Fall in the Fillmore

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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.

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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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Immigration fight snares a familiar face

Luis Quiroz, a staffer at Fillmore’s Invision, is among those threatened.

Luis Quiroz, a staffer at Fillmore’s Invision, is among those threatened.

By JAYA PADMANABHAN

When 27-year-old Luis Quiroz heard the news that DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program — was being rescinded, it was as though something he’d worked for all his life had been stripped away.

“I felt completely defeated,” he said.

Quiroz was born in the Mexican state of Guerrero and was brought to America when he was 6 months old. He grew up in San Diego and later moved here to attend San Francisco State University.

“My whole life has been devoted to the United States,” he said. “I know no other home. California has been my home my whole life, pretty much.”

DACA changed Quiroz’s life in two crucial ways: He found a job at Invision Optometry on Fillmore Street, which helps him pay off education expenses; and he obtained a driver’s license, which allows him unrestricted movement. DACA validated his identity.

“I could prove to the world that I was Luis Quiroz and that my birth date was the date it was and that I was a California resident,” he said.

Quiroz worried about his family living close to the Mexican border in San Diego, where there was heightened immigration enforcement activity — and he was right to worry. When Quiroz was 15, his 23-year-old brother was detained and subsequently deported. Two years after that, his father was deported. And in 2015, his mother was sent back to Mexico.

“The reason they fled Mexico in the first place was for economic opportunity, to escape violence, for a better future for themselves and their children,” Quiroz said. “As much as we want to see each other again, my parents recommend I stay in San Francisco.”

His voice thickened with emotion, Quiroz talked about a recent tragedy in his family. In March of this year, his brother, who operated a business for tourists, was assaulted and shot point-blank in front of his 4-year-old daughter.

“I currently have no way of going to Mexico, or visiting his grave, or visiting my parents or my brother’s daughter, whom I have never met,” Quiroz said. He had just finished putting together the paperwork and fee for DACA’s advanced parole, which would have enabled him to visit his family in Mexico. But now, with DACA rescinded, advanced parole is no longer an option.

“I’m very lucky to be in San Francisco, of all places,” Quiroz declared, enumerating the various resources the city has offered him.

S.F. State set up healing circles at their Dream Resource Center after the DACA announcement. San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs offers advice, support and sanctuary to Dreamers. That office also provides help with DACA renewals, fee assistance and legal aid.

Dreamers like Quiroz are concerned about what might be compromised in the zeal to get Congress to pass the pending Dream Act.

“I personally feel torn about this,” Quiroz said. “This Dream Act offers relief to less than 10 percent of the undocumented population, and it excludes everyone else.”

He fears that while he would personally benefit from the bill, the larger undocumented population will be left unprotected.

“It’s like saying, ‘We get to stay, but our parents will get deported,’ ” Quiroz said.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Jaya Padmanabhan’s In Brown Type column in the San Francisco Examiner.

Kabuki, mon amour

The theater in its heyday as the Sundance Kabuki.

The theater in its heyday as the Sundance Kabuki, when it was Robert Redford’s place.

FILM | DAVID THOMSON

People call it “the Kabuki” still, as if clutching at something and hoping it will stay there. It is, or has been, our neighborhood movie theater, with a front onto Post Street, a parking garage, an alleged restaurant — and a certain dejected character.

I’m being as generous as possible because I want it to remain. But I have my doubts now, and I understand if people still think of it as Sundance, Robert Redford’s place, Carmike, AMC or the longtime home of the film festival.

Over the years, there were rumors: Were the Coen Brothers really thinking of taking it over? No, those guys were too shrewd for that. Our Kabuki feels like a place people are waiting to unload.

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Thieves put a target on Fillmore

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By CHRIS BARNETT

A surge in daring grab-and-run thefts is plaguing Fillmore Street merchants.

Salespeople at upscale fashion boutiques on upper Fillmore say shoplifting has now morphed into blatant thievery and that some fear for their personal safety. Merchants report numerous instances — more than half a dozen in August alone — in which people case a store, wait until staffers are distracted, then scoop up merchandise and dash out.

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Farmers market gets a new boss

Grant Ike is the new manager of the market — the fourth in the past two years.

Grant Ike is the new manager of the market — its fourth in the past two years.

By FRANCINE BREVETTI

February’s raucous rains may have limited the ingredients you’ve tossed into your summer salad bowl.

The Fillmore Farmers Market is still trying to recoup the fruit and vegetable vendors it lost because of the rising waters on farmland this past winter.

To help lead the resurgence, Grant Ike has been named as the new manager of the market — the fourth since popular founding manager Tom Nichol was removed and later died in 2015.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill — but I wear a size 14,” says Ike, himself a former nut vendor at other markets.

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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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Historian Kevin Starr: A personal memoir

Photograph of former State Librarian Kevin Starr by Andrew Burton.

Photograph of former State Librarian Kevin Starr by Andrew Burton

By CHARLES FRACCHIA

He was born and grew up in public housing on Potrero Hill. When his parents could no longer take care of him and his brother, he was sent to a Catholic orphanage in Eureka. After a stint as a seminarian he attended St. Ignatius High School, where his Jesuit teachers noticed he could not read well, had his eyes checked, and bought him glasses.

It is a surprising start for what happens next. He attends the University of San Francisco and graduates with honors, does a stint as an officer in the U.S. Army, is given a Danforth Fellowship and attends Harvard University, where he receives a Ph.D. in American literature. Following a teaching stint at Harvard, he returns to San Francisco in 1973, where he becomes a special assistant to Mayor Joseph Alioto and City Librarian.

This protean figure is Kevin Starr, who, during the four and a half decades after his return to San Francisco, became one of the major cultural historians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a journalist and editor, a generous abettor of many authors, an amiable clubman, State Librarian of California and a distinguished professor at the University of Southern California, to which he would commute weekly from his home in San Francisco.

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A shop becomes a gallery

Mariko Suzuki and Tomoaki Takashima and their treasures at Sanko.

Mariko Suzuki and Tomoaki Takashima and their treasures at Sanko.

Story & Photograph by FRANK WING

Sanko Kitchen Essentials, the anchor shop at the northeast end of Japantown’s Buchanan Street Mall, is sporting a new look these days.

For more than 35 years, it has been the go-to purveyor of hard to find Japanese cookware, unique bento boxes, exotic children’s lunch pails and enough teacups for every day of the year. But recently it has been transformed into an elegant gallery of fine ceramics imported from Japan.

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Tombonistically speaking, in the key of Bernstein

Photograph of Nick Platoff by Terrance McCarthy

Photograph of Nick Platoff by Terrence McCarthy

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Nick Platoff moved here a year ago to join the San Francisco Symphony’s acclaimed brass section, in which he is associate principal trombonist. Only 25, he helps kick off the fall arts season this month, performing in the symphony’s opening night gala on September 14, followed from September 22 to 24 by “Celebrating Bernstein,” four pieces by Leonard Bernstein to honor the centennial of the master conductor and composer’s birth.

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