Dog Bites

You know, there's an election -- hey! -- we said there's a local election coming up

*In case anyone missed the announcement, John Oppedahl is the Chron's new publisher. La la la -- told you so!

Old News

Sure, we could stick around the office, where the unhealthiest people in the city congregate to hack and wheeze and lay claim to martyrdom, but last week Dog Bites, who is trying to get out more, had plans to attend the Publicity Club's Thursday luncheon "A Silicon Valley Perspective: San Jose Covers San Francisco." The event was to feature Erica Rowlands of KNTV and KBWB, along with Mercury News San Francisco Bureau Chief Robin Evans, explaining how their respective media outlets were storming up the Peninsula to, well, eat our lunches. Except that, the morning of the luncheon, Evans called the organizers of the event to say she couldn't make a speech after all, because higher-ups at the Merc felt the paper couldn't participate in any open discussion about its strategy.

Wait -- the Merc has a strategy for cracking the San Francisco market? Whatever it is, it's bound to be interesting; a disconsolate post-luncheon Dog Bites was wandering around at Powell and Market on Thursday afternoon when we noticed, in a newspaper box, the Merc's headline: "Clinton Upbeat in Bay Area Swing." Huh? Wasn't the president in Vietnam? Upbeat about what? we wondered, bending down to take a closer look -- which was when we noticed the paper was dated Nov. 4.

So perhaps part of the Merc's plan is to issue a bold challenge to what in Dog Bites' estimation is the tiresome and all-too-prevalent view that newspapers are meant to be consumed more or less on the same day they are printed. To this we say, Bravo!; putting a 12-day-old newspaper on sale in the heart of San Francisco is a small but necessary step toward recognizing the timeless quality of so much of what appears on newsprint, something that can only benefit those of us who strive for immortality, or at least job security, in this shockingly brutal profession.

Anyway, we called Evans to ask what the Mercury might be up to that was so, well, secret. "Oh, Laurel, considering the coverage you've given us, I don't think I want to give you any comments," she said.

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine," we intoned, by way of reply. Well, OK, no, we didn't, because we're far too professional for stuff like that to even cross our mind. Ever.

So we're left to speculate. Not that we mind speculating, because it at least provides us with a distraction when we're sitting on the floor of our darkened apartment, rocking back and forth and brooding about all the people who hate us. What could the Merc's tippy-top-secret trade secrets for San Francisco coverage possibly be? Judging by the stories the paper runs on its San Francisco page, we'd bet one of them is renting an office with windows that open and close, so bureau staff can stick their heads out and get a good look at weather conditions. Drizzle lashes Bay Area.

But we'd also like to suggest, in case the Merc hasn't thought of it yet, that bureau staff members bookmark Go.com's make-a-map page, so they can find freeway exits, navigate San Francisco's tricky intersecting street grids, and double-check that the stories they're working on actually take place here in the city, instead of somewhere in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties. No, no, don't thank us -- just pay the bill promptly when it arrives.

Down and Out in the Mission

Yeah, everyone thought it was funny when Garden.com let its famous living billboard down on 101, um, die -- but then Garden.com itself announced Friday it was going out of business, as did Pets.com and BeautyJungle.com. Indeed, at a dinner party Friday evening there was much discussion of the popularly cited new statistic that a dot-com is going out of business every day now; fellow guests hoped that friends who'd been forced out of the Bay Area might soon be able to afford to move back.

Of course, displacement goes both ways. Dog Bites, who'd woken Friday with a vile and entirely undeserved headache, had earlier attempted to take the cure by visiting Valencia Street's new oxygen bar, because one of our friends -- who's in a position to know if anyone is -- swears 20 minutes of 02 is a panacea for every ailment from a bad mood to a hangover to incipient flu. We showed up at about half past four; there was no sign of anyone in the place. Around 5 o'clock another would-be patron arrived; he struck up a conversation by asking if we'd ever been to the oxygen bar before, and what it was like.

We said we had, and described the delights of aromatherapy-enhanced oxygen -- how it had made us, the skeptical and high-strung Dog Bites, into a believer, a mellow soul with glowing cheeks.

"Wow," said our interlocutor, and introduced himself.

Having established our mutual belief in the benefits of regular breathing, we waited as the sky slowly turned pink over Twin Peaks, and our companion called the bar on his cell phone to check again on the opening time given in its recorded message. We explained that we were sticking around in hopes of curing our headache.

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