Noe Valley Voice May 2004

This 'n' That

By Laura McHale Holland

Fashion designer Christiane Parker has been making one-of-a-kind garments in her Eureka Street studio for more than 10 years. Before she started crafting patterns tailored to each client's unique measurements and tastes, she manufactured her own line of silk-screened fabric clothing. This was after she earned her stripes as a pattern maker and designer in the local garment industry. But her passion for fashion began long before she ever threaded a needle.

"My inspiration goes way back to when I was 5 years old," she says. "I was born in Morocco to a French family with Italian and Spanish background. We had a Moroccan maid, and she dressed in a long piece of white cotton that looked like a sheet. I would be fascinated watching her drape the fabric around herself--it was very intricate. She would make folds and pockets you couldn't even see from the outside, and she would drape it over her head and have a veil as well. My mother had fabric, and I would drape it and make evening dresses without any stitching. I used belts and pins and knots."

Parker continued to drape and belt when she moved to San Francisco 30 years ago. She studied and mastered the elements of design, and started her own business, using her own moniker for a business name. Along the way, she fell in love with and married jazz musician David Parker, and raised two children, Gabrielle and Sebastian.

Last year, Parker signed up for an experimental design class at San Francisco State University. "It was an opportunity to design unusual garments that I wouldn't ordinarily be designing because my customers couldn't use them since they were made of materials that are difficult to wear," she says.

For that class, she made a dress from reed and paper that was then accessorized by a pastry chef using white chocolate. It landed a spot in the New York 2003 Chocolate Fashion Show, and Parker was asked to return to her design class as a teaching assistant, not as a student.

By the way, the only chocolate accessory that made it back to San Francisco was the hat, which now resides in Parker's studio.

Nowadays, she is busy creating pieces for Art to Wear, a show and sale of works by 25 designers selected by the Museum of Craft and Folk Art. The event is a fundraiser for the museum, set for Saturday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Conference Center at Fort Mason. (Call Parker at 826-4750 if you need more information.)

Charles Purdy, whose first book Urban Etiquette is being released by Wild Canyon Press this month, also found his passion at a young age. His father was a chemist who did fieldwork for the Environmental Protection Agency, so at various points in his childhood, Purdy called San Jose, Sacramento, Minnesota, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington, D.C., home.

This meant he often had to break the ice with a new set of peers. "When I was in high school, I got a copy of Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Guide to Etiquette, which I found very helpful because knowing the proper way to behave made me more confident. I've been collecting etiquette books for 15 years now, and in the course of reading them, I became very interested in how modern people interpret old-fashioned etiquette rules."

In 2000, Purdy started writing for the SF Weekly newspaper under the byline Social Grace. He also writes a column that appears at And he has time left over to work a day job as an editor for the magazine MacWorld. He has also put down roots in the neighborhood at 24th and Chattanooga. Fortunately for us, he has no plans to move.

Urban Etiquette gives advice on everything from how to style a monogram or address a wedding invitation, to how much to tip a tattoo artist or a sex worker. "Many of the modern etiquette books confuse the idea of etiquette with fashion and almost snobbishness. I'm trying to get etiquette's good name back, and its basics are courtesy and respect for others. I also want to make etiquette accessible to a younger audience," he says.


Diamond Street resident Mike Massucco is also pursuing a calling that gave him much satisfaction in his youth. After 23 years as a graphics arts print broker, he now has his own gardening design and landscape maintenance business.

"I like to say I used to get my foot in the door with sales and now I'm trying to get my foot in the dirt," he says while the two budgies that share his home office chatter happily in the background. "I've always had an affinity for this work. I was the kid who'd run around the block and mow everybody's lawn, trimming trees and pruning ornamental bushes," he adds.

While he loves caring for other people's greenery, he has a special place in his heart for the jacaranda tree planted in front of his house by Friends of the Urban Forest several years ago. It's a scrawny little tree adorned with toys instead of leaves.

"The second year after we had the planting, we had a horrible winter storm, and the tree actually got pulled right out of the ground, so it is fighting to stay alive right now. I thought it was dying, and I did everything I could to help it survive. Then I put a toy in the tree to make it look a little happier," he says.

The first toy Massucco put in the tree was a yellow blowfish that he pulled from a collection of discarded toys he'd found on one of his bike rides.

"I would on occasion notice a child or two from nearby Eureka Learning Center stop, marvel at the tree, and then point out the blowfish to their mom or dad with great exuberance. Soon I added more toys. Then to my amazement a young boy named Sam Fox asked if he could add one of his toys to the tree. He got a big yes," Massucco recalls.

Other children followed suit, and now the tree branches hold a veritable plastic zoo, including a seal, a Japanese fighting fish, two dinosaurs, a Barbie, a pirate, a swamp thing, a couple of monkeys, and a cow.

