They're Here. They're Drear. They Won't Go Away.
Ah, September, magical three-paycheck month! Dog Bites, feeling flusher than usual, has been frittering away our earnings on books and magazines -- mostly the latter, if we're perfectly honest -- and, well, we were going to get digital cable, but then the installation guy didn't show up within the prearranged 8 a.m. to noon time slot, and the customer service representative said that they would have to make it into an "all-day appointment," which made us so disgruntled we canceled the whole thing. That'll show AT&T. We'll get our cable from someone else.
Anyway, turning back to printed matter, and settling in with the bundle of Macy's fliers we indulgently call the Sunday paper, we tried to imagine the landscape of the post-Guthrie Memo, post-merger Chron/Ex newsroom. Would it be pocked with craters, strung with barbed wire? Or would it be more like -- and we're not really reaching for a metaphor here -- the designer shoe department at Barneys?
"You helped answer the question: Will the new Chronicle be Noah's Ark, with two of everything?" one reader wrote. "No, apparently it will be a jungle ruled by those with the sharpest teeth."
Grrr! Still, it looks as though things are calming down over at Fifth and Mission. "We are getting Gandhi-esque memos from management advising that the way to get ahead is not by trashing somebody else," a Chron source told us. "Good point! I don't think we will have a nominating process and democratic elections for the contested positions, but surely there's a better way than Survivor."
In other words, business as usual. But then, over brunch at Polk Street's Boulangerie, an acquaintance did the unthinkable: He casually commented that he thought the Mercury News put the Chron to shame. Dog Bites almost choked on our tarte aux fruits; it was in fact a good minute (even with some well-meant back-patting) before we could gasp out, "What?"
Now, God knows we've been trying to pretend we haven't seen the Merc's new San Francisco section -- which, as far as we can figure out, is about a page long on a good day, so it hasn't been that hard -- but denial will only carry you so far: The paper just ran a story on the quail in Strybing Arboretum.
As the Merc's San Francisco bureau chief, Robin Evans, told the Weekly's own Jeremy Mullman, "If people want to take potshots at us for suddenly discovering stories these first couple weeks, then they should go ahead and have their fun while they can." OK. Except that was back at the beginning of August. And on Friday, Sue Hutchison devoted her entire column to the populist local theory that a good earthquake is just what's needed to clear out the dot-coms, developers, and other opportunists.
Say, where have we seen that before? Oh, yeah. Here.
Well, the Merc's San Francisco edition did make the closing of the Redwood Room the top story in Sunday's paper. Dog Bites stopped by with friends Saturday night; after we'd seen the goose-pimpled flesh of the backless-halter-clad hopefuls lining the sidewalk outside Ruby Skye -- to be fair, it's probably a lot warmer in Danville -- the historic bar really did seem the only civilized alternative. Disappointingly, it was less civilized than it had been of yore: The place was packed, and the waitress, who seemed to be filling in for someone else, kept misplacing our orders. Somehow, it wasn't quite the way we wanted to remember the Redwood Room.
"Ten bucks for a Manhattan?" grumbled one of our party, as we examined our tab at the end of the evening. (Oops! That was Dog Bites' drink.) "Jeez, somebody should close this place down."
Two Cheers for ... Oh, Forget It
Democracy, we think, is underrated as an entertainment medium. Take algore.com: Every time we see him in a news clip -- and we do get all kinds of news, even without digital cable -- he's striding back and forth on some stage or other, a microphone in one hand, emoting, gesticulating passionately with his free hand. It's as though his strategists have decided that the best way to make him credible and appealing is to model him after a talk show host. Hey, come to think of it, maybe Al could have his own book club! That would be kind of cool.
Anyway, around here there are 87 candidates for the Board of Supervisors, some of them complete kooks, so Dog Bites figured it was our civic duty to drop by the candidates' meeting Wednesday night in District 5 (Haight and Whatever); plus, the Fringe Festival hadn't started yet, so there wasn't much else in the way of low-cost live entertainment available.
But, though we had hoped merely for a diversion, we found ourselves, once again, contemplating the meaning of True San Franciscan-ness. Most of the 11 candidates found it necessary to introduce themselves by stating first how long they'd lived in San Francisco, as though that were the most important qualification for running for public office here. One Agar Jaicks appeared to beat everyone else on that count; he's lived here for 40 years. Rob Anderson, though, was close behind; he's lived here for 38 years. Joe Konopka has lived here 23 years, he told us. Jay Bagi has lived here 13 years. Nicholas Gaffney has lived here seven years, but he did his best to compensate by promising that he'd only serve for one term, and that he'd never lie or steal, and that if he did he'd resign.
John Palmer has only lived here for four years, but added that he'd lived eight years in the Bay Area; we are in a quandary over how many San Franciscan Points to award him. Demian Barrett, however, has resided in San Francisco only a shameful three years, while Deputy Public Defender Matt Gonzalez did not even say how long he's lived here, though, since he did invite us to his campaign kickoff party, we will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, Juanita Owens -- a Willie Brown candidate, and a former Police Commission and school board member -- didn't reveal how long she'd lived here either, but did say she'd been an "advocate" in San Francisco for 25 years. More controversially, she said she believes in safe streets, and is opposed to fiscal mismanagement at City Hall. Finally, there was Richard Hongisto, who, considering he was elected for a third supervisorial term back in 1986 and was sheriff in the '70s, may in fact outrank everyone else in terms of overall San Franciscan-ness.
Dog Bites hopes the voter's handbook will take steps to clarify these points by listing the candidates' length of San Francisco residency along with their professions; quite frankly, we don't see how anyone can make an educated decision without this information.
When the Gap Sneezes ...
By now the story of the Gap Inc.'s poor recent showing has been reported everywhere. Dog Bites feels a little sadness mixed with our Schadenfreude; it's less fun to kick a corporation when it's down.
But what the heck -- we'll do it anyway. After all, San Francisco now has the world's largest Banana Republic store -- scarcely a distinction of which we may be proud, we think, but there you are -- and it seems as bustling as ever, although we can't be totally sure of this, because there are so many different levels and wings and staircases to the place that whenever we venture into it, we get lost and wind up wandering in circles until we have to start cutting small surreptitious blazes into the Stretch Oxford Button Down table and the Traveler Rib Sock display in order to find our way out, panicky and dehydrated, so we may actually be seeing the same 20 customers over and over.
Anyway, despite difficulties at Old Navy and the Gap, Gap Inc.'s higher-end division soldiers on. However, we were chilled to the very marrow to read this sentence in Victoria Colliver's story in the Examiner: "[Gap CEO Mickey] Drexler said [Banana Republic] is going well, but he admitted that women have had trouble fitting the company's pants, and that prices have been too high." Fitting the pants! Please, don't let this mean they're about to make the butts even bigger. It's just not right. It only encourages people.
In fact, in the interests of the common good, Dog Bites sends this urgent message to Drexler: We are available for design consultation. Don't do anything without us.