Chronicle Shopnotes, 21st century version

They’re back! Send scoops and all the gossip that’s fit to print to, call or text to 415/412-5758, or find Curiouser and Curiouser in the newsroom.

Leah “Freckles” Garchik took time off from online Scrabble to visit her new grandkid, Abraham, in Fairfield, Iowa.  Abe’s arrival coincided with another action-filled event, the Iowa Caucus, so grandma Leah did some lissome leg work and covered both Midwestern democracy and infancy in their equally messy glory. … The Irish Newsboys, Kevin Fagan’s ragtag assemblage of wannabe musicians, performs the first Friday night of each month at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant and watering hole near Union Square.  You never know who will show up — last year, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny dropped by briefly and heard that great baritone (and former front page editor) Jay Johnson belt out a mournful tune about death, love and drink.  Actually all the Newsboy tunes are about death, love and drink.  Rounding out the Newsboys are Josh Zucker and Steve Rubenstein — along with Ellen Huet,  retired Trib veteran Bob Loomis, Catherine McSharry, and rock legends and famed Woodstock veterans Barry Melton (Country Joe and the Fish) and Peter Albin (Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company).  Sadly missed is the departed Greta Kaul with her soulful cello, now waltzing across  Texas.  Among the regulars who show up to listen are former newsroom denizens Mike Taylor, John Curley, Jack Breibart and Jan Goben.  The Newsboys  have also been featured as a “bonus” event for Chronicle subscriber “members,” who get a free drink if they can make it all the way to intermission.

Former Guild member Audrey Cooper’s preschooler, Cole, was the recipient of a brand new harmonica, courtesy of a Guild shop steward who knows how to make management sit up and take notice.  Audrey says Cole plays it around the house devotedly and at ear-splitting volume, which was the idea. … Who woulda thunk it?  Sweet Jill Tucker and her husband, BANG photographer Kristopher Skinner, do a brisk side business re-selling garage and estate sale treasures on Etsy.  Hottest items are tiki mugs, old clocks, paint-by-number paintings and slide rules  (The eagle-eyed Jill recently snagged a tiki mug for $2 and resold it for $110)…Terry Robertson likes Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream. … Shopnotes fun fact:  The landmark Art Deco Ryde Hotel in the Sacramento Delta was formerly owned by the family of Allen Matthews. … Hikers on Mount Tam keep running into retired reporter Kevin Leary, who treks there almost daily. … Latest of the countless Guild benefits is the candy in the office candy dispenser near the copy desk.  Jelly beans are out, by the way, and M&Ms are in.  The Guild listens!

Shopnotes Quiz!   Match the person with his or her long-distance commute:   Michelle Devera, Demian Bulwa, Tara Vinson,  Eric Branch, Tom Steinstra, Tom FitzGerald,  The cities:  Petaluma, Weed, Stockton, Benicia, Martinez, Tracy.  Answers below. … Dept. of Hallowed Ground:  People who get caught short in the Twitter lounge and make use of the small WC are actually utilizing the former private bathroom of top Chronicle editors Bill German and Phil Bronstein, who reportedly did not use it at the same time. … Shopnotes Quiz, the Sequel!  Match the lyric of the Kevin Fagan tribute song with the departed staff member for which it was written:   1.  “meow, meow, meow”   2. “tiger with a pen”  3. “digital media warrior”   4. “The hooker picked her scabs and took a shower just for you.”   The departed:  Jon Carroll, Carolyn Jones, Vlae Kershner, Will Kane.  Answers below. … Here’s a freebie.  The goodby song for the great Bernie Beck explained the importance of a comma with the lyric, “Bernie knows that ‘Let’s eat, Grandma,’ ‘s not the same as ‘Let’s eat Grandma.’ ”  And now we do, too.

True or False?: In a former job,  Deb Wandell used to dress as a dinosaur and serve fried chicken.  Answer: false.  (She used to dress as a pirate and serve pizza.) … True or false redux:  Evan Sernoffsky was a world-renowned bassist with the legendary hard rock band Rock and Roll Soldiers.  Answer:  true.  Their big hit?  “Funny Little Feeling.”   Almost as noisy is Evan’s new son, Dominic. … None other than Bill “Hutch” Hutchinson is an acclaimed pencil-and-acrylic folk artist who has had one-man shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn galleries.  Inspirations for some of his stunning paintings have come from such cheery news stories as a religious cult murder and the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing. … Strange But True:  Morris, the nickname of Marshall Kilduff, came to him decades ago by way of madman and murderer Rev. Jim Jones.   His Peoples Temple christened  Kilduff with that name because of the way Marshall stealthily covered the cult like Morris the Cat of TV commercial fame.  The nickname stuck. … And now, to honor the memory of that great Guild member and three-dot columnist Herb Caen and his equally amazing right-hand woman, the late Carole Vernier (who could change a typewriter ribbon like nobody’s business),  here come three dots… Shopnotes Quiz:  Match the dog with the staff member. The dogs:  Stella, Angus, Eddy, Daisy, Cogswell, Tioga, Cookie.  The people:  Jack Epstein, John Blanchard, Judy Walgren,  David Wiegand, Al Saracevic, Nanette Asimov, Caroline Grannan. 

