Saturday, July 26, 2014

San Francisco: An Animated Corpse

The New York Times is talking about how hipsters are taking over San Francisco, and how the art scene here is dead. I just smile and nod, since people have been saying a version of this for decades.

San Francisco was born in revolution and chaos: taken from the Ohlone by the Spanish, liberated into Mexico, planned and built by a Spanish-English coalition, ceded by Mexico to the United States. It’s been shaken by earthquakes, and economic and political upheaval, every twenty or so years.

I don’t think a silver bullet and wooden stake could kill this town of “the cops, the crooks, and the big rich.” 

Paddling on Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park
Yes, it’s expensive to live here. It felt expensive when I first moved here in 1979, and lived in a roach-infested one bedroom flat on Post between Polk and Larkin for $400 a month. We lasted just a few months before we fled for a cheaper city.

And yes, an awful lot of tech employees have moved into the Mission and there’s been a kerfuffle of protest. Meanwhile, 4,000 additional people moved into my neighborhood just last year. We didn’t make the news, because OMI isn’t hip, hell, it’s just newly reclaimed from serious drug violence. Its petite charms are yet to be discovered by the press and the hipsters.

The view from my office in OMI
Quiet, child-rearing techsters are moving into the OMI as those originally forced to move here in the 1960s are selling off their inherited properties before the next housing bust. It’s a quiet, orderly changing of the guard, and I hope it happens just as slowly as it possibly can. My neighbors on either side are sweet, wise women who help keep their kids’ lives together in the face of still-rampant racism and underemployment.  Nobody hates us over here in OMI, not yet anyway. It’s not a badge of honor to be one step above drug-trade violence, but I’ll take what I can get.

You can see where the hipster stereotype is coming from. At a recent visit to a Mission coffee shop, I saw a lot of people in porkpie hats, completely absorbed in their digital devices, ignoring the world around them. So I think the hipsters, who are spending upwards of 70% of their income on rent, have a little more work to do if they want to belong instead of be reviled. I know it’s possible, because I see it in my OMI neighborhood every day.

San Francisco, the first beautiful thing I found after my mother’s death, has artists and writers who live and work here without angels, municipal, corporate, or private--it's not any more artistically dead here than when the Summer of Love morphed into the Winter of Dirty Sidewalks.  Whether it's Noir City, LitQuake, Outside Lands, or smaller salons and gatherings, we’re here, and we’re creating every day—directly, or indirectly by supporting city-wise initiatives like San Francisco Beautiful or 826 Valencia. Perhaps we could be less iconoclastic, and instead grow better skills of cooperation with each other but we’re not dead. Far from it, my friends. And, like the rollickingly open port city we've always been, we welcome you, whether or not you live within our 47 square miles.

Here’s a list of just some of the  local writers’ activities you might can check out:

What’s your favorite SF arts organization?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bookstore Fun

Last year, we wrapped up the Pens Fatales blog after we felt it had run its course and we each needed to focus on our quickly-expanding writing careers. But once we did so, we missed it! So earlier this year, we bought it back. But as you may have noticed, we haven't been as active as we were in our first incarnation. We asked ourselves what was different. The answer wasn't what we expected:

It's been interesting to realize that in this world where social media is ubiquitous, we connect more *in person* than online. You'll still find us online individually (e.g. Juliet loves Facebook, Gigi loves Twitter, Rachael loves her blog, Mysti is part of another group blog), but when we get together as a group, more often than not it's at a cafe or a bookstore instead of here on the blog. Case in point: this past month, several of us did bookstore events together.

Here are a few photos from our events at Borderlands Books in San Francisco and Village House of Books in Los Gatos.

Borderlands Books manager Jude Feldman with Juliet Blackwell.

Juliet Blackwell signing books at Borderlands in San Francisco.

Gigi Pandian, Juliet Blackwell, and Kate Carlisle at Borderlands Books.

Sophie Littlefield, Rachael Herron, and Gigi Pandian
at Village House of Books in Los Gatos.