Noe Valley Voice May 2009

Rumors Behind the News

All the News That Fits

By Mazook

REPORTERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has issued a Mayday red alert, warning all citizens of our urban village that our First Amendment right to a free press is in imminent peril.

The problem, according to NVBI findings in April, is that "the pool of our nation's news gatherers and beat reporters, pounding the pavement for news, is dwindling to alarmingly low levels. Noe Valleons may soon lose their ability to know what's going on beyond our valley," the NVBI wrote in a one-page report.

The NVBI based its alarm on several factors. One, the journalism staff has been dramatically cut at the San Francisco Chronicle (which has been losing $1 million a week for over a year). Two, newspapers on doorsteps are increasingly rare. In Noe Valley, as elsewhere, the wi-fi folks are saying, Why should I buy the Chronicle when I can read it on my computer for free?

The NVBI contacted the Chronicle, but it refused to confirm its circulation numbers for zip codes 94114 and 94131. That information is "proprietary and confidential," the Chronicle told the NVBI.

The NVBI notes that many of today's newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Chicago Sun Times, Denver Post, and Seattle Times, are either struggling to survive or totally on the rocks, in sharp contrast to the 1960s through '80s, when print news publications had industrious investigative reporters everywhere and news bureaus flourished throughout the world.

The NVBI notes there are rumors circulating in the valley that the Chronicle may soon go the way of many other newspapers in the industry--paperless, relatively reporterless, editor-intense, and totally electronic, except for the Sunday edition.

Opines the NVBI: Who will be out on the beat meeting with Deep Throat to inform us about the Watergate break-ins of today?

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NEWSRACK AND ROLL: One bright spot in the grim NVBI report was the free San Francisco Examiner, which appears destined, ironically, to become once again "the Monarch of the Dailies."

"For us," says Examiner circulation boss Mike Costello, "our circulation in the Noe Valley neighborhood has gone up."

According to Costello's numbers, almost 3,000 papers are circulated in Noe Valley each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; just under 11,000 on Thursday; and nearly 19,000 on Sunday. (The Examiner has no Saturday edition.)

Examiner Executive Editor Jim Pimentel is very optimistic. "We have about 50 reporters now and are looking to hire more, and we are hiring more advertising staff."

Other possible survivors may be the weeklies. Many of them are sitting in the new news racks installed in Downtown Noe Valley in April.

"We have gotten rid of the 204 old individual newspaper boxes and installed the green pedestal news racks, which hold an aggregate of 158 boxes," says Noe Valley Association director (and member of the News Stand Commission) Debra Niemann. "However, many of the boxes are empty, since a lots of papers are choosing not to buy a box. The city doubled the fees to use a box, and a lot of the free papers like the real estate and free advertiser papers are not coming out in these times, primarily, I think, because of the costs of circulation. Times are tough."

Niemann says times are also tough for those cherry trees blooming along 24th Street. "People are clipping off the cherry blossoms and taking them home for themselves--and that's not right."

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THE MANE EVENT: Lost in the Fog, the documentary movie by Noe Valleon John Corey, about Noe Valley legend Harry Aleo and his champion thoroughbred Lost in the Fog, opened at the Roxie Theater on April 24. The film got great reviews on Channels 5 and 7, and in the Chronicle and the Examiner. Its stay at the Roxie has been extended through May 7, so hurry down to 3117 16th Street for the 6:30 p.m. daily showtime.

Corey says, "The box office has been real good. We're almost sold out on the weekends, and our run could be extended once again."

For those of you who don't know the ending of the story, remember that after Aleo's horse became a world-class sprinter, he turned down a $12.5 million offer to buy it. In reply to the offer, Aleo, in his 80s, asked the rhetorical question, Why would I want to sell the horse that made my later years so exciting?

In other H.A. news: TV trucks were parked on 24th Street outside of Aleo's Twin Peaks Properties at the end of April, with Channel 7's Don Sanchez taking viewers back in time to circa 1952 for a tour of Aleo's office. Of course, Sanchez pointed out the sign proclaiming Aleo to be the island of sanity in a sea of "latté-sipping liberal loonies." Aleo passed away in 2008, but that phrase will never die.

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PARK PLACE WITH ONE HOTEL: Just Awesome Games, located on Diamond near 24th, is becoming a destination for many local families. They're streaming in to play board games in the game room in the back of the shop.

"It's been a lot of fun having games nights [from 7 to 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays]," says co-owner Erik Mantsch. "We have Monopoly Monday, Open Games Night on Wednesday, and Family Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.," says Mantsch. "We have been giving out prizes on Monday for the person who has the most assets at nine o'clock. On Fridays, we serve pizza to the families."

One mom at the shop says she's happy her son and his friends "are getting away from their computer screens and playing real live games."

The number-one game these days at Just Awesome is Pandemic, according to Mantsch. "It's a cooperative game where the players work together to save humanity from four deadly diseases."

That's a good game to learn, kids.

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CONGRATS to our local restaurants Firefly and Incanto for making the list of Michael Bauer's "Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants," in the Chronicle last month. (Totally cool, by the way, was that Firefly devoted a portion of its menu in mid-April to Passover dishes, like grilled Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Smoked Potatoes, Roast Vegetables Matzo Kugel, and Roast Cornish Hen with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes.)

Kudos also go out to Noe Valley's state senator, Mark Leno, who was named Legislator of the Year (2008) by California's National Organization for Women. Leno was recognized for authoring legislation to give same-sex couples the right to marry. The legislation didn't pass, though. Even Iowa seems to have become more liberal than "progressive" California.... Maybe next year.

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MARKET FLUCTUATIONS: Locals will be happy to know that Bell Market's manager, Enrico Fornesi, will join the management team at Noe Valley's new Whole Foods when it opens this fall. Fornesi, born and raised in Noe Valley, lives on Noe at 23rd, and started at Bell Market 30 years ago when it was owned by Harry Misthos and Dominic Tintori.

"I'm very happy that I can continue to work in the neighborhood," says Fornesi, "and I am really looking forward to working at this great new store."

When Bell closed last February, Fornesi was transferred (as manager) to the last remaining Cala/Bell/Ralphs market in Northern California, at California and Hyde streets. That store will be closing at the end of the year.

Fornesi says many of his 24th Street customers have come over to the California Street store to do their shopping and to say hello to the several Noe Valley checkers who transferred there as well.

Meanwhile, a neighborhood group has been forming with an eye toward taking over the long-vacant Real Food store across the street from what will be Whole Foods.

According to neighborhood activist Peter Gabel, the group will be scheduling a town hall meeting to have "conversations about the wonderful use that could be made of that space, including possibly a food court featuring local food and restaurant folks from the neighborhood, live music, and even a DVD movie theater for weekly film showings. The second floor possibly could be devoted to affordable housing."

Among the people involved with Gabel in this project are a well-known neighborhood architect, a developer, and a community organizer in the Barack Obama vein. Noe Valley Farmers' Market co-founder Leslie Crawford is also on board.

"We all agree that the right and best way to do this is through a genuine community planning process: to develop the vision, attract the resources needed for such a venture, and then to approach Real Food with a proposal that we can demonstrate is also in their long-term best interests," says Gabel. Good luck.

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BIG BROWN: The UPS route in Noe Valley was "up for bid" last month, as the longtime delivery man, known affectionately as Sonny, had chosen to move to a downtown route with shorter hours.

Video Wave owner Gwen Sanderson, who often sees the brown uniforms at her door, leaked this item to the NVBI: "One of the drivers bidding for the route told me that Noe Valley is a coveted route and the only drawback, he says, is the number of heavy cases of wine they have to deliver!"

She said her source added that the "bid sheet" has been taken down and a driver should be assigned in less than a month.

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IT'S A GIFT: Finally, for those of you planning a June wedding, please note that both Cooks Boulevard and Global Exchange have wedding registries at their stores. At the latter, you can get a socially conscious gift, like a hand-embroidered wedding guest book made by villagers in Jaipur, India. At Cooks Boulevard, you might consider a totally practical set of measuring cups for the kitchen. Cooks, by the way, is doing a very brisk business in knife-sharpening.

That's all, you all. Before I go, here is a pop quiz for you to answer:

1. Does anybody know what the name of the store was that occupied Cooks Boulevard in the 1960s?

Second question: What was the name of the first automobile built in California, and where in Downtown Noe Valley was it built?

Ciao for now.