Our little village

Photograph by Barbara Wyeth

FIRST PERSON | THOMAS R. REYNOLDS

I’d run into Lois Tilles a couple of Saturday mornings ago at the Fillmore Farmers Market, near the bright orange persimmons and the deep red pomegranates glowing in the morning sun. She was sporting her usual warm smile. We’re both in a group that has been walking together for 25 years at Crissy Field early on Saturday mornings and has coffee together afterward. Lois’s husband Richard usually came down on his bike for coffee, then rode over for his weekly volunteer gig in the Presidio. Lois and I chatted for a minute at the market. I was buying fuyu persimmons. She asked: “What are those?” Then: “How do you eat them?”

When we got back home after a week away, there was a phone message from the guiding spirit of the walking group. Richard was suddenly very sick. So I got fuyus at the market to bring as a get well gift. But it was too late. Richard had died — on Saturday morning, about the time of our coffee hour.

I remembered local artist Barbara Wyeth’s fondness for photographing fuyus, so we stopped by Bloomers on Washington Street, where she works, to pick up one of her hand-crafted cards. It turns out she’d made two: of a single and a double. On Thanksgiving eve, a neighbor and I walked down to Richard and Lois’s flat near Union Street and left a bag of fuyus, with the card of a single, on the doorknob for Lois. On the way down Steiner, we dropped the card with the double through the mail slot of the couple who started the walking group, and who brought us all together.

This holiday season, I am thankful to live in this wonderful neighborhood, and for good friends, especially those who live and work nearby in our little village.

P.S. On Thanksgsiving morning I got an email from Lois: “Did you know? The farmers market now delivers! I got some beautiful persimmons delivered right to my front door.”

Photograph by Barbara Wyeth

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

Fall in the Fillmore

leaf

Text & Photographs by BARBARA WYETH

My dear Aunt Fordy, who lived her life in Iowa, loved the fall, especially October. I happen to agree. It’s the best month of the year. She always called it “lovely blue October,” never just plain October. And there is a special color in the sky during the autumn months: clearer, richer and bluer than any other time of year.

Having now lived more than half my life in San Francisco, I am still amazed at how one season quickly morphs into another. In the fall, this yearly change seems especially sneaky because our seasons are not like the big, dramatic, showy displays of an autumnal east coast or midwest.

I’ve learned to love our blue October. True, it is much more subtle, but fall definitely makes its appearance. The air changes and our extraordinary light presents itself differently; dusk is more rosy, the clouds often the most dramatic of the entire year, sunsets frequently glorious.

This time of year, in neighborhood yards and pocket gardens, roses produce another round of blooms — never quite as lush as spring, but more precious perhaps because other things are going dormant. Showy dahlias may still be blooming their last hurrah. Hydrangeas turn red and freckle, their leaves taking on russets and gold like midwestern maples. The sycamores on California Street dry up and lose their leaves early on. The bright green leaves on the liquid amber trees on Washington Street turn red and drop, although they seem to do that year around.

In the yard behind my apartment building, the pear tree’s leaves turn gold. So do those on our beloved but straggly old lilac bush. The bougainvillea is still brilliant red, however, and in full bloom, and there is still lots of green everywhere. Our autumn is never dreary.

Maybe even more telling of the seasonal change in our neighborhood is the sudden appearance after Labor Day of Halloween at Walgreens: candy corn, harvest mix, miniature chocolate bars and bright orange plastic jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkin lattes show up in the coffee shops. Pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice everything appear at bakeries and cafes. The grocery stores and farmers markets fill with squash and gourds and pomegranates. Apples abound.

All along Fillmore Street, shop windows show snuggly sweaters and chunky boots and footwear, and in the early morning, the Hamlin girls in their maroon capes hurry to school, hand in hand with mom or dad.

It’s fall in the Fillmore.

IvyFall

A man on a Mission

Mission-cover

FIRST PERSON  |  DICK EVANS

On the front cover of my new documentary photography book, The Mission, a young Latino mother and her daughter are pictured walking in front of a striking black and white mural of Carlos Santana.

Santana — born in Jalisco, Mexico, but raised in the city’s Mission District — also has a strong connection to the Fillmore neighborhood. He got his first big break from Bill Graham at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1966. For a time his studio was on Fillmore next door to the Clay Theatre. Those early years in the Fillmore launched him to international fame and iconic status that merits his bigger-than-life portrait by muralist Mel Waters at 19th and Mission Streets, only four blocks from where Santana attended high school.

My own interest in San Francisco, and especially in photographing it, had a decidedly different history. I was born on a ranch in western Oregon. It did not take many winters of feeding cattle at 5 a.m. for me to decide to go to college. That led to engineering at Oregon State University and a 48-year career in the global aluminum industry, the final years as ceo of Alcan with 75,000 employees in 63 countries. Photography became an appealing medium to record my ceaseless travels.

