Tag Archives: WPrightnow

A Christmas Shopping Experiment.

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Good Evening:

So there I stood in the middle of what must rank among one of America’s largest shopping malls, waiting for the Mother Unit, Sister Unit, and Niece Unit to finish shopping for presents and feeling most relieved that I had finished last week, when an idea for an experiment struck my misanthropic mind: how many people will walk past me smiling by the time my family walks out of the store?

The mall was jammed, I mean big-time jammed, so within a minute maybe 150-200 shoppers had passed me when the family joined me.

Only one person had smiled, a young woman carrying an infant daughter and cooing at her.

That was slightly more than I expected.

You see, I had noticed that everyone seemed miserable, even the ones telling their fellow shoppers they had found the perfect gift. And few people spoke to anyone. Most had down-cast faces, vacant stares, exhausted postures, but perhaps you already know how they appeared to me; rather like Munch’s famous figure in The Scream, except too tired to do even that.

This is “the most wonderful time of the year?”

No one looked successful, cheerful or happy, even the one who might have enjoyed great success finding presents judging from the loads they carried.

I wonder if malls do that to people. I did most of my shopping in the Upper Haight last weekend and my fellow shoppers looked much more cheerful. Perhaps the nature of the stores did something to folks in the mall. Every single store was a franchise, even the spa, while the Haight still has a fair number of one-store businesses or whatever the technical term might be. Perhaps the combination of an enormous mall with nothing but franchises affects people, alienates them. Now this is rank speculation (and the rankest sort of rank speculation), but what if those poor folks in the mall felt, for lack of a better word–processed?

You know, not like people. Processed.

Have a great holiday everyone and *please,* for your own sake–smile.

Vonn Scott Bair

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Under the Overpass, 19 December 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering)

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Good Afternoon:

San Francisco has gotten hit with a huge El Nino in recent days, one downpour after another, with only slight respites of light drizzle and the occasional sunshine. At the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where I work, we go around with sheepish grins and tell each other, “This weather is terrible! Isn’t it wonderful!” Whilst it remains unlikely that a single wet winter will completely undo the drought, most San Franciscans feel a bizarre combination of irritation and delight.

Not so much our homeless population.

Finding any means of protection however slight against the elements becomes more difficult in weather like this. For this reason, large numbers of homeless have sought refuge under the overpass along 13th Street in the South of Market neighborhood. I would guess that the number of improvised shelters have quadrupled. Any amount of protection will do, but some pieces of real estate have more value than others:

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Even these lucky ones cannot completely avoid the wet.

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Others make do with partial protection.

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Some might not have even that much.

Hell Ride Crew, 11th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015

Hell Ride Crew, 13th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Worst of all, no matter how well meaning, any and all attempts at solutions seem to consist of and/or end in shouting, blame and lawsuits. Anyone can see that San Francisco’s recent prominence in the national consciousness results from the fact the income gap here absolutely dwarfs the income gap nationally, and one nightmare scenario consists of America turning into a middle-class-free version of San Francisco, containing the few extremely rich and the many extremely poor. I took that quick and easy quiz in the previous link and discovered that nationally my income was slightly above average and places me in the 57th percentile, an excellent result when you have all of The Good Zeroes: zero kids, zero cars, zero drugs, zero mortgage, zero debt.

However, by San Francisco standards my income fit in the 38th percentile. Lower middle class.

Well, I have defenses, but most people don’t.

So whatever you see in these pictures, wherever you live, it can happen there.

The wind and rain in my neighborhood have just take a turn for the heavier.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Franciscans on a Saturday Shopping Afternoon (Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy)

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Good Afternoon:

Spied and espied San Franciscans shopping and enjoying the storm-free Saturday yesterday. Using the old 30 Shot technique, collected over 120 candids, and because I had a comparatively good day, only discarded about 80% of them. Presenting some of the more interesting ones, some edited, some left as is.

I have not seen this street preacher before.

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This person did not beg, did not communicate, in fact, did not do anything. Just stared straight ahead.

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Just like last year, the City turned a few blocks of Stockton Street into an instant park. Somehow, in the midst of all the holiday shopping, this person found herself a quiet space.

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Time with the granddaughter–also known as an early Christmas present.

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He looks tuckered out. Probably waiting for the rest of the family to finish their shopping.

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Santa Little Helpers, and why Santa need them. She can’t stay upright without them.

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I saw a balloon vendor at Powell and Geary who did very well yesterday. The parents seem to wonder how long this present will last.

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Also wandered around the SOMA (South Of MArket) neighborhood to do some errands. Presenting perhaps the least holiday-ish looking building in San Francisco:

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While photographing some of the city’s latest murals, I blundered into a sort of costume party at Harrison near 8th Street. Not a huge fan of electronica, so I only grabbed a few snaps before continuing on my way. As you can, a few of the partygoers are into the “furry” subculture.

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Today, I will make a quick trip to a farmers market and stay home prepping lunches for the week and experimenting with a few new recipes. What can I say? That’s how I relax.

Vonn Scott Bair

8th & Harrison, San Francisco, CA. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition)

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Good Afternoon:

The old bus depot at 8th & Harrison in San Francisco as it appeared on 1 December 2012. An open space so vast that these pictures fail to capture the acreage of asphalt.

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8th & Harrison as it appeared yesterday, 27 November 2015.

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Quite a transition, isn’t it?

At least four apartment buildings or condos will rise on the old lot, but that might represent an undercount as the lot was surrounded by a chainlink fence with locks everywhere. If any major city in the United States is transitioning as fast as my home town, I would feel extremely surprised indeed.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Surreal Is That Which Lies At Your Feet, 27 November 2015.

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Good Evening:

Did not coin that phrase, but still cannot find the person who did.

Anyway, over the past few weeks someone has done a lot of this San Francisco.

Haight Street Between Masonic & Ashbury, 3:02 pm., 27 November 2015.

Haight Street Between Masonic & Ashbury, 3:02 pm., 27 November 2015.

No one knows who has done this or why. The presence of the spike through the bat technically makes this a prohibited lethal weapon. See http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Spiked-baseball-bats-left-around-SF-6661160.php for more details. So far, about 30 have been reported in various neighborhoods, so someone definitely wants to make some sort of statement. Possibly political, but until we receive some sort of communication…shrug.

Vonn Scott Bair

Construction Cranes on Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio)

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Good Afternoon:

Whilst awaiting the bird and other goodies.

Construction Cranes on Van Ness as Seen from SFPUC Headquarters, 25 November 2015.

Construction Cranes on Van Ness as Seen from SFPUC Headquarters, 25 November 2015.

These three cranes have graced the northern San Francisco skyline for several months, and just happened to arrange themselves in a reasonably aesthetic fashion on Wednesday afternoon. You can see the construction project of the nearest one (that grid of maroon). The current thinking in San Francisco has rejected the earlier belief that our next big bust in this big-boom-and-big bust-city would have begun by now. That clearly ain’t gonna happen, as one of the wildest booms in city history keeps on coming. Some of the recent startups that benefitted from ridiculous IPOs have struggled, which has people who lived here in 2000-2001 feeling a tad nervous (and I still have no idea how a certain famous Market Street denizen’s financial plan can work in the long run), but it appears that the wild ride will continue for another year or two. Of course, I’ve been wildly wrong before, and will probably be wildly wrong again. Frequently.

Vonn Scott Bair

I’m Rich! I’m Wealthy! I’m an American Playwright!

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Good Evening:

I received an email this weekend from the Helen-Jean Play Contest, to which I had submitted a one-act play:

Congratulations, your submission “The Land of Hope and Dreams”, has won first prize in our contest.  Your will receive a nominal check and a certificate in the mail shortly.

Yes! Not my first win in a competition by any means, but quite welcome all the same! Now the theater company involved will not actually produce LOHAD, as I call it, but they will send me $50.00. So I have fifty bucks!

Ah, not quite. The reading fee for this particular competition equalled five dollars. So I have forty-five bucks!

Ah, not quite. I promptly purchased $40.17 worth of underwear. So I now have $4.83!

Ah, not quite. At a theater event on Saturday night, I spend $3.00 dollars on a soda.

So I now have $1.83.

Which puts me approximately $1.83 ahead of 90% of every playwright in the United States of America for the year 2015.

But I still have $1.83. Not only that, I have a lot of clean new undies.

Perhaps that’s what really matters.

Vonn Scott Bair