Tag Archives: San Francisco

Nailed it.

The filthy streets of San Francisco are filled with surprises. It’s wise to watch your step. As you’d expect, my midwestern, good-samaritan tendencies still occasionally surface. I try to kick used needles into the storm sewer, pick up other people’s dog poop and sometimes I’ll gather the drunk litter that collects in front of our apartment. They’re small, lazy gestures that could potentially save someone else from a little unnecessary stress.

So the other day when I noticed a roofing nail along the curb in front of our place, sharp-end up, I grabbed it and put it in my jacket pocket. I didn’t want it to wind up in anyone’s tire (especially one of my own). Three days later, after the nail was long forgotten, Naomi and I were unloading the car along the curb. Bag of over-priced dog food. Bag of over-priced vegetables from Whole Foods. Bag of over-priced toiletries from Target. And my jacket. Feeling satisfied with the fact that our weekend errands were done, she gave me a little hug. And then spotted something troubling.

“What’s that on the ground? Under the car?” she said, leaning forward to take a closer look.

Apparently the nail I’d picked up a few days before had fallen out of my pocket and planted itself in the exact spot I’d found it the first time.

There’s no lesson here. Except be careful out there. Needles are sharp. Poop on your shoe can ruin your day. And nails are almost as good at finding their way to your car tires as they are at holding buildings together.

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Perfect timing (for an imperfect world).

Our city life is a series of pleasant grownup cycles and routines. It’s the reason there’s food in the fridge, a roll of quarters for laundry and the dog has never had to take a shit on the floor. It’s keeping up and keeping track. The city itself is a disaster. Too much traffic. Too much greed combined with too many people trying to get by. San Francisco is a small city full of massive egos.

All good and evil factors aside, I occasionally get home on time—which gives me an opportunity to greet my lady at the bus stop when she’s getting home late. At least this was the plan last Wednesday when I headed out into the neighborhood with Woody the dog.

But we were intercepted by a short chat with one of the people in our building. Woody didn’t mind.

Then we walked by one of the Catholic churches and ran into one of the priests. Woody particularly likes this guy and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Around the bend we saw one of our waiter friends watching traffic go by. I knew Woody would expect love and attention, so I hunkered down for another stop and chat.

When we finally made it to the bus stop, I’d abandoned the notion of seeing the familiar face we’d left the house in search of. We were running late on a schedule that never really existed. And yet there she was. Each chance encounter led to a perfectly paced love connection. Loosely planned, last-minute mission accomplished. We climbed the hill back toward the house, hand in hand in leash.

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City views.

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Just a few random scenes that caught my eye (and lens) this weekend. I can’t say that I observed much celebration of the president yesterday but I definitely noticed a lot of folks celebrating their three-day weekends.

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Double barrel.

I started a load of laundry around 8:30 last night and had time to kill until it was done. Spur of the moment, I decided to fire up HBO GO and revisit an old episode of the Sopranos. I’d absolutely loved the show the first time and figured episode one, season three wasn’t a bad place to dive back in.

The intro sequence began. And just as it had nearly a decade before, the song worked its way into my head. “Woke up this morning got yourself a gun…” When I finally went to bed a few hours later, that chorus was still playing on a loop between my ears.

…and it was still there when I woke up at 5 am.

Two cups of coffee later, I was strolling through the early-morning streets of North Beach when I heard a distant, drunken voice singing.

“Mamaaaa, just killed a man…Put a gun against his head, pulled theeee trigger, now he’s dead!” It gave me the creeps. As a former Midwesterner and friend of outdoorsmen, I’ve always tried to dodge the gun debate, but this particular set of circumstances felt strange to me. It wasn’t just a dude sitting in the dark singing about hurting people at 6:15 am. It was a moment that stopped me in my tracks and left me contemplating culture, violence and how quickly I needed to get the hell out of there. Queen fan or not, it was time to move along. 

Music-wise, I suppose it’s nothing a little Vince Geraldi can’t fix. Culture-wise, well, that fix is a whole lot more complicated.

All debate aside, take care and beware of what might get stuck in your head. If you’re up for it, try a little tenderness.

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Word on the street.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, the homeless population in San Francisco seems to be perpetually on the rise. Whether it’s mental illness, drug abuse, skyrocketing rent prices or simply the fact that the weather is fairly mild all year long, there are people living on the streets around every corner. As a dog walker and neighborhood wanderer, Woody the dog and I are often up early and out late which leads to a number of encounters with the unfortunate.

It was a quarter past nine last night when we decided to make our way around our picturesque block. I was looking out toward the moonlight over the Bay Bridge, when I noticed a plastic bag with battery-powered Christmas lights glowing inside and a backpack tossed in the middle of the sidewalk. I pulled the leash tight as the silhouette of a man digging in the trash can came into view.

An attempt to show respect for the fact that the sidewalk would be the man’s bed for the night, we kept our distance. Woody stayed quiet. I tried not to stare. Then, unexpectedly, he popped out of the can and looked our direction. I worried for a moment we may have startled him. I prepared to be yelled at. 

“HAPPY THANKSGIVING!” he exclaimed with a burst of energy and enthusiasm.

A whole wave of emotions came over me. All the typical middle-class impulses. I should give him money. I could arrange a Thanksgiving dinner for him. Maybe cover a motel room for the night. Fifteen different scenarios popped into my mind. But instead, I kept walking. I told him to have a good night. Perfectly lame. Perfectly benign.

While he’s probably forgotten about the encounter, it made quite an impression on me. And with that, I say HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May we all have the wisdom to appreciate what we have.

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Second story.

We paid the rent early this month to make a good impression on the new landlord. All the utilities are covered. No one is after me for anything that I can think of. I’m sitting on the second story of a temperature-controlled, luxury bus on its way to a campus full of friendly faces and free food. It all seems damn near perfect.

Then I spot the first desperate homeless person of the day. Using the sidewalk as a bed and the trashcan nearby as a pantry, I wonder where he came from and how it all came to this.

Right on cue, a parade of Uber commuters come into sight. Each cheap four-door sedan is the same—the passengers are elbow-to-elbow in the backseat staring at their phones while the driver silently dodges other Uber drivers’ angry maneuvers. It seems someone is always getting screwed in our “sharing” economy.

And the scene wouldn’t be complete without a swath of tourists aiming their sparkling new iPhones toward a row of palm trees planted along the Embarcadero. Each of them tries to capture the Instagram shot that will define their time away from home. Their time in a place where the homeless are part of the landscape, Ubers outnumber daily drivers, and a lucky guy sits on the second story of a fancy bus and watches it all unfold.  

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