Waiting for coffee


Flowers for the Fillmore-Jackson coffee shop when it closed in 2014.


Funny how habits form. They revolve around responsibilities and chores, but also the small pleasures that brighten our daily routines.

I have been working for several years at a beautiful flower shop in the neighborhood. In addition to spending time with a great team of co-workers and the lovely flowers every season and every day, it includes a relatively pleasant bus trip over from my Russian Hill apartment.

Florists start early, so it’s usually the coldest part of the day, and in the winter it’s dark. Very dark. But at the corner of Fillmore and Jackson was the welcome light of the coffee shop and the aroma of ground beans and steamed milk — and those friendly baristas who knew exactly what I wanted and just how I wanted it.


There’s a new Sherith in town

New cantor David Frommer and new senior rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf.

New cantor David Frommer and new senior rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf.


I grew up in this neighborhood. I used to go to Gino’s grocery store at Fillmore and Jackson after school to get gummy worms in the ’80s when they were all the rage. I’ve walked around this neighborhood for years — decades, in fact. And now, I’m delighted to be back here in a new capacity.

Last month, a new clergy team was installed at Congregation Sherith Israel, at the corner of California and Webster Streets. Friends and congregants gathered for a Sabbath service on September 16, followed by festivities and food that honored the different cultures of San Francisco. About 600 people participated.

Who would have thought, just shy of 30 years after I became bat mitzvah in this community, that I would stand in the same spot being installed as the 10th senior rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel?

• I am the first senior rabbi who proudly hangs a Sunday School diploma on the wall.

• I am the first senior rabbi who interned here as a rabbinical student.

• And I am the first senior rabbi to wear a dress for installation — at least as far as I know.


The story of our adoption

JD Schramm and Ken Daigle with their newborn daughter Roma and their son Tobias.

JD Schramm and Ken Daigle with their newborn daughter Roma and their son Tobias.


My husband JD Schramm and I have been on the most amazing journey of our lives: the journey to fatherhood.

We decided to become parents to a child — or children — who needed us and what we have to offer. That decision has stretched us beyond our limits and has limited us in ways we could not have expected. Yet each and every painful or joyful step has brought us to a place of peace, a place of joy and a place of surrender.


The smell of death

Jack Dairiki with his painting of Hiroshima 30 seconds after the atomic bomb exploded.

Jack Dairiki with his painting of Hiroshima 30 seconds after the atomic bomb exploded.


In Hiroshima City’s Atomic Peace Park, there is a poem carved into a rock that states: “Please rest in peace, for this error shall never be repeated.” It is a pledge to all living people of the world to protect all of humanity.

I witnessed the holocaust three and a half miles from the atomic bomb detonation point.

I traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1941 with my father on a summer vacation to visit my ailing grandfather. Unfortunately, we were stranded there in September of that year. Finding no passage to return to Sacramento, my father and I were separated from my mother and four siblings, who were interned in the camps at Tule Lake, California; Jerome and Rowher, Arkansas; and, finally, Amache, Colorado.

My classmates and I were conscripted to work for the Japanese war effort at Toyo Factory. I was a 14-year-old student. We worked there from January 1945 until the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6. On that fateful day, because of air bombing raids, my commuter train to the Toyo Factory was delayed by 15 minutes. That delay saved me and my classmates from being in Hiroshima City. We were taking roll call at 08:15 when the bomb was detonated.

We noticed three B-29 bombers traveling toward Hiroshima. It was shortly after that sighting that we experienced the horrific explosion of the first atomic bomb. First, there was a blinding flash and a horrific blast of wind that took out 99 percent of the Toyo Factory windows. I felt my body being lifted by this wind. When I opened my eyes, I was in the midst of dust and smoke and could not see my hands. Then I heard a fellow student run toward the bomb shelter a few hundred yards away; the entrance was at a higher elevation. Perhaps 30 seconds had elapsed. I looked back at Hiroshima and saw the monstrous fire column rising thousands of feet into the air. The whole city was on fire, covered in smoke and fire with no buildings to be seen.

An hour later we peeked out from the cave shelter and witnessed the first victim: a young woman walking with her arms extended, her ragged clothes hanging from her arms and her hair burned off. She was looking straight ahead and walked like a ghost. We noticed as she came closer that it was not burned clothes, but her skin, hanging from her arms.

We were instructed to return home if we were able to walk. I boarded a ghost train with the paint burned off and windows shattered. Inside the train were many injured people asking for medical aid. I could not help them, so I dismounted the train to walk home, a distance of 10 miles. My grandmother welcomed me — she was scanning the horizon for my return. The house was not damaged, except that all the sliding doors were down but unbroken.

There were 55 hospitals, 200 doctors and 2,000 nurses in Hiroshima City before the bombing. What remained were three hospitals, 20 doctors and 170 nurses to help the wounded. There were 80,000 people who died near me in the city.

I can never forget the image nor the smell of death.

Maybe I loved my car too much?



I whined most of the day — well, at least from 9 a.m. on, when my downstairs neighbor called and said: “I have bad news. You know that loud crash you heard last night?”

I had heard a big crash at around 3 a.m., then a car alarm going off — typical Bush Street sounds. But then the downstairs door opened and closed, which was only slightly odd because Uncle Andy was here and I knew he heard the same sound that woke me up — and being the car guy he is, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that he might go out to investigate things, even though it was 3 in the morning.

But it wasn’t just any car the jerk hit. It was my car. After sideswiping the car parked behind me, the driver hit the back of my car dead-on without braking. Andy figures he was going around 40 to 50 miles an hour.


Coming home to Fillmore

Kim Nalley performing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Kim Nalley performing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.


Being a musician is kind of like being a foodie. If you grew up poor, you’re really excited just to have food. Then, after you get accustomed to having food and are exposed to good food, you want something better. You eat at great restaurants and become able to distinguish the different components and learn which wines are best paired with each. Your palate is ruined for fast food. You seek better food experiences and make better food at home. But every once in a while you get misty-eyed for mom’s mac and cheese, made with government cheese, because it tastes like home.

In the beginning, I really just wanted a gig singing. I was cleaning houses at the time. I gave the owner of Harry’s Bar on Fillmore, Keith Provo, a demo cassette tape I had made by exchanging house cleaning for studio time. There were only three songs on that demo: an R&B song, an uptempo jazz scat and a ballad, “Moonlight in Vermont.”

Mr. Provo loved the ballad. His son Chris called on a Thursday morning and offered me a weekly gig — if I could put together a band and play that night. I had to stiff the owner of the house I was supposed to clean, but I did get that every-Thursday gig. They paid me $400 a night, and my rent was only $250 a month. I could hire A-list musicians who were much older than me to be my accompanists. I thought Harry’s Bar was the center of the universe and I felt really important at age 18 having a regular gig on Fillmore.

But soon I wanted more. I wanted to play the Fillmore Jazz Festival.


Coming home rattled



I’ve been a resident of Pacific Heights for almost a century. I grew up in the 1920s, living with my folks in an apartment on Pacific Avenue. Then I bought my own place on Washington Street in 1959, raised four kids there with my wife Nancy — and we’ve lived in that home ever since.

There were really only two major interruptions to my neighborhood residency: going to Stanford, and going to war. While college attendance had expanded my horizons and given me new perspectives, going to war changed everything.

“The war has changed me in ways that will take the better part of my life to understand, let alone make peace with. Don’t ask me how. If you have to ask, you’ve never been to war.”

Those are the opening lines of my just-published book, Battle Rattle: A Last Memoir of World War II.

Being in WWII was the major event of my life. The experience still haunts me to this day — even 70 years after the fact. This is why I spent countless hours in my study on Washington Street sitting in front of a computer to write my memoir.


Minerva’s Owl was a beloved bookstore


Juicy News is moving down the hill to 2181 Union Street — the very place, longtime locals will remember, where Minerva’s Owl Bookshop was located for many years.

Minerva’s Owl was actually created three blocks east at 1823 Union in 1964 from what was originally a coal yard. I founded the bookstore with my partner Ruth Isaacs. We met when I worked for her at the Golden Gate Valley branch library, the lovely Beaux Arts building at Green and Octavia. People from all over the city came to her for advice and recommendations about what books to read.


From Fillmore to Tanzania


I’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years, so I tend to make a lot of decisions when hanging out on Fillmore Street. Dino’s or the Elite for dinner? Yoga at International Orange or Mindful Body? Recently, while having coffee and surfing the web at Jane, I made a bigger decision: to quit my job, leave the safe confines of the neighborhood and go to Africa on a humanitarian project.

I’ve enjoyed a successful career as an event planner in the entertainment, tech and sports marketing industries. It’s been fun and rewarding. But the last couple of years have left me wanting more. I’ve always wanted to make a more significant impact by doing work that helps people help themselves. I realized it was now or never.

Erin LeMoine on Fillmore Street

Erin LeMoine on Fillmore Street

I had been searching for a project for some time and that morning at Jane I discovered the website for Mama Hope, an organization working with African organizations to build schools, health clinics, children’s centers, clean water systems and food security projects. I was so excited about the opportunity that I hiked half a block up to Peet’s and completed the online application.

Mama Hope isn’t the usual volunteer opportunity; you must apply and interview for the fellowship program. Luckily, I made the cut. Now I must raise $20,000 to help build a student dining hall and community center in Tanzania. This new structure will provide a space for children to eat meals together, and will also serve as a gathering place for meetings, events and celebrations.  Most importantly, the community center will attract more paying students, which means more poor and vulnerable children can get a free education.

Soon I’ll board a flight for Moshi, Tanzania, and live there for three months, collaborating with community leaders to begin the project. When I come back to San Francisco, I’ll spend three months doing a mixture of monitoring and evaluation, reporting and public speaking.

Even though I’m leaping into the unknown, the move aligns with my passion for service. Maybe it’s innate; my father was a firefighter and my sister is a teacher. I intended to get a graduate degree in public health after college and I almost joined the Peace Corps. Instead, I ended up planning elaborate tech parties. However, I’ve reconnected to my passion over the years with some volunteer yoga teaching and a two-year tutoring stint at Rosa Parks Elementary School on Webster Street.

Now it’s time to really go for it.

Fundraising hasn’t been easy. The last time I asked for money, I pleaded with my parents for cash for Duran Duran concert tickets. Yet I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of people and businesses in the neighborhood and throughout the city. NARS Cosmetics, Yoga Works, Caryn Cohen at Secret Agent Salon, massage therapist Wendy Parker, International Orange, Soul Cycle, Equinox and Prana are just some of the local merchants that have stepped up to the plate. With their support, we’re connecting our community with the community in Tanzania.

I’ll miss my friends who sit on the bench at Peet’s every day. I’ll miss fall, my favorite San Francisco season. But the sacrifice will be worth it. And perhaps my work in Tanzania will open doors to a career in international development.

And to think, it all started on Fillmore.

Learn more about Erin LeMoine’s project and follow its progress.

Spice Ace makes the neighborhood tastier

Photograph of Spice Ace by Daniel Bahmani

Photograph of Spice Ace by Daniel Bahmani

FIRST PERSON | Arthur Stone

ROAMING THE NEIGHBORHOOD as a boy in the 1940s, I searched for small critters to join the ranks of the quacking, barking and croaking things my mother barely tolerated in her home.

Today my nose leads the way as I wander about gathering things for our evening meal. My wife marvels at her good fortune to have a husband who cooks — who actually loves to cook. Even the postal carrier has been spotted at the door slot, enjoying an olfactory break.

Before Spice Ace moved in around the corner at 1821 Steiner Street, I was more of a beans and weenies guy, but always wanting a tastier meal. (I did manage to get my wife’s attention with my mother’s salmon croquettes, however.) An enticing sign finally led me in the direction of the new neighborhood spice shop.

The go-to guy there, Ed, loves Mexican flavors; I want the oxtail dishes of my childhood. Out of that discussion came the idea of oxtail chili. My first attempt was too salty. Ed suggested I throw in a potato. Bingo — it worked.

I’ve gone into the shop several times to ask technical cooking questions. Spice Ace owner Olivia has explained how to use canola oil safely. Aces Louise and Susan seem to read my mind as I enter the store, handing me just the spices I need.

Dinnertime is the best time of the day in our home. My wife is a sucker for salmon, and I am still a sucker for oxtail chili. Do we still have beans and weenies? You bet. But these days, I add a neighborhood touch: Spice Ace’s barbecue seasoning.

EARLIER: “Marco Polo comes to the Fillmore