Monday, September 21, 2020

Breathing the Air We Share

Since the freak lightning storms of August 17th set the entire West Coast on fire, the air we breathe has been varying degrees of poisonous.
Though fires continue to rage, San Francisco and much of the California coast had a reprieve in its air quality over the last five days, and it was glorious but also disquieting.
How long would it last?
The smoke-filled air has nudged me to the ocean over the last month with its healing breezes, and Ocean Beach has become my new favorite place in San Francisco during the pandemic and wildfires.
The beach feels like a safe place to walk among strangers, easily distanced, without masks.
I survived the AIDS plague in San Francisco partly by doing my own epidemiology in real time. There were all kinds of theories about transmission when it was still being called gay cancer or gay pneumonia, but I strongly suspected it was probably through our old favorite, buttfucking. That hunch turned out to be true, and becoming the Johnny Appleseed of thin Japanese condoms to guys across the country, saving a few lives along the way, was an odd and gratifying role.
After watching the spread of COVID-19, my epidemiological hunches are that outdoor transmission is rare. Indoor gatherings of any kind are dangerous so if you want to socialize, do it outside. It also seems that it is difficult to pass the virus on with surface transmission, so all the Lysoling is absurdist theater. Above all, wearing masks around strangers on city streets is not only simply common courtesy but is our only effective prophylactic right now.
Please stay away from bars, churches, gyms, weddings, funerals, indoor restaurants, or any inside family gathering, because that is how this virus is being spread.
And if you live in California, I urge you to to go the seashore because it is a tonic right now, even if you are a hapless kayaker who doesn't know how to get into the ocean without assistance.
Besides the fresh ocean air, there is one gorgeous tableaux after another at Ocean Beach.
But beware. There are many ways to die, and weak swimmers being swept away and drowned in the dangerous currents is a frequent occurrence.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Apocalyptic Skies

“When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”

That is the opening sentence of The Day of the Triffids, a British 1951 sci-fi novel by John Wyndham detailing the end of London and by extension the world when 99% of the globe's humans go blind one night.

Another quote from the book's narrator: "It must be, I thought, one of the race's most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that "it can't happen here" — that one's own time and place is beyond cataclysm.”

The San Francisco Bay Area awoke today with a collective, hallucinatory confusion. When you happen to know it is 9AM but it looks like 6AM, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. West Coast wildfire smoke had become another filter on top of a layer of fog and the effect was unsettling, unreal.

The first photo of this post with orange skies was taken at 9AM while the yellow skies were taken at noon on a trip to the Heart of the City Farmers Market.

With the insane and drugged out that already congregate around McAllister Street, it felt very much like walking through an interactive zombie experience.

Having a loving cat and human to hide out with at home has rarely felt so comforting.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Hayes Valley Weekend Street Closure

In an attempt to save the retail and restaurant businesses in the Hayes Valley, a weekend street closure to car traffic on Hayes between Franklin and Laguna is being tried out.

Two Sundays ago was the opening and I even considered volunteering with the neighborhood group spearheading the effort, but decided it was best to stay as far away from groups of people as possible while the pandemic continues its spread.

However, the Labor Day Global Climate Change Heatwave from Hell made my apartment so stifling on Sunday that we needed to get out. Foolishly, we drove to Ocean Beach which was a traffic and parking nightmare, and just as quickly drove home and then walked to Hayes Street.

It was fabulous.

Because the event was so new and the heat so punishing, there was a small, perfect amount of people for what was essentially a socially distanced, mask conscious, pandemic street fair.

I give it two more weeks before the whole scene is ruined...

...but the select cult that reads Civic Center faithfully deserves to know what's trending at least a week before everyone else.

The vibe and demographics was prosperous multi-cultural...

...and included a surprising number of young couples with baby carriages.

Eating on the street at clever tables is possibly in our happy future.

We just have to help create it.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Labor Day Red Alert for Live Performers

Last Tuesday night, September 1st, performing arts organizations around the country illuminated their buildings in red light as part of a campaign to highlight the fact that live event workers have had their entire livelihoods destroyed by the pandemic. From my living room, the San Francisco Ballet building looked eerie with its office lights glowing demonically.

The only arts workers still employed and drawing a salary are administrative staff, highlighting the irony that one of the only ways to make a living in the arts in America is to be on the back end, and that's always been a shaky proposition too.

According to the lobbying group We Make Events, which organized the Red Alarm, "77% of people in the live events industry have lost 100% of their income, including 97% of 1099 workers." They are urging people to write to Congress, and have offered an easy template at their website here. California, especially its Unemployment division and freelancer tax codes, also needs to step up because performing artists in this state are being devastated from every direction