Tuesday, January 09, 2007

George Sanchez by Chloe Dickson

George Sanchez walks into the sterile looking room in Fromm Hall with a group of professors and co-workers trailing behind him. George keeps a straight face as he and his partner Julie walk to the center of the room to address the crowd. It has taken George four years to get to this point, and tonight is about him, his partner and their controversial yet informative documentary.

Although his face is not too animated, a look of passion juts out of George’s dark piercing eyes as he stares back at the faces in the crowd. He is professional in appearance and somewhat resembles a more youthful Andy Garcia. His jet black hair is perfectly combed to his head, and his ear length sideburns are immaculately trimmed. His square framed glasses awkwardly match his dark suit. Both are slightly too big for his 5ft 7inch frame. The hemmed sleeves of his jacket surpass is wrists and his pant legs bunch over a pair of black and white vintage Doc Martins.

When he speaks it is hard not to notice his voice. It is light and airy. Much different from his specific look, which calls for a gruff and hardened voice.

Through most of the question and answer session, Sanchez is sitting on the sidelines letting his co-worker Julie take center stage. Its as if he is examining her every word. When she speaks he watches her intently with his hands in his pockets and his legs crossed at the ankles.

Every time a question is thrown his way he pauses, scratches his goatee and thinks about his potential answer. When he gives one, his small figure suddenly comes to life. His face fills with expression and his hands come out of hiding to help him describe his experiences.

As he explains the difficulty of interviewing people in jail, he says, “we had our film confiscated once on a prison ground.” He pauses and a smile cracks across his face “That was pretty cool.” As he makes the joke his entire look changes. He beams back at the laughing crowd and it is evident that he has dropped his professional image. But as suddenly as he lets it go it is back. Ever so quickly he crosses his legs, shoves his hands back into the depths of his pockets and lets his face turn back into stone.

Turbulent Thai by Alex Anderson

What’s good about not having a knife at a tasty restaurant? You get to lick your fingers. I only noticed the missing utensil once my appetizer of “Angel Wings” was placed on my small orange table inside the bustling Marnee Thai restaurant. After lifting a sticky brown chicken wing to my lips and biting into the tender morsel I fell victim to Marnee Thai’s appeal.

It has an informal atmosphere of turbulent clamor, yet amidst the flurry it spits out plates of comforting sophistication.The doorway into the eatery is thin, and the walls are hidden beneath umpteen restaurant reviews commending the tiny restaurant for it friendliness and succulent cuisine.

Through a glass partition to the left, the cooks can be seen hopping from grill to grill in frantic dance. On a busy night you may be waiting in the tight doorway with a few others looking over yellow paper menus. The restaurant consists of eleven 2-seater tables lining the entirety of the right wall and a couple 4-seaters to the back right.

A thin aisle down the center separates the tables along the left wall with the kitchen, wine bar, and dish washing area on the left. A round woman, wearing a shimmery blouse of gold and brown, hobbled down the aisle violently spouting something in Thai to the frenzied chefs. When she reached me, she produced a warm smile and led me to my table.Hisses burst from clouds of steam in the kitchen, and the song of clanking plates rattled against a metal sink.

My waitress wobbled back and forth down the aisle. Out of the chaos a worried looking waiter slid a fresh cup of ice water across my table. He and a slender woman in a red kimono were the only others serving alongside my waitress.

She plopped an order of veggie spring rolls packed with crispy greens on my neighbors table. The plate was jammed between two other dishes piled high with sauce-smothered meat.“You like this,” she said frankly. Then she was gone. Back on her two-way journey back and forth.

Not as spicy as the menu cautions, the appetizer of “Spicy Angel Wings” (deep fried chicken wings) is a delight, priced at $7.50. The modestly spiced garlic sauce sticking to the delicious nuggets of meat makes for some serious mouth watering. The sauce proves its point without overpowering the taste of the tender chicken within. The garlicky goo was hot to the touch, raced straight from the grill to my mouth. The dish is sprinkled with delicate wisps of basil leaves that crumble into nothingness on your tongue.

While I sat lost in a world of decadent tastes, the waitresses still hobbled and zoomed past my table and past the cluttered bar directly across from me. On the bar stools, plates were piled atop stacks of menus. More of these towering stacks rose from the top of the bar. Behind these stacks, a row of potted plants were propped up at different levels, their price tags dangling from strings. A portable phone sitting next to the cash register rang sporadically through the rumble of dinner conversation and the random outbursts of commands from my waitress.

My Pad Thai ran a little late, and the chefs were instantly informed. My waitress bumbled up to them and yelled fervently while stabbing her pointer finger into a notepad shoved through the glass partition. The kitchen fell to near silence and diners gossiped softly.

She returned with an ecstatic smile and nodded saying, “It’s coming.”Marnee Thai’s cuisine is a tad pricey, but the sauces of sweetness, sourness, or spiciness make up for it. Serving lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s cheapest dish is $5.95 (fried rolls inside a concoction of ground meats, mushrooms, cabbages, and noodles). The more expensive choices involve prawns, like the chef-suggested Pad Phong Ka Ree (A mixture of sautéed prawns, mushrooms, curry powder, egg, bell peppers, and onions), at $11.50. Marnee’s portions are generous.

Almost every menu item is meant to be shared. The mass of noodles in my Pad Thai concealed plump shrimps and fresh vegetables. The slightly thin peanut sauce was accentuated by tiny peanut sprinkles. After taking a last crunch I ordered a doggy bag.My waitress barked at the chefs as she waddled up to my table, her head craned to the kitchen. The phone rang, a neighboring table waved for attention, she gave me a candy, the check, and a smile. She said, “Thank you,” and hoped I’d return. And I believed her.

Marnee Thai has two locations: 2225 Irving Street(415) 665-9500 and 1243 9th Avenue (415) 731-9999.

Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and openfor dinner 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. Accepts reservations.

@@-All Right

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Travel Story with a Bit of a Twist

A long journey need not cover a long distance, don't you think?

Alan Johnson
November 10, 2006
Travel Story

The glistening marble floors of the San Francisco Shopping Centre, home to high priced stores and even higher priced restaurants, extend in every direction under the omnipotent dome of the old Emporium on Market Street. The new carpet and the luxurious seats spread on the top floor of this shopper’s paradise have not lost any of their original comfort. The smells of Italian espresso and fresh baked pastries permeate the air early on a Monday morning. Having passed through the new Bloomingdale’s store just minutes prior, San Francisco Chronicle staff photographer Brant Ward’s eleven student photojournalism class from the University of San Francisco is filled with a sense of wonder and awe as they explore the edifice. For many this is their first visit to the mall. The students have no idea what is in store for them next.

All of this was to be part of a planned class trip to the San Francisco Chronicle led by Ward to familiarize students with what a real working newsroom is like for a photographer. Prior to the San Francisco Shopping Centre stop the class spent some time at the San Francisco Chronicle building itself, walking through the dim hallways and absorbing the smell of instant coffee.

After some of the students devour their rich pastries and consume their warm, but not too hot, specialty coffee drinks under the San Francisco Shopping Centre dome Ward leads them down to market and towards the derelict Tenderloin area of San Francisco. Immediately after crossing Fifth Street panhandlers approach the group of students as if each of them is a cartoon dog and the students each have a big piece of fresh meat in their pocket luring them over. Many of the girls are assaulted with calls detailing disgusting acts. The smell of urine and cigarettes fills the air as the class files down the sidewalk, not daring to move an inch in any other direction than straight ahead. Ward, a frequent visitor to the Tenderloin due to his intensive exposé on the homeless in San Francisco, walks with a cool calm demeanor, even greeting many of the characters lining up for food at a soup kitchen.

The Ward-led beeline stops at St. Boniface Catholic Church on Golden Gate Avenue, a place that opens its doors at night to allow the homeless to sleep on the pews. Ward is searching for someone that he has taken photos of in order to get his name and has heard that St. Boniface is a spot this individual frequents. As the students enter the church, the smell of unwashed clothes and human being cuts at the nostrils. The sound of snoring is overwhelming yet barely there, as it is the only sound in the entire building. The students walk up and down the pews as Ward converses with some people who oversee the building when these unfortunate guests are occupying it.

As the students file out of the church the students become less and less sure where they are going next. Ward leads them to a corner where a man that was featured on the cover of that day’s San Francisco Chronicle often spends his time, looking to show him his picture on the newspaper. Ward asks a couple of people where this man, Michael Dick, is as the students huddle together.
Ward and the students enter a refurbished hotel where many homeless have been taken in by a citywide program attempting to get people off the streets. The lobby of the building looks like a place where a 12-step program would be taught, complete with Dixie cups and a plastic water cooler. The squat lady at the front desk says she knows Dick and says that he should be by any minute. As the group waits for Dick some of the residents of the building vagabonding in the lobby start conversation with some of the students.

When Dick passes through the door he is greeted by Ward jovially and is excitedly led across the street to an amalgamation laudromat/icecream shop/internet café. The proprietor of the business is none too pleased to see a group of young people enter his establishment, so much so that the words “you break it, you buy it” seem to be broadcast from his face. Ward rents some time for Dick to use the Internet and watch a multimedia presentation that he is featured on, only to find that the computer is not equipped with speakers. Ward continues to show Dick his presentation, paying no attention to the fact that there is no sound.

Once the presentation is finished, Ward leads the group now with an additional member, Dick, looking for a friend of Dick’s, Ricky. Not finding Ricky but many others is the menu for the day. One woman that approaches the group claims to have been stuck by a bus and being launched across an intersection just a few days prior. The woman is marked by large gashes across her face but walks as if nothing has happened.

After unsuccessfully scouring the streets for this character and being pushed for cigarettes, Ward concedes his search and takes the students and Dick to a cramped local Vietnamese diner.

Getting This Blog up to Date

Before classes start, I'll post at least one more story from everyone in the class. We had some good ones.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seven Ways of Looking at an Elevator

The assignment for each member of the feature writing class was to take a campus elevator and remain inside for 30 minutes. I told the students: 1) to look closely at the physical environment, that is, really study that elevator and its occupants and to use all of their senses in doing so; 2) to be alert for stray bits of dialogue overheard, such dialogue sometimes being better than anything we could make up.

As for identifying themselves a journalism students on assignment, that was up to them. One of the unexpressed aims of this exercise was to make them uncomfortable and to see how they handled it.

Below are the stories. They were not written to be graded. They were written fast, and in some instances the spelling and grammar suggest as much. But overall I was pleased by the way the students managed to capture something about the USF experience through these seven windows.

The posting of these vignettes is part of a second assignment. Each student is responsible for writing a “round up” lead that could serve as an introduction for a package called ….

Seven Ways of Looking at an Elevator (Intro still needs to be posted)

Malloy Hall

The number two elevator in Malloy Hall is a place, though not heavily traveled, that ends up seeing many different faces throughout the day. It’s a clean elevator, with modern styled lighting, brushedmetal paneled walls, and a clean, almost new smell to it that all reflect the building it is in. The electric hum of the lights added to the sterile feel of the elevator. Malloy Hall is home to the USF School of Business where students study hard to enter into the world of business.
I was about to spend 30 minutes in the number two elevator.

I stepped into the elevator on the first floor with a book in hand as my cover for being in the elevator and hopefully to keep people from noticing me. One cannot underestimate the curiosity of those who use Malloy Hall.

For the first 10 minutes in elevator number two the only activity that went on was the sporadic going up and down of the carriage but with no one at the door when it opened. Finally the door opened and in came a box scooting across the floor. A man dressed in a brown Hawaiian shirt was kicking the box. The box seemed to be empty or near empty so it would sometimes hop as the man kicked it. Brown Hawaiian shirt man pressed the button to his floor looking straight ahead at the door until his stop came. He stepped out as he kicked the box into the hall.

At times, people would congregate outside the doors of the elevator only to talk, nothing more. During one of these times a roar of laughter came over the group just as the elevator was being pulled away from the floor they were on. The elevator stopped and in walked a girl that seemed intrigued by what I was doing in the elevator but did not say anything. She pressed herself to the opposite end of the elevator while holding the large legal sized envelope she was carrying close to her chest. As the door opened she quickly stepped out of the elevator, seeming disturbed by the fact that I did not have a floor to go to.

Just a few minutes later a man wearing a blue and gray sweat suit walked into the elevator and the smell of curry took over the space of the carriage. He was holding a box from the school cafeteria as he chomped into an apple, making a loud noise. He stayed as close to the door as possible so that he could exit the elevator quickly.

Some time went by with no movement in the elevator at all when the door suddenly opened and in walked envelope girl. Envelope girl walked in with a quizzical look on her face. I couldn’t help but laugh and I felt the tension in the room completely dissipate as that happened. She immediately asked me in a thick eastern European accent, “Do you just like reading in the elevator?” I explained to her what I was doing in there and she told me that if I had not laughed she was going to come up really close to me to try to make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. We laughed about that for a moment as she even forgot to step out of the elevator at her stop. She pressed the door open button and told me she might be coming back in a little to head back downstairs as she walked out. I laughed.

The elevator pulled up and opened up to a man in a blue suit and a gold tie. He looked like a professor and after he opened his mouth he sounded like one too; he had a British accent. Immediately after stepping in he asked me if I was going anywhere in particular and I told him that I was observing activity that went on in the elevator, to which he replied attempting to be humorous, “Well you just saw me coming and going.” As the elevator door closed I wished him a good day.

Literally a second after gold tie guy stepped out of the elevator, elevator number two was beckoned once again. In walked blue Oxford shirt-file folder guy, whose name should basically let you know all there was to know about him. He smelled strongly of aftershave and he had that stressed out 40-something look to him. He didn’t say anything but was obviously going out of his way to ignore my presence there. He made a few clicking noises with his tongue before stepping out at his stop. As it turns out though, he works in the business school office as I found out after leaving my post in the elevator.

Brown Hawaiian shirt guy returned and immediately after walking in he asked me, “Haven’t I seen you here before?” I tell him yes and he instantly assumed that it was a sociology experiment. He also gave me some free advice and suggested that I find another elevator that is more heavily populated.

He then stepped out, never to be seen again. -- A. Johnson

Cowell Hall

The round pock marks on the deep brown floor of the elevator in Cowell are worn into oblivion directly inside the door, and in front of the black numbered buttons. This is where students and faculty members like to stand until the clunky silver doors release them onto the floor of their choice.

Once inside the dim, brown, moving box it is hard to miss the neon green piece of paper advising students to go through the process of ALCOHOLEDU online. It is taped on all four sides by scotch tape, with its bottom left corner torn off. The power of its color dominates that of the long rectangular light that feebly glows from the ceiling. A white gnat resembling a flying speck of dust rests on the bald spots where the brown paint is peeling along the light’s sides.

The door opens on the fourth floor where a tall student slowly waddles in, wearing a backwards baseball cap and too much cologne. The door slides to the left with a soft, affirmative pound at its closing. The student leans on the wood pattern walls. He gnaws a piece of gum, watching the numbers above the door turn orange. For each floor that it passes, the elevator lets out a short polite beep. Sporadic creakings rub up against the outside of the moving vehicle.

The doors open on the first floor and the chewing fades, replaced by the sound of giggling and talking as people pile out of a large classroom. The smell of popcorn becomes trapped inside. A new visitor stands in front of the numbers and bows her head to her cell phone, text messaging, and chewing gum. On the fourth floor she wanders out of the dimness away from the confusing scent of perfume tainted popcorn. A slight breath from outside of the doors pushes a small piece of neon green paper inside a metal protrusion on the right wall. It is the missing corner of the ALCOHOLEDU paper and it’s wrapped around a wad of green gum. Run your fingers over the insides of the three metal bars that are welded to the walls and you will find 6 fossilized balls of different colors. -- A. Anderson

Gleeson Library

I push the button to see where the Gleeson Library elevator will go. A mouse-like squeak tells me the door is open, ready for me to walk in. I can’t decide which floor to go to, (there are only three) so I just look around instead as the door closes. On the back light wooden panel, there’s a sign directing you to the Modern Language and Theology Department up on the third floor. The only light is coming from nine perfectly spaced circle lights on the ceiling and the whole area smells like a stale doctor’s office.

I’m starting to get a little too warm, so I pray that someone will open the door to let a draft of cool air in. My eye glances at the emergency telephone used for fires and disasters. I wonder if it works. I am suddenly so tempted to try it. But the guy at the front desk gave me a scary look, so I decide not to push the limits. The elevator sounds like the inside of an air conditioner and the air tastes like foil.

My boredom is by this point totally unbearable. I’m slouching against the wall, wanting to sit down. I push the “2” button, but it’s uneventful as well. I notice it takes many, many seconds to get down one floor. It would take just as long to walk up or down the stairs. What kind of lazy person would even bother taking this thing anywhere? My mind begins to wander to questions like, “Who has the little mini key for the fan speed in here?” “Who has the special silver key to the fire alarm?” I wish I had those keys. Then it’d get really interesting in here…

I’m bored! I start whistling to myself until the elevator jerks back down to the first floor. A guy listening to music gets in, and nearly screams “OH!” when he sees me. It was hilarious. I really scared him! He gets off on the second floor then I move back down to the first. Another girl gets on who proceeds to look at me like I’m totally crazy. She gets off on the second floor then turns right to walk down the stairs! Maybe she just wanted to ride the elevator, too.

Suddenly I remember the other elevator in the back of the library! The lower level! I get off the main elevator and walk to the one in the back. I walk through the yellow copy room that smells like carbon and into the tiny beige carpeted box. I notice a little “*dgaf*” graffiti on the wall and a fan on the ceiling. It sounds like a CAT scan in here. Clearly, no one uses this elevator and I start to feel bad for it. Its whole purpose in life is to take people up and down, but it probably rarely gets to do so. Then I stop caring and walk out of the elevator, because really, it can’t offer me too much. -- B. Moore

University Center Main Elevator

The UC building that is centered in the heart of USF’s campus is buzzing with students, faculty and employees who are rushing off to various destinations within the five story complex. The main elevator that is located on the third floor helps many different people navigate around from floor to floor. The elevator itself is small, outdated and in many ways in need of a renovation. The three inside walls are made of imitation wood that bares years of ware and tear. Words and names such as ‘Natasha’, ‘water’ and ‘fear’ have been etched into the material, along with countless other scrapes, chips and marks. The sliding metal doors have been branded with the statement “Impeach Bush,” which leaves one with a little reminder of San Francisco’s liberal qualities.

Because the elevator is such a compact space, the smell changes with every person who walks in and out of it. At first, it smelled of stale Nacho Cheese Dorito chips, but after five minutes of quiet, three people walked in. Two middle aged ladies strolled in with Crossroads coffee cups complaining about the weakness and sour taste of their beverages, along with a young man carrying a FedEx package who reeked of cigarettes. He asked what floor I was going to and I responded with “No floor thank you.”

Seconds after the elevator had cleared it was filled again, this time with a student and a Bon Apetit manager. As they rode down from the fourth floor to the first, they discussed the girls schedule and time restrictions. Before they stepped out, the manager exclaimed “Welcome to the team,” and just like that, she was hired and walking off to fill out her employment papers. As they stepped out, 2 more Bon Apetit workers stepped in complaining about the job and the current management. “The old management was different,” one said to the other “things are less organized now.” After they stepped out on the second floor, the doors closed and the elevator stood still. The bright fluorescent lights beamed down on me and a humming sound filled my ears. It didn’t last long however before a student entered smelling of a bad mixture of cheap cologne and bar soap. He was plugged into his ipod which was playing so loud that it was easy to make out the song – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day. He motioned to me what floor I wanted and I quietly responded again with “No floor thank you.” He got off on the fourth floor and looked back at me as he walked. Seconds later the doors closed and down, down it went.

A girl in a black and white stripped shirt stepped in on the second floor. She looked nervous and awkward. She got off on the fifth floor where a nicely dressed man stepped in. He got off on the third floor where three more Bon Apetit workers stepped in. They too were complaining about the job. This time it was about scheduling and work conflicts. They stepped out on the first floor, and as the doors closed, the humming noise appeared once again. This time it sounded much louder. After another five minutes of confinement, the elevator started to move again. It stopped on the fifth floor and the girl with the black and white striped shirt got back in. She looked less nervous now, but once she realized that I was still in there, her facial expression changed and she looked confused. She awkwardly asked me what floor I wanted, and because I knew that this was the last time I had to answer the question, I said “No floor thank you, I’m doing this for fun.” -- C. Dickson

Harney Science Building

Four walls, two silver, two a dismal shade of puke gray and a smell that reminds one of expired cleaning supplies; the elevator in Harney looks like a cage. Upon examining the walls details jump out: the scratches made by keys, the deep gashes on the sides of the walls perhaps carved while enduring the boredom of riding floor to floor and the occasional smudged handprint how it got there I will not dare to imagine. Let it be noted that this reporter is both Closter phobic and afraid of elevators so her senses were running wild. The bright sterile light makes this steel box anything but homey and with the shortage of riders on my long trip the ambience or lack there of made it that much more uncomfortable.

With each thrust of the elevator both up and down I anticipated the interaction that would follow. Elevator etiquette is the strangest thing; enter, turn forward and look up…or look at your shoes which ever is individually satisfying. Most ignored my presence but found it odd that I was standing quietly in the corner not pushing any buttons; the most interesting interactions were from those that actually inquired about my actions. “I hope no one calls the security guards and says there’s someone lurking in the elevator,” Responded a man when for the second time we rode the elevator together. The most common response to my creative assignment was, ‘Have fun!’ The most colorful was a young woman who got on the elevator pushed the wrong button then exclaimed, “Oh Fuck!” When I told her I was doing a journalism assignment her reaction was, “Oh great your paper will say and there was this girl who said ‘Oh Fuck!’” She was right.

My head felt like it was being pounded by a basketball as I stood for my last few minutes in the elevator. The lack of oxygen coupled with my inability to visualize my happy place forced me out into the real world with actual colors and fresh air blowing on my face. -- K. Johnson

University Center/Freight Elevator

“Going down?”
“Going up?”

Today, not just any direction could suffice, it took no direction at all to land such an unpredictable experience. As the door opened, the smell was of relish and stale garbage, accented with breezes of cafeteria food. Walking through the entrance, my feet stuck to the floor as my arm grazed the wall, caressing a substance I would rather not have been exposed to. I could imagine if I had touched my tongue to the wall, would it have caused a Christmas Story-esc shenanigan that only the San Francisco Fire Department could save me from?

One dim fluorescent bulb lit the grimy rectangular box and the door closed behind me, I was now the prisoner of one of the most horrific elevators in USF history. Looking up, the ceiling had scratches in it reminiscent of a horror movie and the walls were broken and damaged as if a Velociraptor were once trapped inside.

Moving up and down, the elevator grimaced as mostly Bon Appetite cooks traveled between the first and second floor. The capacity warning stated that myself and 2350 extra pounds could fit, but I was hardly convinced. Bon Appetite employees, as I discovered, travel in packs and their conversations are based around “working too many hours” and griping about a certain arch-enemy that someone shouldn’t have “high-fived.”

The only relief I had inside was in the friends I made onboard. The first was the emergency telephone bolted to the left side; I knew I could depend on it for rescue if suddenly I had to call someone warning them I was hurling helplessly from the fifth floor to the first. My other friends came in the form of buttons: one read, “push in case of emergency,” and the other, “push in case of fire.” God save the poor soul who ever gets trapped inside that wretched box during a fire.

Judging by the mustard colored walls that fade into a tope ceiling, one can tell Adolf Loos had no part in its interior design, but still, the rusted metal floor made of six uneven panels gave a sense of home– that is if home was San Quentin. Two USF event staff entered next– puzzled looks and odd stares were exchanged– then out of no where the shorter of the two spoke up, “You are just hanging out in this thing.” She had figured me out in less than three looks so I half-heartedly agreed. Apparently the USF event staff stipend their wages with odd jobs as psychics. She then said, “You should get a job at Rasputin's. They have a guy there who just rides up and down, but he has a stool.” Laughter ensued and they stepped off no later than they could.

This was to be my last encounter with human life before the elevator idled at the second floor, the Bon Appetite kitchen, for fifteen solitary minutes. As time passed, the increasing loneliness brought about a certain insanity and I concluded my worst fear would be realized if someone stole my shoes, leaving my bare feet without defense on the soiled floor. On the other side of the dingy silver door, I could hear a strange buzzing mixed with the hybrid language of Spanish and Chinese used by the cooks. The only other noise was an out of tune whistle, which I soon tried to match.

In a brief moment of sanity, I decided I needed to return to the real world, outside this mind trap. Pushing the third floor button, the elevator lurched up one floor and the doors slid open. As I retreated from this travesty and looked back, I saw a green sign printed with white lettering. I could only wonder– if I called 422-6464, would the permits for this elevator really be on file? -- J. Marx

Harney Redux

Is it odd to reveal that I have spent somewhat ample time in elevators before? Okay, making elevators plural may be a stretch, but I have dedicated countless evenings over the years to the enjoyment received from being enclosed in the Westin St. Francis glass elevators. Granted, I am always accompanied by my best friend and he, regrettably, gets as much entertainment as I do from riding up and down the thirty plus floored hotel, but maybe my experience in Harney’s elevator would be of equal amusement. It does not boast a view of Union Square--or any view at all, for that matter--but it does attract the various San Francisco college student which, depending upon their character, could possibly make up for a lack of aesthetic appeal. At least, that’s what I was hoping.

Approaching the corner where the Harney elevator resides I was pleased to see that the doors were already opening. A male student wearing glasses and a nylon jacket was waiting outside. Grasping a somewhat suitcase-looking backpack on wheels, I knew that he would be my first travel companion. Politely, he let me enter first, where I made my way to the back corner of the elevator. Not making any attempt to push a button, I patiently waited as he wheeled in his belongings and looked at me before pushing the button for level four. I smiled at him. Level four seemed just great to me.

As the elevator slowly began its ascend, I took in my surroundings. All four steel walls were visibly scratched and nicked from years worth of students with apparently nothing better to do than make their car keys unusually useful. The floor was scuffed and dirty as if revealing its age and the dim light above me seemed to let out a rattling sound that resembled that of white noise that can occasionally be present in doctors’ offices. I anxiously awaited the arrival of a horrid smell, which seemed appropriate considering the setting, but none appeared. So far, I couldn’t complain.

When the elevator reached level four my suitcase-toting friend started towards the door. After a slight head nod, he exited.

Five seconds later, he reappeared.