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Bloomers turns 40

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

The flower business is an early morning affair. My morning usually starts with an espresso at Jackson and Fillmore, then a short hop past Alta Plaza Park to work at Bloomers at 2975 Washington Street.

Opening the door, I’m met with the fragrance of fresh flowers and the aroma of more strong coffee brewing in the back room. The crew is already at work trimming, cutting, cleaning, putting flowers into water and setting up the store for another day of business. Presiding over all this industry, as he has since 1977, is owner and proprietor Patric Powell.

This year the venerable Pacific Heights florist is celebrating 40 years of flowering. That alone is a real accomplishment — a thriving small business with a rarefied and fragile product in an expensive city of fickle taste.

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‘Do you want to come to the show?’

Mark Fantino and Richard Butler at Chouquet’s on Fillmore.

Mark Fantino and Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs at Chouquet’s.

FIRST PERSON | MARK FANTINO

It’s Tuesday, and I’m halfway through working a typical lunch at Chouquet’s, at Fillmore and Washington, when in he walks. Immediately I ask: “Are you Richard Butler?”

Turns out, I know him well. He’s the lead vocalist of The Psychedelic Furs, one of my favorite rock bands. A benefit of being a record collector who scrutinizes every detail and reads all the liner notes and lyrics on all the records that shaped my life is that I have names memorized, as if they are all old friends who’ve seen me through thick and thin. I’m remembering the adage that we should know the names of the people who changed the world, or at least made it a better place.

So there is something profound about welcoming him by name instead of: “Hey, aren’t you that guy from The Psychedelic Furs?”

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The wait is over

BBFlowers

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

For us early morning folk, the long awaited opening of Blue Bottle Coffee on the busy Jackson and Fillmore corner is a blessing. In my mind, a strong cup of coffee is always a good thing, any time of day. That bracing dark, sweet shot of warmth and energy is one of life’s simple pleasures. Sometimes it’s also a necessity, a predictably effective motivator if I am going to accomplish anything the rest of the day.

We in the Jackson and Fillmore pro-coffee faction mourned the day the friendly, patient staff at Tully’s closed their doors. Once a beacon of light, warmth, and caffeine — especially in the winter months — the corner remained dark for two years. I would often see  members of our tribe looking wistfully at the closed doors and the posted notices on the papered-over windows. It was especially difficult this last very cold and very wet winter. Sloshing through puddles to a distant cafe early in the dark morning was not an ideal way to start the day. I would occasionally catch the eye of a former Jackson-Fillmore regular scurrying up the hill with soggy paper cups and trays.

When the sparkly new Blue Bottle Cafe opened, I saw many of those same folks standing patiently in the line, looking relieved, and eager to enjoy the much-acclaimed coffee. The cafe is modern, bright and open, with wrap-around windows to watch the comings and goings on that lively intersection. The cheerful staff seems eager to make friends of all the neighborhood folk. And those meticulously prepared espressos and macchiatos and pour overs are are gradually clouding my memory of the long wait for that early morning elixir. Truth be told, they take a little too long for me, at least most mornings — but damn, it is mighty fine coffee!

Presbyterians embrace protesters, spark more

A new banner at Calvary Presbyterian Church includes new protests and eternal verities.

A new banner at Calvary Presbyterian Church includes new protests and eternal verities.

FIRST PERSON | FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

It started out of frustration. A pastor at a mainline San Francisco church got tired of pulling together candlelight services after yet another black youth was killed. He wanted to do something positive to show support for the black friends he and many of his parishioners knew. So he hung a banner on the front of the church’s education building. Black Lives Matter, it proclaimed, the logo of a nascent movement.

This happened a few months ago at Calvary Presbyterian, the 164-year-old church at the corner of Fillmore and Jackson. Alongside the banner, minister John Weems hung a rainbow flag. He was also weary of attacks on the LGBTQ community, which incredibly still occur in San Francisco.

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Marching against ageism

The Age March takes place on December 4 on Union Street in San Francisco.

The third Age March takes place on December 4 on Union Street in San Francisco.

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA ROSE BROOKER

My idea for an Age March began with a dream.

I dreamed there was an end to age discrimination and segregation — and that men and women of all races and sexual orientations marched to celebrate their ages. I led the marchers along with several other people, holding a giant red banner emblazoned with the words “Age March.” Accompanied by jazz musicians, we marched a mile as we chanted, “Celebrate your age! Don’t lie about it!”

And then I woke up.

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Waiting for coffee

tully-flowers

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

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

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.

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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.

By 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.

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