Blockboard: Know Your Neighborhood

An old friend of mine who I haven’t seen in probably close to 30 years, Ian Kallen contacted me a few months ago about an iPhone app he was working on called Blockboard. It’s a type of social networking app, but more micro-social networking that helps bring together people in your neighborhood. At the time they were focusing on the Mission District because that’s where they were started, but now they’ve expanded to cover all of San Francisco and are moving on to cover other cities.

What’s nice about the app is that it’s just more than a Howdy neighbor and then you get back to browsing the web or playing some game by Zynga. People in your neighborhood can actually post about things going on that could be anything from police reports, suspected illegal activities or local street fairs and meet up parties. I can honestly say that in all my time with twitter and Facebook I’ve hooked up with some old friends and we’ve talked about the old times, etc, but I’ve only met face to face with about maybe 20 of the close to 1000 people I’ve amassed between the two.

I’m going to start checking daily with blockboard now after I received an email from my twitter friend [who I’ve yet to meet] Bre Lambert of ScoutMob. She wrote to me to remind me that Blockboard is running a contest where five neighborhoods can win $5000 by getting 500 members to sign up. That money will go to fixing up things in the area, making improvements, etc. So now I’m making my pitch to get you to join up in the Sunset. Well, since I cover all of San Francisco you all should download the app and join up actually, but I’m always a little partial to the Sunset seeing as I live here.

Checking in this morning I also found there were coupon offers for local businesses in the area that you could take advantage of through blockboard. The app also appears to aggregate relevant blog postings and articles from the web about the neighborhoods of San Francisco. I was kind of surprised that many of my articles actually had links there that I didn’t have to share with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if this article shows up there.

As I said before, I’m going to be paying more attention to this app as it looks like it has real promise for the districts of San Francisco and I hope you check it out because with your help you’ll help bring about some change within the city better than a bunch of people clogging up the Financial District chanting.

The 17th Annual Sunset Community Festival

I got to go to the local Sunset Community Festival on Saturday which was actually called the Playland at the Beach Festival as well even though there was only a single sign up with info on the long defunct Playland. I have to admit that it was one of the better local gatherings I’ve seen. This is probably due to the fact that it was at the newly renovated West Sunset Playground which as I expected in the previous article on it, the mulch was being trashed by kids everywhere.

Because this is a community focused event that pulls political powers from around the city there were booths for just about every person running for Mayor of San Francisco. I got to meet with John Avalos [of course], Joanna Rees and Mayor Ed Lee, who I must say is much taller than he looks in pictures. Phil Ting was there, but had no booth and ran off shortly after I arrived. I was especially surprised to see that Carmen Chu, Fiona Ma and Leland Yee who tend to be all over the Sunset district had unmanned tables and were no shows. I would have liked to have a chance to bend Carmen’s ear for a few minutes to an hour to let her know what needed some attention in the Sunset District. Tony Hall has several older, conservative cronies out to push him as well, but he too was a no show which was odd considering his connection to the Sunset District. All in all I was surprised to hear John Avalos’ name mentioned by many of the people there. I think he may have a real shot at getting it since he’s staying away from the political infighting going on with other candidates for Mayor.

The day wasn’t all about politics though and I was glad to run into Tom Prete of Ocean Beach Bulletin and Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods group who had booths as well. I’ve included lots of pictures which you’ll see at the end in the slideshow and it was a fun, but crowded day. I do have to admit that the only downside I saw at the event was Bank of America’s booth that was handing out free stuff for spinning a wheel which had people lined up blocking the comcast and Run Ed Run booth so you couldn’t even get close since people wanted to win a frizbee, caramel corn or a few other things [like I said, they were lined up thick and I couldn’t really see.

The games arcade for the kids was packed to the gills with kids flying around in the multi-tiered bouncy houses they provided and there was also a flea market sort of set up near by where you could get anything from vintage vinyl to clothes to well, garage sale junk people wanted to get rid of. I was pleased to meet Pat and Virginia of the local NERT group that I’ll be writing about soon. If you need to know what to do in an emergency, NERT will teach you in 6 short, free classes. Other Avenues, the health food store that I’ve written about previously was there and I had to introduce myself so they had a face to put with the article I wrote.

There was also food from local places such as North Beach Pizza and oddly enough there was one booth selling deep fried oreo’s. I wanted to give it a shot, but I didn’t have any cash on me and apparently some of these booths haven’t heard of square that I’ve talked about before to allow them to take credit cards cheap.

For a community get together this was one that was done right. I was surprised that all I had to do for many of the booths there was mention  Baghdad By The Bay and they knew who I was immediately. I plan on visiting more of these local events in the future.

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Meatball Sub Thursdays

I’m getting a bit nostalgic again after talking with some of the people I grew up with in the Sunset District. The one thing we all have in common is Herb’s Meatball sub.

Herb’s deli was the place to go in the Sunset to get a sandwich. It wasn’t all bright and clean like other delis, but Herb’s was, well, Herb’s. The meatball sub consisted of two huge almost tennis ball sized meatballs that were slow cooked and sliced up like meatloaf with extra Italian sauce [or ketchup depending on who or when you talk to or went]. Sometimes I remember parmesan cheese shredded not grated on the sandwich and it wasn’t served in a hot dog bun like some other places serve it.

Herb did it up San Francisco style on a sourdough roll. I honestly have to admit that I never tried one of these sandwiches that everyone raves about. I always went for the Herbie Burpy which consisted of pretty much everything they had behind the counter stuffed into a roll. I could never eat one by myself and I remember a friend of mine would always get one and split it between us. The weird thing about Herb’s is that it closed probably close to thirty years ago, yet no one has rented the place out.  I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it looks like someone might be living there now which I’m sure breaks numerous code violations. They’ve put up bars in front as you can see and inside there’s a wall with a door that looks like it says, get the hell away from here. I live here. Something ain’t right with the place now, but Herb’s was a part of San Francisco that was near and dear to everyone’s heart int he Sunset.

P.S.: Thanks to Michael Flynn who corrected me when I originally said Meatball Sub Tuesdays. Slainte!

Doggie Diner to be Demolished

I was a little sad Friday afternoon when I heard that the building that used to be known as Doggie Diner, yet another icon of San Francisco is to be demolished.

After thinking about it for a bit, it isn’t so bad because it’s been vacant for years and there will never be a Doggie Diner again. We’ll still have the head, but Sloat Garden Center who owns it will be tearing it down to make way for more room to sell their plants and supplies.

I can’t for the life of me remember what the food at Doggie Diner tasted like, but at least I can remember I loved going to the place. We’d always eat there after a trip to the zoo because the food was better. I guess that tells you something about zoo food back in the 60’s and 70’s.

I also remembered that while they sold hot dogs, Doggie Diner was more known for its burgers. While Mayor Ed Lee sees it fit to hand out organic hot dogs to traveling dignitaries, San Francisco was never known for its hot dogs, except for the dog that sat high above Doggie Diner.

So iconic was the dog that a movie was made in 2005 called Head Trip that lots of alt-culture artists made a trip from San Francisco to New York carrying three of the heads as some sort of art project. The Dog had an effect on people.

Started in 1949 and giving it a good run until 1986 the disappearance has sort of left a mystery behind it. There are few artifacts other than the head and I can’t find a menu anywhere to remind me of what they used to serve. The inside had a fully tiled drive in feel to it, yet it wasn’t really a drive in. More of a walk-in would be appropriate. The original owner Al Ross passed away last year and aside from a few remarks on Laughing Squid there’s very little about it. This leads me to believe that the end of Doggie Diner can be linked to a government cover up.

Were they inserting mind control drugs into the food to control people who were attending the zoo? There are no menus. The death of its owner has been covered up only mentioning that he has passed away. Yet if you visit the Doggie Diner historical site you will find a small link to the Dogminican Order and a sermon posted from the Deacon Melmouth.

DD-MENU-2-004After reading it I have realized that it is not the skull and bones society or trilateral commission that is running the country, but a group hiding behind the head of a dog.

The Sunset District Comes Together

I was surfing around the web yesterday when I got a notification that an old friend of mine Kirsten had added me to the Sunset District Group on facebook. I had to check this out since it’s one more thing about San Francisco. I’m glad I did.

Someone started this group so that all the people who grew up and or lived in the neighborhood could get together and talk about the old times. I like nostalgia so as I’m starting to look over the postings a portion of my brain unlocked and all these childhood memories started flooding back in.

Names I hadn’t heard in close to 30 years started to pop up. People were posting old photos of places that no longer exist [Don’t cook tonight, get Chicken Delight!] It was fun reading all the old stories. There’s a lot that’s gone over time. Like the Fotomat booth that used to be out near the foot of Noriega. Aladdin Bowl on Noriega which I always remember people complaining that the lanes were warped and of course you can’t talk about the good old days in the Sunset without a mention of the old ice skating rink out on…45th Ave was it?

Then there was the post of all people I knew as a kid who had died. It was kind of sad finding a bunch of people who’s names you haven’t heard in years only to hear more names of those that have died. But at least there’s more fun to cover the sadness.

There’s over 2300 people now in the group and it’s growing faster every day. If you want to know what it was like growing up in the Sunset amidst the fog this is a good place to go.

On a completely unrelated note, I received a tweet today from @geeksugar which is a website for techie girls that was in response to their request for the nerdiest/geekiest pick up line ever used. I guess I won with:

Sorry, I will not tell you what CHMOD 777 means if you don’t know and I didn’t realize how funny it would be until my cellphone started vibrating off the table with all the retweets. I’ve finally come up with something that’s gone viral. Let’s see how far it goes now.

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Lombard Street: Not the crookedest street…

Everyone thinks that Lombard Street is the crookedest street in the world. Well while it’s sort of become a landmark of San Francisco for being such, I hate to tell you, but that’s not really true.

I do have to say it’s prettiest crooked street since either the residents or the city of San Francisco work hard to keep it looking nice for all the tourists who come to photograph the street or are stupid enough to bother to drive down the street [which yes, I have to admit I’ve done it as well], but it’s really only the best known crookedest street in San Francisco. There’s actually one that’s even more crooked and if you’re in a station wagon or large SUV you won’t be able to make the turns.

This is the street between 23rd street and Vermont street out in the Potrero district. It’s longer with tighter turns and my record for getting down the street is 25 seconds. You’ll have a hard time finding pictures of it, but I was able to find one after some hard searching. It’s not as spectacular and pretty boring, but I took my in-laws down Lombard Street when they were here and then drove them all the way out to the Potrero to get their opinion. I believe I might have had to hose out the car afterwards because it was a scary drive for them. It’s a real rollercoaster of a drive especially if I’m behind the wheel.

There were a few residents outside that we could hear them yelling, “SLOW DOWN!” thinking I had never driven this street before, but I’ve done this many times and had this trip down. This is an old picture and the weeds have been replaced by trees or overgrown weeds and lots of barriers to keep you from driving off and falling onto the freeway which is now to the right in the picture.

This part of Vermont street is kind of the ugly sister of Lombard. It’s not pretty, it’s tough to deal with and if you don’t understand her she will mess you up bad…real bad. I’ve told friends about Vermont and they’ve gone to check it out and several of them have bent fenders to show for it.[mappress mapid=”30″]

My dream for Vermont Street is that one day I’ll be able to rent a little Mini Cooper and shoot down at around 40 mph and see if I can break my record. I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart, but it is definitely the thrill ride in San Francisco and best of all, it’s FREE! Now I might end up catching some flack from people in San Francisco that don’t like me sharing this hidden little secret or perhaps the residents that don’t want people trying to sail down there to beat my time, but too bad. It’s San Francisco and I want people to know about it. There are even locals that don’t know about it.

The Great Quake of 2011

Well, Friday had a little surprise for me. I’m sitting here at the computer like I am frequently when all of the sudden I notice the computer start to shake. Then the walls begin to shake. I immediately grabbed onto and hugged my computer until the shaking stopped. My wife, she ran into the other room and grabbed our daughter to make sure she was safe. OK, BAD DADDY!

Turns out it was only a 4.1 and was ESE of San Jose. It only registered 2.6 in San Francisco which I’m a little dubious of. We might have to make a trip to the Randall Museum to double check their seismometer.

We haven’t had an earthquake to speak of in a few years. Usually they last only a second or two  and you only realize that there was an earthquake after it’s gone. This one lasted about 5 seconds so we had time to register in our minds that we were in the middle of an earthquake. I wasn’t scared at all, just wanting to make sure none of my essential stuff didn’t get broken [i.e. my computer].

People have said to me that they’re rather live in a hurricane area or tornado area or blizzard area than to have to worry about earthquakes all the time. Well, I can assure you, we don’t worry about earthquakes all the time. While my house faired through the big 1989 quake with no damage unlike the Marina house in the picture, we might have a problem if the San Andreas decides to have a little shake, rattle and roll. It turns out the San Andreas runs about 10 feet from our house so if a big one strikes there we’re toast, but this house has been in my family for over 50 years and we still haven’t had any damage from an earthquake.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have a grab and dash bag if something big does hit and we’ve both gone through NERT training so if something bad happens we’re prepared. So don’t worry, be happy. San Francisco will still be around for a few more years. Sorry red states.

The Outside Lands

Friday was an interesting day for me as I got together with a couple of friends for lunch in the Inner Sunset district. This is a great place to eat because of the area I refer to as “the Cross”. It runs from roughly 8th avenue to 10th avenue and from Judah to Lincoln Way. Every other shop is a restaurant pretty much and you’ve got a choice of foods from around the world.

As we were sitting and gorging ourselves at Crepevine we started talking about how San Francisco used to be before people decided it might nice to live here. Well, the picture here is of 7th and Lawton streets before the construction boom that finally killed off the last inland sand dunes somewhere around the 90’s [it’s now a soccer field behind St. Ignatius High School]. I remember the sand as a kid, it was everywhere. If you dug down less than a foot in the grass planted around my elementary school you hit sand. I think the street cleaners used to be there more for cleaning the sand off the streets than for picking up garbage.

When my parents bought our house in 1954 their backyard was a long strip of sand enclosed in low cost fencing [much the same as many of the pot farm houses still retain]. My dad used to tell me how he’d take my mom’s dog to rear fence and drop him over on the dunes and let him run. Don’t worry, it was a low fence. These were what was known as the “Outside Lands.” Because of Twin Peaks it didn’t used to be very easy to get here so people would have to drive from downtown out through the Mission and circle around until the street car tunnel was put in and roads were able to built to bring people over.

It probably had something to do with 1894 Midwinter Exposition that gave us Golden Gate Park as well. First thing built in the Sunset District was the Shannon Bar, the oldest remaining bar in San Francisco. If you travel out by the beach you might find some remains of Carville where people bought old streetcars and cable cars and turned them into housing kind of like what some people are doing with the steel shipping crates today. Steve “Woody” LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project has written an excellent book on this time and I remember seeing him at a removal of an old earthquake shack from someone’s back yard several years ago. Oh, and what was in that backyard…sand. We still have it. If you travel along Taraval or Judah streets closer to the ocean you’ll see it filling in cracks along the streetcar tracks still, just not as much as it used to.

Our cool, foggy beaches are what says Sunset District to me along with the Indian summers that bring us out of our houses more to do nothing except be outside. Oh, and then there’s the sand.