons business.

The LGBT Festival, showing 219 feature-length and short films, will run June 18 through 28 at three San Francisco venues--the Roxie, the Castro (429 Castro Street), and the Victoria Theatre (2961 16th Street)--and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas, Elmwood (2966 College Avenue).

Prices range from $7 to $10 for individual tickets to $200 for all screenings at the Castro Theatre, other than opening night and closing night. The opening-night gala will be highlighted by An Englishman in New York, a sequel to the film The Naked Civil Servant, starring John Hurt. For more film and ticket information, visit

--Corrie M. Anders

Jigging in the Solstice

Celebrate the summer solstice by watching lively jigs and mesmerizing strathspeys danced by the San Francisco Scottish Country Dancers Thursday, June 18, at the Noe Valley Ministry.

Think hornpipe, the dance, not bagpipes. (Bagpipes accompany Scottish highland dancing, which is usually solo.) Scottish country dancing is more like traditional ballroom dancing, where partners follow choreographed formations, but with trickier and more energetic footwork, says Susie Langdon Kass, teacher and member of the San Francisco chapter of the worldwide Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

The country dancing tradition boasts hundreds of specific dances, and the San Francisco chapter will step, slide, and jump through 12 of these, including the Sailor, the Starry-Eyed Lassie, and Miss Gibson's Strathspey. Dance teacher and bandleader Patti Cobb will play piano, joined by two fiddlers, one flutist, and a percussionist. Festivities begin at 7:45 p.m. at the Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd Street.

The group meets every Thursday, throwing the doors open to the public for free viewing on the two solstices. If you like what you see, lace up your gillies (or any comfortable shoe) and join the group for a free introductory dance lesson on Sept. 10, 8 p.m., also at the Ministry. Visit or call 415-333-9372 for more information.

--Heather World

Literature Give and Take

The San Francisco Public Library hopes you will bring in your old books and pick up new bargains at the inaugural Mission Book Sale and Donation Drive the weekend of June 12 to 14.

You won't find a book costing more than $5, but you will find 75,000 choices in 50 categories, not to mention DVDs, CDs, books on tape, cassette tapes, vinyl, VHS, and other forms of media.

Hosted by the 48-year-old Friends of the SFPL, the Mission event is the latest addition to a string of similar sales across the city. The nonprofit will use the proceeds to fund literacy programs for children, teens, and adults.

Throughout the year, Friends of the SFPL staff and volunteers collect used and new books from estate sales, businesses, publishers, and individuals. The Mission sale, at John O'Connell High School, 2355 Folsom Street at 20th Street, runs June 12 from 1 to 7 p.m., June 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and June 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit or call 415-626-7500 for more information.

--Heather World

Budget Cuts Make New Bedfellows

Budget cuts have spurred a new partnership between the nonprofit agency tracking park complaints and the city. Now the grievances you air at a website called ParkScan will funnel directly to the city's customer service center.

Started five years ago, ParkScan is a piece of software run by the Neighborhood Parks Council. It allows park-goers to report park problems, such as broken swings, dry drinking fountains, dirty sand, burned-out lights, or a pesky pack of pocket gophers. The system then tracks the problems until they are solved. Last year, ParkScan logged about 1,600 "observations," with graffiti and litter being the most frequently reported.

Now those reports will be looped in with park complaints to 311, the city's customer service line, and proceed directly to the agencies capable of making repairs. Comments can be logged online at or at www.sfgov .org/311, or by phone to 311 in multiple languages. The 311 center employs 103 staffers, who handled nearly four million calls in 2008 (not all concerning parks). The system's director reported a 90 percent closure rate on park issues reported by the public.

"311 staff follow up on every call or complaint to make sure that different agencies respond, greatly expanding the capacity of a small nonprofit to get action from the city," says Isabel Wade, the Parks Council's executive director.

Recreation and Park Department General Manager Jared Blumenfeld says the up-to-date reports will allow his department to better respond to problems.

--Heather World

LGBT Seniors Get Together on 30th Street

A senior advocacy group called Openhouse is sponsoring a free monthly discussion group for gay, lesbian, and transgender seniors at the bustling 30th Street Senior Center.

The LGBT Issues Forum meets on the second Thursday of each month, and hopes to provide a more active social network for older members of the gay community. The meetings also introduce participants to the senior center, which offers meals, classes, gardening, and social events to around 5,000 seniors a year.

The issues forum is open to anyone 60 years or older who wishes to connect with older LGBTs. The next meeting happens Thursday, June 11, 10 to 11 a.m., at the 30th Street Senior Center, 225 30th Street at Dolores, third floor. At the top of the agenda will be Pride activities in June.

Michelle Alcedo, coordinator at Openhouse, says upcoming forums may include a speaker from the Human Rights Commission and a presentation on life in San Francisco as an LGBT senior.

Openhouse also hosts a discussion group and film series in Bernal Heights every third Thursday of the month. The June 18 meeting, held at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center at 515 Cortland Avenue from 1 to 2:30 p.m., will feature the film Coming Out Under Fire, a documentary about gay men and women who served during World War II. In addition, Openhouse, in conjunction with Senior Action Network, holds "LGBT Senior University," a free leadership training seminar for LGBTs aged 50 and older and for adults with disabilities.

For more information, call Alcedo at 415-296-8995, ext. 5, or visit

--Heather World

Digital Dreams Recovered

Najib Joe Hakim, a Noe Valley-based freelance photographer and photojournalist, in June will exhibit "20/20," a collection of works that represent a dramatic shift from his usual documentary-style pictures.

In the series of 19 blurred, often abstract images on display at the Market Street Gallery, Hakim hopes to portray dreams he's had over the last few years.

"They express some of the emotion and feelings of the dreams: being small, the darkness, the sense that something happened but you don't remember the details," says Hakim.

Hakim used a mixture of out-of-focus, pinholes, and other playful techniques--all in-camera and all with subjects in plain view--to suggest different moods and experiences. Seven of the fine art photographs include streets scenes and buildings in Noe Valley, where the Valley Street resident has lived since 1987.

Hakim, 54, has been published in Life, Parenting, and Metropolitan Home, as well as in other national and regional magazines and newspapers, and is a contributor to the Voice. His work has been exhibited at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Art Commission, Rayko Photo Center, and the Krevsky Fine Art Gallery.

The current show runs through June 30 at the Market Street Gallery, located at 1554 Market Street between Van Ness and Franklin streets. The gallery will host a 6 to 8 p.m. reception Friday, June 19, and also will be open to the public Tuesday through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays by appointment.

--Corrie M. Anders

A Book Feast

Omnivore Books, the cookbook store at Church and Cesar Chavez streets, features some tasty encounters with culinary stars this month, from a benefit with food revolutionary Alice Waters from the East Bay to instruction on the radical notion of home canning by San Francisco mom Karen Solomon.

Tickets are free for all events except Waters, but spots must be reserved, as the shop accommodates only 40 people. Already a talk by Michael Pollen is sold out, but like the other authors, he'll leave signed books for those who couldn't make it.

The month's treats start June 2 at 3 p.m., when Tom Standage signs copies of his book An Edible History of Humanity, a pithy account of how a series of changes--caused, enabled, or influenced by food--has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.

On June 6 from 3 to 4 p.m., Deborah Madison will talk about her book What We Eat When We Eat Alone. The author of many vegetarian cookbooks and creator of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, Madison discovered what people chew on when no one else is around, and her findings are surprising, according to Celia Sack, owner of the store.

Renee Behnke, president emeritus of the culinary mecca Sur La Table, will discuss creating her book Memorable Recipes, a collection of 140 recipes based on her world travels, on June 9 at 5:30 p.m.

On June 11 at 6 p.m., three venerable San Francisco chefs will form a panel to discuss the current state of restaurants and cooking. Nate Appleman of A16, Chris Cosentino of Church Street's Incanto, and Traci des Jardins of Jardiniere, Mijita, and Acme Chophouse will lead the forum. Patricia Unterman, author of the just-released San Francisco Food Lover's Pocket Guide and owner of the Hayes Street Grill, will talk about local cuisine from sophisticated dining in Marin to Mission taquerias June 14 from 3 to 4 p.m.

Tapas will be the main course on June 20 from 3 to 4 p.m., when Joyce Goldstein brings edibles and knowledge to the store. Goldstein's book, Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from Spain, includes 60 authentic but easy recipes as well as accounts of her travels and dining.

Alice Waters appears June 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. for a benefit talk. In 1996, the influential advocate of locally grown food joined a small group of teachers and volunteers to turn long-abandoned soil at an urban middle school in Berkeley into an Edible Schoolyard that feeds bellies and minds. Since then, the schoolyard has grown into a universal idea of Edible Education that integrates academics with growing, cooking, and sharing food. Tickets cost $50, and proceeds will benefit the Chez Panisse Foundation, which supports the Schoolyard.

On June 27 Karen Solomon talks about her book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It from 3 to 4 p.m. More than just recipes for the likes of canned carrots, the book covers beef, fish, potato chips, and more.

For more information, call the store at 415-282-4712 or visit

--Heather World