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Fisherman's Wharf and the Full House Houses

- Marc - Wednesday, April 20th, 2005 : goo

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If you live in San Francisco, you are the tour guide. I have a catholic polish Aunt Marge who was pretty hip back in the day. She went to Nuremburg as a young lady to be a stenographer for the nazi war crime tribunals and currently lives in South Bend, Indiana where she is winding down her life suffering from PD ("like the pope"). For a couple of decades she lived in San Francisco, and whenever people would come to visit, she would give them a tour bus pamphlet and say "see you for dinner". Maybe she had the right idea.

A bus is a fine way to see a city but only if you're sneaking on through the backdoor. Luckily for the many squeamish visitors to my house, the Unicorn Precinct XIII, we've got tons of extra shitty bikes. SF is heaven for bikers- Critical Mass started here 10+ years ago, the hills are murder on your legs, the bike coalition has some modicum of political power, and hardly anybody gets crushed in between the buses and the parked cars on the side of the street, at least not on Valencia since they added that bike line.

This troubled painting of the Transamerica Pyramid is at the beginning of an enormous for-bikers-only mural behind the Church+Market Safeway- on the backside of SF's version of a stripmall. The mural is hundreds of feet long and great to take in while riding your bike to the beach, because it depicts smiling bikers taking to the streets and eventually reaching the beach.. i'm sure there are other pics of the entire mural up somewhere, but this little "gotcha" at the beginning really does something for me because i like to imagine how pissed of the Transamerica Pyramid is. So pissed off, along with its corporate owners who regularly cheat the city out of its assessed property taxes and their corporate-handout mayors like Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown. Pissed off that someone's biking, someone's not buying oil, someone's not paying good money to see a work of public art. Seriously, no, seriously- fuck you Transamerica Pyramid.

image 954
Giving a tour of SF can be like giving a psilocybin mushroom cap to one of your parents. Maybe they think they understand themselves and their place in the world- but SF is there to prove them wrong. To trip you up and make you consider other points of view. This is a photo of the hill two blocks from my house and that is my little brother in the photo. He is currently living and working at a buddhist retreat in Vermont- he has been a hermit a lot of his adult life, living in an 'alone' situation and contemplating why he feels so alone. He was visiting around christmas time and we climbed to the top of this hill (you can't drive to it) to smoke a bowl maybe and just stare at the city, or at least my favorite part of it, the Mission district. It feels like simcity up here- everything seems close enough that you could click on it. I can see and hear fire engines responding to blazes, ambulances hitting SF general. You can tell Folsom street because it's totally green, covered in trees. There're the two bridges and the bay, too. This hill is as high up as Twin Peaks (the mountain you can see in the distance with the burningman-inspiration Sutro Tower on top), but somehow it seems closer to everything. A very special, centering place and everybody who lives around it seems to feel the same way. Sometimes crews of cholos up there sharing beers will offer me a Tecate, sometimes someone shares a joint, but usually people leave each other to their own sacred experience of interpreting the city from this huge fluffy cuddly muppet-monster of a hill that's brown most of the year but green after the rains.

image 956
I don't know why my house is called Unicorn Precinct XIII but it has something to do with gay policemen and unicorn tapestries hanging *everywhere*. Apparently that concept was in some movie recently, so thanks Hollywood for co-opting yet another cool thing you never knew anything about. Hope you made a lot of money and it made you very happy and fulfilled. This guy is wearing the *exact same tapestry* that hangs in our eastern window, as a poncho. This is a couple blocks from my work. SF is simultaneously a *great* place to be homeless and a *shitty* place to be homeless. Gavin Newsom's polling focus groups told him "everyone hates homeless people" so now it is illegal to panhandle near ATMs or in tourist spots. But the weather is beautiful, there is plenty of speed on the streets to fuel the armies of tweakers with their metal-recycling shopping carts, and you can sleep in most parks and only get fleas some of the time. There used to be a shanty town right on the bay, complete with junk shops and cardboard/corrugated steel houses- then they bulldozed the whole area and put up Pac Bell park. Before that, the homeless people all lived in SOMA and Potrero, but developers bought up the transient hotels and turned them into livework lofts for people that didnt live here yet, or dotcom cubefarms. Now there's something like 20k people living within 2 square blocks of 6th/market, a "part of town that needs to be cleaned up" according to the corporate-owned SF Chronicle that often runs shockpieces on the crime that happens there. They fail to disclose the fact that they own property around that intersection and they stand to gain very much from increasing property values.

According to the Chron last week, the median price of homes in the Bay Area has gone up $36k. From March to February. Where will the renters live? Where will the homeless people go? We keep building housing for people who do not yet live in the city without addressing the gordian knot that is the SF housing crisis.

image 957
I seldom leave the mission because it is FLAT and BEAUTIFUL and ARTY and POLITICAL and there is DELICIOUS FOOD everywhere. And friends live on every block, friends who will hang out with you and shoot the shit and go on a bike ride to wherever or maybe just to get a burrito. Those are my friends Damon and Kevin sorting some shit out on the stoop of my friend Thau's house. Thau and his wife are in Spain for a year so my other friends are staying there for 1200/month, 400 a person which is a *steal* in the mission. But it seems that most of my friends in the city are unemployed and that means at least they have the spare time to build the support network that makes such steals possible. Dot com kids moved here from the midwest + east coast (including me) and spent 100+ hours in their cubes working, only interacting with their communities over craigslist postings. So when the bubble crashed (BOOM and BUST being the economic modus operandi of the bay area for 150 years), they had no support networks, just phat unemployment checks- when those ran out, tons of them moved back home.

When I got laid off I asked myself what would i do if there were no computers, how would i help my friends (who already mostly know how to make webpages)? I went to cooking school for that and a million other reasons. I started growing my own food and raising chickens in the yard. I cooked for my friends 24/7, and with my friends when I could. I taught people what I knew from school and learned their recipes and perspectives. I worked on two amazing political campaigns and fueled armies of political activists with dumpster dived vegan cuisine.

I am just now getting back into computers and trying to be okay with that- the production of one computer requires over 1000 gallons of water and generates 40+ pounds of toxic waste that usually ends up in some 3rd world country. There's a great dotcom graveyard/junkyard in SF called Ace Auto that sells monitors for cheap/free to the burgeoning (almost institutionalized) industrial art scene here. They have shows and power tool drag races and before it became illegal, they would ship tons and tons of obsolete computer equipment to China for it to be stripped of its precious metals- the rest, buried in a landfill, probably near a river. It helps to remind myself of why San Francisco is so beautiful, on the backs of so many other beautiful places. This book Imperial San Francisco by Gray Bechin is pretty popular in the SF political scene right now- it chronicles how SF has become a sucking whirlpool of resources up and down the americas, even reaching across the pacific with the tools of iron shipyards to feed the resources of asian countries into its gaping maw. Comparing SF to Rome, as the nucleus of the "known world", the other cities mostly existing to feed the beast.

image 958
Ali got me a kitty for my birthday- we traveled many places together, to work and back, to parties.. she rode on my shoulder for a lot of the way. I tried to fit her in some sort of bike-basket with lid, but her cries were so pitiful that I ended up taking the occasional taxi with her. Here she is enjoying the taxi ride on Cesar Chavez street, which many assholes still call Army street. It ends at the Army dock on the bay, but it was renamed to honor the labor hero Cesar Chavez who organized a union for many of the oppressed latino producer workers abundant in California (which by the way used to be part of mexico until the US took it- sometimes it feels like it's definitely reverting back to the mexican side, but then again they are going to build a giant wall just to make sure that money +whites can pass freely, but browns not so much).
image 959
"ali can't write, so?" there is this beautiful flowery cursive writing around the city that says the most beautiful things.. "Artists are the shock troops of gentrification" , "Arrest all psychiatrists", etc.. huge amount of class conscious writing/graf in SF.

image 960
This is the roof of my old work, Jardiniere. One of the best restaurants in town, old rich white people pay a hundred dollars a person to get some food and drink. It's really delicious and I learned a lot there. It's right next to the "Palatine Hill" imperial architecture section of SF/Rome. Van Ness is lined with the War Memorial Opera House, the City Hall with a golden dome (gold, while homeless people camp out front), and the Bill Graham Civic Center. You remember Bill Graham? He made bank on the 60s and the SF localized version of the global youth revolution that was happening at the time. He ran the Warfield, the Filmore, and he is allegedly the dude who came up with concert halls taking a cut of the t-shirt sales!! This asshole died in a helicopter accident in the 1980s because he didnt want to deal with the traffic between the city and his peninsula moneymaker, the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Jardiniere keeps all the extra kitchen equipment in a shed on the roof, and the netting is to keep the birds away- a great place to work and to learn and it kicked my ass every day. SF cuisine is amazing- cheap migrant labor bringing the best of the central valley's fresh organic produce, the robust wines of Napa, the amazing seafood- and the fusion of cultures. SF is a haven of food invention- Chinese coolie labor contributed the invention of chop suey, Mexicano migrants invented the burrito, Italian immigrants invented Cioppino (a shellfish tomato soup), and these Indian dudes down the street from me invented Zante's Indian Pizza. It's pizza on nan bread with spinach sauce, cheese, garlic/cilantro/coriander/green onions, and tandoori chicken/lamb if you like meat. It's the best thing to order when you're so high that you can't choose between ordering Indian Food and Pizza. Cool to see an outpost of India in my hood, the home to so many Salvadorean, Nicarauguan, and mariscos places open so late. There are so many amazing restaurants in SF and they cost so much money that it seems like they are there for, again, not the majority of the people who live there. When I move back to SF I would like to do what i can to help change that.

image 961
Religious freaks of so many types converged on SF during the years.. Guyana Kool Aid Messiah Jim Jones's People's Temple was right next to Bill Graham's Filmore theatre- now it's a post office. Jones was great friends with a lot of SF politicians and brought 900 people to their deaths. Anton Szandor LaVey started the Church of Satan in SF- and you can still see his trippy evil headquarters, a block away from the darling Full House Houses.. This pic is from his daughter Karla's "Black Xmass", aka where people who hate christmas go on christmas. Noise bands, burlesque acts, and cheap drinks (for SF).

Tons of cults, both religious and scientific- remember Wired magazine? They still have their "wired rave awards" every year, even though so few of the self-labeled digerati are being paid these days simply to hold forth and talk about how "futuristic" it all is and how we need to keep making computers faster and better so that we can totally live online and ignore our neighbors and the delicious cooking smells wafting from their kitchen. Fuck Alvin Toffler and all hail the dot bomb bubbleburst.

But the tech sector smelled the bloodmoney in the miliary industrial complex's olympic swimming pool and now all the energy being spent on "tech development" is going towards the biotech and security sectors- spending taxpayer dollars not on medicine or food for babies or even schools (California closes a school for every prison they open), but funnelling it through the Pentagon system where the national holy oracles of "Security" and "Freedom" conclave with tech futurists and MIT+Berkeley department heads. Spend the money on developing cameras with fancy image/voice recognition, satellites to track us all, and bullshit database servers to collate all the heads of the motherfucking Illuminati. Keep upgrading those video cards and making a faster and prettier version of the same damn video game over and over again- the same registers that plot triangles and vertices for Xbox plot the future of kill-from-far-away technologies with big pretty interfaces that make wired editors hard for multipage centerfolds of cybermetallic dicks fucking brown fleshy pussy a/k/a the global south, homeless people, and anybody that's not a total sycophant for trans-national corporate power.

image 962
My last night in SF before I moved to mexico, I picked up some friends who smoked me up in our car- we talked a lot and shot the shit and went to the Attic, a bar that sometimes still lets people smoke inside (smoking inside is banned in California). We stumbled onto a bunch of other friends who were there to listen to their metalhead roommate dj the same dope records he spun all the time in their warehouse. This is a pic of Big Daddy with Rudy's dog, Slug.

Their warehouse is so far away in the sickest part of town- the only traffic is heavy duty trucks and shopping cart tweakers bringing their metal payloads to the recycling center in the polluted part of town. A block away from them is the PG&E power plant that spits shit into the groundwater and into the bay. There are signs there saying "NO FISHING" in 8 different languages, and 6 of them look like Thai. Ethnographically targeted towards the boat people who just show up in a new city and start living for free- nuh unh, this is the new millenium and your landlord is Racially Targeted Pollution and he requires a deposit and it's your motherfucking lungs and your child's kidneys. Drink up and enjoy the tapwater.

Past the PG&E is Hunter's Point Shipyard, home to two Project Superfund cleanup sites. In the 40s, a boat that witnessed the Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb explosion came back to port here. They sandblasted the radiated paint off, then buried it. Then they built housing projects on top of them. Hunters Point projects are home to Dedman's Court, a well-named street in a very violent part of town. Bayview/Hunters Point and other neighborhoods South of Cesar Chavez doesn't exist on many tourist maps- that area is for the poor and the brown and the guns. Jobs and whites usually stay above ground. Gavin Newsom wants to get federal money (eg your taxes) to cleanup this land that they should be cleaning up anyway and turn the projects into "middle income" (eg 80k/year) housing for more people who don't live here yet but would love a federally-subsidized loft with a 270 degree view of the bay.

I moved out of that neighborhood in 1999 and into the mission- my skin was getting bad from drinking the water and jesus was it depressing to hear mayor Willie Brown guarantee his black + samoan constituency "don't worry, no white people will gentrify this neighborhood.." guess again suckers!! now there's a light rail going down the mainstreet that connects the two yuppie ballparks (Pac Bell + Monster Park, yes, named after, and the precious precious land will be reclaimed from the people that aren't really contributing to profit production.

The mission's going the same way for sure- from Bernal Hill I can see the beautiful murals next to the houses of Hispanic families being displaced by hipsters and artists projecting their own new realities and cuisines on the city. Shock troops of gentrification- the neighborhood grows more artistic and hip and the real estate goes up and the poor people go "away". A city of so many recent immigrants that it's hard to maintain the history, the knowledge that this has happened so many times before..

But the median house price in SF is $746k as of March 2005 and that might not seem like a real number- not to most of the city's residents who will chase that number along with their dream of being able to save up a down payment for a place to call their own, that the developers and hipsters can't take away- not a real number to them, or to anybody. Since Nixon took the US off the gold standard in the early 70s, speculation has buried labor, real goods, services. 99% of all transactions that happen in the world today are speculation, 1% represent real things changing hands. Numbers in a fucking computer that has to go faster and faster so it can link together the tech network that allows money and whites to cross borders but stops people.. billions of dollars of "debt" racked up by a bunch of thieves that can print their own money to win their elections to be our tax collectors and jailers.

Negri and Hardt postulate in "Empire", ("a das kapital for the internet age") that this network that trans-national extra-statal power (aka "Empire") has built can be used to form the anti-empire.. hackers build tools like this website to encourage people to creatively communicate, compare notes, exchange photos and express powerful communal aesthetics.

San Francisco is probably the most wired city in the US, if number of craigslist posts and community-services-available-by-websites is to judge. The City On A Hill for the use of technology in activism, legalized weed, progressive politics, and white protest music-- do we bring enough to the table?

Can we do it? Can all of the cities band together? Can we reach critical mass? Can we pull it all down before the landlords kick us all out?? Before the networks are locked down, we're all in prison for thoughtcrimes, and the nukes are already falling from the safety of the trans-national corporate Illuminati's orbital base? Will Rome/Babylon sacrifice the bodies of the many into the gaping maw of consumption+capitalism for the fleeting glory of the few?

image 963
Babylon will have its priest.

This article has been viewed 87402 times in the last 10 years

elaine: 20th Apr 2005 - 06:46 GMT

Fab piece. I have, as you can imagine a real problem with America, so can only relate to Americans who are politicised. It is said that 5% of US citizens have a passport, of which most of those are coastal and washington residents. so I guess it breaks down to mainly businessmen, grand tourists who are going to 'do' europe on a whistle stop tour, actors, and then students and then real people. then there is the news, it's all local, and in LA it's all media, film just is the news. so if there is little interstate news there is gonna be bugger all international news. recently the Pope died, did y'all know that? Polish bloke, head of the cantholic church, anyway, all the news agencies reported 'the vatican confirms, blah blah..' fox news did report it, and apparently reported 'fox news confirms,...' evidently it isn't news unless it is yank owned. Still this is tittle tattle and semantics. The real thing that bothered me is the race as class and covert apartheid going on, with the voteless mexican contingent invisibly toiling away and unable to complain. It fucks me off because I would like to be more unreserved in my liking for you lot and your modern world, or at least just in parity with our own beautiful ugliness. I know it's a bit like we ate all the pie and now we want to talk about sharing, but things have changed, and things are getting urgent in the global village

Marc: 20th Apr 2005 - 07:09 GMT

local news consists of murders, violence, stuff that keeps u in your house and afraid of your neighbors-- and as media ownership consolidates, there is less and less "local" news- corporations like clearchannel buy up the regional radio stations and just get rid of the news desks entirely.. mostly who's fucking who in hollywood, what bush said, and why we're all going to hell and deserve to blown up brown people. also fox news is rupert murdoch owned, fyi, not yank. i think there needs to be more 'local' news for peopel to pay attention to what is happening- 30 years ago most newspapers had a labor desk, now they have advertising coordinators on editorial boards.

bush talks about legalizing mexican illegals- making them pay tax, not giving them citizenship rights or the right to organize in the union, plus delivering the mexicano vote for the republican party. pretty scary. kuwait is like that- no kuwaiti works, they just have foreigners come in to work for shit with no rights while every kuwaiti draws a phat oil paycheck.

i think it's important to realize that poor people everywhere, working people everywhere, no matter how listless, lethargic, numbed by 50 hour a week jobs that still dont bring home enough money, only able to sit in front of a tv for relaxation-- everywhere, but especially in america-- they are smart, are our friends, and they agree with our (progressive) sense of right and wrong. they feel powerless to do anything about it. something like 70% of americans think iraq is a bad idea, something like 70% of americans want socialized medicine, but like the soviet union there is no way to achieve these goals politically because there is so much money + television advertising in the equation.

in america, blaming people for sitting around and doing nothing should mean blaming yourself for not talking to them ,sharing your life with them, comparing notes on existence, and gaining power through the dissolution of fear. We must realize that all people are intelligent and deserve our respect and dialogue- and if we dont relate to the americans that ARENT politicized, well the TV ads surely will.

elaine: 20th Apr 2005 - 10:44 GMT

what ws truly vile here was after a million years of tory rule we did get a labour government and of course people felt relieved for a bit which was nice, and there are still good things about UK but bloody hell didn't Blair just become such a good little Bush glovepuppet and drive us into a hideous war which we are still nominally in last i looked for what it is worth trying to leave, and with the recreational torture.
One of the favourite scapegoat groups here is teenagers and the excuses offered TV and computer games, but frankly if the government who are menat to be moral can't behave well then I don't see how they can point fingers.
The best cover blowing here recently seems little, but you will like it. A chef went into schools and blew the lid on the shit they are giving kids for school dinners. They amount spent on kids meals is 37p each, less than prisoners, roughly i suppose 50 cents. All the meat is MRM, additive laden fried shit, served with fries and if they are lucky a preserved veg. He made a docco series where he went into schools and tried to persuade dinner ladies to cook real food, hard on the budget, and tried to teach the kids about veg, a lot didn't know ANY. He showed kids what MRM (mechanically recovered meat) actually is - their favorite - turkey twizzlers, shaped fried MRM sausages, made some, and then offered them that or chicken. Then they did choose the chicken. You may not be surprised, but the kids also showed better learning and behaviour in the afternoons after that. The Govt is up for reelection and have now hijacked the campaign. I think he says - well good, just do it, it's important

Peter: 20th Apr 2005 - 14:38 GMT

ahh, futureshock. simcity boxes getting planted and dozed. gentrification.

marc, not only was this post really well-written, but i find that we share very similar philosophies on many heated topics. im glad youre here.

nate: 20th Apr 2005 - 15:12 GMT

Re: Fisherman's Wharf and the Full House Houses
To paraphrase Mike Ladd-We live in an era that can now safely be called Neo-Futurism. Science fiction and reality are indistinguishable from one another.

Peter: 20th Apr 2005 - 15:22 GMT

then wheres my hovercar?! my wetware? why am i still stuck in the meat?

hasslehoff: and where's my dam flux-capacitor?

nate: 20th Apr 2005 - 15:56 GMT

Re: Fisherman's Wharf and the Full House Houses
Sorry all that you get are boneless chicken wings, chosen sex children, and an ex-Nazi for a Pope.

hasslehoff: 20th Apr 2005 - 16:35 GMT

ok, but can we keep the mechanically reclaimed meat?

and a lunatic for a president: 21st Apr 2005 - 16:09 GMT

image 1018

jeeff: 21st Apr 2005 - 16:58 GMT

it's kind of depressing to think of artists as the shock troops of gentrification, but definitely true in a sense. i think there are two types of art:

1) art as cool
2) art as obsession

a lot of artists based in major cities fall into category 1, and i think they're the ones who beget gentrification. they create timely trend-informed art that is easy to digest and acts mostly as the glue for a social scene. they get immediate recognition but rarely achieve long-lasting fame.

category 2 artists labour away in private, tucked away in a corner somewhere. anti-social obsessive types, or just plain dull. they're rarely acknowledged, but if they do achieve fame (likely posthumous) it lasts, because outside of a trend-based atmosphere their work is more universal.

both types are fine, and necessary, i think. i've always felt a struggle pulling me between the two extremes. of course it's all just generalization.

roisin: 9th May 2005 - 14:49 GMT

i think of good art as a creative force for change- opens our eyes up to the difference, between how things are and how things could be.
Incidentally, i really loved the article abt SF, america, and comp's. Made me at one moment want to move to SF- it looks so beautiful, and although there are problems it seems that at least there's a community of ppl who are politically and morally aware.. And yet in another moment, at the end of the article, i think can this change? can these problems, which are constantly beneath us, can we change them- is it possible?

Fran: 15th May 2005 - 04:16 GMT

I like your blog!:)

I'll be a regular reader.

I like your complex,creative eyes wide open NON-Sheeple mentality and awareness! ;)

elaine: 15th May 2005 - 14:24 GMT

personally i think insisting on being real, and yourself and human is a good start, nowadays, and quite revolutionary in an era of plastic surgery/food/relationships/work all insistances thereof are potentially revalatory. interrupt the flow of consumerism and fear anyway you see fit. i would like to see a lot of white americans turning themselves in and demanding to be repatriated somewhere, to make the patriotism act unworkable and show solidarity with your fellow americans who are really feeling the rub right now, but that could just be me...

Anonymous ( 9th Jun 2005 - 17:57 GMT

You are a whiner! If you had gone back to the east coast after you lost your overpaid .com job you lost which you were also likely not qualified at doing you could have spared yourself (and us) all your harshing on everything you hate.

Not only are you a San Francisco hater, clearly you are an America hater. Please now go and join a group like Hamas so we can have you tossed in Gitmo and be done with you for good.

Editor: 9th Jun 2005 - 18:00 GMT

heres to making insulting "anonymous" disses and leaving your ip information for all to see!

elaine: 9th Jun 2005 - 18:00 GMT

can't see it myself. anonymous, you're so big and brave you don't even have a name

elaine: ha, snap!

jeeff: hahaha, here's to comedy.

aer suzuki: 24th Jun 2006 - 00:19 GMT

this is one of the most interesting articles i've read on here so far, thanks for putting in the time. hope you're still around and posting.

jack: 30th Apr 2007 - 13:55 GMT

politics is not art, politics is a hate game, it makes people get angry, it makes people hate each other, lets keep politics out of here and concentrate on pictures,

Marc: 1st May 2007 - 05:44 GMT

Well thanks for telling me what art is, finally. Love makes people angry too, isn't it still art? Art is where you find it, just because some have trouble with politics doesn't mean others don't find it meaningful and non-hate filled.

Let's keep censorship out of here and concentrate on expression!!

xtascene: 6th Dec 2007 - 07:12 GMT

thank you for passing on that graffiti, "artists are the shock troops..." It amuses me to read all these little petty bougie chai sucking art-mafia types trying to weasel out of owning their privilege, whether it be class, race, etc. if i hear another six figure-artschool trustafarian tell me how art is "beyond class" down here on 24th where me and my family are trying to live, i'm gonna hurl. Do these fuckers really not see that where their artfully-applied eyeliner and "vintage" gas station jackets go, so does the gentrification?

Fred M Pohl: Your cat is cute

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