Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Sad Tale of San Francisco Then and Now

Many years ago friends and I liked to go to a place called Hamburger Mary's on Folsom St., which had bikers, drag queens, sissy boys, and all the other assorted life forms who wanted a burger after the bars closed. 

Many years later I was in San Francisco for a LinuxWorld (computer conference) and noticed that Hamburger Mary's was still there. So I went in, sat dow, ordered a burger. Same as I remembered. Good sourdough bread (you could request your bread), a thin slice of tasty cheese, natural-tasting lettuce, a half-handful of sprouts. As California as a burger could be, EXCEPT... I looked around me and saw none of the kinds of people who used to make the city (and Hamburger Mary's) interesting. The damn place was full of tech-type yuppies carrying laptops and cell phones & paying for their food with corporate credit cards. In despair, I called my friend/coworker Rod Amis, another refugee from Baghdad by the Bay, and told him what was going on. 

Rod said "You're talking on your cell phone, right?" "Yes." "Do you have your laptop with you?" "Of course." "Are you paying for your meal with a corporate credit card?" "Umm, yes."

Rod yelled, "It's the same fucking people except we all have jobs and laptops and cell phones and fucking credit cards now!"

Oh, Rod... So true. You used to live for next to nothing in the Tenderloin. I lived up near Divisadero & Fulton, also for next to nothing. At the time of the fateful trip I was a homeowner. With a mortgage. 

My next trip to SF, Rod came with me. We went up to Divisadero, where an old friend of his had opened an Ethiopian Restaurant. "Wait a minute," I said. "Isn't this the old pimp bar?" Yes. Except the Ethiopian guy had bought it. "It is something," he said. "There used be, you would never see a white girl walking around here after dark unless she was a whore." Star-Ell Liquors was gone. Talk about a yupped-out neighborhood. Wow.

A few years later my wife Debbie and I went to San Francisco. I was on a corporate thing, but we spent a few extra days visiting my brother Greg and his wife, Tena, across the bay in Castro Valley. Greg lent us a car, and we wandered around the city a bit. Debbie was totally taken with some of the neighborhoods. "Why don't we move here?" she asked. I told her to check for prices on the modest homes she liked. 

Crazy $$. Not for us. California, you were good. Until maybe 1975. After that, less and less room for people of modest means. Sigh.

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