Posts Tagged: San Francisco

Wheel chair blue

He had stationed himself in front of a Grocery Outlet discount supermarket on Bayshore Boulevard in San Francisco. I had just stopped by for some Dr Pepper. I’m addicted to Dr Pepper. As I walked toward him he asked me if I could help him out a little. A little was about all I had jangling loose in my pocket so I gave him all three bucks of it. He thanked me for the money and said he appreciated the help because he’d had two heart attacks and lost his job while recovering from the second one.

“That’s why I’m in this wheel chair pretty often,” he said.

“I can relate,” I said, “I had a heart attack myself fourteen years ago, three weeks shy of my 40th birthday.”

WheelChairBlue 2-1

That look people get when they think they’ve found a kindred spirit flashed across his face, and he started telling me details about his first heart attack. Frankly I had no desire to swap myocardial infarction stories. I still periodically suffer from PTSD because of mine and talking about it has never helped. That shit just gives me nightmares I don’t need. So I told him very apologetically that I really needed to get my shopping done and then went inside the store.

I was in and out of the supermarket with my Dr Pepper in less than five minutes, but when I emerged the man in the wheel chair was gone. And I felt bad about that, because I was going to give him three dollars change from the $10 bill I had just used to pay the clerk for my liquid fix. But I did feel good that our lives had intersected, even if minutes later they probably had diverged forever. I hope he felt the same way. It’s better to know people in a few fleeting minutes and let them enrich your life than to never know them at all.

And I wonder if he wheeled himself out of the grocery store parking lot or walked pushing the chair in front of him. I hope he walked.

(San Francisco, California, February 2018. See my other work here and here.)

A priestess of the check-out line

The decent thing on Ocean Avenue

A few weeks ago in San Francisco, I had just left my favorite comics shop and was in my car about to turn south onto Ocean Avenue when I saw an old lady had fallen to the concrete on the public transport platform in the middle of the street. Before I could pull my car over and jump out to help, a young man had already reached her. As I watched I knew I was witnessing newsworthy decency, and felt like I was seeing San Francisco write a song lyric about itself and the kindness built into the way this city moves.

And so from my car I saw the young man render aid to the fallen woman. He was gentle with her and handled her firmly but without aggravating her obviously fragile state…

SF RAW 1080-3

Then he helped the lady get her legs back under her, and reclaim the clearly-necessary cane that had somehow failed her in the first place. While this happened drivers passed by oblivious, not necessarily out of callousness but because San Francisco is a body and it’s sometimes hard or risky to step outside one’s place in its street-artery flow…

SF RAW 1082-2

When she got to her feet, the old lady checked her hands for injuries while the young man stood by to ensure her well-being. After a few moments the woman stopped trembling and stood firm but relaxed, which in turn caused the young man to relax. When I realized everything would be okay I started my car and finally turned south onto Ocean Avenue to continue my way home…

SF RAW 1085-1

All of this happened literally within the space of 15 seconds. I checked the time stamps on my photographs to be sure. It was a hell of a thing seeing the kind of small but powerful human episode I’ve only read about in the news or seen dramatized on TV. But this is the way we orbit each other, and sometimes need’s gravity pulls us closer together than we would ordinarily prefer because there’s a life to be saved or changed for the better.

It’s how we’re built, thankfully, and I’ll remember that and celebrate it even if this kind of decency never unfolds before my eyes again.

(On Ocean Avenue @ San Leandro Way, San Francisco, California, November 2017. See my other work here and here.)

Goodbye, Rachel

A short, very unofficial sequel to “Blade Runner”…

“The river of the world is wide, but its waters are boiling away” kept going through my mind as I sat next to her bed in the hospice, holding her hand and waiting for her to end. The quote was from a movie I took her to see a year ago in San Francisco. It was about the Off-world colonies and the death of Earth. One of Eldon Tyrell’s numerous subsidiary companies produced the film, and another subsidiary had done the special visual effects.

When I was still a cop I used to know things like this, that a wealthy, powerful man like Tyrell had a vast cultural reach he kept hidden from little people.

1374-1

And he had, somehow, used his wealth and influence to spare Rachel’s life from other blade runners and let me take her out of L.A. Since then she and I had had two years together, up north in San Francisco and a few remaining small cities beyond. This meant she was six, and for all I knew the oldest replicant who ever lived.

But she wouldn’t live to be seven. A cancer seventy percent of humans ordinarily survive was eating her bones like carnival midway candy. Unnaturally aggressive. The unlicensed oncologist said maybe it was a flaw in her genetic design. Who knows? Tyrell never said anything about human diseases. Until the cancer started killing her a month ago she’d never even had a sniffle or a runny nose.

For two years I had loved her. Her laughter, when she eventually found it, had helped kill some of my pain and taken Roy Batty out of my nightmares. Now she was minutes away from gone, and once again all I could do was just watch someone die.

At least a bullet in the back wouldn’t take her life. She would die in my arms and part of me would die with her.

After she retires, I think I might go back to L.A.

Goodbye, Rachel.

Reflection in a Japanese restaurant

I often look into mirrors

to view worlds we don’t normally see.

This woman in my world, for example,

at the next table over in a Japantown restaurant,

she was pretty and she was beside herself.

Relections in a Japanese restaurant, Japantown, San Francisco 2017

“That’s a great literal use of that phrase,” I thought

as I went back to eating my katsu curry.

And as I did I hoped

the woman in the mirror world

didn’t reach out and touch

the woman in my world,

as this would surely throw both worlds

into dangerous chaos and flux.

(Izumiya Restaurant, Japantown, San Francisco, September 2017)

American dreaming

An older gentleman dozing in his van while a summer breeze animates an American flag and the late morning sun illuminates the multitude of second-hand clothing he had for sale at the Alemany Flea Market in San Francisco…

Alemany2017Jul 18-1

(Alemany Flea Market, San Francisco, California 2017)

The kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven

Extremes enrich an abundant life…

In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.

Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.

So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…

KuroMika 183-1

Then we have a junkie fumbling with a meth needle on 16th Street and Potrero in San Francisco…

SF RAW 57-1

And here’s a dog from my neighborhood named Babaloo showing a bit of pink steel…

Babaloo-1-1

Finally, here’s Steven, a manic street kid who treated me with grace and humor while we hung out behind a gas station on Patterson Street in San Francisco…

Steven 1-1

This is our lives, all of us. We all have to understand that we live in an uncomfortable zone encompassing the kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven. It’s a place stuck in between soft kitty fur and the used needle on the sidewalk. You don’t get to choose whether you’re in this paradigm or not. You’re in it.

All we at Scholars & Rogues can do is try to draw you in and make you a willing part of it all. We owe you that. As human beings and journalists, we owe you nothing less.

(Pictures taken in Brisbane, California and San Francisco, California. See my other work here and here.)

Kung-fu Spring

I was in San Francisco the other day, in front of the Goodwill Store on Clement Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. It was a warmer day than usual for early March, but even so it was surprising to see this guy with his shirt off in the middle of the day. He was unleashing a series of martial arts kicks upon an unresponsive parking meter…

SF RAW 764-2

He didn’t appear to actually be kicking the meter, just feathering his foot close enough to show the meter he meant business in case things got ugly…

SF RAW 763-3

Things didn’t get ugly, though, and when the man realized he was being photographed he was pretty cool about it. San Francisco’s a great town for observing people doing weird but benign things…

SF RAW 766-1

(Clement Street between 9th and 19th Avenues, San Francisco, California 2017)

Waiting at the Mark Hopkins

Yesterday I photographed a luncheon for a San Francisco lawyers’ group in the Peacock Court at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. During a down moment I noticed this food server at the ready and looking completely patient, professional, but also a bit procedurally weary. I admired the combination of those three elements in him, and wanted to honor the man by preserving the moment…

Food server, Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, California 2017 (Story:

(Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco 2017)

Roll the beach

Sometimes

when you drive by the beach

you see big bastard machines

and boys on skateboards

and

you don’t know if

Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016

one is going to crush the other

but you figure

what the hell

you might as well stop

have a look

and wait to find out.

(Erosion control @ Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016. This photo is also on Flickr.)

%d bloggers like this: