Denise Sullivan

Author, Journalist, Culture Worker

Double Duty

“Look, Ma!  I made the papers!” This week, I filed stories for my hometown’s two daily newspapers, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. The milestone (or over-achievement) is significant to me because I have wanted to be a hometown reporter since at least since the age of nine and definitely since I was a teenager, editing my high school paper, though I fell into music journalism as a career. I’m pretty sure what my journalism teacher would have to say about making the move to cityside reporting, though he’s no longer here to say it, nor are my university media studies professors who sent me out into the world to work as an independent reporter, while finishing my senior year.

Honoring skateboarder Pablo Ramirez, who died on April 23. Photo by Kevin N. Hume for the Examiner.

I’m thinking of my own youth, age, and the cycle of life because it’s been a season of terrible losses for my communities and in the world; some have hit closer to home than others, but it was the death of 26-year-old skateboarder and musician, Pablo Ramirez, that really opened the floodgates of grieving for me (and in those moments, I tend to write).  Following his story to the top of Twin Peaks, I had the privilege of speaking to his mother, Loren Michelle, and learned more about his life. They are the subject of my column, SFLives, this week wherein I also tried to shed some love and light on The City’s beloved skateboard community.  I’m so grateful to have had the sense to follow my nose on this story, and for the photos by staff photographer Kevin Hume that accompany it, and especially to the Pablo Ramirez Foundation.

The piece for The Chronicle is about another San Franciscan,  Patrick Marks, a longtime Bay Area bookseller, who made the leap to opening his own store, The Green Arcade, at the same time online bookselling began to rise.  Ten years later, his business is alive and well, serving readers of all kinds, but particularly those who are eco-conscious or interested in utopian futures.  Anyone who reads me regularly knows about my interest in the preservation of small bookstores.  Covering Patrick and the Green Arcade was a chance to celebrate one of the best in the business. That it coincided with my return to the Chronicle Datebook section after a 20-year hiatus (I think the last story I wrote for them was about Soul Asylum hitting the charts), is an aside, but it’s a reason enough for me to celebrate: The Chronicle has been Northern California’s newspaper of record since 1865; it’s the paper I grew up reading.

Patrick Marks at The Green Arcade. Photo Michael Short, special to the Chronicle.

I see now that one of the things I was reminded of by following the story of Pablo, attending his memorial, speaking to his mother and stepfather and the people around them, was how important it is to pause. To breathe. To reflect on and appreciate what we have, to express gratitude for the people and the beauty and the love and the life and world around us — right now. I’m grateful to do work that I truly love. I appreciate not not only yours and others, but my own life. And I’m exhausted. Last night I filed a third story about legendary muralist Juana Alicia which will publish soon in the digital CurrentSF where I am also a frequent contributor (though I’m mostly there to compliment the images of award-winning San Francisco photographer, Ekey Kitpowsong).

My horoscope this week said I would be recognized for my work, particularly if I work in publishing. I shook my head like I do and laughed it off (while secretly hoping someone of power and influence, my own neighbor or maybe even my dog would take notice). And then I got it: Yesterday’s papers might be lining your trash bin, but I can still celebrate me and you and us today. Thank you to Pablo and Patrick and Juana for keeping me on my toes, inspiring me to stay in the game. “Life is beautiful.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under: Keep On Pushing, San Francisco News, What Makes A Legend, You Read It Here First, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two Bay Area Lives in the Arts

Curator and art history instructor Kathy Zarur (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

It’s funny when two stories I’ve worked on for a good while both wind up publishing on the same day, but that’s just how things work sometimes.  In the case of these two pieces, the first on independent curator and adjunct arts instructor Kathy Zarur and the second on public art muralist Daniel Galvez, it turned out they compliment each other quite nicely.

One of the reasons I interview people and arts professionals is that I like them, they’re my people.  In the case of Zarur and Galvez, it couldn’t be more the case.  Both were extremely generous with their time with me, allowing me to probe into their personal and professional lives. They didn’t have to do that, especially not at a time when artists, professionals and everyday Americans from their respective communities are under extreme pressure.

Muralist Daniel Galvez.
(Ekevara Kitpowsong/CurrentSF)

 

Zarur is a born and raised, second generation Palestinian American who has devoted her life to studying the arts and passing on her knowledge as a college instructor.  She also independently co-curates exhibits and installations.  It’s a precarious way to make a living in San Francisco but she is committed.  An interesting side note which did not make it into this week’s SFLives column but which demonstrates the intersections between all of us who live, work and maybe were even born here in San Francisco: Zarur’s family and my family were likely on the same block at the same time in the early ’70s.  I hope to explore these intersections in a future project but until then, I’m just counting it as more evidence that we are all part of one human family.

Galvez, also native to California but from the Sacramento area, has made his home in Oakland for the last 30 some years. His father was Mexican American and met his mother who was from Mexico; he is the first person in his family to attend college and the first artist among them. Galvez’s public works can be seen coast to coast but there is one mural of his that I pass frequently in the course of my own work in San Francisco’s Mission District:  He recently restored this work titled Carnaval, based on photographs by photojournalist Lou Dematteis. Someday, I hope to visit the Audubon Ballroom where Galvez created a permanent mural depicting the life of the late Malcolm X.

I have to say I feel a bit of pride in our Bay Area for supporting the work of artists and arts professionals, diverse people across generational, gender and cultural heritage lines. But jobs in the arts are becoming more scare here due to extreme gentrification and the high cost of living.  I hope and actually, I pray, that people like Zarur and Galvez can continue to thrive and contribute to the arts and culture communities here so that future generations can enjoy what they and their families worked hard to make possible:  A richer life for all of us.

Filed under: Arts and Culture, Latinx culture, , , , , , , , , , , ,

SF Lives: A New Column By Yours Truly

Stacks of the newest edition sit on the steps of San Francisco Bay View newspaper newsroom. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

I wanted to wait until we had a couple of editions under our belts to let my readers know I’m writing a bi-weekly column for The San Francisco Examiner called SF Lives.

My intent is to bring you news of everyday people who are leading extraordinary lives despite living under pressure in the most expensive city in the United States.  Many of us feel despair, as if we are underwater, unable to cope with the realities of the changing tides in our much-fabled and beloved city. Things are not always what they seem, especially to those of us who were born here and hold close The City’s secrets, legends, and sometimes myths and lies. Long term residents and newcomers alike are feeling the heat, but there are people among us who carry a torch for what we call “the old San Francisco.”  They bear the weight of upholding our city’s heavy reputation for innovation and iconoclasm with a humane touch:  They are the doers, and they are often the rulebreakers. They are definitely the unsung and they are the keepers of the spirit and soul of San Francisco now.

The SF Lives column is a small attempt to unpack the clashing ideas and ideals here, and to offer a glimmer of light in these dark times.  I’m not entirely sure where we’ll end up, but I hope you’re up for taking the trip with me.  If you’re interested in tuning in, follow the links to the first three columns now posted online: Mayoral candidate, Amy Farah Weiss; the couple behind The Bay View Newspaper, Mary and Willie Ratcliff; filmmakers Sophie Constantinou and Tamara Walker. As ever, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the column and I appreciate your readership.

Filed under: California, column, gentrification, San Francisco News, ,

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