Heart of the City Archives

South Africa's Mahotella Queens open the final concert of the 2002 Stern Grove Festival.

Summertime and the living is breezy
by Hank Donat

One of the best things about Stern Grove Festival concerts is their ability to make you forget for an entire afternoon that being in a crowd can be a bad thing. Last Sunday's final concert of the 2002 series came 35 summers after the Summer of Love and proved that music appreciating San Franciscans are still a peaceful, beautiful bunch. 

Early birds get the best spots - the worms! Their blankets cover the center of the grove's natural amphitheater by 10 a.m. My own methodology involves arriving after a late breakfast and looking for friends with room to spare. I knew I'd hit the jackpot when I thought, "Is that my buddy Letitia Wright who works for Schwab, and is that the blanket I left in her car last year?" Yes and yes!

Since the concerts don't start until 2 p.m., trivia games, backgammon, Sorry, Archie comics, gossip, and cuddling all make for pre-show entertainment. If that's not enough, you can pass the potato salad, cup cakes, grapes, berries, sandwiches, humus, and baba gahnoush.

In the western meadow, a young Goldie Hawn type spins a hoola hoop around her curves while a proud papa pitches underhand to a slugger who's all of five, and a big dog gallops away with a ham sandwich. At the Trocadero Clubhouse, pithy Jeff Halpern of Cow Hollow was awed by its mosquito infested pond, which he drubs and dubs, "West Nile Lake." 

South Africa's worldly Mahotella Queens opened the concert that closed the festival's 65th season. The re-formed, folksy southern hip hop group Arrested Development headlined.

Martha Shaughnessy grew up in the Sunset and attended the August 18 concert. "I brought some friends who are new arrivals," Martha said, "I told them, 'This is exactly what San Francisco is - the yuppiest yuppies alongside the hippiest hippies.'" 

Martha and company sat high on the hill next to a pair of septuagenarians who came with three generations of family members. "This is a great city," says Martha, whom longtime Independent readers remember from her soccer career at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, Class of 1997. Now a communications professional, Martha helped promote the new Union Square and is currently boosting the Asian Art Museum. 

Like Martha, Stern Grove is a jewel of the Sunset. If anyone still thinks San Francisco stops west of Van Ness Avenue and south of Mission Street, be advised - with props to Gertrude Stein - there's plenty of there there.

The Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond each have neighborhood businesses that define San Francisco's beach front lifestyle. Many locals avoid the traffic at the Cliff House and Beach Chalet in favor of Cajun Pacific at Irving and 47th and The Sea Breeze Cafe at Judah and 45th. 

For a night out there's Joubert's Restaurant or Than Long, both on Judah. The Pollyann ice cream shop on Noriega is a 50-year neighborhood institution which might be gone soon if a new development goes through.

Across town in North Beach, Tony and Kimberly Azzollini of Caffe Roma announce the arrival of their twin daughters, Francesca Angelina and Sophia Rose. As reported here, the girls' names were the subject of a contest among coffeehouse customers. Of the more than two hundred entries, Sophia and Francesca were recurring favorites. Now all the baby namers are coming in for a free cappuccino or latte. The Azzollini family has been making those in North Beach for 25 years, sometimes two at a time, just like the tots.

In the Castro, supervisorial candidate Bevan Dufty is ready for his close-up. At a well-attended reception in curator Derwood Zedd's new gallery, Dufty impressed some new San Franciscans and several longtime District 8 residents alike with his relaxed and confident talk. Upon learning that Dufty's father, "Sugar Blues" author William Dufty, was married to actress Gloria Swanson, a cutup said, "If Bevan wants to be elected supervisor from the Castro he'll publish an ad that says, 'Norma Desmond was my stepmother and if elected I'll publish her diary.'"

In Japantown, neighbors are settling with the news that the Japantown Bowl building at Post and Webster is a step closer to coming down to make way for luxury condos. In a few weeks it will be two years since the lanes closed, but it's still hard for some to accept that the 24-year cornerstone of the community was sold at the whim of its owner, disappointing hundreds of youth group and league bowlers.

Fate is fickle, but so are San Franciscans. Consider that one minute they love you, the next minute you're Tom Ammiano. The upcoming political season is already shaping up to be a nasty one. The real proof for postal workers testing driving Segway scooters isn't likely to be the hills of Pacific Heights, but rather the weight of our ballots. These titanic documents are overflowing with questions to divide and conquer. 

Political anxiety notwithstanding, my advice to all the candidates is to grab a hoola hoop and head for the Sunset. Summer's not over yet.

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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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