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Now That's Amore 

In S.F., spring is the season for romance. And pig coitus. And mouse erections. And ...

Wednesday, Apr 3 2002
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When Lyndon Johnson ran for Congress, legend says, he wanted to spread the rumor that his opponent was a pig-fucker. Johnson's campaign manager said, "Lyndon, you know he doesn't do that!" Johnson replied, "I know. I just want to make him deny it."

True or not, this story gives one a wonderful sense of perspective when leafing through the prospectus for the $365 million in refunding bonds issued by San Francisco International Airport in mid-February. The bonds were used to pay off older airport debt; the prospectus is a sheaf of explanations and caveats sent to potential investors for the new airport bond issue. As you might imagine, the inch-thick prospectus is rather humdrum. Until you get to the "pig-fucker" part.

I'll back up a bit: San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, as many readers know, has been battling airport brass, Mayor Willie Brown, Chamber of Commerce types, and anybody else who'll take him on over SFO's proposal to fill in a square mile of the bay to expand its runways. In the latest round of conflict, Peskin has been badgering the airport about why it's still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on studying and promoting the bay-fill project, while slashing the rest of its budget.

Massive airport infrastructure spending during the last five years has created a post-9/11 financial crisis at SFO. Airport spokesman Ron Wilson told me two weeks ago they don't even have money to buy postage stamps. Airport restaurant concessionaires are broke, compelling the airport to give shopkeepers a break on rent. New, multimillion-dollar garages are empty, and the airport recently had to reduce parking fees. The airport finished last fiscal year $90.6 million in the red, according to the latest available figures, and that was months before Sept. 11, 2001. Now things are much worse. SFO is one of the least efficient airports in America, with some of the highest costs per passenger among all U.S. airports, according to Standard & Poor's. The airport is saddled with more than $4 billion in debt, and credit rating agencies are baying at the door. In mid-March S&P lowered SFO's credit rating a notch from A+ to A with a "negative outlook," which is bond-rating-agency-speak for "downhill from here."

Peskin thinks that, because it's broke, the airport should stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars doing public relations for the runway expansion. Last month he proposed a comprehensive financial audit of the airport, which, shockingly, hasn't received any kind of audit since the 1970s. Peskin also proposed giving the Board of Supervisors more oversight over airport spending; now the board approves airport budgets, but those budgets are considered only in broad, vague spending categories. A few weeks ago Peskin subjected Airport Director John Martin to a delightful Finance Committee grilling, comparing the airport's management with the flimflam operation that toppled the Enron Corp.

And that's where the bond prospectus' fun part comes in.

"A member of the Board of Supervisors made public statements regarding the financial condition of the Airport," the prospectus says, at the beginning of the section where it explains away flaws for Wall Street financiers. "Any suggestion that there is any similarity between the Airport's current financial condition or operations and that of Enron is inaccurate and misleading."

In other words, Peskin made them deny it.


Speaking of springtime and sunshine and animal love, isn't it about time somebody took a stand against UC San Francisco medical scientists using our tax dollars to give mice big erections, then kill them just as they're starting to enjoy themselves?

I'll back up a bit: The big story coming out of last month's top AIDS treatment and prevention conference in San Francisco involved Republicans who are angered that federal tax money is being spent on AIDS prevention programs that may -- gasp! -- encourage sex. Last fall, U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN, stupid prude) told Tommy Thompson (Health and Human Services secretary, Luddite imbecile) that safe-sex counselors in San Francisco are luring men into AIDS prevention seminars using terms like "booty call" and "great sex workshop." Thompson instructed Janet Rehnquist (inspector general, rollover patsy) to investigate the STOP AIDS Project Inc., an S.F. nonprofit that receives some money from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Rehnquist determined that STOP AIDS Project programs encourage sexual activity. Armed with this insight, the inspector general and the Department of Health and Human Services are doing a complete investigation of all Centers for Disease Control-funded HIV/AIDS programs to make sure no prevention materials contain similarly nasty ideas.

If only these Bush administration prudes knew about the activities of federally funded UC Med Center researchers just across Buena Vista Park from the Castro, I think they might change their focus.

I'm referring, of course, to the article in the current Angiogenesis Weekly"1" titled "Erectile Dysfunction: Growth factor mitigates trauma effects in male rodents."

The experiment discussed in the article, part of academic and corporate medicine's global war against erectile dysfunction, involves injecting "growth factor" into the penises of mice, to see if such intervention might turn a rodent Bob Dole into a raging Lorenzo La-mouse."2"

First, researchers snipped the arteries of a group of mouse wieners, creating a pack of impotent Mickeys. Next, they injected the same mouse wieners with a protein that helps vascular cells grow. Awhile later -- and here's the part Souder, Thompson, and Rehnquist might want to look into -- researchers used an electrode to induce mousy erections. Then, they killed the mice, midboner, to study mice members in the aroused state. Technically speaking, this is known as an S/M fantasy made real. Morally speaking, the scientists are not merely encouraging living beings to have sex, they're forcing them to have a perverted, morbid, lethal kind of sex.

Where are prudish Republicans when you need them?


Since we're on the subject of springtime and amore, I'd like to tell a San Francisco story of passion and love lost. It is -- need I mention? -- a story about real estate.

Many years ago, in a conceptual kingdom far, far away, San Francisco was in the midst of a dot-com boom. Northern Potrero Hill was on its way to becoming a modern Venice of Internet animation; South of Market, a Paris of Web design. As for the Inner Mission: This would be a digital SoHo, a colony of successful creative types who would turn a piece of gritty urban landscape into a congenial place to live.

In part because they were the only apartment buildings the city allowed to be built during this era, hundreds of expensive live-work lofts were erected in all sorts of unlikely places, and young urban professionals bought them, dreaming of dot-com Eden. In the unpleasant South of Market industrial district, loft buildings had body shops as neighbors. In Potrero, stylish bathroom windows looked over light-assembly plants. And in the Mission, some of the most expensive apartments in California were sold on a block where crack dealers, heroin sellers, prostitutes, and gangsters plied their trades. A two-bedroom apartment at 588 South Van Ness, a block from the vortex of prostitution, drugs, and gangsterism at 16th and Mission streets, last year sold for $485,000.

It wasn't long before the new residents woke up and realized that Left Bank- style life might never flourish in the worst areas of San Francisco.

"I am in the evil Live/Work at 588 South Van Ness. After years of scrimping and saving and living beneath my means, I did what I thought was impossible -- buying a home in San Francisco," writes Paul Sauer via e-mail, in a moment of ambivalent hindsight. "If you ride by slow enough on your bike, you can catch the scent of urine in the spring time air."

Sauer says a group of his condominium-owning neighbors are now joining to oppose plans by the nearby, low-income Mission Hotel apartments to add two floors, and 76 new units.

"I think the way I think of this is, "Enough in my backyard,' not "Not in my backyard,'" Sauer explains.

Hearing Sauer tell it, if he and his neighbors can keep 76 additional poor people from moving into their neighborhood, they might preserve some facsimile of the gentle life they once dreamed of.

"If you sit near the window, you can see the occasional hooker strutting down Capp St. But the neighborhood is getting better," writes Sauer. "I'd be happy to meet over a beer or a cup of Joe. I might even be able to get some of the 550 [Van Ness condo owners] to sit down with you."

"One more quick thought on an angle for the story, which is the idea of homelessness being used as a growth industry for the politically-connected SRO-owning slumlords," he added in a subsequent e-mail. "And what more proof do you need that homelessness is a growth industry than the Mission Hotel's plans to expand by more than 50 percent?"

Well, in this particular instance, it would be homefullness that's the growth industry. But that's quibbling. What we've really got here is a romance, once pregnant with possibilities, now gone awry.

An ordinary mortal's first response to such a tragedy is to lash out at the ex-lover, or the neighborhood, which once promised so much. In the end, however (as any reader of Dan Savage knows), it's best to let go. Move on. Find another object of affection. Sell your overpriced live-work condo at a loss, and let the hotel down the street build a couple of floors of low-income housing. With so much love in the air, it's a shame to waste passion on romance gone bad.


1 No relation to SF Weekly.

2 Fans can write Lorenzo Lamas, star of the TV series The Immortal, at Lorenzo Lamas, c/o Stu Segall Productions, 4705 Ruffin Rd., San Diego, CA 92123.

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Matt Smith

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