Noe Valley Voice March 2009

Short Takes

Seeking Not-So-Secret Gardens

Local residents with green thumbs and a penchant for garden parties can help beautify the neighborhood by sharing their gardens at the fifth fourth annual Noe Valley Garden Tour, set for the second Saturday in June.

Noe Valley residents who'd like to nominate either their own garden, or a friend's or a neighbor's, are encouraged to contact the group Friends of Noe Valley, whose garden committee will select seven gardens for the tour during the coming weeks.

Eligible gardens should offer direct garden access from the outdoors, not just through a home entrance, and must lie within the following boundaries: Guerrero Street on the east, 21st Street on the north, Market Street and/or Diamond Heights Boulevard on the west, and 30th Street on the south.

"Basically, anything goes. Everyone's interested in looking at all kinds of gardens, and all kinds of gardens have been on the tour. We've had a garden for dogs, one for flowers and vegetables, a garden for the blind, and lots with just flat-out gorgeous flowers," said Richard May, who's chairing the event for Friends.

Every year, proceeds from the tour support beautification projects in the neighborhood. This year's beneficiary will be the Noe Valley Library, and funds will be used for rejuvenation of the library's back garden. In past years, funds went to flower baskets and trees on 24th Street, and landscaping at James Lick Middle School.

Friends of Noe Valley is also seeking volunteers to help sell tickets for the event, collect tickets on the tour day, and staff entrance tables at each garden.

The Noe Valley Garden Tour will be held on Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets will be $10 for adults and free for children under 10. To nominate a garden for the tour, contact Richard May at 415-602-4445.

--Lorraine Sanders

From Japan to the J-Church Line

Noe Valley resident Toshio Hirano, a Japanese-born musician inspired by country legend Jimmie Rodgers to become a bluegrass singer, is the subject of a documentary premiering this month at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

The 20-minute film, Waiting for a Train, showcases Hirano on a journey that took him from Tokyo to San Francisco via Texas and Appalachia. Director Oscar Bucher captured some of the film's footage at Hirano's longtime family home next to the J-line in Noe Valley, and at the Amnesia nightclub on Valencia Street in the Mission District.

The festival describes Hirano, who plays banjo, guitar, and mandolin, as "a man following his bliss and being rewarded with a life well-lived, filled with music, song, and dance." Hirano currently works as a teaching assistant and moonlights, performing the Rodgers repertoire, at clubs like Amnesia and the Rite Spot. Bucher is a graduate student at San Francisco State University.

Hirano will perform live after Waiting for a Train screens at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, at noon on March 14. The film will be shown again at the Kabuki at 9:30 p.m. on March 17. Tickets cost $10.

A total of 108 films and videos will be shown at the festival, which runs March 12 to 22. In addition to the Kabuki, venues include the Castro Theatre, the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and the Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose.

For more information, go to the website or call 415-863-0814.

--Corrie M. Anders

Noe Go Bragh

Anyone can be Irish in Noe Valley on St. Patrick's Day, Tuesday, March 17. All you need is a little green and a pint in hand.

During the annual feast day, the Dubliner Bar at 3838 24th Street will be serving corned beef and cabbage, and celebrants near the door will probably catch sight of Irish dancers and bagpipers passing by.

A block away at Noe's Bar on the corner of Church and 24th streets, patrons can eat complimentary corned beef and cabbage, thanks to the bar and the adjacent Basso's Restaurant. Both pubs expect festivities to start around noon.

For those able to roll down the hill, O'Greenberg's at 1600 Dolores Street will have corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and jello shots starting at 11 a.m.

The Men of St. Paul's Parish will get an early start to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Saturday, March 14, when they host their annual Irish dinner. Music and dancing will follow a meal of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread, and dessert.

The festivities start at 6 p.m. in the Father Mario P. Farana Parish Hall of St. Paul's School at 1690 Church Street. Tickets are available in the Rectory at 221 Valley Street and are $15 in advance for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Parking is available in the lot behind the school through the gate on 29th Street. For more information, call 415-648-7538.

By the way, the city's 158th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade kicks off March 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the corner Market and Second streets. An expected 10,000 participants will head toward the Civic Center on colorful floats and in Irish dance troupes and marching bands.

This year's theme is "Go Green," a nod both to the color associated with Ireland and to the cause of energy conservation. An Irish Festival follows at Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall. For details, check out or call the parade hotline at 415-395-3417.

--Heather World

Share a Story on Book Week

Middle-school students are needed to "Share a Story" with youngsters at the Noe Valley Library on April 19, the start of Noe Valley Celebrates the Book Week. The kids will be asked to read stories aloud during a special two-hour event.

This rare opportunity for pre-teens to perform community service will give younger children a taste of the thrill of reading, said Mindy Kershner, a Noe Valley resident for more than 30 years. The readers will benefit, too, she said.

"I've had young kids, and there's very little for kids under 18 to give back to their community," said Kershner. "Plus, all our local kids go to different schools, and they don't get a chance to meet each other and know each other."

Kershner is a member of the Friends of Noe Valley, which co-sponsors the annual celebration with the neighborhood's independent bookstores and the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Branch of the public library. During the week, Phoenix Books & Records, Cover to Cover Booksellers, Omnivore Books on Food, and the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore will each host a reading.

April 19 falls on a Sunday, Kershner noted. If the weather is nice, the readings will be held in the library's garden, she said.

The middle-school students, who generally fall between the ages of 11 and 14, can choose a favorite book to read or get ideas from children's librarian Carol Small, Kershner said.

Depending on how many people attend the event, the middle-schoolers may go one-on-one or read for a small group of children. The readings will take place between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Interested readers may e-mail Kershner at mindy or call 415-377-3890 to sign up. Parents and toddlers need only show up, and do not have to preregister.

The Noe Valley Library is located at 451 Jersey Street.

--Heather World

Noe Valley Unplugged

A group of independent musicians has launched a new Songwriter Concert Series, presented on the last Saturday of the month at MoBu Dance Studio on Church Street.

The concerts, featuring nationally touring as well as local acts, landed in the neighborhood by way of the Pacifica-based music co-op Blah Blah Woof Woof, founded by folk musician Jay Howlett.

Howlett and his wife Barbara, who was a Noe Valley resident for eight years, are longtime friends of MoBu Dance Studio owner Takami Craddock.

"We picked Noe Valley because we think it's a great community to try to present contemporary acoustic music in. It's a wonderful area, and it seems to be just such a strong community. We've known Takami for years, and it seemed like a perfect fit," Jay Howlett told the Voice.

Held in a space that can comfortably seat 50 to 70 guests, the performances offer the kind of intimate setting that audiences and musicians crave.

"I could play in a bar, but it's not really a listening venue," Howlett said.

The first show, on Jan. 24, drew a crowd of about 50 people.

"Fifty people for a traveling musician is a very nice house," said Howlett. "There's this whole movement of singer-songwriters that are very good, that have chosen to go the independent route, that make their way across the country and actually make their living playing at little small venues because the audience is so supportive. It's almost a viral way of marketing. It's real homespun."

Singer-songwriter duo Bev Barnett and Greg Newlon headline this month's event and perform original work from their latest release, Any Doorway Will Do. Musician, producer, and singer-songwriter Steve Kritzer performs the show's opening act.

The Blah Blah Woof Woof Songwriter Concert takes place on Saturday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. MoBu Dance Studio is located at 1605 Church Street at 28th Street. Tickets are $15 and available via For more information about the concert series, visit

--Lorraine Sanders

The Reinvention of Rabbi Sam

Noe Valley playwright-actor Charlie Varon returns to the Marsh Theater in the Mission District with his first full-length play in nine years.

This time, the popular soloist acts out the story of Rabbi Sam, a man who wants to reinvent Judaism at the synagogue where he's just been hired. His congregation ranges from believers to skeptics, from old-fashioned to newfangled. Some members like the new rabbi. Some can't stand him. "And of course, some can't stand each other," Varon jokes in his publicity material.

Varon plays the rabbi, of course, and 11 other characters including eight contentious board members who must answer to the flock.

Varon has appeared many times at the Marsh, with hit shows like Rush Limbaugh in Night School and The People's Violin. (The Limbaugh show made the Marsh enough money to buy its present location in the late 1990s.)

Rabbi Sam plays through April 5 at the Marsh MainStage Theater on Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and on Sundays, March 1, 15, and 29, at 7 p.m. There is a Sunday matinee, 2 p.m., on March 8 and 22.

Some shows are followed by discussions. After the March 8 matinee, Rabbi Dorothy Richman of U.C. Berkeley Hillel leads a discussion featuring Rabbi Micah Hyman of Beth Sholom in San Francisco and Rabbi Chai Levy of Kol Shofar in Tiburon. Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco leads the discussion March 14, and Rabbi Dan Goldblatt of Beth Chaim in Danville appears after the March 21 performance.

Tickets cost $18 and up, based on sliding scale. Buy tickets by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or visit The theater is located at 1062 Valencia Street near 22nd Street.

--Heather World

Money Talk for Seniors

In this time of shrinking bank accounts and rising medical costs, two local groups are hosting gatherings to address the problems of midlife and older adults.

The Older Women's League (OWL) is sponsoring a March 28 talk titled, "The Economic Downturn: How Can Midlife and Older Women Plan for the Future?"

Guest speaker Catherine Pinkas, a financial adviser and educator specializing in portfolio management and retirement planning, will outline ways women can weather the current financial storms and work to meet their future goals.

Pinkas' talk will run from 11 a.m. to noon, following an OWL social and business meeting starting at 10 a.m. Guests are welcome. The event takes place at the Flood Building, 870 Market Street, Room 1185. Call 415-989-4422 or visit for more information.

Meanwhile, city residents aged 50 and up have launched San Francisco Village, a nonprofit membership organization that hopes to empower older adults to "age in their own homes."

The Village offers a network of resources, services, and providers for practical daily living needs, health and wellness, and social, cultural, and educational activities.

Yearly dues are $600 for a one-person household and $750 for a two-person household. Call 415-387-1375 or see for more information.

--Heather World

Budget Wonks Lead Economic Forum

Want to vent to local and state politicians about how badly the economic crisis is affecting you? Or perhaps you want to offer them solutions for making things better?

You'll get the chance Wednesday, March 18, when San Francisco and California budget executives will be on hand at the monthly meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club at St. Philip's Church.

The speakers include Gina Antonini of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's field office and Nani Coloretti of Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Policy and Finance.

Antonini and Coloretti will describe how the state and the city are dealing with the severe fiscal downturn, and then field questions from the audience.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. The church is located at 725 Diamond Street, between Elizabeth and 24th streets.

--Corrie M. Anders

13 Poets at the Randall

To many people, poetry means little more than a few memorized lines from literary giants like Lord Byron or Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Poets Stephen Kopel and Ana Elsner hope to change that by offering three free nights of performance poetry at the Randall Museum. The weekly Thursday event, sponsored by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, will feature 13 poets, whose work ranges from mirthful to war-weary.

The poets on March 5 include Charlie Getter (who has been seen reading poetry at 16th and Mission streets) and Don Brennan, who says he started doing open-mike poetry after age 65. They'll join French translator Rosemary Manno and outdoor troubadour Jerry Ferraz for an evening titled "Viewpoint Vistas."

Stephen Kopel reads the following Thursday, March 12, joined by hip-hop-inspired poet Jari Bradley, novelist Christopher Bernard, and tattooed chanteuse Cara Vida, at an event called "Passion Unveiled."

Elsner reads at the final event on March 19, titled "Lasting Impressions." Elsner, creator of a modified version of Haiku poetry called moku, will be joined by secular humanist Al Averbach, former journalist and screenwriter Richard Beban, and Lunation, a poetry duet featuring Clara Hsu and Bill Mercer.

All performances begin at 7 p.m. in the museum's theater. Though the Randall mostly serves children, these readings are aimed at adults 15 and up. The museum, which is wheelchair-accessible, is located in Corona Heights Park at 199 Museum Way at Roosevelt Way. Call 415-554-9600 for directions.

--Heather World

Tropical Fun-Raiser

The Noe Valley Nursery School will host a Tiki Island Family Fling and Silent Auction March 21, featuring a disc jockey, Pacific Island food and drink, and games for the kids.

The fundraiser takes place at the co-op's home in the Noe Valley Ministry, where the preschool has operated for the past 40 years.

Many schools hold similar benefits, says school parent and last year's auction chair Christine Tawadrous. "[But] a unique thing about our event is that we do have the kids involved. It makes it something the whole family can come to."

While the adults eat, drink, and bid upstairs, the kids can play carnival games, watch a clown perform, and eat food and ice cream downstairs, under supervision, she said.

The idea for the co-op came about in 1968, when a group of parents who met regularly at Douglass Playground decided to create a parent-run day care. Families divide up the school chores, including the annual auction, Tawadrous said.

"It makes a difference," she said. "They take ownership and are proud of it."

This year, the parents decided to go tropical.

"We thought there's a lot you can do with a tiki island theme," Tawadrous said. It helps that (at least) one school parent is a gourmet chef.

Despite the current recession, auction donations from 24th Street merchants have been strong, Tawadrous said. In addition, a pair of school parents who dance and choreograph professionally have donated tickets to many great shows.

Last year, the auction raised $15,000, but this year the goal is only $10,000, owing to the softer economy. The school welcomes the entire community.

The auction runs from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ministry, located at 1021 Sanchez Street. You can buy a ticket online and preview items up for bid at, for $15. Tickets at the door cost $20. Children's tickets are $5. A $10 open-bar ticket is also available. For information call the school at 415-647-2278.

--Heather World

Page-Turners from Neighborhood Authors

Two local authors are set to unveil new books in the coming weeks.

Children's author and Noe Street resident Maria van Lieshout is celebrating the publication of Peep! A Little Book About Taking a Leap, out this month from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. The book follows the trials and tribulations of a little bird named Peep as he gains the strength and courage to hop off a frighteningly high street curb.

The book is the third in a series that began with Bloom! A Little Book About Finding Love, which brought the story of a pig in love with a butterfly to book shelves last spring, and Splash! A Little Book About Bouncing Back, published in October. Two more books are planned.

A neighborhood party in honor of van Lieshout's latest Peep! will be held Saturday, April 4, 5 p.m., at Cover to Cover Booksellers, 1307 Castro Street. For more information about van Lieshout's book series, visit the author online at

Also due out this month is Murder in the Latin Quarter, the ninth installment in the Aimée Leduc Investigation series from best-selling mystery author and Alvarado Street resident Cara Black.

Black's latest volume follows Leduc as she embarks upon a quest to find a woman claiming to be her long-lost sister. The hunt leads the intrepid detective on a daring search through Paris' Left Bank, where she becomes embroiled in a case mixing her own quest for family, Haitian politics, and--ultimately--murder.

Black is scheduled to appear at the Booksmith (1644 Haight St.) on March 5, Bookshop West Portal (80 West Portal Ave.) on March 10, the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin St.) on April 18, and the Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez Street on June 15. For a complete list of Black's upcoming readings and appearances, visit the author's web site at

--Lorraine Sanders