Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Walk In San Francisco

San Francisco side of Golden Gate Bridge/San Francisco
Marin County side of Golden Gate Bridge/San Francisco
Middle of Golden Gate Bridge
The original idea was to spend 24 hours with a homeless man living/touring the homeless world of San Francisco.  I felt compelled to learn about and touch this aspect of society in my own backyard.  It was recommended that I have a male escort, so Takao graciously agreed to accompany me.  The walk was to start at the heart of the known section of the homeless--the Tenderloin.  The guide did not appear, so we created our own walk. 12 hours later, 15-20 miles of walking, we walked San Francisco: Tenderloin area in the morning, Market St. Ferry Building, Pier 39, The Cannery, Chrissy Field, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, through the Presidio, along the edge of part of Golden Gate Park, through Pacific Heights, and back to the Tenderloin Area at night.

Waiting outside Glide where three meals a day are offered to the homeless
The weather was perfection. People sleeping on the street, collecting recycleable refuse, waiting for the breakfast offered to the homeless was the morning awakening in this part of town.  It was obvious that part of the collection were the mentally disturbed, the addicts, the destitute from whatever had unfolded in life, etc.  A universal cross-section?  Probably. A cup here and there were held out and there were a few requests for money, but no hounding, running after, pulling on shirt sleeves etc.  Was this a result of different laws and stricter law enforcement?  Even with these overt actions, the texture felt potentially more violent--but maybe I am out of practice living my carefree life in the country.  I felt no discrimination because I was a woman.  It was easier to walk without defensiveness not having the "woman card" on the top of the deck.  As a child, I had touched fragments of this part of society as my mother and I made our way to buy my yearly collection of school clothes from the city's outlet stores.

Shopping cart/home of the homeless on wheels
Market street begins the integration of the homeless to the material world, and the business section. There are stores that sell shoes only, cell phone covers only, etc. while you also see shopping carts converted to householder storage for the street people resting in nooks and crannies of the landscape.  The tourism and consumerism quickly engulf this fringe part of society.

Skyscrapers coupled with patchworks of greenscape
View of the bay near the ferry building
Lunch sitting on a step looking at the bay and almost invisible view of the Golden Gate Bridge
Saturday early day and the street vendors, exercisers, and tourist are in full swing.  The weather was perfection, so we easily embraced the idea of walking, (obviously one of my favorite ways to view the world.) Marveling at the harmony in which all of this appeared to exist side-by-side.  Everyone adjusting and making space for one another as if in a choreographed dance, nothing assaultive, plenty of space to pass/negotiate space, basic cleanliness, and an emphasis on pedestrian safety with motorist, cyclist, skateboarders and more adjusting accordingly.

View of the remodeled army base and GG Bridge as the destination

Heading across the Golden Gate Bridge
Takao midspan
Angel Island to the left and Alcatraz to the right
San Francisco
The part I have always appreciated about growing up in the SF Bay area is the diversity.  Walking through the city and across the bridge was a strong reminder of this: white, black, brown, yellow, married, single, old young, homosexual, heterosexual, tall, short, big, small--is the norm.  It is the ultimate melting pot and I naively embraced this as the way of the world.  Travel has shown that this is not the norm.  Does this solve all of the societal issues?  Obviously no as the Tenderloin Area, shootings, rape, and more are part of the daily news and statistics.

While heading home, we wound our way through the refurbished, historical army base known as the Presidio, along part of Golden Gate Park, through the pristine, wealthy neighborhood of Pacific Heights, and back to the city proper.

Military Cemetery 
Inspiration Point overlooking part of the Golden Gate Park with the setting sun.
Was it a walk of dark-to-light-to-dark as experienced by the diverse textures of what a city has to offer?  I came to experience a section of the often overlooked specialty of the city's matrix and got to walk in the buffet line.  There was a striking reminder of the often unpalatable existence when we witnessed a striking young woman in the chill of the night, "dancing around the maypole" of a corner street post, in high heels and a thong.  She was advertising her "self for sale."  It was searing to digest as a woman what it must be like to have unknown men buying you for their sexual needs. Yes, yet another part of the global matrix of an often overlooked/looking away category of life.

Takao gets the medal of honor for embracing and physically enduring "The San Francisco Walk."  It was different to walk through it with my heart open, compassion for the human variations, knowing there was no solution, but yet a reminder to be mindful towards what energetic threads pull on me.  More answers? No. More awareness? Yes. What does that translate to? Unknown.

No comments: