Bernalwood Author Envisions Attack by Cute Zombie Bunnies

If there are two things Bernalwood boasts in spades, it’s creative types and kids. One of the former, six-year hill resident Aaron Ximm — my husband! — officially became a capital-A author yesterday with the publication of his first book, Pat the Zombie: A Cruel (Adult) Spoof.

Which brings us to the kids. Pat the Zombie is a parody of one of the best-selling children’s classics of all time, Dorothy Kunhardt’s 1940 Pat the Bunny, a self-described “touch and feel” book whose interactive tactile features (such as soft, petable bunny “fur” and smellable flowers) were a novelty when it came out in 1940.

By contrast, Pat the Zombie — vividly illustrated by Kaveh Soofi and printed by the same Chinese house as the current edition of Pat the Bunny to accurately reproduce the original’s distinctive color palette, binding, and packaging — is a “touch and recoil” book that places the original against the backdrop of a zombie invasion that spares neither two-footed nor four-footed mammals.

The book’s graphic detail necessitates the cover’s clarification that the thing is for adults. Woe to the guardians of the toddler who stumbles on Zombie under the mattress!

Now, why would someone want to make a spoof like that? Particularly someone who is himself a parent? And the father of my children? To find out, I caught up with Ximm in the hallway outside our bathroom this morning.

Bernalwood: Why would you skewer such a beloved, benign children’s classic? Seriously. Aren’t there more appropriate topics for risqué parody, like the federal budget?

Aaron Ximm: It’s actually precisely the marriage of unshakable popularity and  insipid content that made Pat the Bunny so plump a target. Some books are classics because they refuse to die. We just helped the process along a little.

How many million parents have gone glassy-eyed reading the curious imperative prose of the original to their offspring… over and over and over again? Pat the Zombie is for them. For us! We parents understand what it is to be half-alive.

Bernalwood: As anyone who was witness to Bernal Heights’ recent Easter egg hunt in Holly Park can attest, our neighborhood’s toddlers are a pretty savvy bunch. How would they fare during a real zombie invasion?

Ximm: Poorly, I’m sad to say. Poorly. Beating out little Hayden and Aiden, the twins from up the hill, for one last plastic egg is one thing. Possessing the focus, stamina, and wit required to fend off hordes of undead boxerdoodles and cockapoos is a whole ’nother thing.

Here in Bernalwood, our kids our coming up soft. Remember that commencement speech that was mis-attributed to Kurt Vonnegut? The one that said, “Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Well, it’s true; California can make you soft. Our kids should know how to bow-hunt the undead with chert-tipped arrows and eucalyptus bows after their supply of regular ammo runs dry.

Bernalwood: Troubling allegations have emerged that, during the writing of Pat the Zombie, you “beta-tested” the book on our three-year-old daughter. Aren’t you concerned about the effects such content might have on a developing mind? And even if your own empathic response is lacking, what about the potential for serious marital discord if these charges are substantiated?

Ximm: I prefer to think of this not so much as an early and unwitting exposure to our own culture’s relentless preoccupation with violent imagery, but as an essential rite of passage — akin to the Chod traditions passed from Bon into Tibetan Buddhism, in which the practitioner sits with the dead and visualizes their own mortality and decomposition.

And anyway, baby, she’s seen worse playing with your iPad since you always leave SafeSearch off. Remember that time she watched the trailer for Human Centipede?

Aaron Ximm will be reading from and signing Pat the Zombie at Dark Carnival (3086 Claremont Ave, Berkeley) from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.

Cherry Blossoms Bring Intense Beauty and Heavy Metaphors

Red Hill Sakura
So, how are you feeling today? Kind of happy? Somewhat euphoric? Yet are you also experiencing a heightened awareness of the ephemerality of beauty — and life itself?

Don’t panic… this is all perfectly seasonal. It’s cherry blossom time, after all, and as every sakura-seeker knows, cherry blossoms are the quintessential expression of Mono no aware (物の哀れ) — the Japanese aesthetic concept that highlights awareness of the inherent transience and impermanence of all things.

Sakura Like Yuki

There is no mortal cure for mono no aware, but if you find yourself slipping into excessive mawkishness, Bernalwood recommends some traditional self-medication with a good bottle of cold sake.

PHOTOS: Top, sakura tree alongside Red Hill Books on Cortland. Below, fallen sakura blossoms at Cesar Chavez and Shotwell. Photos by Telstar Logistics.

Can You Identify Mystery Man Found Unconscious In Bernal Heights?

This is hot off the wire from the San Francisco Appeal:

Hospital officials in San Francisco are trying to identify a patient who was admitted two weeks ago in critical condition after being found unconscious on a Bernal Heights street.

The unidentified man, who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital on April 11 after being located on Richland Avenue not far from San Jose Avenue at 4 p.m. that day, is now in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said.

Although hospital officials had hoped to identify the man with his help once he became conscious a couple of days ago, “the normal processes of identifying him were not successful,” Kagan said.

The patient, a Latino man in his 40s who has short black hair and brown eyes, has not been able to tell hospital workers his name, Kagan said. He is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 150 lbs.

Hospital officials are asking anyone who may know who the patient is to contact the hospital at (415) 206-8000.

IMAGE: KTVU via Andy Deason

The Cottage by the Reservoir (and the Day it Was Demolished)

Here’s a special celebrity guest post by Vicky Walker of the excellent Bernal History Project. Vicky shares a charming tale about a charming house that sat on Elsie Street, alongside the College Hill Reservoir, for 100 years. As a special bonus, she also brings the Interweb premiere of a home movie that shows the sad day in 1971 when the cottage was torn down. Take it away, Vicky…

The College Hill Reservoir was built on the edge of Holly Park in 1870 by the Spring Valley Water Company; the reservoir-keeper’s cottage at 336 Elsie Street was built next to it in 1871. It is described in Here Today thus: “This simple farmhouse, set in a well-maintained garden, looks as if it really belongs on the San Mateo coast. From its lot next to a reservoir, the home commands a fine view of Twin Peaks.”

It was one of only four Bernal Heights buildings considered to be architecturally significant by the Junior League of San Francisco in 1968 (the others are 450 Murray Street, 34 Prospect Avenue, and 3340 Folsom Street) and the only one of the four that no longer survives.

Peter B. Quinlan (1813-1903) was a longtime employee of the Spring Valley Water Company who rose from the position of plumber to superintendent, registrar, and then financial adjuster. While he never lived in Bernal Heights, Peter Quinlan may have helped a relative find work with the company: one Thomas Quinlan is listed as the reservoir keeper from 1880, and was still living there in 1915.

The reservoir’s expanse of open water seems to have beckoned many Bernal residents. An April 1892 Chronicle story tells of how Thomas’s wife, Caroline (described in the headline as “An Old Woman” – she was 53!), accidentally or deliberately fell in and drowned. “He and his wife frequently wandered around the edge of the basin,” the article reports. “About 4 o’clock the old man missed his wife from the house and went to the pond. To his horror he saw her body floating in the water a short distance from the shore.”

One morning in December 1877, Mrs. Peter Brickley of Cherubusco Street strolled naked (except for a wand tipped with several brightly colored ribbons) up to the reservoir. Once there, she took a leisurely bath first in a water trough and then in the reservoir itself. The reservoir-keeper’s aged father “shut his eyes tight and tried to fight her off with a garden rake,” but she managed to evade him. Finally, one young man jumped in to nab her; she was pulled to shore and wrapped in an assortment of clothing provided by the women of the neighborhood. The article concludes, “Mrs. Brickley was conveyed to the City Prison and thence to the House of the Inebriate, and her neighbors are using well water for a few days.”

In January 1916, the determinedly suicidal Agnes Graham of 24 Heyman Avenue was spotted by Holly Park Station relief firefighter Edward Ford, “who, noticing something queer in her actions as she hurried toward the reservoir,” jumped into the water after her and wrestled her to shore. She survived; he sustained severe bruises.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission decided to demolish 336 Elsie after it fell into disrepair; there were attempts to turn the building into a teenage dancehall before it was destroyed. This two-minute home video was shot by sisters Betty Mikulas Kancler and Janet Mikulas Thompson from their home on the other side of Elsie Street, sometime in 1971. It didn’t take long to reduce the century-old building to a pile of timber and rubble, as you can see in this silent home movie filmed on the day the cottage was demolished:

PHOTO: Top, 1891 photo from Bernal hill shows the houses at 418 and 412 Eugenia in the foreground. The keeper’s house is beside the uncovered reservoir, all by itself on Elsie Street. Courtesy of Andrea Cochran. Clean version of the photo here.

Beachcombing Birds Vacation in Bernalwood

As we all know, Bernalwood is basically a landlocked mountain. It’s great for rugged hikes and soaring vistas, but it’s not so ideal if you want to hang out on the beach. Nevertheless, our neighborhood still attracts some waterfowl tourism, as evidenced by these photos of Great Blue Heron captured by reader Phern Hunt:

These are the Great Blue Heron who visit my yard with a pond on Peralta Avenue.  This bird visits frequently! The first one is at the pond… waiting for the goldfish to surface… she has definitely scored in that department.

PHOTOS: Phern Hunt

Anti-Obama Provocateurs Crave Attention on Cortland

A merchant on Cortland sent along this photo taken a few minutes ago, adding:

I asked him to leave and he called me a fat assed bigot LOL! It is causing a kerfuffle.

Charming! The poster itself is an unsubtle piece of propaganda created by the same nut-job political organization that was involved in a recent altercation in the Lower Haight.

The natives on Cortland are apparently feeling rather tense about all this, so as Vladmir Lenin put it, “What is to be done?”

As is the case with most attention-starved provocateurs, the most withering thing one could possibly do is ignore the wackos entirely. One source who’s dealt with this particular group suggests:

The thing that bugs these folks most is confrontation.
The thing they hate is to be ignored.
The best thing is if a person stood 10 feet away holding a sign that says “Ignore Them.”