Something old, something new in Left Coast City
by Hank Donat
San Franciscans, from
earthquake survivors to dot com castaways, know that change
can happen both gradually and in one fell swoop.
Watching Supervisor Tom Ammiano address supporters at the Z Space on
11th Street following his fourth place finish in the mayoral election
last week was an opportunity to witness instant change in slow motion.
Written all over the forlorn faces of such die-hard gay community activists
as Gwen Craig, Eileen Hansen, and Robert Haaland was the sunset of yet
another mythical San Francisco.
In this one, "Left Coast City," all you needed was a good cause and
a loud voice - the louder the better. In Left Coast City, where it's
all about love and loyalty, the struggle is a long and painful one but
it's a kind of rain dance. Rights and freedoms fall from heaven.
Of course it also takes extraordinary
courage to demand rights for gays and blacks and women when it's not
popular to do so, to care for friends and loved ones with a disease
no one understands, to stand against war when so many hunger for revenge,
to go on when you are beaten, or to pick up a sign and picket for an
old woman who's being evicted on Page Street.
The Z Space is a cavern of Left Coast City survivors as Ammiano thanks
the crowd of about 150. The frozen faces are of those who have outlived,
outlasted, but have not outplayed a public that has grown weary of their
outrage here in Left Coast City.
Nine blocks separate Ammiano's event from 111 Minna Street, where Gonzalez
is celebrating the second-place finish that guarantees him a spot in
the run-off against Gavin Newsom.
Earlier in the evening, I hop-scotched over the vomit and homeless people
on Howard Street between the two events in time to see Susan Leal and
to catch Ammiano's remarks.
At Don Ramon's restaurant, also on 11th, Leal acknowledges that she
was told often during the campaign that everyone knew she was the best
choice for sound fiscal stewardship but Leal wonders why people didn't
vote that way.
At Angela Alioto's campaign headquarters at Howard and 3rd, Alioto's
disappointment cannot be concealed.
Later, the third-place candidate tells me she's stung but resolutely
hopeful for the future of San Francisco. Always frank, Alioto basically
says she was robbed - a Hammett-esque expression of my own choosing
but one that makes a long story short.
At the Minna gallery, the new left of the left, personified by Matt
Gonzalez here in Green Coast City, is jubilant. The faces in the overflow
crowd are bright with optimism. Politically, these supporters are not
unlike Ammiano's - minus the nine blocks of bad road, battle scars and
I recently wrote that I didn't know if Gonzalez could get elected on
the support of young art lovers. As I approach the entrance to the Minna
gallery, a young art lover I know calls out to me. "I guess we voted,"
Gavin Newsom celebrated up the hill at the Regency Ballroom on Van Ness
Avenue where there are also plenty of people sleeping outdoors. Luckily
for them, both Gonzalez and Newsom have pledged to help these folks
get off the streets.
The beat goes on... St. Francis Memorial Hospital at Hyde and Pine streets
is my favorite hospital. I've been treated for food poisoning there
more than once, the result of some bad late-night dining choices.
The hospital's Total Joint Center is one of the leading arthroscopic
surgery centers in the country and a great local success story. Medical
director Dr. Tom Sampson is currently working with the FDA to test ceramic-on-ceramic
hips that are expected to last much longer than the ones used today.
I'll pick mine up at Biordi's on Columbus!
The hospital's annual Hip-Hop is a dance party in honor of recovering
joint surgery patients. Patients at St. Francis have an advantage because
of programs that get them started on recovery regimens even before surgery.
I dropped by just in time to catch 68 year-old Martha Scott cutting
a rug only one week after total knee replacement surgery. "It's all
about positive attitude," says the hospital's Linda Gillespie.
Linda loves to tell stories about one of the hospital's most famous
patients. Clint Eastwood was born here in 1930. It was known only as
St. Francis Hospital then.
According to hospital lore, Eastwood was an 11-pound baby and such a
wonder that he was shown throughout the hospital. The building in which
Eastwood was born was replaced in 1968. The hospital no longer has a
St. Francis recently announced a new executive director for its Rally
Family Visitation Program. The program, a national model, provides court-ordered
visitation and monitored exchanges for children of divorcing couples
in San Francisco.
Rally, the brainchild of Superior Court Judge Ina Gyemant, was implemented
in 1991. The new executive director is Sonia Melara. In 1974, Melara
founded La Casa de las Madres in San Francisco. It was the first battered
women's shelter in California and only the second in the United States.
I asked Gyemant if it's true that a judge can become a truth detector
after spending many years in the Family Law Court. She says no, but
claiming "the dog ate it" doesn't fly either.
"When assessing credibility," says Judge Ina, "it's always important
to look at actions and not just words." That's a good thought to keep
in mind when choosing a candidate on December 9.
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