Ode To San Francisco

•June 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Thoughts on San Francisco whilst drinking tea wearing two hoodies in the kitchen by the morning light paying bills:




In the morning the fog clings low to the city’s hillsides leaving their midriffs covered but their tops bare. In the muted morning light the painted Victorians linger stately in quiet cold revelry and the small box homes in geometric colors and timid pastels sit cozy pretending to be warm, like the woolly hatted boot wearing girls clutching coffee cups in cafes that refuse to close the doors because it’s warmer outside than in. There is the small promise of sun that lingers light in the base of your skull if you have lived here long enough and learned to trust the predictable fickle heart of this deep souled yet distracted by every shiny bauble of town. This town touches Bay and Ocean and hordes the secrets of each water’s story. Her price is steep and her tongue is sharp. She will not suffer fools, but she invites them in, every last one she lures towards her gold dusted bosom with the lusty scent of being born anew from her tender loins.

Watch out though. She will feed you just enough to keep you. The rest you must make yourself from the discarded garments of her other lovers. Long timers have a coat of many colors quirky tailored and filled with pockets and doubled lined to shield their skin and bones from her harsh summers.

Those coats, those hard won coats built of years and generations of lovers on ground so unstable it sinks and shakes and always leaves you wondering if she will swallow you or knock you down. There are always new lovers, you cannot have thin skin in this town. The wind is too fierce and the nights to too cold. And, you cannot be jealous of the new ones. Their young round faces will soon be gaunt like yours as she spurns them too for fresh ideas and brighter gold. This you know about her, but still you love her and long for her once again to turn her gaze upon you and the poems you have written her, the paintings you have made of her curves and songs thrashed out begging for her lips to call you once again.

Why stay? Somewhere in the heart of every hanger-oner is the faith that they know her heart more clearly than another and their light still shines upon her string, they know she needs at least their shadow and thin legs to adorn her so the others will keep coming. It is a codependent game, willingly played. For saying goodbye to a fickle lover is not easy, for they are skilled in the art of dangled hope, to which all but the most hardened hearts are  not immune.


Recycling spill leads to a little more faith in humanity and bad cinema.

•March 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Who needs Upworthy or Buzzfeed when one can just ride the streets of San Francisco then spend hours in front of the computer with spreadsheets.

Come on people now.

When a person, a human being, is walking in a crosswalk don’t drive at them. Stop your car and wait. Not even going to talk about it.

Now it just so happens that the other day as I was riding my bike down Market Street in this Prius driving impatient money loving town with flowers its well tended gardens that a man pushing a shopping cart overflowing its rims with glass and plastic bottles collected from our garbage cans of gluttony hit a snag pushing onto the sidewalk after crossing Octavia Boulevard. The contents of his cart spilled into the road. The light turned green for the cars streaming off the freeway. The man stepped out into oncoming traffic knelt down and began to pick up his bottles.  He was noticeably drunk, so his progress was deliberate and slow. The cars sped by him, but trapped by his position in his lane was a Prius. I really thought he would be beeped at and run over…as sharing the road with Prius drivers has led me to believe that some, well lots, but not all (some of my best friends drive Prius’) are cold hearted impatient cads. This driver sat in the middle of Market Street waiting for this man to pick up each bottle and get them back into his cart. The light turned green against the driver in the middle of the intersection and the man still a bottle to go. The driver held steady, endured beeps without returning them.

The moment just sent my brain here.

which then made me think well doesn’t Aerosmith do that in that wonderful film which I now need to watch..(don’t do that, just remember it.)

which then made me think that sounds an aweful lot like that band in the other great cinematic masterpiece Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

Thank you Prius driver. Drive on.



Dinosours in the rain.

•February 28, 2014 • 3 Comments

Taking leave from the bitch and moan to enjoy San Francisco in the rain. Yes, this town is changing. The new is eating the old and putting up an amusement park and I feel like a picture of local color from a guide book.

But, in the rain. This town IS magic. Tourists, techies, dinosaurs and all.


Getting off BART at 16th and Mission a busker’s voice softly blanketed the station and beyond with Daniel Johnson’s True Love Will Find You In The End causing me to make my way through an obstacle course of kissing couples with umbrellas at dangerous angles. Off the escalator on 16th I was greeted by wobbling drunks with waving hands and sloppy smiles angling for a hug – I opted for the high five. Out on the street a man in a mini van was bumping the BeeGees Stayin’ Alive. Which really might be the only song in the whole wide world that can cause anyone at anytime to dance with strangers. Always.


I stopped at Arinell’s for a slice because it tastes better in the rain. I’d even say it is good when it rains. Inside the pizza guys were talking about Ronald Reagan and listening to the Sex Pistols.

San Francisco.

In the rain.

Your age shows.

And you look beautiful.

The new kids don’t look so hot.

They look wet like everyone else.

And, the dinosaurs occupy your streets.



In the end it will be the fog and rain that will keep me here with you my dear cold hearted fickle town.


Daniel Johnson’s Tiny Desk Concert is so perfect in the rain.







The Mouse That Stopped Traffic: A Feel Good San Francisco Tale.

•December 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

mouse in a car


The cold has descended upon our fair little city by The Bay. Which has all of us bundled up out on the streets chasing the sun, since it is warmer out there than in our drafty, no insolation homes. I do wonder if the new rental prices include insulation? I am classifying today as an indoor 3 hoodie scarf and gloves – outdoor 2 hoodie, hat, gloves, scarf and coat day.

For a while now I have been struggling to keep faith in this town I call home. San Francisco, the lusty fog clad lady with sunshine between her thighs, who callously ignores her lovers who hang on like dinosaurs not knowing they are extinct and unwanted as she greedily lures new one’s leaving the discarded with an empty ‘hello, it’s nice to see you, i’m busy but, let’s get together soon okay’ anyway…

Since I am lucky enough to have rent control I won’t be headed out of town so I have been in great need of confirmation that San Francisco did not eat her heart and insert a characterless clone in its place. Valencia street looks like Union Square South and my friends have moved to Oakland, which has been named cooler by those in the know in UK – and we all know those folks know cool. But, watch out Oaklandia…it is already too late – you are being gobbled up too. (I do wish this influx of money and capitol would lead to better schools and not just better eateries and barber shops, then I WOULD STOP FREAKING COMPLAINING ABOUT EMPTY GENTRIFICATION!!!.)


So, it was in this sad of spirit state that I found myself upon my trusty green Schwinn riding from Mission Bay to Bernal Heights when mayhem broke out on the corner of 25th and Folsom, and not the kind you would expect over there. It was mayhem that brought people together and made us cross boundaries of race, language, age, class, bike, car and pedestrian to hug, jump, scream and laugh on all four corners of the intersection as well as in the cars! That doesn’t not happen too often in this town. This was caused by a mouse. A very small mouse.

As a digression I need to share this flyer. Because this is pretty much right where this event, with the mouse happened. If you are not familiar with the plight of this neighborhood. It has been, and still is a pretty hard place. Wounderland it is a wee less these days, but it sure has a past. The huge tall looming projects were torn down back in the 90’s and in their place was built smaller units that look kinda like non-project housing in that trying not to look like project housing kind of way…the people here they didn’t get rebuilt and served new lives, so there are still problems…funny how that works – you don’t invest in people’s neighborhoods other that to change them into places that ‘those people’ don’t live in anymore. – but, still I digress, we are here to talk about a mouse. A mouse that stopped traffic!


So there I was riding my bike feeling a bit down when I got to the corner of 25th and Folsom. On the corner closest to me was a woman talking loud in Spanish on her cell phone and a woman and small small small dog. On the corner opposite them was a family of 4. Two small children, mom and pops. Everything was going fine and all of us were conveniently and politely ignoring each other waiting our chance to cross when……out of nowhere pops a mouse! A small mouse, smaller than the small dog even.


This little thing runs into the street and a Big Black Town Car swerves and stops in the intersection yelling into his phone, the lady on the phone jumps and screams and hugs the woman with the dog as the mouse runs at her. Then the mouse runs at me I pick up my feet, hop the bike out of the way and run into the car next to me. The man in the car is yelling “what is going on???”  I scream, “A MOUSE!!!” He bursts out laughing so hard he crys and bangs his horn I guess to join the noise! The mouse darts back out into the intersection just as the Town Car starts to go. Which stops the car again. The Dad on the corner and his young daughter are hollering out a play by play jumping and pointing, and she is cheering for the mouse to get out of the street. “Run mousey run!!!” The mouse darts all the way across the street keeping everyone at a standstill till the daughter yells SHE MADE IT!!!!!! Even the Town Car driver laughed as he finally drove out of the intersection.


Thanks little mouse you gave me faith in the humanness of my town again.



Book review: The Columbine Effect – Read it! and my fears about a top 40 loving son.

•December 2, 2013 • 1 Comment

When my friend Beth said her book, The Columbine Effect: How five teen pastimes got caught in the crossfire and why teens are taking them back, was finally coming out I was so excited to read it! And, I was not let down upon reading it.  Beth is a fellow Mom and MetalHead as well as an accomplished and thoughtful journalist. I appreciate her insights on a daily basis. You can check out her thoughts on her blog Backward Messages  or at http://www.bethwinegarner.com/and on twitter @beth_winegarner. You will not regret it.


This little ramble is a shameless plug to buy her book and read and give it to folks. And, it is also a little babble on my own parenting and a wee rant on the importance of seeing teens. We need to remember we are all former teens shaped strongly by what we fell in love with during those years. And, that while we were enmeshed in exploring those loves they were deeply emotionally important to us; helping to create our  own sense of identity and self, distinct from that of our parents – and often in some way opposed. It is easy to forget that and to see what we don’t understand or are not interested in as threatening or unimportant. This is especially true when things turn violent. It is so easy to blame the outward expressions of darkness and violence in our culture for causing violence. But, that is an easy and unuseful way out. In too simple of terms people are violent towards self and other when they lack voice and control over their circumstances or when they have a mental illness which removes their ability to respond appropriately. People are not violent because they Play Grand Theft auto or listen to Slayer. There are other factors, it is those factors that we need to open our eyes to and grow aware of.

The Columbine Effect is a clear and thoughtful tour of spaces of teen identity outside the mainstream of culture. This book meticulously and accessibly debunks contemporary cultural myths and media stereotypes connecting video games, role playing games, Occult, Satanism, Metal and Goth with teen violence, mental health breakdowns and suicide. It really really is a must read, especially if you know someone who thinks it is a love of Metal and too many hours playing video games that causes kids and young adults to go on shooting sprees or kill themselves. This book dives into the importance of connections and the problems that arise when there are none. It gets into the need to really look at mental health from a personal perspective not from an outside influence, fear mongering perspective.

Here is Beth’s blub for it

“Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren’t goth kids who played more Doom than their classmates. But after news outlets reported they were, teen goths and gamers felt the backlash for years. As police and journalists have rushed to explain other unthinkable massacres, heavy metal music, paganism, Satanism, occult practices and role-playing games have unfairly gotten caught in the crossfire. Adolescents’ brains may still be developing, but they recognize the rich benefits of pastimes adults have deemed dangerous. The Columbine Effect is filled with teens’ stories of self-discovery and healing–and the research to back them up. It reveals how we arrived at such gross misunderstandings of common but controversial interests. The Columbine Effect is the book that will make us stop blaming teen violence on the wrong things–and help us understand how Slayer, Satanism and Grand Theft Auto can be a healthy part of growing up.”

Book Trailer for The Columbine Effect

Now for the personal raving about why I love this book on the inside of my heart.

First off as a former teen punk rocker with gothic leanings, who dug into the Occult and fell in love with metal (and Neil Diamond), and has not stopped exploring any of the above – The Columbine Effect was a wonderful lap down memory lane. It reminded me how important all of those interests had been to me in helping me to create an identity that felt authentic and honest to the person I felt myself to be. I was not a mainstream kid. I liked the stuff on the otherside, the darker side. The pulse of metal, the brashness of punk, the beautiful darkness and love of history I found in Goth. These things led me to study religious systems outside of the Jewish-Christian line and Philosphy. It was empowering and the friends I found there embracing. In my heart I always knew that I lived outside the box and was never going to fit into it with comfort. This book was an affirmation of my thoughts on the good things I got (and get) out my journeys to the darker side. And, while I might be able to trace a direct line between these interests and a liberal arts education and a master’s degree in history I don’t directly blame those interests for my lack of a lucrative career or my inability to spell!  It also made me appreciate my Mom and Pops and their effort to understand my choices in clothes, friends, music and interests … to date. Thanks Mom and Pops for letting me be me.

Secondly I loved this book because it totally completely sure as the soles of Doc Martins freeze in the winter needed to be written, just this way. Thank you Beth, for writing a book that looks, not with judgment, but with curiosity at subjects that often get only viewed through judgmental and problem solving lenses – teens, video games (I am guilty of that, and this book helped loads to understand both my fear of them and to understand their appeal because I have just never ever been drawn to them.) RPGs (though I am glad she didn’t get into too much Ren Fair talk, I am still a wee bit judgy there – sorry – but it is true), Occult, Satanism, Metal and Goth. Those just mentioned things get blame heeped all over them as causes for the bad shit  teens do. But over and over again what the news seems to scream if you look close enough is that teens are in trouble because we are not paying attention to the violence, neglect, and lack of connection in their lives – not in their music or games. There is ready access to guns, but not such easy access to mental health services. Families – all the different kinds of them – struggle to make the ends meet and that means less quality time to parent. Those are problems.

Thirdly I loved this book because I find myself on the other side of the coin as a parent. My kid loves top 40 radio, the commercials included. He wants to play football and loves sports based video games. He doesn’t like dark stories or movies and is not a fan of visiting cemeteries for their peace and beauty. He longs to leave the city and join suburban life. And, I sit around thinking – is he okay?. Is he going through something terrible because he wants to be like most of his peers? I pull my hair out fearing he will become a Republican and not so subtly surround him with social justice news and literature. Thankfully when I pull out the Metal Vinyl we  can connect…though even there we are different…very different…I am a Bon Scot girl and while he likes David Johnson fronting his AC/DC, he likes Metallica over Motorhead …which I can’t understand. He can tolerate Judas Preist, while they cause me to ROCK out loud, much to his embarrassment. I understand the Keaton’s…I’ve got an Alex…though much less extreme . (thankfully he is no conservative – knock knock knock on wood!)

Fox news is good for something – Alex B Keaton’s best parent shocking moments…in case you forgot or just never knew…


Dealing with kids who are different than you is strange. You are faced with the fact that your child is their own person with likes and feelings that grow right out of them. As they strive to surround themselves with things that create an identity that speaks to what it true to them it is easy to feel alienated from what you don’t understand or don’t connect with. Beth’s book is a thoughtful guide in this landscape. She advocates for learning about the interests of your child so that you know what they are and have ground to stand on when talking to them and a knowledge that will help you understand when behavior is really something to worry about.

As for me and the young man we have found a few top 40 artists we both enjoy. I finally understand the appeal of Winnie the Pooh and have been convinced that not loving dark stories does not mean you don’t have a soul. I hold out hope that one day he will dress in black and read poetry and tarot cards in a grave yard with a pocket full of crystals and a handful of friends deep into the night. But, if he doesn’t I will be there to love him and listen to what does move him with an open heart, and curiosity about life on the light side.

As always thanks for reading.



San Francisco.

•October 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

        d park view

Riding my bike through town I came across a piece of art that caught my heart at 24th and Bryant. My friend posted a photo of it and it churned my feelings into words. These words, about this town I call home.

