Scenes from the 2016 Cortland “Summer” Solstice Stroll

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The sun was out, the fog stalled over Twin Peaks, and last Thursday evening many smiling Bernalese friends and families headed to Cortland Avenue to partake of the ancient ritual of the Solstice Stroll.

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This being summer, of course, was a little chilly. So Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter insisted we head to Pinhole Coffee, where we’d heard there would be Japanese-style curry. The rumors proved true, the curry was warm, hearty, and delicious, and the Cub Reporter was happy and fortified:


One BIG news flash occurred when we realized that celebrity Bernal neighbor Terry Milne…


…. may have actually been separated at birth from his imperial highness Emperor Norton (aka Bernal neighbor Joseph Amster):

2016-06-23 19.57.26Who knew???!!

Although, in the realm of rockstars, no one could touch the little guy we saw jamming with the big kids in front of Healthy Spirits. He was totally feeling it:

Thanks for making it happen, Bernal Business Alliance!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

On the Bright Side, Neighbor Michael Nolan Celebrated His 75th Birthday This Week


Okay, let’s be straight with each other: This was a rough week. There was that nasty five-alarm fire on Saturday, of course, but that wasn’t the only thing. On Sunday, the Warriors botched the NBA Finals. There was also that shitshow SFMTA meeting David Campos convened on Monday, where a bunch of microphone-hogging nativists screamed that that taking a faster Muni bus is something only a gentrifier would do. Then, to top it all off, Great Britain decided it wants to be more like Texas. Sigh.

One thing made all this bearable, and that was the fact that this week, Neighbor Michael Nolan of Elsie Street also celebrated his 75th birthday.

Neighbor Michael has been in Bernal for a very long time, having arrived on our hill during the wave of post-hippie colonization that took place here during the early 1970s. Indeed, the ultimate proof of Neighbor Michael’s old skool credentials is the fact you can find even him in that seminal group photo taken in 1978 during the original construction of the Esmeralda slides:


In Bernalese terms, being present in that photo is sort of like being one of the people pictured in that skimpy wooden boat with George Washington as he crossed the Delaware River to swipe Trenton from the British in 1776. Serious. Seminal. Moment.

Anyway, this week Neighbor Michael turned 75, and since he’s still in pretty good shape, he threw himself a big 75th birthday party at Bissap Baobab in The Mission, and filled the place up with a lively cross-section of his local friends.

Neighbor Sarah Rogers wrote a perfect tribute on Facebook that explained why so many people were so thrilled to celebrate the occasion:

Happy 75th birthday/Diamond Jubilee to Michael David Nolan, mayor of Elsie Street, workout-on-the-hill-er, master of new technologies and social media, genealogist/historian, neighborhood activist, slide-builder, former supervisor candidate, constant maker of new friends, Carnaval devotee, and about a billion other things that I can’t remember because my memory is not as good as yours and that all add up to your being the youngest 75-year-old in the history of the world. I think you should go for 75 more.

That sums it up nicely. Plus, even at 75, Neighbor Michael still has the moves. Watch it:

Happy birthday, neighbor, and thanks for giving us something to cheer for this week.

PHOTO: Top, Michael Nolan at his 75th birthday party, by Jack Pitts

RIP: Bernal Neighbor Carla Jean Johnson


Photo by Anna Kuperberg

Neighbor Carla Jean Johnson passed away earlier this month. Darcy Lee from Heartfelt knew her well, and tells us why it was such a big loss:

We lost a hero in Bernal. Carla Jean Johnson was an advocate for the homeless, for buildings being safely built in her city, for LBGT rights, the list goes on and on. She was a helper a true caring neighbor who would consult with you on whatever she was knowledgeable about, and that list also goes on and on.

I have asked her about building codes, dog behavior, when our house was moved onto Bernal, how to search the history of Heartfelt’s building….. she was a wealth of information and caring.

My favorite memory of Carla is from long ago, when Heartfelt still sold helium balloons. She would ask if I would open early to blow up balloons for her perfect vintage red truck for the Pride Parade. It was quiet on Cortland and her truck would shine as we tied on the balloons, a palatable excitement that has more meaning today than I even want to think about.

She knew so much and cared even more. A strong woman, an amazing partner to Anna, and in turn, Anna, your journey with your wife is an inspiration that is all about love. Carla Jean you are a true example of how one person can make a difference. My tears for you are big ones, you were a star to me.

Carla previously led the City’s Office on Disability, and Mayor Ed Lee also issued a statement on her passing:

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Carla Johnson, a dedicated City employee for over 27 years and a champion for disability rights in our City.

She has significantly helped to improve the quality of life our residents. In the last six years, she has led the Mayor’s Office on Disability and served as our City’s overall Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator. Her leadership has been instrumental in expanding the scope of the Mayor’s Office of Disability to become a strategic partner in all major San Francisco initiatives that impact the disability community, including ensuring accessibility in public housing and private establishments, digital communications, software applications, and public events and celebrations, and advocating for pedestrian safety and homeless service delivery.

With a generous heart, kindest demeanor and a life dedicated to public service, compassion and community, her legacy will continue to live on in our City.”

For those who wish to honor her memory and legacy, donations can be made to the Bayview Opera House for two purposes: to commission a public artwork that celebrates the values of equity to be placed on the building’s grounds or to support youth programming. Donations can be made online at, click on “Fund a Dream” or via check made payable to Bayview Opera House, Inc., 4702 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94124.

PHOTO: via Anna Kuperberg on Facebook

Anna, Maker of Piroshkis on Cortland, Celebrates New American Citizenship


Hooray! Anna Tvelova is the founder and proprietor of the certifiably delicious Anda’s Pirsoshki shop at 331 Cortland, and her piroshkis taste so authentically amazing in part because Anna originally hails from Russia.  This week, however, she also became a naturalized American citizen, and she’s thrilled about it.

To celebrate her new status, Anna engaged in a hallowed naturalization ritual that dates back to the earliest days of George Washington and the Founding Fathers: A hilltop Zumba line dance.

Anna tells Bernalwood:

Had blast dancing Zumba On Bernal Hill this weekend with SF Jay!  Because I love Zumba, I love Bernal, and my piroshki shop out here. This event was created in support of Bernie Sanders, and it’s my first act as a brand new citizen.

Congratulations, Citizen Anna!

Put on your powdered wig, sharpen your quill pen, and join Citizen Anna as she celebrates her new status by shaking her naturalized American groove thang atop Bernal Hill:

PHOTO: Citizen Anna at her naturalization ceremony, courtesy of Citizen Anna

Bernal Neighbor Named Director of City’s New Homelessness Office


While Bernal residents keep an eye on efforts to address the homeless encampment underneath the Cesar Chavez/101 interchange, one Bernal Heights neighbor will soon be paying particularly close attention: Yesterday, neighbor Jeff Kositsky of Precitaville was introduced as the first director of the City’s new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

Heather Knight from the San Francisco Chronicle covered Neighbor Jeff’s appointment:

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s plan for a new department of homelessness — an idea bandied about at City Hall for at least 14 years — is taking shape, with a budget of at least $160 million, nearly 200 workers and a new director, who was announced Wednesday.

He’s Jeff Kositsky, a well-known figure in the city’s homeless service system. Since 2013, he has worked as executive director of Hamilton Family Center, which provides emergency shelter and other services to homeless families. He led the Community Housing Partnership, which manages housing for 1,300 formerly homeless adults, for nine years before that.

“The city has all of these amazing programs that are really world-class,” Kositsky said. “To be able to bring all of those under the same department under a unified strategy to help really amplify Mayor Lee’s vision for addressing homelessness in San Francisco is an honor and an amazing opportunity.”

In his new role, Neighbor Jeff will oversee a department with 110 employees and an annual budget of more than $160 million. His top priorities in the big new job will include opening more Navigation Centers to provide interim shelter for the homeless and deploying a new information system to improve management and coordination of homeless cases and services. The new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will launch on July 1.

PHOTO: Neighbor Jeff Kositsky photographed by Connor Radnovich for The San Francisco Chronicle

RIP Charles Gatewood, Underground Photographer and Bernal Neighbor

Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

Photographer Charles Gatewood passed away last week at age 74. He was a longtime resident of Mirabel Street.

Neighbor Charles built his career photographing rock music celebrities, but later in his career he took an interest in alternative culture and sexuality. Even if you never knew him, you probably know some of his work. This was the first photo Charles Gatewood ever published, in 1966:


“Dylan With Sunglasses and Cigarette,” by Charles Gatewood

Writing for BoingBoing, former Bernal neighbor David Pescovitz summarized Charles Gatewood’s legacy:

Charles Gatewood, a pioneering photographer of the underground for nearly 50 years, died today from injuries sustained in a fall from his third-floor balcony. He was 74.

From documenting the Beats and the dark alleys of 1970s Mardi Gras to extreme body modification practitioners and sexual fetishists, Charles lived his life as a curious, open-minded photographic anthropologist at the fringes of culture.

I first encountered Charles’s work in the 1980s through the groundbreaking RE/Search book Modern Primitives and a grainy VHS dub of the documentary “Dances Sacred and Profane” about his quest for individuals “breaking the bounds of convention.” We first met in 1993 and I always looked forward to the terrific stories of his travels through the interzones that he happily shared with me. Charles was warm, generous, witty, and very grounded.

Tattoo Mike, by Charles Gatewood

Tattoo Mike, by Charles Gatewood

Neighbor Charles was close friends with Bernal Neighbor Annie Sprinkle, and she shared these thoughts about him:

Charles Gatewood was my close friend, photography mentor and sometimes collaborator since 1977. He was enormously talented, an influential photographer, and he lived his life on his own terms. A lot of folks in the body art, music, poetry, sex worker communities are sad today as he passed away, and also enormously grateful for the treasure trove of images he made of so many of us, which thank goodness are housed safely archived at UC Berkeley.

He was a sweet bad ass. Also fun to photograph. He made some of the best photos of me ever. Most too explicit for Facebook.

Its been an honor to be part of the last chapter of his life. He was in ICU for over two weeks, and I got to visit him, be part of the love fest surrounding him, and go to add my opinions at the three “ethics committee meetings” about his care. Finally the medical team took him off life support so that he could leave his broken body and find some peace.

A public ‘memorial celebration’ is being planned for the Center For Sex & Culture in about two months, to give folks time to travel. There might also be something in New York City if someone takes the lead. Details to come. Charles’ sister Betty lost her last family member and only brother. She donated his cornea to help someone see better. What a lucky person to get Charles Gatewoods cornea! Charles wanted to be cremated. All is well and as it should be now. Needless to say, I’m very sad, as well as relieved he is out of pain. He was an important person in my life to whom I shall always be grateful.

Big love to all those who are sad to see Charles go. See you at the memorial, and eventually at the big UC Berkeley Gatewood archive presentation one day, for a grand reunion. Stardust to stardust…


Here’s a (NSFW) video of Neighbor Charles giving a tour of his own archive in 2012, including a cameo of some photos he took of Neighbor Annie Sprinkle:

Autistic Boy, Missing From Concord, Found by Bernal Neighbor Alice Caruthers


An autistic 11 year-old boy who went missing from his home in Concord, California was found near the Alemany housing project in Bernal Heights last Friday after Bernal neighbor Alice Caruthers noticed that the boy looked lost.

ABC-7 carried the story:

Zachary Jordan-Smith, an 11-year-old boy with autism, walked out of class on Friday and hopped a BART train to San Francisco. He’s now been safely reunited with his family because of one woman’s instincts. […]

He was found in the 900 block of Ellsworth in San Francisco in front of a head start school.

Somehow he squeezed through a fence at Holbrook and took a path to the North Concord BART station, which is nearby, and managed to get on BART train without money.

Fortunately, he was found safe.

“A sigh of relief. An absolute sigh of relief. Words cannot describe it. We were just so nervous and all of a sudden, such relief,” his father, Chris, said.

“I want to go get my son,” his mother, Christine, added.

That’s exactly what the Jordan-Smith family did. They got in the car and drove to Concord, bound for San Francisco.

Jordan-Smith was found next to I-280 by a woman who held him there for police, and the first officer on the scene happened to be a family friend.

There were hugs and happiness all around.

“I said, ‘Lord, give me favor right now. Clear this freeway so I can get this kid.’ I said, ‘Are you lost?’ and he said, ‘Yes I’m lost.’ I said, ‘Where do you live?’ and he mentioned a street I’ve never heard of. He mentioned Concord and I said, ‘Concord, how did you get here?’ He said, “BART,’ so I said, ‘Oh, so you’re missing. I’m going to get you safe and I promise you I’m going to get you to your parents,” San Francisco resident Alice Caruthers said.

Wow. Neighbor Matt shared this detail:

My daughter’s schoolmate saw the boy running somewhat erratically down Andover and across Cortland.

Previously she and a classmate were on the J Church going outbound and had seen the boy get off on Church St. So somehow he managed to get from BART to Muni and ended up on Andover above Cortland.

What a story!


Of course, anyone who knows Neighbor Alice will tell you that her role in this Good Samaritan tale should come as no surprise: Alice Caruthers is also president of the Alemany housing project residents association and she’s served on the board at the Alemany Farm. And now, on top of all that, she’s also a superhero.

Here’s the ABC-7 video report:

PHOTO: Montage by the San Francisco Police Department