The General Store

I like living in the Westside. We’re starting to change the Sunset district and Richmond over to the Westside because we both have Ocean Beach in common. Once you pass Sunset Boulevard the vibe changes and you just get a laid-back beach vibe from the things you encounter. You see it most down on Judah street with Noriega and Taraval starting to get into the game and Judah street was where I ended up yesterday.

There’s a little parklet across from the 7-11 that made me stop and take a look and I noticed a new store that I hadn’t seen before. It’s called the General Store, yes I agree it could have a better name, but it’s a well, general store. It carries thing you would need like clothes and flashlights and books, etc. They tend to be a bit more on the upscale side of things, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’ve been in business for a year and a half which is good by business standards in the Westside because businesses don’t usually last too long as you get near the beach. At least in the past.

The beach area used to be a no man’s land that the only thing that lasted more than a year was the corner liquor store. Restaurants out there were pretty beat up looking and you would want to choose them unless you had to. I’m glad it’s changing. Judah street from 44th Avenue down to Great Highway is becoming a vibrant place to visit. The General Store just adds to this.

When I walked in I was surprised at the artistic quality of many of the items for sale. There was a calendar that  had each month printed in a spiral showing the phase of the moon each day and was printed using an old method called letterpress wherein metallic versions of the letters are actually pressed into the paper after being coated with ink. It gives a debossed look even though the printers tried to avoid this when they first started doing it.

There were wooden handmade implements that upon further inspection turned out to to be flashlights. They were pretty impressively made and if you had one sitting on a table you wouldn’t even know what it was. There were also a collection of handmade soaps and jewelry for those so inclined. The books and notecards available while few had a distinct Westside vibe.

All in all it was a nice place to visit and with the parklet outside the two blended in together quite nicely. It’s a warm and inviting place that makes you feel welcome when you step inside. You should stop by and take a look. It’s a nice place to visit.

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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Businesses are Coming to the Sunset

While it may not be a perfect method to see that things are coming back, I have been noticing a distinct trend lately out here in the Sunset — businesses are coming in that are a little bit different than what we had before. These new places have an appealing look to them that makes up want to come inside. Even some of the older businesses are giving themselves a new paint job as well.

My wife saw a place today as we were driving back from a decadent trip to Andronico’s and it’s a little bakery called, Let’s Cupcake. I don’t know how long they’ve been open, but I haven’t noticed them before so it must have been fairly recent. We stopped by and picked up their chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream. At first site, it reminded me a lot like the cupcakes at American Cupcake. It looked like them and the price was the same, $3.00 and they were even packaged the same. It’s a good sized cupcake that my wife and I could share.

We got home and scooped into it. Not bad actually, for the Sunset district I’d have to give it a WOW because you don’t find cupcakes like that out here. We usually only have the Safeway or Lucky’s cupcakes that taste like bad homemade cupcakes. I’ll give them a 3/5 for potential to get even better. The cupcake itself is dense, but moist. There was an intense chocolate flavor that probably came from the chocolate chips inside it. The buttercream frosting was more like a foam than a real frosting which counter balanced the density of the cupcake. Many people don’t like buttercream frostings because they’re usually too sweet, but this was pretty good and not overly sweet.

The place looks like a very nice coffee shop inside with two large flat screen TV’s and free wi-fi [bonus!] The staff is nice and accommodating and while you’d think they’re just cupcakes they have a few other pastries to choose from. They also serve breakfast, but our daughter had fallen asleep in the car and woke up a little grouchy so we didn’t really have time to look around too much. From doing a little google snooping I also found out that the owner, Genesis gives cupcakes to local organizations. Good for him!

Nice place give it a try. I’m glad to see there are a few hipper businesses coming to the Westside. We need to pull in the hip start up crowd out here so most of the people who live here don’t have to travel so far to get to work.

 

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Faux Rain

I had forgotten about this until today. We had heavy fog that to people from Los Angeles would refer to as…rain. You can’t see more than 20 ft in front of you in the afternoon while you can see farther the air is so thick with humidity that if you stand around outside for a half hour you look like you walked into a rain storm.

This is always something you have to be careful of especially when you’re driving as the water will build up on your windshield fast and if you don’t have intermittent wipers you have to be quick with your fingers or you’ll run into something or worse, someone.

Heavy fog also tends to be brighter with the tiny water droplets diffusing the light making you at times wonder if you’d see better by putting on sunglasses. I guess the faux rain of heavy fog is kind of like weather that can’t make up it’s mind.

I can remember walking the few blocks to school in this kind of weather and looking like I had been hosed down. Umbrellas don’t help, but you can try. They mind at least keep the top of your head a little drier, but not much. It’s also barely enough to keep you from having to water your garden if you have one and there’s almost nothing worse than seeing your neighbor out in their garden with a raincoat watering. I guess that falls into the same category as putting on your winter coat to go out to barbecue in July. It’s a Sunset thang.

Checking my handy dandy iPhone it tells me that we’ll have to deal with this until Sunday when it will stop. Until then, stay dry my friends.

 

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West Portal

West Portal is a little village within San Francisco. It is based on the metro station of the same name where the L-Taraval, M-Oceanview and K-Ingleside all come together. It’s quite a hub of transportation, yet at the same time has a bit of small town feel with a bit of a high price tag.

You’ll find very few chain stores here. I think Walgreen’s still stands out as the only major chain. Most of the shops here are of the Mom and Pop type where if visit any of them a few times the store owners will remember you.

West Portal is a funny area in that before the tunnel was built in 1918 it was rather difficult to get to. The tunnel which no services the SFMTA originally was a hole through Twin Peaks to enable streetcars to traffic people downtown in about fifteen minutes.

It’s funny to travel there during the week because after all the hustle and bustle of the morning commuters taking the trains downtown the place turns very quiet. Parking is everywhere and the place takes on a rather sleepy kind of presence. The only place you’ll find lots of people are at the tables outside the coffee shops, in particular Peet’s where you’ll find the older retired Bohemians sitting around talking about the news of the day over coffee.

You don’t find too many hipsters here and you only see someone at a coffee shop with a laptop occasionally and that’s usually at Starbuck’s. Most of the time you’ll see people here to shop or eat at one of the many restaurants. Did I just say restaurant? Well there are many here such as Fresca serving Peruvian cuisine [sorry, they don’t serve guinea pig] to the Mediterranean Bursa or if you like something less upscale there’s always Mozzarella di Buffala for a quick slice of pizza or authentic Brazilian dishes, yes you read that right or Noah’s Bagel’s for a quick nosh.

In the evenings if you want to experience a bit of old school it would be best to stop by the Philosopher’s Club to get your drink on an debate the state of politics with the locals. Be careful though for fisticuffs might ensue! While there are at least four bars on the strip of West Portal you’ll hardly ever see a fight though. This is a place where the genteel upscale people live being bordered by Forest Hill. It’s a step up from the working class here.

In general West Portal is well, nice. It’s a safe place to visit and shop. Everyone seems to have a smile on their face and there is a great sense of community here. The Merchants get together to fund decorating the parking meters for the holidays and they have a yearly arts and crafts show on the sidewalks that always brings the locals to visit.

Oh and in case you’re interested, I’ve started making neighborhood t-shirts at the behest of my Sunset District neighbors. You can see some of them at my Baghdad by the Bay Store.

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John Avalos For Mayor

Yesterday I had a chance to meet with Supervisor John Avalos at a campaign meeting with the members of the Sunset District. I have to say that while he, like the majority of others who are running for Mayor wasn’t born and raised in San Francisco, but I do have to admit he connected with the people because his district, The Excelsior isn’t much different than the Sunset.

The evening started off good when after I walked in I was accosted by Andy Wernette, Twitter’s own Terrapin_SF. Ah yes, the bloggers are here. I got introduced to Tom of Ocean Beach Bulletin, Greg from N-Judah Chronicles and Andy’s wife @Michfit. While we attacked the perils of blogging and how much google’s adsense sucked Supervisor Avalos was wandering around schmoozing the crowd. There is always a bit of game playing when you deal with politics in public, but I have to admit that John didn’t make you feel like you were being played. He made you feel like he was one of us.

The best part about the evening is that I receive emails daily from people running for Mayor who offer you a chance to come out and have coffee with them while they tell you how we’re the greatest city and they’re going to make it better. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Supervisor Avalos invited the Sunset District out for beer and pizza and he picked up the tab. John, you know the working class Sunset District I have to say. While pizza and beer are cheap, coffee is cheaper. John Avalos kicked it up a notch by feeding the huddled masses at The Pizza Place which is in my opinion the best pizza place in the Sunset.

Supervisor Avalos gave a speech on the points he wanted to make of what he would do as Mayor. He is a progressive with his eyes on preserving the ecology of San Francisco favoring grass and nature over concrete and astroturf. A rather humorous point was met during his speech when he mentioned high taxes for properties valued at over $5 million dollars which brought about a boo from one person who then yelled taxation is Communism! OK guy, go back and take your political science course again and prove to me that you passed, then I’ll let you vote. John’s speech wasn’t long, but he got to the point quickly. I was lucky enough afterwards to introduce myself and get to pull him outside to talk privately for a few minutes.

I’ve got to say that John is not a blow dried, hollywood style political figure. I told him my story and we talk about raising kids in San Francisco [which he thinks the schools need to do a better job of teaching]. He really did seem like one of us. I lived in the Excelsior for 6 years and it was a great place to live at the time. I’m glad to be back in the Sunset though and it was good to hear that we had a lot in common and John had an interest in looking after all of San Francisco, unlike some other Mayoral candidates who will go unnamed at this time.

John Avalos for Mayor. I think he is someone to keep an eye on right now.

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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