I have been working very hard on writing for pay, so my blog has had to take somewhat of a back seat for a while. I figure there is enough writing on here to fuel any newcomer to my writing for quite some time!
Life here in my best little apartment in the not so smart part of town continues mostly peacefully. The sweeps pushed more problems into the upper blocks of the TL, and lower blocks of Nob Hill, and my street has been suffering from a lot more traffic. All night screamers, crack dealers, people fighting, people fucking…it is all going on down here, and there is not much to be done about it. This City is only dealing with issues on a cosmetic level. They can point to a cleaned up inner blocks of the Tenderloin, but all they have done is pushed the problem further out, instead of actually solving it. Those people that have disappeared from Geary and Leavenworth, that are no longer on Turk or Hyde, are now on previously calm and quiet blocks, raising Cain. It is deeply distressing to see the suffering out there.
The crisis teams come and go, and leave the person there still screaming at passers by, still waking up the entire street every night between 11 and 3am, still suffering, and still in desperate need of assistance. Spreading the problem throughout the City, instead of containing it within the inner TL is certainly a tactic, though I am pretty sure it is not one that helps anybody – not the housed or the homeless.
The ease with which slurs are thrown around out there never ceases to shock me. It is at times like this when my inner private school girl comes out in shock. The oppression and cruelty of the streets takes the vulnerable and eats them up, spitting out the pips. This is why I tried to stay rural when I was homeless with a child. It is easier to stay safe and remain who you are when there are not many other people around in the same position. I kept a very tidy camp, made sure the tent was not an eyesore, and all the trash was cleared away immediately. I ran our camp like a military operation – water, trash, tidy up outside done like clockwork. If we were boondocking in the vehicle I would not put anything outside at all, and try to stay as stealthy as possible.
Still, it is never enough for some of the housed and uber-privileged, not even those on vacation in a campground. I think the most hurtful words I ever heard from one of these nose in the air types, was that “you ruined my entire vacation”, when I dared to ask her not to lead her dog to my campsite to shit and piss on my campsite area while I was cooking my food on a camp stove a few steps away. I told her to do it on her own site or some of the common ground. She was absolutely irate. How dare I – a poor person – tell her that she couldn’t lead her animal to defecate in my front room. The horror!
I have sympathy and empathy in bucketloads. If I were out there I know I would not be behaving in a way that disturbed others. Clean camp, no trash, no collection of general shite. One backpack with bedroll. Make sure you get up and go sit in a park in the day time, or somewhere that is meant for public sitting, and only go to a sleeping spot at night. No fighting. No arguing, no noise, no disturbance. No use of drugs in public – that is what park bathrooms are for. To be frank, that should be what happens solely in safe use sites if a person is unhoused, but they are closed down and banned. Again, cosmetically fixing the problem on a very superficial level, sacrificing some neighborhoods for use as street toilets, storage areas for those in need of mental health and addiction services, and showing the press emptied out areas which were previously bad, whilst hiding the shame of the City in previously good blocks, though not particularly affluent blocks. Note, the City did not push people out to Russian Hill or the Presidio, or Fisherman’s Wharf, no! They pushed them out the the Tendernob (Nob Hill/Tenderloin), to Polk Gulch, and to those previously safer upper blocks of the TL that are populated by families and the permanently struggling poorer citizens of the City.
I am sick of death of being screamed at every time I open my front door and walk up the road. I am sick of being offered drugs. I am sick of nothing being actually done to help people out of the mess they are in and that mess affecting my damn sleep. I mean, after all I am a selfish creature, and being irritated that I am being continually woken up night after night, in this $2000+ a month apartment makes me a little upset. I am trying to build a life, and that is so hard when I get woken up by an adult screaming every few hours. Not only that, that adult in so much distress deserves some serious and non negotiable help, as they are clearly in a lot of mental anguish.
I am all for freedom, until that freedom starts effecting others. I have had to close my windows in summer because of the cigarette, weed and drug smoke stench from people smoking various shit right under it. I could not safely exist my house for a few hours because two men were standing in front of the door doing things they should not have been doing. It is all quite enough.
When I moved in, this was, of course, not a good part of town, but I was two blocks away from absolute horror. I am now right in the center of it. That said, I am deeply grateful for another three months rent being paid by subsidy, though it should have been so much more than that – I can’t afford the rent, and they should have given me another year, which is the maximum possible. I adore my apartment. This is the first home I have had in my adult life where I am actually safe and happy. It is bliss. My son is doing so very well at school, and I have never seen him this happy. He still fails to cause me a moments trouble or upset. He is such a decent human being, and I adore him. Sometimes I remind myself that one day he will grow up and move on, and I won’t see him every day, and that saddens me greatly, but I remind myself that I raised him to go out there and have a successful life and be happy. If his actions are of any indication, then I have done a good job so far.
I think today I will take a few hours to go and take a walk. I went out for a walk yesterday. As I left the house I saw a young homeless man with two pink foil helium balloons. Heaven knows where he got them from. They were bouncing and dancing in the San Franciscan breeze, and he had a look of sheer joy on his face. The balloons were plump and shiny and not yet wizened or grazed, and amongst the filth of the street and the deprivation of his situation, with his grimy face and filthy blonde hair, overgrown fingernails, and wasted body, the balloons were something that remained perfect, even if that perfection could not last. I smiled at him, and he smiled back, a grin from a face in his twenties, yet missing most of his teeth. Those balloons represented hope, hope that something perfect, something happy, something pleasurable could remain out here. He walked off down the street, balloons bobbling in the breeze, holding onto his hope tightly, and I went off the other way singing an old Velvet’s cover song that was originally a Dylan throwaway, I’ll Keep It With Mine. It goes “Everybody will help you/Some people are very kind/But if I can save you any time/Come on, give it to me…I’ll keep it with mine…” I could still see his balloons as I turned the corner.
I can’t keep his hope with mine, but I can preserve it in words. So here’s to star shaped pink foil balloons and the transitory pleasures of lives of pain. Here’s to hope and to things that float in the breeze! Here’s to the kind people, the helpers, those that save others! Here’s to the boys and girls, the dealers and the prostitutes (but never the pimps), here’s to the addicts and the kids who left foster care and were dumped outside, here’s to the survivors and the runners. May the City realize we are people, we are human, and that shifting the problem around is not solving it, and none of us are fool enough to think it is…and may every last one of you have your pink foil star balloon moment today.