Heart of the City Archives

Ocean Beach
Left coast rhapsody in black and blue
by Hank Donat

In the two weeks since my last column, which consisted mostly of my own left wing political angst plus some finger shaking at the mayoral candidates, I broke both my left pinkie finger and my left baby toe - the one that cried, "Wee! Wee!" all the way home - in separate household accidents. 

Curious as to whether there might be a deeper meaning behind this coincidence, I phoned Patricia Kramer of the World School of Massage & Holistic Healing Arts on 32nd Avenue. "There are no accidents," Patricia says, "Your body was in the right place at the right time.

"Your left side can be ascribed to the feminine side that has to do with care and heart and love matters. If you were distracted by what President Bush is doing in the world, your body may be telling you to embrace nurturing and the feeling side of life."

With that advice I hobbled out into the city for some of what's good for anything that ails you. It's the kind of medicine only San Francisco can dispense and no, I'm not talking about the pot club.

From the sideboard of a northbound Hyde Street cable car there is no war or unemployment, only the scents of jasmine and garlic in the bistro district, jasmine and ocean air north of Union Street.

Anyone who thinks cable cars only trundle, lumber, and jerk ought to catch the Hyde car. It's the Space Mountain of our few remaining lines and is giggle-inducing if you don't mind getting up close and personal with Aunt Minnie from Mineola or Uncle Mike from Russian Hill. 

The stop at Broadway and Hyde is a personal favorite known as "The Broadway Canal." The Hyde Street overpass resembles a graceful Amsterdam gracht as closely as an overpass can. The cable car tracks suggest the Nederlander's ubiquitous tram lines. Neighborhood character provides the rest of the illusion, provided you look with your heart as much as with your eyes.

And so from the Embarcadero to John's Ocean Beach Cafe, observe the City of St. Francis.

In Cole Valley, "San Francisco Stories" author Derek Powazek offers some neighborhood secrets. "Dryer number 39 at Doug's Suds will give you ten minutes per quarter, instead of the standard 7." Powazek adds, "Washer #12 used to count tapping on the coin slot as quarters, but Doug fixed it."

For newcomers who may be skittish about homelessness in Cole Valley, Powezek says, "Johnny is only dangerous when he's half-drunk. When he's only slightly drunk he tells jokes, and when he's fully drunk he's asleep."

Over at MisterSF.com, we didn't find a mate for Supervisor Bevan Dufty, but we connected members of San Francisco's Bacciocco family with a European branch of the clan. 

In Germany, Carl Bacciocco read an item about 1906 earthquake survivor Sophie Bacciocco and wrote the site to request help finding the Baccioccos by the bay. 

A family reunion is in the works, to be held when the skies are friendlier.

A news report about the demolition of the Fell Street off-ramp starting later this week had Jeff Halpern scratching his head. It's still difficult for some San Franciscans to wrap their minds around three words, "trendy Hayes Valley."

Another report, one about possible layoffs at the Chronicle, is bad news - especially if you're among the staffers facing the axe. 

It would be a blow to lose City Hall reporter Rachel Gordon, whom I admire. Rachel is a veteran of the Independent and happens to have one of the best handshakes in San Francisco - firm but not boastful.

On the subject of media types, watch for former Examiner columnist Debby Morse to re-emerge as a food writer in the Bay Area market.

In North Beach, neighbors said "ciao" to the Florence Deli and Ravioli Factory on Stockton at Vallejo, a fixture for 67 years. Only ten months ago, the Panelli Deli across the street closed after more than 80 years. 

Florence Deli owner Mike Cresci said customers he hadn't seen in several months were coming in to say good-bye. "I would have appreciated their business during the year," Mike said, "but everyone knows they can get parmesan cheese at Costco for $2. I think they expected me to just keep the place open, like a museum."

Cresci's lament is a familiar one, and one that reminds fans of local color to support independent businesses. It is also a signal to those businesses that it's better to adapt than to remain unchanged, beloved but ignored - like a favorite old coat.

The opening of the New Asian Art Museum reveals a stunning renovation by famed Italian architect Gae Aulenti. The beautiful museum will be "maintained and cherished from generation to generation for the improvement and delight of mankind," fulfilling the former inscription on the front of the building when it was the old Main Library.

Finally, what could be better medicine than watching the remaining moments of the day at Ocean Beach? The sunsets here are breathtaking. I'll describe this one as bluer than my finger, more purple than my toe. 

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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
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