Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices. Even at the park and other places where dogs belong, they’ve been given free rein. Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. After all, what kind of monster would have a problem with a poor innocent widdle doggie? It’s a dog’s world. We just live in it. And it’s awful. Bad dogs!
A few years ago I would have said, “Oh, Slate. You’re so contrarian!” But after having a kid who gets regularly run roughshod over by people who just say of their terrible, terrible canine companions that won’t sit, won’t stay, won’t not jump up and knock your child over, “oh, he’s friendly, he won’t bite” I’m totally down. Word, Farhad.
NoPa = Prospect Heights. You moved away for a few years and came back and all of a sudden there was a whole neighborhood that your friends spent time in that never was a neighborhood before. In San Francisco’s case, it was a neighborhood named after a restaurant. This is basically the worst thing I can imagine.
The writer is completely and utterly wrong (and I assume, kidding/trolling, but maybe not). I say that because of a small crime I took part in, a civic misdemeanor that is still playing out.
In 1999, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I moved into a little garden apartment on Fulton between Central and Lyon. The neighborhood was then still widely known as the Western Addition—and with good reason because it was and is a part of the Western Addition. While it didn’t have the homeless issues that plagued (and plague) the Haight just across the panhandle, crime was still pretty bad. If you wanted to buy crack, it was very, very easy to do so on Central at Grove.
It wasn’t even remotely trendy, but we loved it for the old Victorians, some of the best in the city, and its central location. There were occasional all night house parties at The House of Love, complete with giant naked pileups in the front room downstairs, The Justice League and Storyville had great shows. The Fulton Street Bar was an oasis of pool tables and punk rock jukebox. It was nice.
At the time I worked for a soon to be ill-fated start up web magazine. One of my writers was Annalee Newitz. When I changed jobs there, she took my old gig editing the tabloid section. We were co-workers and pals. Then the whole thing went to shit, and we both moved on.*
Annalee got a job as an editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. This was back when Alt-Weeklies were still a Thing City People Read Every Week. And when it came time for her to put together the Best of the Bay issue in 2000, she asked me if I could write one of the neighborhood guides. Sure. But which neighborhood? We had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: I guess I could write about my neighborhood. The neighborhood association keeps pushing this dumb NOPA name—you know, like SOMA, but for North of the Panhandle instead of South of Market—but it’s a made up thing and nobody actually calls it that.
Her: That’s perfect. Can you get me 1000 words including four or five venue write-ups by Monday?
And so I wrote this thing about a neighborhood that didn’t really exist. It was (as far as I’m aware, and I could be wrong) the first time NoPa showed up in print on anything other than some huckster impresario’s real estate flyer. It was certainly among the first.
It was hard to find anything to write about in, um, “NoPa.” There were virtually no restaurants, and the few that existed weren’t any good. Did I want to write about the PopEye’s? No. Of the four things I wrote about, one was a corner store. That was what kind of neighborhood it was.
And then Fly Bar opened, which, for whatever reason, was popular with yuppies. The Justice League became The Independent. Little Star started serving deep dish. El Rico finally closed or was shut down by the health department and Little Chihuahua moved in. Cafe Abir opened a sushi restaurant, then a sake bar. The bar/brothel on Fulton closed. Storyville turned into an Asian fusion restaurant. The empty lot where Plaza Foods (and a very downmarket version of the original Fallettis) re-opened as an Albertson’s. The crack house vanished. Things changed. Look! It’s Papalote. It’s Nopalito. It’s Four Barrel. Would you care for some gelato, sir?†
I remember noticing that a check cashing place had closed and was now a gallery. That was when you could really feel the money money money coming. More so than Bar Crudo. And definitely more so than when NoPa opened.
Speaking of which…
When the neighborhood was still “transitional,” and gangsters still hung out on the corner of Grove 24 hours a day, I was walking up Divisadero** when I passed a woman standing on a ladder. She was scraping paint off of a derelict bank building that had long stood empty. I asked her what she was doing, and she told me the was opening a restaurant there. This, as it turned out, was Allyson Jossel. And at the time (I believe it was 2005) opening a Fancy Restaurant on Divis—at least on that part of Divis—was anything but a sure bet. It took courage.
And while I wish I had not been priced out of that part of town, and while Divisadero Street now makes me I groan and gnash my teeth, and while I can’t stand the detestable little shits who hang about in the parklets or the polar fleece farmer’s market, and the whole scene just depresses me and reminds me of everything I hate about the city I love(d), and, and, and…
More power to Nopa for having the guts to move there when they did—albeit many years after the neighborhood took its name.***
*One of our other co-workers was a young kid just out of Berkeley who was working 20 hour days in the art department and doing all kinds of back end work for something like $18,000 a year (in San Francisco!) named Andy Baio.
**I was on my way to my rent-a-mailbox, which I had because all of our mail and packages would get stolen. It was called the Post-All Center. And although it lost its lease and shut down, you can still see it painted on the walls of NoPa, by the then up-and-coming muralist Brian Barneclo.
***Anyway. I’m sorry about whatever role I played with the name. I know that, like the gentrification of the neighborhood itself, it would have happened with or without me. But still. For both of those things: Sorry.
PS: I swear to you I’ve had nothing whatsoever to do with naming FolSoMa.
All things considered, La Taqueria is offering a better burrito. But Chipotle is offering a better burrito-based business proposition. Chipotle has better-designed spaces, with greater menu visibility and superior clarity as to what your options are. Chipotle’s lines move substantially faster. Your mileage may vary as to the merits of a prudent slim burrito vs Chipotle’s mega-calorie bomb, but in some sense Chipotle is offering a better value proposition. More realistically though if a burrito was to materialize at my desk I would want it to be a La Taqueria burrito.
Maybe you were hoping for something radically new and different from a Facebook phone. If so, Zuck just broke your heart. But so what. Facebook never does anything new. New doesn’t matter in the blue. What matters is this: What Mark Zuckerberg announced today runs software called Facebook Home that makes it easier for people to spend more time with Facebook. And that’s all he really needed to pull off.
We would love publishers to provide standardized, portable ad formats that will effectively monetize their content in mobile readers. That’d be awesome. To see if that’s viable, we’re going to do a round of conversations with publishers to figure out whether they’ve actually already got something workable (for example, the ad units that accompany mobile web versions of their content, or that some ad platforms have inserted directly into RSS outputs), or whether we should join together to build and implement something new that’d work not only for Digg, but all the other mobile reading apps out there.
Shut up, all of you. Go away. You are complicit in one way or another in a giant crime containing many great crimes. Atone in secret. Wash the blood off your hands in private. Because there were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shiseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week. Go to hell, the rest of you, and go there in silence and in shame.
Unfortunately money does play a role. We got into SFFS and will take our spot. Anyone can google us and see the price of our house and what my husband does for a living. It’s all public info. Also, SFFS shared several times that they are embarking on a large capital campaign (for scholarships to middle school) and we expect we’ll need to donate around $15-20 K in excess of tuition ($26 K) to support it. They didn’t give us a number, but I talked with other similar families at SFFS and that’s what we’re budgeting. When schools embark on new capital campaigns (as Live Oak is also doing, where we also got in), they especially need on large donor families. It’s reality and not unfair as we fund some cool campaigns for the school that everyone benefits from. Don’t forget Friends is the school where one family alone matched their $10 m fundraising campaign to renovate the current building. SFFS has always relied on very rich families and prob will for some time as they keep introducing new capital campaigns (build out of new floors, scholarships for middle school). The reality is that it is not a middle class school, and neither is Live Oak. LO and SFFS are no different than Hamlin or Town. If you want a private school where regular middle class and yuppies go (versus filthy rich), go to Kittredge or Alta Vista.
Matt Honen joins Mike and Leah to discuss whether anything is really private online
I’ll be damned if The Atlantic dies with my generation, if all that is left of it when I leave is some moldering books and cold servers.
Oh My God.