Category Archives: Culture

The Best Of San Francisco: SF State Edition

Photo by Amanda Peterson / Xpress
Photo by Amanda Peterson / Xpress

Written By Xpress Magazine Staff

San Francisco is 47 square miles. Within those miles cage between skyscrapers and Victorian architecture, there’s a plethora of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants and knick-knack stores. Some of which are noteworthy; others are unexceptional. Our Xpress Staff has embodied the City by the Bay and is showcasing why this city reigns supreme. Here is the Best of San Francisco: SF State Edition.

Continue reading The Best Of San Francisco: SF State Edition

Get Your Greens

An example CSA subscription box, put together by Blue House Farms, sits on the back of their truck during a farmers market event in the Mission District. Photo by Kate O'Neal / Xpress.
An example CSA subscription box, put together by Blue House Farms, sits on the back of their truck during a farmers market event in the Mission District. Photo by Kate O’Neal / Xpress.

It’s an expensive lunch in San Francisco. There’s that seven dollar sandwich, that six dollar salad- convenient but hardly satisfying. Fast food has taken away our desire to cook. Many blame it on high produce prices- or simply not having time to shop. With the new trend of “going local” when it comes to food, students of San Francisco State are turning to affordable Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions for their daily dose of vegetables.

A CSA subscription is the equivalent of buying stock in a farm. Subscribers help the farmers to speculate how much to grow for the season. When subscribing to a CSA, customers receive an affordable box of produce anywhere from 7-20 lbs. of seasonal fruits and vegetables to be delivered to their house. “Our weekly rate of $22 gets you between 8 and 10 items from the farm, at prices slightly below what we charge at the farmer’s market,” says Mia Riddle, The CSA coordinator of Blue House Farm.

Inside these produce boxes is a random grab bag of pesticide free, seasonal produce. Although customers won’t know what’s inside their subscriptions until they receive it, they are assured with something even better: fresh produce. “I like it because it is a surprise, you don’t get to pick or choose what you are getting,” says Cat Collins, a SFSU student who receives her CSA box from a farm in Watsonville called Ground Stew. “If you get a bell pepper that is a little bit shriveled that you would never pick up at a farmers market and you cut it open and you see that it is completely fine you really understand there is no reason to be wasting produce.”

Supermarkets provide a colossal amount of produces that shoppers, at times, never anticipated needing.  The USDA estimated in 2012 that collectively supermarkets threw away $15 billion in unwanted fruits and vegetables. CSA subscriptions help lessen this wasteful act. “You get access to much fresher produce than what you’d see at a grocery store, and a chance to help out a small organic farm directly and be part of the movement for a better food system,” says Mia Riddle, the CSA coordinator at Blue House Farm outside Pescadero. Subscribers not only get fresh produce; they help unsold produce find a happy home and a hungry stomach.

It really is up to the eater to decide how much they want to consider their meals before injesting them. Supermarkets will always be available and needed. CSA subscriptions cannot replace them. However as these produce boxes become affordable and available many, shoppers can feel good about supporting a local cause. The risk is really in the surprise – if you’re afraid to try new things, a CSA probably isn’t for you. Many of our subscribers tell me ‘I never tried that before! I loved it!’ and that always makes my day. A CSA has the power to change the way you eat, forever.”

The Batkid Rises

Bat Boy, Miles Scott a 5-year-old boy battling Leukemia came to save the city when the little hero becomes Batman for a day through Make A Wish Foundation, Miles wished to become Batman and his wish came true Friday, November 15, 2013 in San Francisco his last stop here at Civic Center in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Amanda Peterson / Xpress
Bat Boy, Miles Scott a 5-year-old boy battling Leukemia came to save the city when the little hero becomes Batman for a day through Make A Wish Foundation, Miles wished to become Batman and his wish came true Friday, November 15, 2013 in San Francisco his last stop here at Civic Center in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Amanda Peterson / Xpress

Written by Justice Boles
Photos by Amanda Peterson

“Because he’s the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now… and so we’ll hunt him… because he can take it… because he’s not a hero… he’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a Dark Knight…” — Commissioner Jim Gordon

San Francisco is not Gotham, especially not on a day like Friday. Gotham City, home of World’s Greatest Detective, Batman, is a dark and dreary place. It’s full of corrupt cops, super criminals and a seemingly endless blanket of midnight that envelops the entire town. It’s a city where an 8-year-old watched as his parents were gunned down right in front of him. It’s a city whose only prison appears to also be its only insane asylum. It’s a city where its heroes have to be more terrifying than its villains.

Ironically, the day where the City by the Bay tries to emulate the City of the Bat is when it is most apparent the two are nothing alike.

“Five year old Miles from Tulelake in Siskiyou County loves superheroes, and is rarely seen not wearing a costume of one of his idols,” says the official Make-A-Wish press release. “Chief among his heroes is Batman. After fighting his own battle with leukemia since he was a year old, Miles has emerged triumphant and is now in remission.”For Miles, Make-A-Wish crafted parts of San Francisco into Gotham City.

The day began at Union Square as Batkid rushed to rescue a damsel in distress tied to cable car tracks. Following the clues, the black Lamborghini meant to serve as the Batmobile raced to stop the Riddler’s bank robbery. Hundreds of people crowded the sidewalks and streets trying to catch a glimpse of the World’s Greatest Li’l Detective. The Riddler was no match and swiftly acquainted with the back of a police paddy wagon. Lunch time. Batkid stopped at the Burger Bar. Reportedly, there were more than 7,000 attempted reservations to eat with the Batkid. But crime waits for no man, and certainly no kid. A flash mob alerted the Kid Caped Crusader to the Penguin kidnapping Giant’s mascot Lou Seal.A chase through AT&T park ended with the Penguin in cuffs and a Seal unbroken. With the City safe once again, it was time for the Batkid to accept his key to the city from the Mayor. At City Hall, thousands showed up bearing signs of love and support and admiration. A city of people chanted “Batkid” as he made his way to the stage. The excitement was palpable.

Make-A-Wish organized the event. It was the people of San Francisco that brought it to life. Patricia Wilson – the executive director of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area – said that in 15 years with her organization she’d never seen anything like it, and she grants some 350 wishes per year. She took to the stage and explained the initial idea to have Miles be Batkid for a day. However, things took a turn for the uncontrollable when someone on Facebook got a hold of the day’s itinerary. It was reposted and reposted and reposted. Batkid went viral. She explained this to the crowd of thousands while news helicopters floated in the air. But this isn’t the first time they made a kid a superhero too.

In 2010, the Seattle regional Make-A-Wish granted 13-year-old Erik Martin’s wish to be a superhero. For the day, Erik was Electron Boy, a hero of his own invention. He was driven around Seattle in a Delorean, fighting criminals named Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy, played by Edgar Hansen, and Jake Anderson, both of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” He freed the captured Seattle Sounders and climatically fought his nemeses beneath the Space Needle. Hundreds lent a hand to help make the day the best of Erik’s life. It was an amazing expression of caring for all involved.

But Batkid blew up so much more than that, and it’s easy to see why: An adorable 5-year-old who just conquered leukemia. The city that built social media, as

Kids cheering on Batkids
Kids cheering on Batkids. Photo by Amanda Peterson / Xpress

we know it, with a healthy dose of “let your freak flag fly” ingrained into our San Franciscan psyche was possibility the best city to host this wish. Batman. The story has everything. Even now, days after the event, #Batkid is still on fire, getting more than a tweet a minute. Wilson expressed that she hoped for 200 participants to sign up for the flash mob at Union Square, 12,000 rsvp’d. Batkid is easily the most publicized Make-A-Wish granted, so much so that even Barack Obama threw in his support through a Vine video. The Batkid Photo Project Facebook page has more than 21,000 likes and an endless scroll of supportive words, videos and pictures. Social media was so overwhelming that even the old media partook; the San Francisco Chronicle became the Gotham City Chronicle with a front page devoted to the Batkid. The world celebrated Miles like no other.

San Francisco is not a city with cowardly criminals and crazy chaotic killer clowns on every corner. San Francisco is a city that came together rallied around a child to cheer him on and make his wish come true. Thousands of people came out in support at City Hall, donning Batman costumes and Batkid banners. They bought Batkid shirts and threw up signs emblazoned with words of hope and praise, of love and support. It was unforgettable.

Batkid reminded the world that there are real heroes.



Painting the Town: Street Artists Struggle to Share their Work in the Face of Detractors

Mats Stromberg stands atop a ladder as he works on his mural at Clarion Alley in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. The mural's working title is "Ant Wars" and will replace his previous piece that was there for 18 years. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress
Mats Stromberg stands atop a ladder as he works on his mural at Clarion Alley in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. The mural’s working title is “Ant Wars” and will replace his previous piece that was there for 18 years. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress

Written by Dani Hutton
Photos by Philip Houston

Brushes of all sizes, aerosol cans, and permanent markers are the tools of choice; brick walls, fences and stickers the canvas. Studios and alleys are their stomping grounds, working both at high noon and under the cover of darkness. From mural projects to hastily scribbled tags on a Muni seat, San Francisco’s street art culture is a thriving beast—an exercise in self-expression, political statement, and attempts to leave a mark on the world.

Ranging from taggers defacing public property to murals blooming over the course of days or weeks, street art invokes different ideas and opinions. Some pieces, such as the murals in Coit Tower, commissioned by the Works Progress Administration during The Great Depression, date back to the 1930s, while others are significantly more recent, such as works in progress within Clarion Alley today.

The Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) was established in October 1992 by a volunteer collection of Mission residents. The project, which has produced more than seven hundred murals in Clarion Alley, works with artists of all ethnicities, ages and levels of experience, emphasizing emerging artists and new styles.

Megan Wilson, a core organizer for CAMP, describes the project as “one of the last remaining truly punk venues in San Francisco.”  The project was inspired by Balmy Alley, one of a number of alleys in the city dedicated to murals.

