February 20, 2003
Mission: Pasta

I discovered a new love: Pasta. Now, that might seem strange since I've been eating the stuff since I could eat solid foods, but I love Italian food, and now I am on a mission to learn everything I can about making Italian food. Of course I know that Italian food isn't just pasta, I'm not that stupid (or am I?) but my first mission is to learn how to make the pasta.

So if you know of any good books I should check out, let me know please! Or if you know of a good teacher in the Bay Area, I would really appreciate it!

Arrivederci!

Posted by marc at 12:25 PM
February 18, 2003
Wish I Had A Rich Uncle

Sounds like such a diabolical scheme! In today's SF Chronicle, there's an article on a company called 'My Rich Uncle,' where investors can put capital into students tuition, and then when the student finds a job after they have graduated, the investor receives a dividen from the former students paycheck.

Incredible! Is that a good idea or a bad one... I can't really decide.

Posted by marc at 12:55 PM
February 17, 2003
Artistic Love

Graffiti in the elevator here at the dorms is nothing new. Usually it exemplifies the half-assed talent of some lacky-artist. But today, the artist took the time to actually write something that I appreciate: Love.

I like graffiti. Other people think that it destroy's property, or turns a nice, one color wall into a mess. For me, I think that it hightens the value of the object 'defaced' because the artist took the time to bring depth and creativity to a normal and banal object in the abstract meaning of 'space.'

When an artist just signs his name in quick scribble, I think that's a waste of time. But the artist that can spend what little time he has (this is illegal, remember?) coordinating his energy's into one piece that has said depth, even if it does just say his name, is beautifying the community and creating a healthier environment for those that live in the community.

This artist wrote 'Love' in cursive and surrounded it with a heart. Maybe it's my more feminine quality in me, maybe it's because I'm feeling incredibly romantic as a late, but what this artist did diserves some recognition: tomorrow it will be gone, erased away by paint thinner.

And maybe that's the artists point: One day, the love you have is larger than anything else in your life, something that makes the world a little easier to accept; the next day, it's all erased, and all you have are the memories of that love.

Posted by marc at 06:36 PM
February 13, 2003
Article #2: Change In The Community

Here's article No. 2 that's supposed to be about the changes that are going on in the neighborhood and why they happened. I found that within my districts, a lot of the people are affraid that the close, small business feel to there streets is going away. Tell me what you think. To read it, click the 'MORE' link. Also leave a comment, I'd like to know what you think.

Bob Dylan once sang that “the times they are a-changin,’” and for business owners like Mike Rasulzad on Fillmore Street, he wishes that they would change back.

Beginning with the Loma Prieta earthquake, to the dot com bust, to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, business owners in the Marina and Pacific Heights districts of San Francisco have felt their share of economic troubles caused by difficult circumstances.

While bouncing back, communities gain strength and bond through difficult times. But with each new disaster that affects this area, some feel that the small businesses and restaurants that make these communities precious to those that live here are being gradually eroded away by the influx of corporate chain stores and restaurants.

One of many small businesses that line the long stretch of Fillmore Street from Chestnut in the Marina, to California Street on the outskirts of Pacific Heights, Rasulzad manages Silkroute Oriental Rugs, a showroom that sells Oriental and Tribal rugs, African art and antiquities. With the dot com crash and the events of September 11th, he has seen business sharply decline over the past couple of years.

“Everything is going down,” the native of Afghanistan said, as he sat looking disappointed at the lack of customers that were not walking through his doors. “Those that don’t have enough back up will go out of business.”

On the same floor that Allen Ginsberg gave his first reading of his famous poem “Howl” in 1955, Rasulzad’s business has for 24 years occupied what was once the Six Gallery, an art gallery where beat poets would recite their works.

But even the lure of historical importance still does not bring in the customers.

“I tried promotions, sales, all kinds of ways; but we’re doing our best and it’s still not enough. Even during the earthquake, our business was not as hurt as this time.”

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 had great affects on this enclave in the city. But another earthquake made an even greater impact on this area: the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

When the great 1906 earthquake shook the city and started the fire that devastated a greater portion of the buildings that were on the northeast part of town, the ruble that was left over from the disaster was used as landfill to build the foundation of what is known today as the Marina district.

