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.
Pow! Zing! Bam! The Batkid managed to bring San Francisco together for the first time in a long time. Little Miles Scott did what no other fair or government sponsored event has done. He battled all the foes face to face except for one who hid behind his Twitter account — Eric Mar.
Oh dear. Maybe Eric was having a bad day or something, but seriously? Why the need to take a dump on a little kids day that moved the entire city? If you missed it and I doubt you did, Eric Mar posted a tweet that quickly turned viral and got everyone talking:
“Waiting for Miles the Batkid and wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$.”
OK, at least he’s admitting to being there to grab a little bit of the spot light. He might even have been standing near Miles smiling as he sent the dastardly tweet out to all of his followers. Not so odd is that the tweet has been removed from his feed as if in these modern days of the internet anything you say won’t be archive and held against you at a later date [oh dear, did I really post that in 1994?] Here is an actually screen grab of said tweet:
Uhm, did someone say open mouth and insert foot? Batkid’s day was provided to Miles and the City of San Francisco by a private foundation known as the Make-A-Wish foundation. Miles has leukemia which is remission which is awesome in my book and the fact that Make-A-Wish put something together for Miles that also benefitted the City by helping boost the morale of everyone is a great thing that was much sorely needed.
Last time I checked government didn’t have to power to tell a privately held company what it could and could not do or how to operate. If Eric Mar wants more money to go to SNAP then it would be nice if he would step up to the plate and donate his yearly salary to SNAP instead of telling some other company to do it.
Oh wait, Eric Mar agrees that he can’t tell a private corporation how to operate. I found this little bit about Eric Mar Vs. The Happy Meal from not too long ago:
Is there really enough room in your mouth for both of your feet? While I will agree with Eric Mar that families on food stamps/EBT/SNAP aren’t able to properly feed themselves and their kids, if that’s really such a big deal then you should have found another venue than to bring it up instead of stealing the day from a little kid with leukemia.
Miles is a great kid from what I can see and he’s a fighter to have gotten to where he is today and hopefully when he gets older because of youtube and vimeo he’ll have something to look back on and he can just smile and say, I did a good thing.
Cheers to Miles Scott and the Make-A-Wish foundation for giving the City something to get behind for once.
Yet another place that has gone away. I call it a place more than a restaurant because my Mother and Father used to talk about it all the time as a place you didn’t just go to eat, but you went to experience. There used to be more restaurants like that in San Francisco, but many of them have gone aways now.
Omar Khayyam’s was started by Armenian George Mardikian in 1947 in San Francisco [after he opened a restaurant of the same name in Fresno, CA]. While it was billed as an Armenian restaurant it really had a couple of Armenian dishes with Middle eastern and African mixed in after they were adapted for the American palate. When it opened there was a decent sized minority of Armenians in San Francisco, but the food was still pretty foreign to most people even in San Francisco at the time. You have to remember that back then spaghetti was considered ethnic food.
You can see on the menu I was able to find that there really wasn’t much special by today’s standards, but at the time George Mardikian was a restauranteur which for the time meant he wasn’t just a chef, but a showman as well. Mardikian started as a freedom fighter back when Armenia was having problems with the Ottoman Empire in 1903. His surname was that of the warriors being that Mardik meant warrior in Armenian. He work eventually led him to leave Armenia and come to the US around 1922. He went through Ellis Island and started life in the US in New York before moving west and ending up eventually in San Francisco.
He was very influential here and when he opened Omar Khayyam’s downstairs at the corner of O’Farrell and Powell there were pictures of him circulating around that showed him breaking bread with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Eleanor Roosevelt alone with other notables in local politics. As you walked down the stairs upon entering you would be met by the Rubiyat Lounge with it’s velvet tablecloths. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to clean those if you think about it.
Mr. Mardikian also served as a food consultant to the U.S. Army which if you think about someone who served ethnic food to the public being hired to construct food for our armed forces then it must have been pretty good food. He introduced the public to flatbread, probably a form of pita that would last longer than your average loaf and still be tasty so I could see why he was asked for advice.
From the day it opened until it eventually burned down in the 80’s Omar Khayyam’s was a well known restaurant. It was the type of place that it didn’t matter if you could pay the bill, you still had to put a suit on to eat there. While I won’t get into that argument here there was a time when having to get dressed up for dinner was a part of the whole ritual of going out to eat.
While everyone seems to be focused on the West end of GGP nobody has noticed what they’ve done to the Eastern side. It turns out that they’ve moved the parking to where the bike lane is and the bike lane to where the parking is. This is bad for a couple of reasons.
First, the bike lane isn’t used that much so leaving it next to area where the cars drive makes sense. If a person on a bike is riding by and the driver of the car opens the door to get out without noticing the bike the rider can move a little to the left to get out of the way. Now with the bike lane blocked in by cars and the curb, if a passenger opens the door without noticing the bike you will have two injured people.
Also pushing the parked cars out makes driving more difficult. I find myself not being able to drive the speed limit in the Eastern part of the park now, because I now have to drive very close to the cars. So far this only affects JFK Drive East of Transverse Drive, but if they think of moving it to other parts of the park it will be a disaster.
I used to enjoy my drives through the park as they were always pretty peaceful, now even driving slow I have to be aware of hitting cars. As you can see from the picture in front of me [that I took after I came to a full stop next to the Rose Garden] The car in front of me is not centered in the lane and veering to the left, practically driving on the divider line to avoid hitting the parked cars on the right. I suspect we will be seeing more car accidents in the future along this part of the park because of the dumb idea they’ve put in place.
The other thing that is puzzling me is how packed with cars the park is now. I took the picture above in the middle of the week at somewhere around 2pm. Why are all those cars there or were they there before, but I just didn’t realize them because they were farther away from me? From Transverse Drive all the way up to the Conservatory of Flowers was completely packed with cars and I have no idea why.
Since it’s the weekend I decided to talk about Willard Mitt Romney. He’s the most likely GOP nominee for President to run against Barack Obama, but he’s also someone that very few people can relate to. He’s a Mormon which make up about 1.5% of the US population [roughly the same as Muslims]. He’s a multimillionaire with a net worth between $190-$250 million along with blind trusts in the children’s names worth $70-$100 million. Mitt is definitely in the 1% if not .5% of the nation. Few of us can relate to having that much money and he can’t really relate to people who don’t [remember his response, I don’t know anyone in NASCAR, but I know a lot of the team owners.]
On the good side being a Mormon means he doesn’t drink or smoke which means he won’t be showing up for any meetings drunk unlike my distant relative former President Ulysses S. Grant. He also did give President Obama the idea for Obamacare when he instituted Romneycare in Massachusetts when he was Governor, but I still can’t get behind a guy who can’t relate to the average American. I’m a somewhat progressive Democrat living in San Francisco, but I can still sit down with some of my die-hard Republican friends and have a beer [though I do prefer a good single malt scotch or small batch bourbon, but can’t get into wine even though I live in California]. Usually because we both share the same problems like, not having enough money.
This caused me to make a movie about Mitt. If you’re reading about this on your mobile device you won’t be able to see the movie because for some reason youtube is cool with you using other people’s music even though it’s considered copyright infringement they feel you shouldn’t show it on a mobile device. I have been in the process of getting in contact with John Fogerty to get something that gives me permission to be using his song Fortunate Son for the video. It was originally written supposedly about David Eisenhower who was married to Julie Nixon and because of his political connections between the Eisenhower and Nixon families they were completely shielded by the Vietnam War.
To me the song is appropriate because Mitt Romney is shielded by his family connections [his father was the former Governor of Michigan and also a multi-millionaire] and his families money that he can’t relate to the average person in America. Yes, it was a politically strategic move on President Obama’s part to pull over in Chinatown and run in to pick up some take out [pulling over in Chinatown pretty much means you just stop your car], but at least he made the effort.
So here is the video. I hope you like it and share it and maybe I’ll get my 15 minutes of fame and it’ll go viral and someone will ask me to be on their show. Doubtful, but I can dream. Oh and because I’m the kind of guy I am you can even watch it in HD.
I got to go to the local Sunset Community Festival on Saturday which was actually called the Playland at the Beach Festival as well even though there was only a single sign up with info on the long defunct Playland. I have to admit that it was one of the better local gatherings I’ve seen. This is probably due to the fact that it was at the newly renovated West Sunset Playground which as I expected in the previous article on it, the mulch was being trashed by kids everywhere.
Because this is a community focused event that pulls political powers from around the city there were booths for just about every person running for Mayor of San Francisco. I got to meet with John Avalos [of course], Joanna Rees and Mayor Ed Lee, who I must say is much taller than he looks in pictures. Phil Ting was there, but had no booth and ran off shortly after I arrived. I was especially surprised to see that Carmen Chu, Fiona Ma and Leland Yee who tend to be all over the Sunset district had unmanned tables and were no shows. I would have liked to have a chance to bend Carmen’s ear for a few minutes to an hour to let her know what needed some attention in the Sunset District. Tony Hall has several older, conservative cronies out to push him as well, but he too was a no show which was odd considering his connection to the Sunset District. All in all I was surprised to hear John Avalos’ name mentioned by many of the people there. I think he may have a real shot at getting it since he’s staying away from the political infighting going on with other candidates for Mayor.
The day wasn’t all about politics though and I was glad to run into Tom Prete of Ocean Beach Bulletin and Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods group who had booths as well. I’ve included lots of pictures which you’ll see at the end in the slideshow and it was a fun, but crowded day. I do have to admit that the only downside I saw at the event was Bank of America’s booth that was handing out free stuff for spinning a wheel which had people lined up blocking the comcast and Run Ed Run booth so you couldn’t even get close since people wanted to win a frizbee, caramel corn or a few other things [like I said, they were lined up thick and I couldn’t really see.
The games arcade for the kids was packed to the gills with kids flying around in the multi-tiered bouncy houses they provided and there was also a flea market sort of set up near by where you could get anything from vintage vinyl to clothes to well, garage sale junk people wanted to get rid of. I was pleased to meet Pat and Virginia of the local NERT group that I’ll be writing about soon. If you need to know what to do in an emergency, NERT will teach you in 6 short, free classes. Other Avenues, the health food store that I’ve written about previously was there and I had to introduce myself so they had a face to put with the article I wrote.
There was also food from local places such as North Beach Pizza and oddly enough there was one booth selling deep fried oreo’s. I wanted to give it a shot, but I didn’t have any cash on me and apparently some of these booths haven’t heard of square that I’ve talked about before to allow them to take credit cards cheap.
For a community get together this was one that was done right. I was surprised that all I had to do for many of the booths there was mention Baghdad By The Bay and they knew who I was immediately. I plan on visiting more of these local events in the future.
So there’s an old joke that I’m going to paraphrase to start this article that I heard years ago. It goes like this, I’ve written many books, but I’ve never been called an writer. I’ve sung many songs, but I’ve never been called a singer, I make one comment about a practice that’s destroying our oceans that a Chinese politician is in favor of and…. The original was funnier, but the end result is true.
Ever since I posted my articles on why the process of shark finning is bad for our ocean’s environment I have been called a racist by someone using Leland Yee’s twitter account, I have received telephone calls from his campaign managers and Saturday night, I start getting trolled once again on twitter by someone using the name @generic_ This person had a blog on Tumblr where they have passed themselves off as a straight, white, liberal, atheist. They even have a myspace page [really? myspace?] and have posted a picture of a, well, generic white guy. They also mentioned that they did the graphics for Necessary Conversations, a video blog or podcast that is hosted by Beth Spotswood and Melissa Griffin [who incidentally I was up against in the Best Local Politics Blog contest with SF Weekly]. When I look at the site I see that a Cameron Eng is listed as the being in charge of the graphics for the show.
NOTE: I have been informed by a reader that the person posting as @generic_ is not Cameron Eng and is indeed a male caucasian who is trying to win favor with Jim Stearns Group in order to get a job so he attacks anyone who says anything bad about a client of Stearns Consulting. My apologies to Cameron Eng for any possible inferences. While I can’t say for sure that @generic_ is indeed Cameron Eng things at this point in time do seem to be pointing in that direction. I found out my information by dropping the URL into archive.org which is an interesting website for getting information on website histories. I still will be reserved on who the real identity of this person was, but I can say that I’ve never been called a racist by any person other than Leland Yee’s camp and @generic_ who from his posts seems to also be in favor of Leland Yee for Mayor, so I guess anyone who isn’t in favor of Leland Yee for mayor is a racist in @generic_‘s book. Which then means, Rose Pak can also ride in my racist boat along with Mayor Ed Lee and everyone else running for Mayor.
I would like to take this time to apologize to the citizen’s of California and San Francisco for my previous statements. I am sorry that only people of Chinese decent eat shark fin soup, but at the same time glad, because if the entire world consumed it our oceans would be in extreme danger. In the video I posted on Saturday, Gordon Ramsey noted that the shark fin collectors get $28/pound for the fins and $2/pound for the rest of the shark. There is only one dish made with shark fins and that is shark fin soup. Because it is expensive to purchase in a Chinese restaurant it makes it worth it to the fishermen to harvest only the fins and throw back the cheaper meat that no one wants. If you have a boat that could haul in a ton of sharks would you want to take the whole shark, or just the fins which would give you 14 times the value of the shark? You’d go for the fins.
I do agree with Leland Yee’s comment about AB376 that why not ban the entire shark and not just the fins? I believe they should ban fishing for sharks. The problem was that there are very few restaurants in California that have shark on the menu and very few places that you can even find shark meat for sale. Leland Yee’s camp and @generic_ sited the fallacy that you can buy shark meat at CostCo — You can’t. They haven’t sold it for over 10 years because no one was buying it. A trip to Lucky’s, Andronico’s, Whole foods and Safeway shows that there is no shark available in their fish departments. The people who authored the bill knew that and that is why they focused on the fins. Shark is even noted as a do not buy and unhealthy fish to eat by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
My comments have been focused on two things:
1. Shark finning is an outrageous practice that is causing serious damage to the oceans by depleting the top predator.
2. Shark meat in any form isn’t the healthiest meat to eat being high in methyl mercury due to ocean pollution. It is even recommended as a fish that you should not eat by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
This has nothing to do with Chinese people except for the fact that they are the only one’s that eat it. Other Asian cultures do don’t consume this dish. I am sorry if those of Chinese decent feel I am a racist for pointing out that the over harvesting of sharks is destroying our oceans as well as pointing out the fact that shark is not a healthy fish to eat.
The only thing good about all this is that @generic_‘s posting stopped at around 9:30pm last night. Most of them where attacks on me and one other attack on my fellow blogger Greg Dewar [also nominated in the same category as me for the SF Weekly web awards], but not once in Saturday’s stupidity did I once use the R word. As they say in poker, keep your cards close, know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Sometimes it’s best to not drop the race card too quickly.