Heather and I live in a small apartment building in a lovely little San Francisco neighborhood called Cole Valley. And right outside our front door is the convenient N-Judah Muni line. We can take it just about anywhere in the city at a moment's notice. That's the upside.
The downside is that we hear it. All the time. If we put the glasses too close together in the kitchen cabinet, they rattle with every approaching train. The trains come out of the Sunset Tunnel and turn down Carl Street with a metal on metal screeching like giant angry robots. But that's not the worst part.
Because of the turn in the tracks, Muni trains swing their butts out toward our building on every pass. And because of that, there's a big red zone smack dab in front of our home.
I'm coming back home from walking the pups when I see them. A gaggle of drunk fifty-somethings, grey hair all around, whooping it up in the entryway outside building. As I approach, I see that they're passing around a pipe, the smell of cheap swag filling the breezeway.
"Uh oh," says Oldie One, "here comes the guy who lives here."
"We're busted," says Oldie Two.
When I'm just about to the door, I look down to see a pool of vomit at the feet of Oldie Three.
Heather and I, we're creative types. And, like many creative types, we know what an immaculately designed, pristinely clean house would look like. We just can't can't seem to keep one. Our house cleaning happens in fits and starts, usually when someone's on their way over.
So, lately, I've tried to tidy up more. Just little things, like grabbing a bag of recycling and taking it down to the trash cans on my way out. Stuff like that.
Best laid plans.
Today I made peace with the fact that, yes, I am one of those neighborhood busybodies. Someday I will have the city complaint line on speedial. I'm okay with that.
It's just that I have this innate sense of justice. And when I see the jerks of the world getting away with their jerkiness, it burns me up inside.
Here's the story. Last Thursday night, as I was taking the pups on their last walk of the evening, there was the unmistakable sound of a moving car hitting a still one. A car alarm blared out and the dogs and I turned to see a purple Scion speed down Carl Street and off into the night. No note, no nothing. A hit and run. Bastard.
My car was similarly hit on Carl Street a few years ago and it cost $7,000 to fix. Insurance covered it, but my rates went up for a year. Probably some drunk idiot stumbling out of one of the bars and driving when they shouldn't. Same thing happened to this poor car - it had been sideswiped from front to back. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for purple Scions.
Then, this morning, I saw the same purple Scion. I knew it was the same car because it had a dent and a broken taillight right where it hit the other car.
For weeks Heather and I have been running the photo printer constantly, buying up lengths of wire and strange plastic bits, and having conversations like, "does this dog go with this ripped graffiti?" and "I dunno, the broken taillight or the billowy cotton candy?" And after two late nights with tape and levels and other implements of destruction, we're finally done. Our first joint photo show is up.
It's called "Local Color" and it's 42 color photos and a bunch of Polaroids of the San Francisco we know and love. Except for that one that Heather shot in Mexico, but shhh, that's a secret.
If you're in San Francisco, do stop by Reverie Cafe at 848 Cole Street sometime between now and the Ides of March for a look. If not, well, here's a glimpse of the Wall o' Pets (my contribution, natch).
Heather and I will have a booth at this Sunday's Heart of Cole Festival. We'll have lots of prints, calendars, cards, buttons, and stickers for sale. Look for us in front of the Cole Garage, next to the fabulous Superhero Designs. Rain or shine!
UPDATE: Heather and I are having an orgy of artistic preparation. The little Epson has been going for twelve hours, and there's little end in sight. Come see us tomorrow!
UPDATE AGAIN: Fair over. Was awesome. No rain. So tired.
UPDATE FOR THE LAST TIME: Here's what it looked like.
I'm meeting with the musician who'll be playing at our wedding. He's a jazz guy - just him and his guitar and his friend on stand up bass. They play on the corner on sunny weekends here in Cole Valley. Heather tracked them down on Craig's List.
I'm trying to explain the kind of music I like. I list Billie Holiday first, but most of that is too depressing for a wedding. Then Etta James. He likes that.
"Oh, how could I forget?" I say. "My favorite music in the world is old Tom Waits." He nods appreciatively. "Anything from the '70s," I say. "Like, 'Better off Without a Wife' and stuff around that era."
There is an awkward pause, during which I wonder to myself why he's looking at me funny.
Heather and I have lost our best friend. Tigger was Heather's Chihuahua. And when we moved in together, he became mine, too. We've lived together here in Cole Valley for the last few years, along with our other Chihuahua Chieka, my cat Spoo, and a whole bunch of plants named Fred.
Tigger lived in a world of love. No matter where he went, people swooned over him. It was impossible to walk him without stopping for a child, or a parent, or, really, anyone. It got so much, we began to wonder about the small percentage of people who didn't stop to say hi to him.
Tigger died yesterday in Yerba Buena park. Some other dog, off-leash ... some other dog that I hope I never, ever meet ... grabbed little Tigger in his mouth and bit down hard. He licked Chieka one last time before he died.
Tigger lived in the world of love, and he took a bit of that world with him when he left.
I really, really miss him.
With the big runoff election for mayor tomorrow, San Francisco has been turned into the Land of Signs. I've lived in San Francisco since 1995, and I've never seen so many signs, and so many personal statements.
Here at Carl and Cole, in the heart of Cole Valley, the signs are everywhere. Granted, this is District 5, so we're in Gonzalez country. He's been our supervisor for three years now, so you'd think that the neighborhood would be solidly yellow signs. But there's a pretty good showing of Newsom's blue and red, too.
My favorite so far is the flat above Crepes on Cole, where it seems like every housemate put up a sign. Above the row of Gonzalez signs sits one lonely Newsom sign. That's bravery.
There's also the collection of bikes at the top of Carl Street. They've been sitting there, chained to a street sign, dripping playa dust since Burning Man. Now they all hold Golzalez signs, laced through their spokes. I'm wondering what the message is: Broken bikes for Matt!
And they're not alone - cars, windows, even some random passers by, all are covered with signs. I quietly fear that the gaggle of patchouli-scented hippies on the corner with the Gonzalez signs in one hand and peace signs in the other may do more harm to the candidate than good.
One of the most striking sign stories is the local head shop, Distractions on Haight Street, which covered its facade with Newsom posters. Apparently they took so much heat for it, the owner put up a sign explaining their position.
In this city, where head shops are for Newsom and Burning Man bikes are for Gonzalez, a lot is uncertain. But we know a few things about our next mayor right now: He's not Willie Brown, he's got a wild ride ahead of him, and at least half of the city had the other guy's sign in their window.
Streetcorner wisdom, corner of Carl and Cole.
1. Never step out in front of a city bus. They're exempt from stop signs.
2. Dryer number 39 at Doug's Suds will give you 10 minutes per quarter, instead of the standard 7. Washer 12 used to count tapping on the coin slot as quarters, but Doug fixed it.
3. When your laundry is in the dryer at Doug's Suds, don't take your eyes off it unless you consider it a donation.
4. Only half of the people who look homeless actually are. The rest are merely eccentric.
5. Don't ever lie in the grass at the park where the N-Judah comes out of the Sunset Tunnel. As a dog walker, trust me on this one.
6. The big hill with the stunning view is called both Tank Hill and Acid Hill, depending on your state of mind in the sixties.
7. The local guy who always wears the beret and skirt isn't gay. The failed city councilman is.
8. Never ask the bearded man in the cheese shop for an egg salad sandwich.
9. There's someone in the neighborhood who puts up "Lost Mind" flyers. I've never called the number.
10. The flyer that was up in mid-June about a dog found on the roof of a garage? That was Buddy. He's fine now.
11. The Muni trains are able to rattle wine glasses, no matter where you put them.
12. Johnny is only dangerous when he's half-drunk. You can tell because when he's only slightly drunk he tells jokes, and when he's fully-drunk he's asleep.
13. Actually, Johnny only tells one joke when he's half-drunk, and the punch line is: "That wasn't a parachute � that was my backpack!"
14. If it's after 10pm and you're hungry, the only place to eat is the crepe place called The Crepe Place. Fortunately, it's not half bad. Just don't take anyone from France there.
15. The French bakery that opened recently is actually neither French nor a bakery. The croissants are cooked by Mexicans across town and delivered every morning.
16. Almost everyone here is actually from somewhere else, so you know there's something special about this place. I think you'll fit right in.
See also: Cole Valley Home Page
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts about Cole Valley, including:
Muni, Red Zones, and Faith in Humanity
7 November 2005
The Reality of My Surroundings 2
16 October 2005
The Reality of My Surroundings
9 October 2005
Justice, Cole Valley Style
31 July 2005
The Really Big Show
31 January 2005
Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
22 October 2004
A Wedding Planning Moment
6 July 2004
20 February 2004
San Francisco Signage
8 December 2003
Heart of Cole
19 October 2003
22 May 2003
The Secrets of Cole Valley
4 February 2003
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Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »
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Muni, Red Zones, and Faith in Humanity 7 November 2005
The Reality of My Surroundings 2 16 October 2005
The Reality of My Surroundings 9 October 2005
Justice, Cole Valley Style 31 July 2005
The Really Big Show 31 January 2005