Man Creates Bernal Heights Haven for Lost Stuffed Animals

There was a wonderful little piece on the SFGate website this weekend about Jose Marquez, a man who has turned his Cortland garage into a foster home for cast-away stuffed animals:

Basically, we give these stuffed animals a second chance,” said Marco Marquez. His grandfather, Jose Marquez, stood by his side and his year-old son Anthony sat in his arms. The collection of stuffed animals started 16 years ago shortly after Grandpa Jose purchased a Bernal Heights apartment building. Back then, Jose was a construction worker and would rescue the toys that had been thrown into gutters, bringing them to the garage for a second life. Now Jose is retired, and the garage has become a haven for him.

Amazing, amazing, amazing multimedia storytelling, and the video above is a gorgeous must-see (be patient while the video player loads, please). Don’t miss it.

PHOTO AND VIDEO: SFGate

Tonight! Buy Chicken John’s Book, Help Save His Space for ‘Odd and Unlikely Artworks’

On Cesar Chavez Street near Mission, there’s a prominent mural on a jaunty red building that shouts advice to all passers-by: “Fail…to WIN!”

That slogan is the subtitle of The Book of the IS, a new book written by the building’s owner, Chicken John Rinaldi.

I’ve read it, and I was genuinely inspired by its rallying cry to embrace the “Is” — that which “allows and accepts and laughs and courts” — and reject the “Un,” which “prevents and contains and moderates and disdains.”

The key to pulling off this trick? Don’t be afraid to fail. “The minute we’re as comfortable with failing,” Rinaldi writes, “as we are with winning — the moment we’re in it for the experience and not the victory lap — is the moment we’re free.”

A showman provocateur whose multifarious capers have increased the colorfulness of our city and Bernalwood in particular (anyone remember the Odeon Bar?), Chicken John’s most recent claim to fame is his (failed) mayoral campaign in 2007.

But for the past five years or so, he has quietly put on all manner of interesting artistic and cultural events ­— oracular Q&A salons, trapeze classes, puppet shows, mayoral debates, you name it — at 3359 Cesar Chavez Street, the aforementioned jaunty red building. Quietly as in, you know, lacking all the permits and stuff.

That space is now at a crossroads, and Chicken John needs help. He needs you to buy his awesome book, either online at bookoftheis.com or, preferably, in person tonight, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.-2 a.m., at a spectacular free event at 111 Minna and the surrounding block (the street will be closed to accommodate over 100 performers and god knows what kind of mayhem).

Did we mention that the book is an objet d’art? And that 550 of the 2,500 copies in existence sport handmade slip covers by renowned street artist Swoon as well as a smattering of local artists? You can even choose (for a slightly higher price) to have your book include a coupon worth one “anything,” redeemable directly from Chicken John. “It’s gonna kill me,” he says, “but I’m serious about it. I will do anything to save the warehouse.”

If he can raise the dough, Chicken John will be able to (a) keep his warehouse and (b) make an honest art space out of it via the nonprofit he created: the San Francisco Institute for Possibility. “We want to champion odd and unlikely artworks,” he says. “There is so much cool stuff that wants to happen there that I have to pass on because we are just not legal enough. Together, we can put the warehouse’s problems away and focus on doing shows, manufacturing culture, and battling the onslaught of mediocrity.”

Hear, hear! Help the man fail at failure.

PHOTO: Neil Berrett

Jane Underwood Sees the Lovely in Bernalwood’s Details

Pointed

Red Steps

Neighbor Jane Underwood recently submitted a nice batch of photos to the Bernalwood Flickr group, and though each one is different, they are all clearly of a kind. Jane has an eye for the small details; the lovely juxtapositions of color and shape that are so much a part of like in Bernal Heights — if you bother to look.

Billboard Overlooking Allemany Flea Market

As she explained in the caption for the above image:

This billboard overlooks my neighborhood’s weekend flea market. It’s the kind of eccentric scenery that, I think, city dwellers become so accustomed to that they often don’t even notice it after a while. I try never to take my San Francisco environment for granted, and that includes the obscure parts as well as the obvious ones.

PHOTOS: by Jane Underwood

Bernal’s Battle-Scarred Race Car Returns Home for Repairs

Recovering the Whale

Recovering the Whale

Recovering the Whale

Last weekend I took part in an unusual rescue mission. Our task: Recover a race car used by the Bernal Dads Racing Team from the suburban jungles of Davis, California, and haul it back to Bernalwood so it can be prepped for a 24 Hours of LeMons race coming up in late October.

The car itself is a battle-scarred Volvo 240 that’s been dubbed “The Whale,” and it’s adorned with sponsorship decals from many of your favorite Cortland merchants. The body is a mess, but the real disaster lies under the hood: After it seized up during a race earlier in the year, the entire engine may need to be replaced. Can those racy Bernal Dads get the job done before October?? Stay tuned!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Pint-Sized Entrepreneurs Peddle Premium Sidewalk Perfume

Locavore Perfume

Locavore Perfume

Once upon a time, children learned business basics by selling lemonade to sidewalk passers-by. But not anymore — and not in Bernalwood.

Today’s young entrepreneurs aim highter. They have an eye for style, a clear bead on the urban lifestyle, and a shrewd desire to move up the value-chain. So why sell cups of lemonade for a quarter when you can sell cups of homemade floral perfume for a buck instead?

Last weekend I noticed that Hattie, Lidia, and Bella have set up a self-serve perfume stand on Prospect Street (near Virginia) to sell their own, all-natural, locally produced Behali Perfume. What’s Behali Perfume, you ask? Quite honestly, I have no idea. I even looked it up on the Google, and came up with nothing.

Then it hit me: Behali Perfume must be the brand!!!

That’s right: Not only do these nano-entrepreneurs have their eye on the luxury market, they also understand the importance of establishing a distinctive identity in a crowded marketplace. Sure, the kids have some work to do in the typography, spelling, and logo departments… but check out the actual merchandise, which the girls arrayed on the sidewalk right below their sign:

Locavore Perfume

As you can see, Behali Perfume is already thinking about package design. Wow. Wow. Wow.

If you’d like to support these kiddie capitalists, look for their products on a finer sidewalk near you. Watch out, Kiehl’s. Beware, Body Shop.  The rest of us should probably get in now, while the price is still affordable… before the IPO, and before we find ouseselves in the awkward position of having to ask Hattie, Lidia, and/or Bella for a job.

UPDATE: Herr Doktor theorizes…

Behali = BElla, HAttie, LIdia… or at least that is my guess.

Woa. Further proof that those kids are pretty clever.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Artist Creates Travel Accessory for Homesick Bernalians

Viewables

Last weekend I found a must-have accessory for high-powered Bernal Heights executives who travel regularly for business.

I got it at “Cries of San Francisco,” a pop-up event in Mint Plaza downtown that was organized by the artsy folk at Southern Exposure:

The Cries of San Francisco is an interdisciplinary project that invites participants to make and sell crafted wares on Market Street, while “crying out” publicly on subjects of their own choosing. Merchants of food, flowers, sand, and matches; charcoal vendors and chimney-sweeps; basket sellers, knife and scissor grinders, chair menders, and love song writers: in urban folklore, whether as trickster border-crossers or as anchorless outcasts, street criers represent a liminal space between worlds. Questioning the essentialized personification of trades that historically locate economies of craft in and on the body, and by using the framework of historic street cries to articulate new subject positions, this project presents participants with an opportunity to consider their roles in historical processes.

Yeah. That. Anyway, one the peddlers was selling these cute pocket-sized transparency viewers, each of which contained an image of a San Francisco neighborhood. There was even one for Bernal Hill:

Bernal Hill City Viewer

Of course I bought it. And when I held it up to my eye, here’s what I saw inside:

Pocket Viewer

Oooh! Genius! A high-tech marvel! An instant cure for homesickness! Never runs out of batteries! Fits easily in any pocket, purse, or briefcase. Can be used anytime, in any hotel, aircraft, or mahogany-lined corporate boardroom! Someone needs to start selling these on Cortland Avenue — and in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics