Photos, I mean. I was staying a few blocks west of Moscone West, and that’s the wrong direction. But I enjoyed the walk even though there were severely damaged people along the way to smile at or avoid or step over. With a sad story.

Red is the color.

San Francisco street scene, featuring the color red

It’s a working town. Vancouver keeps its gritty small-biz necessaries shuffled further away from anywhere you’re apt to go walking. Which seems oversanitary; but boy, could Howard Street ever do with a little green.

Small businesses in San Francisco

This motel felt very California to me.

Motel balcony at night

Sad Story · I was walking along near these parts in early evening, and a very tall very thin very young black woman suddenly materialized at my elbow: “Excuse me, hey!” I averted my face reflexively and stepped out a bit and she said “Oh my god no I don’t want anything, just do you know the nearest BART?” and then I actually looked at her and she was just this ordinary girl in a hurry but lost. I told her the way and managed a smile, even though I hated myself.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Giacomo (Jul 01 2012, at 22:25)

I don't think that west is *the* "wrong direction" from Moscone: from what I've seen of SoMa, almost any direction can be "wrong" on foot at any given time. It's more like there's only one "right" direction from any given point, and sometimes not even that, because the place was built for cars.

It's so weird how SF manages to be incredibly expensive and at the same time have the Tenderloin and SoMa.


From: orcmid (Jul 01 2012, at 22:31)

Funny, I stayed at the Good Hotel two nights, June 14-15 while at the ACM Turing Centenary Celebration several blocks east at the Palace Hotel.


From: Jeffrey Yasskin (Jul 01 2012, at 23:23)

They're planning to re-do Folsom and Howard to make them prettier in the next several years, but I'm having trouble finding the details. I heard about it at a Central Corridor meeting (, but it's not actually part of that plan.


From: Jeffrey Yasskin (Jul 02 2012, at 00:10)

Aha! Page ES-13 of describes the plan for Howard. It's a bit sparse on a timeline though.


From: Tony (Jul 02 2012, at 00:38)

Re: sad story. Hmmm, I've done it myself in the past, and I hated myself for it too. But, as you say, there are some seriously damaged people out there, and one can't be too careful...


From: Fazal Majid (Jul 02 2012, at 01:25)

SoMa is not so bad, even 6th Street. The real horror is in the soul-destroying blocks of projects in the Western Addition just after civic center. They have turned into an urban Lord of the Flies that's far worse than East Hastings in Vancouver.


From: Tim Converse (Jul 02 2012, at 09:12)

@giacomo - West, South, etc don't really exist in Soma, because the whole grid is almost exactly diagonal (NW, NE, SW, SE).

But from TimB's photos he was SW from Moscone, which really is the only wrong direction. NW is Market St, NE gets steadily richer and more financial-district to the Bay, and SE heads toward my place, which is very nice.


From: Giles (Jul 03 2012, at 04:59)

Good on you for having the courage to tell that story about yourself. It's not flattering, but it's the sort of mistake that many people who firmly believe themselves not to be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc make all the time. You've reminded us all to keep trying, though it's hard.


From: Jamie (Jul 03 2012, at 20:23)

Funny. I live on a (relatively speaking, quiet) alley just off 6th and Howard. Had I known, I'd have had you in for coffee.

There is a lot of damage around here. Despite the density, we aren't a huge city, the wealth disparities are immense, so the cops herd them. Still, not as bad as parts of the Tendeerloin, as someone else said. (Really, it is noisy here, but not dangerous. I've lived in "nicer" places in Brooklyn where I avoided going out after dark.)

Being one of the most liberal places in the country means a lot of people with problems come here. And they get services. I wish they could get more. We end up with folks that other cities chase off so that they can be "nice" places. (I'm not making a judgement here, this is just how it works. Also, climate is key - forced to make a choice on no other axis, I'd pick SF over Milwaukee to be homeless in, too.)

I live in SOMA for mostly selfish reasons. I have about 3k sq. ft. of space in SF for less than I paid ten years ago for 1k. My landlord doesn't care that I do weird things, because I'm a good tenant, we've developed some trust. (there is a story about a Tesla coil that I won't relate, but that should give an idea.) That is good for me, because I like to make big things. The neighbors don't mind if I weld in the alley, and the cops don't mind if the neighbors don't mind. But I think it also keeps me grounded. I don't want to be a hippy here, but sometimes, there is someone that can be helped. And sometimes, I run into that person.

In some ways, SF is as hard as NYC. In others, it is much easier. Both for haves and have-nots.


From: Patrick Logan (Jul 03 2012, at 21:15)

I believe your behavior is not unjustified. My experience of panhandlers in SFO is they are generally more aggressive than in other cities I am familiar with.

Additionally, compassionate people who know more about these things than I advise me not to give money to panhandlers. One alternative in PDX is to carry and hand out chits for such places as Sisters of the Road Cafe, a safe place to get a good meal.


From: steve (Jul 04 2012, at 16:44)

your last photo pretty much points at the door of the room i had two years ago, also a Moscone-oriented visit, but i did a lot of walking in all directions and the other shots are familiar; i liked the narrow sidewalks and the slight sleepiness of some of those streets; not much room for green

while it definitely puts you on your toes and there are many people in downward spirals, i think it's one of the most alive parts of SF; there are many little pockets of joy and creative enterprises, plus clearly lots of people building lives in the residential nooks

your reaction to the skinny woman is one i might have had if my space were encroached — not so sad to me, keeping your guard up generates those kinds of awkward situations

interesting that she made you out as someone to ask directions …


author · Dad
colophon · rights

July 01, 2012
· The World (148 fragments)
· · Places
· · · San Francisco (17 more)
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Photos (980 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.

I’m on Mastodon!