Box of Soap?

Been wondering about a few things, like that poster on Guerrero Street for the past few months, featuring a cow and advertising a free soapbox race in Dolores Park. The Red Bull Soapbox Race, specifically, which answers the next question: What was up with that fleet of can-shaped Red Bull cars I passed on the way home from work yesterday?

Now I’m pretty excited to see what these soap boxers will do, besides make my weekly date with Dolores (Saturday) a little claustro. Good news: it’ll be completely free, unless you decide to make a purchase from the food stands, bev stands, craft stands, nearby shops, or strolling vendors.



They've Arrived… Bikers for Change

A herd/troupe/gaggle – whatever you call a big mass of bikers on a mission – made it over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco last night, to give a talk at the Mission District Sports Basement about what they’re out to do. It’s a good thing: on bicycle, traveling from Vancouver to Tijuana down the entire Pacific Coast of the United States to raise money for microfinancing through Kiva. The basement of Sports Basement was speckled with stars of the microfinancing movement, including the folks who created Kiva, one of the founders of Global Agents for Change, and the Mission District’s own Jess Arnett! The bikers are staying in the Mission for a few days – keep an eye out for people with unreasonably huge thigh muscles – and will be participating in Critical Mass this Friday. They head south on Saturday (San Francisco bikers are welcome to join them for a day or two, if you feel like a challenge).

Since you’re on the internet already, take a look at what GAFC and Kiva are doing. The concepts behind these groups are pretty fabulous, and the microfinancing movement is becoming big news. This is the sort of trend that makes the internet a source of democratic power, and is a potential venue for action that can have help equalize the messed-up global distribution of wealth. Don’t mind the global distribution of wealth? Feel free to point someone towards next time they start complaining about it. We live in San Francisco. It’ll happen.

Back to Business

Schedule’s been stranger than usual lately, so I hadn’t ridden my normal route between jobs in a couple weeks until today. That’s up Harrison and through the Mission from north to south, and things were a-moving and a-shaking! Some of the highlights:

1) Got to give a hello to the guy who sells fruit at 22nd and Harrison – I love this guy, and his $5 ten pound bags of oranges are the sweetest in the city. I’m always a little sad when I bike past and his truck is all closed up, although I don’t usually have enough space in my bag to pick up 10 pounds of oranges anyway. Maybe more on him later.

2) New contender for Not A Helmet! I watched a man bike by on 24th Street wearing a baseball cap, and using his hands to hold and eat a little bag of potato chips instead of the handlebars. I couldn’t see what flavor they were though. Any guesses?

3) Street light out at 25th & Mission, real live traffic cops instead! Did anyone else thank these folks? They seemed surprised when I did.

4) Important news for the adorable 3 year old I babysit for, a passionate connoisseur of construction vehicles and practices: if you promise to be careful, sometimes you can bike straight through a construction zone (now reaching the southern tip of Valencia) instead of going around like all the cars.

Then I got to work, and found out I was scheduled to stay an hour later than usual. It was alright though, I got to sing “Rakata” on the playground.

Cycling: Good News and an Advisory

Great news, Mission! Bike riding is spreading like a plague, but with better symptoms and more positive media coverage: SF Gate has taken note! San Francisco Bike Coalition reports record numbers of new members! And honestly, this is an ideal moment to start biking if you’ve been thinking about it; Bike to Work Day is this Thursday! There’s a stop-off spot with food and drinks and goodies for bikers at each end of the Mission.

Biking in the Mission District can be confusing, though… other bikes often speed frantically past just so they can stop at the red light before you. There’s a whole strip of asphalt labeled “bike lane”, but it seems that drivers (who you would hope have pretty good eyesight) misread that as “park while passengers shop lane” or “it’s okay to double park here if your flashers are on lane”. Other drivers sometimes curse at you in Spanish when they drive past you, and explain when you chase after them that they were concerned for your safety on such a busy road (more or less). Baffling.

