He could have been talking about San Francisco in
general or San Francisco politics in particular. Either was appropriate
this week. It was a week when I met Barrett, the homeless squatter,
while I was doing my final interview before being issued my first
welfare check ($203.87). I watched so many Board of Supervisor meetings
and hearings and authorities and commissions that I'm starting to dream
about them. My e-mail is fat with good tips and casual flirtations.
My sisters are providing plane tickets and a rental car
so's I can find my way to my mom's place outside St. Louis cause it
might be the last time. She's 88 & at 58, I am still her baby boy.
Mothers! Disappoint them & they still love you. I don't mean to be vain
but I think there is a special bond with the “baby” of the family. I
fought fires for five years, been arrested as a spy in a foreign
country, taught & coached a thousand tough kids, but I'm still that
little red-haired bouncing baby boy in 1944 to her.
I'm starting to put together the team for the run for
supervisor in District 2. Our first event is planned as “The Dance & Jam
Before the Storm.” Yeah, I like that. Or “Dance with Your Enemies.”
Yeah, I can see that working.
My friends and I built and ran the biggest night club in
St. Louis (mostly jazz) in the 1970s. I threw a party for 300 people
there every night and I can try and pull it together for just one more
gig. Not a bad dance card for a homeless bum.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Aaron Peskin was on TV this
morning talking to Phil Matier in front of Café Trieste and the talk
turned to the homeless and I'll lead in with that story.
Steve Bough – Employee of the Month
Steve is my new caseworker. He processed my second
application for public assistance through the Department of Human
Services' CAAP program. This is the program that takes care of the folks
2nd District supervisor Gavin Newsom wants to send into
shelters and take away their stipend. More about that later.
First, kudos to Mr. Bough, a 23-year veteran of the
department, for standing out like a saving buoy in the sea of a really
tough and largely depersonalized intake service at DHS's CAAP. You sit
in the waiting rooms for hours and you study the hundreds of others
there & you compare them with the pictures in the paper of the people
Newsom talks about & they aren't here. Well, some of them certainly are.
But of the 500 or so people I watched during the three weeks (normally a
week and a half – I had to start over for missing a meeting – misread a
date) … of the 500, maybe 2% percent came close to fitting Newsom's
alcoholic/drug addict profile and yet all of them (including me – hey,
now I have a real vested interest here).
You listen to the people talk and they all bitch about
how their caseworker is unintelligible or hostile to them and you go
through the procedure and you see they are correct & you wonder if the
process is that way on purpose. Going through the system is like being
the knight in that movie “Monty Python & the Holy Grail.” You go from
station to station & any of the people manning them (many if them are
ex-GA people who seem to truly dislike their jobs) … ANY of them can
send you to the back of the line. Make you start all over again because
you talked or stood up or went to the bathroom or read a newspaper or
read a date wrong. Like in the Holy Grail. Only it ain't a movie.
The movie has phony tension for laughs. At 1235 Mission,
the tension is very real. From the long line curling into the street at
7:30 am (hoping your friends won't drive by and see you in line with the
“bums”) to the metal detectors and baton body sweeps and the standing
and waiting and the guards and more guards (cause people blow up under
pressure) to the reams of forms and the eternal sadness and shame of the
people packed next to you and the insanity and anger… Sounds like my
last divorce. Then you meet one of da good guys.
To Trent Rohr: Trent, have Steve teach your other intake
workers how to treat people. He smiles. He's comfortable in his job. He
doesn't look at you like you may jump across the table at him at any
moment. He's not political. When I asked if he knew “they” were trying
to do away with the GA stipend, he seemed surprised. No agenda there.
I'd lain awake most of the night. Two alarm clocks set. If I missed the
meeting, I'd be exposed as a total leech who wouldn't even go through a
little humiliation to bring a few dollars or food stamps into the mix. I
made it! Very early.
Who the hell you calling a “senior” citizen!?!
I've been too short for jobs. Too smart. Too young. Too
white. Too straight. Lately, I've been “too old.” True, true, true. And
sad. Yesterday, when my welfare check was approved, I was told that,
finally, being “too” something had an advantage. I may be “too” old and
“too” educated and “too” political to get a job, but because I'd managed
to get “too” old … I don't have to sweep streets or paint over graffiti
to draw my twice-monthly $197.50 check. I'm too old. I don't have to go
to classes to get my GED. I'm too educated already! I'm too old and too
smart and too political for anyone to ever want to hire me again.
I can write though. A little. You're reading it, ain't
you? You got taste, right? You realize it's a “good thing” to have
someone covering City Hall not tied to the Hearsts or the Fangs or even
Anyway, here's my present financial status. I'll
get $59 in food stamps. Enough with the $395 cash (minus check-cashing
fees) to keep me out of shelters and out of soup kitchens and not
begging or mugging or burgling (OK, I've only done the soup kitchen
thing, but others will do the rest on a much larger scale if Newsom's
Care Not! package passes). That ain't bad. A lot better than I've had.
As my heavy sarcasm increases online, my employability
has decreased. I seem to have reached 0. Sooooo, the government will
subsidize me enough to sit on the pavement or in an attic or basement or
wherever & snip at them.
No wonder Gavin wants to cut off the cash. I could be
just the first of thousands of marginalized artists to come after the
“Noose.” Speaking of which…
h. brown, journalist (funded by CAAP)
I had to use my first check to buy a press pass and a
couple of months of catfood and deodorant and stuff like that, but my
second check will go toward paying my entry fee into the 2nd
District race for supervisor against Gavin Newsom.
Is that your worst nightmare, Gav? Imagine. When I could
have bought crack cocaine or heroin or sex, I spend the cash to keep OUT
of shelters and bread lines (OK, I did buy some wine). It’s worse. I'm
spending most of it on a left-wing, progressive, “Green” campaign to
throw your ass out of City Hall. That's gotta piss you off.
I have this deep source in City Hall who feeds me
statistics and opinions. This is a revolutionary development for me.
I'm lying. I actually now have several dozen such
sources. Honestly. You can't believe how many people who work or have
contracts with the city are sick and tired of Willie and his minions.
One of them … this is awkward. I can't quote him or her directly because
I can't go from here (Word Perfect) to my email and pick off the lines
and I don't have enough money for ink for my printer, so I'm just going
to paraphrase my “inside source (who is VERY inside).
Ammiano miscalculates all!
Tom Ammiano is reaching out to a union base that can (at
best) bring him a 5 percent return in next year's mayoral campaign and
alienating a 10-15 percent segment that could, at least in theory, give
him a fighting chance against Gavin Newsom and Angela Alioto.
Seems board president Tom Ammiano, rejecting polls that
show he faces a city population that includes at least 20 percent
outright homophobes (and, therefore, makes him unelectable at this time)
has abandoned huge portions of his natural and nurtured base to reach
out to a smaller number of red-necked union workers likely to dump him
by November 5. Word is Tom has been cajoled into accepting PG&E power
hegemony in exchange for endorsements and support likely to disappear in
the fall and is, in the process, severing ties with many of his
"Brugmann will go with Alioto," says my source. "You
always go with the guy with the printing press!" adds the strategist
with emphasis. "He should be in the lines with the laundry workers. Lots
more votes there." Josie Mooney is a "political hack" who will dump him
in the end, continues the message.
Longtime Ammiano insiders have been totally mesmerized
by his moves. I am not.
Ammiano cannot win in 2003 because he is too much of a “nelly.”
Hey, don't blame me. I didn't say a gay candidate cannot win. I've said
before, Mark Leno has a better chance. Leno's politics aren't low-class
enough for me, but I could support him and he could win (and I will only
support someone in this race who CAN win – no more symbolic sacrifices
please!!!). Tom can't win and his polls show it and he's making moves
that make no sense unless you accept my evaluation. Hell, he's offending
supporters and reaching out to cobras.
Tom. for the cause, admit it now. I know it's not fair,
but you can't win. And worse, we can't afford for you not to win. Face
it. Four years of Gavin Newsom will be like four more years of Willie
Brown. You won't see a break in the gentrification process and it will
be your fault for not backing out early and backing a candidate or
candidates who might actually win. Also, if Newsom wins a first term,
he'll be a cinch for a second because there will be tens of thousands of
us forced out of town by his policies and rent control will go and it
won't be San Francisco anymore.
Retire to the wings, Tom. Don't take us down with you.
Become a respected “emeritus” hero. It's better than being the guy who
destroyed the progressive movement and all it stands for on the rocks of
his ego. Be noble, Tom. Bring us all together behind someone who can
win. Do it now.
Back to Barrett. Kid. Maybe 21. Clean scrubbed. Standing
ahead of me in the line to get my first CAAP check at the welfare
office. He was reading a Raymond Chandler novel. We started talking. He
was raised in San Francisco. Bright-eyed. Easy smile and a true love for
the city. He knew the history of John's Bar & Grill although he quickly
added that of course, he could never afford to go there.
No shelters for him. "I'm a squatter." It throws me.
“Squatter” reminds me of the punks from the Savoy who crashed and
partied in the “Vats” in the early 1980s. Remember them? Yeah, I partied
with them some. Slam dancing. Hot sex and bad, bad music. Slept in an
abandoned brewery down by the foot of the Bay Bridge or something (hey,
it was always dark and I was always drunk and high).
Are there any vacant structures left like that in San
Francisco? Seems, if you're smart and can climb and have a good
attitude, there are. "I have a great view of downtown and the Bay," he
notes, drawn to his own hometown. Raymond Chandler!? He moves to the
streets with the others, driven out by Newsom's developer buddies who
will certainly drive him from his little hideout with the great view.
Vote? He never heard of Newsom. Or Peskin, in whose district he squats.
And he's never voted.
That's the problem with my crusade, trying to hold some
space for the artists and dancers and the scenic poor and fishermen and
hookers. I asked my co-chair Kim Spicer why we couldn't win. "Hippies
don't vote." Yep.