Hermes and Me, High on a Hill
by Hank Donat
Rozzalynd and Josephine Weibe want you to know they're not the Browns. It seems the Wiebe sisters are frequently visited at their Nob Hill boutique by folks who expect to find Vivian and Marion, the City's good will ambassadors of greeting card and advertising fame. "Do we look like them?" Rozzalynd asks rhetorically.
If you put the Browns and Wiebes side by side you would never mistake them. The Wiebes, zaftig and beautiful, dress alike but not identically. Jewel encrusted hatpins and lots of alternately sheer and velvety purple and black fabric are signatures of the Wiebe sisters' wardrobe. Themselves wrapped like boutique packages, Rozzalynd and Josephine's look is funkier than the more conservative but equally elegant Browns. (Another distinction - Josephine makes the world's best oatmeal cookies. Believe me, or believe the Desert Storm troops for whom she baked nearly a thousand during the last war.)
With satin and frills to the rafters, Twins Armoire - the Wiebe's 860 California Street boutique since 1969 - could pass for the dressing room that the late Steve Silver has surely designed for the late Sally Stanford somewhere over the rainbow, where it's heavenly but it ain't San Francisco.
The Wiebe's don't always get along so well with their neighbor, The University Club, but the sisters are discreet in a fear-of-litigation kind of way, allowing four blue-green eyes rolling in the same direction to speak volumes about the construction site next door.
They may be relieved to know that the Resting Hermes sculpture, removed by the University Club for construction of a new athletic facility, will be returned to its location just off the California Street sidewalk between Powell and Stockton later this year when work there is completed.
J. Chivarri & Co. of Napoli sent Hermes to the Italian Exhibit at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, when San Francisco officially rose from the ashes of 1906 by hosting the world in the Marina. When the Italian government wanted to destroy the sculpture rather than pay for shipping or storage, the University Club acquired the graceful god for the enjoyment of all. General Manager Deke Kastner doesn't want me to say how much the club paid for the artwork, but I can tell you it got the exquisite piece for about the cost of a Sony PlayStation 2.
Kastner says Hermes, whose unrest includes a 1970s theft by college students, will return in an even lovelier and more secure setting than before. "Hermes will rest once more," Kastner says. That's good news for the Wiebes and for the entire neighborhood...
Across town, I cut through Richard Gamble Park, a small dog park near the corner of Cole and Carl along the N Judah. As if to confuse visitors, the park is located at the West Portal of the Sunset Tunnel - in Cole Valley. Here, dogs learn new tricks on a patch of lawn surrounded by trees and cala lilies, jasmine, and lavender. A favorite scene: Chic blonde lady with pixie haircut wearing yellow sun dress does her best Tippi Hedren to avoid being spattered by flock of shiny blackbirds. Nearby rotweiller and Jack Russell terrier root for the birds.
Around the corner at Reverie, a friendly coffeehouse with great java and Polaroids of regulars on the wall, I catch up with Craig Newmark. Craig created San Francisco's most recognized online community with an intention so simple that he doesn't even remember the date he launched Craigslist, which now logs a million visitors per month. "Some time in 1995," Craigslist.org became the City's online outpost, a platform says Craig, "where people can get a break." If you're looking for a job, a ride, a place to live, someone with whom to play the harmonica (or bass, or theremin for that matter), a nanny, stuff, a place to sell your stuff, or a date, Craigslist is for you. Craig, who founded the web site from his Cole Valley apartment, is one of few survivors of the dot com gold rush.
Before starting Craigslist, the 49 year old self described nerd was doing programming on a contract basis. "There used to be a lot of work doing that," he deadpans. Today, Craig is a reluctant celebrity. He says he had no clue the site would become so successful. "It's surreal," Craig says, "But that's okay; our lives in San Francisco are surreal and absurd."
He was featured on Mornings on 2 as one of the City's most eligible bachelors, one of many media appearances including the Today show. Craig didn't get a date from the local show but jests that Katie Couric was "all hands." Craig is disarmingly funny for someone who claims to lack basic social skills. On April 1, 2001, Craigslist issued a press release "admitting" there was no Craig in Craigslist, and that Newmark was a fictional character. Local scribes might be a little wary the next time April Fool's Day comes around...
And the beat goes on.
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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat