Noe Valley Voice May 2008

Short Takes

100-Year-Old Bethany Offers Parents a Night Out

On May 18, past and present members of Bethany United Methodist Church will gather to celebrate 100 years of ministry at the corner of Sanchez and Clipper streets. Then on the last Friday of the month, the church will inaugurate a new babysitting service called "Parents' Night Out."

The centennial celebration on Sunday, May 18, will include a special worship service at 11 a.m. led by the Rev. Jane Schlager, UMC District Superintendent. That will be followed by a luncheon and program.

The church invites the community to come share memories of Bethany's history, as well as take a look at plans for an upcoming renovation. To reserve a spot at the luncheon, call the church office at 415-647-8393.

Dedicated on March 15, 1908, the building at 1268 Sanchez was originally occupied by the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church. The congregation's previous building, located at 26th and Church streets, had been badly damaged in the 1906 earthquake. In 1965, Epworth Methodist Church merged with Grace Methodist Church, creating Bethany United Methodist Church.

In the decades since, the church has become a "reconciling" congregation, an active advocate for LGBT rights. It also has declared its mission to aid the homeless, seniors, and abused women. In the last few years, music and children's programs have rounded out the schedule.

The "Parents' Night Out," on Friday, May 30, from 5 to 10 p.m., is a once-a-month service the church hopes will benefit busy parents. Says Michael Eaton, a Bethany member and parent, "We want to give parents a chance to get a break from the hectic life of living and raising kids in the city, by giving them a night out to themselves."

Eaton says two or more adults will supervise the babysitting, and Bethany teenagers will be on hand to help. Children will have choices of games, refreshments, movies, and a nap area. The charge will be $5 an hour per child, or $25 an evening, "about half the cost of a babysitter," Eaton says.

Noe Valley parents--or parents from anywhere in San Francisco--are asked to preregister their children one week in advance of Parents' Night Out, to ensure adequate planning. To sign up, call 415-647-8397.

A Drive for First Books

First Book San Francisco, a consortium of community-based non-profits working together to bring books to San Francisco's most underserved families, is hosting a book drive in May to obtain used children's books and funding to purchase new children's books at cost.

There are several ways Noe Valley residents can get involved. First, you can place gently used children's books in the collection bags at Noe Valley Pediatrics (3700 24th Street), the Noe Valley Ministry (1021 Sanchez), Wells Fargo Bank (4045 24th), and the Starbucks at 24th and Noe streets. At Wells Fargo Bank, monetary donations will be accepted as well. Because First Book is a non-profit, all donations are tax-deductible.

Are you planning to attend the Fair Oaks Street Fair on Saturday, May 10? At this year's fair, you can drop off books, cash, or checks at the First Book booth in front of 217 Fair Oaks Street.

For more information about First Book San Francisco, visit the group's website,

Free Skin Cancer Screenings

Concerned about a spot that won't go away? You might want to take advantage of the free skin cancer screenings being offered by UCSF in observance of Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

On Saturday, May 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., dermatologists from the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, will be giving skin cancer screenings, as well as tips about sun protection, at the Castro-Mission Health Center, located at 3850 17th Street at Noe Street.

No appointment is necessary. However, the screenings are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. If you need more information, call the clinic at 487-7500 or e-mail

Sexy Knees Has Legs

When School of the Arts junior Santino Garcia, 16, sat down in class one day to write a 10-minute play, he was wondering what it would be like to be attracted to an unusual part of the body, say, the knees. His classmates snickered, but he stuck with the thought and wrote a play called Sexy Knees.

Now Garcia is glad he kept going. Sexy Knees is one of four works chosen to be performed this month at the 2008 San Francisco Young Playwrights Festival.

City College professor Deborah Shaw is directing Sexy Knees, which, along with the three other winners this year, will have a three-day run--May 15, 17, and 18--at the college's Diego Rivera Theatre at 50 Phelan Avenue.

"My job is actually done," says Garcia, who lives on Capp Street. "I'm watching [the play] as it takes shape on stage. It's been dizzying."

It's also been fun. The early reviews called Sexy Knees "hilarious" and "a sparkling gem."

The three plays that will accompany it, picked by the festival judges from more than 40 entries, are Colossians 3:14, by School of the Arts senior Romolo Wilkinson, 17; Mary by 16-year-old Tanea Lunsford, also from School of the Arts; and Within the Wall of Sand by Kalson Chan and Benson Ma, both seniors at Lowell High School. In addition to having their work produced, the winning playwrights received $300 grants. The contest, now in its third year, is open to any high school student in San Francisco.

