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My neighborhood

Finally emerging from my month and a half hibernation with sciatica. I actually rode my bike to the Farmer’s Market today and then up to see Adriana’s new apartment in the Haight. Couldn’t ride the whole way, had to walk about 6 blocks at one point, just too much pressure on the sciatic nerve. But I didn’t do any damage and I made it back home after a few hours of convalescing in her really cool room with a big curving bay window looking west-northwest at Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle from Shrader and Page, top floor of the SE corner. About 5 days ago I had my first tentative walk around the neighborhood, making it about 16 blocks altogether. It still hurts but nothing like before, so I think I just have to work through it now… Anyway, it coincided with the first sunny day in weeks after relentless storms and rain. I took a bunch of photos. Here’s a nice shot of Mission Street with a very green Bernal Hts. in the background, and then a typical–but so lovely–produce market, which are abundant around here…

I felt so great just strolling around the area. I made my way to drop off a DVD, which took me past the abandoned gas station on Valencia and 23rd.

What is up with all the abandoned gas stations? One after another has been closing, getting replaced with condominiums, which I suppose is the fate for this large lot too. Obviously I don’t mind losing gas stations, but it seems strange that in a city that is gaining more population, generally affluent and car-owning, the gas stations are slowly closing. I was imagining (at least 20 years ago when I first noticed this trend) that it had something to do with the oil companies restricting availability to drive up the price… but all they needed for that was GW Bush and an invasion of Iraq (it went from $20/barrel in 2000 to $90+ now)… Not that I really care. I ride a bike or walk so the hell with the gas stations! But couldn’t we do better than an endless series of 4 and 5 story luxury condos going up on Valencia?


In the next block I passed the new City College campus on Valencia, a pretty impressive structure:

I guess it might be interesting to eventually teach local history there… we’ll see. Still don’t have that college degree that makes it possible to get hired and no plans to get one either!

Right beyond the CCSF campus is this old drugstore on the corner, recently revealed by the brunch-serving proprietor of Boogaloo’s that occupies it now. But note the condo to its right on 22nd…

Directly across the street the residents of the 22nd Street Co-op, which has been there for decades, hung this banner facing the supposedly “green” condo, built by “Lorax Development”…

The hip-wah-zee rapidly filling the neighborhood really love Ritual Cafe next to the video store. Ritual has good coffee, but there is something unmistakably cult-ish about the place. And it’s the epicenter of the growing phenomenon of Zombie Cafes (full of zombies staring into laptops)…

By contrast, around the corner at 22nd and Bartlett is our beloved Revolution Cafe, which has all the great qualities we love in a cafe… open air, outside seating, good wine and snacks, a thriving social scene of regulars and passersby… and if City College ever mellows out, the back entry to their new campus diagonally across the street might become a major hang-out, a scene of public oratory, political organizing, who knows?

The whole neighborhood endlessly changes. Mission Street itself has seen many businesses and populations come and go. Here’s a shot of the old Grand Theater, now used by a cheap Chinese import store:

I’m totally fine with the influx of Chinese into the city and the Mission. It’s a growing trend for sure. But I do wish there was some way to hold on to old theaters as community spaces, performance venues, even movie houses! Alas, that would seem to require a philanthropist or twenty…

Almost back home, I entered the 24th Street BART Plaza where there is this historic fresco, showing BART being built on the backs of the workers. As you can see, the colors are fading and it’s kind of chipping away…

One long block away, at the corner of 24th and South Van Ness, sits House of Brakes, and on the Victorian that makes up the southern wall behind it is one of the iconic murals of the Mission, severely deteriorating:

In response to these, and many other historic murals that have been painted over or allowed to deterioriate during the past quarter century, a new mural was painted in the parking lot behind McDonald’s (the lot occupies the old San Jose railroad right of way, as does the triangular lot diagonally across Capp and 24th. This mural was completed just a few months ago, after some controversy regarding its portrayal of Palestinians breaking through Israel’s apartheid wall. But one theme of the mural is about breaking barriers, and another important theme is the need to save the Mission’s mural heritage. Here’s a detail making the point:

The styles in different parts of the mural change, as do the specific iconic components, making it a kind of oddly eclectic piece in its full length. We have some familiar lefty imagery, harkening back to a 1970s aesthetic, but with an updated irony:

I’ll just put up another shot of the far left end of it where a kid in a MUNI bus seems to be graffiti’ing the window (that goddam acid window etching shit is driving me crazy) but instead he’s producing a beautiful rainbow… and it leads into the credit panel for HOMEY (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth) which I’ll put up to show the many people who are still engaged in making history, making art, making my neighborhood such an awesome place to live and walk around…

Just across the street in the triangular lot are some more murals, broadening the cultural references considerably. Joel Bergner has painted a half dozen really detailed, beautiful pieces around the neighborhood (quite a tour de force on the side of CELLspace), and this one reflects his experience with Brazilian culture:

On another wall in the same lot is a whole Mayan piece recently added:

From there it’s only a block to Folsom and a half block to my apartment… Philz Coffee is on my corner and has become quite the hipster hangout too, but not so zombie-fied as the places on Valencia… but it’s coming! Several cafes have opened further down the street, a skateboard shop, a couple of new art galleries…I’m afraid even 24th Street is finally starting to succumb to the overwhelming pressure to gentrify… who knows? Maybe the credit crisis will save the Inner Mission and make it possible for long-time residents to stay, whether owners or renters. It’s such a fine place now and it would be a shame to see it turn in to some kind of west Greenwich Village upscale emporium… There’s a long way to go before that, and the public art and activism here is crucial to preventing any inevitable victory for money…

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