Six months since the last writing in this particular book. I have at least one dozen notebooks and 40+ pens strewn about all of the surfaces in my apartment, in my school backpack, and my walkabout purse. I have an acute fetish for pens and books that hold court with a tin of colored pencils and a sharpener given to me by my dear Art Department Chair and pal, Anna. She said, “Doodling relieves stress. Thank you for all that you’re doing,” and gave me a big hug. I write and doodle several times per day to file my thoughts and work away at the pain in my soul.
Fast forward to this day: I walk down the steep hill from my friend’s apartment that I’m watching during her trip out of town into a Wednesday morning Castro Street waking up from Tuesday’s extravagance. Someone sleeps in a dirty bag next to front door to Marcello’s Pizza; his skateboard is carefully propped between him and the wall. I can’t help but wonder if he works there. People in service jobs in SF can no longer afford to live in this overpriced city. Many are homeless and hanging on to that cheap job – their last connection to reality.
I proceed to the colorful crossing at Castro and 18th Streets en route to a cup of java at Philz Coffee – one of my local faves. A thin, tall man approaches wearing a tattered t-shirt, moaning like someone who lost a child as he crosses my path. Upon second glance, I notice that he’s missing an arm–the short sleeve flaps on his left shoulder. Just then, I look down and see a cement cover on the sidewalk (like those that read Pacific Gas and Electric or SFPUC), but this one reveals the cleanly etched word: SHELTER. The juxtaposition to the visage around me causes my mind to jolt; I wonder how many more years that America withstand this vacuity of emotion in the lives of our politicians. So much suffering with so little care from the right-wing and the neolibs who pander to the masses in lip service.
I walk into Philz where a very positive staff greet everyone and I’m reminded that there are people who truly care about others. This was no fake welcome. These people seem to like each other and their job and want to share their happiness with the patrons I haven’t seen this in SF in quite some time. I order a Jacob’s Wonderbar and and an egg breakfast burrito. While waiting, I pull out my little purple notebook and write these words as everyone else around me stares at glowing rectangles of light emitting from their personal spaceships. After several sips and half of the burrito eaten, I slowly pack it all up and walk out to embark on further journeys through the neighborhood.
I see a young woman covered head to toe in a dirty down jacket with a hoodie pulled up over her head. I stop to offer her the other half of my burrito. She turns to look at me and utters “Thank you”–her blue eyes peering out of ruddy inflammation stretched across a face as skeletal as I have ever seen. As I pass, she stops me: “Did you hear the news? It turns out Kola is Sriracha’s dog! So, I’m getting another one of my own!” Just then the face of a happy, blonde Retriever pops out from a bundle she had near her feet. I smile and continue up the street.
As I turn onto Market, I see two more people whose lives reveal more pain and depravity. I make a note in my voice recorder as the startling reality of the words on one man’s shirt cause me to wince:
T-shirt: “Butchered at Birth”. Tears well up in my eyes as I proceed up the street.
The excruciating reality is that the U.S. spends millions on the Presidential elections alone while leaving a large portion of its citizens living in the streets or drinking toxic water. This does not include the State and Local elections. California’s gubernatorial election of 2010 pitted billionaire Meg Whitman against Jerry Brown in a race that costed well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Bernie Sanders slams his hands down on the podium about our priorities. The official homeless data for SF can be found here in a telling report. I read a statistic recently in an article that purports to 7,500 homeless citizens in SF. This July 2015 article discusses that the homeless population is aging and growing sicker each year. Of course they are! With all of the money funneled into election campaigns, how can there possibly be a nickel left to help the poor with adequate shelter, drug rehabilitation and food? There are success stories of a few cities who work diligently to find solutions: Salt Lake City, for example.
“With an estimated $2.31 trillion of GDP in 2014, California has the largest state-level economy in the U.S. due largely to its population, which ranks 1st among U.S. states. Texas ranks 2nd at $1.65 trillion. This means that California’s 2014 GDP was 40% bigger than that of Texas.” (source: 2014 Legislative Analyst’s Office)