The seeds of 1969 are sleeping under San Franciscan soil. They are buried deep beneath the surface, giant striped florescent pods of peace, love and understanding, pulsating with a strange snoozing glow. They are not ready to wake up. They might never be. There is a lot of negativity surrounding this jewel on the Bay. Last night a homeless man, all six-foot-stupid of him tried to kick down my gate. He kicked it a good few times and then gave up. He had violence but no endurance, no ability to stick with a project. He needed not to give up in life. A flurry of furious kicks, his standard issue hobo boots meeting metal, and then he lost interest and was gone up the road, presumably to try and kick someone else’s door in.
The City is causing this suffering by not housing people. When the hotel program was still running, people had a place to go. They were not trying to smash down other people’s doors. There were very few on the streets, and the ones in the hotels were monitored by social workers who tried to get them into work, rehab or other kind of support. It was this program, in the middle of the pandemic that saved me and my Boy. We had been homeless for a long time, living in campgrounds after I had to flee extreme and potentially fatal domestic violence. The compassion we were shown allowed me and the Boy to thrive, not simply survive.
Every single lost soul who is outside, sleeping rough deserves the same compassion. The homeless are not the enemy, but the expression of a society which is failing. Drug use is not reason to hate and bring in the National Guard, as the Presidential hopeful, California Governor Gavin Newsome decided to do, but perhaps the purest expression of the pain created by this failing modern society upon the most vulnerable. This is a pain to be healed, not a war to be fought. The internal war of addiction has been demonized in order to give the struggling and inflation-weary masses to fixate and hate against. It is a distraction, a mind control tool.
Everybody needs somebody to love? No, the Powers That Be, realize what a lot of uncivilized, unempathic and unevolved humanoids need is somebody to hate. The unvaccinated? The addicted? The homeless who have no family to provide a safety net? Gay? People of color? Conversative? Democrat? Californian? Texan? We are being encouraged to hate one and other right now, because when we love each other we are strong. When we hate each other we are weak and divided.
It is a sign of these callous times that there was more outrage at Nordstrom leaving the Westfield Shopping Mall, and removing its presence in San Francisco, than there was over a young black transwoman shot dead (murdered in my opinion) by a security guard at a Walgreens over $14 of candy they took. Social media encourages not our better selves, but our worst Angels, that sit on our shoulders and boost our egos, telling us that our way of life is the only one worth living. We are hungry for ‘likes’ and approval of our world-wide peers. It is the new tribalism, we are not moving forwards, but rather backwards. It is a new dark age, and will only get worse when we get A.I to do all our thinking for us. We are devolving into creatures who exist like cats lapping the cream and grooming our own sullied paws, for pleasure and cheap immediate kicks only.
Scapegoating the undocumented, the addicted, the homeless – those that it is easy to denigrate and demonize, feels good, man, right? It boosts our own egos…encouraging us to think, ‘at least we are not like that, we are better than that!’ We are being hoist by our own petards, damned by our own inhumanity. This is not the way we put an end to the crisis on our streets in the City. When something had to be done fast, when the pandemic hit and the rich were scared the homeless would spread covid, they opened up those ‘Shelter In Place’ hotels within days, it was shown to be possible and fast and easy to do. It was proved to work. It reduced the number of people on the streets and crime fell. San Francisco was much happier, much safer and much cleaner. The war on drugs cannot be won – those that deal the drugs are often the users too, and arresting low level dealers only hurts the addicted. The way the fentanyl crisis is fixed is with compassion, safe supply and harm reduction. This posturing only raises the drama and the fear in this struggling Tenderloin community that I am part of. We do not need military on the streets, we do not need threats made to the undocumented in this sanctuary city. We need compassion, and fast.
Compassion, mental health help which is easily accessed, addiction assistance with safely dosed and sourced drugs, harm reduction for users of hard drugs and dangerous routes of administration. We need bathrooms, and social workers, and we need to look at our empty office buildings and repurpose them as homes for those without shelter.
It poured with rain yesterday and the day before. We are much colder and wetter than usual for this time of year, and after a hard winter there is no relief for those living outside. It is unbearable weather if you are outside, trust me I know. I used to dread the rain and cold and not being able to keep us dry and warm. It makes a hard situation unbearable, unhealthy and unsafe. It is oppressive and ruins any fragile morale. The man who was trying to break in scared me witless. What would he do if he got in? The incident would not have happened if that man was given some housing, food and compassion by those who run this City. The more we ‘fight’ against the problems, instead of fix the root causes and make people’s lives better, not worse, the more we will have a bunch of disaffected, angry people who have nothing to lose.
Downtown is empty and not safe. I don’t go down there any more. It is a direct result of lack of compassion and decency. Overdoses of the fatal kind have risen 41 percent since the Tenderloin Harm Reduction Center was closed by the Mayor. That represents dozens of people who should have been alive to try and recover their lives, now gone. It breaks my heart when I see the masses cheer this terrible devastating death of the vulnerable and suffering. The inhumanity hits me right where it hurts the most – the soul that these vultures seem to have discarded.
When I see people who live in SF, who have no idea about addiction, homelessness or the suffering of the oppressed, talk a lot of shit about shit they have no idea about, I start to wonder what I can do to wake them up. I fear that it is all too late. Compassion, decency, empathy – all of it is gone.
The peace, love and understanding San Francisco achieved in the summer of love in ’69 laid some powerful seeds for change. I suppose we as a community are not ready to try again, to see if we can make life better for everyone, instead of just farming financial wealth. What made this City so desirable was the artists and musicians who loved the City into the beauty it once was and can be again. There is so much dire talk about San Francisco never ‘coming back’. Perhaps we need the wealth to disappear in order to recreate a society not built on capitalism but on those old hippy ideals. We need an equilibrium after all the transitory filthy lucre of the tech era. They were like culture-locusts that came in, ate SF up, and left nothing but capitalist shit when they fled for Lake Tahoe, Florida and Nevada.
Rent needs to fall dramatically, property prices need to deflate. There needs to be affordable life here in San Francisco for those that love it enough to remain. I was finding it all too stressful living here with the screaming and shouting, shooting and fighting outside my window. I still do, but I need to stay partly because I now have healthcare here. I also realized I probably won’t be happy elsewhere. The City is still the same beautiful jewel it ever was, we are just undergoing some transformative pains while we find our new incarnation.
This was never a place of finance like New York, nor glitz like Los Angeles. We were always a bunch of artists (piss and paint), poets (beat and otherwise), musicians (hippy and classical), who sought a cultural life that is so often ignored in the hamburger-and-soda-hinterlands of the great, beautiful USA. We are a fresh crab on the docks, clam chowder at a tourist joint, sourdough sandwiches on the docks, and Oysters at a stand-up at the bar joint on Polk. We are book shops and small gigs and hills that promise so much more than the climb only. We need better and more compassionate government. We need to remember our kind hippy roots and throw out the tech-scam capitalism that was more of a danger to San Francisco than any bag of fentanyl.
We need to love one and other, unconditionally, right now, because the other option will only lead to more suffering for us all. San Francisco needs to come home to itself, and I am determined to do what I can to make that happen, after all this is my home and there is no place like home.
~ Detroit May 4th ’23