Street Smarts

I am reading Salon editor Andrew O’Hehir’s latest…and find it frighteningly accurate. Nevermind Trump’s penchant for ‘alternative facts.’ Consider the public’s. Well, I’m not considering it too long. I seem to have settled into a fact-based life this week. And so far I can report that it’s relatively painless. Where do I begin?

Let’s take Tuesday’s drive to San Francisco’s Civic Center. The name speaks for itself. That’s where the civic stuff is. I simply set out, noting that my ankle was responding as it should. And there’s a basic reality-based problem here. I tend to think that when something goes wrong I have fucked up in some personal way. Too much fear. Not enough will. That sort of thing. And I have just enough chronic aches, pains and stiffness to block out the background. When, in reality, the background is in the foreground. And in this particular foreground, thanks to some good ankle exercises, my driving foot was responding quite well. Where was I?

Well, making the critical turn from Market Street into Franklin Street. That is to say, crossing a significant boundary from the ever increasing, but survivable, traffic in the city’s Mission District into the crush of the urban center. Vis-à-vis civic. Anyway, like something out of a magic tale, suddenly traffic was bumper-to-bumper. But I was feeling cool. And the real test came as I rounded the corner into Grove Street. Not that there weren’t warnings. This trajectory took me around two sides of the San Francisco Symphony hall, which at 11 AM on a weekday just happened to be entirely barricaded by yellow school buses

Which is no big deal, you say, but it was the ancillary presence of hundreds of schoolchildren in every crosswalk streaming towards symphonic edification that made me just a little nervous. We have a primal sense of these things. Don’t hit cars. Definitely don’t hit people. Absolutely under penalty of permanent bad karma and guilt beyond imagining…don’t hit kids. I didn’t. I also didn’t find a parking space until I had driven around the area about 500 times. But I digress. The point is that while being smacked in the face by urban vehicular reality, I did not succumb to fear itself. Inexplicably, in fact, I found a parking space right in front of the library. Go figure.

Now let me point out that the very next day I had another lunch in the very same area. This time, wisely, I patronized the urban mass transit system. And there I was, right on time, deposited by a BART in virtually the same spot in a fraction of the time. In other words, I had proven my driving macho. And the rest of the transport day found me forging all sorts of urban trails. Principally, right through the Tenderloin. No one is quite sure what the district encompasses or even what it means. But clearly it does mean one thing. Poverty. The dispossessed.

I have a mission at the edge of the Tenderloin…and for reasons that aren’t clear, I roll right through the center of the district. An enormous queue of people, including many Chinese elderly, are waiting outside a storefront on Leavenworth Street. Crossing Eddy Street, there is a jam of foot traffic, and wheelchair traffic, where people are engaging in some sort of sidewalk commerce. I don’t want to know the details. I don’t seek them. I keep rolling. The people are scruffy, but they are surprisingly polite. Why I am surprised, isn’t quite clear either. Never mind. In this neighborhood it seems best to keep rolling. Unwise to engage in chitchat. I am well aware of my vulnerability.

In fact the rudest person I encounter is at the end of my Tenderloin excursion. A guard outside the Curran Theater seems quite annoyed that I won’t just roll in the door to the lobby and the box office. I look at her like she’s an idiot. She is. I point out that there are steps in the way. Time passes. She disappears. A box office guy ushers me through a distant, accessible door. I collect my very expensive ticket order. Nice to be able to see plays. But not that nice. All the world truly is a stage. And based on reviews, what I’ve just seen in the Tenderloin may prove to be more interesting than what’s on offer at the Curran.

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