Come join me tonight at a benefit reading to support John Avalos, candidate for mayor in San Francisco. John is a fantastically real human being (outrageously real for a politician) and I met him 11 years ago when we were both on the communications team for another progressive mayoral candidate, Tom Ammiano. He supports my values and I support him! I’ll be reading on the question of “The San Francisco You Want to See.”
Here’s what I’m reading.
Chris Cook, the organizer tonight asked us to write on our visions for San Francisco. The question has special resonance for me now because I’m training to be a life coach. Being a life coach is all about asking people what they want. As a coach you ask clients, What do you want? many times because people are so conditioned to talk about what they don’t want. When people finally say what they want it’s a breakthrough because their minds are so accustomed to he articulation in the negative. In more woogie-boo language, the universe doesn’t respond, or manifest, things if you talk about what you don’t want. It’s logical. Ask and ye shall receive. The same goes in politics.
So the question for tonight is What San Francisco do you want to see? I lived in San Francisco for 13 years and I loved it. I formed friendships with many creative, free-thinking people who supported me to do outlandish things like start the quirkyalone movement and publish a magazine based on people’s to-do lists. San Francisco made me who I am in many ways–the kind of person who believes I can make a living creatively collaborating with others. And for my life to be one improvised, entrepreneurial adventure after the next.
After thirteen years, I moved to Oakland. I spent a year and a half traveling in South America, and I knew, when I came back to the Bay Area, that if I was going to live here, I wanted to live in a place where people look each other in the eye. Where there’s play in everyday life, and it’s not all mediated by Facebook and smartphones. The tech-drenched nature of San Francisco alienated me. Everyone on the bus stared into their phones and so did I. I live in Lake Merritt now where the races actually mix above a cafe where strangers talk to each other more than they type. So the first thing I want, for San Francisco, is to be more like my experience of Lake Merritt: that sense of people mixing in public space. For people to warmly greet each other and to cross boundaries of race and class.
I asked people what they want for San Francisco and most people get stumped. My friend Jenny told me she wants Halloween back in the Castro.
Here’s what I want for San Francisco. My list includes:
–Brilliant public schools in every neighborhood and the best-paid teachers in the country
–A bike-sharing system like they have in Paris and Lyon, France
–BART trains that run until 3 am
–The ability to take bikes on BART during rush hour
–WPA-style grants for artists, writers, magazine publishers, and poets. 10,000 units of affordable housing for artists, writers, teachers, social workers, others who contribute to the social good. Taller buildings in out of the way neighborhoods are OK by me.
–Public health clinics in every neighborhood with preventative care and screenings for celiac disease, diabetes, and other undiagnosed illnesses. I got diagnosed with celiac, an autoimmune condition and the only cure is a strict gluten-free diet. The awareness of celiac disease in the US is extremely low compared to Europe, and millions of Americans are suffering from chronic fatigue, pain, and increased mortality from cancer and other diseases because they don’t know they are celiac. One in 133 Americans are celiac–that’s three million people–but 90% are undiagnosed. I want San Francisco to take the lead by screening all children and adults for celiac through Healthy San Francisco and mandating screening at schools and in health plans.
–Elevators that work at San Francisco county buildings. My sister worked as a social worker at Child Protective Services for five years on the seventh floor. She and her coworkers regularly got trapped in the elevators and the county couldn’t bother to fix them. I want to see a CPS with elevators that work.
–And finally–for the whimsical–unicorns. I want San Francisco to stay on the cutting edge of whimsy.