As for the tree itself, while it isn't thriving, it is still hanging on in its spot on the Diamond Street sidewalk between 21st and 22nd streets. It's even sprouting some small fern-like leaves at the top. Maybe all it needs is a visit from Buzz Lightyear.


Back in 1990, Valley Street resident Dennis Lewis felt like he was barely hanging on. In 1988, he had sold his company Hi-Tech Publicity, originally based at 24th and Sanchez streets, to a large firm based in the United Kingdom. But he continued to work for the company another two years. "We had certain goals both internally and those put on us by the company. The net result was that I was very stressed out, and when I finally left the company, I was exhausted and just sort of incapable of doing much of anything," he recalls.

He also started experiencing abdominal pains that no doctor he consulted could diagnose. He eventually turned to a practitioner of a form of Taoism called Chi Nei Tsang. "This man used a combination of touch and breathing to help me, and the pain went away within two or three weeks," Lewis says. He then became a Chi Nei Tsang practitioner himself.

During that time, he self-published his first book, The Tao of Natural Breathing, which was subsequently published around the world and translated into seven languages. This month, his latest book, Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully, is being released by Shambhala Publications.

Lewis emphasizes that his new book is based on accessing the body's own wisdom, not on rigid exercises. "We are always rushing into the future, holding our breath, and going from one thing to the other without being fully conscious and living in the actual moment. This creates tension throughout our whole body, and that tension reduces our energy and vitality," he says. "This book is really about how the breath can bring us to the present moment and how to focus on the exhalation in order to let go. One has to exhale the old stuff and allow new impressions to come in, and through this our breathing changes in a very natural way."

Lewis will give a book-signing on Thursday, June 3, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., at Stacey's Bookstore, 581 Market Street.

Details on his entire book tour and workshops are at


Duncan Street residents Chris Galotta and Dan Paulsen, and their friend Chris Scott (who currently lives in Russia), were vacationing consciously enough in Thailand in December 2002 to notice a potential business opportunity. "We were impressed by a lot of the crafts and some of the modern furniture that we saw. They have a really nice East meets West kind of flavor. They bring something fresh," says Galotta.

The trio decided to open a shop, with Scott functioning as a silent partner. Eight months later, they opened FINDecor at 258 Noe, at Market Street, across from Café Flore. They work with vendors from locales around the world including Thailand, Canada, and Europe. The store carries furniture as well as home accents of all kinds. Some items are designed by San Francisco artists.

"We carry lamps made by local architects from recycled streetlights. And we carry pillows by a local designer, Talla. They're hand screened, all original patterns. They pop; they're hip," says Galotta, who manages the store during the week while Paulsen is at work in the financial industry. Together they man the store on Saturdays and Sundays. On Mondays, the store is closed.

"The shop has a European flair. We showcase the things we sell, so people can see the items, and not just a bunch of clutter," says Galotta. "You have to stop in to see what I mean."


Dolores Street denizen Bruce Pachtman is hoping people will stop in to see his one-man show, Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic. It is returning May 7­29 to the Marsh, where it was first developed and produced five years ago. In the show, Pachtman combines the vulnerability of a heart-to-heart talk and the humor of a stand-up comedian as he recounts the saga of a real-life love gone bad.

In 2001­02, the show had a 68-week run in San Francisco. Later, it had success in his home state of Pennsylvania. It was also showcased in the Los Angeles area. For Pachtman, the solo gig has been totally rejuvenating.

"I was in a comedy group in New York with two men I'd gone to Penn State with. We were just out of college, and we got to the top of the comedy club scene faster than anybody has a right to get there. And then I was in a little film at NYU directed by Chris Columbus," he recalls.

After Columbus moved on to Los Angeles, a Hollywood agent saw Pachtman's film performance and offered to represent him. Pachtman moved to Los Angeles, but after six years, his acting career was languishing, so he became a teacher. He never looked back until he was living in San Francisco and saw a Charlie Varon show, Rush Limbaugh in Night School, at the Marsh. He returned to see it again--nine times. Pretty soon, Pachtman was one of Varon's students. Next he was working with David Ford to develop his own show.

"I never anticipated I'd be in this position. I'd never written a play before or performed in a full-length solo show. You hear about these things happening for other people, but you don't expect it to happen to you," he says.

Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic plays Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m., at the Marsh theater at 1074 Valencia Street. Tickets are $14 to $17.

For more information, call 826-5750 or visit Or if you'd like a further plot synopsis, read Voice writer Kathryn Guta's interview with Pachtman in our February 2001 issue at


We promise not to make you look psychotic, if you share your personal milestones with us. We're interested in everything from new babies to new ventures, diplomas to dreams fulfilled. Contact us by e-mailing thisnthat@noevalleyvoice .com. Or if it's more convenient, leave a message at 415-821-3324 or write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114.