Opening night at Via Veneto

FIRST PERSON | Andre Bolaffi

It was a Friday night in January 1990, exactly 20 years ago. We had been in our new home on Bush Street for five years. My wife Janice suggested we walk up Fillmore to the Clay Theatre to see a French film, “Claudine-Claudel,” about Rodin, his work and his mistress. We went to the 7 o’clock show with plans to have dinner afterward.

The movie was sold out, but we managed to excuse and pardon our way to the remaining two empty seats in the dead center of a front row. After half an hour, I said to Janice — quietly, I’m sure, despite the shushes from nearby theatergoers — “If something doesn’t develop soon, I’m going to leave.”

“You can’t leave,” she said.
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My tenants, the Black Panthers


Consider me a sucker for commemorative plaques. One reason London is among my favorite cities is its many buildings with blue ceramic plaques noting the famous people who lived there. I find it impossible not to pause and read them.

So it was inevitable I would stop my car when I realized a bronze plaque had been installed on an Italianate Victorian I once owned at 2777 Pine Street. It didn’t mention that I had lived on the ground floor. Instead, it associated the building with a tenant who had rented the two floors upstairs.

c. 1878
Former home of
Eldridge Cleaver
Black Panther
Republican leader

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A life lesson at the bus stop

This note was posted at the 1-California bus stop at Sacramento and Buchanan, across the street from California Pacific Medical Center, on the day after Christmas.

You were standing here, waiting for the bus, and so was I. I asked if you worked at the hospital, and you said: “No, I have cancer. I went to see the doctor. He just told me I won’t see Christmas.”

Something happened to me after I heard you say this. All I could feel was your energy, like I connected with your pain. You looked so healthy, so strong and very young for your age. I couldn’t understand why you would have to die.

You talked to me about your beautiful life. Then the bus came and you said to me as you shook my hand: “I’m not sure what your name is, but it was a pleasure talking with you today.” We got on the bus. I wanted to sit near you, to let you know that I was sorry about what was happening, or to say something that would comfort you; but I didn’t seem to get any words out of my mouth. You got off the bus a few minutes later. That was the last thing I knew of you . . . I don’t even know your name, but I have been thinking about you ever since I met you. You changed my life. Knowing about you has allowed me to live more fully.

Today I want to believe that you are still with us, inhabiting this world. I want to thank you for being such a beautiful instrument for my peace. After meeting you, I walk slower, I sing more, I complain less, I hug more, I talk to strangers, I think less, I live more.

May peace be with you, wherever you are.


At Aqua Forest, underwater gardening

Tropical fish are merely inhabitants of a lush submerged landscape at Aqua Forest Aquarium.

FIRST PERSON | Gary Neatherlin

Years ago I began experimenting with aquariums.

I have several — freshwater and saltwater — in my apartment above Fillmore Street.
So I was pleasantly surprised when a friend told me about an unusual aquarium display at a relatively new store, Aqua Forest Aquarium, located just down the street at 1718 Fillmore, near Japantown.

I walked in and was amazed to see the number and variety of underwater plants, some growing from the aquarium floor above the water line.
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A red-tailed hawk at Alta Plaza

Photographs of Patch by Walter Kitundu

FIRST PERSON | Walter Kitundu

For seven months I chronicled the life of Patch, a red-tailed hawk who lives in and around Alta Plaza Park, capturing her transition from immature bird to adult.
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A skirt with a past — and a future

What was once Ednah's became Louise's, then Barbara's, and now Melissa Barber's.

By Barbara Kate Repa

When retrieving the dry cleaning recently, I ran into an old friend: a brightly colored skirt, freshly cleaned and snaking down the automated trolley at Perfect Cleaners on Fillmore.

The unusual combination of colors, the nubby silk fabric and the jaunty scalloped waistband all were unmistakable. It had been my skirt before I donated it to the Victorian House Thrift Shop a few months earlier.

I had gotten the skirt years before from a friend, Louise Baldridge, who was in her late 80s when we met, but still spry and spirited and quick with a story — many of which involved one of her three former husbands.

“I always loved the rascals,” she said.
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Diary of a spring chick

The big yellow bird nesting in Marc Jacobs' window tells all.

By Biscuit the Chick

Hello. You may have noticed me flapping around in the window of your local Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique on Fillmore Street recently. And you might well be wondering how a fuzzy yellow fella like me snagged a spot in the retail industry.
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‘I just have this thing about bread’

Photograph of Pascal Rigo by Paul Moore

FIRST PERSON | Pascal Rigo

One morning not very long ago, I was eating breakfast with my family. We were sitting around the kitchen table in our apartment, which is above our bakery on Pine Street.
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