I read the news today. And that is not a coy attempt at plagiarizing the intro to some Beetles song. I don’t know how else to say that I read the news today other than say, “I read the news today.” This is a hallmark moment in my life because I have not read the news in over a week and have been feeling less distracted than usual. I always get worked up when I read the news, which is to say the journalists, whose articles I read, are doing their jobs. I tend to focus on local news [news that spans CA to the Pacific Northwest]. I have my own perception about how fucked up San Francisco has become, so reading about naked acrobats that sexually harass and terrorize “hardened” commuters that mostly “turn a blind eye” when sauntering past the naked man either chasing people or convulsing on the soiled floor enrages me. So two things would make sense:
1.) I avoid ever going into the city to keep from witnessing sincere insanity and being one of the few people that does something about it [which would of course put me at a higher risk of being stabbed / shot / punched / kicked / spat upon / screamed at / famous overnight on YouTube / the one that ends up getting arrested, not the actual “perpetrator”].
2.) I avoid the news entirely. There are plenty of things I should be reading instead. There are plenty of blank pages I need to fill.
And yet, I fall back on old routines and read the news. I read about things like the aforementioned circus people having breakdowns and shuffling about BART stations naked, barefoot, and pissing all over the place. I really should know better and exercise self-control. I don’t go into it thinking, “I cannot wait to work myself into a fit of hatred at only a fraction of what is actually going on in the world.” I go into hoping to become a better-informed citizen and resident. I peruse the pages hoping to discover that one of my longtime drinking pals has opened a new bar that is doing well and going viral because of well-written press releases. I read the local news hoping to be inspired and reminded of why I moved to SF. Like today though, I often finish the last sentence of a news story with gritted teeth, a racing pulse and a sincere hatred for the psychotic aspect [again, also a fractional aspect] of the city I “love to hate.” I then force myself to remember the not-so-news-worthy appeal of living in a place like SF. The pink sunsets that captivates and freezes onlookers with indescribable beauty, their mouths agape in wonder. The enriching social vibe of a local café where the employees know my name and the region of fair-trade coffee beans that I favor most. The libations. Oh, the libations infused with kumquats, fresh lime, a seared orange peel, vermouth, exotic boutique rye, muddled strawberries and a dash of chili spice. And better, the lovely mixologists that nurture the concoction and serve me with a drunken smile. I try to remind myself of the street wisdom I have procured over the years. Like that time I wandered the Tenderloin and a man asked me not to spare change but simply, “How’re things?”
“Good,” I replied. “I’m living. And you?”
“Ah, you know how it goes. Chicken one night, feathers the next.”
That man smiled at me revealing a row of missing teeth, the hollow spaces washed in the starkness of a fluttering streetlight making the whole scene a little too vivid. We both laughed though and I walked on feeling like I was part of something. Like this man and I, though it might not look like it on the surface, had something in common. A connection if you will. Such a simple little exchange; one I will always remember and cherish. That is what I adore about San Francisco. Not all of the frantic commuters that awkwardly huddle near the exits of overcrowded trains and then anxiously climb over one another to rudely disembark as the eco-friendly vessel screams to a halt. Not the man that robbed so many residents of their cell phones at gunpoint in the Lower Haight. Not the median price of homes that has recently exceeded 1 million dollars. Not rent inflation. Not the influx of startup companies and transplants scaling the towers upward like a hyper-reproduction of 1999. SF is a like a lung that inflates, and then exhales dramatically, sending the market in a new direction. And while I recognize that we too may reach a plateau that defines an era as the skyline casts a tumultuous shadow over a city that once belonged to the Beat Poets and protestors of war, I have to remember that it is not fair for me to get so upset over the few tragedies that I lose all hope and forget that I discovered my affinity for writing in the windowsills of 3 AM hovered over Leavenworth and the creatures that scuttled along the filthy curbs of a dingy and fog filled night.
Today though, I regret having clicked on a goddamned newsfeed. I’m sad about too many calamities, none of which surpass the sadness that everyone who has ever watched a Sopranos episode is feeling right now. Peace be with you, James Gandolfini.