The Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast Peaceful World Center at 1665 Haight St., played host to the e-book release celebration of Orna Ross‘ new novel, Before the Fall, on Tuesday night.
A group of about 15 gathered to participate in the event that was highlighted with readings from the new novel. Along with Ross, was a three-piece-Irish-folk group that provided a musical breath in-between readings.
People came from all over to take part in the book release, a few even were fellow Ireland-ers, but all were writers and peace-lovers who joined.
The new release, Before the Fall, has a great deal to do with the civil war in Ireland, and the framework is loosely based on Ross’ own observations growing up there.
“I was brought up in Ireland in the 1960’s and 70’s and the civil war quite simply was not spoken about,” Ross said, addressing her audience. “We learned history in school. It jumped straight from our glorious Republican operating of 1916 to the Eucharistic congress of 1932.”
She then continues to relate the book to her own reality.
“The story is told through the life a young woman,” she said. “She grows up in a village knowing that it is divided in two, but never really having that explained to her. She just sort of grows into it like its the air she breathes.”
Through research she finds that the war had torn friends and families apart, fighting on opposing sides and again relates her own experiences.
“I knew that my father’s uncle had been killed in that war and shot by his best friend… and I was absolutely fascinated by that. How on earth could it get to a situation that you would wind up shooting your best friend?” she said to the audience.
Ross continued on with more excerpts from her story. She closed the night with a poem entitled The Writers Calland the night was played out with one last song from the band.
Orna Ross has had a long going relationship with The Red Victorian and the staff, in particularly Sami Sunchild, the owner of the establishment.
“I have returned many times, alone and with my family,” Ross said. Her relationship with the bed and breakfast peace center has been going on for more than 15 years, and throughout that time, she has worked on numerous writings within its walls.
Once again struck by the musical artistry that is the Haight Ashbury, I walk the streets on assignment and am blown away by the soothing sounds of polyphonic harmonies accompanied by colorful melodies high and low! I stop, stare and watch in awe, and I am not the only one!
This group, Jugtown Pirates, stand on a porch with their instruments in hand fingering away at the stringed fretboards, strumming and plucking chords and phrases in folkish riffs. Crowds emerge throughout the performance and in between songs come new faces, and some old, returned.
“We were listening to them earlier,” says Roseanna Kauffmann, a Haight Street shopper. “And when we walked back, we crossed the street to hear them.”
Kauffmann and her friend Elise Filka were visiting from Oakland. Filka says that they were “just walking around,” because “it is a fun area.”
“We like to thrift!” Filka says laughing.
Like many other shoppers on Haight, the pair is moved by the sounds of the band on the porch that play effortlessly, like they are amongst friends, having a beer.
In fact… THAT is exactly what they are doing! Downing Pabst Blue Ribbon and playing bluegrass/folk to appreciative people!
One passerby, whom I am unable to track down, walked by applauding and yelling out, “Bluegrass and freakin’ PBR! That’s where it’s at!”
To sum it up, the clear-sunny sky needn’t worry about the bitter bite in today’s wind, because Jugtown Pirates kept Haight Street shoppers on their feet!
“They are fun! Folkish!” says Filka. “I felt like dancing.”
Sitting behind a counter on a stool tilted back, leaning against the wall behind him, Paul Shinichi waits. The day is unpredictably rainy, off and on, on and off, just like his customers. He grows anxious—he wants to stick a needle through someone.
“There are too many shops, period!” Shinichi says, serious in tone with his eyes piercing. “There is no realization of the veterans that have been here… that’s the American way, trying to undercut each other.”
As senior piercer at Braindrops Tattoo & Piercing at 1324 Haight St., Shinichi argues that it is time for a change in the industry and raising the standards is the way to go.
“If they want to break skin with their art, then this is how it’s going to be.”
In a time of economic struggle coinciding with the popularization of the body art industry in the media, Shinichi is one of many who seeks respect for his profession by supporting The Safe Body Art Act to create a “fair playing field,” he says. The act which went into preliminary stages on Jan. 1, enforces stringent regulations on the body art industry to ensure that all practitioners follow the same precautionary procedures.
Justin Malan, executive director of the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, helped propel the act and is taking measures to institute proper training throughout the industry.
“The purpose of the bill is to establish a standard of procedures that are consistent and protect the public and the industry,” Malan says. He explains, that it “will significantly reduce blood-borne pathogens,” and “it legitimizes the practice.”
In addition to a two-hour training on blood-borne pathogens, body art practitioners are required to follow a repeatable routine in their decontamination methods and provide “a written log of each sterilization cycle,” complying strictly to the procedures outlined in section 119315 of the Health and Safety Code; logs must be kept in the facility “for two years after the date of the results.”
Furthermore, according to the guidelines of the code, there are restrictions mandating when it is necessary to change gloves and how to properly dispose of biohazards and sharp-single-use objects. The rules in place affect the facilities financially due to costs of equipment, according to the practitioners.
Paul Stoll, owner of Body Manipulations, helped write the Safe Body Art Act over the past four years. Stoll says that the act creates a “level playing field,” because every practitioner has to make the same expense in complying to the regulations, so price competition amongst shops will decrease.
