Over the Hill

With a little help from your friends

Getting old is for the birds, I’m told. (I wouldn’t know myself, having long ago embraced the youth-preserving properties of defiantly immature behavior.)

There are the usual aches and pains associated with the body’s gradual disintegration, but there is more: the difficulty of getting around, the loss of friends, one’s own deteriorating health, the diminishing opportunities to remain relevant in a youth-driven culture. Then there’s the loneliness.

I imagine that last one is the worst. I hope I never know it. So it’s a comfort, I suppose, that we aging baby boomers make up such a large percentage of San Francisco’s population. There’s strength in numbers, but only when there’s unity.

That’s where NextVillage comes in. Here’s a nonprofit dedicated to providing the kind of support that helps keep older San Franciscans — in this case, those living in the northeast corner of town — independent and comfortable in the homes they’ve probably occupied for years.

NextVillage is staffed by people a lot like you: volunteer-neighbors with a lifetime of acquired skills and experience (the stuff you need) who may volunteer or want to exchange for your acquired skills and experience (the stuff they need). From each according to his ability to each according to his needs, a wise man once said.

The range of available services is impressive. The Village’s goal is to fulfill 80 percent of requested services using volunteers; when no volunteer is available, referrals are made to fee-for-service neighborhood vendors. There isn’t enough space here to delve deeply, but some of the services offered include:

  • Transportation to appointments, shopping and recreation
  • Computer and technology assistance
  • Help with simple home maintenance and repairs
  • Outings and activities
  • Classes and lectures
  • Access to a growing list of referral partners

If you’re interested in learning about a membership and you live within the area bounded by Van Ness, Broadway (including the Golden Gateway and Golden Gateway Commons) and the Bay, you can call (415-754-8622), e-mail ([email protected]) or visit the website ( for additional information.

The big adios: Sad to see the end of La Barca, a Marina District fixture since, well, since I was a kid. The food was always honest and hearty, the service was always friendly, the margaritas were always terrific (especially after I wised up and started drinking them on the rocks, with salt) and, as the years passed, it became a welcome oasis in a neighborhood overrun with deafeningly loud yuppie joints with their jacked-up prices and contrived “dining experiences.”

I knew La Barca was closing, but I was unaware that the Saturday I happened to drop in was its swan song. The place was packed, but my companion and I managed to score a table in the dining room. Despite the chaos, everything tasted as good as ever and our waiter only deepened my melancholy by slipping us some free drinks.

La Barca closed because the owners (one is the son of La Barca’s founder) want to “change the concept,” a dangerous phrase to my kind, who believe that if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Still, a bartender friend of mine who knows these guys assures me that the place is in excellent hands. The new joint, which he reckons should open around September, will be “more bar than restaurant,” but will still feature food service. I have no reason to doubt my friend’s judgment, but I’ll wait and see, all the same.

A professional observation: As a longtime copy editor — we were once considered important when clear, accurate writing still mattered — I remain sensitive to things like typeface choices.

So I couldn’t help noticing the appearance around town of some new street signs. As long as I can remember, the standard San Francisco street sign has been all caps, Helvetica bold — LAGUNA — on a white field. Easy to spot, easy to read.

Suddenly, popping up here and there is new and definitely-not-improved signage. Case in point: Euclid Street, which runs parallel to California Street behind Laurel Village. The typeface is still Helvetica bold on a white background, but some federal geniuses decided to ditch the all caps and switch to an upper-lower case type.

As I approached the corner of Euclid and Heather, I couldn’t help thinking that here was a sign that should be properly nailed to Heather’s bedroom door, rather than forcing us to squint to read it at a city intersection.

Leave it to our wizened leaders, once again, to fix what ain’t broke.

OK, I’m old, I drink too much and my eyesight’s going. You can still send your news tips to [email protected]. I’ll try to read them after I sober up and find my reading glasses.
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