Does Silicon Pave Over Gold? Part Two

OLDSANFRAN09

Day 2

The morning of Sunday, February 22nd began with Kate and myself around 7 AM, waking up in our cozy double-mattress at Green Tortoise Hostel, and a somewhat rude awakening of club music outside, coming from the club across the street. It had been thumping until closing hours but resumed thumping at legal opening hours—as if the club turned down the music and stayed up on coke until 6 AM. Our non-partying butts were up early, ready for breakfast. We would have a long day of walking ahead of us.

Downstairs, we pounced on the bottomless pot of coffee in the kitchen and learned the ropes. Here at the hostel, you have unlimited access to the kitchen and its tools, but you must clean your own mess, bus your own tables, and police your own consumption. Bagels, cereal, oats, fruits, cheese and butter were spread out on the large table in the dining room. There were eggs and vegetables in the “free fridge” as well. I think I had four cups of coffee in all, a small omelet, bagels, oats, and fruit, over the course of 1-2 hours. We jumped on the wifi and went about our laptop business.

There is something comforting to me about the dormitory atmosphere, and in general, I would prefer it to full-service. It is helpful that the option is cheaper, being complimentary with the room, but even so, it is preferable to my disposition.

Green Tortoise Front Desk. Note the Signal of Distress.

Green Tortoise Front Desk. Note the Signal of Distress.

Preparing for an 11:00 AM check-out, we decided to get ourselves totally ready for a long walk with the goal of seeing the John Coltrane Church and everything else in between. A complimentary sauna was tempting and we used it. At the fourth floor, the wood-paneled dry sauna room has a pretty good view of Broadway. After a good sweat in the nude before a nice shower, a change of clothes, we checked out on time, leaving our bags in one of their two dollar lockers for the rest of the day.

I needed sunglasses and I wanted to take advantage of the cheap produce. Chinatown in San Francisco is the only place I know where I can obtain goji berries for eight bucks a pound and avocados for thirty cents a piece. After getting through the shopping, we headed up Nob Hill. I wonder where that term comes from, because it is standard for most cities to have some kind of Nob Hill. In Portland, it stretches NW 21st Street from middle-class apartments to the millionaires homes. I would bet that San Francisco’s Nob Hill de-gentrified over the decades, just like Portland’s. This is something seldom discussed: when rich areas turn to poor areas. I got the impression however that it was reversing back to a rich area—just like in Portland. And I still wondered to myself, “Is this why we call uptight people ‘nobs’?”

Somewhere around the top of the hill, I thought it would be a good idea for us to nibble on a medicated chocolate that I just happened to bring. We zig-zagged our way to Post Street and continued to Japantown. It appears well lived-in here, doesn’t seem overpopulated, and the properties appear to be spared from overwhelming redevelopment. Lots of old developments remained. It is an area I could imagine living in. There are corner delis with $5 meals, liquor stores, markets: all very basic commerce for an affordable area. We didn’t realize it, but we were just at the edge of the Tenderloin district, a resident of which we would soon be chatting with, at the end of our walk.

Polk Street had a bit of life about it and promised some good spots to eat as our bellies were empty. But I forgot my hunger momentarily as one turn suddenly locked me in memories. The Hemlock Tavern is there on Polk St.; a music venue where I had performed at 11 years prior, as part of Danava, and again with Imra in 2009 and 2010. I took a view moments to take the place in, remembered loading our band equipment in through the side door years ago. I inspected the doors, it wasn’t open as it was still early in the day. There was a taqueria up the street, so we headed that way. While chowing on a veggie burrito served wet (seven bucks), I remarked to Kate, “I feel strange.” She said, “you’re high.” Immediately the cannabis kicked in and I was totally going through that vibe.

Pretty soon, along the walk on Sutter Street, Kate started feeling it too. She had only taken a small nibble but she is not so much of a THC user, so I realized immediately. It quite honestly felt like all the body-high and giddiness of mushrooms, but no hallucinations. It was fun. And what a perfect place to be walking around—well actually I’d rather have been in Golden Gate Park—on cloud nine.

Several blocks up and downhill plus fits of laughter later, we were in Japantown. It is so much different than Chinatown. One great reason is that the Chinese were not relocated to concentration camps, didn’t have their property stolen by American forces, or their livelihoods taken from them. Chinatown had the opportunity to maintain its way. There is another reason. Japanese folks think of themselves much higher (this is a fair generalization of cultural attitudes) than Chinese, so you see the marks of a full middle-class environment here, only with Japanese-style architecture, restaurants, and shops. The post-war relationship with Japan led to a great deal of westernization for them. The wealth is evident in Japantown.

We were actually struggling all day to find a decent cup of coffee and still could not there. Kate rejected one of the corner shops much earlier, so now our caffeine addiction was roaring at us. In Portland, you assume an organic coffee option will pop up in a couple of blocks, because it will. It is a cliche of our city that I always miss when traveling.

Onward to Fillmore Street, where I could hopefully see the John Coltrane Church. We satiated our coffee cravings in a generic cafe not worth mentioning. The neighborhood was vacuous and dead. The buildings were new. New offices, new condos, apartments, shops, but nothing of great interest, and it felt sapped of any community vibe. Poor African-Americans huddled on the bridge between Japantown and Fillmore, some in wheelchairs and blankets. Skittish women jogged or walked their dogs. New cars drove with air conditioning down Fillmore Street. The district started the long march of gentrification in the 1960’s, around the time that Bill Graham made an historic name for the auditorium, featuring so many of the now-classic rock bands of the era. By 1968, he moved his operation elsewhere.

John Coltrane Church was a fool’s errand because I was only hoping it would be open for tourists, having missed the afternoon sermon by a long shot. Once there, I realized that the only reason to visit the place would be for that morning sermon, which is the whole experience. It was closed altogether—bummer.

Historic Poster of Lenny Bruce's Final Performance

Historic Poster of Lenny Bruce’s Final Performance

So was Fillmore Auditorium. Closed. But we talked with a chap who worked there and was sitting outside, locked behind a gate, at a fire exit. Turned out he lives in the suburbs and commutes via BART from deep East Bay. It foreshadowed our forthcoming journey to Oakland. Fillmore Auditorium is also a Lenny Bruce site of interest for me. It was the location of his final performance, his opening act was The Mothers of Invention, June 24-25, 1966. The guy said that he loves that show poster, it’s one of his favorites inside. I regret not begging to see it up close.

We continued on our way, walking up to Lafayette Park, rather aimlessly in the thick of upper-middle class homes. This is the area where a 3-bedroom townhouse would go for million bucks. All around us, mostly white people enjoying their Sunday afternoon with very few cares. I could only imagine a black family from Fillmore trying to hold a jovial barbecue up there. Nope, this is where you must speak softly, read books, drink coffee, walk small dogs and pick up their poop. The view is quite lovely and shouldn’t belong to a personality-type.

Sadly, I had promised Kate that we’d see Golden Gate Bridge from there—she had never seen it—but I was wrong. We could see the Bay Bridge, but despite its engineering magnificence, it seemed she was reserving her full enthusiasm for the Golden Gate Bridge.

I found myself bugged that approachable locals were hard to come by all day. Kate observed that the rich neighborhoods felt empty, remarking, “where are these people?” I was muttering to myself about the idea of needs. When you get down to it, the wealthy have a lot of cash to experiment with needs, but ultimately, you can only discover that we have universal needs and really they are not that different. Luxuries become needs when all the real needs have already been met. Once you have the house, the car, the vacations, and the money continues to mount, you need a boat, you need a newer car, you need to visit Paris to eat at a restaurant you just read about. The vast population struggles to obtain a car or an apartment. It is so clear in the mind when you walk through San Francisco, coming down from cannabis chocolates.

A lucky economic trickle-down effect happened at the historic cable car. Alarmed at the six dollar price to ride one way on this old jalopy, a traveling couple handed us MUNI passes good through the 24th, our last day of travel. They were leaving that night! Amazing, and we were tired, happy to rest our feet and drop back down in Chinatown. We felt like a drink, but wanted a good place, or at least a cheap happy hour. At first, walking into Buddha Lounge, we were excited by its neon sign, but it was a dive and not much fun. We politely bowed out. Then, around the corner was a full street band. A stack of business cards in their possession were for Grant Palace Restaurant, at 737 Washington Street.

Within an instant, we were absconded by a charming 66 year-old Australian fellow who took interest in my audio recording equipment. I asked if he would be interviewed, since it turned out, low and behold, he was a local! He declined but continued talking for fifteen minutes. So I pressed record on him anyway.

He lives in Tenderloin with a dodgy studio apartment for $390 a month—rent to go up to $410—with standard rent control for the last ten years. He stressed the drug problem in his area, painting this image of going to and coming from home with sprawled out junkies at his doorway and grandmas selling their own prescription pills on the street. He quickly ended up on a tangent about the crack epidemic of the 80’s and discussed the worst drug habits he’s heard about, like a junkie who ended up in the hospital, having run out of places to inject the stuff, he finally went straight to the balls.

