“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Modest Proposal

I have been getting up earlier these days, and getting outside as quickly as I can.  I love the feeling on the street in the first hour after dawn.

Lately I have noticed that on almost every morning crews with hoses and steam cleaners are cleaning the sidewalks in the blocks around my hotel.  I always thank the guys in those crews, who, for hours before I get out, have been working hard in their dark blue uniforms and rubber boots.  It would be nice to think that the city was finally rich enough (which, of course, it is) to clean the streets of the Tenderloin as well as it cleans the streets of the wealthier neighborhoods.  But what the steam-cleaning of these blocks means is that the rich are coming and that the rest of us will soon be squeezed out.

I look at the faces of my neighbors as they pass. Most look old before their time.  They are getting by as best they can, managing against very bad odds to keep up their spirits, to be willing to live another day, to say often “I am happy because I woke up again this morning”, all in the face of little chance that their lives will improve.  They perform their duties.  They find what diversions and pleasures they can.  They do not think of  moving because they know that they cannot afford to live anywhere else, certainly anywhere else in San Francisco.  And more than that, they do not want to move because they have their friends in the neighborhood.  They see each other at breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Lafayette Coffee Shop, among other places.  They bicker and banter and tease one another.  They know each other’s relatives and will be there for each other when accident, disease, or age bring any one to a crisis.

But, of course, they  will have to move.  They will lose one another.  I have seen the sign of the times above Market Street, just across the intersection from the rising tower that it advertises:


I thought, yes, we would all be happy to have a clear and reliable contact guaranteeing our housing, but when the words also mean that I and my fellows have no secure housing in the coming months and years, I find the sign in such bad taste that I want to confront whoever created it and tell them the truth about what they are doing.

I look into the faces of my neighbors and I think, “Most of us pay 30% or 50% of our income in rent; that is, our rent is set at 30% to 50% of our income.  I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice -- wouldn’t it be fair -- to have those who are coming to displace us also pay 30% to 50% of their income for their housing.  Think was a windfall the city would have if it collected 30% to 50% of the incomes of all those Twitterists and Yelpers, et al.  Those millions upon millions could all be spent improving the housing of everyone in the neighborhood, restoring historic buildings and building new ones for all of us.

I think of this modest proposal as being like Reagan’s Flat Tax:  a principled idea that everyone should pay the same percentage of their income for whatever service is provided by the government, which, after all, defines all the privileges and responsibilities of landowners and landlords.

Then we could all enjoy clean streets, safe neighborhoods, and comfortable housing.

Think about it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Death Throes

I like to make broad, sweeping statements that go against the grain for the class of folks among which I live -- or rather, lived.  These generalizations usually raise eyebrows, if not hackles.  This habit is not just a conversational gambit or bit of showmanship:  I always believe what I say even if I know full well that I have overstated my case.  My point is only overstated, not distorted.

I have often been heard to say in conversation with well-heeled tourists just returned from a jaunt to Thailand, say, or Patagonia:  “I don’t like travel.  Why should I haul my sorry ass half way around the world to look at ruins and monuments and works of art when I seldom cross the street to look at the ones we have here?”

I have been heard to say “I don’t like children.  I didn’t like them when I was one, and I don’t like them any better now.  They are cruel, selfish, mean-spirited, and have no conversation at all.”

I have been heard to say among San Franciscans who wallow in self-congratulatory declamations about the grandeur of “The City’s” beauty, restaurants, museums, and successful companies that

“San Francisco isn’t really a city.  Sure it was one once, but nobody works here any more, nothing is made here, and no one in Los Angeles or New York would mistake it for a hub of anything.  San Francisco has become a resort, an elegant ocean liner docked permanently in a grand harbor, a gated community for the very rich, who own houses and apartments here for convenience when traveling far from their homes in New York, Geneva, Paris, or Milan.”

This latter sentiment is one I subscribe to more strongly every day.  With the nascent “improvement” of the Tenderloin, the work will be complete:  no one not in possession of a fortune or earning a six-figure income annually (at least) will be able to find a home here any longer.  And then the death of San Francisco will be complete, what began around the time the Hippies held a funeral service of the Haight-Ashbury will be done.

Here is the latest essay from Mark Ellinger, one of the most important, insightful, and eloquent chroniclers of this sad history:

Whither Sixth Street?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Luddite's Lament

I am becoming increasingly anxious.  My temporary housing will end in September, and I see no possibility of having enough income by then to qualify for any other housing.  I make $400 a month working as an event coordinator for a company that takes over a month to send me my paycheck.  I earn about $150 a week cleaning houses and doing yard work for a couple of people, work that I got through an ad I posted on Craigslist.

I dreamt last night that someone was teaching me how to sell drugs (marijuana, specifically).  I was terrified the whole time.  We were being followed by two policemen who did not arrest us because we weren't actually carrying any drugs.  It was a training session, after all.  Somehow I just don't think that option would work out well for me.

But then the "Justice" system and the Internet tend to lead people, people who have experienced what I have experienced, toward crime.  I am still awaiting trial -- a year later -- for the charge on which I was arrested the second time: misdemeanor battery.  MRM told the police that I had approached him in a park where he was walking his dog, that I hit him, and that he fell down and injured his wrist.  He made up the entire incident.  Nothing like it ever happened.

What did happen that day was that he approached me as I was having a cup of coffee on my way to work.  I tried to ignore him, but he let the dog, who always liked me, come over to me, and I began petting him.  I always liked him, too.  MRM tried to engage me in conversation, breaking the mutual restraining order that had been in place six months.  I did break down and speak to him.  I said, "Leave me alone.  Never speak to me again."  Those events became his false report:  he always told me that a good liar knows to keep his tale very close to actual events so that the lie will be easy to remember and so that it will be difficult to disprove (for example, I would not be able to prove that I was elsewhere when I was sitting by a cafe within a block of the park where he walked his dog.)

Two weeks later he walked into a police station and filed his false report.  Because he alleged physical violence and because he said that he was afraid of me, the police arrested me at work a few days later.  It was a few days later because he waited until Thursday to tell them where I could be found.  He did that because they hold you three days before charging you before a judge.  They have to do it within three days, but Saturday and Sunday don't count.  So if you are arrested on a Thursday or a Friday, you are guaranteed at least five days in jail, not just three.  MRM is the son of a cop and told me these things many times when he was plotting such actions against other people.

So I have an arrest record and a charge which has not been dismissed and of which I have not been found innocent.

MRM also used the two months during which he refused to give me my computer to tell more lies about me online.  He posted pictures of me using drugs (pictures he had taken secretly with his iPhone when we were getting high together.).  He searched through my private diary and even fictional pieces I had written on my computer and posted them to a blog he had created originally to smear his previous boyfriend and the boyfriend's attorney who were fighting him in court on domestic violence charges.   He was able to do all this because I could not -- as I still cannot -- go to the house in which we lived and get my things due to the restraining order which demands that I stay at least 100 yards from the place.

He also wrote emails to everyone I know repeating his lies about my violent behavior and "out of control" drug use.

WordPress refuses to take his blog down and cheerily advises me that the best way to counter such information on the web is to argue my own case in the same place.  I suppose they mean that I should comment on his blog, but if I do, he can block my comments.  Furthermore any time I go to his site,
any time anyone goes to his site, it moves up in priority on Google and other search engines.  As it is, if you Google my name, it is his lies which come up as the first three results.  MRM worked for Apple for five years and knows how to set up an automated search-and-select so that he could be sure that anything he posts will appear to have been chosen as the best result for a search.

Try looking for housing or for employment in this day and age when the Internet returns such lies to anyone who searches your name.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

For the Birds

I always thought birds were pretty and musical and just plain nice to have around, and I thought that the idea behind Hitchcock's "The Birds" was to make the audience fearful of something inherently innocent and far from threatening. The movie seemed to me to be a virtuoso piece, proof that even the commonplace and mundane could be charged with anxiety and fear by the Master of Suspense.

Of course when I lived in Manhattan in the 1980s, I adopted the locals' distaste for pigeons, which were known by some wag's epithet: "rats with wings". But in my heart I felt nothing like the disgust that gave me shivers if I saw a rat run across the sidewalk ahead of me or dart under some bushes or down a drain in Central Park. The first person I ever heard inveigh seriously against birds was my ex WS, who went so far as to call them "evil" and claim that they deliberately attacked him everyday as he approached his office, "dive-bombing" him as he crossed Levi Plaza and entered the building where he worked. I thought that he was simply exercising his well-developed wit and humor, adopting a counter-intuitive attitude toward something and then setting forth arguments and evidence that always made his listeners laugh.

Recently, my opinion of the little dinosaur atavists has grown dark. Last week I passed a seagull which was pecking away at the split carcass of another bird. The sight creeped me out, especially coming, as it did, fast on the heels of another avian sighting: two pigeons picking at a splash of dried vomit on the sidewalk.  I quickly realized that these creatures would indeed have mangled poor
Suzanne Pleshette.

And because I have HIV (the only thing MRM gave me that he didn't try to take back), I have another concern regarding pigeons. The dried pigeon guano that cakes the sill outside my window can get airborne. It can get into one's lungs and give one toxoplasmosis.

My dear friend SN came down with toxo when I was visiting him in Palm Springs once back in the eighties. In his case, the source was not bird droppings but the feces of his neighbor's cat. He came close, very close, to dying. I can still see him lying in his bed at the Eisenhower Medical Center. I saw him only one more time, a few months later in Los Angeles. By then he could no longer speak.

At his memorial service I read a poem that I had stumbled across in an issue of “The New Yorker” which I had found lying on SN’s coffee table in Palm Springs at the time he caught toxo. The poem is by Marie Howe and is called "What the Living Do." The poem is addressed to her brother, who also died of AIDS.

What the Living Do
     by Marie Howe 

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell
       down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn
      it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Friday, July 19, 2013


"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"
                                       -- from Hamlet, Act Two, Scene Two

[This post is dedicated to R "D" G, my downstairs neighbor.]

An idea prevails, it seems to me, that a person who uses drugs ceases to be herself, ceases to be responsive and responsible, to be human, or at least human in the way “we” are.  The user becomes someone from another culture, another tribe, a far-off land, and therefore can no longer be trusted.  One suspects, keeps up one’s guard, is wary, and cannot risk lending a hand for fear of being pulled down into darkness, of drowning in murky waters.  One is likely to be used by this erstwhile person, who has ceased to be himself and is now merely a drug manifesting its properties in the body of someone you once knew.

This way of thinking is three parts “Body Snatchers” and seven parts “The Exorcist.”


Be warned!  That is no longer your son talking to you.  That is the voice of the Demon whose names are legion: Crack/Meth/Heroin/Ecstasy speaking with forked tongue.  If you help them/it, you are only enabling them/it in to pursue their own damnation.  Better that “they” should fail utterly in life than that they should find a way to live as they choose, if their choice includes using ___________ {fill the blank with the name of the particular demonic substance in this case}.


God-Damned Nancy Reagan has won.  Drugs trump everything.   That guy’s partner may have been a predatory psychopath, but the point is that he used drugs.  So he is probably better off in jail:  at least he isn’t out on the street where he might end up using drugs.


Listen to me: you have no idea what incarceration means; what it is; what it does.  You think that if the cops arrested her, she must have done something to deserve it.  You actually believe that the cops don’t arrest people who haven’t dome something wrong.

Of course, that works out well for you.  You don’t have to fear the cops, because you haven’t done anything wrong -- or not anything that really matters anyway.  And there’s a bonus, too:  once the cops have arrested someone, you don’t have to worry about that person any more.  He isn’t “P.L.U.”* anymore.  And another bonus:  your belief in an efficient and just system of law enforcement makes you feel safer, even if you are not.


Well, even if he didn’t do exactly what his abusive partner claims he did, he still must have done something.  After all, he took drugs.  And he lied about that.  Or if it wasn’t exactly lying, it was the same thing.  He didn’t tell us that he was mixed up with drugs.

[Good ol’ BC didn’t mention that he was getting head in the Oral -- oops -- Oval Office either.   But did that mean that he could no longer be trusted?  Some people thought so.  But take a look at who those people were.]


You even think the courts and judges and lawyers and District Attorneys are all trying to serve Justice, to be fair, to establish who is in the right and who has done wrong.  Anyone who believes that has had no contact with the “Justice” system beyond watching “Perry Mason” or one of the metastasizing “Law and Order” shows.

Ask the little boy who was thrown in jail after the police came to his house looking for him.  They said nothing about why they sought him.  He protested that he had done nothing wrong:  he was thrown in jail for the night.  Unjustly accused of something, and unable to find out what it was that he was thought to have done, the little boy spent the night in terror, completely alone, unable to contact anyone, including even his parents.

It turns out that his father had arranged the whole thing with the police.  He thought that his son was not sufficiently earnest about “toeing the line,” about following the rules and sticking to his duty in general in life.  He thought that his son needed to have a scare thrown into him so that he would straighten up and fly right.

The boy never forgot the outrageous injustice done him by the institutions nominally devoted to “Justice” and by his own father.  He continued to rebel throughout his life, rejecting everything “proper” or even “normal” for a man of his class.  Instead he became an artist, and a subversive artist at that, working in a medium which at the time was hardly regarded as an art form at all, something barely a step above a carnival sideshow or a vaudeville burlesque:  he made “movies.”

The boy’s name was Alfred Hitchcock, and the movies he made tell the same story over and over again:  an innocent man is accused of committing a crime.  He cannot turn to the police because for them all that matters is the accusation.  The police have but one imperative: if someone is accused of a crime, he must be apprehended and jailed.  The identity, nature, reputation, moral standing, capacity for reason, or believability of the accuser does not matter at all.  The accusation has been made and imprisonment must follow.

Fuck “Innocent until Proven Guilty.”  It’s a crock of shit.  And once the innocent man is caught, or even if, pathetically, he turns himself in, believing that running just makes him look like he has something to hide, he looses.  Once in jail, he will never be able to gather the evidence necessary to prove his own innocence.  And the system is unlikely to look at the evidence if he can gather it.  The courtroom process has nothing to do with actual people or actual events.  The actual is much too nuanced, much too complex, and much too ambiguous to be dealt with by the law.

And so another soul is slowly worn down.


Read Tolstoy!  Wake up! 


*People Like Us

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Man Behind the Curtain

I have broken the cardinal rule of blogging:  I have let day after day go by without posting.  In June I made excuses to myself based on the length and complexity of the two posts that I did produce (My Generation I and II).  But the fact is that far from making up for the long delay between posts, the length of the pieces was just another violation of the genre.  I have to remember that this is not Montaigne's Essays; this is a blog.  I must post daily, so that readers will be rewarded for checking in daily, and keep my posts short, so that they can be read through completely in the midst of a busy day online.

I thank you for your patience, you who have continued to check back and are here reading this now, and I intend to do a better job of holding up my end of the bargain henceforth.


I wanted to create this blog while I was living on the street, and much of what you will read here was composed at that time. My efforts were stymied in part by the external problems of getting time on a computer to post my comments with some regularity and with all the necessary links and tendrils reaching off into the web. I also had the internal problems of settling on the nature and scope of the project: should I stick to the political, economic, and journalistic material or post the whole bloody personal drama, the idiosyncratic and intimate details of my experience? I knew deep down that the latter elements were necessary to this kind of personal reporting, but I wavered between confidence in the power of honesty and fear that my foibles and failings might discredit the broader message I intend to deliver.

I am now living in transitional housing, while I try to establish myself in a new job and begin to search for my own place. I am not far off the street, however, living as I do only three floors above the intersection of Eddy and Leavenworth Streets. My experience during the past fifteen months has taught me how fragile a thing the life we take for granted is. It would take very little to land me right back out there again: only one bit of bad luck or one mistake, being kind to the wrong person perhaps, or trusting too easily in my own ability to manage whatever comes along from day to day . If you learn only one thing from my story, I would want it to be the understanding of how close you are to falling out of the comfortable nest that you have been settling into for all these years. Sometimes the bough breaks, and it all falls down.


My first career was academic, but I can now only lay claim to being a sometime scholar of 18th-century British Literature. That Age was very like our own in being conflicted, confused, and anxious: a fundamental re-valuation of everything one is and does was going on in and around and under everyone. The literature was either classical and highly stylized (e.g., Alexander Pope) or radically experimental (e.g. Lawrence Stern‘s “Tristram Shandy”). New forms, such as the novel, were emerging from an eruption of folk traditions, religious evangelicalism, the commercialism of a growing middle class, and the availability of inexpensive presses.  What one finds in the literature of that period is a crowded, noisy, improvised culture that finally matured at the end of the century in the works of Jane Austen.

The new art form that was emerging -- so new and unformed that all anyone could think to call it was "the new", i.e. "the novel", was an ungainly -- and even messy -- mélange. So is the blogosphere today.

So too will be whatever I lay down in these posts.  I have to say that I feel right at home.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


On the 14th of October, 1911 (eleven days before my father was born across the bay in Oakland) President Taft broke ground for the Pan-Pacific International Exposition to be held in San Francisco in 1915 to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. He then made his way to the Cliff House for lunch. There the President toasted San Francisco as “The City That Knows How”, an epithet which was used widely at the time and not, I think, original to him .

For the canal was not the only marvel of American ingenuity, zeal, and optimism. San Franciscans were justifiably proud that their city was ready to host the world only 9 years after being reduced to ashes and rubble by the earthquake and fire of ‘06. In fact San Francisco’s ability to recover from disaster stretches back to its earliest days as a major city. Between 1849 and 1852, the city burned to the ground six times. The official flag of San Francisco depicts a Phoenix rising from the ashes and was in use around 1900, well before the ‘06 disaster.

In rebuilding the city after each fire, San Franciscans were repeating the origin of the city itself. From the beginning of 1848 to he end of 1849, the population of San Francisco grew from 1,000 to 25,000. Where every other American city had begun as a territorial outpost and developed naturally over time, San Francisco erupted full grown from the brow of its peninsula as soon as Sam Brannan’s cry “Gold on the American River” echoed from Portsmouth Square to the United States, Australia, Chile, China, and the European continent.

I have seen a documentary on the History channel about construction in Dubai, and I have heard travel and engineering enthusiasts marvel at the scale and complexity of the projects undertaken there, and I have marveled at the audacity of the tiny Emirate in using the wealth gained from the sale of its mineral resources to challenge both the sea (by building islands in the shape of palm trees and a map of the world) and the sky (by building some of the tallest buildings in the world).

I now realize that San Francisco in the 19th century was exactly what Dubai is in the 21st: San Francisco used the wealth of its economy, which came from the gold under the Sierras, to pull down a range of hills that once stretched along the Market Street corridor and to fill in much of the bay. Although San Francisco’s development was haphazard and ad hoc, it was no less audacious that Dubai’s. Just consider the streets, laid out in two grids, one north of market and one south, that ignore completely the topography of the underlying land. As a result, streets come to abrupt ends in hillsides or atop cliffs, or become stairways or tunnels.

This refusal to take the natural environment into account in building the city reflects the long-standing Western view of nature as something to be tamed, regularized, and re-directed. (In Shakespeare’s words “To husband nature’s riches from expense”.) Today San Franciscans hold quite the opposite view of nature, as evidenced by the enthusiasm for restoring the bay and its natural wetlands, for setting aside vast acreages as parks and wilderness, and for reducing waste, including nothing going to landfill by 2020. (The city was 80% of the way to that goal by 2012.)

Still, it seems that in many ways San Francisco has become not “The City That Knows How” but “The City That Doesn’t Have A Clue”. The examples abound. When I lived on Clipper Street in Noe Valley, crews came by to tear up the street to replace sewer pipes, then to repave and repaint the street. Within a few months, crews came by again to rip up the street to put the utility lines underground, then to repave and repaint the street. After the Loma Prieta quake necessitated the removal of the part of the Central Freeway that stretched up past the Civic Center and joined Franklin and Gough, the routing of the replacement plan appeared on the ballot three times before construction could begin. And now the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge, the construction of which was necessitated by the same earthquake, faces an uncertain future after hundreds of bolts have been found to be faulty.

The original Bay Bridge was built in three years and five months; the Golden Gate Bridge in four years and four months. So far, twenty-four years have passed since the Loma Prieta earthquake. And the roadway itself has been manufactured in China and floated across the entire Pacific Ocean to be lifted into place by cranes also floated over from China.

What happened? In part, I think, the “greening of America”, i.e., the refusal of Americans to accept poisonous air and poisoned water as a necessary cost of manufacturing resulted in manufacturing moving to countries (e.g., China) were environmental regulations are lax. In other words, the same shift in the zeitgeist that one sees when comparing the 19th-century street grids and the 21st-century zero-waste policies of San Francisco meant the loss of our manufacturing and skilled construction labor forces.

A few weeks back, I boarded a streetcar on the F line, traveling up Market Street to Eureka Valley. At both ends of the car were sections of open-air seating, which reminded me of the similarly open ends of the city’s famous cable cars. And the interior of the enclosed section of the car seemed much roomier that the interiors of other streetcars I have ridden. (This streetcar line runs cars from cities around the United States and from foreign cities such as Milan.) A sign posted inside the car identified it as one manufactured for the San Francisco Municipal Railway in 1912, one year after my father’s birth and one year before my mother’s.

I soon realized that the sense of space came from the fact that the seating in this section consisted of a bench along each side of the car instead of benches arranged facing forward and backward and extending into the center from each side. There were probably fewer seats, but the result was a spacious and comfortable place to stand. Where the other cars -- and all the streetcars, buses, and BART trains being made today -- provide more seating for the lucky few who board before the vehicle has made enough stops to have become crowded, this San Franciscan car of 1912 provided a capacious and egalitarian room for a population of equals, with provision along the sides for the aged or infirm.

I imagined the car full of businessmen in suits and ties and hats, women in dresses and white gloves and hats, all happily riding the Municipal Railway into a bright and better future. For a moment I thought I saw my father among them, on his way from the office to the Ferry Building from whence he would embark for Oakland and the train home. San Francisco knew how in 1912.

And I think she knew how right up to World War Two and perhaps for a while after. When Treasure Island was built for the 1932 World’s Fair, it was intended to serve as San Francisco International Airport after the fair was over. What a glorious arrival for travelers that would have been, gliding in over the beautiful mountains of the Coastal Range and settling down in the midst of the sparkling bay, the towers of the alabaster city rising from the water’s edge to the west.

The San Francisco that was, and the San Francisco that might have been, were casualties, it seems to me, of World War Two and of the Pax Americana that followed. Today the city reminds me of a gated community for the very rich -- except that instead of gates there are bridges (or the tube under the bay) that charge tolls for entry to the sparkling but relatively unproductive town. Or it reminds me of a resort, full of tourists and fun destinations, its working class reduced to janitorial and menial jobs that pay only the minimum-wage, the blue-collar jobs that supported the middle class being long gone.

No longer a wonder of modernity, no longer the financial and cultural capital of the western United States, perhaps San Francisco is living her life backwards, like me.