Noe Valley Voice July-August 2002

Noe This 'n That

By Laura McHale Holland

In June, a new rag joined the stacks at our neighborhood's many print-friendly businesses. It's the inaugural issue of the San Francisco Reader, a free monthly arts magazine founded by Church Street resident Jeff Troiano, who calls himself "a publishing company in a box." A face painted by Mission District artist Dave Warnke adorns the cover. Inside is an array of poetry, fiction, profiles, artist interviews, photographs, comics -- even a crossword puzzle -- with a smattering of advertising.

"San Francisco is full of creative individuals in search of outlets for their work," says Troiano. "We're different from typical weeklies and monthlies in that we focus on the work itself rather than on reviews, previews, and extensive calendar listings. And we're providing the magazine free of charge, in mass quantities. Most literary journals have very limited readerships. We're trying to bring literary material to the typical San Franciscan who probably won't find this work otherwise."

The 32-page magazine's first 20,000 copies were distributed throughout San Francisco, in the East Bay and Marin, and as far away as Eugene, Ore.

"I'd love to see the magazine at more than 100 pages a month, maybe in full color. I'd also like to be making a decent living from publishing," Troiano says.

Right now, a severance check from his former technical editing job is helping to keep the enterprise afloat. "I bought some charms at [La Sirena] Botanica on Church Street to assist me with ad sales. That helped a lot -- along with begging, pleading, and plying potential advertisers with alcohol."

The Reader includes the work of previously unpublished writers, as well as that of San Francisco's most renowned voices. (Award-winning poet Kim Addonizio, novelist/essayist Herbert Gold, and musician Richard Buckner were among the accomplished artists featured in June.) "It will be quite equal-opportunity," says Troiano.


Lovebirds S.A. Kushinka and Mike Underhill didn't use charms to resolve a dilemma concerning the sale of the Axford House on 25th Street, but the supernatural did play a role. (The couple met when Underhill sold Kushinka the house, and they shared the story of their romance in this column in March. Shortly after that, a "For Sale" sign appeared on the landmark's wrought-iron fence.)

Here's an update from Kushinka: "We decided to sell Axford House so that I could take a less stressful, nonprofit job and spend more time with my daughter and new husband without undue financial strain. Despite a fair market price and probably fifteen hundred people going through the house, there were no offers.

"We consulted a spiritualist (after a feng shui consultant felt the presence of some friendly but meddling energy in the house), who told us that the gracious and very powerful mother spirit of the house feels we are not ready to leave the nest yet. She has our best interests at heart apparently," Kushinka went on, "and wants us to stay a while longer until we're clearer about our long-term plans and more established in our marriage.

"So, Axford House is off the market, and we're moving back in. Can't argue with Mom, I guess."


Nina Youkelson, who has been the heart and soul of the Noe Valley Cooperative Nursery School for over 30 years, didn't have a choice about leaving the residence on 26th Street that she had rented for seven years. The building was sold, and the new owners wanted to move in. Her plight was publicized in Johann Zimmern's letter to the editor in the June Voice. The good news is Youkelson has been spared a move out of the city.

"I'd like to thank people for their concern, their help, and consideration. So many people came up to me on the street and said they'd read about my eviction and that they'd keep an eye out for me," Youkelson says. "I did find a place. But it's $700 more a month for a third less space, and it's not in Noe Valley. I remember when this was a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood. It's certainly not that anymore. I couldn't afford a place here, but my new home is not far away, and I still work in the neighborhood."

Someone who will no longer be working in the neighborhood is Phyllis Matsuno, principal of Alvarado Elementary School since 1996. She's leaving to make way for a new principal this fall. Matsuno did such a commendable job over the past six years that Supervisor Mark Leno had the city declare May 30 Phyllis Matsuno Day. Watch for more details about Matsuno and her replacement at Alvarado, David Weiner, in this paper's September issue.


Perhaps one day Flannery Virginia Strain will join the Alvarado Elementary School's student body and reap the benefits of Matsuno's hard work. So far she's learned sign language for "milk" and "bath," but she doesn't yet speak English. Born at her Noe Street home to parents Susan Gladwin and Matt Strain on April 6, 2001, she's more interested in comparing bellybuttons, doing poses that resemble yoga's downward-facing dog, and helping Mom wipe down her highchair, than she is in learning her ABCs.

"We originally were going to have our baby in a hospital, but midway through the pregnancy we learned a home birth was possible, since a friend had her baby at home. The idea of letting my body do what it was designed to do, with minimal interference but optimized backup support, really appealed to us. We did a lot of research and used a wonderful midwife," says Gladwin. "With all the pre-screening and care that midwives provide, we felt confident that we were safe and that things would work out fine, even if we had to go to the hospital.

"Flannery came out so small, wet, and perfect," Gladwin says. "Once everyone was cleaned, wrapped up, and checked out, and pizza was eaten, the midwives went home, and there were the three of us, tucked into bed. We gazed at her all night, in awe."

Named Virginia to honor Gladwin's aunt and Flannery because her parents just like the name, the youngster has many admirers. "Sometimes we call her the Noe Lama since she was born on Noe Street and seems to know everyone up and down 24th Street. She has always been a people baby and will smile and wave at people until they notice her little presence."

Flannery's parents, who eloped on a vacation in Bali, hope their daughter will have an open and accepting attitude toward whatever comes along in life. "I hope she can continue to connect with the world in a loving but increasingly savvy manner," says Gladwin.


Let's hope the same for all of us as the summer unfolds. Please send us news of your milestones. We want to know about your sprightly babies, graduations and academic honors, engagements, weddings, professional awards, book publishing parties, art show openings, literary salons, and rollicking summer high jinks.

E-mail leads to, mail them to the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114, or leave a phone message at 415-821-3324. Again, we eagerly await your news.