Noe Valley Voice June 2008

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

WHAT PRICE GLORY? The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation issued a "Red Alert" after confirming with our representative in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that the federal government is now spending $5,000 per second occupying Iraq and fighting the war in Afghanistan. "It's about $3,500 to $4,000 a second for Iraq, and the balance for the Afghan fighting," say sources in Pelosi's Washington office.

The NVBI is calling for a neighborhood mobilization to urge each and every Noe Valleyan to register and vote this fall. Turnouts of less than 50 percent (read the June 3 primary election) are just plain unacceptable for this enlightened neighborhood. "We all have to become involved in some way, and voting is the easiest way," declared the NVBI. "That way, Noe Valley can send a message to Washington and inspire the voters across America to vote their consciences this November."

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NOE GLOBAL VALLEYANS: Medea Benjamin and her husband, Kevin Danaher, have been doing more than voting in the 24 years they've lived in Noe Valley, at Sanchez and Valley streets. They founded 24th Street's Global Exchange, the fair trade crafts store, with Kirsten Irgens-Moller in 1988.

The shop started out in a tiny garage next to St. Clair's Liquors at 24th and Sanchez, and then moved up the street to its present location near Noe in 1998.

Benjamin, who ran for the U.S. Senate as the Green Party candidate in 2000, also founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, in 2003. She describes it as a "grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq and redirect our resources into health care, education, and other life-affirming activities."

You have probably seen Benjamin on the evening news, leading rather vocal protests. Last year, she spearheaded a rally against the war at Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home, and she has been removed from the U.S House of Representatives during a number of votes on war funding.

Several months ago, Benjamin demonstrated in Berkeley to get the military recruiters out of town, and most recently Code Pink mounted a national effort on Memorial Day, "doing banner drops [hanging banners across freeway overpasses] calling for the impeachment of Bush and the end to the war," she says. Benjamin unfurled a banner from the Webster Street overpass at Geary that morning and then moved operations over to Berkeley's University Street overpass on I-80 in the afternoon.

A few days later, Benjamin left for the Middle East, and she's now in Syria and Jordan "dealing with the plight of the refugees." She says she'll return by the end of the month, when she will go on trial in Berkeley for her protests against the recruiting office on Shattuck Avenue.

Meanwhile, Danaher, who has been described by the New York Times as "the Paul Revere of globalization's woes," has been organizing his Green Festivals, which he started here in San Francisco eight years ago and now stages in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. The Green Festival at Moscone Center last November drew a crowd of 41,000. Danaher, who has a Ph.D. in sociology, has also been writing and editing numerous books and articles. His latest (which he co-authored) is Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots. It includes one of his more popular speeches, "Corporations Are Gonna Get Your Mama: Globalization and the Downsizing of the American Dream."

"I just returned from Florence, Italy, where I attended and spoke at Terra Futuro, which is a European Green Festival," reports Danaher, "and I will be participating in the Health and Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa [at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds] starting June 17, where we expect somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 to attend."

The next Green Festival in San Francisco, says Danaher, is scheduled for Nov. 14 to 16, at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center. There will be more than 400 "green economy" exhibits, 12 organic restaurants, and 150 speakers.

By the way, at $5,000 per second, the Green Festival's total budget runs about the same as a minute and 40 seconds of war.

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NOTED IN NOE: Other Noe Valley newsmakers include Ben Fong-Torres, who won an Emmy last month from the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for his work on the telecast of the 2007 S.F. Chinese New Year Parade on KTVU Channel 2.

Fong-Torres, as many of you know, was a writer and senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine and the Chronicle's "Radio Waves" columnist. He has authored several books, was once a deejay at the old KSAN radio station, and currently has an oldies rock-and-roll radio show on Sunday mornings and evenings at KFRC-FM 106.9.

He says he is finishing a biography of music legend Quincy Jones, which should be released "sometime next year."

Another author making a big splash is Daphne Miller, M.D., who with Dr. Avril Swan operates a family practice on Sanchez Street. In late April, Miller published a book called The Jungle Effect, which is about the healthy diets she's discovered on her world travels. Since then, Miller has gotten attention from a ton of broadcast and print media, and won raves from people like alternative health guru Andrew Weil and Andrew Pollen, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. The Voice hopes to interview her soon.

Kudos also go out to longtime Noe Valleyan Judge Donna Hitchens, recently named by our State Assembly representative Mark Leno as "Woman of the Year" for 2008 in our 13th Assembly District. Many of you remember participating in the grassroots movement in Noe Valley when Hitchens decided to run for, and then was elected to, the San Francisco Superior Court bench in 1990.

Says Leno, "Judge Hitchens is one of those extraordinary individuals we rarely come across in our lifetimes. She has put her time and talents to use for those that need them most: foster youth, young people exposed to violence, and low-income families, working tirelessly [as presiding judge of Unified Family Court] to improve the accessibility of the legal system for low-income families and children."

That legal access program, by the way, costs less than a minute of war.

