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Oh, Bother!

willie & 49er headlock

The Metropolitan's First Annual List
of San Francisco's People, Places
and Things That Bug Us

Text by the Metropolitan Staff

Illustrations by Steven DeCinzo

The bumper sticker about trees was wrong. Annoyance is America's really renewable resource, and what goes for this great nation of ours holds especially true for San Francisco. We may not be as smart as Boston, as rich as New York or as fabulous as Los Angeles, but pound for pound we've got the most irritating people, places and things on the planet.

Theories abound about why San Francisco boasts such a preponderance of annoyingness. It might spring from the foggy weather, the whiny leftist political culture, or grating insecurity that comes from worrying that perhaps San Francisco isn't quite the best of all possible cities we imagine it to be.

Don't despair, though: San Francisco has been a magnet for human nuisances since time immemorial.

Think of our city's illustrious figures of decades past and how highly they rate on the annoyance meter. In retrospect, the Beats may seem safe and charming, but at the time they were in all likelihood real pains to have as neighbors, what with their stinky pot smoking, carousing and bongo playing into the wee hours. Jack London? A drunken commie boor. Emperor Norton? The proto- Wesley Willis village idiot, for Chrissakes.

Given how the kindly hand of history has smoothed and buffed the reputations of the aforementioned nerve-getters-on, our current honorees should take hope. In another few decades, memories of their annoyingness may have faded and they, too, may join the ranks of beloved San Francisco annoyances. So, without further ado, the staff at The Metropolitan presents our nominations for those 50 Horseflies of the Apocalypse, San Francisco's most annoying people, places, and things.

1. Mick LaSalle
When this pseudonymous "critic" dies (real name: Albert Agate) and is called before the Heavenly Creator, God will pause a moment remembering how Mick/Al, in his capacity as Channel 7's critic, once promoted a series of 1930s pre-Hays Code movies at the Roxie Theater, thus helping out quality film for a change instead of drooling over the curves of the actresses in the new releases. Perhaps that will help God remember that when He made the human race, He gave it the capacity for good as well as evil. Then He'll throw the switch that controls the trapdoor.

2. Susie Bright
Sex-addled writer/activist. We're more familiar with the workings of this woman's reproductive system than we were with Reagan's polyp-lined colon back in the late 1980s. Burping is another pleasurable, infinitely varied bodily function, but you don't see people devoting their lives and writing careers to that.

francis ford crapola

3. Francis Ford Coppola
How much longer are we going to have to walk out of his movies telling ourselves, "It's not his fault, it's Hollywood's fault."

4. Cintra Wilson
She moved to New York to pursue her playwrighting career because San Francisco was too small-time for her, so why does she insist on writing about her memories of adolescent decadence for the local press? Omygod, you hung out at the Mabuhay Gardens and did drugs in the '80s? How novel! Tell us more!

5. Lisa Palac
See Susie Bright, above. Is this town really big enough for two self-promoting, highbrow sex writers? We think a duel-to-the-death showdown is in order, at high noon in front of the Valencia Street Good Vibrations storefront. Lubricated Hitachi intimate massage wands at 20 paces?

6. Mark Pauline and Survival Research Laboratories
We had friends back in junior high who blew up animals, set fire to their Star Wars action figures and had a weird, sexualized fascination with military hardware. Only then they just called the little bastards sadists and forced them into counseling. On second thought, these guys know how to make bombs, so we'd better not mess with them.

7. Larry Harvey and Burning Man
So 10,000 people get naked in the desert and this guy goes out and lectures on "Burning Man and its relationship to modern culture and the psychology of sacredness." Whatever.

8. The general manager and owners of KSFO
All hate, all the time. Now that's what we call targeted programming.

9. Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 bashers
Say what you will about these two tourist ghettos, they sure do keep the idiots out of the rest of San Francisco, thank the Goddess.

10. The architects responsible for the new main library
Can you imagine the approval procedure? "No, it's not alienating enough. Make it more alienating. We want the patrons to come in and shiver in terror." And couldn't they jampack more corporate sponsors in there? Maybe they could sign up Kimberly-Clark to sponsor the men's rooms.


11. Woody Harrelson
If he wants to clean up the environment so much, why doesn't he stop making movies like The Money Train and The Cowboy Way?

12. Quentin Kopp
For wanting to make it a felony to obstruct the Golden Gate Bridge. This is typical political pussyfooting; why doesn't he make it a capital crime and just pitch anyone obstructing the bridge over the side?

13. Calvin Klein
He doesn't live here, but he's done a remarkable job of making the city horrible with his ghastly adverts. Wiseacres who wrote "Feed Me" across the faces of the colossal-sized Market Street kiosk billboards of starvelings missed out when they changed it to a just-out-of-a-concentration-camp waif with a shaved head--"Feed me and give me a wig."

14. Patricia Holt
Here's a mystery for you--why is it that the book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle only reads books with murders in them?

15. Free-range pit bulls and their owners
What do you get when you cross a pit bull with a collie? A dog that chews your arm off and then runs for help. San Francisco is ridden with these menacing, incontinent curs, accidents waiting to happen. The latest style: a brace of the psychotic animals in tandem, to be especially big and bad. Worse yet are the people who let these dangerous hounds run free a few paces in front of them. No wonder Trainspotting was such a hit.

16. Dave Eggers
Of smarter feller. Jesus, this guy gives supercilious a bad name. He's every cool person who made fun of our hair, taunted us for listening to REO Speedwagon, and generally made us feel inadequate when we were in high school. Next to Eggers, David Letterman seems like Norman Vincent Peale in the cynicism department.

17. Jello Biafra
Fans of John Lennon could always blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of his first and greatest band and his embarkation on a long, boring solo career. So what's Jello's excuse? Our advice: Leave the spoken-word performances to Spalding Gray, re-form the Dead Kennedys, and run for mayor again on a platform of hunting down and bludgeoning the little bastards who jumped you at Gilman Street.

18. That Chinese restaurant on 19th Avenue at the south end of Golden Gate Park
We've been inside, and the food's great. But my God, the color! On the bright side, that particular shade of algae green has certainly kept the graffiti taggers away. We guess they figured vandalizing the exterior would be redundant.

19. Chris Isaak
"Somebody's cryin'," all right. We sure did while watching him try to act in Little Buddha. He made Keanu Reeves look positively Kevin Spacey-like.

video store jerk

20. Pretentious video store clerks
If we're in the mood for a Pauly Shore comedy or Beaches rather than the latest Ukrainian sci-fi masterpiece or a celluloid autobiography by some goateed loser like yourself, we expect you to hop to it without giving us any attitude. Nobody's paying three bucks to watch you sneer, pal, so do us all a favor and keep your bitterness at having had your brilliant assemblage of found 16mm footage rejected for inclusion at Sundance to yourself you're driving us all back to Blockbuster.

21. "Irreverent" bookstore clerks
These tend to inhabit the most patronized of literary repositories. Asking them questions is like asking a Zen Master to unveil the mysteries of the universe. They contain infinite knowledge of the all and are only willing to reveal their enlightening information without an egregious rolling of the eyes when asked about pulp fiction and comic books.

22. The "Coffee Mafia"
It was bound to happen in a city that hosts a blitzkrieg of cafes. Yes, one family, with a seemingly innumerable quantity of "cousins," owns numerous of these apparently independent neighborhood coffee places. You know, the ones with the tasteless wooden bench seating and the coffee with caffeine so addictive that a follow-up trip to the nearest drug-rehabilitation clinic is necessary. We suppose it beats having one's neighborhood invaded by Starbucks, but still, patronizing one of these establishments makes one feel a little like pre-World War II Finland, fending off Russian encroachment by inviting in ... Germany?

23. Twenty-five-year-old South Park
multimedia tycoons

We went to college for four years so that the geeks down the hall who spent every Friday night in front of the Unix terminal searching the Net for downloadable nude pictures of Counselor Troi could grow up to make 50 times more money than the rest of us?

24. "Rave" organizers
Stand in the middle of a group of Concord teenagers. Set your Casio keyboard to 300 beats per minute. Now close your eyes and rub them really hard with your knuckles. There. You've just saved yourself $100 worth of tickets, smart drinks and Ecstasy.

25. Dianne Feinstein
While Barbara Boxer's been kicking tail and taking names on the Senate floor, you've shape-shifted into the female Pete Wilson, bashing immigrants and fulminating about smut on the Web.

26. Young couples with kids in S.F.
Want a family? Move to Walnut Creek like everyone else. Why have kids and remain in San Francisco? So you can take junior down the street for his first body piercing? It's people like you who make it impossible to drive down Noe or Bay at 50 miles an hour without hitting a stroller.

27. Willie Brown
A lil' hint, Willie: When Chuck D from Public Enemy said, "Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me," he was talking about the singer buried at Graceland.

28. The S.F. media
For building Willie up, then knocking him down by baiting him into making tasteless comments on Elvis Grbac.

29. Elvis Grbac
For soaking up sympathy for all it was worth after Da Mayor's insult. You did play pretty lousy, pal.

30. Matier and Ross
We'd like to see these two weenie columnists say all that mean stuff about D.A. Terrence "Kayo" Hallinan to his face, so they could see how he acquired his nickname.

31. John Marr
Publisher of the Murder Can Be Fun zine. Sure, we laughed our asses off while reading this zine's issue devoted to zoo deaths (the teenager-hunting lions of Portland, Ore., were a highlight), but we felt really guilty afterward. What if some impressionable kid gets ahold of an issue and gets inspired to swim with the polar bears at the S.F. Zoo? Bet you'd be sorry then, pal.

32. Ti Couz
Whether the driving force behind the thousand points of trendy crêperies in every neighborhood south of the Tenderloin has been good or bad for the city is beside the point. And the attitude ... well, crêpes are French, after all, so pretension and heightened self-importance are to be expected. What's really galling is that Ti Couz does not allow you to pack up your leftovers. Come again? "I'm sorry, monsieur, vee feel you should not order more zan you can eat. Vee do not want to harm zee environment with those wasteful doggie bags."

33. Linda Perry
Formerly of 4 Non-Blondes. Way to trade in your newly successful band for the joys of solo obscurity. We saw you play at the Fillmore reopening show, and for a brief moment thought one of the gelflings from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal had wandered onstage.

34. Ike-Era Flashbacks

    A. The lounge revival
    There's nothing quite like the self-reflexive regurgitation of an old fad. Lounge has reared its ugly head again (still clad in a paisley silk robe, armed with martini and cigar, and crooning its salacious and tastelessly euphonious anthems.) But transport one of these cocktail-nation Rat Pack wannabes back to the real Eisenhower era, and he'd soon be shrieking for his gourmet coffee and cable television.

    B. The Beat revival
    Wasn't living through this once tough enough? Take a shower, write a limerick and do a Nike commercial already. It was good enough for Burroughs.

35. Mime Troupe Graying Ponytails

    A. Dennis Peron
    The medical marijuana initiative and cannabis buyers' club maven reminds us of one of those stereotypical Irish priests in old movies who are caught quaffing a flask of spirits, only to piously declare in a lilting brogue: " 'Tis for medicinal purposes only, laddie."

    B. Keith McHenry and Food Not Bombs
    Demonizing the squares who have a problem with psychotic vagrants urinating on their doorsteps is no way to win converts to a worthy cause. And beards that ratty went out with Rasputin.

    C. KPFA
    True, it's based in Berkeley, but this station has more than its share of drawstring-pants-wearing, fur-eschewing, Body Shop oil-slathered listeners in S.F., to judge from the numbers of bumper stickers we see around town. (Our favorite: the sticker affixed to a Range Rover, right next to the one reading "Live simply, so others may simply live.")

    D. Anyone who talks about the Presidio, on either side of the debate
    Relax, people. Dust off that frisbee, pack a lunch, lay out a blanket and try simply to enjoy yourself.

36. Moving Violations

    A. Traffic lights on the Embarcadero
    Whatever happened to timing? (A small but noteworthy irony: The Embarcadero's walkway is named after a sometime-drummer, Herb Caen.) Driving the Embarcadero used to be one of San Francisco's true pleasures, especially after the freeway came down: up-close views of the skyline at an uninterrupted 35 mph. But now, with all those damnable new stoplights installed, this is like a drive through Vegas. And while we're at it, how about the traffic department retiming the lights out on 19th? Not so long ago, a bit of pedal mastery could get you from one end of the city to another with nary a stop. But now take a book along.

    B. No left turn on Market
    Who do we have to blow around here to make a left turn to go shopping?

    C. The San Francisco traffic junta
    There are 750,000 parking-violation horror stories in the naked city. Think of one of them.

    D. The head of the MUNI
    The most loathed man in San Francisco. The new logo looks nice, though.

    E. Fake cable car buses
    Would even rubes from Indiana be fooled by these wheeled monstrosities? Back to the Rice-a-Roni ads with you!

    F. Critical Mass cyclists
    If we wanted to get stuck behind a procession of weirdos on wheels, we'd join the Shriners parade.

37. The Exotic Erotic Ball
The Beach Boys line was "two girls for every boy," not "five sweaty, chubby, middle-aged guys with camcorders for every semi-nude girl," okay? Our favorite memory of walking down there in a vain attempt to ogle at unclad babes without paying the horrifying cover charge (despite the advice of friends who said it was an idiotic idea): It was 1990, the year the movie Dick Tracy came out--that one where Warren Beatty should have played Pruneface?--and coming out of the door there were all of these lost souls from Belmont in yellow raincoats and fedoras chasing their outraged dates who had stomped out in a fury. "Honey, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

38. J.C. Decaux toilets and "street furniture"
The neo-Victorian design of these eyesores provides yet more evidence of San Francisco's deep-seated Anglophilia and cultural insecurity. We're dreading the day they start making the cops wear "bobby" hats.

39. Nash Bridges
To be sure, it comes closer to the glory days of The Streets of San Francisco than the execrable Midnight Caller, but we wish Don Johnson would start wearing 10-inch-wide paisley ties like Michael Douglas used to.

40. Anyone who hangs out at Tosca
They never ask us to join their reindeer games, so we're gonna start our own pretentious gathering place, and name it after our favorite opera. Er, how does The Who's Tommy strike you?

41. Bay to Breakers
This garish, overcrowded excuse for a race kills more weak-hearted, out-of-shape would-be athletes each year than auto-erotic asphyxiation.

42. Beach Blanket Babylon
Well, it's more entertaining than The Phantom of the Opera. Then again, so's the crazy guy who screams underneath the window at 3am.

43. Rose Pistola
This restaurant is good, but incredibly overhyped. And waiting two hours for a plate of olives or shaved cheese is not our idea of a good time.

theater review guy

44. The Little Man
in the Chair

Holds the S.F. theater scene in as tyrannical a grasp as Frank Rich's in the New York of the 1980s.

45. Howard Rheingold
The purple-pants-wearing cyber guru dude took the once-great Whole Earth Review/Co-evolution Quarterly and turned it into yet another "aren't computers great?" techno-wankfest. And if his new "Electric Minds" Web site is the future of human communication, get us the tin can and strings.

46. The San Francisco Zoo
Yeah, sure, the gorilla habitat is nice and the gentle giants there look as content as customers at Zuni. But the poor elephants and polar bears and a bunch of other animals still pace in "environments" right out of the Gulag. The closed-down "Monkey Island" hasn't changed since Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross visited it in The Graduate. And if you want real horror, check out the Lion House. The zookeepers cry "Funding!" of course, and perhaps that is indeed the real annoyance. An ecologically sensitive city like San Francisco needs an ecologically sensitive zoological park, if there is going to be one at all. We need to do it right. We sure aren't right now.

47. suck.com
The hip, self-mocking face of the corporate-dominated new media, and about as authentic and home-grown as Red Dog beer or Starbucks. Is that a Lexus you're driving, fellas, or are you just glad to see me?

48. 3-Com Park
Candlestick is well-known for its charms and absurdities, and that's the way it should stay--well-known as "Candlestick." Selling out the name to a Silicon Valley corporation is Dallasism. Two years later, we're still stunned that the protectors of our heritage allowed this to happen. No wonder Fast Eddie wants a new playpen.

49. Undereducated, overly jaded journalists setting themselves up as arbiters of hipness and
... hey! Who stuck that one in here?

And a Special Lifetime Achievement Award goes to:

50. Wired Magazine, Wired Ventures and
their cyber-strongman, Louis
"Let them eat Web sites" Rossetto

When the revolution comes, he and his entire staff will be frog-marched down Market Street by the SoMa sweatshop workers who made their privileged lives possible, before they're hauled off to the Humboldt County People's Reforestation and Re-education Through Labor Camp (formerly Pacific Lumber headquarters), so they can see the benefits of the unfettered free market in action firsthand.

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From the January 1997 issue of the Metropolitan

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