826 Valencia (S5E13)
We've been wanting to do this episode for years.
826 Valencia is a non-profit whose aim is to help young people write creatively. They’ve operated out of the space at the address in their name since the early 2000s. For Part 1, we sat down with 826’s Director of Volunteer Engagement Kavitha Lotun and Pirate Supply Store Manager Byron Weiss to discuss their respective stories of moving to San Francisco and the origins and mission of 826 Valencia.
Nearly 100 years ago, the stretch of Kearny Street from Jackson south all the way down to Market was filled with Filipino shops, restaurants, and SRO hotels. Perhaps most notably, the International Hotel (I-Hotel) was located at the intersection of Kearny and Jackson.
Today, that space is occupied by a residence for older folks, some of whom have connections to the last of the mostly immigrant population who were evicted in the middle of the night from their homes at the I-Hotel in 1977. It's also home to the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.
In Part 1 of our podcast, our guest, foundation Executive Director Caroline Julia Cabading, guides us through her own fourth-generation Filipina history in San Francisco. Caroline lays out the history of U.S. imperialism and capitalism that sought cheap Asian labor and therefore brought Filipinos, mostly men, to this country for migrant work in Northern California. As they aged, those young men later settled in the I-Hotel, forming a community and chosen families until they were unjustly thrust from their homes by a real estate developer (sound familiar?).
Happy Valentine's Day!
This episode is all about San Francisco’s Good Vibrations because, well, duh. It’s also about Good Vibes’ Antique Vibrator Museum.
To guide us, we meet Carol Queen. Carol is the staff sexologist, a title she earned with her PhD in the subject. Carol grew up in small-town Oregon, just south of Eugene. She says she was interested in sex as long as she can remember, despite what those in her community might have thought about that.
Childhood and early adult visits she made to the “big city” of Eugene helped her find community and solidify her outsider, activist status. Eventually, she went to college there, although she had graduated high school early and arrived in Eugene at 16 years, far too young to go to bars.
Despite that prohibition, Carol found her people, though it wasn’t always easy. She considered herself queer, but folks in LGBTQ circles cast her out, claiming her bisexuality meant she didn’t belong. It was another hurdle to work hard to overcome.
Eventually, she met likeminded folks who slowly branched out into different areas of study. But they all had one thing in common—a desire, through whatever avenues, to change minds and laws and bring about more acceptance and equality for their fellow LGBTQ folks. She credits the backlash to Anita Bryant as well as eventual mainstream acceptance of AIDS as a real threat to everyone with helping her and her friends win some early victories.
Carol and I do a short sidebar on some of the more recent efforts by the right in this country to ban books and legislate language, including so-called “don’t say gay” laws in places like Florida.
We return to the conversation to hear that enrolling at Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality is what brought Carol to San Francisco. And we end Part 1 with Carol's impressions of San Francisco, first upon visiting, and then later, when she went to IASHS, moving here.
Gumbo Social (S5E10)
Dontaye Ball has brought gumbo to San Francisco. Now, he's doing everything he can to make it this country's national dish.
In this episode, we meet Dontaye. Born and raised in The City, Dontaye has lived with gumbo just about his entire life. Often served at big family meals, he remembers fondly that while gumbo might've been the center of the culinary realm, it was always more about being with family, friends, and those he loved.
Started as a pop-up a few years back, in late-2022, Dontaye was able to secure a brick-and-mortar spot on Third Street near the neighborhood where he grew up. Gumbo Social is set to open this spring, and we can't wait.
In Part 1, Dontaye talks about the importance of gumbo and what it means to him. He tells us all about the crew he's assembled to assist him on this mission, including his two sons.
Until the spot on Third opens its doors, find Gumbo Social at the Sunset Mercantile market every Sunday. Tell 'em we sent ya!
Mother Bar (S5E9)
San Francisco is about to get its first new LGBTQ bar in a long, long time, y'all.
In Part 1, we'll meet Malia Spanyol. Currently, Malia owns Thee Parkside. She was born in Honolulu and went to ASU in Tempe, Arizona. But she hated it and came to San Francisco in 1989 just before the big earthquake that year.
Malia was already out and was here looking for her people. She worked, went to school at SF State, made friends, and explored the town on her motorcycle. It was a "great time to be gay in SF," the early 1990s.
She was always going to music shows, art shows, poetry readings, and parties, mostly in the Mission. "Valencia Street was dirty" then, Malia says. She worked in a dildo factory and lived in Hayes Valley. On her way to work, she and friends would drive down Valencia in a t-top, out and proud as fuck.
At her job, Malia learned bookkeeping and helped friends and small businesses do taxes. She seized an opportunity to become a business owner herself when she bought Pop's Bar with friends in 2003. Lil Tuffy, who some of you might know from this podcast and his show posters, came in and became the manager at the bar.
Malia ran Pop's for 10 years, from 2003 to 2013. In 2007, she found out about an opportunity at Thee Parkside, a spot with more to offer—food, a stage, an outside area. And so she capitalized. As Malia notes, the area around Thee Parkside was very different then—more blue collar.
She learned Muay Thai around 2007 and fell in love with the sport. Her coach asked her to open a new gym and she did.
In this episode, we kick off the new year by resuming our series on San Francisco co-ops.
This one is all about Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. To guide us, we'll meet Cody Frost, a marketing and creative strategist at Rainbow for the last three-and-a-half years. Cody has been a worker/owner at Rainbow for almost 16 years.
He grew up in Carmichael, California, just outside of Sacramento, in the 1980s and '90s. He pursued art in his early twenties and had friends in Sacto, where he moved around 2004/2005. Then he heard about an effort to make a new art space in The City in 2005 and moved here in 2006. That space turned out to be the Secret Alley, a place near and dear to our hearts.
Cody first got a job at Bi-Rite, where he worked for a year before landing the gig at Rainbow.
At this point in the recording, we dive more deeply into Rainbow history. It starts with a faith-based group that used food for community support and political activism in 1970s, the People's Warehouse. Many co-ops, including some that are still around today, were created out of that group.
Rainbow's original location, which first opened its doors in 1975, was on 16th Street between Guerrero and Valencia in the Mission. Back then, groceries and a general store were at separate addresses. They moved in the '80s to 15th and Mission and combined stores. Then, outgrowing that space, Rainbow found its current location in 1995 and opened the next year following renovations.
We end Part 1 talking about the co-op's incredible bulk-food section.
Several of the worker/owners at Arizmendi Bakery on Ninth Avenue have been there since the place opened 22 years ago. Around half of them have worked there for two decades.
Continuing our series on San Francisco co-ops, this time we travel to the Inner Sunset and this special place that serves up so many delicious treats. Whether it's a morning pastry, an evening vegetarian pizza, or an delicious cookie for dessert, Arizmendi has got you covered.
In Part 1, Sue Lopez speaks to her own history as well as how the original spot in the East Bay, Berkeley's Cheese Board Collective, spawned what today is a Bay Area group of cooperative bakeries.
The conversation covers such topics as: what it meant for a co-op to expand to more than one location; the differences among Arizmendi/Cheese Board locations; how the Ninth Avenue location brings about new menu items; the cooperative movement of the late-1960s/early 1970s; the meaning of the name "Arizmendi"; opening the spot on Ninth Avenue, which was the third in the collective group; and the Inner Sunset community.
In this special episode, Jeff and Erin (Bitch Talk Podcast) talk about what it means (and costs) to run our respective shows, with a special shout-out to BFF. Then we plug all the wonderful non-profits we're supporting this year.
We want YOU to support us and all of them because none of us can do any of this without each other. Anything you can give is deeply appreciated.
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Celia LoBuono Gonzalez joins us on the show this episode to share her story and that of Other Avenues Grocery Cooperative. Part 1 starts off with Celia sharing the story of her life up to the point of getting a job at Other Avenues. From there, we pivot to the colorful and, we think, important story of food in San Francisco and the Bay Area starting in the 1960s.
From a collection of neighborhood clubs called the Food Conspiracy, whose motto was, "If you can't walk to Food Conspiracy, it's time for a new Food Conspiracy," to the People's Food System, which included Other Avenues, Rainbow Grocery, Veritable Vegetable, and other co-ops that don't exist anymore, there's proof all over today that cooperative models work. We like the sound of that, in fact, compared to competitive businesses.
Other Avenues' doors opened in 1974. By 1987, a hybrid system of worker and community management was adopted. And the worker-owned model that exists today started back in 1999.
Alemany Farm (S5E4)
Christopher Renfro moved to San Francisco 16 years ago and ran into a lot of what some might call luck.
In this episode, we talk about Christopher's work with Alemany Farm. The largest agricultural site in The City, volunteers grow, harvest, and distribute vegetables and fruit from the 3.5-acre plot just below Bernal Hill. He also tells us about the work he and Haley Garabato began with the Feed the People Collective, which operates out of Alemany Farm and feeds unhoused folks around town.
San Francisco Cemeteries (S5E3)
San Francisco's cemetery history is rich, to say the least. It goes something like this:
In Part 1 of the four-part series we're doing on San Francisco Cemeteries, we'll meet Courtney Minick of Here Lies a Story. Courtney will serve as our guide through this history.
Along the way, we'll meet folks who work with the cemeteries that are left over here in The City—the one at Mission Dolores and San Francisco National Cemetery. We'll take walking tours of the Mission and the pet cemetery in the Presidio.
Interestingly, as we were putting these episodes together, the Board of Supervisors' Land Use Committee voted unanimously in favor of granting City Cemetery landmark status. Now the matter goes before the full board sometime this month. The timing!
Musée Mécanique (S5E2)
It can get really loud inside Musée Mécanique.
Walk in the place and you're immediately transformed, in both time and space, to another world, another era. The magic almost slaps you in the face, hitting all five senses at the same time. And you can't help but feel the nostalgia coursing through your veins.
In Part 1 of this episode, meet the arcade's roller-skating owner, Dan Zelinsky. Dan traces the history of the place back to his dad, Ed Zelinsky. Ed started his penny-arcade machine collection in 1933, but the story is complicated, filled with twists and turns that involve New Orleans and P.T. Barnum.
We talk with a couple of tourist visitors to Musée Mécanique who found the place thanks to some cameos in The Princess Diaries. Then Dan shares the story of how he acquired the infamous "Laffing Sal."
Funny thing: Do a podcast like ours long enough, and the most random and randomly awesome tidbits will pop in and make the cut.
Last episode, it was the Doc Ellis "LSD" perfect game that MLB doesn't like to talk about. In Part 2 of this episode, it's New Orleans and P.T. Barnum.
Musée Mécanique owner Dan Zelinsky shares the story of how his dad, Ed, bought the collection of the original San Francisco owner, George Whitney, and ran the Cliff House location until around 2002. Ed Zelinsky found the spot at Pier 45 just before he passed away, in 2004.
Whitney inherited a collection that showman P.T. Barnum brought to San Francisco from New Orleans. Much of it lived at Playland at the Beach before moving to the Cliff House, where it remained until around the turn of the century.
Condemned building, fires, and pandemics later, Musée Mécanique thrives today at Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. Part 2 concludes the history of the place and our episode all about it. Hear more from Dan as well as visitors Brian and Michael, from New Jersey and New York state, respectively.
Join us next week as we kick off a series on San Francisco cemeteries!
We recorded this podcast in August and September 2022 at Musée Mécanique.
McCovey Cove (S5E1)
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather (unless otherwise noted)
Here we go.
Our first episode of Season 5 was recorded out on the water. McCovey Cove is familiar to Giants fans, whether you've been in the water or not. It's that tiny waterway nestled between the ballpark (PacBell Park, SBC Park, AT&T Park, Oracle Park ...) and the strip of human-engineered land across the way. Baseball players sometimes hit baseballs out of the ballpark and into the water. Balls can land in the cove "on the fly" (directly from the air) or on a bounce.
When this happens, much like a group of koi racing for crumbs, humans in kayaks paddle and vie for the floating sports balls. It's a thing. A whole thing.
In Part 1, we first meet our captain on the water that day, Jay Broemmel. Jay introduces us to McCovey Cove Dave, perhaps the most famous of those vying for souvenirs six months a year.
For Part 2, you'll have to bear with us a moment. We're gonna go stats nerd on you.
As of the publication of this episode, the San Francisco Giants have played a total of 1,892 games at the stadium known these days as Oracle Park. Each of those games sees a minimum of 27 at-bats for Giants players. That leaves us with at least 51,057 chances for a hitter to send a home run ball into the waters of McCovey Cove. And it's happened a mere 97 times. That's something like a 0.19 percent chance that any batter will accomplish the feat.
And on the very day this July when we boarded the Canoecycle, lo and behold, we got a splash hit.
Hear all about it from the human in a kayak who got that Lamont Wade, Jr.'s, home run ball and more.
We recorded this podcast in McCovey Cove in July 2022.
Welcome to Season 5! (S5E0)
Behind the scenes with Storied: San Francisco through the years. Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Folks, we made it.
Welcome to the fifth season of Storied: San Francisco! For five years, we've highlighted humans—artists, doctors, teachers, small business owners—who make this place what it is. Now we turn our attention to places around The City that do exactly the same—help create the mystique around this complicated, beautiful, wondrous place we all call home.
In this prequel episode of sorts, Jeff will remind everyone why we do this crazy show in the first place. He'll talk about the pivot from people to places, the updates we've made to our website, and let everyone in on why we chose to include an acknowledgement of the first humans in this area in every episode, including this one.
Check back next week when we present Episode 1: McCovey Cove.
This podcast was recorded on un-ceded Ramaytush/Ohlone land known today as San Francisco in August 2022.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Like many businesses, Secession Art and Design had to pivot in 2020.
In this special episode between seasons, Secession's founder, Eden Stein, shares stories of opening a gallery in the Mission/Bernal 15 years ago. Starting Aug. 4 and running through Aug. 7, Secession will celebrate 15 years of business with a four-day pop-up up the hill on Cortland. Details about the event can be found below and on Secession's site.
Eden grew up in Santa Rosa and moved to The City in 1999. In her hometown, she did a zine for many years called 7th Street. Her work on the zine helped her travel the country and to Europe.
When she moved to San Francisco, she ended up on Mission Street across from El Rio. She went to SF State and worked at The Drug Store, which back in the day was a vintage store. Eden rented a booth there and sold vintage jewelry. It was her first inspiration to working with artists as a business.
During this time, Eden became a teacher at a pre-school in The City. She got close with some of the parents, even nannying a little bit. One of the parents owned an architecture firm on Mission Street. He offered that space for Eden to do holiday art pop-ups. She was also selling jewelry, both vintage and some she made herself, at street fairs around town. These were the seeds of what would later become Secession.
The original location opened in 2007. Then, in 2014, Eden lost her lease and miraculously managed to find a new spot a little further north on Mission. There's a fun overlap with Season 4 guest of the show Emmy Kaplan in the story of Secession's move.
Earlier this year, after nearly two years of moving the gallery and events online, Eden gave up on her shift to things like 20-minute goat hugs in the gallery. The pandemic proved that her family's spot a few blocks from the gallery was too small, and an opportunity for them to move back to her hometown opened up.
But that wasn't the way she wanted Secession to go out.
As mentioned earlier, from August 4 through 7 on Cortland Street, Eden will be hosting a pop-up to celebrate 15 years of Secession Art and Design. Details:
Featured Artists: Amos Goldbaum, Andreina Davila, Dianne Hoffman, Heather Robinson, Hilary Williams, Jenny Feinberg, Joshua Coffy, Nate Tan, Nathalie Fabri, Olena McMurtrey, Phillip Hua, Rachel Znerold, Silvi Alcivar, Shannon Amidon, and Stephanie Steiner.
Thursday, August 4: 12-8pm
Friday, August 5: 12-8pm - Anniversary Party 6-8pm
Saturday, August 6: 12-8pm
Sunday, August 7: 12-6pm
Address: 307 Cortland Ave (at Bocana), SF
We recorded this podcast at Eden's home in Santa Rosa in July 2022.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
There's an unused square block in the Portola District that's Ground Zero in the fight over land in San Francisco.