Some of these mysteries may never be explained, so I’ll start with something simpler. Let’s address the helmet issue. Covering your head with something to keep your brain safe is critical. That thing is a helmet, and they aren’t fashionable. Confusing, because people in the Mission are fashionable and like their headgear to match. Small-brimmed, brightly colored caps are not helmets, even if only bikers wear them. Hair is not a helmet, even if it is long and blows attractively in the wind. Even if it is full of styling gel and makes a hollow sound when you knock on it, it is not a helmet. Finally, to the man biking on 22nd St: cowboy hats, although arguably appropriate for riding horses, are not helmets. Maybe you can wear it on top of a helmet for the same effect.

Not a helmet.

Not a helmet.

P.S. New obstacle in the bike lane on Valencia at 7 a.m. today: a cop car, parked diagonally, plus two cops writing a ticket to a disgruntled sidewalk-biker. Helmets can’t protect you from everything, so I wouldn’t suggest JWZ point #11 even while wearing protective gear.

Essential Mission Events!

That’s right, EME for this weekend:

The last moments of the Bay Area National Dance Week! Free classes and events scattered thickly over the Mission District.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration at Dolores Park! We all know that Saturday isn’t Cinco de Mayo. It’s the Kentucky Derby. We’ll be celebrating Cinco de Mayo anyway, because this is the Mission of San Francisco, and maybe we’ll bring along a Mint Julep in honor of my horse-country past.

Construction Camp on V-Street

Valencia Street is a dangerous place, more or less. We’ve all heard the debate: are there so many bike accidents on Valencia and Market because they are such dangerous (bad) bike routes, or because they are such well-used (good) bike routes? I say a combination of the two.

Today, though, I’m interested in making this a more nuanced discussion: is Valencia so dangerous because of the potholes or because of the constant construction fixing the potholes? I am not, of course, some freaky pothole fan, but I can get used to them. I ride Valencia twice a day, every day, and it’s not potholes that set up camp a block or two at a time and leave a single lane for both directions of car + bike traffic, and travel leisurely up and down the road for months on end. Potholes don’t make that awful, numbing noise, and potholes don’t have the terrifying visual impact of a cavernous hole cut in the asphalt with only a sparse line of orange cones to shield it. A pothole did not spray me with muddy water yesterday as it cut a chunk out of the pavement.

Do not go putting the potholes up on pedestals, now. They need fixin’. I love the SFBC for marking them to increase visibility and encourage municipal action, with events like Crater Invaders getting lots of folks involved. I love the people who are actually doing the work – and it’s not easy, pleasant, or pretty – to keep San Francisco roads rideable, driveable, and walkable for all of us. What I am asking is a pothole-neutral question: why has there been construction on Valencia Street almost every day since I moved to San Francisco? It’s only 2 miles long, from beginning to end. It is only the middle part of my commute. What is going on?

Construction workers, perhaps, enjoy the culture they’ve discovered in the Mission. It might be the greatest agreement forged between hipsters and wage earners since the trucker hat: Valencia Street is the finest drag in San Francisco.

Mission Mission’s “Cycling” category here.

Complete Mission Mission Valencia Street coverage here.

Even Kindergarteners Get It

The afterschool kindergarten class at the Mission’s own Fairmount Elementary School took action on Friday to protest the enormous proposed budget cuts for education in California schools. When rates are adjusted for regional cost differences, California is already ranked 46th-47th in the nation for per student spending, investing almost $2,000 less than the national average per child per year. The proposed budget cuts are equivalent to cutting $24,000 from every classroom in the state or laying off almost 110,000 teachers. More details and photographs:

Things we learned in kindergarten

The Phonebooth: Actually Very Pleasant Before Dark

Oh, the Phonebooth… that tantalizing first experience of the freedom of San Francisco culture, where the lights are reddish and the air is hazish. At the Phonebooth, everyone has mastered the art of smelling, breathing, and looking the other way while listening to the dubious jukebox selections of a diverse (in quality of music) crowd. I haven’t been there since my very first days in the Mission, although I lived a block away for the first 6 months, but some new friends are going through their self-characterized Phonebooth phase so we stepped inside yesterday at a happy hour sort of time. The very first fellow to greet me was a massive, beautiful coon hound with blue eyes. He was completely charming and sleek.

Being there so early, I got $.50 off my beer and the opportunity to admire the unique decor which includes: barbie doll chandelier, unidentified suspended skull, robot and Trogdor tattoos, and a pool table at the back. I was interested to learn that the inside-out smoking policy doesn’t go into effect until after dark, and I finally got to play some pool: two games and I won them both, which is how I know I was dreaming.