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BIG SMALL BUSINESSES: The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association celebrated "Small Business Week" at Cooks Boulevard on the evening of Wednesday, May 14. Honored for longevity in our neighborhood were Elisa Ining of Elisa's Health Spa, on 24th Street for 40+ years; Joel Panzer's RMC Management, at the same location for 28 years; Isa (Muhawieh's) Salon, in Downtown Noe Valley for 26 years; and Robert Roddick, past president of the NVMPA and a Noe Valley lawyer for the past 30 years. The NVMPA also gave special recognition to our recently returned Noe Valley beat cop, San Francisco Police Officer Lorraine Lombardo.

Everyone is rooting for Yvette Chamberland to be able to extend the longevity of her jewelry store, Rose Quartz, which has been located on 24th Street near Sanchez since 1986. The store had a large banner out front last month, saying, "We Lost Our Lease." We hope she can find a new spot in Noe Valley.

You all might remember back when the business first moved into half of that garage next to St. Clair's. Chamberland tented the walls and ceiling with white linens. Next door was Global Exchange's first store (where Bay Castle Cleaners is now). The owner remodeled the garage a little over eight years ago, finally turning it into a store with four walls, a ceiling, and front window.

Also losing its lease was the antique store The Pickled Hutch, after eight years of operation on Church Street near Duncan. Owner Lisa Wilson has relocated the shop to Pacifica (2021 Palmetto Avenue). Wilson blogs that the building was sold "about a year and a half ago, and the new landlord put us on a month to month without a [new] lease."

Mary and Michael Gassen, who have operated a thriving Noe Valley Bakery for the past 13 years, are now opening a new business in our sister valley in Marin County, Mill Valley. Rather than breads, cakes, and cookies, the new store, called Lollipop, will sell homemade ice cream, candy, and cupcakes.

While their cupcakes are a hot item here, I'm hoping they will add a freezer to the local bakery and put some of that Mill Valley homemade ice cream on our shelves.

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PARK LARKS & BARKS: The Friends of Dolores Park Playground will be hosting a puppet show at the park on Saturday, June 14. "Tales from the Enchanted Forest" will feature the Nick Barone Puppets (his musical puppet theater has more than 20 puppet characters) and will start at 11.a.m. for a one-hour performance with refreshments served afterwards. The free event is being sponsored by Bi-Rite Market.

The Friends, which is working in partnership with the Neighborhood Parks Council, recently announced a $1.5 million grant from the San Francisco­based Mercer Fund (in honor of Helen Diller), for the renovation of Dolores Park playground.

If you want to help with the plans, the group is always looking for volunteers. Please contact them at

For those of you wondering when our own Upper Noe Rec Center will reopen after its $12.5 million renovation, we wish we could tell you. Rec and Park has yet to set a date, but the latest rumor is sometime in mid-August. Anyone who has walked by the park recently would have to wonder if that's too optimistic. The Voice has made several calls to Rec and Park but at press time had received no reply.

Noe Courts Park, at 24th and Douglass, has had some "unpleasantness" of late, caused by friction between the dog owners and kids and parents who share the small patch of green. Be aware: the leash law is being strictly enforced (see Letters, page 9).

And for all you folks up on Grand View, who were looking forward to cleaning up the large grassy area below the Upper Market Street trestle, word has come down from Friends of Noe Valley president Richard May that the $200,000 that was budgeted by the city last year has been cut from the budget this year.

That would be about 40 seconds.

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SHINE ON, HARVEST FEST: The fourth annual Noe Valley Harvest Festival is now slated for Saturday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 24th Street fair is sponsored by the Noe Valley Association, and several other neighborhood groups, and this year it's being organized by Kathy White.

All kids age 18 and under can again enter the Harvest Festival logo contest, and a call is out for volunteers to help staff the event. According to White, "in order to continue this fun-filled day for all ages, volunteer opportunities abound for both the planning stages right now and on the day of the festival."

If you would like to be part of the fair, contact White at nvhf@yahoogroups .com.

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LOST IN THE FOG, late racehorse extraordinaire, and his owner, Harry Aleo of Twin Peaks Properties at 24th and Castro, have been immortalized in a documentary film. Lost in the Fog, the movie, will have its "unofficial" world premiere on June 10 at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco and then its "official" world premiere in Las Vegas on June 14, at the Palms Theater.

The film was produced by native Noe Valleyan John Corey, and tells the story of how a world-class racehorse thrust a Noe Valley realtor into the world spotlight. Fog was the world's fastest sprinter in 2005, and died from a rare form of cancer the following year.

It is also a story of how producer Corey, who was a producer at KPIX-TV, went to do a three-minute story about Harry and his horse and wound up quitting his TV job and following the Fog fulltime all over the country. He shot the documentary as the story unfolded.

Corey says he would like to have a special showing of the film in Noe Valley and that it should open at a theater in San Francisco sometime this fall.

Hopefully, Aleo will be able to attend the gala opening party on June 10, but the 88-year-old has been feeling "a little under the weather these days."

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THAT ALL, YOU ALL: Ciao for now.