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Friday, August 30, 2002

From the Outside Looking In


By Alexa Llewellyn




Confession of an Addict

I confess.

I am addicted.

Addicted to matchmaking.

It must be the Welsh gene. I canít help myself. A friend tells me that he or she has a certain yen for someone and I encourage them to go after his or her heartís desire. I help them strategize their conversations, the ďaccidentalĒ meetings at the corner store, and the long glances across the crowded room. I act as their coach and mentor in finding the right path to their belovedís heart.

Heck, Iíve even cleaned my apartment and had the friend and the intended victim over for a soiree. No greater gift of friendship can I bestow on someone than to clean my bathroom for their dinner party. But itís worth it - my potato and leek soup has a batting average of 100% for every single friend who has allured someone into my home for a supposedly casual supper. (Buyer Beware!!) Unfortunately, it has never worked when I am trying to impress someone about me. But thatís a different story for another time.

If my friends are victorious, I wonít hear from them for weeks and months. Then Iíll run into them at the grocery store, talking together with their new significant other as they plan a dinner party. ďCouples only, Alexa. You understand. Itís too awkward to have someone single there.Ē Yes, my friends, I truly understand that single is awkward. Actually too wellÖ

If they are swept down by the agony of defeat, I get terse emails from the afflicted. Tears over the phone. Gnashing of teeth over lattes. I eventually get blamed for the defeat. ďIf you had kept your nose out of my business, then I wouldnít have this broken heart.Ē

So why do I bother? Joy is contagious. Especially when itís your friends who found love.

This is why I admire Supervisor Aaron Peskin. He is a matchmaker of sorts.

Neighbors are fighting neighbors about a proposed building, a remodeling project, or a renovation to an existing home. People who have chosen the same neighborhood, the same schools, and the same block will start going after each other tooth and nail. Former friends hurtle insults at each other in the board chambers. People who used to mow each otherís backyard take great pains to sit on opposite ends of the legislative chambers of City Hall.

Each time, Peskin comes up with a possible solution. The project doesnít have to be in his district. Iíve seen him try to work his magic in a neighborhood dispute on Cathedral Hill in District 6, a single-family home in District 4, and an apartment building in District 8.

In these types of disputes, someone is going to be unhappy. Someone is going to object to the proposed solution. Someone is going to feel that the good supervisor should be practicing his magic elsewhere. And an unhappy person is unlikely to vote for you in the next election. Even those who benefit from the compromises forget Supervisor Peskinís good work as soon as they leave the chamber. They donít want to see any changes to their neighborhood - and a compromise means that something is going to change.

But Supervisor Peskin keeps negotiating compromises among neighbors and trying to keep peace in the most contentious battles of all - the battle about your home turf and what you can do to improve it.

So why does he bother? Because without a resolution, the fight will brew and brew to the boiling point. Because in the end, someone has to get the two sides together. Someone has to matchmate them to create, if not loving relationship, a working one.

There isnít yet a category for Nobel Peace Prize for Keeping Peace in San Francisco Neighborhoods. But if there was one, my nomination would be that the award should go to Aaron Peskin.