After Class

I don’t know what it is about the calendar currently in use, for the last 2000 years or so. But I find it singularly challenging to understand Tuesdays and Fridays, those being the days when the city fathers of San Francisco take it upon themselves to run a street cleaning machine up and down our hill. Naturally this machine is accompanied by a traffic warden who issues tickets to those of us who are calendar-challenged. At $71 a ticket, one would think it was high time…. But it has been high time for some time, hasn’t it? And since there’s no time like the present, what the hell, I blithely set off for my class, throwing parking regulatory caution to the proverbial winds,,,which promptly blew back in my face, didn’t they?

How wonderful to be in a late-life political economics class so good that I eagerly rush out the door every Tuesday morning. This particular Tuesday was no exception. The only quibble, if it can be called that, is that after two hours of assessing the disaster zone that is the current American socio-political landscape, I am emotionally exhausted. Good thing I am just around the corner from the Educated Palate, the training restaurant for San Francisco City College’s course in culinary skills. By the latter, I mean that SFCC trains young people to work in the area’s burgeoning restaurants. I have been lunching there over the years, always chatting with staff and students. Every morsel of every lunch is made from scratch. Today’s student waiter will become tomorrow’s trainee sous chef. And, yes, food may be initially delivered over your right shoulder, only to be course corrected by some unseen instructor…until it arrives over your left. Big deal. The trainees come in all colors and language skills. Everyone is earnest and working hard. It’s the American dream…those poor and huddled masses getting all haute with brussels sprouts.

And it should be the antidote to a couple of hours explaining why America’s upward mobility has taken a nosedive…or to put it in other terms, why all those North African refugees currently massed at Calais are so desperate to get into the UK instead of the US. We currently have the widest income gap in the developed world, not to mention the lowest rate of upward mobility. Go, USA!

Anyway, lunch at the Educated Palate was lovely as ever. A little chat with the maître d’, though, was ever so slightly unsettling. Enrollment in the culinary training program is down. Turns out that educational assistance is tougher than ever to acquire. Which is madness. These young people are acquiring job skills very much in demand in this city of foodies. But then, San Francisco City College itself is recovering from a bad patch. There was a power play involving the accreditation agency, which somehow decided that SFCC wasn’t up to snuff…until this agency turned out to be a private entity that was trying to turn the place into a for-profit business. The low rating turned off students for a while. It was, of course, completely undeserved. And by the way, SFCC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective polytechnics…with almost 100,000 students. Thus, America, And our national race to the bottom.

The race home should be a fairly tranquil one, BART, the regional metro system being lightly trafficked midday. And it was a quiet homebound journey until a down-and-out constituent marched through the subway cars waving an immense cardboard sign in people’s faces. What did the sign say? I judiciously averted my eyes. More to the point, this guy was bothering people so much that I found myself in a quandary: report him or let it go? I decided, wisely or unwisely, to report him. There is a social fabric to public transit. People either make it work, or they don’t. I didn’t want the guy flogged, just off the train and out of people’s faces. I hope he finds his way. I hope we all do.

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