In Part 1, we learn all about the Greenhouse Project. Volunteer Caitlyn Galloway shares some of the history of the block bordered by Woolsey, Bowdoin, Wayland, and Hamilton streets as well as the efforts underway to reclaim the area as a green space in The City's southeast side.
Then we hear about Caitlyn's life and how she got to this moment. She was born in Union City and raised there and in Livermore, where she went to high school. Her extended family has been in the East Bay for several generations.
Once she was old enough to ride BART without an adult, she and her cousin would come into San Francisco to go shopping around the Powell station. When it was time to go to college, she chose Santa Barbara. Despite a lot of what Caitlyn calls "sameness" there, she found pockets of people she could relate to, people who had different ways of living—punks, hippies, folks who worked at co-ops.
Caitlyn started working at a food co-op in Santa Barbara around the same time she began to garden there. She was still in school and all of these activities started to shape Caitlyn's worldview, especially around food and land.
After graduation, she moved to New York City, partly to get away and partly to ready herself for a move to San Francisco. She found work as a gardener at a landscaping company, where she worked on rich people's gardens around town. Caitlyn also worked on some green roofs in New York, well before the trend that would emerge later.
Two years into her time on the East Coast, she decided that it was time to come back to California. She missed a number of things—people, a smaller-city vibe. But perhaps more than anything else, California sagebrush drew Caitlyn back to her home state. There was no question of where in the state she'd be.
Upon landing in San Francisco in 2007, Caitlyn apprenticed at New Bohemia Signs, a hand-painted sign shop based in the South of Market neighborhood. Through her work there, she met and befriended someone who was gardening and growing vegetables in a backyard in the Mission. Caitlyn soon joined her new friend in gardening.
We end Part 1 with a detour of sorts, when Jeff and Caitlyn discover that they were neighbors 15 years ago or so.
Doug Salin has trouble doing anything longer than one hour.
In this podcast, the career photographer shares his life story with us. We recorded in Doug's house in the Sunnyside, the same place we met and talked with ex-San Francisco poet laureate, Kim Shuck (Part 1 / Part 2). Kim is Doug's life partner, in fact.
These days, Doug works as a robotics mentor for high school students in The City. He's been doing photography since he was four. He began college studying physics, but that didn't excite him. Somewhat by accident, he fell into mechanical engineering instead. He soon became the photo editor of the college newspaper and yearbook.
Doug figured he was destined to work in journalism. But someone he knew mentioned heading up to San Francisco to see if there were any photo jobs for him. He wasn't planning to stay in San Jose, so he came up and met Paul Hoffman.
Hoffman connected Doug with Macy's in Union Square, where there was an opening in the store's in-house photo department. He had no experience in commercial photographer, but figured what the hell?
He ended up getting the job and worked in the company's dark room, which was located inside the store. Then someone asked him to help with "paste-ups," which was more like the work he did for his college yearbook.
About a year later, the photo department was looking to remodel their area of Macy's. Doug took a look at the plans and suggested something different, more efficient. They ended up going with Doug's revisions. Shortly after the renovations were made, Macy's named Doug an assistant studio manager.
He still wasn't taking photos in that situation, though. But in his experience of managing photographers, he picked up what he needed along the way.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Christopher Coppola wants to tell you about his dad.
In this episode, the filmmaker from the very famous filmmaking family shares his life story with us. Born and raised in Long Beach, he and his brother, Nicolas, spent a lot of time in San Francisco with their uncle, Francis.
Christopher starts things off with his dad, August Coppola. According to him, August carried an old family tradition of creativity and "stick-to-it-iveness" into the modern era. His long career in education brought him to SF State, where he was the dean of Creative Arts for many years.
He takes us on a sidetrack into some of the possible reasons that there's so much creativity and passion running throughout his relatives as well as his ancestors who date back to southern Italy.
Then we head into another sidetrack, this time about Christopher growing up in Long Beach with an ill mother and a younger brother who later became a household name. The story involves the two youngsters misidentifying their own Chinese zodiac signs.
The next sidetrack involves stories of Christopher riding with motorcycle gangs. This leads to one of his movie ideas—Biker McBeth.
We talk about the origins of Coppolas in Northern California. It all started with "Uncle" Francis. Following the success of The Godfather, he moved to San Francisco. His brother (Christopher's dad), August, soon followed suit. Because their mother was ill, when Christopher and his brother, Nicolas, were around 8 or 9, they were often sent up to The City to spend time with their aunt and uncle.
Christopher speaks fondly of his Aunt Eleanor. They called her "mother aunt." During their stays in San Francisco, she would give the kids allowances and send them on their way around town. People would ask if they were "those" Coppolas, which of course they weren't. It bothered both brothers when they were young, but Christopher let it go.
We end Part 1 with Christopher's tales of his and his brother's mischievous, creative lives in Long Beach and how San Francisco served as a sanctuary for them.
Emmy Kaplan and her friends in the restaurant business just wanted somewhere to go after their shifts.
In this podcast, Jeff fulfills a 20ish-year dream meeting and recording with Emmy, the namesake behind Emmy's Spaghetti Shack. Today located on Mission Street just below Cesar Chavez, the restaurant recently celebrated 21 years in business.
Emmy was born in San Francisco and shares her and family's stories with us. Her mom is from Alameda. That family goes back generations in the East Bay, coming from places like Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. Emmy's mom came to SF State in the '60s—"a real, bona fide hippie."
Her parents met at SF State. Later, her dad was a cable car driver. His family also went back a few generations here in The City. Both her parents were young free spirits, and didn't stay together for very long. After having Emmy and her brother, they split up. Then her mom took Emmy and her brother up to Sonoma, where Emmy grew up.
Later in life, her dad owned several restaurants in the Mission—Bruno's and Mission Villa, to name a couple. When she was a kid, Emmy would often join him at his restaurants. When she was 17, after splitting time between The City and Sonoma, Emmy moved back to her hometown.
As a teenager, she started working in restaurants, first in Sonoma, and later, in San Francisco. She realized that she needed to fend for herself at an early age. Without going into too much detail, Emmy says that her teen years were "wild." She and her friends were punk rockers—they went to shows and got into trouble, as you do. Her mom threatened her with either incarceration or joining her brother in Europe. She chose Europe.
Her time overseas taught her that the world is a big place. When she got back home, her priorities had shifted. She graduated high school early and worked a lot in The City. She toyed with art school, but that didn't stick. She took a business class at City College, where she pitched an idea that essentially was the restaurant she has today. The idea didn't go over well in class, though.
She worked at the Flying Saucer, a long-gone restaurant at 22nd and Guerrero. It was while Emmy worked there that the first location of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack opened.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Maggie Marks has deep roots in San Francisco, and that's not a gardening pun.
In this episode, Maggie, who today is the director of Garden for the Environment (GFE) in the Inner Sunset, traces her family's history in The City. Her mom's side goes back at least two generations here; and her dad's side includes the family that owns Guerra Quality Meats. Her parents lived in various spots around town before settling in the Inner Sunset in the '90s. This is where Maggie grew up.
She went to Rooftop School, where she indulged in art, theater, and gardening. By eighth grade, Maggie was head of the environmental club at school. Around this time, California was experiencing a major drought. Residents were constantly being made aware of steps to mitigate the water shortages, stuff we're very familiar with today—shorter and fewer showers, less watering of gardens, etc. Around this time and not too far from her childhood home, GFE was founded.
Maggie and her friends liked to create make-believe worlds. She also liked to read. She spent a lot of time in the nearby library. Once she was a little older, she rode Muni all over town. One of her (and her family's) favorite spots was the Mission, almost always to get burritos.
We talk a little about Maggie's time living away from her hometown. She went to college in Seattle and loved it, but the rain ultimately got to her. In 2008, she spent time in DC working for the Obama campaign in Northern Virginia.
Before the financial crisis really took hold that year, Maggie had been thinking of permanently relocating. But with the election over and the economy continuing its decline, she decided to come back home. She worked various jobs while trying to find her calling—farmers' markets, her family's shop, and other non-profit work. She got a great spot up in Bernal Heights, met the man she'd later marry, and sealed the deal on staying in her hometown.
