City by the bay, sometimes by the book
I just read Mark Bittner's
forthcoming nonfiction book "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" and
it is full of surprises.
Over the past several years, San Franciscans became aware that Bittner
cared for and chronicled the whimsical flock of cherry-headed conures
that screeches across the city sky each day, attracting curiosity from
the Greenwich Steps to Cow Hollow to Cole Valley. Bittner says the steadily
growing flock now numbers around 120 birds.
What will surprise even those most familiar with Bittner's story - relinquished
dreams of rock stardom led to odd jobs and squatting until parrots redefined
his existence - is that Bittner is an excellent writer. By the end of
his tale, you will no longer see humans as the center of the universe,
if you ever did.
I won't offer any spoilers except to say that "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph
Hill" is indeed a love story with wings. The book will appear on store
shelves early in 2004.
Hitting stores in time for the holidays is "Time Off! The Unemployed
Guide to San Francisco" by Dean LaTourrette and Kristine Enea. LaTourrette,
a marketing consultant, writer, and surfer, believes that leisure time
presents an opportunity to feed the spirit. I wholeheartedly agree.
The gainfully employed will also enjoy "Time Off!". You don't have to
have all the time in the world in order to enjoy San Francisco - you
just have to relax and act as though you do.
The guide includes comments and tips from such leisure advocates as
writer Ethan Waters, Mayor Willie Brown, and myself. Harry Denton contributed
the forward. For more information visit www.leisureteam.com.
San Francisco literary icon Barnaby Conrad swept through the city last
week to promote his new novel, "Last Boat to Cadiz."
At a luncheon at Moose's hosted by Nob Hill Gazette founder Gardner
Mein, Conrad said that "Cadiz," an international thriller, is based
on a close encounter he had with the niece of a key Nazi while working
in Seville, Spain during the days before U.S. troops landed on the beach
at Normandy during World War II.
Conrad, whose El Madator club on Broadway was the Moose's of the '50s,
is always a compelling raconteur. Among those rapt by Conrad's stories
in Moose's Eden Room were "Above San Francisco" photographer Robert
Cameron, Ann Caen, Roger Boas, Margot deWildt, and "Painted Ladies"
authors Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen.
Conrad created the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference, held each year
in June. He brings the very first San Francisco Writer's Conference
to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in mid-February, 2004. Scheduled speakers
include Pam Chun, Ishmael Reed, Terry Ryan and Catherine Coulter.
By far the most beautiful book I discovered this fall came from an unexpected
source. "Kaleidoscope" is a poetry anthology written by residents of
Laguna Honda Hospital.
Sharon Pretti, the social worker who teaches Laguna Honda's poetry class
and edits the anthology, says the writers "examine their world using
images that are surprising and poignant. Their voices are strong, courageous,
and inspiring. They remind us that creative expression is a necessary
part of being alive."
Copies of "Kaleidoscope" may be obtained by calling Laguna Honda Hospital
There is already a hole in my heart where Matthew Brady's Independent
column The Old Town used to be. Where else can we hear stories of Old
San Francisco and old San Franciscans such as "King" Frank McManus of
Potrero Hill, or Yankee Sullivan the ballot box stuffer?
The Society of California Pioneers presents "The City Rises," a collection
of etchings by George Taylor Plowman, Lawrence Norris Scammon, and Bror
Julius Olsson Nordfeldt. The exhibit depicts an unvarnished landscape
- lopsided houses, sagging fences, slag heaps, and sinkholes - as a
historical record of a once-ruined San Francisco.
The Society of California Pioneers is the state's oldest historical
organization. "The City Rises" runs through December 19. For more information
History buffs can also catch a presentation on movies made in and about
San Francisco offered by the San Francisco History Association at the
3371 16th Street auditorium this Thursday at 7 p.m. Members of the non-profit
history association, now in its 23rd year, meet on the last Thursday
of each month.
Emily Mann's play "Execution of Justice" focuses on more recent history.
The story of Dan White's trial for the November 27, 1978 assassinations
of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk was performed earlier
this month by University of San Francisco Students and was directed
by Peter Novak.
Milk's protege, the photographer Daniel Nicoletta, former Lt. Governor
Leo McCarthy, Carolene Marks, and Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, attended
the premiere of the short run on November 6.
Marks and I agreed that the students' performances were some of the
best we've seen onstage all year. Paul Kaliszewski as Dan White, and
Pim Kyne as both reporter Barbara Taylor and mayoral secretary Cyr Copertini
were stand outs in a cast of stand outs. Mann's script is just as wrenching
as it was when it was first produced in 1984.
Because the play sounds a note of forgiveness early in the first act
I was emboldened to ask Nicoletta if, 25 years later, he forgives White
- who committed suicide in 1985 - for killing the mayor and his friend,
The photographer said, "I hadn't thought about it, but there's only
one person in my life I don't forgive and it's not Dan White. So I guess
the answer is yes."
A light in the eyes of the eternally youthful Nicoletta called to mind
a passage from one of Laguna Honda's "Kaledioscope" poets, Doris Moore.
Moore writes, "I will leave behind a ray of hope for those who battle
for a better world, one where prejudice will not exist.
"I will carry with me love, goodness, and kindness given by the myriad
of people who wondrously crossed my winding path of life."
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