San Francisco is sulking. Its mood is dark and foggy, its streets are cold, and it shows no signs of warming, nor cheering, up. Day after day is grey and cold. I feel as if I am living in some dismal nitch that should only properly be portrayed by some gothic filmmaker who deals in twisted fairytale happy endings in places that no happiness exists. San Francisco is capable of joy. It is a City built on freedom, artistic adventure and a sophisticated bohemian sense of cultural adventure. The problem is San Francisco’s soul has been under attack by the mechanical, the tech boom which raised property prices, ate the City up like locusts and then fled to eat the next place up once it had devoured the beautiful shining jewel of the Bay that is SF.
We are going under a wave of crime, mismanagement, end stage capitalism and inflation. The boom was built on shaky ground and now the bust is coming into sight. Every night is filled with sirens, gunshots, huge illegal fireworks which are more like small mortars, and the sounds of suffering. If I thought it was tough three years ago, now it is desperate.
Walking down Van Ness to go run an errand I was absolutely horrified to see the extent of the human suffering that was on show. Piles of human excrement, the stench of piss and unwashed bodies, tents, piles of trash, people in terrible physical state now that the harm reduction facilities have been closed down. There are no public toilets, there is no access to showers for the unhoused. We have half the number of shelter beds that we require to put everyone on the streets inside. There is no money in the City, no jobs, and no hope for anyone but the richest. The chasm between the two groups in town – the very rich and the very poor, with nothing in-between has become so evident that it takes my breath away. There are the have-everythings, and the have-nothings. We have four empty houses per single unhoused person on the streets of San Francisco.
Therein lays the problem – housing is not used primarily for shelter in this society without a heart, it is used as a capitalistic bargaining chip, an investment, a way to make money, not to protect people from the elements and keep everyone safe and healthy. We can end homelessness today, by stopping Airbnb and other such vacation homes being allowed in our communities, by seizing houses which are not used for living in and for using the resources we have as a human collective, to shelter and protect others. People cannot afford thousands of dollars a month in rent. The rental prices in the USA are driving the increase in homelessness. Everyone wants those executive prices, those big dollar tenants, but the world is not made of the top one percent, or even the stop forty percent, there are people who require $400 a month housing, and a lot of them. As long as we pursue money at the cost of human beings and do not share our resources equally amongst us, then we are lost and everyone suffers in the end.
Of course the problem is not going to be fixed any time soon, if ever. Most people will resist is learning one of the first lessons humanity should have learnt and share and share alike and equally with love and compassion. They will squark about deserving more, needing more, being better than others so they should get more, anything to preserve what they see the upper hand in a zero-sum-game. This stage of the game it is clear that no one wins apart from the such rich and I suspect they are in danger of losing their souls.
Houses are for sheltering people. The fact we lost sight of that and are engaged in a capitalistic death-spiral is perplexing to me. I guess the peanut throwing hoards will scream ‘communism” whilst clutching their pearls, but I say, let’s give peace and compassion a chance.
I am trying to have a little break, to get my head in order and work on just breathing for a while. I have a few projects on the back burner, and was recently published in a great feminist in-print and online magazine. I have entered a poem in a TS Elliot writing competition and am working on a short story for the Zoetrope annual short story competition. Right now I have to concentrate on my health. I am still writing, just taking things a bit slower while I try and get the illness under control. I am hoping to find some energy again and be able to be my old self.
My hands are hurting, and although my new medicine regime works to some extent I still am very sick and not at all cured. I really struggle to get around, my legs have bad nerve damage and feel as if someone is pouring boiling water down them from hip to knee. I get very tired very easily. I do see a new rheumatologist soon, who is very knowledgeable about the illness I have. I hope she might give me some idea of what to do next. I have been using a stick to get around, but my hands are not in good enough shape to use it comfortably, which is upsetting. Chronic illness is so isolating. I am not depressed in the slightest, I am more a little peeved at the discomfort and having my wings clipped.
I am going to watch the Dead and Company play their very last show on Sunday, so look out for that review! I am going alone, which does not fill me with happiness – I get intimidated and scared quite easily now I am so frail, but I am hoping that getting a taxi home is easy enough and I will be able to manage it. I am overjoyed I am still well enough to go!
In the end, despite the pain and this terrible disease which is causing me mobility and pain issues, I find a lot to love in life and a lot of beauty to still sit in wonder at and write about. As long as there is still love, there is still joy, and joy is all that matters when love is around.
Have a good weekend