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Things to do/see/feel/taste/touch in San Francisco's storied Haight district!

The Park Library Strikes Again

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This weekend saw the re-opening of one of the Haight’s hippest hangouts. It is an elite club where great works of literature, film, periodicals, puppet shows with musical accompaniment, and all the water you can sip are dispensed free-of-charge to members in good standing. What is this bibliophilic oasis, you ask?

The Park Branch Library, re-opening February 27 after a little less than a year of refurbishment, was the home of an uproarious balloon-speckled reception that attracted over 1000 Haight denizens (by SFPL staff estimates) over the course of the afternoon.

The ribbon-cutting celebration featured entertainment which veterans of SFPL library shindigs may recognize, including lion dancing, so-inspiring-it-hurts speeches from San Francisco’s political elite, and self-congratulatory speeches from SFPL bureaucrats extolling the virtues of the improved library.

“Park Branch Library has provided more than a century of service as our oldest branch and will continue to do so for generations to come,” said City Librarian Luis Herrerra, a man whose press releases are almost as charming as his toothy smile.

Though not quite the oldest building in the Haight, the Park Library is indeed the oldest public library in the City, and as such was a contentious contender for the remodeling. However, some library-goers (including Peter Warfield, director of the Library Users Association and perpetual thorn-in-the-side of library personnel) protested the SFPL’s decision to close and refurbish the library: “The Park Library renovation was the least needful in the library system,” according to Warfield. “The [SFPL] should have waited until the library’s 100th anniversary had passed. That was just insensitive.”

Most library goers, however, were just glad to have their library back. As I strolled past the imposing pilons of the library book security system, screeching at 2-to-3 minute intervals as giddy book-borrowers scurry off with their literary prizes, I’m met by throngs of  book lovers milling through the spacious aisles. Hours after the reception had ended, hundreds of bookish Haighters were still browsing the shelves, keen to fill their baskets and backpacks full of goodies until closing time. Librarian Cathy Delneo said, “the people at the computers are the same people I saw here before we closed,” though I speculate they may indeed be changed men and women, more grateful for their long-lost nook, less willing to sacrifice their convenient neighborhood literary portal anytime soon.

Written by haightfull

March 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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One haight-full day

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Saturday, January 30

Today has been one Haightfull day (sigh…this vapid pun is already beginning to lose its contrived charm. Sorry readers!). Hopped off the N-line from Ocean Beach with hardly a clue what I wanted to do with the afternoon, except meet a few new faces and perhaps make a couple friends. Such is the life of the blogger on his beat: meet the locals, chat up a few ladies, eat a slice of pizza, then home to capture the experience in a compelling HTML-based account of his experiences…Thrilling!

The day started off well enough: I ran into a couple of hip lipsticked girls from Lafayette (it’s the weekend, so the ratio of SF locals to tourists in the Haight sways dramatically in the latter’s favor for most of the afternoon) and got their numbers for “journalistic purposes”…a sly move, I know. But as far as I know, the SPJ Code of Ethics makes no mention of bloggers’ dating methods, and silence means assent does it not? Joking, –ha ha…(dramatically adjusts collar). Ah hem. Anyways, it turns out these lovely young hipsters appreciate contemporary garage rock as much as I do, so I will hopefully be seeing them again later this month at No Bunny’s show at the Bottom of the Hill. Should be one hell of a show!

Next stop was the pleasantly low-key Cole Street Café, where the charming and talkative Nicholas Danby granted me some excellent insight into the mind and eProxy-Connection: keep-alive
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eriences of the Haight District barista. He admitted that he was resentful of the “expectant” attitude his indigent clientele supposedly regard him with when making requests for free drinks, but nonetheless lamented the rapid gentrification the Upper Haight is experiencing: “sure, the area’s sketch now, but once they ‘clean it up’, watch my rent go up!”

Walking out of the café, my feet quickly took me to the cultural, commercial, and historical epicenter of the Haight district: Haight Street. This active and lively urban strip mall, a bohemian landmark considered a bulwark of the San Francisco’s thriving tourist economy, has undergone many aesthetic face-lifts over the years, but it still exudes much of the counter-culture exuberance and seedy charm that it did in its Summer of Love nadir. Walking this street as a young boy, I felt intimidated by the diverse denizens of the Upper Haight: the gritty street-punks, the small-time pushers, the perennially penniless hobos, and the incredibly loony. Now, however, I greet these varied folk as old friends, reminders of the storied history and bohemian roots of this colorful ‘hood.

After haunting Haight’s main thoroughfare for over an hour, chatting with friends in shops and attempting to wrangle stoic street folk into a serious dialectic regarding neighborhood issues, I thankfully stumbled into Mystery Mister where I met one Fatima Fleming, shopkeeper and anecdote-teller extraordinaire. I had hardly ceased shaking her hand before she was recounting the night of last week’s Lower Haight bloodletting, in which two men were killed in close succession in unrelated crimes. The more gruesome murder of the two: a case in which the body of a woman was found in a smoldering car on the 400 block of Rose Street, happened across the street from Fleming’s house!

Fleming’s roommate was allegedly the first person to call the police, and reported several inconsistencies with the police’s official report. According to Fleming, her roommate reported hearing the burning car’s horn repeatedly shrieking in short bursts as the vehicle leapt into flames, almost as if someone was banging their head against the steering wheel. This testimony may cast doubt on the police’s report that the Sacramento woman found in the car had been killed prior to the murderer’s attempt to get rid of the evidence of his ghastly crime: a dramatic and disturbing notion indeed. Fleming also noted that her roommate had called the police at 3 am to alert them of the burning vehicle and the police responded 30 minutes later, whereas the official report that Fleming cited (and I corroborated on sfappeal.com) asserts that the police responded to a call at 3:30 am and responded shortly thereafter.

Could something be rotten in the state of Denmark, or are Fleming’s conjectures simply the outlandish musings of a frightened Lower Haighter? Hard to say, but Fleming’s report may indeed prove worth a second glance. Either way, Fleming admits that despite the recent bloodshed, the Lower Haight has seen worse acts of mayhem – “I’ve lived [in the Lower Haight] for 3 years, and since then I’ve been mugged and held at gunpoint…in 2006, I heard gun shots pretty much every weekend! This place is crazy, but what neighborhood [that I can afford] is better?” Fleming’s internal struggle illustrates an issue that many 20-something’s struggle with in the Lower Haight: finding a cheap, culturally vibrant place to live that doesn’t rub one up against the seedier elements of this incredibly diverse neighborhood.

Written by haightfull

February 1, 2011 at 9:38 am

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