Machinery at the Cable Car Museum

Machinery at the Cable Car Museum

He was curious about the transit in Portland and expounded upon the awesome machinery of San Francisco’s cable car system, America’s only moving historic monument. He aspired to revive a voice-over career and perhaps leave San Francisco some day, having moved there from New York with similar hopes then. He’s a nice, youthful guy and I wonder what will become of him.

In search of that happy hour in North Beach, we quickly settled on a place called Tope, on Grant Ave. We picked it for the nice window seat available, but otherwise, it was just another place with happy hour specials. It was empty. Predictable music filled the emptiness. In retrospect, a drink at The Saloon, San Francisco’s oldest tavern, would have been much more memorable. Perhaps we wanted something more chill, because that place was rowdy with old hippies.

That was about it before our trek to Oakland. The sun was setting and our hosts would be available to meet us soon. We grabbed our bags from Green Tortoise and started out for the BART Station at Montgomery Street and Market.

We had more strange luck with transportation. While exiting the subway car in Oakland, Kate dropped her pass. The system runs on these flimsy credit cards and every stop has a unique cost, deducted from your credit, and your balance is displayed to you when leaving a station. Kate dropped hers, somewhere on or near the train car. We turned around and recovered it, on the ground, on our path. Only, the balance was at least ten bucks higher. Honest mistake or act of God? You decide.

We had to walk about half a mile to get to Judy Fleming and Morgan Yang’s house. Judy, myself, and Kate, each have Portland State University in common—only I dropped out before reaching Alumni. She studied Arts Practices and continues to produce fine ceramics. Her heart and studies are close to the innovative Art and Social Practice program at PSU. Partner, Morgan Yang, is a martial artist (Capoeira) and business owner. His new company, PRSTG (Prestige), has been catching on. On the front cover of their website, you will see sneakers ranging from $200-$3,850. His clientele includes local professional athletes, and probably, tech wizards. They have 14.5k followers on Instagram. There’s a lot of love for sneakers going around. I’m not all about sneakers, but I respect their success and look up to anyone who risks what they have—or don’t have—on a dream.

Both of them moved to Oakland about three years ago. Judy has family in San Francisco, but Morgan had friends and a dream. Neither of them can truly speak about the process of change or gentrification in Oakland, but they are aware of that and their own contribution as transplants. Neither of them are any tremendous force in that regard, seeking a humble lifestyle.

House of Curries Food Image via Yelp

House of Curries Food Image via Yelp

We arrived at Judy and Morgan’s later in the evening having not eaten dinner. Morgan was still at work so the three of us decided on a late meal at a Pakistani-Indian restaurant just around the corner, called House of Curries, that Judy hadn’t been to yet. Prices were reasonable, each around $10 or less, but the service was a little confusing. I think the best thing to do here is relax with a group of friends, grab a cup of their complimentary chai tea, and try not to think about how hungry you may or may not be. It is spiritual. Just chill, dude. You’ll need your extra attention to figure out the menu. Here is my hint to you: none of the dishes include rice or naan. So get that on the side. Once the server has casually taken your order, have some more chai, because it might take a minute. When it arrives, the helpings will definitely fill you. All of it was delicious, other than Judy’s. Kate and I could not decide if they seared the food for flavor, like blackening it, or if the bitter vegetable and carcinogenic taste was a mistake. But Judy didn’t fuss. I ended up eating the leftovers the next day. Their naan, anyway, was some of the best I ever had.

After dinner, we pretty much needed to pass out. We were kind of holding ourselves up for dinner, and hadn’t eaten since burritos, and happy hour didn’t include food. Strangely, many bars do not sell food. We slept comfortably at their place, accommodations which provided more that we could ask for: guest room with a private bathroom and a fourth floor balcony overlooking Lake Merritt. Their rooftop back patio provides a view of Oakland’s downtown skyline. Sorry readers, but it is not some AirBnB special, this is just knowing good people, whose “sharing economy” earns a form of currency infinitely more valuable. And the apartment is not extravagant, it is a pretty standard 2-bedroom. They live minimally, and in fact were still unpacking from a recent move-in.

DAY 3

In the morning, we grabbed coffee at Room 389 with Morgan. He recommended their special blend, something infused with special ingredients that Kate describes as “creamy and sweet, pleasantly spiced.” At 3pm, the place converts into a night club. The space is rather deep, giving it a public house-meets-cocktail lounge appeal. Every night they have live music or DJ’s. The next night there, we came for the last two songs of Zincalo Trio. If I had known about the performance, there would be a special audio/video recording right here, now.

Our only full day on the East Bay was spent, again, walking very long routes. I cherished the old-time downtown juxtaposed with all the last decade’s new developments. It still has ancient Paramount and Fox Theaters. Oakland is a good example of reverse-gentrification that swung back the other way with the internet boom, since the late 90’s.

We needed to board the BART from Oakland to Berkeley, but first, to find a bathroom. There seems to be no ordinance for restaurants to keep bathrooms. A shopping center embedded in a corporate center was literally void of bathrooms. I found myself yelling in anger that unless you were employed, you were not permitted to exist, or at least urinate in Oakland. Because if I let loose anywhere, then I’d be arrested. Eventually, we found a cafe that shared a bathroom with a restaurant. Unbelievable. But we made it, we boarded our train to Berkeley, empty.

From the downtown stop, we scoped out the UC Berkeley campus as it connects to Telegraph. Our primary mission was to find some good deals at Amoeba Music and Rasputin Music. Our search was about 50% fruitful. We could not find anything from Dawn of Midi or Portico Quartet. We found one Portico CD, but no vinyl, and it wasn’t a good deal. But, we did find Our Love by Caribou at a good price, as well 180 gram reissues of Eternity, by Alice Coltrane and Universe in Blue, by Sun Ra, for about $11 each. This much, I was very pleased with. But I found that the overall experience was vacant of the excitement I felt ten years ago, shopping in that very same store. This goes for anything other than small, esoteric hipster record stores, these days. The excitement is gone. But of course, I take note that their presentation hasn’t changed in fifteen years. Record stores are closing for business everywhere and these places are noticeably poorly stocked and their clientele is thinning out, despite a burgeoning population. Record stores and the music industry are stalling change. It might be one of my loftiest goals to propose a complete redesign of the record store experience and cause a swell of new vinyl sales from it.

Before turning back to Oakland, we stumbled across the Berkeley Community Theater, where Lenny Bruce performed his final masterpiece. The album was released posthumously, produced by Frank Zappa. It is a truly dangerous performance, because he gives insight about the legal and political system in a way that empowers the individual with knowledge. The historic theater was locked up. It is actually a school campus. We sneaked inside but quickly left. Again, I should have asked the janitor to let us see the place. I need real journalist credentials. A few blocks away, our BART line would take us back to downtown Oakland.

Just blocks from the no-pee zone, we discovered very poor neighborhoods indeed, specifically, Chinatown connecting all the way through Merritt. It reminded me a lot of so many inner-Los Angeles neighborhoods, only with more vegetation, more trees. We took the long and winding hills up toward Adam’s Point, where the guest room awaited our tired bones. We walked around the entire man-made lake. We stopped at a Trader Joes with the longest line I have ever seen in a grocery store. I asked the cashier how much the average customer spends, she said $70, and easily sees one hundred customers in one shift. It struck me how that adds up, both in costs of operation and profit. She would not disclose her wage, but said she had been living in Oakland all her life and loves it.

The night was spent inside, snacking and drinking moderately. We talked, learned more about each other. It was a nice, relaxing evening.

Day 4

Relatively early that morning, Morgan drove us to the BART Station and we wished each other well. The subway ride brought us to the same Montgomery Street station as before. This time, we had to carry our bags for the rest of the day. We had those MUNI passes, so it wasn’t terrible, but it was still awful on our back and shoulders.

Back in San Francisco on our last day, I interviewed Randy Kikukawa for the podcast. We met him at Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street downtown. You can hear that below. His arguments reminded me that I was focusing entirely on disparity and gentrification, rather than opportunity and growth. While his arguments gave shade to my more black and white views, I was not entirely convinced of his positions, and after the talk, he explained that he wasn’t necessarily either, but was trying to process the discussion from both sides. He is socially liberal but has a unique set of economic solutions and knowledge about what is happening today. I encourage you to listen.

After the talk, we just needed to give Kate a glimpse of important landmarks, like real tourists. First came Haight-Ashbury. I was disappointed. I didn’t see a single street kid. There were some smoke shops left and a few decent cafe’s, but commerce and property values wiped out the whole hippy culture—other than some campy signs and awnings. We passed a Real Estate office with humble homes for almost $900,000.

From there, we took it to the Marina District, where we would be guaranteed a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We absorbed the districts from the bus, watching for every nuance that made their character. I loved walking the old Route 101 with its motor hotels and diners. The whole area is quite rich. Kate and I had the same reaction when this young father pushing an aerodynamic double-stroller with two well-dressed baby girls, himself outfitted in a Gor-Tex Patagonia vest and sports watch: we looked at each other with a smirk and laughed. “I think $10,000 just walked past us,” I joked.

This epic story of going to Golden Gate bridge essentially ends there, in the marina, staring at the bridge from about a quarter mile away. So close, yet so far; we had to catch a bus to catch the BART to catch a flight that departs in just a few hours, no time to get closer. We left the marina on foot, passing through the Palace of Fine Arts from the outside—a magnificent architectural landmark surrounded by upper-class estates—and caught the bus with the dimming sun behind us. The bus ride gave us more time to stare and study the city. The bus let off around the corner of Church and Duboche Avenue.

Kate wanted to grab snacks from Safeway for the plane, but I was thirsty for more city, more local culture. I offered to buy dinner at whatever taqueria we might see next. We didn’t realize it, but we found exactly the kind of place we had been looking for. When I told Kate, before the trip was underway, that the place for a burrito would be Mission district, El Castillito exemplified the truth of that. Here, I got a vegetarian plate and burrito with chips, salsa, and other fixings, all for about $11.50. The walls inside were bright and cheerful with lots of weird hand-painted scenes. Food was nutritious, simple, but tasty. The flavor doesn’t jump out with great distinction, but it is basically satisfying and filled my gut to the brim for our long night ahead.

Stepping out of the restaurant, we realized the flight was leaving in 90 minutes. We rushed down 14th Street suddenly in love with San Francisco. It was this neighborhood specifically that drew us in like no other. So busy yet so relaxed, so much diversity. It seemed like the rich techies were comfortable with old bums that had been collecting glass bottles on the street for a decade. If the wealth disparity is going to be there, let it be open and transparent! This is where we decided to embed on our next visit.

Turning down Mission Street to connect to 16th Street for the subway, the trip felt like it was coming to an abrupt end because we wanted to turn a new page in this neighborhood. I think one more night would have satisfied us. But knowing that I had to be back home, at Morrison and 16th Ave, to sleep and get to my job the next morning, there was no bargaining in that situation. When we finally made it to our subway platform and plopped down to wait, it was over. No more visual delights to attract us, just the cold stone underground rail system to take us home.

We boarded the plane exactly on time. There was no room for error. And after that whole song and dance safety training video that Virgin America plays on every single flight (which started to get annoying after only one previous flight), we were off to Portland.

The familiar sound of our ride on the MAX train from the Portland airport gave us comfort. The small city looked so different to me. Already, just a few weeks after the fact, I’m back to feeling the same here. But it took a while. We were both wiped out, exhausted for days. There was a new sense of urgency about our lives though. Something about getting a taste of something bigger makes you want more. Perhaps it’s not just wanting more in itself, but from yourself. And I have new appreciation for the economic playing field here. The Portland wealthy simply are not San Francisco wealth—at least not most city dwellers. I’m grateful for my position here, for the rain, the clouds, the temperature, the forests, its cafes, its happy hours, its neighborhoods, its secrets. I’m in love with this city and I’m in love with someone who loves it here. At some point, you just drop yourself where you are.

EPILOGUE

I caught up with artist, musician, poet, Steven (Shane) Schneider, and with singer, artist, healer, Valentine Falcon, after my trip was well over, and both had worthwhile things to say. Shane lived in Berkeley in ’67 and Haight Ashbury in ’68. He said it was over by ’68. He didn’t stay long. You can hear the whole interview in my podcast. But Valentine currently resides in San Francisco. Her story stands apart from common scenarios, and you might find it inspiring.

None of her friends have suffered a “no-fault eviction” and neither has she, but acknowledges the extraordinary cost of decent apartments, quoting a “good deal” her friend got at $2,000 monthly, for a 1-bedroom in the Mission. Another friend of hers, a black, lesbian, sound-healer and artist works for Apple from home, providing tech support. Yet another friend works in a tech office and talks about the work-brains that so many co-workers inhabit, as if they’ve forgotten they have human bodies and desires. They are “drone-ish [with a] computer style personality—if that makes any sense.” When she moved from Portland to The Bay, she was single-pointedly focused on getting the right situation, and simply put, she got exactly what she needed from a home, at a price that I am not comfortable publishing because you might hunt her down.

