I Hope To Shout San Francisco!

Honestly, everywhere else has only made me love you best!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is The Scandal? 8/23/15

Caught BART out to 16th & Mission for Eliana Lopez's performance in "What is The Scandal?" Written by Lopez and her brother, this sometimes hilarious and heartbreaking one-woman show tells Eliana's own side of the story about events leading up to and following the arrest of her husband for spousal abuse. Her husband being the one San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a former SF Supervisor--- tapped by the outgoing Sheriff as his heir apparent---who ran, won office, and ended up being blind sided by the handcuffs placed on him out of the blue shortly after being sworn into office. 

I said 'hello' to Mirkarimi who stood tall and tan outside the theatre before the show.  I made a point to speak to him again after the performance on my way up the aisle in tears and a bit non-plussed by Eliana's side of the story. Until now, these events sat filed away as a vague memory, their story cobbled together from local news coverage.

Eliana's story does more than suggest that she was silenced by the political machine pulling the strings against her husband --- alone with a toddler and living in a country not yet her own, helping her husband through the busy machinations of the election, once over, communication gaps widen between them as individual expectations conflict---Eliana's without real friends and becomes homesick after missing out on the usual joyful Christmas with her own family in Venezuela. This vivacious spirited and successful woman in her own right at home--- feels miserable. She wants to go home with the baby. As her storytelling unfolds, I concluded that Ross was afraid she'd take his son out of the U.S. and never return. 

The  Scandal . . .

Sitting in jail without the ability to communicate directly with his wife, Mirkarimi receives an ultimatum delivered in person by the Mayor. Eliana receives a call from her own attorney who pleads with her to take the baby and catch the next flight home to Venezuela --- he is fearful of Immigration Control's real or implied threat that she would be deported and never able to return. Go now before IC takes action. Eliana and infant son flee the U.S., the Sheriff is placed under a restraining order---at least six months pass until husband and wife are able to see or talk with one another.

In the meantime, Mirkarimi admits to spousal abuse (he grabbed her arm during a heated argument about her going to Venezuela while on the way to pizza at Delfina's---one of my favorite restaurants in The Mission). A neighbor of theirs befriends Eliana after the pizza night argument and video tapes Eliana's bruised arm, in case Eliana needs this for 'proof' later. The neighbor gives the video to the police at some point after Mirkarimi wins the election for Sheriff. Between the police and Mayor Ed Lee, the situation escalates as local media convicts our new Sheriff in the press. Eliana later writes a letter from Venezuela in which she says that she does not consider grabbing her arm as abuse, her letter is published in the SF Chronicle.

While Eliana positions the play as an immigration related story with a tie-in to abuse and cultural differences, the bigger story seems to be about what we've always known or suspected in SF politics. Mirkarimi himself admits that he kept waiting for what he understood the "system" process to be ---he expected it to work. It did not. He and his last attorney believe the political machine behind the Mayor were using Eliana to get to Mirkarimi. The Mayor and Mirkarimi's own troops didn't want him and still don't today. 

During a bit of pointed questioning by Mirkarimi's attorney at a meeting,  Mayor Lee allegedly sends a text to his people "Get me out of here". A few minutes later, a bomb alert goes off in the building and the Mayor is the only person escorted out of the room to safety. Mirkarimi is then reinstated after the Board of Supervisors vote to do so. On probation for the past three years until recently, Mirakirimi serves without carrying a gun, perhaps the only U.S. sheriff to do so.

Back together as a family, the couple attended therapy and moved from their Western Addition condo (and that next door neighbor) to The Mission District. 

You can't make up this story.

I would not have seen this show were it not for my friends Sherry and Ken who support Mirkarimi. Ken has worked with him before, filming news or other segments. Earlier this year, Ken and Sherry ended up shooting promo clips of "What is The Scandal?" at The Victoria Theatre and continue to support the show and want to help Mirkarimi in the next election. Sherry pulled together about 12 friends and family members for Sunday's performance and some of us went to dinner afterwards. We shared lively conversations about the play, the politics---one member of our party, a former  attorney to President Reagan even made a point to give his legal advice to Mirkarimi after the show. 

Mirkarimi continues to face smack downs. 

The recent July 1 tragic shooting of Kate Steinle on The Embarcadero by an illegal immigrant who was just released from the SF jail ---released without a phone call to our local Immigration Control department whose representatives say they had requested to be notified so they could deport the guy again---for like the fourth or fifth time. Mirkarimi responded that his department was not required to do so and based his position or understanding on current legal statute. The story made International news, the fallacies of Sanctuary City policy controversies exposed. Kate's Law will follow.

Senator Feinstein issued a statement, Mayor Lee issued a statement. The Mayor has not spoken to Mirkarimi in over three years, not once since the spousal abuse arrest scandal. Not once. The Mayor communicates to his Sheriff via memorandums and third party messengers. 

A news article later reported that the gun which killed Kate Steinle was government issued and stored in a backpack stolen out of a car parked on the city street. What government agent with the authority to carry a weapon leaves it in a parked car on the street.?! (I would have been fired for leaving my company's laptop secured in a car trunk or hotel room if it was stolen.)

Many of us remain appalled that our system is this broken and corrupt, it seems incomprehensible. I think we've lost our minds.

Southern Biscuits & Grits in The Haight 7/23/15

Headed out to The Haight for a late breakfast by catching the #7 Muni bus at Market & Battery. I don't recall taking this bus route before especially up the low end of Haight St.. Riding Muni proves to be a remarkable way to get a view of San Francisco, it's people, districts, wonders, warts and all. Doing so is not for the faint of heart. 

Our neighborhoods must be an architect's dream. Run down Victorians dot the landscape and I imagine how fabulous they could be if their owners cleaned them up and maintained them better, rentals or not. As we roll along up the hill, I happily see Buena Vista Park and imagine the haven this must have been during San Francisco's love-in days. The Ashbury Heights neighborhood is lovely and offers spectacular views of the city if one is lucky enough to live there.

I hopped off at Haight and Masonic to try the biscuits and grits at Pork Store Cafe. Apparently, the cafe is a hot brunch spot on weekends. It offers a number of southern style breakfast plates like two country fried pork chops, biscuits and gravy with a choice of sausage gravy or vegan gravy. Honestly, I don't recall pouring gravy over biscuits like this as a main dish when growing up but it is popular throughout the South. We didn't serve a white flour like gravy made from the drippings, Daddy made gravy using darker drippings and sometimes made "red eye" gravy. 

Most of the people at Pork Store Cafe were regulars sitting at the counter. At one point, I watched a young woman come in, slip over to a table in the window that needed cleaning and take a leftover biscuit. She laughed on her way out and I gathered the restaurant folks working behind the counter probably knew her. Once outside, she appeared to be feeding the pigeons or maybe a dog, I couldn't see the sidewalk. It seemed like a good way to share leftover food rather than wasting it. Overall, I was unimpressed with my grits and biscuits/sausage gravy on the side. The price and value seemed about right, I can see why it's a popular spot for regulars.

After breakfast, I walked down Haight toward Stanyan and crossed the infamous intersection of  Haight-Ashbury. The usual tourists captured selfies, numerous tour buses passed. Haight continues its legacy of offering head shops, stores featuring tie dyed clothing, jewelry, vintage clothing,  and my all-time favorite Amoeba Records. 

I remain nostalgic over Stanyan Street, mostly due to Rod McKuen's slim book "Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows" which I bought as a teen. When I first moved to San Francisco in January 1979, I often drove over to Haight-Ashbury and found a place to park off Stanyan near Amoeba Records. My favorite drive was off upper Market through Cole Valley and down Stanyan Street to Haight. At the time, I marveled that I was on Stanyan in Haight-Ashbury, that I lived in San Francisco.

While waiting for the #43 Masonic bus on the corner of Cole and Haight, I watched a group of hippie lifestyle couples laughing gaily as they crossed Cole. Oblivious  to their pretty young dog dragging his leash behind them, the rest of us nearby saw the dog pause and squat in the middle of the crosswalk. A car stopped and it's driver blew the horn---as if---since the dog continued to relieve himself of one of the largest mound of poo droppings I've ever witnessed anywhere. We all watched in amazement, this precious dog finished and trotted to my corner's sidewalk following his owners. The car drove on missing the poo mountain, the dog's owner finally realized what the hoopla was all about and picked up the droppings with a plastic bag.

Throughout my tenure at this bus stop, a woman sat in the middle of her belongings on the sidewalk in the sun next to a bright wall mural painted on the building. She talked to herself and to me. Her conversations were laced with profanities, I could not clearly hear everything she said but at one point she called me a "bitch" for something I was or was not doing. It's not the first time that I've experienced aggressive behavior on the streets or buses of San Francisco.