Located at 24th and Bryant. Photo credit Tom Heyman.

Located at 24th and Bryant.

For as long as there has been a place called San Francisco the story has been of shifting change, cycles of riches and busts. It is a city of tall tales of enterprise and spirit played out on the fringe of the continent. Always it is the Westest of the West and when the Pacific Ocean hits your feet at the end of the West there is story to carry you further.

from sutro heights

This town is magic with her fog covered cold heart of gold. San Francisco will lure you to believe you can depend on her sunshine, then she rolls in the fog; all beautiful and quiet. You fall in love with the soft light and muffled days longing for the return of the sun. Always when on the verge of abandoning hope there appears the sun again.

I am no local.

Since the moment I drove across the Bay Bridge with my best friend in 1992, with dreams of I don’t know what packed into our Ryder truck in Chicago and unpacked in the Upper Haight I had a gnawing sense this was not the town for me, but I fell in love with her contradictions and non-committal attitude. Jerry Garcia was still alive and Haight-Ashbury was not yet Ben and Jerry’s corner. There were coffee shops and warm sunshine through to New Year. North Beach was alive and well with young and old characters intermingling. The Mission was sticking out her artsy head. The Tenderloin was all grit and TuLan. But, I paid more for my drafty room in a dark railroad flat, rumored to have housed Charlie Manson at one point, than I had for my 2 bedroom flat in Chicago were my landlords dropped off rolls of toilet paper and lightbulbs when they picked up the rent each month, which we left tumb tacked to the door with push pins they provided. And, there were no good jobs, not that I was looking for one. I was 22. A bike messenger by day and a cocktail waitress at Yancy’s Saloon in the Inner Sunset at night. I studied Middle Eastern history, Arabic, The Greek Classics in Greek, drank shit tons of beer at Zeitgeist and fell in love with the wrong boys, and this town.

San Francisco, this town pretending to be a city, all earth quake prone and wind swept – at once chilly and warm – is a town of contradictions, oxymorons, and made up histories. It is rich and poor. Strongly liberal, inspirational, free spirited and civil rights centered on the left hand and cold hearted, profit seeking, diversity squashing, free spirited and corporate rights centered on the right hand. Don’t lie to yourself, this is San Francisco’s history. And, this is why your heart breaks for her promises no matter who you are. And, no matter who you are, you can call her home, at least for a while, she doesn’t mind being left, she knows there will always be a new lover and that she owns your heart forever.

fog town

I moved to The Mission in 1994 or 95 I think. I had a little studio on Shotwell Street by 19th. I was in the back of the building and I shared my little back patio with junkies, hookers, and a bunch of chickens raised in tandem by the grandmothers of the Laotian and Guatemalan families that lived in the other two flats.   There were a lot of drive by shootings. I shopped at the local bodegas and was as poor as the rest of my block, save the few houses that were bought up by “gentrifiers”. Those people were setting down and raising their kids in those houses. My little flat was $500 a month. Which was too much for the creepy bathroom that I could never clean clean enough to rid it of the feeling that there had been a bloody death in there. I would have felt weird saying that had I not had to clean it when I moved in, and it was dirty in a bloody way in those corners. I was part of that wave of change in The Mission that has come to a head in the 10’s of these 2000’s. Already at that time Latino Families were being squeezed and change was lurking as a few dive bars, art galleries, cafes and shops began to open up to serve this changing population and offer income and community to young entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and activists.

