People, San Francisco
The 43rd Gay Pride Parade in late June of 2013 was the largest ever, attended by about 1.5 million people who were celebrated the recent US Supreme Court decision to stay a lower Federal court ruling supporting the right of LGBT folks to legally marry. As a result of this unexpected ruling, the city of San Francisco went wild with excitement. My wife and I are straight couple, but we both have sympathies for gay rights dating back to our high school days. I had several friends who found me flexible to enough for them to share what previously was hidden from anyone. I also had several friends who died virtually alone in the hospital after having contracted AIDS. In any case, for straight or gay visitors to San Francisco have an opportunity to see what is largest parade in San Francisco, and arguably the largest Gay Pride parade in the world. Local politicians, dignitaries, and corporate sponsors all take part. Mostly it's an opportunity to people watch, and in the case of this parade, visitors will see happy smiles on a lot of oddball and disfigured characters previously marginalized from their fair share of society's love. San Francisco is good about that. Anyone with talent enough to come and live in the city is welcome, and as a result San Francisco is a motivated and wealthy city.
Fondest memory: See SFpride.orgL%* for more information.
The first picture shows a protest; in this protest are naked cyclers; okay, there weren't that many of them but they were the ones you never forget. Personally I can handle (probably not a good choice of word) this sort of thing but you have to admit, it is different. This was the first thing I saw when I started walking around San Francisco.
Fondest memory: Later on I saw beggars; lots of beggars. They were pretty much everywhere in the CBD, particularly Union Square and the wharf areas where tourists abound, and they came in a lot of shapes and sizes. At times I wanted to take one to lunch and ask him or her how they got in that situation, but I never did. Another couple of days and I feel confident I would have.
After 7 hours on my feet in the Mission and Castro, I was pooped and it was Beer O'clock. But where does a straight, middle-aged lady go for a pint in the Castro? What if they don't LIKE straight, middle-aged ladies?
So I stick my head into this pub for a look.
Looks pretty good.
Tentative step through the door....
Curses! Busted by the bartender!
Says he, "Honey, what ARE you doing out there? You just come right on IN here and take a load off!" So I order up a pint, sneak off to the back garden for a nice (inconspicuous) sit-down and am immediately adopted by three lovely gentlemen who kept me entertained for three lovely hours. Two of them just happened to be in the travel industry - go figure.
So the husband calls from his seminar to see where I'm at:
"Hi - where are you?"
"I'm in a pub - in the Castro."
"In the Castro!"
"That's what I thought you said - you OK?"
"Oh sure. I'm with three absolutely fabulous guys. We're talking travel. They keep buying me pints."
"Let's see..you're drinking beer. Alone. With three guys. Should I be worried?"
"It's the CASTRO, dear."
"That's what I thought. Have fun!"
Thanks a bunch to the bartender at Toad Hall and the three gents who were all so nice to a tired, middle-aged, straight lady!
Fondest memory: Making new friends
I love the sense of activism this city has. According to this article, http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=3796,
"San Francisco has nearly one nonprofit organization for every 100 residents, and the Bay Area spends more than twice as much per capita in the nonprofit sector as the nation does as a whole. SF Bay Area innovators have been drivers of the environmental, antiwar, civil rights, and AIDS movements and now the nonprofit sector."
One great way to connect with people is to find an organization to volunteer with. You can see parts of the city that you may never see. You will meet exceptional people that love life. You will learn something new. Every city has it's own way of doing things and I'm impressed by all the good causes that gain momentum in the bay area.
Fondest memory: You can look online for many opportunities. Berkeley across the bay is another great place to find good people doing good deeds.
You may have heard a teensy weensy rumor that San Francisco has more than its' share of homosexuals. Well, it's true. You will see symbols of gay pride all over the city. To say that SF is "gay-friendly" is missing the point; depending on where you are gay folks are the majority! Most neighborhoods are a 'little' gay... and then there's the Castro which is GAY GAY GAY!
It is, of course, nothing to be frightened of... gay people will not make passes at you or steal your children or descend upon you and inflict a vicious makeover! However, if you can't come up with an answer when your kids ask the above question, then you may want to stay out of the Castro District (which is really an "adult" neighborhood anyway). The scene in the Castro is fun, glamorous and a good time, but it is very GAY, and if you can't handle that, then do yourself and the locals a favor and stay away. There are plenty of "straighter" places to go.
San Francisco has undoubtedly the worst homeless problem of any American city. Who are these people and why are there so damn many of them?!?
See, it used to be like this... people would be part of scenes or groups of people or what have you... there would be lots of drugs and drinking going on... and sometimes you just went on a tear and found yourself couch-surfing! Then you sobered up, got a job, found a place, and joined society again.
Nowadays, that's not so easy. These days, once you hit the streets, you tend to stay there. Rents are astronomical (a $900/month studio is considered dirt cheap), and living-wage jobs are getting scarcer and scarcer. There is almost no way that a person can get off the streets without some sort of housing assistance, which, even when you can find it, is only temporary. Couple this with substance abuse and mental issues and you've got a real problem.
San Francisco not only has it's own indigenous homeless population, but for many, many years, SF has been a dumping ground for "undesirables" from communities as far away as Nevada and Oregon. Often times, the authorities' "solution" to dealing with a mentally ill resident was to give them a one-way bus ticket to San Francisco! There's not much talk about it anymore - but I"ll bet you it still goes on!
San Francisco has gotten a reputation as being an easy city to be homeless in. A 2007 homeless count confirmed what everyone already suspected... that nearly a third of SF's homeless population drifted here after becoming homeless somewhere else.
There are many different kinds of homeless... in fact, one of the reasons we in SF have been so ineffectual at dealing with homelessness is that we refuse to differentiate. There are those pushing shopping carts with TB and screaming to themselves who really need serious medical intervention. And then there are those (particularly along Haight Street) who just need a good ass-kicking and a Sheriff's escort to the county line.
There is a fine line between "helping the homeless" on the one hand, and simply "enabling bums" on the other. We in SF are struggling to find that balance.
Fondest memory: San Francisco is, in many ways, a victim of its' own reputation. People come here expecting things to be different, expecting everyone to run up to them smiling... in short, they expect it to be the 60's. NEWS FLASH - THE 60'S ARE OVER! The warmth and openness of San Franciscans is still there, but don't expect to be showered with it... there are just too many people here wanting a piece of us, and we've had to pull back. San Franciscans will surprise you with senseless acts of kindness, but you must not be a SPONGE!
As far as dealing with them goes... most homeless will not even ask you for money. They are trying to deal with their own survival and often have serious mental problems which prevent them from seeking help. If anyone deserves our compassion, it's these folks.
If someone asks for change the best thing to do is...
2) say "sorry" and
3) keep walking
95% of the time, this will do it. If they ask again...
1) keep walking
2) say "sorry" and
3) smile if you want to
Most homeless are harmless, and only a few are even pushy. The worst are the hippie punks who hang out on Haight Street. DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY FOR ANY REASON! These people are ruining the Haight/Ashbury! Though it's probably true that many of them are runaways, they are completely disrespectful to the neighborhood and its' residents. As someone who has lived in or near the Haight for nearly 15 years, I have absolutely NO sympathy for these little a**holes. Many of them are just rich kids slumming. And, unfortunately, there are just enough misguided ex-hippies in the neighborhood that any action taken to get them out usually causes a big stink.
If you ever have any problems with homeless people, especially on Haight Street, DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL THE POLICE. We do have aggressive panhandling laws and cops always side with the tourists in these cases. Don't pick fights with them (although if a San Franciscan gives you grief about calling the cops, fell free to slap them for me!).
While aimlessly walking around San Francisco one afternoon, I happened to see a swarm of people gathered around a building. As I made my way through the crowd simply to get to the other side of the sidewalk, Maya Angelou crossed right in front of me.
Maya Angelou is best known as a famous poet and best selling author. However she is much more than that, she is an educator, historian, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director.
I was very excited that I happened that I crossed the path of such a remarkable woman.
Favorite thing: Soak up the many cultures in San Francisco. It reminds me of New York in that there are so many of them that went into making this city special. Virtually every culture in America is represented somewhere in this city.
Favorite thing: Be ready with an open mind because you will see one of everything if now two. San Francisco is the melting pot for the world, not unlike many other cities but in San Francisco it's much more apparent and right in front of you. It's a lot of fun as long as you leave your worries behind...
Fondest memory: Okay, yet another dopey picture we posed for...but you have to admit, they are kind of funny. And just looking at this one reminds me of how out of our way we went to take this picture...and the funniest reaction the girl gave us when we asked her to take it for us!
Fondest memory: Arriving after transatlantic flight and finding that the Gay Pride Festival was in full swing. Nice British accent, smart suit, feeling tired so going with the flow etc is a very good way of being chatted up. Nice to know one is wanted.
...so I don't have a WHOLE lot on San Francisco at the moment.
We did happen to run into Saturday Nite Live's Rob Schneider in the airport (copymeister, copyman, makin' copies,...copy'o'rama. But better known to most of you as Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo) He was very friendly and chatty. He had a plastic garbage bag for his luggage, in his other hand, a frisbee.
Favorite thing: A musician, on her way to a gig. You can frequently see this kind of scene in San Francisco, as there's a very, very active music community.
It has to be laying in the sun.
These are 2 very good friends of mine that moved from Michigan to California.