Let’s hear an Ellis Act story from San Francisco. We built this city on rock and roll your black ass out of Bayview to make way for a Shipyard (TM) full of Visionaries (TM). As a friend of my parents said, “The problem with Hunters Point is that it evokes the Negroes.” As the old hood has gotten more expensive, its, shall we say, local color has moved east–quite a bit east in the case of O. J. Simpson–and been replaced by the kind of recent arrivals who–Millington, they’re throwing furniture again, so grab your harpoon, have Rundel grab his net, and see if you friends can’t catch something.
That’s more than the Shipyard crowd knows about fishing, shipyards, or Canucks who should have done more with fish and less with horses. One if by land, two if by sea, and two and a half years for perjury if by air. These cool change bayside poseurs make Christopher Cross sound like John Paul Jones. They consider themselves visionaries for buying into the hip new thing, not for envisioning how the Juice might have cause to stop by with some associates and tell them to give him back his fucking neighborhood. Yes, he’s from a bit up the hill, but Whitey and the Very High Yellows have been running the Community out of Potrero Hill, too.
And everyone else who isn’t orenthally rich. The really problematic thing about Hunters Point is that it’s a historically poor neighborhood. If the housing market keeps going the way it’s been going, the developers will try to gentrify the Tenderloin, too. God knows how they’ll try to rebrand it, but they’ll come up with something suitably ridiculous. If they need to find a way to pretend that a neighborhood isn’t renowned for its al fresco crackheads, they’ll find one. In the decreasingly black southeast, the main thing they have to elide is some unvisionarily poor people. Or, as Cheryl Crow puts it, I’m gonna tell everyone to lighten up.
Our family friend is of a shade that soaks up all too much of the sun all too quickly, but this hasn’t stopped her from pissing in a bucket. Neither has an extremely stable rental history dating back four decades, more than two of them in the same apartment. Her landlord decided that it was time to ditch the rent-controlled poories already, so he gave them notice and put their rather white asses out on the street. Rooted, mixed-income, cohesive communities with sub-Dov Charney levels of wankery are a fucking buzzkill, man. Our friend had locked in her very modest little corner of the City at a price that didn’t bankrupt her, back in the late 28 Barbary Lane days. Like most San Franciscans, and like the socioeconomic mainstream everywhere, she can’t afford to start over at market prices today. She indicated, although I can’t recall exactly how, that her landlord is a decent enough person who had gotten himself screwed over by the same market.
When she was evicted, our friend had already been renting commercial space for some side gigs, so she moved in there and learned some of the neat microwave cooking and dorm fridge storage techniques that, because life is an experience of pain, suffering, and injustice, we more often hear of from hipster shitheads. This commercial space is down by the waterfront, because she’s still a contendah, Brando. It doesn’t have flush toilets, though, just a portapotty. Hence the little piss bucket. It’s a way not to have to go out to the shitter so often in the dark of night. Nurses get paid to take the piss in little plastic containers, but this bucket offers the same opportunity to observe hourly urine volumes, which I’d feel like a real chode for tracking for less than $20 an hour.
The telling thing is that our friend is nothing like Psychotarp, Mixups in my Mind, Lady Pisspan, or Pot-o-Shit Friend. She couldn’t be more different from those losers. She’s lucid, competent, and very stably employed. She confidently calls bullshit on slumlords. She doesn’t see the Catholics, the Methodists, and the Freemasons entering into baroque conspiracies against her.
None of this has stopped her from peeing in a bucket. The housing market in the Bay Area today is a piss-in-a-bucket market. Our friend has said that the Mid-Peninsula is turning into Calcutta. It’s turning into Victorian London, too. Market forces are making it impossible to house the workforce that keeps anything from Mountain View to the Presidio in minimal working order without a combination of illegal hotbunking nightmares and servants living in the basement. The behavior of the wealthy and the extremely affluent in the housing market is so grotesque that the lower 80% can’t make rent and live decently. Capital has been diverted so fully from the dull-normal housing market into the luxury market that thirty-year residents with full-time employment and salaries in the high five figures have trouble maintaining access to flush toilets. The price of some dot-com fuckhead’s bespoke kitchen and juice bar downstairs is some sorry bastard shitting in a gutter, like a dog. The local electorate treats its dogs better than its neighbors. It is not its brother’s keeper. This is probably because brothers talk back and animal children don’t.
Woof woof. I lives here. Can I come in?
A few years ago, I saw a sign in a BART elevator, at Embarcadero, I think, warning vagrants that the BART Police would arrest them if they were caught urinating or defecating in the elevators. Someone, one of my heroes, had scribbled an annotation underneath: “And Pee on U!” Just today I saw a permanent embossed sign nailed to a wall in the Stockton Tunnel asking passersby to please “respect San Francisco” by relieving themselves somewhere appropriate, along with a warning that urinating on public or private property without permission is a misdemeanor. I have yet to see signs asking people to respect San Francisco by not operating illegal taxi and hotel services within the city limits. That would be problematic.
I should go back sometime and take a picture of that bullshit sign. I’ll know that times are tough if that freaky bitch is still tweaking out on the staircase. San Francisco has been notoriously short on public toilets for decades, and the city’s policy solution is to nail a sign to the wall of a dingy tunnel lecturing vagrants and drunks about proper toileting etiquette, including permission to relieve themselves.
Pursuant to Brandenburg v. Ohio, you all have my permission, retroactive to the inauguration of Ed Lee, to relieve yourselves in any fashion you find expedient on any San Francisco Police Department vehicle and on any public or private property within the San Francisco city limits that has been provided for the use of public figures including but not limited to Mayor Lee, Toney Chaplin (shit flows uphill, too, Chief; it goes with the commission), Travis Kalanick, Peter Thiel, Peter Shih, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi. Defecating on their desks is a civic mitzvah. It is the deed of the Visionary (TM). Feel free to share my vision. If my faith inspires your works, we are surely doing some measure of what we were put on this earth to doo.
What, that sounds gross? Go take a look around the Tenderloin and report back to me. You may not know anyone who shits in a trash can, but I knew a guy who shat in a trash can on property where I’m invested. It isn’t just a San Francisco thing. Being stably middle-class and pissing in a bucket while not hospitalized, though, is San Francisco as fuck. That’s what happens when the lights go down in the shitty.