Valentine goes on to say that jobs seem fairly easy to come by—hiring signs everywhere. She is self-employed however and realizes that if she had to move suddenly then it would be quite a fright. She’d be pulling every bit of manifestation power and mindfulness to navigate her meat-body to a new parking place. I think she would agree with me that, if you walk into San Francisco like a drone, going about making your connections in the all the standard ways, you will live the average life and pay the top dollar for it. But if you visualize your life, your future, then just maybe you will have something priceless.

Until this trip, I had never quite realized it, but I was gentrified out of my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, spending high school in Tucson. As an adult, trying to reclaim that little coastal city, I could not afford the rents, so I moved to Los Angeles, settling a little too quickly on Canoga Park area. My family was gentrified in the worst sense of it, because the area was not actually improving, it was stagnant. My family was economically squeezed out—property taxes soared. My folks couldn’t afford their mortgage, plain and simple, despite a middle class income.

But “gentrified” doesn’t mean that directly. If you have lived for a long time in San Francisco, New York, and now Portland, then you’ve been communicating this word in more true terms than what happened in Santa Barbara. But most people use this word and might not even have a clear definition for it—you might be going by its connotations alone.

The simple definition for it is to improve a house, building, or district of houses and buildings for the always-improving standards of upper-middle-class taste. Gentrification in itself is not evil because most people want to improve their homes and neighborhoods. It is the inherent progress of “the city” to gentrify. A building gentrified a farm. A farm gentrified a forest. If the city is thriving, the residents want to improve their standards, and generally, that goes for everybody. If one person is vastly wealthy while another is dirt poor, their standards are vastly different. We can’t share similar standards this way and so, the real problem of gentrification is income inequality. My family’s income did not rise with the value of their neighborhood; we were pushed out.

I think that just about anybody will pay just about any price for whatever they need if they have the cash to pay for it. If a working class neighborhood like so many San Francisco districts—like Brooklyn or North Portland—gentrifies without displacing its business owners and residents, then property values increasing would be considered boom times, a pinnacle of community building. But the problem is resources: the buildings and homes are bought by wealthy investors who literally gentrify dilapidated spots and resell them at six-figure profits to tech wizards, executives, financial players, who want urban settings, but with fine taste. It is almost never the taqueria owner or the beatnik writer whose wage increases as a result.

Gold paved the streets of San Francisco throughout the 19th Century, giving it a major financial industry that continues to dominate the west coast. From the ashes of the earthquake and fire of 1906, the streets were repaved with that same gold, but there was just enough chaos to give nesting ground to brilliant minds and artists. The 20th Century is marked by the flourishing of progressive arts and culture, an epicenter of intellectuals, musicians, poets, and psychedelic masters who devised great financial profits built purely on ideas. It was in this culture that Steve Jobs was born as the future Co-Founder and long-time CEO of Apple Computers. His company would rapidly inspire a new sort of gold rush, a “silicon valley” where money flows in the river through it. A generation and the life of Jobs has passed and his mark is now the life-blood of San Francisco. The tech generation has a new set of values to wash over the city with, and we’re still seeing what those values truly are. Silicon doesn’t have to pave over gold; it just has to exist in the pockets of every citizen and the gold will pay for it. Of course, money is a fool’s gold, and the only priceless material is that of culture, which will live on in the hearts of new artists to come.

If you’re a young artist looking for incubation space, then San Francisco cannot do that for you unless you manifest a good situation, like Valentine did. The beatniks (and their equivalent today) could not so casually live in San Francisco and would struggle to take root there. When I moved to Portland, in 2003, I had very recently visited San Francisco, deciding that it wasn’t the place anymore, that its era was over. Great place yes, but not the place to become a beatnik. Yes, I was a very impressionable young man. I wanted to write poems and taste wine from the bottle in a city park, smoking grass and singing songs with bizarro artists. I took a chance on that in Portland, and that is where it was, back then. That is where I found myself a 21C beatnik. Now I’m publishing a magazine, I’m a writer in the downtown loft. I realized it in this city. But if some 20-year old scamp, like I was then, asked me if they should move here today, I’d say, yes, but do it immediately, it’s becoming a San Francisco.




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  1. Micah

    Right on. Excellent read, now i’m craving the podcast too, where is it? I’ll find it. Seems like you’d be good at making just about any type of content.


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