Welcome to Glenn's Blog!

Here I will periodically post random thoughts and stories about what's going on in my life and the world around me. As if anyone cared. But seriously, you've found your way here, so hopefully you will enjoy at least some of what I have to say, even if you aren't entirely interested in it. At the least, it should be a good way to waste time.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Exploring Humanity

So this past Saturday I took another of my frequent trips to San Francisco. Unbeknownst to me, it was "Fleet Week" there (shows how much I pay attention), and much of the Marina Green area was closed off for the pending festivities of military prowess. Who knew? That was my normal go-to parking location, as it's free to park there, usually. And it's right next to Fort Mason, which makes for an easy walk over to the Embarcadero area. Fortunately the area around Chrissy Field was still open, although they had traffic monitors with orange vests and little orange flags, frantically directing people where to park in order to maximize the available space. And it was already filling up at 9am; they were already given to having people park on the gravel areas. Packing us in as if at a sports stadium, and with no trees for shade to boot. But still, it was free. In a city as expensive as San Francisco, free is always a nice option to have.

This put me an extra mile or so away from where I needed to be, but I don't mind the extra walking. And I was early enough that I had time. I actually got another discounted ($49) ticket to see the matinee showing of Hamilton, as I had done back in early June. Really fantastic seat - row K in the Orchestra section, and just two seats left of exact center. It was a sign when I saw it online, saying "Buy me...buy me...". So, I did. The walk was as usual quite pleasant, if not a little tiring due to all the hills. There's so many interesting neighborhoods and cool architecture and store fronts and on and on, not to mention the panoramic views you are treated to as you reach the top of the hill near Hyde and Lombard Street.

Along the way I also stopped at a little local bakery for a chocolate croissant. I'm not even sure the name of the place, but they had a quaint neon sign in their store that proclaimed "I got baked in San Francisco". It made me wonder what exactly they put in their baked goods... Their to-go bags were long and pink and adorned with big block letters: "C6H1206". Not being too well-versed in coded languages, I had to google that; if only to make sure I knew what I was really ingesting. Turns out, it's the chemical formal for simple sugar. Whew! I guess I don't remember much of my last chemistry class, way back in...1992 or so. I'm sure they probably went over this. Stay in school, kids!

In any case, as the walk progressed back down the hill it came closer and closer to the theatre district, and that's when you start seeing more of the interesting locals. And by "interesting", I mean "crazy". Literally. Like, truly suffering from mental illness. It's the homeless population of San Francisco, and just like in Sacramento, ever appearing to grow and grow. It's society's cancer, and it's spreading unchecked. And it's quite sad really. At first you see random people just milling about, yelling mostly incoherent obscenities at each other, or at themselves, or at walls, or at blank space. There's the guy at the bus stop, straddling some lady sitting on the bench. She's fairly unresponsive, and you can't tell if he's trying to help her, put more drugs into her, or rape her. An older lady at the stop must have seen my concerned look, and assured me, "She's fine, she's fine". I guess that sort of thing is just normal routine for that neighborhood. I grew up far more sheltered.

Then you get further along and find rows of people camped out along chain link fences that block off vacant lots. They have nothing to do, nothing to say, and seem to not even be too aware of what's going on around them. One guy in particular had visible red track marks up and down his arm. He was so out of it already that he moved clumsily and as if in slow motion. He was completely unaware of anything around him. But he was desperately trying - still in slow motion - to get a needle back into his arm. That's all he has anymore. That's all his life is. So many people like this, they hardly even seem human anymore. Most of their humanity was long sucked away. That's why, I suppose, society does little or nothing to address these problems. They don't see these people as "human" anymore. As "alive" anymore. And there's so many, it's become an insurmountable problem to even begin to deal with. I don't know if that guy ever succeeded in getting that needle in, in finding a vein. He probably did. He's probably still there, right now, doing it all over again. It's all he has left.


In any case, I made it to the Orpheum Theatre a little after 11am and picked up my ticket. Even the guy at the window said, "Oh you got a great seat, right in the middle". I smiled. Yes, yes I did. Then, to kill a little time, I went and had lunch at a little local diner about a block away. It was called, curiously enough, Local Diner. Not very creative, but it works. They seem to specialize in breakfast, but also have lunch selections. I had a club sandwich. It came with crinkle cut fries. Seriously, who serves crinkle cut fries? That seems like something you'd buy in the frozen food section of your local supermarket, then promptly burn the edges of in your oven at home, as you curse your poor luck.

I then went to the same CVS that I had once bought a homeless guy lunch in, much to his surprise as he was only asking for change so he could buy something, anything. I let him pick out whatever he wanted, and he got a free lunch that day. Guess I was in a good mood back then. In any case, I saw no homeless people in the store on this day, so I just bought some snacks for the show. Why not? Snacks are always good. There was a religious group of musicians playing for and yelling at passersby across the street. Occasionally getting in arguments with the mentally deranged homeless population. They were really, really, concerned about our everlasting souls, and wanted us to find Jesus as quickly as we can. But alas, I had a show to get to.

Hamilton was, just as last time, amazing. It's so intelligently put together, the crafting of actual historical elements with modern-day hip-hop music. Really, quite brilliantly done. And expertly performed! You can tell the actors are really enjoying their roles. I may have taken video while the exit music was playing at the end. Shhh! Don't tell anyone! I feel like such a criminal! After the show I walked back down Market Street all the way to the old Ferry Building. You can see firsthand the transition as you leave the theatre district: from homeless and crazy people, milling about with nothing to do, trash floating along in the breeze everywhere, it slowly transforms into a more respectable city with a diversity of pedestrians heading off in every direction, and eventually you hit the more famously known tourist areas along the waterfont.

The Embarcadero was quite crowded; apparently the Fleet Week festivities had concluded, the Blue Angels were done performing, and the crowds were all out trying to enjoy the touristy spots. And they were EVERYWHERE. I have a general disdain for large crowds, so I sped through the area as quickly as I could squeeze through, stopping only at the last Ben & Jerry's near the end to get a milkshake made out of their Half-Baked ice cream. So good! I should have gotten a large one instead of a small. In any case I sucked that puppy down right quick. Or as quickly as I could given a paper-based straw that stared disintegrating partway through. Stupid paper straws.

In any case, I followed my typical path along the waterfront and up through Fort Mason. The sun was already getting low on the horizon; I had entertained the idea of taking a walk along Baker Beach and watching the sun set, but I don't think I would have made it in time. Even my favorite bookstore at Fort Mason was closed, as it was just after 6pm. So instead, I hit the Chrissy Field beach area, which was still quite nice and not too crowded.

I'd never really walked along this particular beach much, though I've walked past it many times when heading directly to the Golden Gate. It was nice to get my shoes off and get my feel wet, though it was a bit cold. The changing of the seasons is upon is. But who doesn't love watching the sun set with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, as you walk through the soft, sandy beaches as gentle ocean waves chomp at your feet? It's a beautiful and awe-inspiring experience. I suppose it offers a glimmer of hope, by showing that there is still beauty to behold in the world. and I kind of needed that after traipsing through the not-so-good parts of San Francisco. What a diverse world it is! It's hard to have hope sometimes, when you so often see only the dark side of humanity. And I drive through downtown Sacramento everyday, so I see it, everyday, even if it is just quickly passing by in the car.

I ended up staying later than I normally do in San Francisco, but it was worth it to see the sun fully set and darkness set upon the world once more. Another day and another adventure, come to an end. And of course now it's back to the real world with work and responsibilities and raising a child and all of that. I'm glad I'm able to get out from time to time, though, to get away and experience things. I think it's human nature to explore, and not just our own world and surroundings but our own humanity as well. I can't really help those poor souls along the otherwise barren streets of San Francisco. But I can't help thinking, they were once like me, a child with parents who grew up and went to school and probably fell in love several times. They, too, once lived. I hope they do have some humanity left in them, somewhere, and that they might someday stop and look around and decide to explore it for themselves. Maybe they'll find some salvation. But I imagine, pessimistically, that those who survive this day and the next will still be there, the next time I visit. Things rarely change. Sad.

2 comments:

  1. Beautifully written...you have a soft heart for those less fortunate. You had a wonderful day, but took time to think about those that didn’t. Another wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you so much :) Your thoughts mean a lot to me...

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