There are hundreds of men, women, and teens living on the streets. I run across too many on my bus rides and walks. Many appear to have mental illness, induced or made worse by drugs or due to a congenital disorder for which they can't help having and need help to manage it. 

The point is this --- we have a growing serious societal problem with no magical solution in our sights. A young woman hurling profanities talking at no one in particular while sitting in the sun under a brightly painted wall mural in The Haight is one tragic story too many.

Southern Fried Chicken in The Bayview 7/21/15

I love using my time to take Muni routes around the city and find it a fabulous way to see and hear what's going on. I use to do this while in graduate school, it fueled my thinking and writing time. 

Hungry for real Southern fried chicken, I made my way out  the  T-Muni line on Third St. to "Auntie April's" in the Bayview District. With closing time at 4pm, I figured getting there around 2pm for a late brunch and traveling in broad daylight alone would be fairly safe.

I boarded across from the Cal Train Station, there were a few others waiting, including a very large young black woman with two men. She spoke loudly peppering her expressions with numerous iterations of the "f-word".  We ended up sharing the same trolley car. She continued on loudly as if to attract attention to herself on purpose and at one point made a display of zipping up her jeans. I concluded she had a jean's zipper problem, you know those zippers that no matter what one does to try and ensure it stays zipped, it doesn't? I have a pair of those.

One of the men appeared to be a lost soul, skinny, potentially jumpy but still. He kept to himself while hugging a full unopened fifth of liquor under his jacket and a small brown paper bag. The other man appeared older, calm, quietly in charge.The young woman finally sat down. With earplugs linked to her phone, we listened as she sang  along pitch perfect to some rapper deliver a litany of  "f-laced" travails. We listened again when she replayed particular points that she admitted out loud to identify with---we learned the only thing she personally had not experienced yet and survived was cancer. 

I wanted to tell her that she had a nice voice. Instead, I decided it best to not engage. I listened and looked out the windows at the neighborhood along Third Street taking in how the area has changed, learning how we have changed.

The three of them left  the train several stops ahead of me. The young woman lugged a heavy canvas bag filled with various bottles of liquor. She happily boasted to two younger teenage girls she knew (and who had just boarded) that she planned to sell the bottles. I wondered where and how these bottles were acquired in the first place. 

I wondered why this young woman chose to live her life in this way---the way--- is what I imagine, the conclusions drawn about her life from this brief encounter on a Muni trolley in the middle of a sunny day in San Francisco.

After disembarking, I crossed to the sidewalk along Third St. heading to Auntie April's. This is not something I would do at night. The storefronts are bleak, two forlorn people sat on the sidewalk, their backs against a brick wall, literally. I walked past two healthy young males squatting near a corner storefront. Observing them, I found myself channeling 'don't even think about trying something'.  

Once inside Auntie April's, I relaxed. The waitress greeted me with a broad smile, she was warm and adorable. After bringing me a glass of unsweetened ice tea, I ordered the two piece fried chicken topping an original waffle. Yum. Made-to-order Heaven! 

A little old lady carrying a cane moved from one table to the window table near me. People who knew her waved as they walked by. April, April's Mother, and the waitress all checked on her. When she stood to leave, she turned to me and said "have a nice day". I thanked her and said "you too" and how much I liked her outfit, a cerulean blue sweatsuit like jacket and pants. 

Stuffed to the gills, I left the warmth of my Auntie April experience to walk over to the T line trolley stop. The sidewalks were clear except for a man holding a beverage can outside a corner store, maybe a bar. I walked past him with my hands on my hips, stretching my back and stood in this position while waiting for the streetlight to change. 

"Hey, Mama! Whatchu do'in standing all up with your hands on your hips?! "
I turned back laughing and walked towards him. "I'm stuffed, just left Auntie April's."
"You need to take a long walk then!"
"I am walking, right over to that T stop."
"I'm Johnny, nice to meet you", he smiled holding out his hand.
"I'm Nancy", smiling and shaking his hand
"You have a good day, now."
"You, too!"

Chinatown Y 4/26/15

Upon leaving full-time employment in mid January, I renewed my membership at the Chinatown YMCA just down the hill on Sacramento St.. Our Chinatown Y is lovely, the ground floor lobby proudly showcases the first Olympic sized saline swimming pool in the city. On the far back wall of the aquatic pool, a huge mural depicts people precious to the Chinatown Y's history. 

My welcome Wellness Consultant, Ken Johe was asked if he would like to be a part of the mural. Ken told me he was surprised and felt humbled to be a part. He beamed with pride while sharing that he began coming to the Chinatown Y as a young boy and how much it meant for him to be able to come here as a child. 

Today, Ken serves as a Board Member, works a full time day job and continues to give back to the local Y that helped shape the sweet young man he has become.  

Three Precious SF Moments 4/24/15

My Mother use to say that everything happens in Threes.

Out and about doing an errand on a breezy, cool, drought dry, and sun-filled day in San Francisco. Riding the #2 Clement St. bus on Sutter out of downtown, I came upon precious moment #1 looking out the window around the Larkin St. stop. As my day evolved, two more Precious Moments touched my heart.

Precious Moment #1: A man and best friend on her leash, a tiny black and white Chihuahua dressed  in an equally tiny hot pink warmer vest whose four paws were protected in teensy hot pink sneakers. A-dorable.

Precious Moment #2: For the second day in a row on the #2 Clement, I saw the same young girl riding the bus with a sweet yellow Lab service dog for the blind. Each day this mellow companion lay on the floor out of the aisle and under the seat by the girl's legs. I could not see if the Lab was a female or male, but on both days, this precious being made a point to find a comfortable position so it's snout lay on the girl's foot, wanting to feel her and be as close as possible to his companion. Once in a while, the young Lab raised up as if seeking affection, a pet or scratch behind the ear. I wondered if the girl was legally blind or helping to train the dog for someone else.

Precious Moment #3: A young Mother teaching her little girl how to roller skate in the wonderful little Sue Bierman Park located between Washington and Clay along The Embarcadero. The little girl appeared to be about four or five and was also dressed in a hot pink ensemble with matching hot pink and white durable plastic skates. I passed them on the sidewalk and as her Mom held her hand, I heard the little girl say, 'I want to to do it by myself’.


A few steps later, I turned around to see how going it alone went, Mom had walked over to put down a backpack on a park bench while the little girl bravely struggled to stand up again by herself after falling. Bless her heart.

Seven Years Later, What's Changed?

I have not dreamed that I sleep in a MUNI bus shelter since my post below in 2008. Suze Orman's worst nightmare scenario behind me. This does not suggest that I can actually afford retirement living in San Francisco or surrounding communities. Who knew the world would be in an absolute upside down mess?

Mayor Gavin Newsom now serves as California's Lt. Governor, I remain unclear what the Lt. does. Expect Newsom to run in the next Governor's race as Jerry Brown terms out. Kamala Harris serves as Attorney General and moved to Southern California. Harris will run for Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat as Boxer retires.

Seven years later, my homeless neighbor continues shuffling up and down Nob Hill streets. He still looks frail and dirty. And I still wonder where he sleeps, how he eats---how in the world has he survived?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Snug as a bedbug in myMUNIspace

I slept snug as a bedbug on a foam mattress in a Muni bus shelter. Early morning sunlight cast a soft yellow glow around me. I didn't notice if it was one of Mayor Gavin Newsom's new three-sided "green" bus shelters. MyMUNIspace offered more shelter with three and one-half sides. Later, I stood in a dirty restroom taking what my Mother use to call a"spit" bath.

Fear gripped me down to my bones when I woke up. Is fear wrestling my subconcious dreams in the wake of a complete U.S. economic meltdown? Maybe. Am I beside myself at this mind-boggling trillion dollar debt we owe around the globe? Definitely.

Should I find a therapist or call Suze Orman? Consider me Suze's worst nightmare. I mastered Suze's list of 'do's and don'ts' long before this week's complete financial tsunami. FICO,SCHMICO. Suze, it feels way too late.

Then, I wondered.

Is fear cloaking the homeless man who shuffles up and down California Street, past Nob Hill's Grace Cathedral, luxury hotels, and dog walkers in Huntingdon Park? Sadness washes over me as I watch him from my seat on the cable car. He hugs "thin rail"arms to his chest, he carries nothing.

Yesterday, I began cleaning out things. Bits and pieces that I don't need, let alone have room for in my apartment. So, I'm taking all of this as a sign of change rather than a wake-up call.

And if anyone else out there experiences phobias about waking up with bedbugs in a Muni bus shelter, I'd like to hear from you. Who knows, maybe a C.W. Nevius column in The Chronicle about our plight could help others, too.