Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

Name: Rafael Charles Musni

Age: 40

Hometown:San Francisco, yeah born and raised

Occupation: Owner, Togonon Gallery

Marital Status: Up for Grabs, please sign in

1. Where do you like to flirt?

I’m not flirting, I’m just being friendly! Almost anywhere will do: public parks, museums, stores. I especially like walking up to strangers at huge fundraisers with hundreds or even thousands of guests. Friends often become separated and have to look for one another. They look a little lost or just bored. That is the best time to walk up and offer help or ask why they came to that particular fundraiser.

Generally I avoid hitting on a woman who is just trying to do her job. After all, is there a global shortage in inconsiderate customers standing in the way of a woman and her paycheck? Anywhere else is pretty much fair game. But a compliment should always be and feel like a gift with no agenda.

2. What are your favorite places to eat and drink?

Downtown? Les Amis in the Financial District fine food, stylish, streamlined masculine yet elegant. I also like bringing two or three friends that brave the bridges to Chaya Brasserie right on the Embarcadero: French Asian fare and broad views of the Bay. In the Fillmore St. shopping area, go to La Mediterranee: filling Mediterranean food without pretentiousness, where the owner Levon and his son make it feel like the Latin Quarter.

Near the Castro and heading out dancing? At Mecca, I love to breeze past the hostess stand with a companion in a dress that says “just stop what your doing and look over here.” That is also where I love getting their oysters during the happy hour, at least three dozen to start. For comfort food in the Castro, great value and still fun: go Home, it’s right on Market smack dab in the middle of town and practically a straight shot anywhere you are going to hit afterwards. Their Bloody Mary bar brunch is pretty good too! It is like a well-tailored coat, dressy enough for a date, comfortable for family and friends.

In my neighborhood, Foreign Cinema, I love it best at night, when they crank up the projector and throw a classic or foreign movie across the courtyard onto the opposite building. Near downtown and just enough time eat? Get to a San Francisco original, snag a tray at Tommy’s Joynt on Van Ness and ask for the buffalo stew, then grab a table or stake a claim at the bar and wash it down with brews on tap or cocktails for about half the price from any other watering hole on the Barbary Coast. Rub shoulders with local barflies, far-flung business travelers and bewildered tourist; no one is out of place at Tommy’s Joynt.

3. Where should we stay when we visit?

For unprecedented elegance, the Clift is sexy and a playful, for a pretty penny. So is one of the newest hot properties, Hotel Vitale, right on the edge of the Bay. The Phoenix Hotel is one of the most unique properties in the city, good for the adventurous traveler and the only one with an outdoor pool. For a different experience, there is Noe’s Nest, a Victorian style bed and breakfast in the sunny Mission.

4. What qualities do you find irresistible in a woman?

Wit. I don’t even mind if it degenerates into burlesque ribaldry after three belts. I love a woman who has been around the block on a few different continents and packs the stories to prove it. I want to know what non-fiction she has read in the last year. Lastly, I look for range. Is this a woman that can bring the talk and deporture for Sunday brunch with mom and to the gala black-tie fundraiser at night? For bonus points, does she have acrylic heels stashed in the the bottom of the suitcase for a hip-hop? You know the kind I mean.

5. Where can we find you on a free Sunday afternoon?

If Saturday night was really hot, I could be having breakfast. But I love being the early guest at the movies, catching a matinee of something unusual. Better yet, having the de Young, the Asian or the MOMA pretty much to myself. With friends and an early start, I love Muir Woods any time of year, but you gotta have the gams for the steep trails. It’s only a four-hour hike!

But Golden Gate park will do just fine too. It’s the biggest inner city park in the 50 and there is a different feeling in different parts. My top spots: Strybing Arboretum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers. But get to the Garden when it opens (weekdays are even better). It’s best when people are few and peace is plenty. For the Conservatory take note: it’s hot & humid inside, so strip down. Lastly, upper 24th between Church and Castro: my neighborhood, my indie bookstore Pheonix, my coffee shop at Martha & Bros, it’s heaven.

6. What do you love most about your hometown (besides our arrival)?

San Francisco is the nexus of West Coast history. How many cities had prostitutes brought in and gold shipped out by the boatload? It’s a big town without a big attitude and seems both provincial and sophisticated at the same time. This town is the destination for innovative minds in every industry from tech to movies, food to art. Notice the film greats that have set up shop in town: George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, Francis Ford Coppola, Chris Columbus, Saul Zaentz, Philip Kaufman, & Sofia Coppola.

Other leaders have struck gold here: Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded City Lights: alternative culture’s only “Literary Landmark” and publisher of “Howl.” As far as pop culture goes: I dare you to name another city in the Union with more movies or songs or even video games set here. But it’s not brass, it is the law of attraction for cultural evolution.

7. What should we bring when we visit? What should we leave with?

Basics: In the summer, bring your best fall fashion; it gets cool, as in “Jeez it’s cold.” In the fall, bring your best summer gear, as in “I can’t believe its this hot in October!” Must haves before you leave? For a good time, try Good Vibrations on Valencia in the edgy-hip Mission district, because you can’t pack a man in your suitcase (well, you might but airport security might give you a hard time). My Boudoir on the tony part of the Fillmore. Lotsa European lingerie at this shabby chic store, Aubade, Ravage, Dolce & Gabbana, (yeah, I learned the brands). After I admit that it’s all my fault, I go here in tow to buy my way out of the dog-house. It’s worth getting in trouble and lasts longer than dinner.

8. What do we absolutely have to see while we’re there?

It may seen straight from the guide book, but all our major museums have all been rebuilt and enlarged in the last decade, with new institutions in the works. The crown jewels are the sexy new de Young in Golden Gate Park, The Asian Art Museum in Civic Center with its tremendous collection packed into a beaux-arts building, and the formal but airy MOMA in SoMa. There are smaller, focused institutions, such as the MoAD (Museum of the African Diaspora). Okay, Café Vesuvio & Caffe Trieste in North Beach. It’s like you are in a movie about SF, but it’s real.

9. Any areas of town we should avoid?

16th Street between Mission and Guerrerro, and including Valencia that cuts right across it is quite an attraction day or night, but know your bearings there at night. Because it attracts both thrill seekers, tourists, bar crawlers, miscreants and criminals looking for easy scores.

The Tenderloin, just west of the Union Square, is a neighborhood with endemic poverty. It is relatively safe by day and has popular several attractions at night, but it’s not the place for a saunter. 6th street, on the first two blocks just South of Market has looked the same to me for 35 years, the fringes of society in perpetual disrepair. As a kid we called it the Wine Country, as in winos.

10. Any local secrets you want to share?

One buck for a large French Coffee at Crepe o Chocolate on O’Farrell. It’s loaded with flavor & caffeine. Listen for the French ex-pats that flock there. Sylvie, born in Madagascar and raised in Paris, doesn’t advertise and doesn’t use a computer for business in her tiny café. She spends most of her day whipping up crepes and classic French food. On top of that, she creates French dishes just for vegetarians.

If you don’t want to be upstaged in your Diva ranking, avoid the Castro, these guys are pros. It’s bright and fun, and warm like the mission. You might not find a date, but unique shopping and good taste abound.

Fillmore was the Harlem of the West, but the secret spot in the Mission is Savannah Jazz, innocuous by day in the company of taquerias, auto body shops, and Spanish-language record stores. Inside, Pascal, a Parisian transplant of African descent, holds court in this cathedral. Locals install themselves at a classic carved oak bar. A no-nonsense kitchen service turns out French, Caribbean, West African dishes such as couscous, peanut sauce, croque monsieur, or steak and a burger if you like. But it live jazz six nights a week. This not background or ambiance. This is jazz for the love of it.

Secret underground dance club: Pleasurezone. Adventurous Divas only need apply. It’s on the fourth Saturday of the month, and it sneaks around to different venues. It’s safe, its naughty and not for the faint of heart.

For More Information

Les Amis

568 Sacramento St

San Francisco, CA 94111

Tel: 415.291.9145

Website: www.lesamissf.com

Chaya Brasserie

132 The Embarcadero

San Francisco , CA 94105

Tel: 415.777.8688

Website: www.thechaya.com

La Méditerrannée

2210 Fillmore St

Tel: 415.921.2956

www.lamediterranee.net

Mecca

2029 Market St, San Francisco

Tel: 415.621.7000

Website: www.sfmecca.com

Home

2100 Market St

San Francisco, CA 94114

Tel: 415.503.0333

Wesbite: www.home-sf.com

Foreign Cinema

2534 Mission St

San Francisco, CA 94110

Tel: 415.648.7600

Website: www.foreigncinema.com

Good Vibrations

603 Valencia Street (at 17th Street)

San Francisco, CA 94110

Tel: 415.522.5460

Website: www.goodvibes.com

My Boudoir Lingerie

2029 Fillmore St

San Francisco, CA 94115

Tel: 415.346.1502

Website: www.myboudoir.net

Vesuvio

255 Columbus Avenue at Jack Kerouac Alley

San Francisco, CA 94133

Website: www.vesuvio.com

Caffe Trieste

601 Vallejo St

San Francisco, CA

Tel: 415.392.6739

Website: www.caffetrieste.com

Crepe o Chocolat

75 Ofarrell St

San Francisco, CA 94108

Tel: 415.724.3749

Mention on Yelp.com

Savanna Jazz

2937 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94110

Tel: 415.285.3369

Website: www.savannajazz.com

Pleasurezone

Somewhere in San Francisco, 4th Saturday every month

Website: www.pleasurezonesf.com

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: