Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Discreet Charm of 1stSaturdaysSF

A group of small vans was parked last Saturday on Polk Street in front of the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Card tables were set up with donated used clothing that was being given away for free by a group called 1stSaturdaysSF. According to their Facebook page, "We are a community of friends and neighbors that spend the 1st Saturday of each month helping out our brothers and sisters. It's about sharing, giving, meeting new people, and starting the month off right!"

The scene reminded me of the 1961 Spanish movie Viridiana above by the late, great film director Luis Buñuel. Viridiana is about a spiritually devout novice who invites the local beggars to live in the servant's quarters at her dead uncle's estate out of charity before one of them tries to rape her and the rest walk off with the fine silver.

The idea that giving away mounds of used stuff to poor people is going to somehow help out the underclass in San Francisco's Civic Center seems similarly, woefully naive.

Los Olvidados, Buñuel's 1950 masterpiece above about children preying upon each other in the slums of Mexico City, also comes to mind. The characters live in the shadow of a monstrous garbage dump where there's plenty to be scavenged, but love and kindness are in precious short supply in the crazy, mean streets.


christopherinsf said...

One doesn't have to be woefully naive to give clothes and food to the underclass, or human flotsam, as you called one recently. I feed homeless people as well, but that doesn't mean I'd invite them into my home or think they're all wonderful people.
I think it's great 1st SaturdaysSF exists & they do what they do. I hope they continue.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear christopherinsf: Good for you. The 1st Saturdays people couldn't have been sweeter but they felt so incongruous in the rough, interesting neighborhood I've been living in for over 20 years. The "Curry Without Worry" free food giveaway on Tuesdays, for instance, feels integral and helpful. But giving away used designer duds when what most of these people need are some decent restroom and bathing facilities? It was weird.