I had seen everything to do with cell phones on Muni when
I saw and heard a woman on a crowded 45 Union bus loudly swear someone
to secrecy about an affair, but I thought wrongly. Last week, I found
myself northbound on the 24 Divisadero line sitting next to a young
lady who got on the horn and chatted in a casual voice about having
recently robbed a woman's purse.
"A hundred and some dollars and checks," said the gal with beautiful
striped fingernails, adding that it was a good thing, too, because
she had bills to pay. Pretending to mind my own business, as were
a half dozen others, I opened the Examiner and, to my amazement, there
was a report on the alarming rise of pocket picking on public transportation.
(Do you ever look around for the invisible director?)
Now, did the person on the other end of the phone know how to deposit
checks in the bank that were made out to someone else? No. Neither
did the recipient of a second call made by the star of our story.
Next, just in case she had gone unnoticed by anyone, she idly tested
ring tones for three stops.
It could be a commercial for Apple's iPod, but it's really City life.
By the way, here's a familiar warning. The indiscrete thief also had
this to say: "Her purse was wide open. That's what she gets for bumping
A more wonderful expression of San Francisco life is the fact that
it was necessary to make a bee line from Mayor Gavin Newsom's historic
"Shame on you," speech under the City Hall rotunda in order to make
it to the fried chicken opening at Powell's Place on time.
Newsom spoke to an audience of thousands of gay men and women on February
12, the first anniversary of Newsom's decision to issue marriage licenses
to same-sex couples. Four thousand gay couples wed here last year
before the California Supreme Court struck the marriages down several
Newsom denounced politicians who ask gays and lesbians for money then
tell them it's too soon for them to have equal rights. In a speech
that some City Hall watchers said was his strongest to date, the mayor
saved the rousing round of shame for President George W. Bush.
As Newsom led the chorus, "Shame on you! Shame on you!" I couldn't
help thinking of the more than two decades of bull dykes, drag queens,
leather guys, and other street gays I've heard deliver exactly the
same outcry. Now the baton has been passed to a seemingly conventional
straight, white, Irish Catholic mayor. As one wag put it, Newsom is
"all guts, big glory, and of course great hair."
Having married a same-sex partner at City Hall last year myself, a
highlight of the anniversary event was reuniting with the couples
with whom we bonded during our hours long Wedstock experience. What
a pleasure to see Gary Schilling and Stefan Hastrup, Margaret Curry
and Julie Gill, and Scot Hammond and Seth Lawrence. All are as happy
and in love as a year ago.
At Powell's Place, gospel singer and restaurateur Emmit Powell unveiled
chic new digs finished in the Jazz Preservation District on Eddy Street.
Powell's was a favorite on Hayes Street from 1972 until last year.
Powell's Place is a good example of San Francisco for San Franciscans.
That's what Chip Conley offers visitors to his Joi de Vivre hotels
with his new volunteer Golden Gate Greeters program.
Conley, the City's wunderkind hotelier, was alarmed by a recent Travel
& Leisure survey that rated San Francisco 19th out of 25 cities for
friendliness and 20th out of 25 for the likelihood of a visitor to
meet someone new.
Conley enlisted Elizabeth Smith, whom he met while Smith was observing
Conley and other members of the mayor and Angela Alioto's Ten Year
Plan homelessness council. Smith had previously worked with a program
in New York that matched visitors with locals willing to entertain
Golden Gate Greeter Gill Eklof lives in Bernal Heights. A native of
Sweden and a San Franciscan since 1987, Gill says she advises visitors
to wear comfortable shoes. "See the City by foot or you'll miss the
best of it," adds says Eklof, "Be curious and hungry and you'll have
a great time."
Gavin Coombs, who lives on Cathedral Hill, says he was intrigued by
the program because, "people who live in San Francisco are especially
prideful and people who visit San Francisco are looking for that."
He says every visitor has their own preconceived notion about what
is a tourist destination and most want to steer clear of them.
Coombs recommends the Castro Theatre to film lovers, 111 Minna to
art lovers, and the Audium, Fillmore, Warfield, Bimbo's, or the Great
American Music Hall to music lovers. He also favors Hayes Street for
shopping and Vallejo Street on Russian Hill for views. Whether you're
from Napa or Nashville, it seems like you'd be in good hands with
Some of my favorite locals attended a celebration for the Golden Gate
Greeters at Suede on Bay Street last week. Making the scene were Rob
Bhatt of Where magazine, Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt mastermind
Jayson Wechter, the drag performer Putanesca, actress AJ Davenport,
writer/performer Heather Gold, Haight Street tour guide and right-on
sister Pam Brennan, and the self-styled octogenarian, bon vivant and
world traveler Peg Brennan.
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