Tag Archives: San Francisco

San Francisco sunset.

The loud talkers mix with sirens, jackhammers and car horns.

Those who don’t have their heads down in the soft glow of cell service, seem to have their heads up their asses. 

It’s an errand here and a rush to get to the next thing there. It’s life as we know it and reality as we never could have expected. So much information flowing, so many opportunities and yet, beneath all the self-importance, we’re still basically human. Still lonely. Still searching for magic we can only vaguely recall from a time we barley remember. 

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Skyrocketing rent prices, lack of space, mild weather and liberal policies have led to a homeless epidemic in San Francisco that’s apparent around almost every corner. And contrary to what small-town conservatives might think, I’ve seen practically every walk of life wallowing in the gutter. Aggressive white kids. Old black guys. A well-dressed lady from India breast-feeding a kid while another sleeps nearby in a stroller. Some are daily fixtures. Some seem to be just passing through. They all make you feel guilty about something—like sometimes not feeling guilty at all.

I don’t have an answer. I’m not even sure where to begin asking questions. But I’ve adopted the routine of a typical, heartless asshole: I don’t hand out money and I generally don’t even engage in conversation. It’s not lack of empathy, it’s more like a general feeling of helplessness.

Tough act aside, my early-morning treks to work are the outings that bother me the most. My rush to get to work coincides with the sleeping schedule of many of the homeless in the neighborhood. The vulnerability and harsh reality of having no place to go really smacks you in the face when you see someone curled up next to a building using a trash bag as a blanket.

Destitute people snoring outside stores full of expensive, mostly worthless stuff is one thing, but it was the absurd irony of seeing a homeless guy sleeping in the doorway of a mattress store that really got me a few days back. Seeing his head resting on the cement while a row of fluffy white princess beds sparkled just over his shoulder sparked a feeling of disbelief and hopelessness that my feeble mind had trouble processing.

I stood there for a second or two and nearly got rear-ended by a fast-moving pedestrian trying to take a client call on the sidewalk. The sleeper began to stir as the fluorescent lights inside the store came on row by row. Life kept moving and so did I—reminding myself to never take my fluffy bed for granted again.

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Now that I’ve joined the bridge and tunnel crowd that floods into San Francisco each morning, I understand the robotic nature of the downtown population better than ever. It’s a boring, monotonous cycle—commuting to get to some gig at a company. So everyone generally falls in line, heads down, hands in pockets, hearts and minds safely tucked away.

But every so often a random junkie, homeless person or purple-haired office dweller knocks me out of my trance. It’s a welcome distraction from the day-to-day work routine. And one guy I encountered last week found the perfect captive audience at the crowded corner of Market and Beale.

I heard the metallic rumble of his shopping cart as he approached. People stared at their phones, impatiently waiting for the walk signal. He began his performance.

“None of this matters, people! Because…guess what…YOU’RE ALL FIRED!”

There was a maniacal laugh as he sifted through the crap in his basket. He still had 15 seconds.

“That’s right…you…and you…and you…YOU’RE ALL FIRED! FIRED! FIRED!”

Eventually the light changed and everyone rushed off into oblivion, but the whole scene made my day. Technically he was wrong, I wasn’t fired when I got to work, but it was a great reminder that life is never as predictable as you might think.

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The train came to an abrupt stop as we approached the platform. We grabbed our bags and adjusted our coats. Everyone walked like zombies. The smell of rot and urine was apparent as we made our way toward the exit. The whole depressing scene was interrupted by the magical sound of a cello echoing through the cavernous underground structure.

The turnstyle set us free and we saw a busker in the distance. He was dressed well and played with his head down. I noticed an impressive collection of singles and random change in his instrument case and considered making my own contribution but we were running late. Onward.

Halfway up the stairs we heard a furious howl as the music stopped, “motherfuckers, fuck you, that’s the second time today.”

The busker had been robbed. Again. Something tells me he won’t be going back to the 16th street station again.

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Nice Shot: Fifteenth NorCal Installment

'34 Ford Truck'57 Chevy'54 Ford

I can’t fully explain why other people’s junk makes me wish I had more than twenty bucks in my checking account, but the shots above should help you fill in the blanks. A big thank you to all the Craigslisters with spare parts and spare time to post. Without you, the Nice Shot series would wither away and I’d have to spend my time doing something productive—like cleaning house or reading poetry.

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This or that.


Inside.JPGI woke in Yosemite on Sunday and headed into the snarled mess of downtown San Francisco first thing Monday. Opposite in so many ways (minus all the rich people running around), I found one view that reminded me a lot of another.

Happy Friday, friends and random readers. Whether you’re among massive walls of stone or reflective sheets of glass, please make sure to enjoy yourself.

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There was a pretty island. We put a prison on it.

There were wide open spaces. We built factories.

We had feet. We came up with cars.

We had food. We brought in a focus group and introduced Hamburger Helper.

We had ideas so we invented TV and that’s what led us here.

To screens. To staring. To stale air and filthy floors.

This is how we land. And this is how we live. Layer upon layer. From here to eternity—at least until we return to the ravaged earth just below the filthy floors that are just below our feet.

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