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Dog Bites 

Apocalyptic Good Cheer, Lonely Hearts, The Big One, and A Very Special Dot-Com Christmas

Wednesday, Dec 22 1999
Apocalyptic Good Cheer
Last week, Dog Bites heaved a sigh of relief: The city's Y2K Program Management Office told us police have cleared Ferry Plaza and the surrounding area of anything the expected 200,000 New Year's revelers might use to, um, break stuff. (Oh. Did we say "revelers?" We meant "rioters.") But then, driving along the Embarcadero Tuesday at about 12:30 in the a.m., bleary-eyed after packing into Roccapulco for the Tom Ammiano defeat party -- "My voice may be high. My orientation may be gay. My politics may be left. But we are right!" the candidate told several thousand screaming fans -- Dog Bites realized this work couldn't possibly have been finished, because the Ferry Plaza itself isn't finished. Many of the palm trees' tops are still bundled into those absurd paintbrush coifs, the concrete aggregate paving squares are still stacked next to the backhoes and the graders, and untold dozens of pallets full of bricks still await mortar.

So a few days later, Dog Bites hopped on the J Church and sped over to the waterfront to conduct our own thorough investigation and public safety audit, and also to visit Eastern News to get the January issue of British Homes and Gardens, which, incidentally, is such a tour de force of luxe modernism clichés that we almost never want to see a wenge wood table lamp again. Without even looking very hard, we found some sizeable chunks of loose concrete around the bases of the trees next to Embarcadero 4, any of which would have made effective projectiles; a drunken 22-year-old man would doubtless be able to pry up even larger pieces should the occasion warrant.

Heartened by our success, we quickly located two stray bricks under a planter on the plaza, and then some more throwable material in the form of a cracked concrete footing under the Homes & Land distribution box at Market and Spear. Now, we know many restaurants in the area plan to close New Year's Eve, and we congratulate the owners on their prudence. But might the police, perhaps, be planning a few more sweeps of the area, just to be on the safe side? The SFPD's Sgt. Dan Linehan tells us something even more disturbing: Despite early television reports to the contrary, work on the new Ferry Plaza won't be completed by New Year's at all. "We're dealing with the contractor out there to secure his items," says Linehan. "Anything that can be nailed down will be."

Then again, there may not really be anything to worry about. If the endless Mariah Carey histrionics pouring from the holiday ice rink's PA haven't yet induced lunching office workers to rip up a few chairs and hurl them through a plate glass window or two, there must be something to be said for our citizenry's innate placidity. Perhaps the WTO needs to think seriously about San Francisco as the venue for its next conference.

Dog Bites probably just needs to kick back and maybe read a few more of those post-election analysis pieces explaining how, even though voters have collectively decided San Francisco should stay with its abusive husband, it's really OK, because now Ammiano is a force who will save us from the worst of Willie's excesses, kind of like a restraining order. We'd relax by doing some holiday baking, but our stove's been broken for 2 1/2 weeks now, and the landlord's flunkies have told us they won't be able to repair it until Jan. 3. All this service for only half our take-home pay! Who says San Francisco has a housing problem?

Lonely Hearts
We'd like to thank all those who've written to give us romantic advice about our ongoing attempts to get the New Mission News' Silicon Satan to ask us out, including Toby Stefan, who counsels, "You'ze should not have to beg for approval over having lunch with someone else. If they are too insecure to deal, then that's their problem." (Note to Toby: By all means, use this reasoning with your significant other. Be sure also to say, "I didn't tell you because I knew you'd be upset. And see -- you are upset!" Then have a merry Christmas!)

Perhaps the best counsel we've gotten comes from Dog Bites' poet emeritus, Steven Appleton, who -- naturally enough -- condenses his wisdom into a couplet:

Pursue Silicon Satan with an open heart

Leave Kevin alone, if you're smart.

Yikes! What does Steven know that we don't? Of course, rumors have persisted that Kevin Keating himself is, in fact, the masked crusader for dot-com rights -- but Keating denies it. "Silicon Satan's a little too ham-handed for me," he says. "I like to think if I were doing a column like that, it would be more witty."

Well, everyone's a critic, and wittiness, God knows, is harder than it looks. Luckily, Steven has some helpful suggestions: "I guess I long for the good old days, when Dog Bites regularly bashed the smarmy public figures that troll our City of Angels," he writes. (Note to Steven: The City of Angels is actually, um, Los Angeles, regardless of what those determined diners huddled under the heat stanchions on the MoMo's patio might think.)

But as far as Silicon Satan goes, since being direct hasn't worked (and now that we think of it, it never seems to), we'll focus instead on thinking of ways to demonstrate to him that we are meant for each other. For instance, this particular holiday season, Dog Bites feels proud to be (nominally, anyway) one of those enterprising Episcopalians -- who will be charging hefty admissions to Grace Cathedral's Christmas concerts. (Reserved seating $20 to $50; general admission $12.) Reader David L. Hornberger cc'd us on his letter to Bishop Swing, in which he noted, "1,970 years ago, Christ scattered the money-changers from the houses of worship. And now, here you are, doing it all over again." Well, not exactly -- weren't the money-changers pawnbrokers?

And besides, everyone needs a profit motive. If more churches charged admission, the public could vote with its dollars on the kinds of services it wants. Services would, necessarily, get more entertaining, church attendance would climb as a result, and once again, the free market would have been allowed to function as it should, thereby resolving our problems. See?

The Big One
Besides Steven Appleton, other people have complained that Dog Bites hasn't been bashing Ken Garcia, Jon Carroll, or other local media figures much lately. Man, are you people mean-spirited: We think everyone has a role to play in the life of the city -- even horribly perky newscaster Terilyn Joe, whose hair has been waxing larger recently, following a short-lived waning trend in which, coincidentally perhaps, it also developed golden-brown highlights. But observable seasonal and daily fluctuations in Terilyn's hair volume got us thinking: Perhaps there was some other significance we were missing. After all, evolutionary theory suggests species develop those traits that give them competitive advantages.

In fact, we have discovered a strong correlation between Terilyn's hair volume and seismic activity along the Hayward fault: The hair's expansion seems to predict a quake, generally within 48 hours. For instance, last week we noted an enviable degree of mane fullness on both the Wednesday and Friday evening newscasts; these instances of fluffiness preceded both a Thursday morning quake centered nine miles northeast of San Jose, and a Sunday afternoon quake seven miles northeast of Milpitas.

Now, granted, these two episodes probably aren't enough to constitute a scientific sample, so we invite the USGS to continue our work; meanwhile we'd just like to know what mousse she uses.

A Very Special Dot-Com Christmas
Many of our more economically advantaged new San Franciscans will doubtless be celebrating under the tree with a Sony Aibo, the $2,500 robotic dog whose first production run sold out so quickly that the company had to make another 5,000 in time for Christmas. Like many complex pieces of engineering, the Aibo has a weirdly opaque personality; one of Dog Bites' dot-com friends invited us over to his loft to see the plastic-bodied wonder, which, naturally, wasn't working as expected. "I think it's sleeping," he said. We waited while he shook the dog, waved his hand in front of its sensors, and checked the manual for instructions. Eventually the Aibo woke up, and, with much whining from its servo-motors, turned its head back and forth to watch the plastic ball being rolled for its entertainment. This ability demonstrated, it lapsed back into motionlessness.

"I don't think it's in interactive mode," theorized our friend.

And this seems like an opportune time to thank self-described dot-com Mark Wladika for his generous offer of marriage, though we note he backed right off when we told him we had no stock options. Still, he shares with us this charming story of life in millennial San Francisco:

"I'm walking down Haight approaching the Ashbury intersection when I see two hippies fighting, a man and a woman. She's screaming, 'Get the fuck off my peace sign' and he's retorting, 'C'mon, bitch, right now!' while they shove each other. The ground is covered with an ornately rendered peace sign in chalk that I assume is the object of the conflict."

Our Mark watched as another pedestrian approached; the man stopped, turned to the passer-by, and asked, "Spare change?" When the pedestrian ignored him, he went back to shoving the woman.

Uh, peace on earth and goodwill among men, everyone.

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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