Outside the Peet’s in Potrero Center, there’s a flock of birds that perches on the empty chairbacks near people sitting and sipping their espresso. It’s easy to take them for blackbirds looking for food, but they’re not. Blackbirds are like New Yorkers: restless, quick, aggressively biting at opportunities. These slower and more patient creatures are cowbirds, who might grab a crumb if it lands near them but are generally content just to sit near people, as if enjoying their company, which they are, in a way. Cowbirds evolved to survive on the insects startled out of the grass by herds of bison and cattle, equipping them with an instinct to hang around groups of large, sedentary mammals.
Every October, we publish our Hot 20 Under 40, a series of profiles on the city's most up-and-coming movers and shakers. Former Hot 20s have included local luminaries such as Tim Lincecum, Twitter founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, Chris Kronner and Anthony Strong, Digg founder Kevin Rose, cyclist Levi Leipheimer, Supervisor Jane Kim, Dwell Editor in Chief Allison Arieff, Michael Mina, novelist Stephen Elliott (whose newest book rights were just bought by James Franco), 49er Vernon Davis and designer Alexander Wang. We're gearing up to select our 2011 class and are now accepting submissions for the Readers' Choice spot. This year, we’ve decided to take away the “under 40” age rule, since fabulousness knows no limit.
Looking out my home office window on an improbable, fourth consecutive day of beautiful San Francisco weather, I’m reminded of the Tolstoy biopic from a couple of years ago, The Last Station. In the movie’s opening moments, James McAvoy, playing the idealistic secretary Valentin, beams to his colleague Sergeyenko, “It’s a beautiful day.” Sergeyenko responds, “Yes, but we’ll pay for it.”
At 8:37 a.m. on April 19, BobCr published his first opinion of the day on SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle’s online home, a response to an article about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Chipotle Mexican Grill’s access for the disabled: “For the Liberals, Useful Idiot parking spaces would be needed since they can barely find their way out of their house.” At 8:53 a.m., he moved on to an article about the S&P downgrading its outlook on government debt and posted six comments including this one: “Why do Useful Idiots have no idea what is Socialism. ... that is why they are called Useful Idiots.”
I knew the look: slumped shoulders, crossed arms, glazed eyes. It was the teenage expression of tortured captivity, most often reserved for roadside attractions, railroad museums, and family reunion slide shows. Now the look was directed at me.
It was like that all day. My only response was to try harder.
I gathered the four blond heads of my cousins around a salon-style montage of art bulging from the SFMOMA’s wall like some sort of counterculture potbelly. “This,” I said while making an elaborate Vanna White gesture, “is Barry McGee.”
Your Brother, His Wife, and Their Kids |
Palace Hotel in SoMa
(starting at $239) 2 Montgomery St., 415-512-1111
Vibe: Big, bright, and airy Victorian style straight out of Titanic—but on dry land.
Highlights: A killer indoor pool with plenty of kids doing canonballs, on-site babysitting, and an old-school bar with dark booths and classic drinks for the grown-ups.
Nearby: Kyo-ya sushi next door and two blocks away, the YBCA complex with bowling alley, skating rink, carousel, and Zeum for the kiddies.
Tip: Skip the rooms along noisy Market Street. Instead, book something overlooking the stained-glass dome of the Garden Court restaurant.
Ryan Vogelsong, 34
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher
The offices of 7x7 are located smack-dab in Union Square and so close to the gates of Chinatown that I can almost feel our building on Grant Street pulsing with the chirps of the toy crickets for sale. Double-deckers rumble by, clouding the air with puffs of exhaust, cable car tracks clatter, and doormen whistle for cabs.
If restaurants, pop-ups, and micro-roasters are any indication of the city’s future—and rest assured, they are—then these three neighborhoods are speeding ahead of the curve.
It started after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake rendered the Central Freeway, which hovered over Hayes Valley, impassable. A few of the neighborhood’s merchants, like Zonal Home Interior’s Russell Pritchard, spent the next couple of years working with the city to tear down the crumbling highway ramps on Franklin, Gough, Oak, and, finally, in 2003, Fell streets. “There wasn’t much foot traffic, and there wasn’t any kind of town square,” says neighborhood association member Pritchard. “There wasn’t a reason for people to spend a lot of time here.”