July 12th, 2005

(no subject)

Wheels and Wax.

Since moving to San Fran, I've never found more motivation to skate and snowboard, which is bizarre, considering I grew up in a place that one would think is a good place to do such activities. At first my only dying desire was to get good enough at skateboarding to be able to fly down Filbert St., but since then I've noticed the beauty of longboards, and the grace with which they ride and move. Because I've discovered an unknown appeal for longboards, I've inevitably rediscovered my love for flying down a snow-covered mountain on what is known as a snowboard. Watching Jonathan cruise around on his, swaying about the street with such ease and comfort just makes me want to get on any kind of board, street or snow, and feel what it feels like to be on a board again. All I want out of life again is to feel the freezing wind of the Green Mountains pierce my cheeks until they're red, or to feel the ocean breeze of the San Francisco streets blowing my hair behind it and gluing the legs of my jeans to my shins.

Being here for some reason has fueled my longing to be on a board; to slave up a hill with a three-foot board only to jump on at the top and fly down the other side at unheard of speeds, remembering only then why it is I stick around. I'll remember only then, as I'm careening down the steepest streets, leaning back to drift into oncoming traffic, and leaning back to keep up with it, that the reason I love this place is because for every uphill struggle, there's a downhill to cruise. At nights we'll wait until the earliest hours when the only people on the streets are the ones that will still be there in the morning, when there will be no cars in the street to serve as obstacles or death traps. We'll wait until the earliest, most untainted and unheard hours of the night, to whip out our longboards and coast the streets like they're ours. We'll go back and forth through the widest street without the slightest fear of angry traffic or sidewalk cracks. It will be just like flying down a mountain right after a fresh snowfall, bursting through the untouched powder and christening the trail for another day of passerby’s and pedestrians. These back streets in the dead of night can be my mountains until I'm on them again, jumping on a snowboard I haven't tempted in years. Thank God for these cravings; the streets will remind me of the mountains, and the mountains will remind me of home.

(no subject)

Project Onlooker.

I live on the corner of Stynner and Ellis, in apartment 216 (the very corner apartment of the Fillmore Center). For those of you that this means nothing to, consider this intersection "your last chance to figure out where you are." In other words, my side of Stynner is all art students. The other side of Stynner is something the city of SanFran likes to call "The Project."

The Project, I guess, is a government sponsored attempt to get more people out of the streets and into decent homes, so they have provided a slew of young black mothers with ghetto apartments across the street from the humble place I call home. San Francisco is the ultimate place to be homeless. As a homeless person, you are provided (based on your situation) with a certain amount of money for groceries every month, a free bus pass, free clinics everywhere, and the city will even pay for your bus ticket if you sign a contract saying you'll never come back. As a result of the city's grace, the other side of my street, and oftentimes my side, too, is plagued by kids of the Project -- black kids ranging anywhere from five to fifteen, none of which have been brought up by a mother society would consider "respectable." Black mothers are constantly screaming in their angry-black-woman tones, and their kids are constantly screaming in their misguided-black-youth tones, causing trouble in every direction because they have no conception of right and wrong, good and bad, and happiness and misery. Everyone on the other side of my street lives there over their only other option: homelessness. Unfortunately most of the black mothers do nothing but hang from their third story windows with their gigantic tits hanging out, screaming and scorning at their children playing below, bellowing so loud it echoes through the whole street when the childs play starts to become inappropriate.

Basically, I live on the very edge of nice. One more block of projects and you're straight-up spitting in your muggers face, telling him you've got a pocket full of twenties. Lucky for us, illiterate black women and their mischievous little kids are the only people that populate the other side of Stynner, aside from the occasional bearded black man on crack, but they pretty much mind their own business. The kids are enough, if you ask me, though. All day long they scream and shout and act like they'll never be older than nine years old. They ride their miniature Honda motorcycles around, sometimes bumping them up to sweet engines that roar like a real exhaust kit would. When they're blessed with such a rarity as a mini motorcycle with an exhaust kit, they must spend their entire day riding it down a tiny stretch of sidewalk, pumping the bike and making it bellow for a good ten feet at most before the street ends and they have to slow down, turn around, and do it in the other direction about another three thousand times before the day is over. As you can imagine, being in the room right above the sidewalk this happens on daily can tend to make you want to lie in the middle of the road and tell them to roar it right over your face. Other times they discover the wonder of water balloons, such as they did today. Some other days they just like to punch each other until no less than five of them are crying, at which point the angry black woman noise commences from the third story windows. Most of the time, though, whenever I walk down my street, it is just a matter of avoiding the ten to fifteen black children riding around on metallic scooters, trying to pass the time as a god damn Project.

But at times I do question exactly how comfortably unsafe it can be. For the most part one may be able to take care of themselves, but that doesn't erase the fact that its still the Project street, and it is still besieged by people you don't exactly want to be caught alone on a street at night with. Even though it is a government project, and at any sign of unwarranted activity, the cops are on that place like rapid-fire, it's all just a fancy way of saying it's the ghetto. The other day, my housemate Denise told me that the other night, just after Ani and I had left for Matt's, there was a drive-by shooting directly across the street from our apartment, followed by a high speed car chase up Ellis, which is the street our living room window looks down. I was also told that a year ago, down at the sketchy market (a city neighborhood isn't complete without one!), a man got his head blown off.