Link to more Mission Mission dive bar coverage.

Photo by pugetive

Mission Arts and Performance Project

MAPP for short. I learned it had two ‘p’s and fell in love with the thing on the same night. Free concerts and performance art all around the 24th Street Mission region this past Saturday night. The line-up changes so fast and so often that you just have to show up to find out what’s going on. Check out the project here.

Best dancing I found on Saturday was at Red Poppy – live Rumba band who went ahead and played beats from all over the place. I had to take off 3 layers and 2 scarves to keep dancing. I didn’t get to the neighborhood until 9 p.m. or so, and that’s my only complaint. Next MAPP, I’m there from beginning to end.

Heavy Metal Bike Shop

Fate keeps bringing the Heavy Metal Bike Shop and I together. Fate and the inevitable unexpected perils of riding a bike, however sturdy, in San Francisco. Monday night, for example, I got the call: “Hey, you should blog about the Heavy Metal Bike Shop. Don’t you love that place?” Yes, I do. I ride past Heavy Metal every day on my way to work, right after I pass the Post Office, wishing I had something fun to send out, and right before I pass Mitchell’s, wishing they had vegan ice cream. That same night, my housemate was kind enough to help me adjust the not-very-adjustable pieces of my tiny green Schwinn, which is the sort of bike where the bumper stickers stuck to it are almost all rubbed off. Tuesday morning, I hopped on my bike to find it transformed into a see-saw, tipping backwards and forwards as I tried to hold on with parts not meant for holding on until I finally reached Heavy Metal, that sanctuary of basic tools, about 5 miles into my daily ride. They let me use a wrench, chatted with me amiably about the size and weight of my bike (both absurd: it’s like some sadistic exercise regimen for children), gave a little bike-seat-angle advice, and sent me on my way.

It was nice to step into this little bicycle trove again, which I first experienced on a beautiful sunny day, just before Hanukkah. There was no school that day, and I was gleefully anticipating an afternoon overflowing with a bike ride which I intended to loop along the Bay, to glide past the Golden Gate Bridge, to wind south from the northern tip of San Francisco to Market Street, to coast victoriously back into the Mission by nightfall or, who knows, to see the sunset out at Ocean Beach. So the moment came to leave the office where I work mornings and out I went for about a mile of cycling as planned, until a screw laying innocuously in the bike path punched into my back tire. You know the sound.

The first moment of fate.

I yanked the screw out of my tire and adjusted my plans for the day, walking to a spot nearby with a view of the Bay and its Bridge, and read for a few hours. I didn’t want to get stuck downtown during rush hour, when bikes are forbidden on BART, so I walked to the Embarcadero Station around 4 and stepped onto the first train headed towards the 24th Street/Mission Station. The first thing that greeted my eyes on that first train (2nd moment of fate) were bike handles I recognized. One of my good friends had fissioned under the pressure of art school finals, gone to get a haircut, and hopped on the train home 5 or so hours earlier than usual. So there were were, and she thought I should bring my bike to her boyfriend’s favorite bike shop, the one on her walk home from the BART Station, Heavy Metal. She was kind enough to walk with me even though her bike tires were intact.

Inside the bike shop I found friendly folks who trudged good-naturedly through the layers of intrigue surrounding my bike. It’s so small, so green, so heavy, so nostalgic and so impossible to find a new tube for. They found me an old tube instead, not the right size but one that fits, all dusted with whatever fills an unopened box after a few years. Now I need a Presta pump for one tire and a Schraeder for the other. My old tube had three distinct holes in it from that assiduous screw.

I spent a while there. I chatted with a man wearing an Elvis Presley necklace, I found some chocolate gelt on the counter and learned where to find vegan chocolate gelt. That day, I heeded fate and headed home on my pumped-up bike only $15 later. $15 plus BART fare.


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This author is a person who has been writing for Mission Mission for an amount of time. This person likes things--things like movies and pizza. This author is also involved with other exciting projects. When this author is not busy with his/her respective hobbies, this author enjoys having a good time with friends. If this author had to choose one adjective to describe him/herself, it would be "existing".