I just got back from San Francisco.
It was great to see and meet some of the folks I’d not seen in a long time or even met yet, and for that I am thankful to have been to the conference I attended there.
I might or might not have also learned a great deal there too, but the jury is still out on that. (insert nervous laughter here)
Surviving the trip and returning to the south is also a rewarding feeling as I am developing a severe dislike of the American travel by airline experience as I age, and am prone to shutting down during the worst of times while enduring said travel.
All that out of the way, this article is about art and photographs. I took far fewer photographs with my trusty smart phone this time around than ever, which is both liberating from the perspective of just being in the moment, but also kind of a bummer in hindsight now that I look over what I was actually able to capture.
Here then, are a few different shots that I think represent my mindset in taking in the particularly nasty, brutish, and short experience of that area known as Union Square. While there is filth everywhere in sight, sound, and smell, there is a also a beauty of the struggle and in the simple artistic expression hidden all around the area as typified by the first photograph above.
Amidst the everyday consumption and tunnel visioned quests for greater prosperity going on in the city are of course, the numerous homeless people. They’re essentially lamp posts, hydrants, or excrement to most area “natives” and are to be stepped around or over as such.
They’re to be tuned out like so many advertisements and graffiti. Never mind that they too are human beings; they are different human beings, a sub-species unlike the rest of us upwardly mobile and privileged who fight to keep our shit together within the system so that we might have loved ones and a place to come home to at the end of each day.
The streets are cold and unforgiving, so a good drunken stupor and warm blanket are the coping mechanism needed by many unfortunate folks at the end of the night.
If like myself, you do not share the above cold and inhumane view of these persons, and on the contrary have even half a conscience, you can’t help but know a taste of Siddartha’s painful conflicted state by gazing upon those less fortunate in their most vulnerable condition.
Here is a more typical capture one expects to see from San Francisco; the famous F Line trolley that runs from The Embarcadero all the way to The Castro. Everyone who’s studied or been to San Francisco knows these iconic and charmingly antiquated modes of transportation.
They’re simultaneously bold and comforting in that they stand out from all the surrounding modernity while providing a perpetual shout out to how it used to be.
The early morning light present when I spotted her slowly creaking by on Market Street was nothing short of spectacular and this photograph barely even begins to convey what I saw that day.
The city’s collection of weight never fails to impress upon me; be it skyscrapers or smokestacks. One can be doing the most mundane of things, such as fetching a morning coffee and in turning around to face another direction, the city will reveal her various juxtaposed collections of mass.
Sheer size and weight counterpoised against our small selves and little lives is both disturbing and exciting. We built this spectacular city and in turn, the city builds into us an awe at every moment where the unexpected looms over any scene it seems to not belong in.
That’s the name of the game here, a paradox of plenty and of nothing — a balance of extremes that is constantly in motion and always on the horizon.
A homeless man stands out like an anti-ghost of the streets; not panhandling, not scrounging the sidewalk for cigarette butts, and not really interacting with anyone in particular.
He exists there in bold and blazing yellow, like a confused captain whose ship has recently run aground, appraising the situation of a new day and contemplating his survival. Or is he merely pondering on where he can score a new pair of shoes?
Seeing his bare feet, I could not help but be reminded that there was a pair of shoes lying on the sidewalk presumably without an owner just blocks away…