Best of the Bay 2011 Editors Picks
A horizontal open bag of kibble is not the only thing needed to ensure cat survival on your mid-August getaway. But Pet Camp's Cat Safari dangles off the other end of the kitty-care spectrum. Appropriately tucked along the mansions and boutiques of Presidio Heights, its facilities include an indoor jungle gym where your precious can rub furry elbows with other pampered felines, huge garden windows, aquariums to gaze at, myriad perches, and even twirling club lights (to facilitate a killer catnip trip?). For the rare feline that actually gives a shit about people, Cat Safari even offers "very individualized playtime sessions." Your lap never looked so boring.
3233 Sacramento, SF. (415) 282-0700, www.petcamp.com
Who doesn't like a little Miles with their rinse, a little Bird when they scrub, or some sweet, sweet flights of Mingus while they watch the tumble-dry? If your washing life seems culturally impoverished, then put a little Louis in your laundry at the Fillmore District's Jazz Wash. Piped in scat, bebop, swing, and jazz standards help lift spirits while the state-of-the-art washers help lift stains. This little Laundromat has free Wi-Fi and a friendly, responsive owner who likes to mingle. The "midweek special" is a true deal: on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, it's only $1.50 for a 30-pound wash. Perks other than joint's squeaky cleanliness and squeaky saxiness? We've run into a few hottie jazz aficionados here who've made us quite Dizzy Gillespie.
1119 Fillmore, SF. (415) 238-5791
The subject of an ongoing, highly politicized brouhaha (San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department is seeking to evict it) also happens to be an excellent place to shop for compost. The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) Recycling Center plant nursery is a treasure trove for gardeners who want to transform backyard plots to reflect the Bay Area's natural ecology. HANC's botanical collection features dozens of varieties native to San Francisco — all the better to attract winged visitors and helpful pollinators. Expertly tended by the green-thumbed Greg Gaar, seedlings sprouted under HANC's care have also benefited urban ecology projects like the Mission Greenbelt.
780 Frederick, SF. (415) 753-0932, www.hanc-sf.org
You've just experienced one of those glorious one-night stands you read about in fairy tales like the "Sex and the City" columns of yore. But the morning after ... well, let's just say things aren't exactly coming up roses. Where do you turn for safe, comfortable, confidential STD testing and treatment? San Francisco City Clinic, of course. This year the clinic is celebrating 100 years of zapping not just simple post-tryst maladies, but more alarming epidemics as well. From the "red plague" of the Barbary Coast (syphilis) to the devastation of "gay cancer" (AIDS) and beyond, the capable city clinicians — trained through the San Francisco Department of Public Health — have fought back against STDs in an honest, shame-free environment. Free and low-cost diagnosis and treatments are a priority; promoting healthy sex while protecting against transmission and outbreaks is the mission.
Though winter chills have given way to summer chills, SF residents won't forget the "it's gonna snow!" moment of February 2011. During this glorious time, we had not one, but two, reliable weather websites we could turn to: isitsnowinginsanfrancisco.com and isitsnowinginsfyet.com. Taking a cue from isitchristmas.com, the sites' simple 1990s-era setups and delightfully snarky pre- and post-snow quips combined to make SF's most recent winter weather hysteria a lot more fun for the majority of the city who didn't see flakes. (Enough of the subfreezing temperature gloating, Sunset and Twin Peaks — you're covered in fog the other 364 days of the year.)
Florindo "Flo" Cimino opened his barber shop atop Potrero Hill in 1953, when he was 20. He has been snipping at the same address ever since — he's even lived about three blocks away, in the same Arkansas Street house, since his parents brought him back from St. Luke's Hospital as a baby. Now 80, he's spent six decades as a barber, hair stylist, news destination, and Potrero Hill institution. Many clients have been with him for decades and come from all around the Bay and beyond — for good reason. His barbershop has the look of a place that Sam Spade would visit regularly for a trim and the neighborhood scoop.
Flo's Hair Styling, 1532 20th St., SF. (415) 642-0887
Get back, consumerist hoo-ha! Popular wisdom tells us that iPhones, like love and Goldfish crackers, are ephemeral. Crack your screen? Time for a new iPhone. Drop it in the toilet? Wassup, Apple store. But Shakeel the iPhone Guy sees through the capitalist flapjaw. The enterprising, customer service-oriented, cash-only Apple wizard operates out of a South San Francisco storage unit, stocks replacement parts, and can fix things we didn't know were fixable, even waterlogged cell phones. He gives you a one-year guarantee on parts and labor — and all for prices way below what you'd find anywhere near official Mac Death Star retailers. No wonder the man's a Yelp celebrity.
160 S. Spruce, Suite C001, South San Francisco. (650) 861-2810
It really, truly is all about you when it comes to esthetician Jaydee Cohen of Alameda salon It's All About You. Under her gentle, patient, and friendly ministrations, you'll get one of the most detailed, carefully customized facials in the Bay, filled with good common-sense advice (yes, you can OD on certain products, harshing over-stressed pores) and soothing but no-nonsense, treatments. Plus Cohen dares to go where many estheticians fear to squeeze — we're talking 'bout extracting those seemingly intractable little white bumps below your eyebrows, ladies and gents. The brave Cohen applies her considerable wisdom and expertise, as well as an absolutely perfect amount of pressure, and makes clarity happen — all sans the dreaded scarring. Blessed be.
2500 Central, Suite 1, Alameda. (510) 864-7000
Fitting, we must profess, that the namesake of George Sterling Memorial Park was a poet. The views from this Russian Hill rec hub make us want to write stanzas between sets of tennis and ballads after basketball runs. Near-360-degree views of this epic setting can be found up at the corner of Hyde and Lombard streets (yes, right where Lombard begins to snake downward). Come for the views but stay for the play — four tennis courts and a full basketball court await the aerobically inclined. Waits can get long for the tennis courts, so be sure to abide by (and enforce!) the one-set-per-court rule.
Lombard and Hyde, SF
In February, Chevron was found guilty of causing massive oil contamination in the Amazon and ordered to pay $9 billion — a landmark victory that took 17 years of litigation, brought by thousands of indigenous Ecuadorians affected by cancer and birth defects. Amazon Watch helped them win. The nonprofit supported their struggle through media work, speaking tours, and letter-writing campaigns — and it's not stopping until Chevron cuts the check. During the oil giant's recent shareholders conference, Amazon Watch partnered with the Rainforest Action Network to send three courageous souls rappelling off the Richmond Bridge with a banner bearing the message "Chevron Guilty: Clean Up the Amazon!"
221 Pine, Suite 400, SF. (415) 487-9600, www.amazonwatch.org
Maybe it's the late summer evenings we've spent here drinking cheap wine on a slab of concrete while looking out over the San Francisco Bay. Maybe it's the graffiti-adorned rocks or the handmade concrete hut, evocative of Dr. Seuss creation. Maybe it's the bizarre formations of twisted rebar and spinning bike parts that can be found dotting the landscape amid tall, scraggly weeds. Maybe because it's the prettiest former landfill we've ever explored. Whatever the source of its charm, there will always be a special place in our hearts for the Albany Bulb, which makes a great dog park but is also great for anyone who needs to get off their leash and run around. To get to the park, head bay-ward from Golden Gate Fields in Albany.
You can find dogs and cats anywhere. But say you want to adopt a chinchilla — or perhaps a snake. How about a rat? A rabbit? A couple of birds — or yes, a feathered chicken friend? You'll have to head down to the San Francisco Animal Shelter. The city shelter is the only place in town that adopts out just about every type of (small) animal that anyone could imagine keeping as a pet. Sadly, most of the creatures arrive there because they were no longer wanted in someone's home — but that doesn't mean they aren't cute, cuddly, bouncy, fun, and ready to take up a (tiny) space in your apartment or backyard. Hell, they might even pay their own way — omelet, anyone?
1200 15th St., SF. (415) 554-6364, www.animalshelter.sfgov.org
With rock walls made from the stones of a medieval monastery, gravel beds, and balmy southern exposure, the San Francisco Botanical Garden succulent garden is one of our favorite places to bask in the heat like a lizard. But even here, the storms of controversy gather. The rightful ownership of the wall rocks has been disputed for decades — they've changed hands from Spanish monks to the megalomaniacal William Randolph Hearst to the City of San Francisco to an abbey near Sacramento to their current scattered locations throughout Golden Gate Park. Whew! Talk about your rolling stones.
Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF. (415) 661-1316, www.sfbotanicalgarden.org
Every Mission District Sunday, a line forms for the Free Farm Stand's toothsome tenderheartedness. Founder Tree Rub has run the show since 2008, giving away thousands of pounds of mostly organic local produce from his garden to all who come. He believes everyone should have access to nutritious food, and that most of it can be grown right in our backyards. Apparently he's not the only one: the stand is run by volunteers who often contribute their own homegrown surplus — from hummus to loquats to collard green seedlings to the free weekly bounty. The seed has been planted: last year FFS and other nonprofits opened an urban farm on Gough and Eddy streets that has added fuel to the food-giving fire.
Sundays 1–3 p.m. Parque Niños Unidos, 23rd and Treat streets, SF. www.freefarmstand.org
From the vantage point of Kirby Cove — a small, sandy shore on the southern edge of the Marin Headlands — day-trippers and campers can gaze at the topaz glow of the Golden Gate Bridge-framed city or look westward toward the infinite Pacific blue — maybe even China. Wave to the container ships — hello, Shan Hai, Evergreen, and Maersk Danang shipping lines! — from what feels like your own private beach. Just two warnings: plan ahead if you wanna pitch a tent — there are only four sites and reservations can fill up to three months in advance. And bring earplugs — sea dreams will likely be interrupted by the endearing but incessant sound of foghorns.
Battery Spencer, Conzelman Road, Sausalito. (415) 331-1540, www.parksconservancy.org
Without a parent who has been through the applications, intense study schedules, and patently awful cafeteria food, getting through college can seem like a tough circus to ringlead for many high school students. Studies show that scholarly parents are a big factor in kids' academic success. That's why we give props to First Graduate, a nonprofit founded in 2000 that guides first-generation, university-bound students through a decade of life. From seventh grade all the way through college graduation, the low-income kids receive monetary support, tutoring, counseling, and career exploration opportunities. So far, 100 percent of participants have conquered high school and made it to year two of university — surely something that's worth tossing those tassels in the air.
37 Graham, SF. (415) 561-3450, www.firstgraduate.org
Joel Pomerantz has a lot of nerve asking people to think and walk at the same time. He also has a lot of nerd. In fact, he bills his ThinkWalks — designed especially for locals — as "nerdy tours for San Franciscans." Possibly the man who coined "the Wiggle" to describe the city's best cross-town bike corridor, Pomerantz offers sliding-scale strolls that explore what makes San Francisco such an unusual city. He thinks it's because these parts boast a headlong collision of the urban and the natural — like the buried waterway under the Wiggle and the Mission District's latent ecology. So buy the ticket and take the stride: fresh geography, stronger legs, and opened eyes ahead.
(415) 505-8255, www.thinkwalks.org
From an environmental standpoint, herbicides and lawnmowers are unsatisfactory ways to control invasive plant species. Enter City Grazing's goats. The Bayview rental company offers a pack of furry, friendly billies to spruce up your degraded land. While the goats nibble plants, their hooves work seeds into the soil, maintaining beneficial organisms and obviating the need for heavy equipment — thereby minimizing soil disturbance and compaction. They trample dried brush, create natural mulch, and add organic matter to the soil. And don't forget the cuteness factor. When was the last time your lawnmower bleated playfully, nibbled your sweater hem, and butted your thighs (without causing serious bodily injury)?
Port of San Francisco Railyard, 100 Cargo Way, SF. (415) 756-4233
Independent broadcast radio can be hard to locate on the dial these days. But we can still turn to KPOO, an African American owned and operated — and nonprofit — radio station. Since 1971 it's been playing the silkiest, grooviest, most obscure soul, jazz, R&B, rap, blues, and gospel out there. KPOO also broadcasts weekly meetings of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, as well as community-minded interviews and event coverage catering to underserved audiences — y'know, Native Americans, women, LGBT folk, youth, and low-income listeners. Click over to 89.5 FM, pump up the volume, and listen. That's the sound of freedom from corporate media, folks.
1329 Divisadero, SF. (415) 346-5373, www.kpoo.com
San Francisco: we party on Judgment Day, we party on drugs, we party on crooked streets and Big Wheels — and now we party on bikes. Hard. The San Francisco Bike Party slapped the scene silly at the beginning of 2011 with its monthly low-conflict costume-partied rides, invented in San Jose. (When does anything in SJ ever get props in SF? For this alone, SFBP deserves praise.) Call it the natural evolution of Critical Mass, call it an awesome Friday night with hundreds of velo-minded new friends, call it an excuse to make a hot toddy in a thermos. But SFBP riders call it one thing, do so and at the top of their lungs to boot: "Bike Par-TY!"
First Fridays of the month, 7:30 p.m., free. Check website for start location, sfbikeparty.wordpress.com
When technology evolves faster than law, unanticipated questions on Internet users' rights spring up like weeds. Think of the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a machete for slashing through these digital thorns. Cops want to suck all the data out of your iPhone? Consult the EFF's online consumer guide Know Your Rights. Wondering how that social media site you're addicted to ranks on privacy policies? Check the EFF's Who Has Your Back? campaign. The nonprofit employs a mix of advocacy, education, and litigation to protect consumer privacy and defend Internet free speech. Its lawsuits have countered everything from warrantless wiretapping to the feds' unrestrained zeal in targeting Twitter-ers tied to WikiLeaks. A godsend for geeks, EFF helps you surf safe.
454 Shotwell, SF. (415) 436-9333, www.eff.org
The only way they'd be getting a more authentic Mission experience is if they slept on your roommate's couch and ate a leftover burrito for breakfast. But parents are rarely down for things like that, so shack 'em up at the Inn San Francisco. The Victorian bed and breakfast is a quick walk from mural alley stalking and 826 Valencia-ing. Inside, rooms with a jewel-toned grandma motif look out over a peaceful backyard garden. Your folks'll love the rooftop patio for catching those Mission rays after a hard day of tourism, and a huge complimentary breakfast spread will make it difficult to convince them to brave the line at Boogaloo's. Rates start at $120 for two.
943 South Van Ness, SF. (415) 641-0188, www.innsf.com
Five-year-olds double, double, toil, and trouble. People too young to read Elizabethan English belt out the poetic lines of The Comedy of Errors. And generations of Bay Area kids get exposed to Shakespeare, literature, and performance in a way that makes even the most shy and inexperienced player feel comfortable. These are the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's summer camps. Their teachers are professional actors with extensive instructing experience, unafraid to split up lead roles so that more kids can get a shot at stardom — ages 4 to 18, all are encouraged to discover the Bard in their own unique, 2011 San Francisco way.
Various Bay Area locations. (415) 558-0888, www.sfshakes.org/camp
A one-time sports supplement entrepreneur who took the book bestseller lists for a ride with Four Hour Work Week — quit answering so many e-mails! — and then again with Four Hour Body — eat red meat, hello unbridled virility! — Tim Ferriss is clearly unfamiliar with the concept of specialization. In addition to being a career and fitness guru, he set world records in tango and regularly doles out info on his Experiments in Lifestyle Design blog on Mac viruses, luxury vacations on the cheap, and applying the philosophical lessons of Seneca to everyday life. The wisdom is always presented in the form of first person findings, a manic mishmash of Ferris' life less ordinary.
It seems crazier than a Twinkie defense that San Francisco — one of the hottest of hotspots in terms of queer liberation and visibility — hasn't had a history museum to preserve and explore all the wonder of LGBT life. Until now. In January, the 25-year-old GLBT Historical Society found a permanent space to display and interpret its vast archives of paper, photos, films, and audio recordings: the GLBT History Museum. The first of its kind in the U.S., the sleek storefront gallery may be small, but it packs a huge emotional and educational punch. From FBI files to feminist sex toys, radical activist pamphlets to old-school gay bar flyers, the museum's lavender arsenal has ripped the lid off the often obscured queer past, and attracted tens of thousands of curious visitors (Britney Spears among them).
4127 18th St., SF. (415) 621-1107, www.glbthistory.org/museum
We were sartorially spoiling ourselves among P-Kok's clothing racks of fripperies when we heard that the garden-sauna space behind the store had been converted into a self-care community. Tall Tree Tambo is a gym of sorts — members pay either a monthly or more affordable yearly fee depending on how much they want to utilize the space, and drop-in rates are available — but there are no StairMasters here. Instead, the tranquil backyard zone is used for meditation, reiki, yoga, sitting in the sauna, and reconnecting to self. Everyone's encouraged to bring their own expertise to amplify the space's curative effects, and intimate classes in healing are held regularly.
776 Haight, SF. (415) 430-8285, www.talltreetambo.org
If we treated old people the way we treat old dogs, Dr. Jack Kevorkian would have made a fortune. Every day people pack their old pals off to the shelter in their golden poochie years. Many of those dogs — who are healthy but just a step slower and more in need of patience — are euthanized. Muttville, a San Francisco rescue group started by legendary dog-saver Sherri Franklin, aims to change that. The organization takes older dogs from shelters and connects them with adoption-ready families. One look at the website and you'll fall in love with all the well-worn woofers looking for nice homes — especially considering their potty training, mellow demeanors (Franklin makes sure the ones who've led rough lives are fully socialized before they're adopted out), and underdog chances.
(415) 272-4172, www.muttville.org
After 57 years of loyally cheering and impatiently waiting, San Francisco Giants fans finally got their wish when our team became the 2010 Major League Baseball champs. And boy, did we represent the orange and black, from the superfans to the drag queens to the drag queen superfans. If the enigmatically dark beard of closer Brian Wilson or the maroon-colored thong of outfielder Aubrey Huff didn't hook the nation on San Francisco funk, the fans would have picked up the slack. Gigantes devotees caught everyone's attention — including that of a Texas reporter who couldn't help but be amazed by the fans outside AT&T Park getting high on life, among other things. What do you say team, how about two in a row?