Annie Jupiter-Jones with her dad, Tom Ammiano at Precita Park.
Saturday in the Park with Tom Ammiano
by Hank Donat
If it's true that it takes a village, the Mission District is resolutely that village. Reminders of this greeted me as I stepped off a 27-Bryant bus at 16th Street so I could see the Rigo mural "Birds/Cars" on the side of the house at 1712 Bryant.
All along several blocks to my next destination were symbols of community. Flyers promoting fundraisers, neighborhood meetings, bands, Carnaval, and peace were taped to light poles and in windows. (Posters are considered a blight by many. Personally, I don't think they're our biggest problem.)
I was joining
I first became acquainted with Tom Ammiano in 1989, around the time Annie had asked her mothers for information about her father. Ammiano, then a gay teacher and comedian with a new, 9 year-old daughter in his life, was performing the one-man show "Pouf Positive" when I interviewed him for the Sentinel newspaper. Later, I shared the stand-up comedy stage with Ammiano at Josie's and the Great American Music Hall.
Ammiano astonished even seasoned observers with his rise as president of the Board of Supervisors and with the 1999 write-in campaign that got him in the run-off for mayor against Willie Brown. "That was the sprint. This is the marathon," says Ammiano of this year's run for Room 200.
It's a beautiful day. Annie and Miss J are playing with a ball on the sidewalk. Annie looks bright and happy, like spring itself. The last time I saw her she said I looked like New Kids on the Block. We're both a good deal older now.
Miss J is happy, too. She gives a big bear hug to the family dog, a brawny pit bull named Chamgo. I can't watch a tiny child play with a pit bull without holding my breath.
Annie tells me Chamgo, who's very sweet, came into the family through BAD RAP, an organization that offers resources for the rescue of pit bulls in addition to education and support. "He's the same age as Justice, so it's nice." Annie says as I exhale. (www.badrap.org)
It doesn't surprise me that Chamgo's origin is community-based. Little about Annie's family is not rooted in friends and neighbors. She learned to ride her bike inside the Woman's Building, which her mothers co-founded.
Justice's father, Isaac Alcanpar, 23, and Annie will become teachers after graduating from San Francisco State in December. This summer, the couple is taking Justice along with them on a trip to Latin America for work and study.
Justice is well traveled. Annie says, "When she was six months old we took her to New Jersey to meet the Ammianos. That was something. Can you believe my Dad's the quiet one?"
Annie tells me
Miss J, who's
bobbing around and generally being
The child beams, "Roma for mayor!" Roma Guy is the longtime partner of Annie's mother, Diane Jones. Roma isn't running for mayor, but right now Miss J has my vote in the palm of her hand.
When Ammiano arrives he looks well. He seems no worse for the wear, having just come from an endorsement meeting with a political action committee whose views are squarely to the right of his.
Nor does he seem concerned by mayoral opponent Gavin Newsom's front runner status. "I think the bloom is off that rose," Ammiano says of a perception that Newsom is a sure thing, though recent polling data favors Newsom.
As we wend our way to Precita Park, where some kids Isaac works with are being honored by the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Visitors Center during a celebration for Mural Awareness Month, Ammiano receives an update on activities from his daughter's life.
Annie explains that the charter school for which she's a trustee is frustrated with its venue. Ammiano counsels her to be patient.
A friend of Annie's recently discovered that Tim Curbo, a teacher from the friend's youth, is also the late partner of Tom Ammiano. Kirbo died only days before Ammiano was elected to the Board of Supervisors. Annie says the friend wants Tom to know what a great teacher Curbo was.
Annie is a member of Loco Bloco, a city youth drum and dance ensemble. She wants Tom to buy their new CD and just happens to have one. Community begins at home - Dad shells out for the CD. (www.locobloco.org)
Loco Bloco got its float registered for Carnaval but missed a deadline for the gay pride parade and might not get in. Ammiano shrieks with laughter. "Ahh! It used be about the community. No one made the deadline! It was five people in a flat trying to pull it together!"
What started out this way was a lovely afternoon at the park. Ammiano may feel slighted that his charming daughter and Miss J overshadowed his entry in this candidates series.
But I couldn't help thinking that these young people are a reflection of this neighborhood, as Annie Jupiter-Jones is a reflection of Ammiano and of her mothers. I don't know if it takes a village, but I've seen what can happen with three moms and a Tom. I wish they showed kids like this on The Real World.
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Copyright 2003 Hank Donat