The doors barely had time to close before he realized that, in fact, he was on the wrong floor. Noticing that I had yet to push a button towards any destination, I offered him up the fact that I actually didn’t have one. Explaining that my plan was to hang out for a while longer, he laughed and said, “I might as well make it worth your while!” Before I could inquire what he meant, the boy with the glasses and backpack on wheels jumped in front of me and quickly pushed the button for every floor of the building. Immediately, floors 1-5 were lit up and anticipating our arrival. I let out a surprised laugh and we were on our way.

Eventually reaching level three he waved goodbye as he wheeled his backpack out the door and left me by myself with at least three more floors of stops to fulfill.

The next ten minutes were quite uneventful. I had a slight feeling that a stomach ache was developing, partly due to the fact that the elevator circus ride my friend in glasses had left me with did not travel in order, and partly due to the lack of fresh air.

As if reading my thoughts, the elevator doors opened and in stepped an older man with a pencil behind his ear. He avoided conversation during our encounter with one another, and when the door opened he gave me a peculiar glance when I told him I wouldn’t be getting off. He exited, and again I was left alone in the dismal box.

A few more minutes passed and the doors reopened. It was the same man I had just seen, pencil still lodged between his ear and receding hairline.

Apparently, this was an elevator full of repeat customers.

“Well, my lady, we meet again,” he smiled. I graciously acknowledged his presence and exchanged pleasantries, which mostly consisted of him laughing at his own jokes upon hearing my purposes for riding the elevator.

As my Harney elevator experience came to a close I craved both hand soap and sunlight. Exiting the elevator I realized that although amusing, my afternoon’s event did not ignite the desire for a repeat performance. I think I’ll stick to the Westin St. Francis. -- K. Crozier

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Quiet Bosnian by Sophie Parrish

The sound of hot, rattling pots and the smell of fresh baked bread spread into the cozy two-bedroom apartment. Atif Beganovic sits contently on his couch, watching the local KRON 4 News show on his on 48-inch flat screen TV. His tan Chihuahua Tino is tucked under his arm and gnawing a large dog bone while Atif watches the on-going destruction in Iraq. The screen is filled with women crying, men yelling and people being carried off in stretchers. Smoke and gun fire spray across the sky.

As calmly as Atif sits, it is hard to imagine that this Bosnian native has also experienced the same kind of terror, destruction and fear during the war Bosnia a decade ago. He and his family have been refugees twice, forced out from Bosnia, then from Germany. He has been through six years of displacement, worry for his family and trying to find a peaceful and accepting place to raise his children.

Now settled in America, Atif, 55, recounts this modern tragedy and the terror and persecution he and his family faced. "What a lot of people don't realize is that (those who fought one another) are all Bosnians, we are all born in Bosnia, we all look the same, we all lived together, it is only our religions that made us different," Atif says with his heavy accent.

The country of Yugoslavia -- which came apart in the Nineties -- integrated the Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbians/Nationalists and the Catholic Croatians. Before the war everyone lived in peace and being a Muslim did not create tension, Atif says. But as the country was falling apart, Serbs who had served in the Yugoslavian army stole the army planes, guns, grenades and ammunition. "The Serbians planned to take over Bosnia and Croatia to make a big Serbia," says Atif.

That's how the war began. Later the Croats turned against the Bosnians, the majority of whom were Muslims, and supported the anti-Muslim warfare. Atif says the war only seemed to be about the Croat and Serbian pursuit of Bosnian land, but it was the unmistakable genocide of 200,000 Bosnians that proves it was because of religious reasons, also. "Slobodan Milosevic, who was the Serbian President before and during the war and Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian President, wanted to make an agreement to divide former Yugoslavia into Serbia and Croatia, and ridding the countries of the Muslims", Atif says.

As Atif delves into the past, the room gradually assumes an intense and somber tone. Atif remembers when the war started, and suddenly his words pour out as he recollects the details of the first day they were attacked.

"I was at home, my wife was cooking and our two children were in our house," Atif says. "I was working on a car in my garage. I heard planes fly overhead. I thought it was just a military practice. Many of my Bosnian neighbors came out of their houses to see the planes. These planes then started to strafe, but it wasn't until a couple of people got injured that we knew that this was a war."

Atif's blue eyes flash with sadness. He says that from then on, every night Serbian soldiers would attack whole families in their homes, often killing and injuring them. Street by street they came. The Serbian soldiers had stolen the dark green uniforms of the now-disbanded Yugoslavian army, with a star symbol on their caps. But later they made their own uniforms, similar to the US camouflage design. "People became very scared. By day the Serbians would drive by in a red van, which we called the 'Scorpion'. When they would see a Muslim on the street they would stop and attack the man or woman. Sometimes the Bosnian would be left injured, and sometimes they were left dead," says Atif as the tension rises in his voice. Atif's two sons, then 15 and 7, attended school until a classmate attacked his older son. Even his son's Serbian friend had turned against him.

Before the war, in 1991 their oldest child Alma had gone to Germany to work. After hearing about an approaching war, she told Atif that she would stay in Germany and get papers for the family to travel and live there. Her decision would ultimately save the lives of Atif and his family.

As the war progressed in Bosnia, mosques were destroyed, women were raped and even children were killed. The soldiers wanted to scare the Bosnians out of their homes and out of Bosnia, Atif says. This tactic proved successful, and everyday hundreds of Bosnians fled to the UN refugee camp in Croatia.

After a year of on-going violence and fear, in August 1993 Atif decided to flee with his family to Croatia. What made him finally decide to go was a sight he will never forget. "I saw my cousin's wife dead in their house," says Atif. His cousin told Atif the Serbians came to their house and attacked him. Thinking he was dead -- he pretended to be -- the soldiers were about to leave when his wife began screaming about her 'dead' husband. Hearing her screams, the Serbs shot her point blank in the head. The couple also had two children who were hiding in the house. The older boy told Atif that he covered his sister's mouth to keep her quiet, so that the soldiers would not find them.

After this horrific event, Atif's cousin and many neighbors urged Atif to leave and take his two sons and wife to Croatia. They left. With two bags of belongings they went to the refugee camp to wait for the papers that would allow them to live in Germany. Alma kept her word, and in September 1993 Atif took his family to Germany.

"We were transported by bus from Croatia to Munich, Germany," Atif says. 'It was so good to see my daughter and be a family again. But only three days later we had to leave Alma and check into the refugee center."

At the refugee center, officials accused Atif of illegally crossing the border. He argued with them and within two days the paperwork was filed and they were sent on to the other side of Germany, to a big building full of refugees. Atif and his family had to move three times while living in Germany. The longest period of time they spent in one apartment was from 1994 to 1998. "It was a seven-story building, and we had one bedroom for the four of us, in a three-bedroom apartment. We shared the small kitchen and bathroom with two other families. Every week packages of food were dropped off to us. There was no private phone, only electricity and water," he says.

Finally after five years of sharing tiny apartments with up to 11 people, Atif and his family were given their own one bedroom apartment. "This was our time to relax, and not feel so overcrowded," Atif says. Atif says they spent the year re-generating and enjoying their privacy. They were just trying to live a somewhat normal life.

But the drama was still not over for Atif and his family. Having re-established himself in Germany, learning German, working again as a car mechanic and sending his two sons off to school, Atif was shocked when a letter arrived from the German Government. "It stated that the war in Bosnia was now over and I had to return home with my family," Atif says, his hands raised up in frustration. "Where were we supposed to go? I didn't know if Bosnia was even livable! We were not allowed to stay in Germany; they would have kicked us out if we did not leave."

Atif returned to Bosnia, the first time since they had left. He saw the amount of destruction Bosnia had endured. "Looking around the blown up neighborhood, houses fill of bullet holes and at our house, I knew there was no future for us in Bosnia, ' he says.

Atif immediately applied for a visa to the US, for the German government had given him two options, to either go back to Bosnia or travel to the United States. "It was yet another move, a new culture and another language to learn," he says.

Leaving Alma in Germany and taking only four suitcases filled with their belongings, Atif and his family set off for America. One of Atif's cousins who lives in Oakland, California, suggested he come and stay in the same apartment complex.

Settling into the American lifestyle has been hard for Atif. "I have found it difficult to learn English," he says. "When people don't understand you and you don't understand them, it is easy to be taken advantage of," says Atif. He complains about the excessive health insurance expenses in the US; in Bosnia health care was free for everyone. "All people want here is money, you want to get a health check up, you have to pay, you want to have eye surgery, your insurance covers only one third, so you have to pay, car insurance, you have to pay. Everything, everything, people here just want money," he says, throwing his hands up.

For all his frustrations and complaints, Atif has done well in the US. His sons and his wife have joined him. He began work as a successful car mechanic at a Mobil gas station in Oakland and now for a Union 76 gas station in Piedmont. In five years Atif has adequately established himself here. His older son, now 27, is also a car mechanic and his younger son, now 20, is working as a manufacturing technician for Intel.

Atif says leaving his daughter in Germany was one of the hardest things they had to do, but he is proud that she is running a very successful Japanese/Chinese restaurant with her husband. Atif says his main reason he came to the US was to give his sons a better life. He plans to live here at least until retirement, and then perhaps go back to Bosnia. Now an American citizen, Atif is a manager at his new apartment complex. He and his wife lead a fairly quiet lifestyle, for which they are grateful, he says. During summer they enjoy going to the Sacramento lakes, and taking their dog for walks around the neighborhood. Atif reflects on the war and says that he is so lucky to have not lost anyone in his immediate family. He knows of many parents who have lost a couple of children.

He prefers a quiet lifestyle, he says. His blue eyes light up and he chuckles. "A good thing about living here is that there are not too many surprises," he says.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Scene at Subway by Douglas Madey

Without a smile the teenage girl with shoulder length black hair asks, "What can I get you?"

A quick response from the man across the counter, and the girl reacts. She turns her back and reaches inside a Windex-streaked bread oven.

As if it’s a task that she’s done a thousand times, the young woman places a 12-inch loaf of wheat bread on a white cutting board covered with crumbs. She pulls two clear plastic gloves from a small box to her left and blows into each one, making it easier to stuff her hands inside.

She reaches for a knife and slices the loaf of wheat in the middle, but not all the way through. Then, opening the bread as if it were a book, she sets it down in front of her. As if folding laundry on a countertop, the young woman rolls slices of processed turkey and white cheese, and places them on the bread.

Sliding the unfinished sandwich in front of silver bins filled with purple onions, olives, green peppers, and several other vegetable choices, she prepares to present the man with his options.

The girl looks up from the sandwich and makes eye contact with the man across the counter. He looks down and makes a large circling motion over the vegetables with his index finger. In an orderly progression, the girl distributes his vegetable choices upon the sandwich in front of her.

Unable to close up the sandwich without spilling its contents, the girl rolls it up in a piece of wax paper to keep it tightly pressed together. As quickly as the process began, the girl slices through the wax paper and sandwich, places it next to the register, and walks back to the front of the sandwich line to greet the next customer.

Our Darling Clementine by Theresia Ota

Tucked between 2nd and 3rd Avenue on Clement Street is a gem of romantic French cooking. Two blocks, and much more, separate Clementine from the Chinese bakeries and dull cafes so typical of this part of Clement. Named by the chef/owner, Didier Labbe, for both the street and the orange, Clementine's menu featured everything that should be on a classic little French restaurant's menu, that is to say, nothing was unexpected, not even that each item on the menu was first written in French, and then explained in English below. The appetizers featured foie gras with caramelized apples, and escargots with garlic butter; but we decided on the asparagus, endive and crab salad with aged balsamic vinegar($9.75), as well as the porcini mushroom ravioli with truffle oil and cherry tomatoes ($8.50).

For such a small restaurant, the wine menu was quite impressive, featuring wines from many different countries, including not only the obvious -- good old U.S.A. and France -- but also Argentina, Greece and Israel. Despite the worldwide temptations, my friends and I decided on the only Pinot Gris from California on the menu ($39). Not a spectacular wine, it was very middle of the road, not too much alcohol, not too much fruit, and not too heavy. It was a warm day and a wise choice that paired well with most of the items we ordered.

Our appetizers were before our eyes within minutes of ordering them, barely allowing us the opportunity to admire the romantic interior. It is lovely. The walls are a creamy tangerine, with mirrors in detailed gold frames, and the perimeter of the restaurant is a bench upholstered in a sage green and gold fabric with pillows to match. But the porcini mushroom ravioli brought our attention back to the food and proved my theory that it would take a fool to ruin an ingenious Italian idea, such as the aqueducts and pasta. The ravioli were topped with a light mushroom broth, and the porcini-Parmesanesan filling gave the dish a delicious, warm, and rustic flavor that was enhanced and brightened by the cherry tomatoes. The crab salad, however enticing the presentation, was unimpressive. The crab appeared to have been fresh from the freezer, and tasted more like sea water than crab, with similar texture. It was served alongside endive that tasted very much like an old news paper. Still, the dish was not a total failure, since the asparagus was grilled perfectly and the balsamic vinegar that complemented it off was truly aged, not something to be found at any supermarket on sale.

The entree selection on the menu was as definitive of French cuisine as the appetizers, featuring such dishes as roasted poussoCornishnish hens)with garlic, duck breast with orange reduction, and bistro style rib eye steak wFrenchench fries. My party selected the roasted poussoin with garlic, the filet of salmon with portabella mushroom and fennel, as well as the rack of lamb with parsley and provencal herbs with spinach fondue. The presentation of all of the entrees was in the classic style, not an uptight Parisian style. The focus was the beauty of the food. Nowhere did you get the idea that the restaurant had hired an architect to put their dishes together. The poussoin was roasted to perfection, without a single taste too dry from being overcooked. The rack of lamb was the definition of medium rare, the herbs and seasoning were excellent; even the steamed fondue of spinach was lightly salted and fresh. But the highlight of the entrees was without a doubt the salmon. If it came from the freezer, I was fooled. The entire filet was delicate and moist, with just the right amount of salt, pepper, and dill, so that all of the flavor was coming from the fish; paired with the fennel and portabella mushroom, the chef allowed the star of the dish to be the freshness of the ingredients.

We had reservations for 6:30, and seating was immediate, although we would not have been opposed to a short wait outside of the restaurant's adorable dark green gold-lettered facade. The hostess, pleasantly asked in a lovely French accent if we would like to sit in the front, near the windows and entering guests, Since we wanted privacy, we chose the back. We noticed that even when the restaurant became busier, the tables in front near the hostess station were never occupied.

Once we were seated with menus in hand, our waiter for the evening greeted us with a little speech in French that, by the end of it, had me and my two friends hanging on his every word. Simply the epitome of charm, Arno, our waiter, had learned our names and was shaking our hands before we knew it; plus he never let our wine or water glasses go approach half empty. Arno's attentiveness was a remarkable feat considering he was the only waiter in the restaurant for more than a dozen tables and his charisma brought smiles to the faces of every guest he served.

In fact, by the time our entrees were cleared from our table, Arno knew us so well that he told me what I would enjoy for dessert. Actually, the most impressive aspect of Clementine's presentation was the dessert menu. Unable to decide on one dessert for each of us, my friends and I shared the vanilla creme brulee, the fresh apple tart with caramel ice cream, and the caramelized French toast with hazelnut ice cream. Each of the desserts was marvelous. The burnt sugar that topped the creme brulee cracked like a perfectly thin layer of golden stained glass.The crust of the fresh apple tart was flakey and the apples were so fresh they maintained their crispness though sliced as thin as tissue paper; and the caramel ice cream that melted all over the tart, left our mouths with the sensation that we were eating a delicate caramel apple pie.

Before Arno could recommend it, I had decided on the caramelized French toast with hazelnut ice cream, as it was a remarkable notion amongst its traditional counterparts. The textures alone in this dish were fantastic. The first taste is the crisp caramel dissolving and crunching, followed by the velvety smooth, and lightly cinnamoned toast, very reminiscent of the velvety smoothness of foie gras, the creamy, cold, melting hazelnut ice cream, was the grand finale to our whole experience, the experience of a little piece of France only a few blocks from USF

126 Clement Street (2nd/3rd Avenues)

Overall: * * * *
Food: * * *
Service: * * * * *
Noise: ! !
Price: $ $ $

Overall/Food/ Service
* = not completely awful
* * = good
* * * = really quite good
* * * * = Almost Perfect
* * * * * = Amazing Perfection from food to price

! = very quiet
! ! = pleasantly noisy but easy to converse
! ! ! = must raise your voice to be heard
! ! ! ! = must yell to be heard
! ! ! ! ! = cannot converse/ near deafness

Price ( per entree)
$ = $ 0- $10
$ $ = $10 - $17
$ $ $ = $15 - $23
$ $ $ $ = $20- $30
$ $ $ $ $ = must have platinum Am Ex!

Friday, October 07, 2005

An Independent Journey by Jonahlynn Sabado

One day, Natalie Yang was flipping through a copy of Time magazine in the Philippines and came across an article about San Francisco. As she looked through the article, she read that San Francisco was “the best city in the world.”

She thought to herself, “I wouldn’t mind living there.”

After reading that article, she became attracted to this city because it presented so much diversity. “It was basically everything that I was looking for to experience something different in life. Oftentimes, I’ve also wondered what it would be like to live out on my own,” she says.

As Natalie prepared herself to move to America, she imagined San Francisco to be very sunny and cool. “My dad and my older brother were the only two people in my family who had been to San Francisco but they didn’t really tell me what to expect,” she says. In the movies, she saw that people wore summer clothing in California so most of the clothes she packed were for warm weather. Little did she know that it was foggy and chilly year-round. “As soon as I arrived at my grandma’s apartment in San Francisco, I literally stayed in bed the whole day,” she says.

But Natalie knew that she couldn’t hide under the covers for long, as there was so much for her to explore on her own.

Natalie’s journey from the Philippines to America was not just a typical vacation from her home land. It was a journey of a new beginning, a beginning that she hoped entitled her to achieve bigger and better things without the supervision of her parents and family she left behind. It was a journey toward personal independence.

Coming to America would be a way for Natalie to set herself apart from most of her former colleagues in Manila, Philippines. “Pretty much everyone back home was at the same level and I wanted to deviate from that. Even if I graduated from one of the top schools back home, I would be competing with about thousands more from the same school, vying for the same job,” she says of her schooling in the Philippines. Furthermore, she says that her college back home emphasized academics, leaving her no time for extracurricular activities because of the weight of her classes. As a result, Natalie decided not just to come to America but to transfer to the University of San Francisco.

However, it wasn’t easy convincing her parents to let her go.

Shy, modest and timid, Natalie lived a sheltered life and usually depended on her parents for allowances, lunch expenses, books and other school materials. “Whenever I needed something, my parents would give it to me right away,” she says. Back home, she also counted on her family’s driver to take her to and from school, and a maid that would clean up in her room and around the house. But her decision to come to America meant she had to become more independent. Although she was shy, she considered herself to be adventurous, always wanting to try something new. “While my friends were used to their comfort and lifestyle back home, I felt that I wanted something more in life, something that I wasn’t accustomed to,” she says.

During her first few months in San Francisco, Natalie had to study local maps and bus routes in order to get around because she did not know how to drive nor did she own a license. This became a proud change for her because she didn’t need a personal driver as she did back home. Likewise, at her grandma’s house, Natalie would do her own laundry and clean her own room. Though these things were a first step, things she could do on her own without the help of others, Natalie also knew that she eventually had to start mingling with other people.

Natalie didn’t really experience culture shock when she came to the States because she was exposed to many American movies back home. The labels Americans used – “geeks,” “ jocks,” cheerleaders,” “the popular crowd” -- did not surprise her. On the other hand, she says it was difficult for her to adjust the way she interacted with Americans. Nobody ever noticed her heavy accent whenever Natalie spoke; however, she was always concerned about it. Also, although she knew how to speak English fluently, she was so accustomed to speaking her native language, tagalog (a dialect in the Philippines). “I had to adapt to speaking straight English rather than mixing half English and half Filipino,” she says.

As an international student, Natalie was only allowed to work on campus. During her first semester, she got a job at the coffee shop in Lone Mountain where she worked 10 to 20 hours a week. As she earned money, Natalie learned something else: how to budget her expenses. At the coffee shop, she also started meeting new people. Because she had to constantly talk to a lot of people, this helped her to step out of her shyness. She also began to recite more frequently in classes. Her new skills also encouraged her to become involved with organizations on campus such as the International Student Association, which she gained presidency of during her last year at USF. There, she met more and more people.

Natalie graduated from USF with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in May 2005, two years after coming to America. But Natalie did not want to move back home just yet. She had more going to do. She wanted to gain work experience before settling back home. This made it tough for her because she was forced to find a job which was the only way she could stay in America. During the summer, she applied to numerous internships in California – and not just in San Francisco. “I believe my experiences so far have made me more talkative, independent and responsible. But after living with my grandma for two years and having her pay for my tuition, I wanted to break away from depending on her and really start living on my own.”

Escaping the cold weather in the Bay Area, Natalie now works as a full-time intern at Hershey Associates, a graphic design and marketing firm in Santa Monica, where she now lives with two other roommates. Now in sunny, laidback Southern California, she says with a warm smile (a really warm smile), she can return to sporting her summer wardrobe all year long!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Left My Heart in Mauritania by Douglas Madey

The smell of chicken boiling and the sound of a newborn crying fills Ibrahima and Julie Wagne's studio apartment in Hayes Valley. Leaned back comfortably on the sofa with his legs crossed, Ibrahima Wagne pops an African date into his mouth and spits the pit out into his hand.

"These are a fruit from Africa, I bought them this morning," said Wagne, as he offered up some of the dates that were on a small yellow dish. Although he is able to get produce from his native country here in San Francisco, Wagne remains well aware of the 6,000 plus miles that separate him from his Mauritanian hometown in West Africa. Walking down a busy San Francisco city street to the produce market makes the idea of an unpaved West African road seem like a world away.

Born and raised in the small village of Bogme, Mauritania, Wagne graduated from college and went on to earn his PhD at the University of Badj Moctar in Algeria. With only 25% of his high school classmates continuing on to college, Wagne believes himself to be a rarity with his doctorate in biochemistry. Even more of a rarity, he says, was his decision to choose service over a large income and work for the Peace Corps in Mauritania.

This decision would ultimately change the course of his life. During his time at the Peace Corps where Wagne worked in cross-cultural training, teaching new
volunteers how to speak Fulani, an African language with French origins. One of his students, a young woman from Kansas named Julie, caught his eye and soon the two were dating. Within a year after the relationship began, Ibrahima and Julie were contemplating marriage.

While in Mauritania, under the traditional roles of a Muslim society, the couple lived in separate residences. "It was fine in Africa", Wagne said, "but we had to see if the relationship would work in America".

Wagne believed that the differences of working and living together in the United States, opposed to Mauritania, would reveal any unseen problems with the relationship that may not have been a consideration during their
time together at the Peace Corps. Financial responsibilities in the U.S., such as rent and food, seemed to be the major concern for Wagne as he contemplated the future of their relationship in a different country.

During his work with the Peace Corps Wagne applied to the University of California, Berkeley, with the intention of studying English, while at the same time testing the strengths of his and Julie's relationship. In the fall of 2002,
Wagne obtained a student visa and moved to San Francisco with Julie where he studied English and, as he had hoped, grew closer to the woman he loved.

After one semester, the resolute couple legally became Mr. and Mrs. Ibrahima and Julie Wagne. It was a simple ceremony, taking place at San Francisco City Hall in front of just three close friends. No big reception followed because according to Wagne, who scratches his head and smiles, saying only, "we had other things to do."

Just six weeks ago the Wagnes celebrated the birth of their first child, a girl they named Aissata. The baby was named after Wagne's mother, which in Mauritania is a common way to show respect to your family. The idea of family and togetherness is strongly shared amongst this newly extended family unit.
While Wagne talks about his wife and him raising a child, Julie Wagne sits in front of the desk in their bedroom gently rocking Aissata in her arms. "Having a baby", says Wagne as he pauses to gather
the words to say, "is not hard, but it's expensive," hinting gently at the strain a new child can have on the dynamics of a relationship.

While Julie Wagne cares for the newborn, Mr. Wagne continues our conversation, busy preparing dinner and tidying up the kitchen by putting away dishes from the dry rack. He says that Aissata wakes the couple up during the night and that her crib takes away from the already cramped little bedroom, but his expression as describes the inconvenience suggests the amount of joy that the two seem to get from looking at their child could fill a Pacific Heights mansion.

And just because the Wagne's of San Francisco are faraway from the Wagne's of Mauritania, does not imply a loss of contact with one another. Wagne keeps in touch with his family by calling at least once a week.

At 36 he has grown out of being homesick. With a quiet tone of certainty to his voice, Wagne says he doesn't "really miss" his many relatives in Mauritania. They're "a family, and I know they are there for me."

Wagne is now most concerned with providing for his wife and baby. With Julie Wagne home all day with the baby, Wagne continues to work full time as a "bar back," assisting the bartenders with making drinks, at the Zuni Cafe, the well-known San Francisco restaurant.

He considers himself financially stable. He is more concerned with San Francisco's unique gap in standard of living and its effect on his child. In a city such as San Francisco where the number of homeless seems to equal that of the wealthy, that gap is something Wagne finds hard to assimilate given his background. "In Mauritania homelessness is a choice," he says, noting that in Mauritania anyone could go back to his or her family for shelter instead of living on the street. "Here you can walk down the street and see someone in a Porsche and someone sleeping on the ground at the same time."

Wagne hopes to move his family to Mauritania -- if husband, wife and daughter have visas that would allow back and forth travel. The Wagnes plan on living the next five to 10 years alternating homes between San Francisco and West Africa. Wagne believes that it is important for his daughter to get a good perspective on where she comes from.

Through raising Aissata in both West Africa and the United States, Wagne hopes his daughter will have a better-rounded viewpoint of the important values and morals that he sees as necessary in an ever-changing world.
"Money," he says, "is not the base of success."

He wants his daughter to understand that success doesn'tfe doesn’t come from owning expensive cars. Wagne is focused on providing a balanced life for his daughter. He believes that he and his wife can do that best by partially bringing her up in West Africa. "Many times people can raise a kid, but they don't build family," he says.

Until Wagne is able to create the framework for a future of his family that incorporates the best of his parents' two cultures, he will continue
walking to work past the homeless of San Francisco on his way to help serve $12 drinks to the Porsche-driving elites of the city.