Growing up in the Inner Sunset, Maggie remembered GFE being built. Through one of her non-profit jobs, she got reconnected with the garden after sharing an office with them. With GFE's director going on maternity leave, Maggie applied and got the job. That was 10 years ago.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
There's a dude in the Mission who makes vegan donuts and break-dances.
In this episode, we meet Vandor Hill. Vandor was born and raised in The City. He recently turned 40. He shares the story of how he came to love baking. It starts in the predominantly female house he grew up in.
Surrounded by his grandma and aunt, Vandor says a lot of his baking went uncredited. No one believed that he was the one who made whatever delicious treat they were eating. Peach cobbler soon became his signature bake.
Vandor shares the story of why his company is called Whack Donuts. It involves a group of young kids getting jumped in the Mission and the quiet one (Vandor) basically fending off the attackers. His buddies called him "Whacko" from that point on.
As part of the story of starting his donut business, Vandor takes us back to a tough period in his life. Between 2017 and 2019, he lost his grandmother, his mom, his aunt, a mentor, and a friend. His dancing suffered. His work wasn't willing to adjust or allow him space to grieve. His living situation deteriorated. And then, the pandemic hit.
We get into the early days of Whack Donuts and talk about why Vandor decided to make his product without any dairy. The story goes back to an internship he had in high school at a local donut shop. Eventually, enough people asked if the donuts were vegan, which inspired Vandor to bake his treats rather than fry them.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Note: Our guest this week raises issues, true stories from their own life, of sexual and gender-based violence. Listener discretion is advised.
This story starts in 1978. A young San Francisco punk rock woman with two kids saw that many of her peers were getting hooked on drugs. Suddenly, there was an influx of abandoned children and she decided to do something about it. She established a foster home.
Fast-forward 10 years and newborn Mason (not known by that name at the time) comes around and ends up at said foster home. Born to drug addicts, Mason entered this world addicted themselves.
Mason ended up being raised in that one home, and only that one home. They've never been in a shelter system or homeless.
From a very early age (four or so), Mason was acting, doing voiceover work, and modeling. Around age eight, they noticed that things were starting to get gendered and that they didn't fit either mold—male or female. Producers also told Mason that they sounded "too white" (they're Black, indigenous, and Mexican) and that they should try sounding "more Black." But at home, Mason's mom supported their being gender non-conforming at that time.
Around 12, they were waiting for puberty and playing lots and lots of soccer. Other coaches were suspicious enough to investigate whether Mason's coach was disguising a boy as a girl on the girl's soccer team. That fizzled, but Mason kept playing. They were competitive and good enough to be scouted by some colleges while in eighth grade. But a torn ACL when they were 13 dashed those dreams.
They spent that summer recovering, lying in bed waiting to get their period so they could get surgery for the torn ACL. They went back to art and started writing and building up a portfolio, which helped them get into Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.
Mason thrived in high school. They talk about all the guest speakers and various programs and internships students at SOTA were involved in. They also mention, laughingly, some of the more savory elements of arts high school in San Francisco in the early 2000s. Inspired by teachers and an intentional immersion in The City's various art worlds, Mason left high school aimed toward an artist's life. But there were issues along the way, which they delve into in the podcast. Eventually, through that struggle, they landed on photography, opening their own photo company in 2007.
We end Part 1 with Mason struggling to find identity and purpose as they entered adulthood and their hometown was changing rapidly.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Our City Gardens series continues with a visit to Sisterhood Gardens. Located on Brotherhood Way (get it?) in the OMI area of southwest San Francisco, the garden was established in 2016.
In this podcast, we meet master gardener and Sisterhood volunteer Jamie Chan. In addition to her work at Sisterhood, Jamie teaches at SF State, where she's also a doctoral student.
Jamie shares her story with us. A fourth-generation San Franciscan, she traces her family's history in The City back to the Gold Rush era. Over the years, her ancestors lived mostly in Chinatown, but eventually, they all moved to the Sunset and Richmond. Jamie grew up near Stern Grove and went to SFUSD schools.
Her parents grew up in Chinatown, where they knew each other growing up. The two reconnected while at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and got married after graduation.