Overheard! Phil Matier, on the phone to some poor soul:  “Parking tickets are going to cost 93 bucks?  Nobody wants to play in that fucking sandbox.”  Those words of wisdom are the latest addition to the giant running collection of Matier-isms, culled over 20 years by Nanette Asimov, who sits three desks away from the mustache man and misses nothing.  She will provide you the entire collection on request.  Warning: Not for the squeamish. … Just back from the big 100th anniversary reception for Pulitzer winners at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., is Jack Epstein, who attended with wife Katherine Ellison (1986 winner at the Merc for her Philippines coverage).  Jack raised glasses with former Chron staffers and Pulitizer winners Deanne Fitzmaurice and Kim Komenich.  Then he heard a presentation from longtime Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson — who cut his teeth as a Chronicle police reporter in the 1970s, when he was known as Gene and worked the dead-of-night shift at the Hall of Justice press room, monitoring the scanners. … It’s true.  Spud Hilton finally changed his typewriter ribbon. … Which bold and beautiful copy editor blithely descended the slopes of the 10,000-foot-high Haleakela volcano on Maui by bicycle, then brazenly drove her rental car on the perilous, forbidden backside-of-Hana road?… If you’re looking for fun at lunch time, the new UOP dental school across Fifth Street has fillings for 30 percent off. … Which veteran reporter was featured with a newsroom interview in the new big-screen documentary about comedians helping the homeless in the spirit of the late Robin Williams?…Shopnotes Fun Fact:  Reporter Dave Perlman joined the Chronicle staff 53 years before reporter Kimmy Veklerov was born.

Steve Hornbostel is back from New York, where he had a pizza.  Then (for $32) he went to the top of the building that replaced the World Trade Center and he could see the Empire State Building, which you can’t do from the top of the Empire State Building. … Shopnotes Fun Fact: The incredible Trapper Byrne ran a marathon in an incredible three hours and 22 minutes. … Tony Bravo was excited and honored to have been threatened in the line of duty by the gay-bashing Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas. … John King and JK Dineen have new books out.  John’s is about buildings and JK’s is about bars — subjects about which the boys are said to know a thing or two. … Strange but true:  Bernadette Fay’s filmmaker daughter, Keelan, made a macabre noir movie starring the daughter of a fellow Chronicle staffer, who gets offed. … Among the office supplies no longer available:  Pens!  Scotch tape!  …Everything’s broken, like Bob Dylan says.  The newsroom Keurig coffeemaker was busted (yet again) for a month.   And the remote-control gate to the main parking lot has been busted since fall.

Guess what.  In order to park your bike in the cage, then go from the Mission Street door to get coffee from Joe and Fi and then take the elevator to the newsroom, visit the rear lavatory and come back to your desk, you need only click your card key NINE TIMES. … Which staff member had to move her car in the company parking lot while on deadline in order to allow a night work crew to descend from ropes and install a giant beer billboard on the side of the building? … Chronicle Trivia (for geezers only)!  What was KBJ799?  What was Section 8, aka Geezerville? (answers below). … It’s true.  Former photographer Chris Stewart now makes ukuleles on the island of Hawaii. … Fun couple:  Former reporter Stacy Finz now writes bodice-ripper novels.  Her husband, Jaxon Van Derbeken, plays ping pong while waiting for the new Bay Bridge to fall down.  If their bodices are among the ripped, no one is saying. … Jenna Lyons had booked a trip to France after her Chronicle internship ended last summer, but then came the offer to come back and join the staff full time.  She had to pick between a trip to France and a trip to the Go Team.  Lucky for us, she chose wisely.

What do Jon Antoni, Bruce Jenkins, Chuck Nevius and Curiouser and Curiouser have in common?   They all played on the Chronicle softball team in the 1970s. … It was Chronicle alumni sleepover night at the historic West Point Inn on Mount Tam when Susan Sward (and husband and former Guild Executive Officer Doug Cuthbertson), Margo Freistadt, Lynn Ludlow, Jackie Pels and George Martin, plus two current Chron staff mystery guests, all spent the evening and following morning playing and listening to bluegrass tunes.  We’ll let you figure out who slept with who or, as Andy Behr would say, slept with whom. …mDept. of Cheap Thrills:  Before it’s torn down for the 5M Project, be sure to ride at least once the old-fashioned, manually operated open cage freight elevator in the kitchen-incubator building at 49 Mary.  Feels like being in a noir movie, plus it’s free. … Answers to Shopnotes Quizzes: Bulwa/Petaluma, Steinstra/Weed, Vinson/Tracy, Branch/Santa Rosa, FitzGerald/Benicia, Devera/Stockton; meow/Carroll, tiger/Jones, warrior/Kane, hooker/Kershner; Eddy/Blanchard, Daisy/Epstein, Stella/Walgren, Angus/Wiegand, Cookie/Saracevic, Cogswell/Asimov, Tioga/Grannan;  KBJ799/photo car radio ID, Section 8 Geezerville/nickname for reporters in the back of the newsroom.

John Diaz must have done something right, because a recent story in the “POA Journal” of the SF Police Officers Association called his eloquent Mario Woods editorial “worthless … outrageous …incoherent … despicable … garbage (and) … drivel”  written by a “media effete snob.”  But we liked it.

– Curiouser and Curiouser

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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.

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