Until next time, FiDi

May 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

I remember very clearly my first walk in the Financial District, several years ago. I was impressed by the tall buildings, the hurried businessmen and the clicking of heels on the pavement.

Seven years later, this neighborhood feels like a familiar face. I am no longer intimidated by it, rather intrigued by all of its facets I don’t know or don’t have a story for.

While reporting from the streets of San Francisco’s FiDi, I discovered a humane side to it that I wasn’t expecting in a commercial district. It’s not all about greed and profit, in this neighborhood many people care about others, care about creating a fun, family-like microcosm.

To the unfamiliar eye, this neighborhood can seem pretty impersonal, driven by the hustle and bustle of peak hours, but there’s more to that.

First of all, its history. I was flabbergasted to discover this neighborhood as the site of so many firsts. This in particular was of great interest to me and I enjoyed going back in time of the gold rush, the 1609 Earthquake and beyond. Now as I am walking by, I am often tempted to ask people eating out on on sunny days whether they know that where they’re sitting used to be a wharf.

Through my investigations, I encountered fellow bloggers, city officials, workers, commuters, tourists and restaurateurs. In this neighborhood, many different people cross paths every day. Maybe this is the beauty of San Francisco, that even in a business-specific district like this one, which attracts talents from everywhere, there’s still kinship and compassion.

Thanks to this neighborhood blog, I learned to use public service resources, I attended my first press conference, did countless interviews. I devoted much time and energy to my first journalistic blog experiment. I know for sure there’s plenty more for me to learn in my journalistic journey, but I have enjoyed the process thoroughly so far.

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Credo: feeding body and discourse

May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

Over 700 quotes line up the walls of Credo, an italian restaurant, which opened its doors in San Francisco’s Financial District last January with the intent to feed body and mind alike. As its name suggests, Credo, which comes from latin and means “I believe”, the restaurant wants its guest to encounter all beliefs, the good ones, the bad ones and the others. After all, beliefs are subjective.

But by encountering other beliefs than our owns, Credo hints that this mixing of ideas stimulates a healthy discourse.

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The concept is quite unusual, but highlights the strong set of beliefs of the owner, a former seminarian turned political consultant and real estate investor, Clint Reilly.

Credo’s mission aims at feeding both body and soul. These beliefs are at the core of this enterprise, from the decor, to the food served, and to the partnerships with local charity organizations.

Beliefs are expressed in many facets of the stylish restaurant. Dining tables, made of reclaimed wood from Amsterdam, illustrate the owner’s taste for craft and history. Repurposed wine bottle glasses set on the tables echo the values of reusing and smart producing.

Collected throughout the years by Reilly himself and his director of communication, the quotes featured throughout the restaurant “represent beliefs we share, and beliefs we don’t share. Some of them are absurd, some are silly and some very serious,” Mike Giffin, Credo’s manager said.

Monthly quote contests offer another means to engage dialogue with the community, to stimulate discourse and to raise awareness. “We believe in the time-honored tradition of the dinner table debate and the swirling mix of ideas that makes this country great,” explains the menu.

Going a step further in engaging the community is Credo’s charitable involvement. Once a month, Credo picks a local charity organization, and helps them get a voice and funding.

This month, Credo’s community partner is Clinic by the Bay, a locally-funded, volunteer-driven organization that provides “free primary and preventive healthcare to low-income, working uninsured adults living nearby the Excelsior, Portola and Daly City areas.”

Information about the organization is featured on the back of the menu, alongside articles about the issue at stake. A monthly newsletter is also sent to about a 1000 people. From social media for the tech savvy guests, to an easy donation line on the bill for the old-school patrons, to private fundraising events, Credo offers various ways to generate revenues for these organizations and publicize their cause.

Riding FiDi

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ride to and from work? Beautiful day and wanna take the long way home? Or riding around the city on weekends?
Try out this bike ride route through the Financial and maybe discover something new or simply enjoy the ride. Places to stop for refreshment have been listed.

Enjoy!

A Shine & Co: Swing Dancing meets Shining Stars

May 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Shoe shines are addictive. It’s like having a mini-foot massage while resuscitating your favorite pair of shoes.

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Recently I learned that the place that introduced me to the world of shoe shine, A Shine & Co., is quite special beyond the great service rendered and friendliness of its staff. So I went back to investigate what makes this company unique.

It all started in 1996 at the Crocker Galleria. The dot com was booming and shiners were in demand. Meanwhile swing dancing was making a comeback, which led to the creation of a one of a kind business, mixing “entertainment and conventions.”

In addition to shining shoes, most of the original shiners also performed swing dancing. There’s not much of that going on anymore; only memories and photos of the swing dancing events showcased at the shoeshine stand located at Bank of America remain.

An important thread of this enterprise is that all of the original crew members were recovered alcoholics, but this is no longer the case for now the staff includes non-alcoholics. “Our primary goal is to help others to help themselves and in turn help others. We have expanded our staff to include non-alcoholics who fit in with our crew and who can benefit from a sober and deeply caring environment,”  the website explains.

Today, 24-year-old Isaac worked on my favorite black flats, and explained that about 85 percent of the staff is in recovery. Isacc is not in recovery, but talked about the family feel environment, which is at the core of the business. A majority of employees come to work as part of fellowship programs.

“we get to look out for each other and it’s nice that way. You don’t need to explain if you need to leave early to attend a (AA) meeting,” he said. And while doing business is the goal, this is not all about profit, it’s really about the work environment, he continued.

So whenever you need to give some TLC to your beloved pumps or need a ten minute pampering, you might consider visiting A Shine & Co’s at one of their three locations: Bank of America Building, Crocker Galleria and One Embarcadero Center.

Ta-da! Happy shoes!

Cinco de Mayo: missed it?

May 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hola!

If you missed yesterday’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo, here is a little excerpt of what was happening in the Financial District. Tlaloc Sabor Mexicana was hosting their yearly Cinco de Mayo celebration with a happy hour special from 5 to 7 p.m..

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An all-female band named Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano played an hour-long set for the crowd. The outdoor seating area was quickly packed, as the neighborhood office workers indulged in happy hour, soaking up the last bit of sunshine before the fog rolled in.

Kelly Klare came along with co-workers to hang out. Their group was trying to figure out the meaning of the celebration, but they weren’t sure. What they knew was that they were celebrating another country’s holiday.

For most people, what Cinco de Mayo commemorates wasn’t certain, but that did not stop them from celebrating.

“Whatever it is, it’s americanized. It’s a big drinking holiday, like St. Patrick’s day,” said Lincoln Gunn, who came from his work in SoMa to meet his girlfriend who works in the area.

And under the sun, to the sound and vibrant energy from this all-women Mariachi band, another Cinco de Mayo had come and gone, slightly infused with tequila.

Cinco de Mayo: Did you know?

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ever wondered what Cinco de Mayo is all about?

To start, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day!

The holiday, celebrated every May 5, commemorates the victory of the Mexican Army over the French during the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

At the beginning of 1862, French, Spanish and English troops arrived in Mexico after Mexican President Benito Juarez  announced that debts repayments would be suspended for two years. While British and Spanish settled and left, the French, eager to expand their empire decided to stay.

While Napoleon’s French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, it was crushed by 4,000 mexican soldiers, led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza. However, the Mexican victory was short-lived. The French overpowered them and France managed to occupy Mexico until 1867.

The holiday is not a Federal holiday in Mexico, and is in fact not celebrated as much as it is here in the U.S., notably in California and Texas. Many celebrate this day with parades, mariachi music, dancing, while enjoying mexican food and drinks. Ariba-riba-riba!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Nice to Meet you Andrew Byrne

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hi folks,

So I got to know more about Andrew Byrne, the drummer man who rocks out downtown on sunny (and foggy) days with his drumming skills.

Meet Andrew. A Bay Area native, Byrne is originally from South San Francisco. You might have seen him on Powell or Market Street rocking out his drum-set.
Upon getting to know him, what we find is a passionate musician, who’s been playing the drums for 22 years and who “has never let his rock star dream die.”

Andrew Byrne, seeking pro gigs

How do you earn a living?  Drumming is my only source of income at the moment.  This brings much pleasure and self worth to my life.
I’ve seen from other Youtube videos that you play in other spots, where can people find you? What’s your favorite spot?  I also play near powell street, as well as a spot about three blocks closer to the ocean from where you saw me. (Montgomery Bart Station) My favorite spot that I have played so far is in golden gate park near hippy hill.
Besides looking for professional gigs, do you play with bands?  I have a couple of bands in the works but nothing that is established as of yet.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of them will start to see some success soon.
Who do you listen to? Who has most inspired you musically?  I mostly listen to a lot of heavy metal music but also enjoy some prog, as well as some funk fusion stuff.  Some of my favorite drummers that have inspired me over the years are Simon Phillips, Dave Lombardo, Gene Hoglan, Mike Portnoy, and Joey Jordison.
What venue would dream to play?  A sold out Cow Palace would be a life long dream come true.  I’d also really like to play the London Arena.
Outdoors v. indoors? Which do you prefer to play? “Outdoors its a bit more intimate and I can connect with my audience much better.  Indoors with a great sound system and flashy lights is probably a bit more enjoyable for me though.
To hear more of Andrew’s drumming skills, find him on youtube or look back at my previous post.
Rock on!