“Everybody has to follow the procedures, not only in their facility, but in their methods,” Stoll says. “The reason you charge $30 [for a piercing] is because you have expenses.”
Many tattoo artists and piercers are on board for the change, but some are a bit skeptical.
“It is mainly to give the industry integrity,” says piercer Kevin Green who works at Mom’s Body Shop Tattoo and Piercing. “But the health department needs to be on the same page; they have to have integrity as well.”
In response, Cathy Montie, blood-borne pathogens trainer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, acknowledges the skepticism and realizes it is due to the “expenses and fees,” artists pay.
“They are really good at taking our money but don’t provide the service,” she says laughing, referring to restrictions in place by county ordinances. However, Montie believes in the purpose and supports the act by serving as a trainer to the practitioners.
“It will get rid of all the ‘scratchers’ out there and make the reputable shops more reputable,” Montie says.
Like Green, tattooer Bobby Paulmenn, also from Mom’s Body Shop, is a little doubtful about the law coming into play.
“I don’t mind laws as long as there is reason for them,” Paulmenn argues. “They are not going to tell anyone in this shop something that they don’t already know.” Paulmenn argues that “the industry has already kinda regulated itself.”
Stoll agrees that the industry has been “self regulated,” but this law is “for the protection of the practitioner.”
“It’s the beginning of being a real profession!” exclaims Stoll. “It’s a huge step forward if the state recognizes us as actual practitioners!”
Other shops in the Upper Haight are also on board. Becky Dill of Cold Steel America Piercing and Tattoo is proud to be a part of The Association of Professional Piercers and a founder of The Bay Area Piercing Group.
Marie McCarthy, owner and manager of Soul Patch Tattoo and Piercing says it will “help bring back the health department with the tattoo industry,” and they can work together to create an “opportunity” for “shops to do things correctly.”
Since the opening of the first tattoo shop in the Upper Haight, Haight Ashbury Tattoo & Piercing, back in 1993, the Haight has been a popular place to go for this “alternative look.”
“There are five shops in four blocks,” says shop manager Justin Lawrence. “It’s a destination that people come to, to get tattooed.”
“I come often for the street wear and clothing, or to get pierced or tattooed,” says Adriana Crespin, a San Francisco resident.
“If I do come down here it would be for a specific reason,” says Autumn Valjien, “like to get tattooed.”
Paul Shinichi remains hopeful for the law, which will go into full affect July 1.
“It’s going to be a slow change over,” he says. “I’ve been here [at Braindrops] for 12 years, since the beginning… and I’m stoked. I’m not going anywhere.”
Three times… THREE TIMES, I visited the Haight this week. Each time prepared. I confidently readied myself with my camera strapped on my shoulder and my notepad and pen in hand. I had a plan of action! I hit the streets with an eager heart and keen sight in search of the next big story! There I was… UNSTOPPABLE.
To be honest with you… It was terrifying.
I wandered like a lost child in search for his parents. My head drifted side to side. My eyes were shifty. I tried not to make eye contact for too long as I was constantly approached by panhandlers, weed dealers and petitioners! OH MY!!!
I was not prepared. I fearfully gripped my camera and the sweat profusely streaming from my hand made my notepad soggy and my pen slippery! I’d forgotten my plan! I ran the streets with my heart racing so fast it beat in my throat and my eyes peeled so wide my vision blurred from the tears in my frantic search for an exit! And there I was… hopeless…
Ok ok…. That is a little dramatic. But really, I quickly learned how much courage and confidence it took to approach people and start conversation. Shut down after shut down, I became synonymous to the panhandlers, weed dealers and petitioners in the eyes of the passersby.
I had to get through to the people somehow! So I decided to take a look at some of the neighborhood businesses.
My first stop happened to be a coffee shop, of course. The Grind Cafe on Scott and Haight is where I met barista Nehu Evans, 25, whom in conversation mentioned a few issues in the neighborhood.
“The panhandlers are pretty aggressive,” he said. “Especially towards tourists.”
I continued the conversation failing to mention my nervous encounters from earlier…
It was fairly busy, so he couldn’t talk too long. However, he provided some insight on the communal feel of the neighborhood that I soon discovered.
Not too far down I headed over to Edo Salon & Gallery at 601 Haight St. There I struck up a conversation with Jai Carrillo and Salon Manager Tiffany Ward.
“All of the businesses share interests,” said Carrillo. “Everyone kinda knows each other… especially in Lower Haight .” Ward added that the community hosts an art walk every once and awhile, bringing Haight residents and businesses together.
“We (Edo) continue the art walk every couple of months,” she says, referring to an art exhibit entitled NO FACE, that the salon will be hosting on Feb. 10.
Despite the rugged exterior, with street posts, walls and newsstands marked as artists’ canvases, the Haight that initially struck me as frightening began to feel a little more like home, especially after my encounter with “Lower Haighter” Zoe Jardine.
“I moved here not knowing it was a cool, hotspot neighborhood, ” she says kiddingly. She says seeing all of the familiar faces so frequently is “like going to school…I feel safe living in Lower Haight.”