The Faded Beauty Queen


I was trying to think of something to write about for this Friday edition of The Rhodester Chronicles, but it’s been a very uneventful week and I didn’t want to bore you.

Then suddenly, at zero hour – late Thursday evening – I received an inquiry from a friend. This was someone I met on my tours when she visited San Francisco a few years ago, and she hasn’t been back since.

She writes:

“Serious question – you are the best person to ask about the city. Are the stories about human feces and used needles true? They have apps to guide people around the city streets? HONEST QUESTION.”

First of all, thank you to my friend for saying I’m the best person to ask about the city, but it’s not true. We have a City Hall with a Mayor and her entire staff; I’d imagine they’d be quite knowledgeable on city operations, but my friend doesn’t know them, she knows me. And they don’t have a blog like this one.

We have a huge police and fire department too. I bet they know a lot about the city but, since she asked me, I’ll just do what I can.

I don’t know why she has “honest question” all in CAPS because I would never expect her to ask a “dishonest question” and, for that matter, I don’t even know what a dishonest question is. I feel maybe she just wanted to come across as sincere and not baiting me into a debate of some kind.

Okay, well, fine. Let’s have a go at it.

Probably best to answer this two-parter question in two parts, starting with the easiest, and that’d be about the apps.

I’m not sure what she means about apps to “guide people around the city,” because, uh… yeah? They’ve been around for a long time. Google maps? There’s one. I’d assume there are others.

This question didn’t make sense coming from my tech-savvy friend who used an UBER (or LYFT) app while she was here, and got around via a map app, so she must have meant some kind of poop and needle app, to tie-in with the first question.

The answer is, I have no idea.

If you go to your app store – be it Google or Apple – you’ll find all kinds of crazy apps designed for all sorts of weird things. I would think there’s something that will update you on poop and needle reports, and it likely gets its info from 311.

That’s a city-wide number to report anything you wouldn’t want to punch into 911 and have cops show up, so you just push 311 and follow voice prompts to report anything from a broken street light, to graffiti or, yes, poop and needles.

I wouldn’t try it wherever you are, I’m sure it only works if you’re in the city of San Francisco. If you’re calling from a mobile, I have no idea how the system knows you’re calling from in the city limit; perhaps it knows you’re tapping a local cell tower?

So, apps? Sure. Quite a few are actually designed here, in our big ol’ tech community, where you find the HQs of Pinterest, Linked-In, Google San Francisco, Twitter – which is two blocks from our place – and many others.

There are a bunch of big ones that everyone knows of, like Twitter, and hundreds of small ones you’ve likely never heard of, which I can’t name because I’ve never heard of them.

So, yeah, it’s likely there is some kind of poop/needle app that just aggregates reports from SFPD and 311, but it’s not on my phone because I would have no use for such a thing. I walk with my eyes open, and I have the uncanny ability to step over poop and needles when I encounter that unfortunate situation.

Ergo, the short answer to the main question is, YES Virginia, there is poop and needles, but it doesn’t live in our hearts, it’s right there on the sidewalks of certain neighborhoods.

My friend may be of the erroneous impression that those things are piled high throughout the city, and we’re all up to our necks. It’s not so.

I’m only basing that on lies I’ve seen spread on social media, mostly via Twitter, stating such things. This is usually some detractor who has something up their tush and has never actually visited San Francisco; they just want to serve some kind of twisted agenda, usually politically motivated.

An example of the exaggeration component would be this: when a person calls that 311 number to report poop on a sidewalk, it doesn’t differentiate between dog or human. It’s just poop, and it needs to be cleaned up.

It’s a fact that more young couples have domestic house-pets than children in this city, mostly because it’s terribly expensive when it comes to raising a family, and some of those couples don’t properly pick up after their pups.

Someone finds out there are X number of poop reports on 311, and assign all of it to humans, when the majority of the reports are actually about doggie dumps.

Puppy poo may be prevalent in ritzy to raunchy neighborhoods – just less so in the ritzy, because ritzy rich folk want to keep their ‘hood ritzy – but there is an obvious poop and needle problem only in certain neighborhoods, such as Haight-Ashbury, which brought us The Grateful Dead, Journey, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and many other glorious hippies.

The Tenderloin is another, and that’s where I live. Rent is cheap by San Francisco standards, which means I pay for a studio apartment what you might pay to rent a two-bedroom home in Dallas, but hey, we have a security guy stationed in the lobby and an elevator that works most of the time.

A few other neighborhoods have similar problems because they have a segment of homeless people, and you know what? We deal with it.

We clean it up. We provide alternatives to pooping and needling on the streets, such as attended porta-potties like you’d find at an outdoor music festival but they’re on trailers, stationed at some street corners.

Needle disposal stations are common, and a person can walk right into the Tenderloin Police station with a box of used hypos and they’d dispose of them, no questions asked.

I’ve done that.

The thing is, this is a world-class city; a beautiful, golden city by a bay, but she’s fallen on hard times. People want to come here, so they do, and a lot of the time they bring their problems with them.

The young vagabond with a backpack full of hopelessness and anxiety, who leaves an abusive home and makes some friends in The Haight, who introduce him or her to heroin. Anxiety is gone and hopelessness buried for now.

The husband who left his wife because he drinks too much and she’s just had it, so he leaves and brings his drinking habit here. He’s unfettered now, and if left to his own despair, may be found face down on the street one day.

The couple who fell on hard times because she’s disabled and unable to work, and he was laid-off, so they come here and spend a bit of time hopping from one residential hotel to another while she’s in and out of the hospital.

She endures three major surgeries that would have broken the both of them if the golden city hadn’t picked up the tab.

Frankly, she would have died, were it not for this city.

They struggle and starve, but love each other and hang in there, until he finally gets a job as a tour guide once he’s been around long enough to know a few things. There’s a lot of time to read when one is unemployed, and San Francisco history books are the best in the West.

Just as the man loves his wife and would never leave her despite the difficult times she is enduring, the couple love this city, and will never leave her.

Because, when it comes right down to it, you just don’t leave your loved ones.

If someone wants to sell-out the city, we fight them at City Hall. If someone needs directions, we direct them and, if they make a mess because of demons and bowel-movements, we clean it up and try to show them how to clean it up themselves in the future. They don’t always listen, but we’re patient, and we endure.

Even Disneyland would be an absolute mess if there weren’t people to clean it every day.

There are people who want to tear down the city in a barrage of abusive verbiage, insinuating awful things, but usually to great exaggeration.

Yes, there are assaults, robberies, vandalism, IV drug users, mentally ill people, and many other vices that challenge this city, but they do not plague it.

That’s all in the mindset; and that being said, we’d much rather people see the fight than the blight.

We fight it daily, a bit at a time, and mostly make a pretty good dent in it. The key is to keep trying and not give up, despite what random internet trolls say about us, and pretend newscasters who spew verbal vomit all over our nice carpet.

We hang in because we are a faded beauty queen, growing wiser in her golden years, with a beauty that’s changing and evolving, through pain and mischief and murder and mayhem, but with lots of hope and happiness too.

Because we can do all of that at once.


Have a great weekend, everyone 🙂

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