Garcia says he has only been writing creatively since he entered high school. "When I write, I don't stop until it's done. I just keep writing and writing until I find a place for everything I'm thinking."

He is thrilled that his efforts have been recognized, and plans to pursue theater as a career, "for as long as nature allows."

The Young Playwrights Festival will play at 8 p.m. on May 15 and 17, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 18. All four plays will be performed on each date. For tickets--$10 in advance and $12.50 at the door--go to

Less Carbon, More Poetry

The Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Branch Library is hosting two free events this month that are likely to be "sell-outs."

First on Thursday, May 15, three local environmental activists will give the neighborhood some practical tips on "Going Green with Your Family." Speakers include Noe Valley writer Leslie Crawford, author of City Walks with Kids; Jennifer Caldwell, director of Hope to Action, a nationwide movement that is raising awareness about global warming; and Susan Silber, of the Low Carbon Diet, a guide to reducing one's greenhouse-gas emissions.

The 10:30-a.m.-to-noon event, which is part of the library's "Primer for City Parents" series, also will explore a bundle of green resources available for San Francisco kids and their caregivers.

The second big draw, which is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and the literary festival Litquake, is a poetry reading and reception featuring six "Noe and nearby" poets. On Tuesday, May 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Kirsten Lee Andersen, Keith Ekiss, Colm Ó Riain, Zack Rogow, Pireeni Sundaralingam, and Debbie Yee will share selections from their latest work. The event is a spring buildup to the Litquake fest, which takes place Oct. 3-11.

The newly renovated Noe Valley Library is at 451 Jersey Street near Castro Street. The poets reception will be held in the downstairs meeting room, where space is limited, so call the library to reserve a spot: 415-355-3707.

Shops Celebrate with Sales

The merchants of Noe Valley invite you to check out their sidewalk sale on Saturday, May 17. It will cap a week of festivities honoring small businesses in San Francisco.

The sale, sponsored by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, will start at 10 a.m. and end at 7 p.m., and will run along 24th Street from Chattanooga to Diamond, and Church Street from Elizabeth to 30th Street. Look for discounted items and treats on outdoor tables, especially along 24th Street.

Earlier in the week, on Thursday, May 14, the Merchants Association will hold a 7 p.m. mixer at Cooks Boulevard, 1309 Castro Street near 24th. At the event, local business owners will welcome new shops to the neighborhood as well as honor two businesses that have been in Noe Valley for more than 25 years (the two names were still secret at press time).

Donna Davis, current co-president of the association, notes that Noe Valley is home to dozens of small shops and businesses, many of them owned and staffed by local residents. The mom and pop stores need our support, she says.

"[These small businesses] are generating an economy in our communities," says Davis, who has owned the Church Street bead shop Forbeadin' for nine years. "It's what makes San Francisco San Francisco."

Obama and Clinton on Immigration

The Democratic presidential candidates' stands on immigration will be the focus of a panel discussion sponsored by the Noe Valley Democratic Club at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21.

Laura Spanjian will speak for Hillary Clinton, and Rebecca Prozar for the Barack Obama campaign. In addition, Donald Ungar, an immigration lawyer, will discuss the current state of U.S. immigration, with an emphasis on attitudes toward illegal immigration.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will take place at St. Philip's Church, 725 Diamond Street, between Elizabeth and 24th streets. Parking is available in the lot behind the church off Elizabeth Street. For information about the Democratic Club, call Andy Fleischman, 415-641-5838.

French Music and Champagne

Noe Valley Chamber Music plans to fill the house at its gala benefit concert on Sunday, June 1, at the Noe Valley Ministry. The evening will be the season finale for the classical music series, now in its 15th year, and will feature performances by Jake Heggie and Friends; a silent auction of gifts and services donated by local restaurants and shops; and an array of hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and wine.

Julie Briden, the series' managing director, says pianist and composer Jake Heggie, a Noe Valley resident, has assembled a group of world-class musicians, who are graciously donating their talents for the event. Melody Moore, Thomas Glenn, Julie McKenzie, Emil Miland, and Patrick Summers will help Heggie perform the music of French composer Francis Poulenc, as well as a piece by Heggie that is a homage to Poulenc.

"These artists enjoy the opportunity to expand their repertoire, and they love making this music accessible to more people in an affordable and informal way," notes Briden.

Pianist Patrick Summers is music director at the Houston Grand Opera and has conducted nearly 30 operas, including last year's I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Tenor Thomas Glenn created the role of physicist Robert Wilson in the world premiere of John Adams' Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera. Soprano Melody Moore, a 2007 Adler Fellow, has numerous performances to her credit and will sing the role of Mimi in La Boheme at the San Francisco Opera next season. Julie McKenzie is the principal flutist of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and plays piccolo for the San Francisco Ballet.

Cellist Emil Miland, also a Noe Valley resident, has been with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1998 after making his solo debut with the San Francisco Symphony at age 16.

Heggie himself has composed four operas and more than 250 songs and other choral and orchestral works. His 2000 opera Dead Man Walking has received more than 50 international performances.

In keeping with Heggie's music selection, the benefit will offer French food, such as quiches and Madeleine cookies. After the concert, guests will eat strawberries and cream and drink champagne before collecting their auction wins.

Tickets for the gala cost $40 at the door or can be purchased online at The event starts at 4 p.m. in the upstairs sanctuary at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez near 23rd Street. For more information, call 415-648-5236.

LGBT Seniors Meet to Talk

Whether you are in the closet or out, partnered or single, outgoing or shy, you are welcome to join a monthly discussion group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors.

Roxie Kellam, outreach coordinator at OpenHouse, an advocacy group for LGBT seniors, says meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at the Castro Senior Center, located at 110 Diamond Street at 18th Street. There are occasional lectures, but the focus is on talk and camaraderie.

"The group is an opportunity to get to know each other," says Kellam. "You don't need to be a member or join anything. You can have lunch at the Castro Senior Center, or not. Sometimes we have a facilitated discussion amongst ourselves, and sometimes we will bring in an outside speaker. We always have something to say and will honor your ideas. We are a growing group creating community in the neighborhood."

This next meeting will be Tuesday, May 20, at 12:30 p.m. For more information, contact Kellam at 296-8995 or e-mail Or you can call Patrick Larkin, director of the Castro Senior Center, at 863-3507.

Fall Asleep in a Blue Room

Glen Park resident Jim Averbeck made his picture-book debut last month with In a Blue Room, published by Harcourt Children's Books. The story poses a timeless question: How do you get a little one to sleep? For Alice, the heroine of the book, nothing her mother offers will satisfy--not lilac flowers, nor orange tea (in a brown cup), nor a red and green quilt, because none of them is blue, her favorite color. Of course, when the lights go out, everything changes. The illustrations, by Tricia Tusa of Galisteo, N.M., lend a dreamy quality to the story--ideal for lulling preschoolers to sleep.

Averbeck is himself a children's book illustrator. "I quit my day job four years ago and gave myself five years to get a career on track in the world of children's literature," he says. "So I am up against my deadline!"

Because his illustrations are, as he describes them, "graphic"--he uses a cut-paper technique--and Blue Room is a soothing bedtime story, Averbeck did not do the illustrations but just the text for the book. In the few weeks since it was released, Blue Room has already won converts. A School Library Journal blog predicted Caldecott Medal potential, and a starred review in Publishers Weekly declares, "If bedtime books were dances, this one would be a pas de deux: prose and pictures partner each other effortlessly all the way to the last page."

Averbeck says getting his first book published is the proverbial dream come true. "I think saying you want to get a children's book published is roughly like saying you want to be in major league baseball, or win American Idol," he says. "Publishers get thousands of submissions every year, and they may publish only 40 or 50 books. So having In a Blue Room not only published, but generating great buzz, is phenomenal."

See Jane Running for Girls

On Saturday, May 31, at 8 a.m., See Jane Run, the women's athletic gear store on 24th Street, will proudly host the second annual See Jane Run Women's Half-Marathon, Five-Kilometer, and Kids' Race benefiting Girls Inc. of the Island City.

Girls Inc., serving girls ages 6 to 18, is a national non-profit dedicated to inspiring girls to be "strong, smart, and bold." Programs are hands-on and interactive, to encourage each girl to take risks and gain a sense of her own power and strength.

The See Jane Run event, which will be held at Crown Beach on the island of Alameda, celebrates women and fitness at all levels. Runners, strollers, and walkers are welcome. If you enter the half-marathon (13.1 miles), the registration fee is $65. The 5K run is $35 with or without a baby stroller, and the one-mile kids run is $15.

See Jane Run hopes lots of people will participate "whether you are running for charity, a personal best, or the chocolate and champagne (for 21 years and older) at the end of the race."

Participants will receive a Moving Comfort running top, a sterling silver pendant for half-marathoners, and other fun goodies. There will also be a woman-focused expo at the finish.

For additional information, stop by See Jane Run at 3910 24th Street or visit

This month's Short Takes were written by Olivia Boler, Heather World, Heidi Anderson, and Sally Smith.