Another Day in the Neighborhood 

Walking to work from MUNI in the Civic Center can be a fascinating experience as long as you remain alert. Mind you weaving through traffic and around waste – less said the better – hones one’s observation skills. 

But those skills create the false illusion you are seeing everything.

Case in point the Mid-Market (read Loin) attempted metamorphosis into a “middle class neighborhood”  – only in San Francisco – through high rise apartments averaging $3,000 plus a month. 

Will it succeed? Initially yes but long term remains questionable. Why? It’s unclear the newest neighbors understand San Francisco’s cyclical economy and population density require certain attitude adjustments. Conversely those most resentful of the financial upheaval must accept these folks are not going away.

As the weather people are fond of saying the earliest indicators are not good. A beautiful new supermarket opened next door to Twitter – replete with enticing pictures promising foods from all over- but it doesn’t list it’s hours and remains closed before 8:00 a.m. 

I guess if you have to ask the hours you don’t belong there. Surrounding this newest slice of retail heaven are emotionally disturbed street residents navigating a savaged mental health system. Contrary to developers’ dream designs these folks’ psychotic breaks will not take place off stage. See John King’s great article on Developers Narrow Vision

Okay how do we fix this problem? 

Developers and tenants must understand short of tanks rolling you will not move everyone to Oakland (Nice Try Libby but No Thanks). [Given each also lives paycheck to paycheck thanks to their high rents a certain humility would also be welcome.] This means directing additional money to mental health programs. 

Homeless Advocates and City Hall must set up shelters accepting pets, offering showers, and providing treatment while demanding accountability. [Forced treatment of mentally ill remains a seemingly intractable issue but if we don’t allow people to bleed to death on the street how can we ignore self-harm or assaults on others.] Those screaming about criminalizing the homeless must understand prisons don’t only exist behind bars.

 In the meantime the neighborhood continues strong. 

I toddled off to Walgreens which has been serving and welcoming all San Franciscans for decades. Retirees practiced their tai chi and lapped me as they circuited the Civic Center Plaza. Two homeless men eagerly played cards. 

Throughout Falung Gong members continued their vigil. 

 Yep it’s Another Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Fred Rogers the beloved conscience of the pre-Sesame Street generation.)

Backwards and Upside Down

An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers d...

Although many tout Ginger Rogers  for doing everything Fred Astaire did “backwards and in heels,” it’s generally not the world’s greatest strategy. After all it requires strapping on ankle breaking footwear and attacking a situation with your eyes closed. However, those of us with ADHD live a similar strategy, which I describe as an homage to “Wrong Way [Douglas] Corrigan” (a 1930’s era pilot who attained celebrity status by mistakenly flying to Ireland instead of New York). Unfortunately, unlike the publicity-savvy Corrigan, most ADHDer’s fill our lives with  missed appointments, unpaid bills, and broken promises rather than celebrity endorsements.

New York Post headline.
New York Post headline. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
South Park title image with the four main char...
South Park title image with the four main characters (Eric Cartman, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, and Kenny McCormick) in the foreground and most of the recurring, supporting characters in the background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even though ADHD entered my life as an unsolicited burden, I now view it as a unexpected gift both for those of us with it and society as a whole. Despite popular cultural attacks – yes I’m talking to you South Park” – ADHDer’s are not lazy, stupid, or defiant. Our sluggish cortex may impede our efforts to focus on things lacking an immediate payoff, impede our listening skills, or weaken our impulse control. But conversely it frees us to hyperfocus when it matters, see things others miss in their rush to conformity, and take chances on outsiders (be they people or ideas). None of the above is ever a popular position to take, notably in a time of seemingly shrinking resources and unstable political outcomes. Yet without the “fully aware”(aka non-ADHDer’s) who possess great courage and us ADHDer’s who stumble blindly along, society would often miss potential solutions.

Mind you these potential solutions don’t succeed every time. Nor can they erase the societal and personal damage an undiagnosed or undisciplined ADHDer causes. However, to paraphrase both Hegel and Act-Up, “no motion (silence) equals death.”  Less poetically an unwillingness to seek out the new coupled with  a refusal to diversify dooms both societies and organizations. Maybe its our eternal status as outsiders or simply our head-blindness but most ADHDer’s lack those fears.

This theory jumped at me (again) when I examined my last set of photos. I could have — and maybe should have — tossed them due to the bright midday sun. Further many lacked focus because once again a migraine muddled my brain. However, looking closer I saw the shots behind the shots (play of shadows, reflections in windows, or just unusual look of items). Part of handling ADHD involves a lot of self-forgiveness. Hopefully this will explain the indulgence I displayed by posting this latest slide show.

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Why the Rich Live in the Hills

Obviously it’s a rhetorical question since the hills generally offer the best views, freshest air, and (often) greatest safety.

Rather than launch into a screed regarding scarcity of resources, I’ll reveal another not-so-hidden secret to San Francisco. Our abundance of hills opens these benefits to the masses. All it takes is a willingness to climb or a SF MUNI pass. Moreover, you generally don’t have to go very far to find a sudden view. The ones to my left and right are only just outside my apartment door. Remember too, I can focus my camera to catch particular aspects of the picture. However, my eyes benefits from the whole shot.

Or I can take a few more steps up a short hill to find pictures of Sutro Tower. It’s an icon for locals and our communication venue. Someone once pointed out it looks like a clipper ship if you get underneath it (especially on a foggy night).

Still if you want the best views, it’s best to make the effort to climb some higher hills. When my health improves I’ll cast the proverbial wider net. In the meantime, I’ll cheat and stick to local venues like UCSF (one of the great teaching medical centers in the country if not the world).From my house, I can walk up the back entrance to both its buildings and gardens.

 UCSF’s  location on the semi-steep hills of Parnassus Ave provides stunning views of the   Golden Gate Park, the Bay, and various local neighborhoods. Most people tend to avoid it, however, because it’s a cold, foggy, wind-tunnel. Eh it’s why us Sunset Natives love it (after all conditioning makes us curdle at sight of sun or is it we are vampires :)) It’s part of why – sadly – many of its practitioners are fleeing out to Mission Bay‘s better weather. Of course it probably has something to do with earthquakes as well. 

 

 

 

Given my obsession with buildings, I appreciate what great views it provides of Golden Gate Heights and the Sunset. Though I can’t help but think of another native’s friendly gibe at me years ago. No matter how much some of us (e.g. me) may seek to flee the Church, we always tend to live within the sound of church bells. The pink imposing building in the lower picture is St. Anne’s Catholic Church and School (nope, not my alma mater). Nor does it skimp on views of the beautiful Craftsmen Houses in the area.

 

A Neighborhood That So Loves Its Children

Contrary to popular belief, San Franciscans like kids. We may not favor sharing SF MUNI space with strollers the size of mini-hummers. Nor do we possess wide swaths of land for expansive malls filled with mega theaters. However, just about every school based bond wins wide support. We book our recreation centers and public parks with back to back soccer and baseball games. Our cultural institutions open their doors for free on multiple days and sponsor youth oriented events.

This community concern and parental passion reaches it zenith, however, in the Tenderloin. There hard-working immigrant communities coexist with the hardcore homeless grappling with mental illness and/or substance abuse. In the Loin too often syringes litter the streets, urine permeates the air, and feces (from assorted mammals) turn sidewalks into hopscotch games. Much of this gets hidden from non-walkers by towering edifices paying homage to monumental egos. 

Despite these obstacles, a quick look will turn up the some of the most vibrant and involved educational programs in the City both during and after school hours.

Volunteer organizations run day recreational programs, tutor students who often arrive not speaking  English, and provide safe after school programs. Other groups provide financial support to these and other programs.

 

 

 

 

A clear example occurred last Thursday when a daytime showing of the Olympics headlined a community fair set up with free kid sized entertainment. Happiness both on the kids and the parents faces shone through the pictures (probably same expression appeared on faces hundreds of years ago in medieval times during Maypole Celebrations). ‘

All the pictures  speak for themselves.

However, pay attention to a few things. One, its unclear if the pirate flag or the kids frightened the dragons more (regardless expressions on this arcade ride are priceless).

Two, the giant slide attracted the most users, but note the differing responses on the three children’s faces (joy, surprise, and fear).

Lighten Up Girlfriend (Guardian)

Sheesh. We turn our back for a minute – remember we live and die with the SF Giants – only to find she skidded off again to “deep thoughts.”  Talk about ruining a good time. She’s even talking politics again. While she glumly sorts through another spot of Vertigo (no, not the cool Hitchcock movie she always been too scared to watch), let’s clean this up.

Where’s our blog, you (and us) may well ask. Hmmphhh. Still negotiating. She tried to buy Buddy off with the red hat. Like one hat could ever be enough. Besides wait and see what we do to it during tomorrow’s St. Louis Cardinal‘s game.

We keep telling her sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll sells. Hell, we will settle for cute kitten or puppy pictures. Anything to lure a second (and less stingy) mommy in here. (Ooops, did we say mommy? Don’t get too excited, you will have to earn it to move beyond Guardian status.)

So we sorted through some of her remaining shots and grabbed the following.

 

Let’s start with a splash of color (at least she’s starting to pay attention to street items):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She even tried some weird angles (yes artsy technique needs lots of work but lets encourage her — though she probably could find a way to even make this political; shudder):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survivors Take the Other Path

Doorways, especially the more ornate, have always fascinated me. Opening them hopefully  leads to  answers, adventure, or escape.

 

Doubtless my taste in childhood literature – A Wrinkle in Time, Chronicles of Narnia, or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – shaped this interest. In each the child characters found a hidden path,  most magical but some mundane, to  adult adventure without submitting to adult control.

Like every good piece of fiction, each character suffered disappointment, overcame obstacles,  and returned chastened. Regardless neither they nor the reader regretted the journey. Most, especially this reader, sought a pathway to return.Japanese Tea Garden Path

 

 

 

A life spent breathing San Francisco’s intoxicating smells – salty fog, innumerable spices, and perfumed humanity –  doubtless contributed to this zest for adventure. Childhood’s culinary map included  Chinese  Dishes, Russian Piroshki’s, and (homemade) Greek Food; generally sold in nearby but still different neighborhoods. (Now it would be ThaiEthiopian, and Indian, likely without as much travel but lessons still learned.)  Prior to Proposition 13 – yes, I’m that old – museum, aquariums, and parks holding the world’s knowledge opened their doors for free. (Even now you can find a way to free days if you can fight the crowds.) Frankly today the babble of different languages, clashing customs, and  the kaleidoscope of cultures make even SF MUNI an adventure. (Unlike some of my peers from the Outer Sunset, I — thanks to my mom’s early lessons — embrace San Francisco’s diversity.)

 

It’s why San Francisco continues to succeed through earthquakes, AIDS, and recessions.

 

 

 

 

Most of us came from somewhere else – or were raised by those folks from somewhere else – or wrongly get treated as being from somewhere else despite having families here going back generations. As such we know nothing forces us to remain stifled by custom or status quo. For those willing to remain so ignorant their stay is no longer pleasant. Or, on a happier note, food and/or persons from somewhere else often seduce them into knowing better. An honest look at San Francisco’s (California) history will reveal this has happened for centuries (when we used to pit ethnicities against each other, like we currently do with racial groups.)

 

 

Art on the Walls, Peace in the Heart

Below is a very small sample of muralsgraffiti, and graphics I found on a lunch break near work. Mind you I don’t claim this as an exhaustive catalog of the Tenderloin’s vibrancy. In time, I will seek out more and better examples (please feel free to send me suggestions).

Sometimes the building’s graphic designs or additions brought their own punch to the picture. I loved these few examples, which relied both on paint and design. Kudos to the Hostel for using the SF Giants colors. We will just admire the arrow shapes and ignore the blue in the white building. 😉

Mind the last one with the wavy special effects is a killer if you have vertigo. Best enjoyed in quick glances.

Perhaps my favorites are building additions where it’s hard to tell if a freelance tagger or professional muralist designed them. I suspect in these next pair of shots it’s professionals. The one with the young boys is the entrance to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (great community resource).  The Keith Haring influenced one lies in an alley way (total shame since its gorgeous). By the way, I’ve included random people in some shots because it makes it look more alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I found certain scenes just reminded me of San Francisco with the different signs and the bus. After all what is the City without SF MUNI? Now calm people, calm; it works a lot of the time.

Or I found the contrast interesting (both in a good and bad way) such as how  advertising signs contrasted with items on the street. 

Plus I liked the way the store owner made tagging easy. Better to join them than try and beat them.

The most professional, and seemingly newest, appeared on US Post Office. These are beautiful images of music and birds, which also tie in with modern tile facade. They could be their own postcards but again it’s interesting to juxtapose them against the street.