My friend Daphne posted on fcbk recently about The State of Things in San Francisco, ending with the question “How do we go home somewhere else?” And, well, this is what I had to say.
(Also: I go back on fcbk for a couple hours to do some bizness & I actually find something I care about? Whodathunk?)
Prefacing this by saying that my perspective on all of this is fairly unique, because I am one of those increasingly rare birds who actually grew up & came of age in San Francisco. I was born & raised in what was then working-class South Bay suburbia, lived in my Nana’s house &/or in various shitty rentals with my folks till I was 8, and then my dad got a job “in the city!” and we moved to the Lakeview/Ingleside in 1991. My parents bought their house, which they are still in & still paying the mortgage on, at a time when working-class and lower-middle-class people could actually afford to buy houses in SF. Which I am sure sounds absolutely ABSURD to anyone who isn’t from here, but, well, that used to be a thing that happened here.
Any way. I’m still here, and as long as I can hold out & stay, I am holding out & staying. This is home for me for many reasons, most of which have to do with history, family of origin (as complicated & estranged as some of those relationships are for me now), and queer and pervert and sex worker family of choice. And even staring down the very frightening barrel of unemployment in a rapidly-gentrifying city right now: I am hard-pressed to leave. I have spent a lot of time over this last year grieving what San Francisco has become. And. I still have a lot of hope — maybe it’s stupid, maybe it’s stubborn, but for whatever it’s worth, it’s there — in what San Francisco once was, in the places where it is STILL amazing and generous and lovely (because there are still pockets of good here), and in what SF still has the potential & possibility to be.
And quite frankly: I don’t feel like I *CAN* go home somewhere else. I mean, sure, yeah, I could move somewhere else, but nowhere else would make my heart sing like this place does. As much as I’m bitter & ragey about what SF has become, leaving would be abandoning the life here that I have worked very, very hard to build, would be waving a white flag & admitting defeat. And I’m just not ready to let the fucking aristocracy win.
See also: I am blessed with cheap rent & RENT CONTROL. If I didn’t have the magically cheap apartment that I have right now, there is just no way in hell that I’d be able to stay. I live with fairly low-grade but also fairly constant anxiety about getting evicted at some point down the line, which is no fun. But again: As long as I can hold out, I’m holding out.
The Chinese take-out that you treat yourself to after 3 weeks solid of Freezer Split Pea/Carrot/Yam Soup and Freezer Mostacciol’ and Free Box Pastry might, in fact, be the best fucking Chinese food in the world.
I am having a lot of “Jesus Christ, what the fuck is happening to my city?” moments lately.
I say “my city” because I am one of those rare birds who grew up in San Francisco. I feel very protective & possessive of this place (sometimes absurdly so, I know). And I can afford to stay here now, pretty much because sweet sweet rent control. I’m grateful & glad I’m still here. But don’t think I don’t know how fucking precarious my position is, and don’t think I’m not ragey about what the city is becoming.
At least Props B & C didn’t pass. Thank god.
One of the perks of working at St. James is a fair amount of free food around the office for the taking. Thus, I had caprese sandwiches and bread pudding for my writing group last night, and I am having some kind of magical bacon, caramelized onion, and garlic morning bun (like, WHAT?) for breakfast this morning (also blackberries & coffee, which did not come from werk).
I am really broke right now, but I’ve hit the cut off point where I make too much to qualify for EBT (by, like, $10? >.<). So I have basically been living off a giant vat of mostaccioli and a giant vat of split pea/sweet potato/carrot soup since I got back from Pdx. The wonders of learning to cook from a grandmother with 12 siblings + the wonders of the The Freezer. They are very good! And also nutritious! And there is a LOT of both of them! But only having two meals as my current staples while I wait for a check is making me esp. appreciative of variety right now.
Also, I am remembering the childhood months of Endless Polenta when things were bad. Relatedly, when people try to fancy up polenta and, like, sell it for $15/plate at restaurants, I fucking HOWL. It is such Broke Paisano food. It took me a really long time to be able to eat polenta as an adult because I pretty much overdosed on it as a kid.
A friend of mine said to me this weekend (this is not exactly verbatim, but it is close enough): “For someone with as sharp a political analysis as you have about, like, everything, you’re not very good at applying that analysis to your own struggles, and you’re esp. not good at it when it comes to class and money. You see being broke and stuggling as a way that you are personally failing at life and adulthood. Is that how you’d talk to a friend? Is that how you’d think about a friend?”
Me: “No, of course not! My friends who are struggling financially aren’t fucked-up or bad or stupid or lazy, they bust ass to survive and it’s the system!”
[Long-ass dramatic pause]
(And, for the record, as much as I talk about class, I have huge heavy deep amounts of shame about admitting when I am personally struggling, because, well, see above. Posting this here is really scary for me. But it also feels like one of those things that it is important to say out loud.)
Tonight on BART, I was coming home from a going-away party for a beloved friend. She is another cripple femme with working-class Catholic roots, which actually feels germane to this story…
An old lady who walked with a cane came and sat down next to me at the BART platform. She had to be at least in her mid-70s. She started chatting with me about my pink Doc Martens with the white lace detailing. “Oh, I really like them!” she said. “They’re just so cute, you have great style!”
She was wearing electric blue Adidas. She talked about her bad knee, and how she has trouble finding cute shoes that are also comfortable. I didn’t mention any of my own disability or chronic pain stuff, but I said my boots were very comfortable. “I like bright colors!” she said, and I said “Me too! I mean, obviously, I guess…” Then she went on to say “I have a pair of turquoise Nikes, and some other sneakers that are a little brighter pink than your boots… Where did you get your boots, you said they’re Doc Martens? Do they have a store?”
I suppressed a giggle.
"They do have a store, but I found these online for a lot cheaper than I would have gotten them in the store. They’re also worth investing in because they last a long time. I’ve had these boots for five years."
Then she started talking about a pair of boots she bought at Kohl’s, and how she’s found a lot of her sneakers at Kohl’s and how they have a senior discount on Wednesdays.
"I should take my grandmother…" I said.
And she said “Y’know, I have a friend who takes her daughter on Wednesdays. You should take your grandmother and use her senior discount for yourself!”
That time I didn’t suppress my giggle.
We smiled and waved good-bye to each other when I got on my train. I wish I’d asked her name.
"Although working-class women held jobs outside the home long before second wave feminism, and organized for better conditions alongside their male peers, liberal feminism’s celebration of the “working woman” provided a moral façade to give value to women’s waged labor, no matter its flaws. “Endowing their daily struggles with an ethical meaning,” Fraser writes, “the feminist romance attracts women at both ends of the social spectrum.” Contemporary pop feminism encourages women in the boardroom and in low-level jobs to see their work as a facet of their independence. What is “leaning in” but an exhortation to see labor as liberation?"
— Madeleine Schwartz, “Kicking Back, not Leaning In" (Dissent)
A quick & important Girl Talk note: It is very important to us that our show be financially accessible to EVERYONE who wants to come. This is a justice issue and a class issue, and it is something we take very seriously. We *always* set aside No One Turned Away For Lack Of Funds seats, every year (even when the pay tickets are selling like hotcakes online, as they tend to do).
If you are someone who has been staying away from Girl Talk due to finances, please don’t worry about it. Just email us at <email@example.com> saying you need a NOTAFLOF ticket, and we will add you to our NOTAFLOF seat list. We love you, and we want you in the audience. Please come! :)
(x-posted from my facebook & the Girl Talk facebook invite)