"Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week," according to the old Frank Sinatra song. But it's hard to imagine feeling forlorn at the Chinatown Night Market Fair. Each Saturday, ancient culture and brand-new bargains collide, causing Portsmouth Square to practically burst with people and energy. Dancers, singers, feng shui experts, and many, many vendors pack the park as tasty street snacks sizzle nearby. Families, couples, and, yes, loners get their fortunes told, watch artists at work, and haggle over everything from meditation balls to DVDs. As most of San Francisco already knows, this is entertainment fit for the Chairman of the Board. And did we mention there's karaoke? The fair begins at 6 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 30 at 733 Kearny (at Clay), S.F. Admission is free; call 397-8000 or visit www.sanfranciscochinatown.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
As a break from the daily Bay Area grind, it's hard to beat the Escape From the Rock Triathlon, which originates in the famed former big house Alcatraz. The course includes a 1.5-mile swim from the dormant prison to Aquatic Park, a hilly 13-mile bike ride, and a 10-mile coastal run with sublime Golden Gate Bridge views that ends at Crissy Field. Meet at 7 a.m. at S.F.'s Aquatic Park, Jefferson & Hyde, to take the ferry to your (thankfully temporary) first stop. Registration is $200 for the full event and $100 for the swim only; call 868-1829 or visit www.envirosports.com.
-- Ron Nachmann
Try Southern-style grub
In the deep South, backyard barbecue pits perfume the air with eau de pork ribs, and corn bread gets baked in the oven in Grandma's pitch-black iron skillet. But despite the decadent deliciousness of these Bible Belt treats, they're practically unknown in the Bay Area. In fact, now that the venerable Powell's Place has deserted Hayes Valley and left the neighborhood bereft of cornmeal-battered fried catfish, there's almost nowhere to satisfy your soul food jones. That is, unless you make tracks for the World Food Festival III, the open-air jubilee that this week focuses on hick vittles, with chef demonstrations on cornmeal cakes with okra ratatouille, peach cobbler, and sweet potato pie. Dig in starting at 10 a.m. at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers' Market, Center & MLK Jr., Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 548-3333 or visit www.ecologycenter.org.
-- Joyce Slaton