Today, Jamie trains public school teachers (her husband happens to be a teacher, too). As a teenager, she went to School of the Arts and was interested in telling people's stories. She studied documentary film and made movies about ABC (American-born Chinese) identity. She went to art school at CalArts in SoCal but didn't like it. So she came back and went to SF State, where she studied biology.
After graduation, Jamie worked at California Academy of Sciences and became interested in education. She and her husband got their home through a city program—an acquisition that came with a yard bigger than the house.
She started gardening there after having kids and found herself wanting to connect with food and food systems as a mom. That led to a master gardener program at UC.
Jamie helped found Sisterhood Gardens in 2016, The land is owned by SF Department of Public Works, who landscaped the space and got water running before turning it over to neighborhood volunteers.
We end Part 1 with Jamie's thoughts about still being here in San Francisco.
City Gardens Series: Danielle "Calibird" Fernandez and Isaiah Powell of Calibird and Bee Pollinator Sanctuary and Dragonspunk GRO (S4E41)
In this podcast, Isaiah Powell (Part 1/Part 2) catches us up with what's been going since his Storied: SF episodes back in the summer of 2020. Between the land he and Danielle Fernandez stewarded at Florence Fang Community Farm and today, they were at Adam Rogers Park. The philosophy behind Dragonspunk has always been that they go where the help is needed; it's never been about a single location.
That brings us today and the place we recorded—Calibird and Bee Pollinator Sanctuary on Palou in the Bayview. The spot lies above a Caltrain tunnel in the southeast side of San Francisco. Looking north from this beautiful space, with The City's skyline as backdrop, multiple smokestacks, construction cranes, and the Bay Bridge pepper one's view.
Isaiah talks a little about what he's been up to and their gaining access to the land where we talked. Then he hands the mic over to Danielle. She describes her vision of the space, which spawned from an idea she had 10 years ago when she lived in New York and would regularly visit gardens and green spaces around the city. She says her decade-long dream was to have a botanical garden of her own, one that begins the process of healing the damage humans have done to the natural environment.
Danielle takes us all on a tour of the sanctuary, listing off the mostly native plants, trees, bushes, and shrubs that live there. And we end this episode with Danielle's vision for the future of the space, which includes community gathering and events.
Connie Chan used to love listening to music at Tower Records.
In this podcast, we get to know Connie, who's beginning her second year as supervisor of San Francisco's District 1 (more or less the Inner and Outer Richmond). She and her brother were born in Hong Kong and raised in Taiwan. Connie shares the story of how her parents met: Her dad was a Hong Kong cop who worked with youth; Connie's mom was a social worker who also spent a lot of time with kids. They met through their work.
When Connie was 5, the family moved to Taiwan. It was the Eighties and Connie and her brother were very much latch-key kids. Connie was exposed to plenty of pop culture, although it took some time for music and movies to reach eastern Asia.
She talks about how members of her family had various trades and interests in Asia (piano teacher, opera singer, university professor) that they had to give up when they immigrated to the US. An aunt and uncle came over before her own family, and they landed in San Francisco's Chinatown. Her aunt served dim sum and her uncle worked as a bookkeeper for the famed Empress of China restaurant.
Connie speaks to the well-established immigrant and Chinese-American community in Chinatown and the role they played in her family's move there when she was 13. The networks that existed, the opportunities that opened to newcomers ... it all played a part in establishing a trust that was almost always paid forward. Her mom moved Connie and her brother there, where the three lived with her aunt and uncle in a not-very-big apartment.
But she got her first impression of San Francisco on a trip here the year before. Connie plays the mandolin and visited as part of a band that toured the US for two weeks, SF being one of the stops. It was also the beginning of her really learning English. Her family speaks Cantonese, but from an early age, Connie learned Mandarin in school.
She talks about some racism and bullying she experienced at school shortly after her arrival here. But Connie adjusted and made the most of her new circumstances. She would stop at Tower Records and visit their listening stations, where she would read along to the music and learn even more English.
As a teen, Connie felt she had everything she needed in Chinatown. But when she returned to San Francisco as a 21-year-old after college, The City really opened up for her.