Tag Archives: neighborhoods

Why There is Never Any “Other”

We are students of a university that, as the witty students in the “Sh*t USF Students Say” video have pointed out, favors a social justice perspective. It is hard to live in San Francisco and not be reminded that this city is home to thousands of homeless, mentally ill, and/or disabled peoples. Sometimes it is easy to forget when sitting on our mountain of expensive education that we share our home with these people. They are our neighbors.

I say this because I feel that, while many of us have the experiences of working in the community, we continue to separate ourselves both mentally and physically.

Every time I hear a student talk about going to the Tenderloin and how they “are very careful”, or how they walk fast, or how they “try to get through to them”, my fists clench a little bit.
Why do students feel that this is some kind of battle zone; that they must prepare themselves for entering a world unfamiliar?

I do not mean to sound ignorant or unaware of the problems in these areas of the city—I too have spent time volunteering in the Tenderloin, walking the so-called unsafe streets. I completely understand what problems these communities are facing, and I am not denying that they exist. But where they exist for the 60,000 residents of the Tenderloin, they exist for all of San Francisco. Their city street is our city street. If there are problems in these neighborhoods—crime, drug use, poverty, homelessness—then there are problems in our neighborhoods.

We must stop thinking of people living in desperate and dire situations as somehow being made up differently than ourselves. The unfortunate life circumstances that have put them in that position are things we may never know. What we do know is that they have no less interest, desire, need, or want for the joys that life brings. We need to inherently understand this if we wish to do any good.
I have been reading NPR’s This I Believe— a collection of dozens of people’s personal narratives ranging from the famous to the unknown—and struggled to think of what I would say if I were asked. Having to declare your own personal creed in a couple hundred words seems near impossible; I can hardly meet the word limit for this column!

Yet when I think about the marginalized in our community, and the outlook I feel many students have on them, my own understanding becomes clear. There is never any “other” in our world; everyone comes from the same mess of blood and cells of a beginning. It is easy to feel different or to be uncomfortable in a situation we do not know as our own. But what we must look beyond is the clearly visible, and search for the invisible: the compassion, the hope, the curiosity that is possible for each person.
Life may be different on the other side of the city, but it is only as different as we make it.

Neighborhood Guide

THE MISSION
Hipsters and bikers and pirates, oh my!

From USF: Board the 33 Stanyan bus on Fulton and Stanyan, traveling Outbound to Potrero and 25th St. Get off at 18th and Dolores St. 

Dolores Park
18th St. and Dolores St.
Dolores Park is a testament to the reality of San Francisco’s microclimates—the sun seemingly never sets on this delightful park just blocks away from the heart of the Mission. The rolling hills of grass are perpetually covered with sunbathers, hipsters, tourists and just about any other person interested in taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the rest of San Francisco.

826 Valencia (a.k.a. The Pirate Store)
826 Valencia Street
Founded by popular author Dave Eggers (of McSweeney’s fame), the Pirate Store is the ideal place for anyone looking to get outfitted in sea-faring gear. The store celebrates pirate lore with booby traps, a vat of lard and eye-patches for sale. Writing workshops are held in the back of the store for students aged six to eighteen. If the pirate’s life is for you, sign up to be a tutor!

Good Vibrations
603 Valencia St.
Good Vibrations couldn’t be further from the typical notion of a seedy erotica shop. This boutique is a clean, colorful, well-lit environment where patrons can feel free to ask the friendly and approachable staff about whatever their heart desires. No taboos or hang-ups here! 

THE CASTRO
Somewhere over the rainbow

From USF: Board the 33 Stanyan bus on Fulton and Stanyan St., traveling Outbound to Potrero and 25th St. Get off at 18th and Castro St. 

The Castro Theater
429 Castro Street
An architectural treasure, the Castro Theater truly deserves to be called a movie palace. The theater plays movies featuring bygone silver screen icons like Bette Davis and James Dean in a locale that evokes the glamour of old Hollywood. That’s not to say newer fare goes neglected. Coming in September: four nights of double-features showcasing some of director Tim Burton’s finest work. 

Whatever Comics
548 Castro St.
Whatever Comics is a comic book store in the Castro where everyone can get their geek on. The store offers a nice alternative to the sea of trendy shops and restaurants the Castro is known for. This fortress of pop-culture carries all the big publishers (Marvel, DC, DarkHorse), but leaves some shelf space open for independent comic artists as well. 

Hot Cookie
407 Castro St.
Do you love cookies? Do you love cookies molded into phallic shapes? If you answered yes to either (or both) of these questions, Hot Cookie is the place for you. The kitschy Castro touch is only half the reason Hot Cookie is so great—their delicious sweets really do speak for themselves.

HAIGHT AND ASHBURY
Give peace a chance… it’s only a few blocks away.

From USF, walk south down Clayton Street and through the Panhandle until you reach Haight Street. 

Coffee to the People
1206 Masonic Ave.
Among the many pretentious cafés along Haight, Coffee to the People is a legitimate coffee shop. Serving only organic and fair trade coffee, CTTP stands behind its commitment to peace, social justice and environmentalism. It’s a great environment for debating, socializing, studying or simply relaxing with a good cup of coffee.

Amoeba Music
1855 Haight St.
A select list of items I’ve purchased at Amoeba: a belly dancing record, a live Woody Allen comedy record, “Forrest Gump” (for under $10), and an obscure Andy Warhol film on DVD. This list only begins to describe the melting pot that is Amoeba. Anyone and everyone’s music and film fantasies are made into reality with Amoeba’s extensive selections of CD, vinyl, DVD and more. 

The Red Vic Movie House
1727 Haight Street
The Red Vic Movie House is the antidote to large, corporate movie theaters like the Metreon. Worker-owned and run in great part by volunteers, The Red Vic is proudly independent. The movie selection varies from season to season. You can count on seeing anything from “Annie Hall” to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Look for organic treats at the concession stand as well as big comfy couches. 

NORTH BEACH
It’s amore at first sight.

From USF: Board the 5 Fulton on Fulton and Clayton St., traveling Inbound Towards Transbay Terminal. Get off at Market and Fourth St. Board the 30 Stockton traveling Outbound to Broderick and Beach. Get off at Stockton St. and Columbus Ave. 

City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Ave.
City Lights is the ultimate independent bookstore that upholds its progressive values and undyingly supports literature that’s not afraid to push the envelope. Three floors of books (one dedicated entirely to poetry), creaky wood floors and shelves, world-renowned authors (who regularly give readings) and a palpable spirit of literary passion all make City Lights a San Francisco landmark. 

Café Trieste
601 Vallejo St.
Café Trieste is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee and read that new book you bought at City Lights. Known as the first place to get espresso on the West Coast in the 50s and for the Beat writers who frequented it, Trieste is a North Beach staple. Not only their amazing coffee drinks, but the old Italian men smoking cigars and downing espresso help give Trieste it’s undeniable charm.

The San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut St. 
While it’s technically part of Russian Hill, The San Francisco Art Institute is just around the corner from North Beach. This school for the arts features a beautiful courtyard at its entrance and a massive terrace that offers a breathtaking view of San Francisco. The school’s best kept secret is probably the fact that it houses a work by renowned muralist Diego Rivera. This gallery space is open to the public, not just students of the school. 

DOWNTOWN
Things will look great when you’re… well, you know.

From USF: Board the 5 Fulton on Fulton and Clayton St., traveling Inbound towards Transbay Terminal. Get off at Market and 4th St.

Metreon
101 4th St.
The Metreon is the go-to spot downtown to see any widely released commercial film you can imagine (and is also known to show the occasional popular indie, too). While the inside may seem overwhelming (it houses a museum, shopping center and IMAX screens), its central location makes it the perfect place to go see that new summer blockbuster you’ve been secretly waiting for.

Jewish Contemporary Museum
763 Mission St.
This Museum isn’t just a gallery, but rather a place for ideas and art to intersect. Rather than emphasizing static visual art, the museum strives to create interactive exhibits. The museum also offers programs that include music and live performance. The building itself is most notable for its newest addition, a giant blue metallic cube balancing precariously on its side, which gives the illusion it could fall over at a moment’s notice.

The Orpheum Theater
1192 Market St. 
There are many places to take in live theater in San Francisco, but in terms of a grandiose experience, few venues can compare to the scale and ostentation of The Orpheum Theater. The walls and ceiling of the theater drip with intricate details, creating an almost fantasy-like setting. The Orpheum is also one of the theaters that hosts touring Broadway shows, so if musicals are your thing, the Orpheum can’t be missed.