Saturday’s Celebration of the Restored Esmeralda Slides Was a Best of Bernal Moment

Heroes of the Esmeralda Slide Park: From left, mosaic artists Jesse Medina and Rachel Rodi, project organizers Nancy Windensheim and Joan Carson

In case you missed it, last Saturday’s celebration of the re-restored Esmeralda Slide Park and its new sidewalk mosaic was a lovely moment of Bernal at its best.  About 50 Berenal neighbors showed up to admire the now-gorgeous little park, along with representatives from The City’s Department of Public Works, who did much to help make it happen.

Artist Rachel Rodi, the creator of the fabulous new sidewalk mosaic, was also on hand as a special celebrity guest.

Some may recall that Dianne Feinstein zipped down the slides when the slide park first opened in 1979:

DiFi didn’t show up to reprise that feat on Saturday, but Bernal neighbor Michael Nolan was on hand to complete the circle between past and present. Neighbor Michael, of course, helped organize the effort to create the Esmeralda slides in the late 1970s:

Esmerlada slide crew in 1978. That’s Neighbor Michael Nolan, circled on the left.

And here’s Neighbor Michael on June 24, 2017, braving life, limb, and potential liability by plunging down the slide like the true daredevil he is:

Of course, the slide is all about motion and laughter, so here’s a little video that captures a moment on Saturday that will hopefully be repeated tens of thousands of times in years to come. Turn the volume up to hear the sweetest sound any neighborhood can possibly experience:

PHOTOS and VIDEO: By Telstar Logistics

“Devastated” Family of Bernal Homicide Victim Seeks Witnesses, Answers

Giovanny Alvarez, shown in a family photo with two of his children

There’s a community meeting scheduled for tomorrow night, Wed., May 31, at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center (515 Cortland) to discuss the homicide that took place last week, when the body of a man who had been fatally stabbed was found on the south side of Bernal Hill in the early hours of the morning on May 25.  Capt. Joseph McFaden from SFPD’s Ingleside Station and D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen will be in attendance.

The Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the victim as Giovanny Alvarez, 33, a San Francisco resident.

According to Giovanny Alvarez’s family, the victim was a family man and the father of four children. He grew up on Moultrie Street in Bernal Heights and attended Leonard Flynn Elementary School next to Precita Park before moving to The Bayview.

“We’re devastated. We’re also frustrated,” Alvarez’s sister told Bernalwood. “We’re desperate to know what happened.”

“He was a normal person who liked going out with friends, but we don’t know what happened or who he was with,” she said. “Our family is looking for justice, not only for us, but for our whole community. We don’t feel safe knowing there is a killer walking the streets. We don’t want this case to be just another murder that goes unsolved here in San Francisco.”

Alvarez’s family is looking for information from anyone who may have seen Giovanny on the night of May 24-25, or witnessed the crime. Please call the San Francisco Police Department Tip Line at (415) 575-4444. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

In addition, Alvarez’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray costs associated with his burial.  They write:

Giovanny Alvarez a Beloved father, son, uncle and friend. He was loved by many, his laughter brightened our day and he didn’t deserve to die like he did. He was passionate, artistic, and funny. People took him away from us too soon, he was too young. He was murdered on May 25th , 2017 and left to die in our local park In San Francisco. The police is investigating and trying to get justice for our beloved Gio. If you have any information regarding this monstrous crime please contact the police as soon as possible. Please help and share so we can properly bury him how he deserved and wanted. Keep us in your prayers and thank you so much.

En español

Giovanny Alvarez un Querido padre, hijo, tío y amigo. Él fue amado por muchos, su risa iluminó nuestro día y no merecía morir como lo asecinaron. Él era apasionado, artístico, y divertido. Su vida fue arrebatada de el y nosotros tomó nosotros demasiado pronto, él era demasiado joven. Fue asesinado el 25 de mayo de 2017 y abandonado para morir en ub parque local en San Francisco. La policía está investigando y tratando de conseguir justicia para nuestro amado Giovanny. Si tiene una informacion de este monstroso crimer porfavor llamar a la policia. Por favor ayude y comparta para que podamos enterrarlo adecuadamente como se merecía y quería.Manténgannos en sus oraciones y muchas gracias.

