The Fourth, the Fifth...
Scott McKenzie's “San Francisco”comes to mind when I visit or think of this lovely city by the bay. Even though I have been to the Bay a handful of times, I never tire of its perennially cool climate or its unconventional and diverse culture. Although it is a bit dated, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City provides a glimpse into the culture in this town. I opted for a more artsy tour of the City this time around with a stop for some eats, of course.
In times past, the Tenderloin neighborhood was known as a seedy part of town. It still has its moments, but its history should not take away from the flavor it adds to the city. Another bit of flavor that this colorful part of town has to offer is Brenda's.
Pictured above: Grillades and Grits. Located on the corner of Polk Street and Eddy Street, it is worth a stop-over. More info at http://frenchsoulfood.com/
For the Full House fanatics, the anthropomorphized structures stand out in the final scene in the show's opening sequence. Being a product of the ‘90s and a somewhat avid fan, I had to go see these ladies. It should be noted, these Victorian/Edwardian style homes are located throughout the city (and in other cities too!) but the ones pictured below are of the Full House variety from Steiner Street:
As viewed from Steiner Street
Balmy Alley and Clarion Street
Since the 1970s and 1980s, Balmy and Clarion have offered wall-to-wall paintings of political, social, and all other commentary on a variety of subjects. Here is just a taste:
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
I spent two miles walking up and down SF's infamous hills to see this, but thought it was totally worth the trouble. The neighborhood art project is an interesting display of what a community united can accomplish. If my legs weren't burning at the time, I would have climbed all 163 steps of it and taken several pictures to get that right frozen-in-mid-air jump shot. Next time though!
The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood has long been the mecca for residents of the most eclectic of tastes. These hallowed grounds are often famously known as the main stage for the Summer of Love movement and would eventually serve as residence to musical artists that would flock there.
As a fervent appreciator of the music from that era I had to pay homage to one of my favorite artist by visiting this place:
Janis Joplin's house!
Although she lived in other parts of the City, Janis initially lived here when she first moved to SF. Off of Lyon Street, her former abode now serves as private residences.
A Reality Check
On a lot of the city streets, I was constantly sidestepping poop on the ground - far too much poop for anybody's comfort. I initially thought it was dog stuff, but was informed that it was of the human variety. SF’s homeless population has been making the news lately, but this was a much more, well, graphic presentation of the problem. City officials estimate that there are an estimated 4,300 individuals living on the street at any given time, with more than 1,000 individuals on a waiting list for perpetually full shelter beds. According to a recent reportsponsored by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco Whole Person Care, and UCSF, nearly 400 homeless people have died in San Francisco since 2016 – a rate the researchers note has not changed since the 1990s.
As I mulled over this new piece of info, and considered my own reaction to it, I was reminded of the notion of compassion.
Compassion is always preached and talked about, but how often is it actually put into practice? How do I practice compassion in my role as a traveler? A lot of the time, I exhort myself into helping others because it simply is the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s out of the supposed goodness of my heart, other times from the guilt I self-impose.
On the other hand, the cynical city-slicker in me also thinks about the intentions of the person with the outstretched hand. Is that person preying on the kindness of strangers for their own selfish gain?
A quote normally attributed to Mark Twain says that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Like many of his nuggets of wisdom, that quote still holds true. In the midst of my eatings and wanderings in beautiful SF I realized, far too late in my young life, that travel is generally marked by anecdotes and pictures of “look at what I ate” or “look at this touristy spot I was at.” Truth be told, this post was more of the same of that kind of writing. Many times I tend to gloss over the poverty and the human misery that travel eventually and occasionally presents.
Too many times I have waffled back and forth on what should be the “right” thing to do and many times I personally felt that I have failed my fellow man. I have no easy answers, but I ask that one ponder about compassion and how to practice it as much as one can.
Written by Brian Chiang with editorial support by Britnae Purdy