This Nun's Life

Watch the video by Chloe Shi
and Jieqian Zhang:



Robbie Nothstine journeyed though life to find his new identity as Sister Rose Mary Chicken with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, battling through a broken home as a child, drug addiction in early adulthood and a diagnosis with HIV 10 years ago. A full-fledged member of the iconic nunnery since 2013, Sister Rose Mary Chicken continues to inspire kindness and laughter in the community, and this nun now looks back on life with courage, strength and serenity.


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Castro Still Struggles with Housing


Affordability crisis continues into 2015



The housing crisis brought on by the tech boom in San Francisco caught the world’s attention this last year. Rents skyrocketed to the highest in the nation, squeezing out the middle and working classes who cannot afford the market rate of $3,100 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. San Francisco is a prime example of the changing U.S. economy, where the gap between rich and poor is stretching bigger than ever. Nearly every inch of the city is under construction, yet only the rich can afford to buy the luxury condos that seem to be popping up overnight. As long as that luxury demand dominates, developers won’t prioritize affordable housing.


The Castro is no exception. Looking ahead to the coming year, housing advocate and Castro resident Tommi Avicolli Mecca thinks things are looking bleak.


“2015 is going to be the same as 2014, 2013 and 2012 before that,” Mecca said. “The Castro’s housing issues have not been dealt with. Evictions are really high. In fact, District 8 has had the most Ellis Act evictions in the city. [State Assemblymember] Tom Ammiano tried to do something about this, but his efforts failed and we are still stuck with the high eviction rate.”


Mecca feels that there is a lack of overall leadership in dealing with the housing crisis. He strongly believes that elected leaders need to create more affordable housing, stop the evictions and address homelessness and poverty.


“I don’t get it,” Mecca said. “The Castro spent how many millions on that stupid rainbow crosswalk, and they can’t come up with a creative way to create more affordable housing.”


But there are a few responses to this concern.


One initiative to implement affordable housing in District 8 is set to break ground in 2015, after sitting dormant for nearly a decade. Openhouse — a local non-profit — and Mercy Housing California will start the construction of the city’s first and the country’s largest affordable housing specifically intended for LGBT seniors. The development includes 110 apartments for low-income seniors, Openhouse service offices and an activity center for residents and LGBT seniors. The senior housing, service space and activity center is part of a larger development of a 5.8-acre former University of California Berkeley Extension site, located at 55 Laguna St. The larger development includes 330 new multi-family rental units being developed by Wood Partners. Of the multi-family rentals, 50 will be available to low-income renters. The larger development also includes a new 28,000 square foot public park, a 10,000-square-foot community garden and a new community center.


More units may also open up in the area because of new laws. District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener’s recently approved legislation to allow the construction of new in-law units in buildings undergoing soft-story seismic retrofits may offer new affordable housing options in 2015. The Planning Department estimates that the change could result in 400 new units in garages, basements and other existing spaces in the neighborhood. Wiener said he believes that the Castro made sense as the pilot area for this program because it is well connected to public transportation and has a low car-ownership rate to facilitate the conversion of garages into livable units. If the project works well in the Castro, the idea is to expand the program to other neighborhoods.


The San Francisco Tenants Union is also working to battle the housing crisis following the passing of its beloved leader Ted Gullicksen in October. Gullicksen became director of the Tenants Union in 1988 but never elevated his own title beyond office manager. Andrew Szeto, current and continuing tenant organizer, will also serve as interim office manager while Bobby Coleman, an attorney who assisted Gullicksen with political advocacy and campaigns since 1989, has been named interim tenant organizer with responsibility for political and legislative advocacy.


According to Coleman, creating affordable housing is not the only solution to the problem at hand. Conserving and preserving affordable housing is just as important to the economic diversity of the city. San Francisco currently loses about 1000 rent-controlled units per year.


“The demolition of sound, affordable housing is unconscionable, given the crisis in this city. You’ve heard it loud and clear from the Tenants Union for years. We’d like to see it get better, not worse,” Coleman said in support of an appeal to the demolition of two rent-controlled units at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on November 25.


Coleman led the memorial service for Gullicksen on November 16 in the crowded auditorium at Mission High School. During the service, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco Director Sara Shortt referred to Gullicksen as “an anchor, rock and beacon for the tenants’ movement in San Francisco.”


Gullicksen died of unknown causes just before the November election. He counseled thousands of tenants in fear of losing their housing throughout his lifetime. He is remembered as a true San Francisco hero, and Coleman, Szeto and the volunteers at the Tenants Union are all working to keep his feisty spirit alive.


While the Castro continues struggles with high eviction rates due to prices catering to a new and more affluent demographic, the Tenants Union and other advocates continue fighting to preserve old and create new affordable housing options in 2015. To keep up to date on the latest issues including the regulations on buyouts of tenants, the appeal of the Ellis Act eviction payment ruling and the new Airbnb legislation that goes into effect in February 2015, visit sftu.org.


Prop G Addresses Speculation


Senior Being Evicted Is Part of Larger Area Trend


State Senate Passes Leno Bill To Curb Ellis Act Eviction Epidemic


Legalizing illegal units may not fill gaps



••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••


New Year’s Resolutions for the Young Gay Man



With good reason, those who dispense advice are always suspect.


Nonetheless, from time to time friends and others have come up against common and not-so-common life situations that bring back experiences which seemed to illustrate a lesson or two.


With the start of the new year, a number of colleagues, friends and associates who are young gay men, or who recall having been there in the not-too-distant past, submit this list of important life-choice points for consideration when putting together one’s resolutions for 2015.


In and Out of Love. Shall we start with love, that powerhouse of motivation and satisfaction? While falling blindly in love can be a sublime experience, staying trapped by your need for love when key signs point that it may have run its course is certainly not healthy, as is perhaps a denial that there may well be many prince charmings in your life.


Among all the resources available to young men, one has always stood out, a paperback by a practicing gay marriage and family therapist, Neil Kaminsky, LCSW, called “When It’s Time to Leave Your Lover,” an essential, well researched and informed practical guide for gay men.


Coming Out. Did someone say gay? Certainly there’s a powerful New Year’s resolution in the act of coming out. Undoubtedly quite different now in the age of same-sex marriage and widespread media attention to LGBT communities and families, the need to handle coming out remains an important and key part of every gay man’s personal journey. The resources to assist in this task are well known and widely available. As a pioneer in promoting this transition, Rob Eichberg, Ph.D., has called coming out an act of love and a call to action.


Safe Sex. Probably one of the most important resolutions anyone can make is their answer to the question, “How am I going to be safe from getting HIV?” Becoming informed about the issues and options of protection from HIV and new developments like the use of the drug Truvada are an essential part of the commitment to yourself to follow a healthy lifestyle and safe sex practices.


Self Acceptance and Respect. Woven through the specifics of your own resolutions ought to be a healthy and generous practice of honestly taking in feedback from trusted others, having the confidence to accept yourself in all your dimensions, and listening to your best judgment and your best self and then following through.


Too often appearances and peer pressure get in the way. If what your best friend or lover maintains doesn’t track with what you know to be genuine, honest and true, it may be time to look elsewhere. And of course do your best to stay positive and optimistic, regardless of what the world throws at you.


New Year’s can be a good time to recharge your energy and best intentions, identify and face up to your weaknesses, like substance abuse and dependency, and get to work on overcoming them now when you can create healthy life habits, and not when you are older and it’s much more difficult.


Don’t be Deterred. One more point here, especially for younger people. A young musician just starting out in classical music found himself introduced to, shall we say, the big conductor, whom he always had admired. When it came about that the aspiring musician met the great one, the experienced master both ignored and belittled him, making him feel that his lack of experience made him inferior. Rather than take an opportunity to be a mentor to this sincere admirer, he brushed him off and made the younger man feel diminished and less secure. In the face of haughty belittlement, what advice would you give the young musician? Don’t be deterred.


People. No matter how much of an introvert or loner you are, it’s important to get over being a hermit and try once again (yes, once again) to meet new people and seek new friends. Whether it’s through Meet Up, the LGBT Center or other sources, there are plenty of opportunities to look into out there. And it’s not a matter of simply talking. Consider doing things for other people, both individually and as part of a community.


Time Wasters and Your Career. Probably the two most considered New Year’s resolutions are career improvement and greater physical fitness: “How fast will that online degree boost me to director level?” and “How much more do I need to work out before that six-pack comes peeping through?”


Career resolutions are fairly obvious. But so-called time wasters less so. That is because one person’s time waster is another’s skill or enrichment development (call it what you want). Maybe your grandfather was glued to the screen by Archie Bunker, as was your father to Cheers or Seinfeld, or maybe it’s more subtle than that. Just check yourself in how much time you invest in the diversions and pleasures of the portable digital screen, and what is too much or about right, and what your payoff is.


Hopefully you have gotten one or two ideas from these comments that will enrich your life in the months to come. And feel free to submit comments or ideas to Bill Sywak at the Castro Courier (sywak285@gmail.com)



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Neighborhood’s Welcome First Arcade/Beer Hall



Every dreamy American kid has a memory with an arcade game. The neon-space glow, the elating sounds of leveling up, the whimper of “game over” and the anticipation of slotting a finger-pinched quarter all form the obsession.


Maybe it was in a pizza joint, a roller rink or just that solo game at the Quiky Mart that captured days and weeks of what would have otherwise been time spent on homework or some other completely futile endeavor.


But if you’ve ever doubted, as you slip into the emotionally dire straights of your adulthood, that those times had passed you by forever, fear no more. The obsessions of our youth are back in business in the Castro, and this time, with quality beer.


Barcades — the novel combination of bar-meets-arcade — are cropping up in places like Southern California, New York and Colorado. In response, some local entrepreneurs have gotten into the game. After more than a year of planning, Shawn Vergara, the owner of Blackbird Bar, and his sister Tiffny have teamed up with Monk’s Kettle former manager Kai Villegas to open Brewcade on upper Market Street.


“I had the idea of doing this concept ever since I heard about barcades opening up throughout the United States,” Vergara said. “I thought it would be a great idea to bring a new concept to the city since one hadn’t existed.”


Brewcade opened its doors on December 10 and aims to surfeit the gamut of the glutton to the gamer. The joint is open until 2 a.m. every day and features 26 craft beers on tap, more in bottles and a host of wines. There is also a sparkling slushie machine featuring Riesling and Brachetto. Light bar bites include chips, jerky and chicharrones from 4505 Meats on Divisadero, but if you’re in the mood for something meatier, you can call over hot food like garlic fries or chicken sandwiches from Hi-Tops bar across the street or Mexican food from Hecho next door.


But the arcade is the real draw. Here is a cross-section of the throwback magic-makers: Pac Man (classic), Ms. Pac Man (the hungry journey to romance), Frogger (to feel like an SF pedestrian), Donkey Kong Junior (to climb to the top while still young), Paper Boy (to explore your working class roots), Altered Beast (after beer #7) and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (enter own comment). The games even have pint glass sized drink holders next to them to prevent unnecessary spillage.


Forty-six-year-old Vergara is especially partial to his Galaga machine and said he fondly remembers his days of obsession during the golden age of arcade video games.


“I played as a young boy,” he said. “Before school and after school I would stop by 7-Eleven and just fill the machines with quarters.”


The 10 bartenders on staff are also friendly and like to make conversation. Brynna Logan, a Santa Cruz native who has lived in the city for five years, says everything is new to the point where the regular crowd is still being established.


“It’s like the honeymoon phase,” she said.


Logan grew up playing Pac Man and Donkey Kong with her older brother but now enjoys the virtual backward glide of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, but confessed that she now sees the game’s relationship to children in a whole new way.


The Brewcade is an interactive space where people can come and play games and drink some craft beers, but down the road, Vergara said he is ultimately interested in using the space for more creative community activities.


“I also hope that people look forward to seeing us evolve,” he said.


Brewcade is located at 2200 Market St.



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Top 10 Comedic News of 2014



Hey guys, Will Durst here with your eagerly awaited Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2014. Now, here’s the deal: please do not confuse these amusing accounts with the Top Ten Legitimate News Stories of 2014. No. No. No. They are as different as silky and spiky. Banjos and bullfrogs. Strawberry daiquiris and Chinese made assault rifles. Earrings and peas. Oh sure, we saw plenty examples of super serious humor-resistant stuff that went down over the previous 12 months, including but not limited to: Ebola infested ISIS members flying into Ferguson, Missouri on Malaysian Airlines, carrying pictures of Bill Cosby ogling Janay Rice’s butt. But fortunately, there were also quite a few events that lent themselves to massive humorosityness and for anyone looking for a column with the vision and courage to lampoon, satirize, mock, scoff, taunt, tease, rib, ridicule, josh, jibe and kid these episodes of entertaining elucidation, you’ve come to the right place. Because here they are: the Top Ten Comedic News Stories Of 2014 as determined by the executive council of the Comics, Clowns, Jesters & Satirists Union, which, as you probably are already aware, is… me. Read em and weep.


10. A new study by German scientists suggests that beer helps prevent prostate cancer. So let’s stop calling them bars, and start referring to them as what they really are: clinics. And we are self administering patients.


9. Winter Olympics in Sochi. The entire world is relieved when Vladimir Putin doesn’t enter the triathlon by slapping on skis to shoot Ukrainian journalists. Shirtless.


8. Series of Ice Bucket Challenges sweep the country. Minor celebrities enjoy being seen as all wet. During the hazy days of summer. When the Polar Vortex comes calling, not so much.


7. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford runs for re-election, but due to ill health has to pull out and convinces his brother to run. Torontoans refuse to give the Fords another crack at it.


6. Pope Francis says his religious theology is not in opposition to evolution. This guy really does look determined to drag the Catholic Church kicking and screaming into the latter half of the 19th Century.


5. Alaska, Oregon and DC join Washington & Colorado in the legal marijuana club. Stock of Frito- Lay, the makers of Funyuns and Cheetos, skyrockets.


4. Donald Sterling’s racist statements result in a lifetime ban from the NBA. And many folks hope he lives to be 105 and is forced to bunk with Cliven Bundy.


3. The Midterm elections. Mitch McConnell says he wants to work with the President. Yeah, the same way a 5-year-old with a magnifying glass wants to work with ants. Only a matter of time before GM is forced to recall McConnell as a faulty airbag.


2. Arizona debates SB 1062, which would legalize bigotry based on religious beliefs. The return of Jim Crow with a cactus beat. The postal abbreviation AZ apparently stands for Angry Xenophobes. And yes, xenophobe starts with an “x” but they don’t know that.


1. ObamaCare rollout. The President said it could have gone smoother. You think? An anvil studded with titanium spikes could have rolled smoother.


Will Durst. Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to willdurst.com for more about the documentary film “3 Still Standing,” and a calendar guide to personal appearances such as the Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XXII from December 26- January 3.



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Neighborhood’s Welcome First Arcade/Beer Hall

Top 10 Comedic News of 2014

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