Stormy Weather and the Wasteland

WordPress did me dirty and showed me messages about corrupted blocks and unrecoverable blocks. I tried everything but lost most of my Gary Rossington obituary piece. It was frustrating and irritating. I put it back together as best I could, but something is always lost when stuff like that happens. Trying to produce a website on WordPress is like trying to write a song on a guitar with only two strings: it can be done but it is harder than it has to be.

I have not been well, spitting up blood and feeling so tired I cannot move, my hands are swollen at the joints, and yesterday I spat up so much blood and vomited so I had to find a free clinic. I did find a place that would see me, at least for 30 days, without insurance. I have to try and get Healthy San Francisco coverage. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, that has caused low platelets, hence not clotting and bleeding, plus a lung problem also caused by the rheumatoid arthritis. I feel like hell. I can’t be sick, and I sure as shit can’t pay for medication and procedures that cost a fortune. I am not enjoying 2023.

Life goes on as usual out here in California: it is the usual parade of days, except colder and wetter than usual. We have another storm blowing in today and flood warnings for lower-laying areas. I am glad I am on top of a hill. It seems as if there is stormy weather everywhere.

I did something I rarely do nowadays – I sat down and wrote a song. It felt good to pick up my guitar and write, it helped me find some of the joy in writing again. There is a certain bliss in knowing that the words I chose and put together are reserved just for me. They are mine.

Walking out down the Tenderloin yesterday on my way to the free clinic that agreed to see me and treats so many people with such compassion and care I became fully aware of the mess San Francisco is in. In those outer edges of the Loin that I don’t ever walk through, because I don’t have to, the scenes of suffering and deprivation make the twisted tableau that happens outside my window look like something bearable. My apartment is on a good block of the Tenderloin, it is still bad, but not the shanty town of tents and the mess of trash and rats and discarded human beings that happens down there in that area between Market and the Tenderloin.

The clinic I went to mainly helps the homeless and destitute. It is full of compassionate, caring, wonderful people who help and help and help some more and use their resources to care. The clientele are in desperate need of compassion, and I saw nothing but an attempt to give people back some dignity. Those who were nodded out were put in a quiet corner and monitored. Those who were struggling with mental health treated with kindness. It was the front lines of compassion in San Francisco, and I felt privileged to witness the fantastic things they do, and also to receive a little bit of their compassion and help.

There is such suffering on the streets, the City is totally failing unhoused folk, and the extent of the horror is something that is hard to cope with. When I was homeless I did my best to remain civilized. Still certain barriers are broken – I happily wandered around my front room, which was the forest, in my pajamas and flip flops on the way to the bathroom, and didn’t care who saw me. I became comfortable with showing communally. My privacy was under siege and I had to cope with people wandering through my living quarters – my campsite or the parking lot, without caring that they were walking effectively through my home. Even with my strong sense of dignity, homelessness took away some of it. People living outside in the City have had their dignity removed entirely. The lack of compassion has removed all privacy. People wander around naked, lance their abscesses, have sex, deal with their feet, shoot drugs, smoke drugs, have crises, break down, cry, eat and sleep all in full view of everyone who walks by. I try and choose a path that does not take me past their little villages of suffering, not because I don’t want to see it, but because I don’t want to invade their privacy any more than it already is. My heart breaks every time I see the mess out there. It is a mess caused by a lack of compassion in people who are able to help, but instead choose political grandstanding and blaming undocumented people for the failings of government. Lazy politics. Lazy thinking. Lazy wasting of resources and a total lack of care define how the homelessness issue in San Francisco is dealt with.

The SIP hotel system that I participated in with the Boy provided privacy, meals, social care and support to people. Instead of keeping that going and helping people keep their health and dignity, it was all shut down and destroyed. Covid proved that governments can provide a swift response to homelessness, and the only thing stopping that response is their own lack of compassion and care. It is possible. It is just not desirable to these powerful people that do not walk through the TL and see people in need of care, but see only trash to be swept. People are not trash. San Francisco is up shit creek without a paddle and I am finding it very traumatic and upsetting.

In the end a government without compassion and only driven by money and punishment cannot make a City great, or even livable. What you get is what we have here: a humanitarian disaster on a huge scale and a City that is emptying out of its rich, housed occupants. It is all a waste. It is a waste of money that fails to get spent in ways which actually help. It is a waste of human beings. It is a waste of life and time and love and decency. San Francisco is a wasteland, and man, am I wasted too.

As I took the streetcar back up the hill, taking a huge loop round into Union Square to go home via a route that was not so hard to witness, feeling absolutely battered by life, I looked down hill. It was a different City. One where people lived instead of survived and suffered. The City needs to take responsibility for the mess it has created, for the inhumanity of the Tenderloin, and actually go about fixing the issues, not just punishing, scapegoating and denying they can fix a problem, that for a while in the dark days of quarantine, was solved by opening up hotel rooms to the unhoused. Shame on everyone who could fix things and instead lets everyone suffer and die out on the streets, or else forces even me to consider running for the hills away from the whole damned disaster.


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