Mural creation isn’t the only goal of CAMP.  Artists with permission work to restore murals in the alley that have been damaged by weather and taggers throughout the years.

Mike Reger, another core organizer of CAMP, has found himself doing touch-ups on murals as of late, in preparation for the annual Clarion Alley Block Party.

Mike Reger adds paint to a mural at Clarion Alley in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. Mike was restoring Kyle Ranson's "Dying Warrior" mural in preporation for the Clarion Alley Block Party. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress
Mike Reger adds paint to a mural at Clarion Alley in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. Mike was restoring Kyle Ranson’s “Dying Warrior” mural in preporation for the Clarion Alley Block Party. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress

Kyle Ranson’s “Dying Warrior” is just one of the pieces Reger is restoring in preparation for the event, with permission from the artist himself.  Reger is no stranger to mural restoration, having done just that to other murals within the alley, including the Kirsten Brydum Memorial Wall, the Print Collective wall, and an iconic mural done by Chuy Campusano, which has been running for twenty years.

According to Reger, that particular piece gets restored about twice a week, because taggers leave their mark on the fence, which features a lot of white space. Reger has also been collaborating with the DOPE Project, a harm-reduction program working to decrease the number of overdoses caused by heroin and other opiate drugs. Reger teams with local artists like Erin Ruch, who support the program, to develop comic-style murals within the city.

Clarion Alley is one of many mural-heavy alleys in the city. Balmy Alley’s first mural was painted in 1971, with the oldest surviving mural dating back to 1972, one of forty individual murals within the alley itself. Lucky, Lilac, and Cypress Alleys are just a few of the other alleys in the city that have also become host to a number of murals.

Graffiti artists have left their mark all over the city as well, ranging from tagging vehicles and etching their tagging names into the windows of Muni buses, to more well-known pieces such as Banksy’s stenciled pieces from 2010. According to San Francisco’s Department of Public Works, the city spends more than twenty million dollars annually on graffiti clean up.

Taggers don’t just leave their marks on blank surfaces. The murals become victims of defacement on a regular basis. For artists involved in CAMP, the continual defacing can be frustrating. However, there’s a solution to the problem.

“We fight aerosol with aerosol,” Reger says, in regards to tags springing up in the alley. Aerosol artists work alongside brush muralists to create pieces, aimed at detering taggers from ruining work similar to their own.

Despite the best efforts of both the DPW and various mural groups, taggers have a foothold all over the city. Precita Eyes Muralists Association, located in the Mission, has worked in tandem with the city to reduce tagging with their effort to create small murals on six utility boxes in the city, five of which were designed by youth assigned to do them. Patricia Rose, one of the artists and tour leaders for the center, notes that the project has had moderate success, detracting taggers from leaving their mark on the boxes found on street corners within the city.

Mats Stromberg is one such artist who has had to deal with having his art tagged. Stromberg is currently working on a new mural in the alley, which will replace his own that has been in place for eighteen years. That particular mural, which had been featured on the cover of Mission Muralismo, was erased in a coat of white paint when Stromberg decided it was time for a change. With the assistance of Jeff Roysdon, a comic artist with a piece of his own in the alley, Stromberg is moving forward on a new mural, working weekends.

“Just because it had been there for so long, I had no qualms at all,” Stromberg says of starting over.  His mural, “Ant Wars,” he describes as a comment on social media, which is by its nature, narcissistic.

“Art vies for attention,” he continues. “I do want people to see this mural. I want it to have an impression on them, good or bad, doesn’t matter,” Stromberg says, adding that he hopes it can be interpreted in a variety of ways and situations.

Street artists within the city face the additional burden of people trying to monetize their work. According to Reger, tour guides will run paid tours, with misinformation about the pieces, exploiting both the art and the artists.

“It’s gotten to the point that we can no longer ignore the fact that people are trying to make money,” Reger says, not only of the tours, but also of the recent controversy surrounding Absolut Vodka that used video filmed in the alley in a promotional ad, without CAMP’s permission.

The Absolut Vodka advertisement hasn’t been the only issue with people profiting from art within the area. According to Reger, two books—Clarion Alley:2011-2013 by Jerry Sierra and Mission Muralismo, put out by the Precita Eyes Muralist Association—have featured artists work without crediting them. The cover photograph of Mission Muralismo contains a photo of a mural by Stromberg, who says he never received compensation for the use of his work.

As such, CAMP and artists involved with the project are working together to obtain copyrights for their murals, in order to prohibit the exploitation of their work.

For the artists, working in the alley can be a double-edged sword. The open atmosphere allows them to connect with fellow artists and fans, but that same open space can become a nuisance. According to Wilson, developers and real estate agents use CAMP as a selling point for the “cool, hip Mission experience,” creating a flocking point for furthering gentrification in the neighborhood. An average weekend afternoon sees tourists and locals alike pouring through the alley, posing in front of murals, snapping Instagram shots, and occasionally photographing artists at work—both with and without permission.

“It can be distracting, with people coming in,” Reger says, acknowledging the presence of the observers passing through the alley. Stromberg, on the other hand, enjoys working in public, as it’s a change from his usual work, which he describes as a “solitary discipline.”

For the hundreds of individuals who pick up a brush or a spray paint can, their art is a form of expression, but not without issues.  Despite contending with taggers, people trying to profit from their work, and struggles within their own community, San Francisco’s street art scene is filled with hundreds of pieces. Ranging from small tags to murals stretching along the faces of buildings, they are rendered by public artists wanting to express themselves in the best way they know how.

Smiling Through The Cracks

Janelle White teaches at SF State and San Francisco Women Against Rape's executive director.
Janelle White teaches at SF State and is the San Francisco Women Against Rape’s executive director.

Written by Erika Maldonado
Photos by Benjamin Kamps

Janelle White is everything you’d want and expect a lecturer in SF State’s women and gender studies department to be.

Her salt and pepper curls fall naturally and wildly with hints of light blue along her temples. The blue dye on either side of her hair perfectly complements the blue tint on the frames of her glasses. Morning glory flowers envelop her right arm with Lizz Wright lyrics and sparrows peeking out through the stems. She wanted a full sleeve by her fortieth birthday, but she doesn’t seem to like to show them off.

Janelle White wanted a full sleeves for her fortieth birthday, but rarely likes to show it off.
Janelle White wanted a full sleeve for her fortieth birthday, but rarely likes to show it off.

A calm demeanor and the soothing tone of her voice invites open and honest conversation during class discussions. When she isn’t enlightening students on women, prison and the industrial complex on Mondays in the Humanities Building, she’s the executive director of San Francisco Women Against Rape.  This year marks its fortieth anniversary and White helped organize the anniversary celebration held on Oct. 24.

“It fundamentally shaped who I was as a thinker, as an activist and an advocate,” says White.  “I saw in action what it looks like when your mission is to end oppression so that you can end rape. I hadn’t seen that ideology practiced at a rape crisis center.”

SFWAR is one of many organizations housed in the Mission’s eye-catching Women’s Building.  Located on 18th street, the entire four-story building is covered in murals. Portraits of influential women such as Rigoberta Menchu, Georgia O’ Keefe and Audre Lorde peer over passersby within the melange of radiant yellows, blues, reds and greens.

Inside, the female-led community space empowers, educates and provides a safe space for women and girls from all walks of life.  SFWAR shares an atrium

A light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the top floor of the Women's Building.
A light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the top floor of the Women’s Building.

with other organizations on the third floor. Natural light reflects from skylights onto the hardwood floors and a neon light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the exposed brick wall.

“It’s not about charity work,” says White.  “This is our community doing our own community work. What I’ve seen with SFWAR over the years is more clarity about the communities who need our support and figuring out ways to support them.”

The center provides one-on-one counseling, support groups, a twenty-four hour rape crisis hotline and prevention education.  It’s more than just a safe place for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, says director of community initiatives Sandra Sandoval.  Staff members are out on the field daily at schools, businesses and health clinics throughout the city presenting workshops on anything from sexual harassment, assault, anti-oppression, Internet violence to healthy relationships. They also table numerous events including SF State’s production of The Vagina Monologues. Staff also serve as advocates by accompanying women to court cases and doctor visits.

The anniversary celebration took place during domestic violence awareness month.  President Obama called it a national holiday in a proclamation last year, but it’s been celebrated since 1987.  Since sexual assault falls under the umbrella of domestic violence, SFWAR is celebrating its anniversary in October. White has worked in the movement to end violence against women for almost twenty years.  Like many women involved in the movement, she is a sexual assault survivor.

“I didn’t tell anyone about it for about a year after it happened,” says White. “Once I had done my own kind of healing, I knew I wanted to work in this movement. I felt like there was a place for me. It just made sense.”

She was a twenty-four-year old graduate student at University of Michigan. It happened inside, in a place where she thought she was supposed to be safe.  And it happened by someone she knew.

Women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are more likely to experience intimate partner violence than any other age group, according to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.  On college campuses across the country, one in four women will be the victim of sexual assault.

“It’s so important for people to be able to talk about their assault,” says White. “Women tend to just stuff it for so long. They don’t tell anybody, and it’s very sad.  It has a way of eating away at you.”

Janelle White sits in her office at SFWAR located in the Mission.
Janelle White sits in her office at SFWAR located in the Mission.

On campus, The SAFE Place is a resource for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking.  Students can visit the Safe Place, located in the Student Services Building Monday through Friday. Since half of all sexual assaults committed during college years involve alcohol consumption by either the perpetrator or victim, the SAFE Place’s prevention course focuses on alcohol use and its role in sexual assaults.  The second focus involves the role men play in sexual assault prevention.

“In the past, violence against women was considered a woman’s issue when in fact, men were perpetrating this violence,” says Ismael de Guzman, SFSU prevention education specialist.  “Shouldn’t we be part of that solution? Shouldn’t we be part of that conversation?”

His program, Men Can Stop Violence is one of few CSU campuses that incorporates men in its sexual assault prevention program.

As White rounds out her twentieth year of work in the movement to end violence against women, she hopes to continue to build up other advocates to one day fill her shoes.  Helping others deal with traumatic experiences daily can be draining, she says, but learning limits and boundaries is essential.  To avoid what is called secondary trauma for the advocate, she says you can’t let it rule you.  She is a foster volunteer for MickaCoo a volunteer network dedicated to rescuing pigeons and doves.  She also enjoys watching live music with her partner and has tickets to the Treasure Island Music Festival.

“When someone shares something really deeply with me, you know what they’re struggling with, I respect it and really engage with it,” says White.  “But when I get ready to leave SFWAR, I take it and put it in a nice, wrapped package. I put it in the closet and I close the door. It’s fine and safe there, but I don’t have to take it with me.”

Embracing All Sizes


When someone hears the word “model” most people picture this 6 foot tall ,a size two women with lots of confidence and a sense of power to take command on a fashion runway. However, Morgan Weinert sees the word “model” in a different light.

SF State held its annual Body Positive Week and first ever “All-Bodies Fashion Show,” where it supports both the love for fashion and the different shapes and sizes people may have. For one whole week, students participated in different activities and workshops to help them love the most important person in their lives, themselves.

To kick off Body Positive Week, Weinert created an activity involving a chalk outline of ones body. Students were asked to point out one part of their body that they liked and say why. They also had to pick one part of their body that they did not like and turn it into a positive.

Weinert produced the fashion show because, “fashion is a great way for people to reclaim their body.” While it was San Francisco Fashion Week, it was also Body Positive Week in the Residential Life community.

Weinert believed that by having a fashion show open to all sizes in which students could model their own wardrobe it would lessen students negativity about their weight. During Body Positive Week one of Weinert’s goals was for students to understand that being healthy goes beyond nutrition and exercise. She, in addition, believes one’s sexuality, emotionally being, and stress levels are also things to take into consideration with one‘s wellbeing.

Weinert has been the Health and Wellness Coordinator for Residential Life for about 6 months now. Weinert is responsible for developing and implementing workshops, presentations, and activities that help reduce harm to oneself. Such activities include sexual wellness, sexual assault, exercise, and nutrition.

The following day students listened to Virgie Tovar, an activist and lecturer on fat discrimination and body image. Tovar’s lecture revolved around having better sex through body love. The third day marked National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, held at Malcolm X Plaza. Students were able to get information regarding sexual health, nutrition through games and brochures. The event also revolved around raising awareness about violence against women in order to prevent it.

The fashion show was the grand finale of Body Positive Week. Having declared the show open to all shapes and sizes it “gave people the opportunity to be fashionable in their own body,” Weinert says. SF State student Rajit Sandhu who modeled in the show says, “I was nervous to go out on the runway but I was still confidant and owned my body.”

The fashion show was said to feature San Francisco stylist Zuriel Bautista, who is inspired by the diversity of modern popular culture, but due to an unfortunate car accident he was not able to attend. Bautista’s aesthetic is influenced most by his grandfather’s wardrobe from the 1970’s and his utility workwear. This altered the timeliness of the fashion show and how many looks went down the runway. Nevertheless, the show went on, and hopefully the show will continue to be says Weinert.

At the same time, the show featured a handful of student fashionistas, it also featured lines from 31 Rax and Nooworks. 31 Rax is thrift store that offers hand-picked, vintage clothing for men and women. Owner Stephanie Madrinan who was present at the All Bodies Fashion Shows says, “the clothing found at 31 Rax is out of my own closet.” The models strutted down the runway in dresses, tribal print pieces, and all paired with unique jewelry. This vintage thrift store will soon be featured solely online and will also feature extended sizes.

Nooworks features numerous artists who create prints, which are then turned into garments such as dresses, shirts, and or leggings. Nooworks is also a participating store that currently carries plus sizes up to 18, but they plan on expanding their sizes to 4x. The clothing featured at the show was showcased by SF State students as well by Morgan Weinert who wore colorful, bold printed leggings.

While the fashion show was the grand final Weinert also encouraged students to attend the Folsom Street Fair that Sunday. Weinert says, “Folsom is a great way for those you are recently on their own to explore.” College is a great time to create who you want to be and everyone should take advantage of that says Weinert.

If there was only one important thing that Weinert wanted students to take away from all of Body Positive Week was that everyone should be excited to reclaim their body and that we are only given one body so appreciate it.

The SF State community took a stand in representing all types of individuals through the fashion show, opening the door for other student fashionistas thanks to Weinert. If that was not enough of a milestone for fashion, one may want to know that this year there was the first ever plus-sized line featured in New York Fashion Week by designer Eden Miller. Fashion is for everyone no matter what size you are.

Finding the Flame


 By Maggie Ortins
Photos by Albert Ortins

Pulling up onto the Playa in his gold Lexus he is met by volunteers with green hair and colorful face masks. They open the door for him and tell him to get out and roll around in the dirt. My Dad is initiated into Burning Man.IMG_2115

“I guess it was their way of saying ‘here is the sand- you better get used to it,” he laughs with me. Covered in dust, with alien like goggles on his eyes and an orange bandana covering his nose he stood at the mouth of a giant circle. A circle made of people that have come from all over the world to watch a wooden man burn. Wearing my mothers hat. Wearing her wedding ring.

My dad is a pretty regular guy.  A former Naval officer, he works steady hours as an Registered Nurse for Kaiser Permanente in the intensive care unit, and watches sports on his down time.  He never really did anything wild or crazy. But after the recent passing of my Mom, I  knew that this experience could be a chance for him to branch out from his straight-laced lifestyle.

“Burning Man was good for me because it gave me a little bit of a shake up, and I needed a shake up.”

My mom and dad met while they were both in the Navy, but because my dad was an officer their relationship had to remain a secret until my mom was discharged and they got married. My mom was a kind soul who was raised Catholic and taught me and my brother to live modest lives and keep a religious faith. She didn’t let me wear make up growing up and made me and my brother go to Sunday school. My mom was my dad’s soul mate and he took care of her throughout her illness. It really was a labor of love.

“Your mom would have really frowned on the idea of me going to Burning Man. If she was still here she would have wanted nothing to do with it.” he says.  “Your mom and me were pretty conservative and quiet you know- we would just come home watch our sitcoms and be comfortable.”

“When my friends brought up the idea of going to Burning Man I had no intention of going- I thought it was crazy I thought only crazy people go- but then they told me about what was involved and I met all these people that had gone for years, some older than me.”

I was also thinking that my Dad would be out of place at Burning Man being 54 years old now with greying hair. But almost half of  those who attended Burning Man this year were over the age of 35 according to the 2013 Black Rock City Census.

My Dad was going with a group of seasoned burners under the tribe name “Dragon Ass”. He met with them a few times for Burning Man meetings to prepare for the trip. They helped him pick out various outfits for the trip- including the essential red tutu and fishnet stockings.


“You need clothes you can ride your bike in because that is the only way to get around really.”

Most importantly at Burning Man you do not want to be what they call a ‘dark wad’ which is someone who isn’t lit up at night. There aren’t any lights except for the lights you bring. My Dad strapped neon blue and green tube lights onto his body and bicycle and wore a fanny pack filled with batteries.

“Burning Man is so cool because there really isn’t a show- the people are the show” he says. “The techno music really added to the tribal atmosphere.”

Alongside the immaculate art installations that are scattered around the Playa there is a temple that is set to be burned along with the man at the end of the week. This year the temple was designed by Greg Flesimen and Melissa Barron of Oakland, CA.

The “Temple of Whollyness” as it was titled, for my Dad was the most spiritual part of Burning Man.  Burners write messages to loved ones or leave letters of farewell, knowing that it would all be burned away within days.IMG_2021

“I brought Mom’s favorite scarf, you know the green one, and left that on the altar along with a message – I wrote a few messages. I went to the temple like everyday to go read the messages. The first time I didn’t know what to expect and I lasted all of five minutes before I had to walk out of there blubbering.”

“But people there they would see you crying and they would just come up to you and give you a hug and tell you how much they loved you. There was a real sense of community and love. I shared my loss with people and people shared things with me. The messages on those walls were messages I could identify with.”

The reasons people go to Burning Man are as colorful and different as those who attend it. For my dad it started off as a trip to just try something new and have a good time, but it transformed into something more. The temple was able to serve almost as a wailing wall for him and the people around him. It was a place to find closure and comfort among others who were strange but not quite strangers

After talking with my dad about Burning Man I don’t think he has changed too much. He was always kind of that guy who would always sit in the same seat at the sports bar on Sundays. Those things haven’t changed- but he does seem to be more accepting of people and more willing to try new things with his life. Just the shake up he needed.

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Human Faces

Written by Mariana Barrera
Photo by Amanda Peterson


From the kimonos to the guys with the guitar, meet the spectrum of people that roam campus

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  • If you could have one dream come true, what would it be?
    “To be able to make a living doing what I love.”
    What’s been your happiest moment here at sf state?
    "I guess I have to pick the cheesy one…winning the talent show at welcome days."
    Sean Thompson, 20. Music Major
  • What is your biggest struggle at the moment?
    “Finding a place to stay in San Francisco, for sure. I’m just couchsurfing with my friends right now.”
    Ross Torres, 23. Philosophy major
  • What do you miss most about Osaka?
    “I miss the food. I don’t feel lonely here because there are a lot of Japanese people and international students.”
    Hiroumi Sano, 18, Business Major
  • What is the happiest moment you’ve had at SFSU?
    “Making a new friend. I’m not very good with social skills and it was difficult for me to make friends.“
    Emi McKenzie, 18, Biophysics Major
  • How long have you been playing?
    “I play at least twice a week. I’ve been doing it since grade school, but just for fun.”
    Adrian Martin,17. Microbiology Major
  • What’s your biggest dream?
    “It would be really awesome if I could be a full time dancer and also be someone people look at as a health coach, for dancers. That would be awesome.”
    Kwadwo Kumi-amankwah, 21, Health Education major
  • “I’m spinning poi, it’s an Polynesian cultural thing that they did I think to train for weapons training and coordination but I do it just for fun. These have led lights so at night you can turn them on. I also spin fire. I’ve synched some of my hair off before, I’ve burned some sections of arm hair off before and got my beard, but I’ve never gotten like seriously burned doing it.“
    Colin Ballou, 24, Earth Science major
  • Why’d you leave SFSU for a semester?
    “I’m kind of broke and kind of needed to get a job and did some traveling, I went to burning man, and went to Mexico."
    Do you feel like you’ve changed at all since you were here?
    “It’s really helping just in terms of finding out what I really want to do, because when you’re in school there’s so much pressure to find the right job.”
    Jakob Chew, 23, Health Education major
  • Pet peeve about students when you’re working at the pub?
    "They’re 21 and they’ve obviously never been in a bar before. I’ve gone from being annoyed to more like, let me help you this is how it’s done in a bar let me show you how you behave. You don’t cry at the bar, you don’t come in here and get crazy, you don’t creep out the girls. It’s like teaching the kids responsibility. I was an older student when I went here, and now I’m not old, but I’m not 21 anymore and you know what? I wish somebody would have helped me along; we’ve all been embarrassed after drinking too much.”
    Matt Cropp, 29, SFSU Alumni, History major
  • What was the best moment of your life?
    “Meeting her, she’s my best friend.”
    (left to right) Khairiah Alrobaidi and Maryam Khan, 18 & 18. Both undeclared majors

Barcelona After Dark

Photo by Babak Haghighi

By Babak Haghighi

It was my last night in Barcelona. The sangria-induced hangover was just starting to fade after a day full of Gaudí sightseeing, beach roaming, and paella eating. With an 8:16 a.m. train to Marseille, France the next morning, the smart thing to do would have been to have a low-key night—perhaps stay in at the hostel. But I didn’t come to Barcelona to be smart.

When in Spain, do as the Spanish do: Party. Hard. It was Friday night, after all. So I opted to join a pub crawl with some other travelers from my hostel. It was quite the international crowd, including Ala, a teacher from Poland whom I met in Madrid a few days earlier.

We headed out at 11:30 p.m., which is pretty early for Spain. A typical night out in Spain often starts at around 1 or 2 a.m., but I wasn’t complaining. We started out at Ryans Irish Pub—perhaps not the most authentic example of Catalan nightlife.

“¿Hablas inglés?” I asked the bartender, eager to show off my seven years worth of elementary Spanish knowledge.
He didn’t hear me over the noise, so I asked again.
“¿Hablas inglés?”
“Hmm?” he responded.
I asked once more.
“I can’t hear you, man,” he said in his North American accent.
He spoke English. I ordered a beer.

Downstairs, a group of American girls tilted their heads back and opened their mouths wide as the pub crawl leader poured liquor down each of their throats. Those inane Americans wouldn’t last the night—everyone knew it. This was no college dorm party with watered-down beer. This was Spain. This was Catalonia. This was Barcelona. The night was young.

“These American girls are crazy,” said Ala. I agreed. Not once during my six-month tour of Europe did I introduce myself as an American. I was Californian. There’s a difference, and everyone in Europe recognized it. Introduce yourself as American, and they grimace. Many people seem to have their mind set on what an American is like, and they want nothing to do with it. But introduce yourself as Californian, and their eyes light up, eager to learn more. Once you tell them you’re from San Francisco, jaws drop and shrieks of excitement fill the air. Many Western Europeans told me that they think of San Francisco as “the European city of America.” Not a bad reputation over there.

Four pubs and three hours later, it was time to end the night at a dance club. On this particular Friday night, Boulevard Culture Club, or BLVD as the locals know it, was the place to party. Located right in the middle of La Rambla, the busiest street in the heart of Barcelona’s city center, BLVD is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The young, international crowd and variety of music make it a worthy party venue, but even with three dance floors it remains one of the city’s more low-key night clubs.


Photo by Babak Haghighi
Photo by Babak Haghighi

The Polish Ala hits the dance floor. Before long, she notices her purse is open and her belongings are missing—particularly one iPhone and one wallet.

Barcelona is no stranger to pickpockets. TripAdvisor, among many other travel websites, lists Barcelona as the number one place in the world to beware pickpockets and specifically distinguishes La Rambla as a hotspot for wallet snatchers.

In Ala’s case, the pickpocket watched her as she danced the night away. Distracted by the good music and good vibes, she failed to notice the pickpocket open her purse and steal her phone and wallet. She searched the floors helplessly and ran back to the hostel in distress.

“They pickpocketed me in style,” said Ala. “You really have to have your eyes wide open all the time.”

With my own wallet still in my back pocket where I left it, I continued to enjoy my last night in Barcelona. Once I realized I was the only person left standing from the pub crawl group, I stepped outside for a cigarette—one which would spark a six-month chain-smoking session in true European fashion. Outside, I met a friendly group of Germans. Nina led the pack, accompanied by her friends Kirillo, Kai, and Man, who were visiting Nina from their hometown, Düsseldorf. Nina had recently moved to Barcelona and worked as a bartender.

It was late. I had a train to catch in two hours. The nightclub was closing. In most parts of Spain, Barcelona included, the nightlife shuts down at around 6 a.m. The streets are dark. Empty. Lifeless. What was, just minutes ago, a vibrant playground for drunken debauchery is turned into a barren neighborhood of sketchy streets and sketchy people.

What the guidebooks don’t tell you is that at 6:01, a new side of Barcelona opens up.

“We’re going to get some food,” said Nina. “Do you want to join us?”

Most people would think to call it a night. I did have a train to catch, after all. But I was determined to let the good times roll. I joined them, curious as to where one gets food in Barcelona at six in the morning after a long night out.

The city was dead. Business hours were over, as evidenced by the aluminum garage doors covering the windows and entrances of nearly every building. Nothing was open. Or so it seemed.

Nina approaches one of the aluminum doors of a seemingly closed shop and knocks. Lo and behold, a man opens a hidden door and lets us into his diner. The place is packed. The cooks are hard at work at the grill as if it’s the lunch rush at In-N-Out. We sit at a table and each order a breakfast burger and a beer. Nina helps me order, as both the Catalan and Spanish languages are mysteries to me—at least as far as burger menus go.

Germans seem to have a reputation for lacking a sense of humor, yet we still shared laughs as we poked fun at each other’s names, among other things. As we waited for our food, Nina’s bartending colleague, Francesca, walked in. Francesca, a beautiful brunette from Italy, had just gotten off work.

“I’m ready to party!” she shouted.

It was nearing 7 a.m. when we left the diner. The sun was out now. The Germans said their goodbyes and called it a night. But Francesca was just getting started.

“Let’s get a drink,” said Francesca.
I had a train to catch in just over an hour.
“I’ll buy,” she said.
I was sold.

Photo by Babak Haghighi

Francesca moved to Barcelona from Italy just a few months earlier. It didn’t take her long to learn the secrets of the Catalan capital, and she was glad to show me the ropes.

“Sow how do you know Nina?” she asked.
“Oh… I met her a couple of hours ago,” I responded.
“Well what are you doing in Barcelona?” she asked.
“Just traveling.”
“All by yourself?”
She found this to be both fascinating and crazy.

But Francesca was fascinating and crazy herself. Standing no taller than 5’2”, the curly-haired Italian was an independent woman of wild energy. She envied my travel plans and hoped one day to do the same.

“A journalist, wow!” she exclaimed.

To call her a free spirit would be an understatement. She wore a collection of Rasta-colored wristbands on both of her arms, making her fit in well in Barcelona. She was a fan of marijuana, as it is a huge part of the liberal Catalan and Barcelonan culture.

Francesca leads me southwest along the beachside promenade towards the Port of Barcelona. She was about to show me one of the most intriguing secrets of Barcelona’s late-night afterlife. Francesca walks up to another building covered up by aluminum doors. She knocks, and once again, a hidden door opens. Inside, a busy and bustling bar awaits. Classy Spanish jazz plays from a jukebox in the back. Nearby, groups of friends play foosball and billiards on their respective tables. Well-over 75 patrons sit at the surrounding tables and chat over food and drink. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tourists need not apply here. It felt like a speakeasy from 1920s Atlantic City, hidden from the rest of the city. After three days of sightseeing and tourist attractions, this was a refreshing change of pace.

Francesca and I sat at the bar. I had less than an hour to catch my train. When in Spain, do as the Italians do (apparently), and take shots of Jägermeister at 7 a.m. She ordered each of us a shot as well as a side of Patatas Bravas, one of Spain’s greatest tapas dishes. The tapa consists of small slices of fried potato covered in a delicious spicy tomato sauce. But Francesca disliked spicy food, so she ordered a mayonnaise sauce instead. It made for one hell of a chaser.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so came to an end my trip to Barcelona. It was 7:45 a.m. and I was taking shots in a hidden bar in the middle of who-knows-where. With a kiss on the cheek, I bid farewell to Francesca but promised we’d meet again. My train was going to leave in half an hour, so I rushed back to the hostel, ignoring the pain from the blisters on my feet. I walked into the hostel and the receptionist gave me a smile. She knew I had a good night in Barcelona. Within minutes I packed my bags packed and checked out.

“I have a train in 15 minutes,” I told the receptionist as I left.
“Uh-oh,” she said.

I learned the secrets of Barcelona’s nightlife. I saw the things they hide from tourists like myself. That 8:16 train to Marseille left, along with its dozens of passengers. I was not one of them.