According to those that own businesses in the area, when the Loma Prieta quake hit, some of the Marina was deemed unlivable, and needed to be rebuilt because the foundation made from the 1906 quake was not strong enough to keep the buildings from coming down.

Dick Donahue was there when the earthquake struck; he and his brother Tom have owned Donahue’s Marina Lounge on Chestnut Street for the last 23 years.

A small bar that is thrice longer than it is wide, the Marina Lounge became a focal point for the surrounding neighborhoods that were affected by the emergency.

“The place became a hub for the neighborhood to keep in contact with each other and the outside,” the fifty-year-old bartender said. “People left notes for others about things concerning everything. We were one of the only businesses in the area that had a working phone.”

Growing up in West Portal and taking restaurant jobs around the city until he and his brother decided to purchase the bar, Donahue looks at the earthquake as the beginning of the corporate inroad into the community.

“(Before the earthquake) there wasn’t a franchise store on the street and there was a strong merchant bond. Where the Gap is now, it was a Woolworth, and that was the only chain store in the area.”

According to Donahue, 10 to 20 percent of the apartment complexes and houses were red-tagged after the devastation had subsided. When things had settled down, many of the old families packed up and moved because the cost of retrofitting and repairing their homes would cost too much.

“As time went on,” Donahue adds, “this influx of fraternity and college kids came into the area. The (average) age went from the 50s to the 20s. The landlords were eager to fill the vacancies. Less than 10 percent of the people that live in the Marina now are not from around here.”

As the people left during the difficult times, more small businesses lost out to the corporate retail stores. Donahue feels uneasy about more of them moving in as the economy goes in the can.

“They could be losing their shirt and the corporation could take the blunt of it. This change is not positive.”

With a Starbucks taking over the local hardware store a couple years back, and the loss of specialty stores ranging from shoe repair to children’s clothing, the one thing that Donahue thinks they can not take away is the community feeling.

“It’s just one of the more beautiful places in the world. Here, it’s a village community.”

Up the hill from Chestnut Street, the village community of the Marina turns into the hustle of the city. It’s a place where teens lounge outside along the walls of liquor stores on the weekend and busy coffee shops boil over with people waiting for their espresso.

Ed Nahigian, owner of San Francisco Boot and Shoe Repair -- a modest sized, shoe polish-filled repair store -- has a different outlook on the way the retail chains have moved into the neighborhoods.

“It’s the competitive atmosphere of the free market system,” he strongly emphasizes as he takes off his lacquer-stained gloves. “If you provide a service or a product, you are allowing the consumers to select who they go to.”

For 23 years, Nahigian has operated his store and lived in Pacific Heights. Originally from the “work horn groves” of the Central Valley, and after being a draftee in the Vietnam War, he raised a family in this area of town, running and owning his successful business.

“I can sit home at the dinner table with friends and family and share my personal view,” he said, “but my personal view does not dictate the actions of the customer.”

To Nahigian, by living in a capitalist system, the customer is always right. If small businesses want to compete and keep the chain stores out of their neighborhoods, he feels they need to work just as hard to keep their clientele.

“By and far, large corporations and company stores can be looked at as a major problem. But then that would be interfering with a free market economy. Business that doesn’t flourish is because the consumer doesn’t accept it anymore. The customers are going to tell the story.”

For some of the restaurants and stores, like the Balboa Café in the Cow Hollow district that separates the Marina and Pacific Heights areas, customers come in from all over the city because the service is stellar and atmosphere is community oriented.

Mike Kerizenbeck, a 38-year-old bartender from Sacramento, works nightly at the Café which has remained on the same corner for 90 years. To him, “this place will be here even after I’m gone.”

With its friendly atmosphere, ease of conversation and a stable clientele which includes both Mayor Willie Brown and actor Sean Penn, the Balboa Café is one of the staples to the area that can never be replaced by corporate intrusion.

“People that know about the area come back,” he said as he poured a patron a beer from one of the many beers and ales on tap. “It’s a real neighborhood, a real community. Real San Francisco, old San Francisco.”

And one of those people that keep coming back to the neighborhood is Bill Patrick, after being away for two years.

At 71-years-old and living in Carmel, Patrick likes to come down into the area at night or to walk around during the day and enjoy the vibrant youthfulness that seems to permeate through the sidewalks.

For him, the changes to these streets have not been as negative as some of the business owners would like to think; the increase in corporate stores hasn’t changed the area enough for him to take notice.

“It’s always been very colorful here. There are restaurants, theaters near. It’s a funky, trendy, colorful street. I love it down here.”

Posted by marc at 05:59 PM
February 12, 2003
A Doogie Houser Moment

Jean Jacques Rousseau, the enlightenment philosophe, wrote in 1762 in his book "An Inquiry into the Nature of Social Contract" that "The man who had till then regarded none but himself, perceives that he must act on other principals, and learns to consult his reason before he listens to his propensities."

I've been spending more time in the Pacific Heights, Marina, and Cow Hollow area's of town these past couple of days. Reporting is a difficult task, talking to people you don't know is sometimes hard, and their reactions to a journalism student can be daunting, leaving me more than a little bit nervous.

But good things are coming of this though. For the past couple of years, I've had a hard time feeling confident in myself, slowly becoming more and more removed from people. I didn't feel sure enough to introduce myself to people, and I found that my reclusiveness was irratating to who I am as a person.

Forcing myself to talk to people, accepting rejection and embarrasment for the questions that I ask, I find that I'm really starting to feel more at ease when I'm speaking to people. A lot of the people that I first spoke to when I began reporting made it really easy to get into digging into their personal lives: their fears, resentments, and even some of their joys.

I guess more than anything, this is a journal entry, one that's not ment for the blog, but I feel so empowered right now that I decided to throw it up. I guess it's just a little pat on the back for myself, a little Doogie Houser moment. Thanks for understanding.

Posted by marc at 06:51 PM
February 09, 2003
My First Article

First article for reporting is finished. Thought it was OK. I know where my mistakes were, and overall, I'm kind of disapointed with the outcome. I know I should have stayed more on focus, interviewed more 'service' workers, more of the 'have nots' in the area, but oh well, I've got a new article to work on now so no more fretting about the former. That's not the title by the way; I don't really have a title. I thought I'd just throw one in for posterities sake. Here's the first article:

Outside Looking In

To some, it’s a small Greek town: a tight-knit, quiet community full of fashionable hang outs and small cafes; a place where the old San Francisco meets the new. To others, it’s one big frat house party, where outsiders are left looking in behind the velvet rope.

Pacific Heights and the Marina district are considered by some to be two of the more affluent and youthful areas of San Francisco. But for the many that make the trek into these neighborhoods to work, the area can be insensitive and out-of-touch with the rest of the city.

As a graduate student at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Pam takes the No. 45 bus down to the corner of Union and Fillmore streets to work at a local vitamin store. To her, this part of town is removed from what makes the city such a unique place.

“There’s this false sense of entitlement. (Either) the people are upper- middle class, or pretend to be,” she said, as she waited at a corner coffee shop for her bus to take her home.

“It’s cut off from the world. (While) the rest of the city is more culturally and politically aware, people in this area live more of a yuppie lifestyle.”

Cherlyn Medina agrees with Pam. An 18-year-old student at the University of San Francisco, Medina works at one of the many beauty shops that
run along Chestnut Street in the Marina.

As a minority, she feels that the cultural diversity found in so many other parts of the city, is lost in this predominantly white area.

“It’s like an egg shell; the stuff that this store does is more culturally aware than the surrounding area” she said, picking up a bottle of African herbal body lotion on display.

To others in the community, the removed feeling that some outsiders get as they walk into this area of trendy fashion shops and high-priced home décor stores, is part of the reason that makes this area so appealing.

"It's like three little villages and each have their own energy," Robert Pante said of the area while waiting for the No. 45 bus.

Living in the area for almost thirty years, the 65-year-old image consultant and author enjoys the upscale markets, eateries, and new fashions that thrive in the area.

"It's a good place to stay atop of fashion and trends," adds Pante. "It's a little bit international, a little bit California."

On a sunny day, the markets and shops that line the small streets of these districts are full of young professional men and women, entrepreneurs discussing business deals over lunch and mothers walking along the store lined streets, with their children in strollers.

Further down the hill, along the Marina Green, families can be seen picnicking and flying kites, while couples quietly cuddle in the grass. Joggers
and bicyclers move quickly along Marina Street as monolithic cargo ships glide
slowly behind them, below the archway of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s the serene beauty of days like these that keep Pat Murphy coming back to the area with her dogs Bear and Sweetie.

A retired school teacher, Murphy moved out of the Marina and to the Sunset years ago. And even though she believes the small town feel of the streets are disappearing with the influx of chain stores like the Gap and Walgreens, the area still has a lot of youthful personality that is unique from the rest of the city.

There are “a lot more bars geared to people in their 20s and 30s,” she said. It’s for “the yuppies, to meet more people and to get out. The young people of today are more active than we used to be.”

Willie Rickert owns Cozmo’s Corner Grill at the corner of Lombard and Fillmore streets, a restaurant and bar that caters to the young professional crowd that comes to the area in the evening. To him, what changed the area from the older, established San Francisco, to the nouveau-riche Mecca that it is today, came with the dot com era of the late nineties.

“This area is more of the Manhattan of New York,” Rickert said, “the Hollywood of Los Angeles; people want to be associated with this neighborhood. No matter what you want to do, you can find it in this neighborhood.”

Cozmo’s is one of the many trendy and fashionable places that have recently grown in these districts. With the Matrix and the Blue Triangle also on Fillmore Street, Rickert’s establishment has made it their business to cater to
these new professionals. But not every person that goes bar hopping in the area
feels comfortable with this change.

“Women are looked at like objects here,” 26-year-old Malinda Baum says of the night life around these streets. “In any other neighborhood, it’s not like that.”

To Baum, even though the increase of elitists and professionals to the Marina has brought a younger atmosphere to the bar scene, the attitudes of the patrons has been less than cordial.

“The guys in this neighborhood are jerks,” she said. “The only ones that have spoken to me look at me as a prostitute or just say rude comments.”

And to many of the women from other areas of the city that come down here to work and play, these attitudes make them feel unwelcome in the neighborhood.

To Jeanne Tholl and Stacey Garner, two clerks at a video rental store who both travel from Pacifica to work everyday, this is not where they want to work anymore.

“They know they’re well to do. People that you assume have higher educations and in some ways are well rounded,” Tholl said. “They expect the very best. They have a bee in their bonnet.”

Posted by marc at 10:42 AM
February 04, 2003
Clouded History Of The Marina and Cow Hollow

Working as a student beat reporter in the city is one of the more interesting 'things' that I've ever had the opportunity to do. Walking the streets of Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, and the Marina Districts has shown me a new side of the city that I don't think I would have forced on myself, if it wasn't for my reporting class.

Over the past week, I've been introduced to the shady history of these districts, these bastions of wealth and prestige, trendy clothes shops and designer home decorations, and found out that the high society of this well gentrified area, are built on the remains of the old city of San Francisco.

Last night, while at the Balboa Cafe in Cow Hollow, Mike the Bartender related a story to me concerning what the area consisted of before the nouveau-riche of the 19th century moved in. When the city was first constructed, the Marina District did not exist, it was a small inlet of water where the city dumped it's concrete and waste into the bay. The area was run by youth gangs, and according to Mike, Jack London called the area "The Pit," the worst area of San Francisco.

After the earthquake at the beginning of the 20th century (I think it was in 1906, correct me if I'm wrong ), all of the ruble from the destroyed parts of town (Downtown, Financial District, Civic Center, etc.) was dumped into the Marina, which supplied the foundation for the part of the city which was to be built there. Cow Hollow, obvious by its name, was the area of town where the cows were taken out to pasture. Mike also related a little hush secret that's not been discussed much, but doesn't come to my surprise. According to what I perceive to be myth, with some hint of truth, at some point the city decided that there were not going to be any more cemeteries located within the city limits, to make more room for the construction. Much of the dug-up cemetery remains are located beneath the now - you guessed it - Marina district.

All of these things I need to look up, as a journalism student, I need to follow what my Professor Johnson professed extensively: "If your mother tells you she loves you, Research, Research, Research!"

Posted by marc at 11:41 AM
February 03, 2003
If We Ever Speak Again

I'm really busy right now, and I have no idea when all of this work is going to slow down. I never thought that 16 units would be this much work! (Thanks Andrew, your 22 units a semester gave me false hope!) I think I can do it though, it shouldn't be that hard, right?

If I speak to any of you again, I will be incredibly surprised!

Posted by marc at 09:04 PM