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.

Finding the divine in wine

Scopo Divino offers wine from around the world.

Scopo Divino offers wine from around the world. Photos by Marc Gamboa


The latest wine bar to pop a cork in the neighborhood is Scopo Divino, a cozy bar and restaurant that has taken over the Food Inc. space at 2800 California, near the corner of Divisadero. Owner Tim Schuyler Hayman, a first-time restaurateur and career newspaper ad man — with nearly 20 years at the SF Weekly and the Chronicle — explains his vision for the new neighborhood spot.

How did you come up with the idea of changing your career and opening a wine bar?

I have always been interested in small business and I had a lifelong dream to run one myself. I discovered wine at age 4 when my father put a big glass of burgundy in front of me and told me to smell it. It was love at first whiff.  Tasted terrible, but I discovered flavor later.

I grew up in Sonoma and Marin so I have childhood memories of going on tasting tours with my parents in Glen Ellen. The feel, the damp wood smell, the musty cellars — they all bring back my fondest memories.

As I got older, I would frequent wine bars in the Bay Area and knew I could do better: take a tasting room concept from the wine country and bring it to the city.

Was that the inspiration for the design?

Yes. We set out to create a relaxed wine country feel with designer Daryle Baldwin of Bausman & Co. The Tuscan red walls create a living room effect, alongside the custom-built alder wood bar and bar stools made by Bausman. Tapestry lounge chairs and sofas clad in old world fabrics like an Italian cut velvet and a Belgian kite chenille add a homey touch. The wallpapered powder room also reads more like a residence than a restaurant.

And the response so far?

I have found that people are looking for a place that is cozy.  I’ve watched customers come into bars and they first take the most comfortable corner, they next look for the best overstuffed chair, and so it goes. I was not going to have metal chairs and cement floors. Comfort is key. We have lots of cozy corners and comfortable nooks and people seem to love it. They are also shocked by the breadth of our food program.

Scopo Divino owner Tim Schuyler Hayman

Scopo Divino owner Tim Schuyler Hayman

What makes Scopo Divino different?

Some wine bars have good wine without good service; some offer good service but not good food. Our aim is to do it all. We spent eight or nine months tasting multiple vendors and hundreds of wines to curate our list. And then we were lucky to find our chef, Mark Cina, who had past experience working under Corey Lee at Monsieur Benjamin and Benu.

We have more than 1,000 bottles of wine and offer 36 wines by the glass, choosing the signature varietals by region. We have terrific Zinfandel from Oakville, Gruner Vetliner from Austria, Barbera from Italy. We believe the expressions of the wines are best as signatures from the original heritage.

The heart of the program is Burgundy — a forever favorite of mine. Wines are available by glass or bottle and tastes of some of these wines are accessible using the Coravin system. We are proud to offer labels from all around the world that will blow people’s minds.

Do you offer flights?

At the moment we have three flights: “A Taste of France,” featuring a Provencal Rose, Sancerre and Viognier; “A Taste of Italy” and a “Wine Therapy Session,” aka the Bartender’s Choice.

You speak of wine therapy, and it says “wine therapist” on your business card. What do you mean by that? 

Well, Scopo Divino translates to “divine purpose.” And we believe the purpose of wine is as a mood enhancer or mood changer. We almost named the bar, “Wine Therapy.” We look to discover how people are feeling when they come in and pair their emotion to the wine accordingly.

So if I walk in in a bad mood, what would you serve me?

First I would gauge if you’d prefer a white or red. If you said white, I’d probably move you to something bubbly. It’s hard not to improve your mood with a Lambrusco Italian-style sparkling wine. It’s usually red and sweet, but ours is blush and a little dry, beautiful by the glass and just $11.

What If I said I had a fabulous day?

Then I’d take you straight to champagne. I love the whole emotion of champagne. Another factor is if you are alone or with a group. Or if you really want to celebrate, then I’d show you our library list of harder-to-find wine. Brut Blanc de Blanc from Jura, produced by Francois Montand, is one of my favorites at $9 a glass.

Scopo Divino brings a wine country tasting room to the neighborhood.

Scopo Divino brings wine country tasting room style to the neighborhood.

What about the food?

Our food program really surprises people since they don’t expect great food coming out of a little neighborhood wine bar. We offer a grazing menu and our chef has taken our bar bites to another level: sophisticated plates that are really well matched with wines.

We have a nice sized cheese and charcuterie program that we developed with San Francisco Cheese School, a handful of great nibbles including truffled popcorn, house-made pasta and focaccia. But the star of the show is the Petites Assiettes section offering composed dishes from $7 to $17.

Some standouts include the Lobster Cavatelli, Mushroom Stuffed Quail on a Bed of Gnocchi, Cauliflower a la Plancha and a Bavette Steak. We turn out so much food in this tiny kitchen. And everything is small and to share so the prices don’t break the bank.

Any plans to open for lunch?

Yes. Currently we’re open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Soon we’ll add lunch Wednesday through Friday. And brunch is coming on Saturdays and Sundays.

So what are your wishes for this place?

I truly want to provide people an extension to their living rooms. When you think about all of the small apartments in the city and people paying really high rent, it’s time they had a neighborhood gathering place — a place to unwind and feel comfortable. People say this place feels like home, and that’s exactly what I want.

From the farm to the Fillmore

An assortment of summer squash from Oya Organics at the Fillmore Farmers Market.

An assortment of summer squash from Oya Organics at the Fillmore Farmers Market.

THERE’S A friendly new face behind the artfully arranged array of squash, tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans and other produce at the Fillmore Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at Fillmore and O’Farrell.

It’s Marsha Habib, founder of Oya Organics, who started by farming a one-acre satellite garden a few years ago with low-income Latino farmers in San Jose. It was there that she met her partner, in life and Oya, and made the commitment to buy a tractor. She now leases and farms 15 acres of land in Hollister while dreaming of owning her own farm some day.

Marsha Habib of Oya Organics

Marsha Habib of Oya Organics

Habib explains that the name Oya was purposefully chosen. In Japanese it stands for “nurturing”; in Spanish it means “big pot.” And it’s also an Afro-Brazilian diety who represents storm, weather and transitions. That echoes Habib’s personal growth she describes as “a big transition from growing up in the suburbs.”

Driven by a passion for urban social justice and bitten by the farming bug, she at first assumed that local farmers markets were the most natural outlet for a small farmer committed to good organic food.

“But believe it or not, it’s hard to get into farmers markets,” Habib says. Her foray in was arranged through a colleague now at the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association she had known from working together in AmeriCorps.

That connection introduced her to market manager Tom Nichol, a beloved fixture and motivator at the Fillmore Farmers Market who died in May 2015 at the age of 63. Nichol got her into her first farmers market in San Jose, then another in Belmont.

But after her second weekend at the Fillmore Farmers Market in late July, she proclaimed it the friendliest. “I can’t tell you the number of people who walk up and say: ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ It’s a warm welcome,” Habib says. “And I’m so grateful to Tom. I don’t know if we’d be farming today if not for him.”

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.

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One twin without the other

Photograph of 1969 California Street by Shayne Watson

Photograph of the Tobin house at 1969 California Street by Shayne Watson


Something appears to be missing from the house at 1969 California Street.

Indeed, the other half of the intended complex was never built. Originally conceived to have a twin to the west, the half arch that would have accessed a center drive between the two houses terminates mid-air and crashes into a mismatching building next door.

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‘Petit Trianon’ sells for a petite price

The 14-bedroom chateau at 3800 Washington Street sold in a foreclosure sale.

The 14-bedroom chateau replica at 3800 Washington Street sold in a foreclosure sale.


The recent sale of the mansion known as the Petit Trianon in Presidio Heights highlights the importance of realistic pricing and proper maintenance, while another sale just a block away underscores that today’s high-end San Francisco homebuyers gravitate toward modern architecture.

In mid-July, the 14-bedroom, 20,000-square-foot French chateau replica at 3800 Washington Street sold for $15,750,000 in a foreclosure sale — 12 percent less than the listing price. It took 442 days to find a buyer. Designated as a national historic landmark, the home sits on three lots totaling almost 29,000 square feet in one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods.

However, the grand home had not been staged to showcase its livability, its exterior and grounds were in disrepair, a squatter had taken over the guest house and skateboarders made the marble steps their personal park — all of which substantially reduced the home’s curb appeal. Additionally, the property had been overpriced in multiple sale attempts over the past few years. Despite the long marketing time, arranging tours proved difficult. And at least one offer higher than the final sale price was not accepted.

The contemporary home at 101 Maple proved to be more desirable.

The contemporary home at 101 Maple proved to be more desirable.

Compare that sale with neighboring 101 Maple Street, which fetched just under $10 million at the end of June. That five-bedroom home sits on a single lot about one-tenth of the size of its neighbor and sold in a relatively speedy 54 days. The Maple Street property resonated with home shoppers due to its sleek, contemporary design and open floor plan, which are favored by many of today’s younger San Francisco homebuyers.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

The loneliness of being black in San Francisco

Signs on the long-shuttered Muni substation on Fillmore Street.

Signs on the long-shuttered Muni substation on Fillmore Street. New York Times photo.

The New York Times

Gerald Harris was walking along Ocean Beach, the blustery coastline at the western edge of the city, when he passed Danny Glover, a star of Hollywood action movies and a San Francisco native. The men exchanged glances.

“We were the only two black people in the area,” Mr. Harris said.

San Francisco was once a national beacon of African-American culture, home to a thriving jazz scene that had so many clubs it was known as the Harlem of the West. But these days, blacks say they take notice when they see another African-American in affluent and middle-class neighborhoods.

The jazz clubs of the Fillmore neighborhood have been replaced with upscale shops. Marcus Books, a cultural anchor of the black community and one of the first bookshops in the nation to focus on African-American topics, closed in 2014. Other black landmarks that have long since disappeared are commemorated with remembrances embedded in the sidewalk like tombstones to a forgotten culture.

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Sheba keeping jazz alive on Fillmore

Sheba owner Netsanet Alemayehu is almost singlehandedly preserving live jazz on Fillmore.

Sheba co-owner Netsanet Alemayehu presents live jazz nightly with no cover charge.


The Queen of Sheba, the Old Testament tells us, was a stunning Ethiopian temptress who dazzled King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. with a caravan of camels laden with gold, jewels and spices to promote lively trade between Israel and Arabia.

A mere 31 centuries later, the co-owner of Sheba Piano Lounge at 1419 Fillmore Street is a regal Ethiopian promoting live jazz in the Fillmore every night of the week with no cover charge.

Netsanet “Net” Alemayehu and her sister and business partner, Israel, aren’t trafficking in gold and jewels. But they jet into SFO from their homeland three times a year loaded down with hundreds of pounds of fragrant Ethiopian spices for the Abyssinian dishes and creative cocktails on their reasonably priced menu.

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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.

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JazzFest a tribute to lost icons


Artistic Director, Fillmore Jazz Festival

In Tribute. That’s the theme of this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, coming on July 2 and 3.

Perhaps it would be fitting to hold a tribute festival every year. Invariably, some artist who changed the game or played with unbelievable virtuosity or defied genres or created timeless art passes on to the next stage — literally — leaving behind a legacy for others to build upon, be inspired by, or just enjoy.

This past year, though, we witnessed a jaw-dropping exodus of some of our most visionary and visceral musical artists: Prince, David Bowie, Ernestine Anderson, Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire, trumpeter Mic Gillette of Tower of Power, Dan Hicks, Natalie Cole, Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, alto sax jazzman Phil Woods, Allen Toussaint. We also said goodbye to R&B and soul icon Otis Clay, jazz singers Mark Murphy and Frank Sinatra Jr., country legend Merle Haggard and, sadly, many more.

The artists performing during the weekend at the 2016 Fillmore Jazz Festival were chosen not because they sound like or exclusively play the music of the icons we lost, but for their own creativity and talent. However, most will be playing and paying some tribute to one or more of these fallen heroes. As you wander up and down the Fillmore, you’re likely to hear songs by artists you may want to learn more about, including the Cuban trumpet marvel Chocolate Armenteros or the adventurist jazz pianist Paul Bley. You’re also certain to hear new arrangements of songs by familiar artists who are no longer with us.

It is with gratitude we salute these music masters who left us with a legacy of music to soothe our souls or make us want to dance or scream or jump and shout.

In Tribute. We give thanks and honor their spirit by offering new music for all to share.