Tag Archives: new san franciscans

What Would Herb Caen Say?

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It may seem impressive: On this Facebook group alone, my column last week garnered 544 Facebook reactions, 332 comments, 44 shares… You’d almost think that these numbers led to a higher than usual page count for my column this week, factoring in my other promotional efforts on Facebook and Twitter… But that wasn’t the case at all.

Once I started reading the comments on the post in San Francisco Remembered, it was obvious the group members weren’t clicking the link, just sharing their memories and feelings about Herb Caen and how they think he’d view The City today. Had they read the column, though, they’d see that Herb Caen was discussing the same issues we’re dealing with now in the early 1960s. That’s what I meant by “My discoveries may surprise you…”

Whatever. More than anything, I just wanted to get that question out there and see how people would respond.

If you’d like to read the column and see what Herb Caen might actually would have said, click here.

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A Day in the Life of an Uber/Lyft Driver in San Francisco

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(an excerpt from the zine Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft)

Most days, I wake up around noon. Usually hung-over. My first thought is always the same: probably should’ve skipped that last drink. At the time, though, it felt absolutely necessary. Vodka has a way of alleviating some of the physical stress from driving a car all night. At least temporarily.

After several months of driving for Lyft and Uber, my neck is like an open wound. The muscles that run from my shoulder to my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. It makes my teeth ache. There is a real possibility that I have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. Old age has not only crept up on me, it has run past me and turned around to taunt me.

Besides the physical exhaustion of driving a car in the city, there is also the psychological toll. It’s one thing to maintain a diligent eye on my blind spots, the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists and cavalier pedestrians, but I also have to project a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers. Or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when I’d rather be committing murder. And yet, with enough Ativan and caffeine in my system, somehow I make it through another shift. Like when the endorphins kick in after a boot to the nut sack, these superficial interactions with complete strangers have a numbing effect after awhile. As long as it’s busy and I have enough rides to keep my mind off the grueling process. The slow nights can be torture and I can’t wait to get home so I can pummel my brain with alcohol, pills and weed until I stop obsessing over the streets of San Francisco, their order and how they intersect with each of the forty-seven neighborhoods.

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San Franciscan Pedestrians are the Worst

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An all too common scenario:

I’m at a busy intersection. Say, South Van Ness and 24th. I’m on 24th. Turning right onto Van Ness.

The light is green.

My signal is flashing. As I wait for the pedestrians to cross, I watch the car turning left in the middle of the intersection. We both have traffic lined up behind us. I glance in my side mirror. A girl in a Sentra looks distressed. No doubt wondering if she’s going to make the light. I’m wondering the exact same thing as an endless column of pedestrians moves past.

Mr. Left Turner’s face is full of determination. I’m already pulled as far to the right as I can go without entering the crosswalk. Who’s going to make it first? Me or him? The crowd is thinning. The last pedestrian, an old lady with two oversized bags, is almost in the middle of the street as the number next to the flashing red hand ticks down.

Seven seconds.

Six seconds.

I’m ready. So is Mr. Left Turner. The girl behind me inches closer to my bumper. Once the old lady is a few feet from the curb, I’m going for it. Mr. Left Turner’s just gonna have to wait.

Three seconds.

Just as I’m about to remove my foot from the brake and take off, I see a guy in tight raw denim jeans and a hoodie, staring at his iPhone, enter the crosswalk. Two seconds to go. The old lady is about to step on the curb as Tight Jeans slowly makes his way across the street, never once taking his face out of his phone.

One second.

Mr. Left Turner charges through the intersection, beating Tight Jeans to the middle of the street as the light turns red. Not exactly the safest maneuver, but at least he got through the light. My front end is blocking the right lane on Van Ness. We’re all waiting for Tight Pants MaGoo to finish sauntering across the street.

“Show some fucking hustle,” I mumble. “Motherfucker.”

I curse his pants.

I curse his hoodie.

I curse his very existence.

Of course, he can’t hear me with earbuds blocking out the world and sealing in the oblivion.

I fantasize about hitting the gas. Just plowing into the crosswalk and taking out this self-entitled douchebag. I wonder if I could generate enough speed to get him airborne? I’d really like to see him fly through the air, flip off the grill of my car, smash into my windshield, roll over the roof and tumble to the pavement with two broken legs and several cracked ribs. Maybe then he’d finally realize he doesn’t own the world just cause he makes a hundred grand a year at a bullshit start-up and dresses like a middle-schooler.

Once Tight Pants MaGoo is out of harm’s way, the cars move past me, flashing dirty looks, like I’m the asshole who screwed up traffic.

Fuck, I hate that guy.

I know that there’s a strong tradition of jaywalking in San Francisco. It’s part of the pedestrian culture of the city. People who’ve lived in LA and San Francisco will always marvel at the difference between walking in the two cities.

In LA, you don’t jaywalk. Period. Besides possibly getting a ticket, you’ll get run over. Walking in LA is a blood sport. You look both ways fifty times before you even cross on the green in case some dickwad in a Porsche is trying to outrun oncoming traffic. Cars have the right of way. After all, only a nobody walks in LA. So you better fucking watch out.

In San Francisco, the accepted practice is to cross once there are no more cars coming, regardless of whether the light is red or green. The stoplights here are brutal. Even when there’s not a single car on the road, the lights play out their pattern. And it’s usually chilly. So standing on a corner waiting for a walk signal is absurd. But these new transplants, in their infinite need to feel like they have more rights than the rest of us, take this custom of pedestrian rights to the ultimate degree. They incorporate it into their general attitude of entitlement.

And people wonder why pedestrians are getting run over all the time…