The Mission was still affordable, working class, bohemian and artsy. But, often those last two words are the death knell on the neighborhood and community that builds up and gentrifies in that way. Now The Mission is more White than Latino. It is more rich than it is working class or poor. And those of us who have struggled to make this home, an affordable home in an unaffordable city, are scrambling to feel at home in our hood. And at this point – so many years in I feel like it is my hood. I have raised my son here. He is a Mission Local. All his education has happened in San Francisco Public Schools in the Mission. He is Bilingual – Spanish and English. He would be listed in the government stats in kids in poverty.

magic townWe use the Local Clinics. Have used the local food banks. I have at least two jobs going at any one time. This is an expensive town, and it is getting even more so. I am so grateful that this crazy town has afforded me the chance at holding it down with smoke and mirrors, odd jobs with off hours as ways to earn a living , and a community of underemployed artist and activist friends available for school pick ups and afternoon baby sitting so I can be around for my son and not locked into a daily grind of an inflexible 9-5 job. And, every day as I look out at my view and feel the warmth of home I am grateful for rent control.  With the rents the way they are now I can’t imagine trying to trying to set up shop as a single mom in this town!

When I moved into the Mission I didn’t want to chase out those who had been living here, who made this neighborhood what it is. I wanted to join in to their community to help it blossom grow to add my voice – to have good schools and safe neighborhoods, for decent affordable housing that working families, artists, musicians and activists can afford. This last wave of gentrification does not have the spirit of joining in the community. The shell of color and grit is appreciated, but not those who made it and struggle today to live in their neighborhoods.

golden town

I want to stay in this town, raise my child in this neighborhood I call home. I want community – real community – that kind that stands up and yells for what is good. Yesterday as I walked with my kid to school down Valencia street dodging joggers, private tech shuttles and people who don’t know that rents in this part of town, even a year ago were not manhatten-esque I was so saddened. It is not just the gentrification. That has been going on forever. It is the lack of heart. The beauty of the Mission to me has always been its vibrant heart in the midst of this cold town, the sun lives here metaphorically and figuratively. In a little observational survey I conducted during my years as a bike messenger I concluded that the corner of 24th street and Alabama is the sunniest place in town. There was a pay phone there once upon a time and I sat next to that phone with a pocket full of dimes and a book waiting for my pager to buzz many a day basking in the sun keeping company with Winos and their stories and Mama’s and their young children playing around the concrete benches.

As evictions are on the rise and rent is sky rocketing those of us in rent controlled places are trapped in them and we are losing our neighbors and friends to Oakland and beyond. San Francisco’s cold heart is blanketing the warm Mission and the loss is heartbreaking.

Thank you for reading.



cantankerous anachronism of arcane knowledge

•October 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

I went into a local bike shop today to get some help with my wheel. I encountered the kind of patronizing that made my mind keep yelling, “what’s up mister ill fitting pantaloons you got a binder full of women?” But, I kept my mouth shut and listened to the knowledge he had to give me, because it was good knowledge. In the end he did not charge me for his advice or the help he administered to my friend the Green Schwinn. But, I left feeling like I had paid for that knowledge with my personal pride. I don’t like to be talked at or down to. Nobody does. I take responsibility for a being a ‘good girl’ and listening to Mr. Know-it-all without saying my peace about how I was being talked to – taking his condescending tone like a woman fit for a binder. But, I wanted my bike fixed then.

What I really wanted to say to him is:

You stingy bastard. Check you out. You get to work at something you love. You were not born with the knowledge you have about bicycles. You spent years acquiring that knowledge; and my guess is you’ve loved doing it. So when someone comes into your shop seeking your knowledge share it like you love it, not like it is a secret tome fit only for some. Remember there was a time you didn’t know stuff.

Blarg. It just really cooks my goat to falling off the bone when people are stingy with knowledge. Share people. It is how we grow. You don’t own the shit. People are gonna figure out what you know without you at some point, maybe not the way you know it – but it is all out there to be learned. So if you want to do your labor of love – your learning – justice don’t bitterly dish it out share it like you love it.

In our culture of specialties….records, bikes, wine, cheese, beer, bread,yoga, books, movies…it is easy to get caught up in the superiority of your knowledge. But, folks it just gets musty and old and you become that cantankerous anachronism of arcane knowledge that everyone knows and nobody enjoys if you don’t share. Trust me, I have lived in the Mission of San Francisco long enough to have met the best of them. And it is not pretty.

That’s my public service announcement for today.

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