Saturday: Remembering Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet

Sadly, Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet of Gates Street passed away recently. His friends and family wth host a memorial celebration of his life on Saturday, May 20 at Wild Side West from 3-5 pm.

Neighbor Toria tells us more about Neighbor Bill:

I wanted to share the sad news about the passing of a longtime Bernal/Gates Street resident and San Francisco original — Bill Guedet.

On behalf of his son Ruben and his partner Erica, I’m spreading the word about a toast/memorial/celebration to be held on May 20th at Wild Side West from 3-5pm. Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and is currently living in New York.

Bill moved to San Francisco in the 60s. He lived in the Haight, hanging out with Janis Joplin and others from the community there. He moved out in 1967 because he saw the change that was heading for that neighborhood. After a time in Potrero, he landed in Bernal in 1976. He was a cable car driver and an avid photographer.

Bill was a familiar sight on Cortland, and always good for a story about the past, or opinions about the present. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that he’s gone.

Bill son Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and he tells us more about his dad, and his life in Bernal Heights:

My father was born Oct 2nd, 1942 in Merced, California. He remembers growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, fondly recalling sharing Sunday lunch with his grandfather, a field hand who did not speak English, but taught him how to eat in the Italian way, and developed Bill’s palate for anti pasta, olive oil and vinegar. Bill was one of a handful of white teenagers to see Little Richard play in Merced, and he tried to get over the wire fence that separated him from the Latino and African American kids that were having a much better time.

As soon as he could, he left the valley for San Francisco and stayed with some gay classmates who escaped with him. He never saw any real reason not to be friends with them; indeed his family’s request to avoid them was even more reason to, and studied theater as SF State.

He would have told you that SF State was the real ground zero for the 60’s. It was wilder, much messier, far more fun than posturing UC Berkeley, and it spilled out into the Haight. In a strange coincidence, Bill’s great grandfather ran a pharmacy at Haight and Ashbury for a while with his three brothers from Italy. Bill would continue that fascination with the scene there, he famously (though not uniquely) danced with Janis Joplin. She called him “dude”, saw the Stones, poo poo’d the Dead, and lived many stories there, before he saw the good natured feelings turn away from the hope and transformation once promised.

It was in the Panhandle that he made the acquaintance that would lead him to my mother Holly (an early date being the fabled Beatles show at Candlestick). This began the great tragic romance of his life, and Bill eventually settled in Bernal Heights when I was 6 years old. Some of that time he worked as a photographer for the Chronicle, but ultimately found that less satisfying than just pursuing his own work.

In the early 70’s Bill had gotten a job working nights on the Cable Cars. This began a rollicking few years of fun and misbehavior while “the folks” (or tourists) never let on that they were the main attraction. In 1984 the cable cars were renovated, and a poorly designed switch at Powell and Market brought an end to Bill’s time with Muni. Severely injured, Bill sought training as an accountant and came to find work at the Vintage Court Hotel as a night auditor.

In the 1980s Bill began to really invest time in Bernal Heights; he was always known as the guy who cleaned the streets by picking up trash in the area (this was before recycling gave value to cans and bottles), and was instrumental in getting trash cans installed on Cortland street. Closer to home, he began the epic house renovation that continues to this day; transforming our home on Gates street from a flophouse into a family home.

It was this success that encouraged Bill to start a neighborhood tree planting program shortly thereafter. He was a leader in getting street trees planted in Bernal Heights, and was very proud the tree he had planted in front of our house. He continued his civic engagement by working against a city plan to implement street cleaning on Gates Street. BIll’s focus and drive allowed him to improve the area, and devotion to Bernal Heights is an important part what the neighborhood is today.

Bill’s energy turned inward when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, a disease neither would ever recover from. After years of fighting with an implacable enemy, my mother succumbed and with her passing Bill would never have her far from his mind. For most of the last two decades this is the Bill that his Gates Street neighbors would come to know. Longtime residents might remember his messy attempt to redo the front of house (resulting in home made scaffolding up for years), or the eventual removal of the tree in front, but those who took the time to know Bill would understand that his passion for the area, and his love for San Francisco was never dimmed.

Bill passed on April 28th. Just as in life, he was supported by his neighbors on Gates Street in that time.

PHOTO: Bill Guedet, courtesy of his family

Cortland’s “Flower Lady” Will Make You Mom-Proud for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this weekend!

Bernal Neighbor and sex-positive celebrity Annie Sprinkle would like to encourage all Bernalese to buy Mother’s Day flowers from Denhi Donis, the sidewalk flower vendor who’s often found on Cortland near the northeast corner of Wool.

Neighbor Annie tells Bernalwood:

Bernal has many wonderful mothers of all kinds. This Mother’s Day, I want to introduce Denhi Donis, the woman who sells her beautiful flower bouquets on Cortland and Wool street.

Denhi, raised her two children in Bernal as a single mother. Now that they’re in their 20s and grown up, they help their mom set up her pop-up flower shop, and are totally devoted to her.

Before becoming the flower lady, Denhi worked for many years as a social worker at many non-profit orgs. She worked in the Women’s Building for two years, at the Latina Breast Cancer Association for a year, Planned Parenthood for seven years, and many more. She has helped many mothers, and others, over the years, and has been a champion for Latina women in the area.

Denhi has survived some hard times. Before she came to San Francisco, Denhi lived in Chicago, where she left her man and lived in a domestic violence center for two years with her two kids. .

It was her son’s idea for Denhi to start sellng flowers five years ago. She was always buying flowers, making beautiful bouquets and giving them all away to people that needed a little pick-me-up.

Maya Donis, her daughter told me, “My mother has the biggest heart I’ve ever met. Everyone she encounters she adorns with flowers and her kindness. Her Light never seems to dwindle. She teaches me that there’s no limit to my love and compassion with the world around me. She is, in many ways, my biggest teacher.”

Emiliano Donis adds, “My mother is one of the strongest women I know. Throughout my whole life she has unequivocally been a pillar. The example she set in my life has shaped me into the man I am today. From her battles with being a single mother to her struggle with cancer, she never once gave up. I hope one day I too can be as trong a person as her and do for my kids what she did for me and my sister Maya.

I’m one of Denhi’s best customers. Denhi always sells us the most beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers. However it is her warmth and smile that are even more beautiful. I love to buy flowers from Denhi, and I know my money goes to a good place.

Happy Mother’s day to Denhi! And to all mothers in Bernal and beyond.

PHOTO: Denhi Donis on Cortland, courtesy of Beth Stephens

Check Out Bernal Artist Toby Klayman’s Immersive, Two-Day Studio Visits

For the last few years, Bernal Heights artist Toby Klayman has been offering intensive two-day art immersion classes at her studio via Airbnb. Now that the program has found its rhythm, Neighbor Toby invites other Bernal neighbors to come check it out.

Toby tells Bernalwood:

Airbnb recently started this new offshoot: Experiences by interesting people living in different cities. I’ve been offering an art immersion experience for more than a few years here in Bernal while its been in beta mode. The program is not just for travelers, but for anyone interested in taking Experiences, which are fun, or interesting, or educational.

My Experience (which they named Toby Madame Renaissance) is a 2 day, 8 hour art immersion. I give a tour of our art collection, then do an extensive mixed media demo in my studio of dozens of art tools, then it is “hands on” and everyone makes art!

I provide all small-format materials. On Day 1 of my Art Immersion, we have a catered luncheon after studio time, and I conduct an Art Roundtable including Art History, cultural information and discussion about what art has been made. We also discuss what new supplies and tools will be covered in the Studio Deep Dive, which is a 3 hour session on Day Two.

Click here for further information, price, and reviews from prior students.

I love this program and we’ve met so many amazing and darling people because of it. I hope to take some of the Experiences myself,  Cities now include LA, New York, Capetown, Tokyo etc. Very exciting! I love it!

PHOTOS: Toby Klayman in her studio, via Airbnb Experiences

Bernal Neighbor Joins Mt. Everest Charity Effort with DJ Paul Oakenfold

Neighbor Greg, with a different big hill in the background

Bernal neighbor Greg Miller has been away from our hill for the last few weeks. Instead, he’s been tromping around another big hill — Mt. Everest — with celebrity DJ Paul Oakenfold to help raise money for local charities in Nepal. Neighbor Lisa tells Bernalwood:

My husband Greg Miller is part of a film crew that’s hiking to Everest Base Camp with Paul Oakenfold, the world-acclaimed DJ, where they just performed the world’s highest elevation DJ show ever. Folks can follow the day-to-day adventure here.

The adventure is raising money for local children’s charities and earthquake relief.

My brother Mark’s production company from Teton Valley, Idaho is leading the effort to make a feature-length movie about the effort, and Greg is in charge of the audio, capturing the natural and human soundscapes that Paul will incorporate into his music and future movie soundtrack.

The team staged the highest concert in the world on Monday night in Nepal. They’re about to start a Nepalese New Year’s Eve concert in Kathmandu as the finale of the trip. Look for videos from the show here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Greg with Mt. Everest in the background, courtesy of Neighbor Lisa

Bernal Heights Cameos as Neighbors Produce New “Budding Prospects” TV Show

Oh hey. Bernal neighbors (and wife-husband duo) Melissa Zwigoff (Axelrod) and Terry Zwigoff of Montcalm Street are the executive producers of Budding Prospects, a new television show on Amazon Prime. Naturally, Bernal Heights co-stars in the pilot.

Here’s how Deadline Hollywood describes the show:

Amazon s joining the hot trend of marijuana-themed shows with Budding Prospect, a 1980s comedy from Bad Santa director Terry Zwigoff, which has tapped Will Sasso as one of the leads.

Written by Melissa Axelrod based on the TC Boyle novel of the same name and to be directed by Zwigoff, Budding Prospect is set in 1983 San Francisco. Three hapless city boys move to the country to grow marijuana. Their expectations of the experience being a back-to-the-land, nurturing adventure in a beautiful rustic setting run up against the harsh truth upon their arrival at “The Summer Camp” – a miserably run-down shanty out in the middle of nowhere, where they are bedeviled by rats, snakes, mosquitoes, and harsh, unfriendly growing conditions, noisy neighbors, dangerous locals, and menacing law enforcement.

There are lots of Bernal Heights scenes in the pilot, including some tsk-tsk driving on Bernal Heights Boulevard:

Also, the Bernal Heights Library on Cortland puts on a costume to masquerade as the Mission Police Station:

Bernalwood caught up with Neighbor Melissa for an EXCLUSIVE celebrity interview about the show. She tells Bernalwood:

I wrote Budding Prospects (based on a novel by TC Boyle) and my husband Terry directed. We wanted to work from home, and the book is set in and around the Mission prior to a journey up to Mendocino, so we knew we’d at least get to sleep in our own beds while filming the pilot. We hate leaving the ‘Hill’ for too long! Our last foray into Hollywood kept us there for years and that ain’t happening again.

I wrote Budding Prospects as Melissa Axelrod, my maiden name. I started writing when Terry was working on Bad Santa. I did some uncredited work on that script, then started writing in earnest about 10 years ago.

I wrote a feature that had a lot of interest, Fred Armisen attached as lead, but indie features are so tough to finance I’ve pretty much given up on that seeing the light of day. I did get some work out of it, a couple of jobs writing pilots, but they never made it to TV.

It’s tough to work in the film business and live in SF, but my husband and I love it here. I’ve lived here since ’86 and he’s been here since something like ’72 – we have a cozy set-up: cats, a house we love, people we love …  we never wanted to make the big move to LA. We’re not so ambitious as to give all this up! Budding Prospects is our ideal project, as we plan to set several episodes in SF.

Congrats Neighbors Melissa and Terry!

Budding Prospects is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, and watch the trailer right here.

IMAGES: Screenshots of Bernal Heights, as seen in the pilot episode of Budding Prospects