This happened three weeks ago tomorrow – but it may as well have happened last night or it may as well happen tonight. One for the books, I tell ya.
One of my cousins was in town from L.A. for work, so we agreed to meet for burgers on Fillmore. He was staying in the bubble within the bubble – Union Square – and I live on one of San Francisco’s most lawless corners on Van Ness Avenue at the edge of the Tenderloin, which I know is something to say, for there definitely are more troubled spots than ours, quite literally down the street.
I doubt, though, that any other intersection in town is quite literally a hop and skip away from a police station under whose jurisdiction we are not, yet not quite close enough to the one that’s meant to serve and protect us. Not that our officers don’t show up; they do, and we appreciate them and what they are working with (we have eyes…we see it) and without (why these men and women are lacking resources – and what exactly do they need? – is a ponder for another day).
Our little corner of the City of St. Francis is Drug Dealer Central, morning, noon, and night. And get this: On weekends, these drug-dealin’ assholes who have staked a claim on this corner have begun to bring along (to their work?) their girlfriends or sisters or whatever they are – to see what’s up? To reach the female demo? As a diversion? I dunno. I don’t care. All I know is it’s a real family affair. The definition of “extra.”
Three Tuesdays ago, one of these guys had, no joke, a swivel desk chair. You know, for comfort.
Now, that…is extra. (Am I using that right?)
Point is, their business continuously attracts or subverts the unfortunate street people trying to survive around us morning, noon, and night, and we, the tax-paying neighbors, are the ones who have to see it, smell it, clean it, endure it, and report it to the authorities, who either can’t or simply won’t do something about it. These dealers have become as much as part of the décor as the (city) bus benches under which they find coverage for themselves and their merch.
This, however, is where that part of the story ends. That evening’s drama began a couple of blocks after dinner, mere yards away from Japantown, when I spotted a cute little dog left unattended (more like trapped) in a locked silver van in front of a residential building on Post Street. No windows rolled down, no sunroof left cracked open. Thank goodness it wasn’t a hot night.
Thank goodness nothing.
As a former SF SPCA volunteer (and as rational person who knows the law), I know that that is not acceptable human-to-animal behavior. You simply do not do that shit. I remember high school biology: Oxygen goes in, carbon monoxide goes out. One will choke on one’s own exhaust (it’ll take time, but, you know, in theory). I followed my instinct and called in the situation to the non-emergency SFPD number, with a description of the van and its license plate number. A few minutes later, the car’s driver slash presumptive dog owner showed up with her boyfriend or brother or whatever he is to her. I can guess only that they went out for a meal, and assert that they thought nothing of leaving that poor animal alone and locked in a shut-down car.
To say that she was embarrassed or apologetic would be to lie. Her obliviousness quickly gave way to defensiveness and undeserved indignation because I advocated for a living creature for which she was supposed to care. Ever the inspired type, she called me names. She spun a yarn about having left for not long at all, and another about having left a window cracked open. She clinched it all by recklessly speeding away before the cops could arrive (not that they were around the corner or anything).
A few more blocks later, I was home, coming face to face with the ongoing unhoused-and-sick crisis this City by the Bay refuses to acknowledge afflicts it, is too chicken to handle without never-ending debate, or is truly incapable to fix. How do you like that Prop 47, huh, whomever voted to pass it?
No one – not I, not you – should have to confront such disregard for life on the daily, not here in San Francisco, not anywhere. Certainly not yards away from a school (there’s an elementary school down the street, well within the radius of what should be patrolled and protected, so the police ought to be able to do something about these assholes who are selling drugs morning, noon, and night, and perpetuating the issues on the streets). Not like this. Not every day, without action. Really, not at all.
Yet, that’s the reality of life in this big city (in America…in 2018).
I theorize that San Francisco’s ineffectuality, where the homelessness and drug-addiction crises are concerned, have done some real damage to the psyches of my fellow residents. I have lived here for almost four years, and the month-to-month decline has been undeniable, and we’re not there – at bottom – yet folks.
People here aren’t courteous. Fine, at the end of the day, I can do without a hello, please, or thank you (although, why?). What I cannot condone, though, is the lack of care for the safety of others. Drivers here speed away from dangerous situations of their own generating, because they are texting or smoking (no weed if operating heavy machinery, people!) or plain ol’ being their selfish selves. There’s hardly any mind paid to road signs, detours, or pedestrians, regardless of age, ability, or need. Or, y’ know, right. Of way.
It is clear some think it’s A-OK to endanger their pets, as long as they’ve had their dinner and eaten it, too. I know firsthand how some of y’all behave in a grocery store. And I have seen how this city acts vis-à-vis its myriad evident issues.
There. That alone is the through line.
If a city here and now cannot keep its people safe and healthy, how can its people respect anything or anyone.
We have to get louder in demanding these matters be solved or, at the very least, differently approached, and right now is our chance. We have a new mayor, and she has a fresh perspective and a presumably eager-to-listen pair of ears. This us our chance to get heard.
We, of course, can get the ball rolling by remembering our manners, by taking a beat and slowing our roll so someone else may reach or cross the street, by acknowledging someone else’s kindness and by paying that forward.
We are all in this together. Your problems are my problems.
Look, I don’t get to vote yet, but I pay taxes, and I know I bask in a lot of privilege. So I do my part and expect you to do yours, so vote.
Yeah, even though you live in San Francisco. Fuck, vote because you live in San-motherfuckin’-Francisco, Cali-fuckin’-fornia, and you gotta do well by others or St. Francis will haunt your ass.
So vote. Because it’s the first macro thing you can do to help those in the micro.
So vote. You’ll see: Something will change.