As I travel around San Francisco every day I’ve been noticing changes that aren’t looking very good anymore and I’m beginning to believe the party is over.
People aren’t smiling anymore. People aren’t going out as much anymore. People talk more about how tough it is to live here than how great it is to live here. These are signs that there is a shift in San Francisco happening. I do run into people that aren’t like this, but they tend to be older and in more traditional careers that treat their employees like, well, employees. These are usually older people in their mid 40’s at least who have a job that isn’t usually tied to the tech industry and and have lived here for a long time so they’ve got themselves a good set up. Maybe they were able to buy a house when a person could actually buy a house who wasn’t a millionaire. 20 years ago when my wife and I got married we could have bought a house for $200,000. It would have been small, but it still would have been better than some of the apartments that people are living in now that a little more than oversized porta-potties.
Jobs now in the city are paying less at a time when money is worth less unless you’re a programmer which then makes you salaried with little time off to enjoy the things in the City. Even back in 2010 I was being offered jobs at almost twice what the same jobs are going for today. There are a proliferation of contractor positions, but those jobs treat you more like an employee without the benefits and contractor jobs used to pay better than employee positions because they could drop you at any time. Now contractor positions pay less and give you set hours to work and if you take a sick day then be careful because they’ll probably drop you for not doing your job. That’s not the way contractor positions are supposed to work, but very few people are making enough money to take these companies to court since lawyers aren’t very cheap.
The people I’ve noticed who aren’t suffering as much are construction workers, school bus and muni drivers, firemen, police. These are jobs that are more traditional in that you’re paid reasonably with benefits, time off, paid overtime. Personally I’d give up the free lunch and snacks for an extra couple of bucks an hour because I can bring my lunch or buy it cheaper and it’s usually better tasting and better for me. I met a guy worked for our local garbage collectors. He’s making $27/hour and told me the garbage truck drivers make $47/hour. OK, you have to deal with rats and garbage, but that’s a better living than a graphic designer with a Master’s degree being offer a job for $17/hour by a startup as a contractor [ok, not all are like that, but there’s quite a few out there]. Of course there are the doctors and lawyers which there are a lot of in San Francisco as well as health care workers who also make decent salaries. These are the people who smile now. These are the ones that go out to dinner on the weekends and sometimes even during the week. They have the money and time on their hands to really appreciate the City.
I laughingly remember five years ago when I’d pick up kids fresh out of college who would say things like, My Dad got me an apartment and gave me his credit card and is giving me a year to make it in San Fran. Oh joy, Daddy just paid for a year long spring break and my right hand twitched in a smacking motion because they said San Fran [side note: I would even accept Frisco over San Fran]. These people were always going out to a bar or some nightclub every night of the week and they were always asking for a bottle of water in the mornings because they were so hung over from the night before. These people are gone now. I called them long term tourists because I knew they were going to go back home eventually.
Things like that have to happen in order to keep San Francisco what it is, so while even I am struggling to get by right now I know for me it will eventually get better because I was born and raised here and have been through this before. I can handle it. I know where to get a burrito for less than $15 or not spend $4 or more for toast. I don’t take Uber or Lyft to work everyday or order gourmet artisanal food delivered from one of the new food delivery startups that pops up every other week.
San Francisco will never return to the old days and by old days that depends on your age. My Mom isn’t around anymore to remind me she used to pay 5¢ for a candy bar. I find myself starting to say things like that, but it’s more like I remember going out to a bar with $20 for the evening and coming home with change…and I used to drink a lot.
Change is good, but change can also be painful. Let’s hope this leads to something better in the end.
There comes a time in every persons life when needing to earn a more steady income becomes necessary. I’ve had to put driving for rideshare companies on hold for awhile and possibly permanently because an offer came my way that was better than what I was earning from the flailing pay cuts of the rideshare industry in San Francisco.
So as of a few weeks ago I, a third generation San Francisco have started a job where I’m one of the oldest people at the company and I am now…a techie. Part of the joy I got from this offer was getting to see how that half lived that lots of my friends blame for everything that’s changed the way they used to live in San Francisco as if time hasn’t had anything to do with that.
Now that my work time is parceled out within a specific period of the day 5 days a week and not chasing the surge as it was when I was a rideshare driver I actually have more time to myself even though technically I’m working more hours. While I can’t go into too many details about the company that I’m working for because of the NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] I had to sign before I accepted their offer I can tell you that this company is a mid-market tech start up who’s offices are just a couple of blocks away from Twitter, Square and Uber and it’s not any of those. It’s actually owned now by a very large American corporation with a long history in the United States so that alone gives it a little more clout [Klout?] than most other start ups.
Since it’s been over three years since I actually had to work downtown and I have to say that driving your car downtown is a much more isolated experience than actually walking the streets and taking public transportation, it was a rather eye-opening experience. The Mid-Market area can be a little bit terrifying to walk in for someone like me who hasn’t had to walk past people arguing with a fire hydrant or people trying to not be noticed trying to take a dump next to a taco truck. The initial smell wasn’t too off putting of the area, but there was a lot more smell of diesel mixed in urine and feces. As I leave the Van Ness metro station and begin by walk down 11th street I notice there are a lot of car repair shops mixed in with a few tech oases for start ups that don’t even have any real estate.
Food is far and between in this part of town which is probably a part of why lunch is catered every day where I work. [more on that later]. The people on the streets have a bit of hard look to them which is contrasted by the tech workers trying to get to the safety of their workplace a quick as possible. From my short experience of close to a month it seems like the company I’m at likes sheltering their employees from the World of Horrors that is right outside their doors. I have been cursed at by people wandering the streets who most likely never grew up in San Francisco, but where probably displaced homeless people or meth heads [again, more on that later] who think I am the one destroying their town, when I was born and raised here and not them and the fact that these people are only old enough to be my children.
Overall there is a sharp contrast of joy and revulsion between the time I leave the metro station and when I get to work that makes me understand why I was picking up so many people and driving them to work. It’s hard to stare at people who tried to make something of their lives here and are having trouble or just gave it up as a lost battle. More in the coming days.
Today is the day all the animal welfare people have been waiting for and the Chinese traditionalists have loathed. As of today it is officially illegal to engage in the trade of shark fins within California.
Specifically this will hit Los Angeles and San Francisco the hardest so I’ll focus on San Francisco because I suppose we hear about it more here.
Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy by the Chinese and served to celebrate births, weddings, nowadays pretty much any celebration comes with shark fin soup, or at least it did until AB 376 was passed. This caused quite a brou-ha-ha within the Chinese community with cries of racism being throw around like the shark fins themselves. While being seen as an attack specifically against the Chinese which is actually more collateral damage since the Chinese are the only ones who eat it, it was more about saving the wildlife of our oceans, mainly the top of the food chain predators of the ocean — sharks.
AB 376 was passed because there was a huge amount of sharks, including endangered species of sharks being harvested to make the delicacy with no taste. In some cases there has been a 90% reduction in the population of sharks who’s fins and only fins are used for the soup. No other dish uses shark fins and the less economically feasible rest of the shark is worthless in comparison and is thrown back in the ocean allowing the finless shark to die.
If you’ve read my articles on the subject before you’ll noticed that I was called a racist by Senator Leland Yee’s twitter account along with several other lovers of shark fin soup who tweeted to me questions such as, what about sharkskin suits? They use shark [No they don’t. Sharkskin is a smooth worsted fabric with a soft texture and a two-toned woven appearance. No sharks are harmed in the making of a sharkskin suit]. Shark meat that was said to be sold at Costco and other food outlets was shown not be sold any longer and it’s next to impossible to find shark meat for sale anymore.
Because of the ban going into affect today there has been a few more articles on the subject noting that the stores and restaurants who still have stock on hand were trying to unload it before today with everything from a Father’s Day 20% discount to $999/lb to discounted shark fin soup with a whole chicken for $138.
In one article I did find information on why this delicacy with no taste because popular. It dates back to ancient China when killing a shark took some major cojones or however one says cojones in Mandarin or Cantonese. To show off your masculine prowess by killing a shark meant you had to get your hands dirty and risk your life. So after risking your life you have to show off to guests by making them eat it. Makes me think of something along the lines of, I had to work hard for this food so you’re going to eat it. Kind of like something your parents would say to you when you were a kid, but in this case you were celebrating the prowess of the shark killer by consuming the flesh of the animal that would have consumed the flesh of your host. Now I’m thinking of some of the hunters I know and that works out pretty similar.
There’s a difference here you have to take into account. It doesn’t take any physical prowess to ask, how much is that shark fin in the window? The whole ceremony behind eating shark fin soup has been lost today and in some ways that’s a shame. I’d like to see how much a person really wants a cornerstone of their culture if someone hands them a knife and points to the ocean and says, help yourself.
I have to admit that I am no vegetarian and a far cry from it, but when I was a Boy Scout and handed a live rabbit and tossed into the woods over night the rabbit got to run free and I was a vegetarian for the night. It might have been different had I been stranded for more than a couple of weeks, but I could go a night without meat. Most of us that were raised in cities don’t have the hunter instinct anymore so the idea of you’ve got to kill it before you grill it is lost on us. I can understand the original reasons why it became a delicacy and that also helps explain why someone would want to eat something that’s tasteless. It’s not about what it tasted like, but how you got it and that part has been lost in today’s Westernized culture.
I enjoy cultural traditions and do think that in San Francisco the retaining of cultural traditions should remain. You also have to keep in mind though that there are some cultural traditions that need to change. Slavery was an American cultural tradition at one time. There are many cultures that cannibalism was a cultural tradition as well, but they had to be let go. I’m sure the Chinese have more cultural traditions to focus on than one that has been destroying the natural eco-system of our planet to support a cultural tradition that is outdated and anachronistic.
On the other hand, here’s a knife, there’s ocean. Have at it.
I had the pleasure [more like displeasure] today of riding MUNI downtown. It had been awhile since I’ve had to make this trip and it was a good reminder of some things you’ll encounter on a trip downtown thanks to SFMTA.
I always new it smelled on muni. You pack a lot of people in very close together like sardines and the body warmth and sweat provides a lubricant you use to slide through the people to get on and off the trains. Today was a bit different. Now I’m used to odd smells. I’m used to some rather repulsive smells and I’m not sure how I earned this talent, but I can identify some of the most disgusting biologically created aromas known to mankind and some not so known.
This could be from a friend that stayed with me many years ago who when I was throwing out some old ground beef asked me for it. He said he’d mix it up with some stuff and feed it to the dog. By mixing it up with some stuff that meant boiling it in water and then letting it sit on the stove for a few days. Now to be honest at this point in my life I was living on my own for the first time and had lots of extra cash so aside from breakfast in the morning what was usually a bowl of cereal and an English muffin I ate out quite a bit and only noticed this odd pot on the stove one weekend.
Upon seeing this pot and pulling the top off I was allowed to experience a smell so bad that it made me gag and run to open up the windows while trying to find a place to get rid of the rotting meat. When my friend came back to the house I asked him in a rather not to polite way why he left a ball of rotting meat on the stove. His answer, It’s for the dog and dogs eat carrion. OK, somewhere this vegetarian mixed up carnivore with carrion, but I set him straight that this was not acceptable in the house and that dogs ate fresh meat, not rotting meat that was being helped along.
Well, that was the aroma that filled the train today. It was horrible and you can add to that the fact that there’s only a few tiny windows way up top that you can open that won’t really ventilate much more than the recirculated air on the trains. What was worse is that it was a warm day on muni which meant that they didn’t have air conditioning on the train, but the heat which just made the smell of rotting flesh even more pleasant when you warmed it up a bit.
Luckily I didn’t have to put up with it for too long and there was only a few people who seemed to even notice it. It was either that or rotting flesh and muni go together so well that no one was bothering to notice. The biggest problem is that the drivers are sectioned off in their front compartments with a large window on the side they can open that brings air in and pushes it out into the train so they don’t have to notice the smell of rotting flesh until it’s time for them to leave the train or get on and you’ll notice how quickly they move then.
To me it seems wrong that SFMTA doesn’t care enough to get the insides of the buses and trains cleaned so they don’t reek of a rotting human intestines [yes, there was a bit of that smell too that I remember from working as an EMT many years ago. People who need to use the muni trains and buses shouldn’t be forced to start their journey having to hold their nose or wondering how bad it’s going to smell today. Granted, I understand that public transportation is there for the public at large and not just for a privileged few. If that were true, the privileged few would take cabs or drive to work, but when you live in SF you have to find less expensive ways to get things done and it is of my opinion that having to deal with muni funk on a daily basis shouldn’t be one of them.
Two years ago today I had to unpleasant surprise to find my Mom had died. I can finally say after two years I have been able to move on. We had great times and bad times together. She didn’t like to have her picture taken very often so I had to go back to her High School graduation picture , one of the few pictures i have of her that does her any justice. Yeah, I miss her, but there’s lots of things that I’d want to tell her today that she wouldn’t want to hear, like the price of gas or that two boys she knew from the neighborhood that I grew up with are now women.
Wherever you are, just know that I’m doing fine and I’ll continue to do so. Oh yeah, your grand-daughter says hi.
Being an lover of sci-fi and horror movies I’ve noted a trend when the movies are set in San Francisco…The Golden Gate Bridge always goes first. The X-men did it, Terminator did it, It came from the deep did it and now the bridge is attacked by those damn, dirty apes! [Rise of the Planet of the Apes reference.]
We all know that when someone mentions San Francisco in a story, that there is almost always a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the icon which binds San Francisco together even though in most movies shots of the bridge are taken from Marin facing San Francisco, yet when the bridge is attacks the cameras shoot from San Francisco towards Marin. I suppose the movie makers want to blame Marin for the fall of the bridge.
To many long time residents of San Francisco when you leave the city headed north when you see the bridge coming home, you know you’re home. Many have noted that we don’t charge you to leave San Francisco, but we do charge you to enter it. [San Francisco is still trying to find a way to charge Peninsula residents to enter the city.]
Perhaps part of the bridge always being destroyed has to do with appeasing people outside of the city who hate us for our San Francisco Values. I’m not sure, but I think it’s always kind of funny. I have rarely had reason to drive across the bridge as I’ve lost contact with most of my old friends in the Marin area and I don’t really have any business contacts in that direction, but I do generally like Marin and especially Sausalito. I have in past five years actually walked across the bridge for the first time in my life which I have to say is a rather invigorating, but pleasant walk to take.
Well, now this has changed. Tomorrow I will start some freelance work across the bridge in Mill Valley. This could, after awhile turn into a permanent position. Now I think I have to understand the method of thinking involved in having to cross a bridge to go to work. I had previously vowed never to do this, but the company that wants me is just so cool that I couldn’t resist it. Hopefully, I won’t encounter any crazed monkeys tomorrow.
If you live in New York, you’ve probably seen the signs on the subway for a food delivery service that promises to bring you anything, at any time. If you want sushi, they will fetch it for you, even if they have to go to the ocean to do so. In fact, the advertisement shows a cartoon man chasing down a cartoon fish; the fish, seemingly aware of his fate, has a thought bubble above his head that reads “Shit!” Or rather, it says “S*#t,” because I guess they figured the actual word might offend people — probably parents with children who otherwise might gliby shout “Shit!” all the way home, because the subway sign said so.
So my question to the people in charge of subway advertising is this: do you really think I’m more disturbed by the chance that my kid might say “shit,” or the fact that my kids have had the shit scared out of them by posters advertising the apocalypse? Do we really live in a city where it’s ok to terrify young kids, as long as they don’t express their terror using a PG-rated word?
It boggles my mind that, as a nation, our support for free speech completely outweighs our acceptance of freedom. We are more concerned about our kids being exposed to bare boobs and cigarettes than we are about assholes telling them that they’re going to die tomorrow. We grown-ups can make all the funnies about post-rapture looting and job openings that we want to, but I bet many children will be lying awake tonight, wondering if there will be school on Monday, or if they’ll perish in flames. (Do the schools close for hellfire, or just snow? What about alternate-side parking? UPDATE: We have an answeron that one!)
It makes me bananas that people in positions of power believe that gay people and single mothers are detrimental to the welfare of children, but evangelical lunatics with fat advertising budgets are permitted to spout terrifying jargon for everyone to see. Yes, I can and have explained to my children that this isn’t actually going to happen. I can also tell them not to smoke, but apparently the city doesn’t trust me to do that. Which is harder to explain, “Don’t smoke because it can cause cancer” (FACT), or “Don’t be afraid of the world ending, because it won’t; these people are crazy and wrong; just trust me” (COMPLEX CONCEPTUAL FACT I CAN’T ACTUALLY PROVE FOR 48 MORE HOURS)?
Another fact? Kids are afraid of death. They worry about losing a parent, losing a pet, and eventually, inexplicably, losing themselves. Usually, circumstances permitting, parents can mitigate these fears. But it’s a hell of a lot harder to do so when they have to spend half an hour on the F train staring at a sign about a world-ending earthquake. I’d rather sit across from a sign that said “FUCK!” in big block letters. But who’s gonna hang up a sign like that? IT’S OFFENSIVE!
Sex is not scary. Gay people are not scary. Bad words are not scary. An announcement that the earth will soon be consumed in flames? That’s scary. And my kids and I shouldn’t have to pay $2.50 apiece to look at it.