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Homeless In San Francisco

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We got back yesterday on a red-eye flight (aptly named since my eyes are still, in fact, blood shot) from San Francisco, and I didn’t want to let Monday slip by without talking a little about the trip. In the next couple of weeks I’ll have a photo gallery to share, as well as some lessons I learned while visiting, which I hope will detail all the fun things there are to see in San Francisco so that you can all live vicariously through me. But first things first.

My first, and lasting, impressions

San Francisco. City by the Bay. Fog City. Everybody’s Favorite City.

I’m not so sure that’s true. Yes, it’s by the bay. Yes, it’s foggy. But everybody’s favorite?

P6051648I don’t know what I was hoping to find when I visited San Francisco. Inspiration? Peace? Something intangible, certainly. Great photo ops, definitely. What I found was more profound and at the same time so far from what I needed that I couldn’t leave fast enough. As I flew away, my over all impression about the city was that it was extremely difficult to get around in, and covered in homeless street people. I turned down one street by accident where the sidewalk was so full of street people that I had to step into the street to get around them, or trip over them, their dogs, their baskets, blankets, carts and signs. I didn’t take a picture on that street because I didn’t feel it was particularly safe to do so, and because sometimes it’s easy to gloss over a problem when it’s too large to comprehend. Intimate photos of one or two people sometimes say a lot more than a crowd of faces.

I spent half my time during my stay just trying to get places, and then once I got there would be disappointed by what I found. I visited the Conservatory of Flowers to see Butterflies and Blooms and what I found was a charming greenhouse, certainly, but the portion set aside for butterflies was pointless. Go big or go home, I say, and in this case if it’s butterflies you’re seeking you should look elsewhere. Outside the front door had far more of them than they had inside.

P6072054I visited the Palace of Fine Arts, which was quite amazing…on the outside. It’s not open to the public and there’s certainly no fine art there. At least, not right now. There is, however, high school graduations and a lack of public restrooms.

P6072064I told David it’s like the entire city is one big inside joke that they don’t tell the tourists.

As I went about the city there was just something missing. Something I can’t even describe. Whatever it is I was looking for, I didn’t find it there.

But I did find homeless people.

I watched a lot of them wander about. Some were obviously mentally ill. Others were definitely masquerading as homeless to get easy money from tourists. Some worked for the money by playing music or dancing or odd little things. Some used humor. Others used animals.

P6072245At Golden Gate Park there’s an entire area set aside for them to pitch tents. On the one hand, at least the powers that be don’t hide the problem, but on the other hand, it didn’t make me enamored of the city.

I don’t live there. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that whatever the city is doing to fix the problem isn’t working. It made me sad for the people stuck in such a hopeless situation. Frustrated that everything felt so difficult. Overwhelmed that obviously a lot of people need help and I do not have the power to help them all. Depressed that I spent a lot of my own precious money to see this place that gave me…what, exactly, in return?

P6072418It’s my fault, for having no clear plan. My fault for thinking I’d find magic in a place which has clearly forgotten what magic looks like. My fault for expecting more than the city could possibly ever give. And my fault for putting my expectations too high.

As I said, whatever it was I was seeking….it wasn’t in San Francisco.

So I’ll keep looking. In the meantime, I did manage to see and do most of the touristy things and get pictures of almost all of it, which I’ll share next. I just felt like for now the real story was shining through the faces that I found on the streets of San Francisco.

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It gets lonely out here in the big wide webs. Talk to me!