17 Reasons (+1) We're Still the Best Place
by Hank Donat
Fear not my Mission District friends who are mourning the loss of your beloved "17 Reasons" sign over Thrift Town. Around the same time the 1930s sign was replaced by a beer ad I saw workers tear down the I Beam right in front of my eyes as I happened to be walking down Haight Street. It's got to be a right of passage when they raze your disco.
As Mission area neighbors organize to fight for the return of the period sign-cum-public art, which they say added irreplaceable charm to their corner of San Francisco, here are 17 reasons (+1) we're still the best City anywhere. The list is in no particlar order.
1. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Publisher, San Francisco's first poet laureate, and City Lights founder continues to support freethinking writers and poets who fall under the mainstream radar several decades after the Beat Movement.
2. Bridges. Harry is long dead and Nash is canceled, but we've got your Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay. Alfred Hitchcock filmed extensively in the Bay Area, most notably when he made Vertigo and The Birds. Hey, Mr. Lucas, who needs pixels when you've got a Golden Gate Bridge? (But $5 tolls? Please!)
3. The Eureka Theatre. Theatre that developed Tony Kushner's masterpiece "Angels in America" in the '90s thrives at its new venue, 215 Jackson Street. www.dnai.com/~eureka/
4. Neighborhood Newspapers. News stories that affect you on the street where you live are available in free newspapers all over town. These are often stories the dailies won't touch. Have you seen the Sunset Beacon? Simply scintillating.
5. Pedal Revolution, 21st between Van Ness and Shotwell. Functions as a regular bike shop but is actually a non-profit agency that trains troubled youth in bike repair and running a business.
6. Clement Street. The un-chic shopping district made a permanent mark on the City for the better with fun shops, great restaurants, and real neighborhood character. Green Apple Books, Bargain Bank, Q restaurant, and the Restaurant Supply Store at Clement and Sixth Streets are all standouts.
7. Transamerica Pyramid. Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City advances a legend that San Franciscans are descendants of the lost inhabitants of Atlantis, drawn here by the pyramid's beacon to return to the ocean together. Major religions have been based on less.
8. St. Francis. Speaking of religion, don't forget we're named for the lover of all creatures, St. Francis of Assisi. Francis makes a pretty good standard-bearer. Don't worry, I'm not pushing religion. What do you think this is - the Pledge of Allegiance? The St. Francis shrine in North Beach needs your support - www.shrinesf.org.
9. Sunday in the park.
10. Diversity. Here's a word that's used so much it's lost all meaning - until the moment you leave the City for some rectangular town where the cultural epicenter is a Denny's. Too many places spring to mind; the column is less than a thousand words.
11. It's the view, stupid. Accused of living off her looks for far too long, San Francisco has every right to do so. Castro resident Carolyn Zaremba says, "Anyone who has been to Prague and thinks San Francisco is better is an idiot." I guess that means I can never be executed.
12. You. The next time someone tells you San Francisco sucks, ask them what they're doing to make it better. This means you, too!
13. Glide Memorial Church. A nexus for spiritual and political change and a sanctuary in San Francisco for all people since Rev. Cecil Williams brought life back into the flagging congregation in 1963. In 2001, the church handed out a record 12,000 bags of groceries on its Dec. 20 holiday food give-away, which was attended by Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders.
14. Earthquakes. At any moment we might get to start all over again from scratch.
15. Victorian Box. Familiar to any San Franciscan who walks along tree-lined streets, its wonderful fragrance is similar to honeysuckle, sweeter than jasmine. Frankly, it smells like love. Visit Friends of the Urban Forest at www.fuf.net.
16. Fanny Barnes. The 52 year-old African American became the first female cable car grip in 1998 simply because she was told it couldn't be done.
17. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Mark Bittner put them on the map and nearly upstages the magical flock in a new documentary film.
18. Portola. Not much of a walking district because it's mostly houses and because shops of interest are far between. No matter - it's got a retired police officer, a dock worker, a single mom in her 70s, and a man who still uses the fertile land to grow delicious plum tomatoes. Sounds like the heart of the City to me.
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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat