April Chronicle Shop Notes

Send gossip, titillating trivia and scandal to: srubenstein@sfchronicle.com

Travel editor Spud Hilton blows his own horn monthly with the Joyful Noise Jazz Band in El Sobrante. The hot air goes in the skinny end and the metal thing transforms it into the joyful noise. Copy isn't all that Spud makes sing.
Travel editor Spud Hilton blows his own horn monthly with the Joyful Noise Jazz Band in El Sobrante. The hot air goes in the skinny end and the metal thing transforms it into the joyful noise. Copy isn’t all that Spud makes sing.

Who says an ergonomics workshop is ho-hum?  Not us.  In fact, it’s practically X-rated.  Consider these words of advice from the Chronicle’s amazing ergonomist, Anna Brock: “Some employees really want to be on top (of the desk)” and “You really have to wedge your butt into the crack (of the chair)” and “Have a light touch” and “There is no way to sustain this for 6 to 8 hours.”   Much talk of only doing things that feel good. Then the students were instructed to touch themselves and pull on various extremities.  We are not making this up, by the way.  Be sure to sign up for the next action-packed ergonomics workshop, coming soon!

Where can you find a biography of the Girl from U.N.C.L.E., the 2009 S.F. Yellow Pages, a zombie songbook, a guide to reading Tarot cards, a collection of photos of kids crying on department store Santas’ laps and a terrific 1995 column collection by the Chronicle’s own Adair Lara (with introduction by Jon Carroll, who wrote, “Think of the casual grace of Billie Holiday, Adair’s work has the same disciplined longing.”)?  At Joe and Fi’s amazing take-one-leave-one book rack, that’s where. Don’t bother looking for Adair’s book; Curiouser and Curiouser already snagged it. But the zombie songbook still up for grabs…If it’s Sunday night, be sure to tune in “Minds Over Matter,” a call-in quiz show on SF public radio station KALW in the wait-wait-don’t-tell-me style starring Leah Garchik, Josh Kosman  and former Chronicle columnist Jerry Nachman.  The questions are tough and, as in life, there are no prizes for being correct.  Shopnotes Quiz (these questions taken from the radio show): What Bay Area transit system carries millions of passengers a year on its 38 cars for free?  What quiz show host once told a woman contestant with 12 children that he loves his cigar, too,  “but I take it out of my mouth every once in a while”?  In what famous movie does the hero crumple up a Dear John letter at the Gare de Lyon?  Answers below…Great brooders make a great paper:  Andy Behr tells us that San Francisco hardware maven Karl Aguilar was referred to in a photo caption as “broodingly handsome Kurt Aguilar.” We couldn’t agree more…For newbies, by the way, that  “great brooders” line is a riff on the Chronicle’s old advertising slogan, “Great People Make a Great Paper.”  The slogan may be defunct but the sentiment isn’t…What Chronicle fun couple never leaves the house in the morning without playing three bluegrass tunes together?

Dave Wiegand’s office door lock is still broken and he says it is entirely possible for a passerby to lock him inside so that he cannot get out.  Should that happen, he has Angus the wonder dog for solace.  Angus recently had life-altering surgery but all is forgiven…Yes, it’s true, if you rearrange the letters in Walter Addiego, you get “Dilate Dowager” (we’re not advocating it, Walter) and Michael Bauer turns out to be an “amiable ruche” (trim on a garment).  For those who thought the two Zs in Hamed Aleaziz would get the better of Curiouser and Curiouser, we submit “I’d Amaze Hazel” (Hamed amazes everyone, so why not her?)  Kimberly Chua is a “hirable mucky” and Chris Crescibene is just the fellow to “inscribe creches” ……Speaking of bathrooms, one veteran reporter’s bathroom scale has become a newsroom fixture for office weigh-ins and certain weight-loss wagers.  After one lithe red-haired reporter gamely climbed aboard, a quick calculation revealed that one pound of her was the equivalent of two pounds of the reporters who sit across from her.  The numbers on the scale did fluctuate wildly the day after the Chronicle’s terrific all-dessert Thirsty Thursday, a truly memorable event even if some were calling it Tubby Thursday…It seems that the wind section of the amazing Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of SF owes a great debt to the Chronicle, as the troupe now includes Jill Tucker’s son, flutist Zack Skinner — who is performing some of the same tunes blasted out by two former members of the band, the trumpet-playing son (Will) and trombone-playing daughter (Anna) of copy editor (and unit chair) Caroline Grannan…Answers to Shop Notes Quiz:  AirTrain at SFO, Groucho Marx, “Casablanca”….Which city desk editor, just back from a week in smog-encrusted Mexico City, reports on deep background that you do not want to know what is floating in the famed floating gardens.

It’s true!  The office dress code has been revised!  No, we didn’t know we had one, either.  “If you are unsure whether an article of clothing is unacceptable, most likely it is. Employees who are dressed inappropriately or otherwise display an unprofessional appearance may be sent home,” says the new code.  Sound good to us, especially the part about getting to go home early.  More aloha shirts!…Evan Sernoffsky and Elissa Harrington took time off from caring for their amazing kid, the indomitable Dominic, in order to raise their right hands and sign off on the for-richer-for-poorer deal.  Many  congratulations…The amazing John Blanchard commutes by bicycle from Fairfax and it hardly matters that his bicycle has a rechargeable electric motor in it and that sometimes he and the bike get a lift from the Larkspur ferry, he’s still amazing…Baby You Can’t Drive My Car Dept.:  Kimmy Veklerov jumped out of an Uber car in mid-ride when the creepy driver wouldn’t go where she asked him to…FYI, Curiouser and Curiouser would be overjoyed to print news about any and all Chronicle folks and not just (in the words of one dear colleague) THE SAME PEOPLE YOU ALWAYS WRITE ABOUT — but you have to tell him what it is.   Send an e-mail with any news, no matter how libelous, to stevenpaulrubenstein@gmail.com.  Get even with your worst enemy, for free!  All confidences respected, like it says in the ethics code.  Besides, as you can tell, Curiouser and Curiouser sets the veracity bar relatively low.  Write that e-mail now, while you’re still mad and not thinking straight.

We never get tired of free cake but we do get tired of saying goodby to so many wonderful folks, the latest being the legendary Chip Johnson, who said at his farewell gathering in the newsroom that he will greatly miss the three times a year he came into the office.  This was echoed by Audrey Cooper, who called Chip a “brave, smart and unapologetic voice” (and said with a smile that she first met him six months ago), and by Jeff Johnson, who said he had run into Chip a total of three times “and I feel I’m about average.”   Chip’s editor, Suzanne Espinosa, praised his  “built-in bullshit detector, which is attached to his mouth.”  Chip is heading back to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio (where, as a teenager, he remembers buying sandwiches from convenience store clerk, Oberlin College student and, later, Chronicle copy editor Margo Freistadt). He plans to enter the lucrative freelance journalism market.  “I hope the Chronicle goes on for 500 years,” he said.  Us, too… Meanwhile, the only thing finance maven John Sillers says he has to worry about in retirement is staying out of the room in their house where his wife, Corazon, paints her watercolors.  “It’s the safest way,” he said.  John, a 31-year veteran, will be traveling to Nashville, Puerto Vallarta and Scandinavia, not all at the same time, and also taking care of four grandchildren and trying his hand at gardening…And Rob Hurwitt, at his going-away cake-athon, recalled with a grin that, as a college student, he saved his very first published review, of NYU’s production of “As You Like It” in order to “remind myself how pompous I was.”  No, we don’t believe he was, either.

It’s hard for Curiouser and Curiouser to imagine 901 Mission Street without Allen Matthews in it.  Nobody loved the Voice of the West more.  Chronicle ink flowed through Allen’s veins for nearly three decades and, on the day he left, he wore his Little Man necktie throughout.  The Little Man’s chair is empty right now because the Little Man is off someplace, hanging his head.

Cathy Shen, who held various editing positions at the Chronicle nearly four decades ago with grace and skill, has died of pancreatic cancer.  In an online interview about the old days holding court in the northwest corner of the building, she reflected on introducing former managing editor Matt Wilson to wine and sushi when he was fresh out of Cal and working in her department.  She also praised the abilities of her editorial assistant, who was “very effective…answering the phone.”  (that’s probably why Curiouser and Curiouser married her)…Erin Allday, Erin Brethauer and Tim Russin led a newsroom tour for the AIDS survivors they’d profiled for the Last Man Standing project.  The guests were given the celebrity treatment and Chronicle swag and, despite the title, were allowed to sit down during their visit….Nixon’s the One Dept.:  Peter Hartlaub tells Shopnotes that “man-spreading” on BART would disappear if riders would only follow the example of one of its first riders, Richard Nixon, who took a ceremonial trip from San Leandro to Lake Merritt  in 1972 (he didn’t pay his fare, of course) and, as captured by the great Chronicle photographer Larry Tiscornia, kept his knees together and hands politely folded on his lap.  Nixon, like the button says, now more than ever!

— Curiouser and Curiouser

Author Image
Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *