This post by a resident has the good and bad of San Francisco, from his perspective. He’s so upset about the downside of the city that he warns readers:
If you enjoy living in San Francisco, stop reading right now.
Why? Is he going to tell me something that I haven’t learned in my thirty years here? Something that will make me boogie off to Atlanta or Denver?
No, that’s not the reason.
If you don’t stop reading, you’ll probably come across something you disagree with, then you’ll want to leave a nasty comment, then you’ll realize I don’t accept comments, then you’ll email me, and then I’ll have to ignore your email because I warned you not to read this.
Aw! He doesn’t want to deal with someone disagreeing with him! It’s almost cute.
OK, to save time, here is his worst criticism: San Francisco is dirty and overcrowded, and this implies that the citizens value their delusions about the city and themselves more than they do its residents, especially the residents who are poorer and less privileged.
Don’t be afraid, Alex Payne. I don’t disagree. I think it’s a good argument, and also a true picture of the city. (In fact, you should have stuck to that. The other criticism, that you run into too many other tech industry people and feel you always have to be on, to properly represent your latest business idea or image — oh, come on.)
Comments on Payne’s piece welcome here, even if he doesn’t want to deal with them there.
Fiction deity Tobias Wolff (1996 interview on Salon; 2008 profile at the Guardian [UK]) will join author, activist and blogger Stephen Elliott to celebrate the release of Elliott’s new “true crime memoir” The Adderall Diaries.
Admission to the party, which is at the Amnesia bar [map] on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 7:00 pm, is $20 and includes a hardcover of the book. Frequently-seen writer and presenter Bucky Sinister MC’s. Buy advance tix.
Picture: Wolff at left, Elliott at right. Elliott photo by Katherine Emery from LA Times
This post on Mission Loc@l deserves to be read at the site and in its entirety: Open the Garage Door, It’s a Store.
Not only is the whole concept of garage stores cool, but the guy featured does it very much as a service to the nabe, selling brand-name soccer equipment to kids near cost. Totally the opposite of the globalized brand-filled big-box neighborhood-killing stores.
Novelist Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller, Trash) headlines Writers with Drinks this Saturday. She is an amazing live reader and you will be a better person for hearing and seeing her.
Also on the bill is “Mythbusters” star Adam Savage — not sure what he’ll be up to, but maybe he’ll be able to duplicate his goofy screen presence. Also appearing are science fiction author Steven Barnes, author Mary Miller, and Clint Catalyst.
Many years ago, I was a high school teacher at Mission High School. I served for a summer, a whole year, and another summer. After that the jobs ran dry, I became a sub, got tired of that and went to Japan, and when I came back did one more summer school.
Even though that was more than 20 years ago for me, I still feel a lot of affection for Mission High and the way it allows families to pursue their dreams for their kids. Now, courtesy Mission Local, I just ran across a nonprofit called Mission Graduates which runs a tutoring center and other programs for the neighborhood kids. Because if it’s anything like it was when I was teaching there, a lot of kids need more help than they can get in a class of, say, 30. Check ’em out.
Just to show Writers With Drinks still rocks the San Francisco literary scene, here are last night’s tweets from novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Into the Beautiful North, who ended his national book tour at the Makeout Room last night. The reference to the Chronicle refers to a negative review the paper is about to give his novel.
It’s been a cold, foggy, blowy day. The sun never came out, and tourists hurried into souvenir shops and Walgreens to buy crappy beige SAN FRANCISCO sweaters and hoodies. On days like today you wonder how the hell the city ever became known as the capital of free love, unless it was the urge to get back into bed, and when two people had the same idea, then… Yeah, that would work.
This morning I went to my favorite café, Progressive Grounds at 21st and Bryant. As I sat there reading The Savage Detectives I became aware of a woman with a braying voice having a loud phone conversation — unusual at that café. “I’m twenty-six,” she was saying. “I’ve got long hair, almost down to my ass. I’m 36 double-D. I’m real pretty, I work at Centerfolds…”
I looked up. The speaker was a frankly ugly woman with thin, straight shoulder-length hair. She was in her mid-30s at least, fat, and dressed like a Capp St. hooker in a dirty pinkish party dress and a bright pink puffy jacket. She had on weird hookerish tinted glasses and high-heeled shoes, and she was saying “I just got off work at 4:00 a.m. Yeah, I have pictures on disk that I can send you. Well, what are you looking for? No, I don’t have a cell phone camera. Well, why is that important?”
Then the party she was talking to apparently hung up. The woman went to the counter and ordered a complicated vanilla latte with lots of whipped cream. (The staff at the café treated her with as much respect and politeness as they treat everyone, I noticed. Did I say I really like that café?) Then she took her drink back to the table and, with her finger on an advertisement in the back pages of the SF Weekly, phoned another potential employer.
I was thinking two things at the same time: She is atrocious, but also, she is awesome. She had probably never been pretty. Her voice sounded like the dregs at the bottom of a bottle of beer. But she was working that camera-less mobile phone and lying up one side and down the other about how gorgeous she was. What was the point? What were people going to say when she actually showed up at whatever strip club or massage parlor she was calling? Did she look in the mirror and see herself as she described herself? And how much of the way we all present ourselves is mostly bluff and squinting in the mirror and hoping that other people never call us on it?
After the second phone call she checked her messages, collected her things, and departed.
In a Dream, which screens at the Roxie starting Friday night, is a film about the mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, who has become an icon in South Philadelphia due to his long, intensely local career and the massive scale and extent of the mosaics he has created there. They include, by his description, about “a hundred murals” and “seven buildings, top to bottom, inside and out.” His best-known work is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which represents the transformation of two derelict buildings into a labyrinthine complex that covers half a city block with winding mosaic-covered passageways and sculptures.
Zagar’s mosaics are bright, colorful, and complex, rich with a celebratory spirit towards physicality and sensuality. But the surface cheerfulness of these mosaics belies the deeper obsession and the narcissism that makes such vast, intricate works possible in the first place, and Jeremiah Zagar — the director of the film and the artist’s younger son — uncovers that darkness here with unrelenting economy. All the father’s past secrets rapidly come out in the open, culminating when one of his most shameful episodes plays out right in front of the camera: his self-centered pursuit of “passion” with his assistant, which ends with a brief separation from his wife Julia, right when their oldest son is separated from his own wife and having drug problems.
Jeremiah describes the moment: “I went home to film my parents as they picked my brother up from rehab. The stress from the situation boiled over, and my father suddenly admitted [the affair] to my mother and me … that same night, my parents separated for the first time in 43 years.” Isaiah’s admission is made directly into the camera, and it’s a moment of remarkable drama. Amazingly, Jeremiah retains his composure — he coughs and the handheld camera shakes for an instant, but that is all — and he goes on to capture every instant of what ensues. “I shot 16 hours that day and hated myself for every minute of it,” he writes. What happens next is unsurprising but not predictable, and the film ends with a brief epilogue, highly effective in its simplicity, that shows how the family continues on into the next adventure.
For all the darkness that Jeremiah reveals, it’s an affectionate film. He shot his footage over the course of seven years, filming “whenever something significant happened,” and he describes the result like this: “what started as an exploration of my father’s life has exposed the secrets of our entire family. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. … We know now how imperfect we really are, but also how much we need and love each other.”
Tonight Writers with Drinks features Pam Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness), Stacie Boschma (Happy Rainbow Poems from the Unicorn Petting Zoo), Laurie R. King (Touchstone, The Art Of Detection), Sean Stewart (Cathy’s Key, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous), Regina Lynn (SexRev 2.0, Sexier Sex), and Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages To Five Continents). As usual, it’s at the Makeout Room, 3225 22nd. St. near Mission in San Francisco, starts at 7:30 pm, and benefits the Center for Sex and Culture. I’d go just to hear Pam Houston read — she’s always terrific.
If you’d rather see something artsier, experimental music maven Pamela Z (pictured at left) is presenting the second in her ROOM series of performances, tonight at 8:00 pm at the Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa St. at Harrison.
And if you’re up for something mystical, dark and theatrical, attend one of the many Easter Vigil services held at Christian churches tonight. Classically, a congregation would meet in the “undercroft” of the church, the sub-basement where the skeletons are buried, to remind them of the tomb from which Jesus rises. Nowadays you’re more likely to find yourself in a candle-lit church basement, but the service is still great theater, with scripture readings that move from the creation to the exodus from Egypt to the passion and resurrection. Good bets are Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in North Beach, 8:00 pm; St. Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, 8:00 pm; Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, 8:00 pm; or St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro, 7:00 pm.