Sorry there is no app for class. But only connect.
The following is an example of why San Francisco activists have waged such bitter battles (now long lost) against developers and corporations that have driven mom and pop businesses and working class families from the city and into the bankruptcy courts or the killing fields of West Oakland.Hey, even Ben and Jerry’s gouges at almost five bucks for a one scoop cone at Haight Ashbury which is at least a Vaseline screw compared to the cheaper stuff Dreyers’ gouges from the tourists at Pier 39. Though a few tokens of the real San Fran remain (except for the bar-owner-porn-shop-gay-Boobwasie) local merchants have long since been driven out of business to make the Castro and the Haight formula store havens. The so nice, always smiling, always friendly, Disneyfication of San Francisco became complete long ago — but that’s a whole other post. This is about Safeway Inc. and what it has replaced.
I love Safeway. Really. The employees are so nice. Always smiling. Always friendly. I enrolled last month in Safeway’s very aggressive “Just For You” email coupon marketing scheme and hey it really is great! No kidding! At first I was reluctant: Big Brother wants to track you if you got money to spend. It’s an app you see.Okay, let the Ivy business school marketing geniuses stalk my spending. Who cares? Ya, right, the 25% of Americans who don’t have Internet access are locked out. So what. Hey screw them this is smart phone yuppie stuff. Get hip. The rest? Kickum2duhcurb and if they holla make em pay.
Really, Just for you is great. “Congratulations ... you just saved 45% off our already inflated (do we even have a clue?!) prices” and kudos to us cuz we are still making money off you even at half the price. Eat that Trader Joe’s and screw you sans Vaseline mom and pop!What’s my beef? Actually it’s not the beef but the pig part that offends me. I will provide one example of the Safeway Meal Deal that always makes me vomit. I’d not even dignify the insult to human dignity had I not seen it way too many times at Safeway in San Francisco.
They have a great deli! Really. Tonight I got in a line for a sandwich and the guy in front of me was a beautiful black man in a wheel chair. Clean. Scrubbed. Buffed in the shoulders. Not a speck of dust on the wheel chair or a wrinkle of embitterment on that young man’s face. Dignity personified. What puts such a beautiful young man in a wheel chair? Noticing his contorted and withered hands and heavy labored breathing it was clear he was no shot in the back gang banger — not that ANY of that should matter to his humanity!The deli worker asked him what he wanted on it: Cheese? No thanks. Peppers? No thanks. This? That? No thanks. And so it went till he said yes to bacon. She laid on two depressing slices of withered desiccated pork and he said, “Can I please have four slices of bacon?” Shades of Charles Dickens! “Sure,” she said so nice. Always smiling. Always friendly, but “that will be an extra dollar.” Really. No shit. I am not kidding! This is a five dollar sandwich so that’s a fucking 20% increase! And not at all unusual. Nothing personal. It’s the policy. And it always disgusts me.
The man turned to me with a forlorn look of disbelief in his eye as my anger boiled inside me. Really, even Shylock would blush with shame! “It’s just to make sure you never mistake Safeway for a class act,” I said, and then (having seen this too many times over the years) I could not hold my tongue! “Hey, since you are charging the man for a slice of extra bacon doesn’t he get a discount for all the other stuff he doesn’t want?”At least they both laughed but no mercy. I guess someone at Safeway, Inc., was counting the slices of bacon and her job might be in jeopardy.
This is the sort of thing that you will ever see in a mom and pop San Francisco establishment. Never! Not Ever. Not in this city! Not even today. It is one more part of the Spirit of San Francisco that died a long time ago. I can go to a local coffee shop in the Castro owned by a Middle Eastern family and be embarrassed to have left my wallet at home and they will say, “No problem. Pay us next time.” I can go to the family owned Rossi’s Deli on Castro (also a Middle Eastern family) and they will never gouge me for an extra slice of bacon. Don’t ever expect that to happen in corporate owned San Francisco.Last month friends visited from the East Coast. They had just traveled from Miami and South Florida through three Southern states and on to Long Island and Manhattan. Naturally they loved San Francisco but two things shocked and depressed them:
First was the paunchy old nude men flaunting their flaccid satchel asses in the Castro . Ya never have cold windy fog when ya need it the most. Just what we want our friends and family visiting San Francisco with children to see. There are at least two Kto8 schools within blocks but this is okay while Obama’s Fed friends have moved in (with nary a protest) to close down any legal medical cannabis club so situated. (Don’t get me started on the Pot Club Robber Barons!) What the Castro nudes are protesting is beyond me but now San Francisco has the Weeny Law - not that it’s done much good. But hey, Obama said yes to marriage and we now have equal right to be cannon fodder in imperial corporate wars against brown-skinned people so whose going to bitch about one broken promise that the sick can get stoned?I’d be hard-pressed to show a better example of how activism in the burned-out hotbed of San Francisco LGBT community has died out, sold out, got the hell out, or just plain capitulated and collaborated with our traditional enemies such that our own ‘activists’ and ‘public interest’ agencies, with highly paid executive directors--incapable of making sure their fund-raising efforts do not create clear conflicts of interest---have made Faustian Bargains and sought their funding from the very government agencies that make sweet-heart City Hall deals with government contractors who have arguably rendered Ryan White Care funds one long raid on the U.S. Treasury. And there has not even been one bubble of protest. As one friend snarked to me,
“Activism is dead in San Francisco. San Francisco ‘activists’ now just kiss ass where they used to kick it. What a joke they should toast Stonewall when the trannies and drag queens, who put their asses on the line, had Hella more cajones than today’s activists whose idea of being in-the-trenches is to scuff a Gucci shoe or break a finger nail scraping for a place in line for a photo op at a cocktail party fund-raiser.
What happened to all those fucking millions that got sucked up in just the past few years while dental clinics have closed, HIV/AIDS patients were dumped by the hundreds, or the money was commingled or converted to buy fancy equipment used to serve others after which they tell this community, ‘Sorry our funding is exhausted and you will have to pay?” What did they do with all that money?! Where is the outrage?!
These tired queens starved for attention will flash their satchel asses in the Castro under the pretext of a protest against social mores but let government contractors and city officials (many of them members of the LGBT community) raid Ryan White and who gives a shit. Good luck trying find an advocacy agency willing to take up the gauntlet. Who do you think they are getting their finding from? Most of the real activists in this town were taken out by the first and second waves of the pandemic or they burned out or moved away. HIV/AIDS used to be a cause in this city. Now it’s more a careerists’ racket. Witness the Babbittry and Boobwasie of the New Millennium parading in rainbow drag.
Perhaps not entirely fair but, from what I and other friends have witnessed over the past few years, it’s a pretty good report on how vapid and meek San Francisco activism has become – especially in the LGBT community which seems to care little for the war weary who won them those rights and privileges. Contrarians are not welcome. March in lock-step to the beat of the same drum. This is an expensive city to live in, everyone wants to live here, ‘public interest’ jobs with benefits are hard to come buy, and as one client services director for one of the city’s HIV/AIDS agencies candidly told me, “No one is going to rock any boat when they are afraid they might loose their own funding.”Too depressed by the careerists’ hypocrisies of cowards too conflicted to blow any whistle, no longer able to sleep at night, he left job as token minority in ‘public interest’ to find a one where he can hopefully create wealth rather than suck it up.
And he is right: when HIV/AIDS activists and advocates rely on government funding doled out to them by the very same agencies that dole out the government contracts to our potential adversaries and other crooks who suck dry the tit of the government cash-cow, when the conflicts of interest are very real, zealous advocacy is nigh impossible, and our watch dogs have arguably become toothless lap dogs that might audaciously bark as a matter of form but would never dare to bite. Form over substance.The second thing that depressed my visitor friends was “the shocking number of homeless white” derelicts. Their notice of the color distinction surprised me. If the city is spending $200 million a year trying to get homeless people off the streets and into a better way of life but showing little success perhaps it’s time to ask my friend’s question here too: Where the fuck is all that money going?
Isn’t this what feeds the Tea Party fanatics: throwing tax dollars at programs that waste or squander it on incompetent bureaucrats or crooked government contractors as the intended beneficiaries remain kicked to the curb and not much better of than before?I’d be willing to bet that the three dental clinics which recently shared over $6.2 million (!) in Ryan White Care dental funds (specifically earmarked for HIV/AIDS care) would have a hard time surviving an independent audit to prove all that money went just to serve people with HIV/AIDS as they tell those intended beneficiaries ‘Sorry we are out of funding but you can pay money’!
But don't expect any advocate or activist to demand an accounting of those funds any more than you can expect LGBT ‘activists' to demand an audit of Ryan White funding. What you can expect is that they will clamor for more money to squander on overly paid paper-pushing contractors that take the money and dump the patients as they sign government contracts procured by blatant fraud with a wink and a nod from the Dagwood Bumstead bureaucrats and the like George F. Babbitts.Pardon my divergence but there is a connection to all this.
In any event my friends wanted to know where to go in North Beach to put together a great picnic lunch for their withering wallets. Well, no bainer! Molinari of course! REAL San Fran. Old San Fran! They got two sandwiches with stuff and this and that and this and that and that too and when they got to the cash register and the guy tried to add it up he just said, “Oh hell, ten bucks each.” Bad for business? Guess whose integrity and class those tourists will applaud when they go home. And guess who and what makes me ashamed of the City I so love? Who best represents and serves the Spirit of San Francisco?Oh well, I guess we are all supposed to be thankful for the America’s Cup Oracle tea shirts and other corporate plastic made in China yuck that will suck the tourists dry as even the natives are gouged $40 for bleacher seats on public property (and that’s' just for the practice stuff for the race is not till next year - so just wait suckers!) in a city that let's the poor rot in the street and Ryan White contractors suck up and redirect the money indented for the good of others.
But I am being unfair of course. Yes, this does all connect and my apologies to Safeway Inc., if I lay too much blame for, like George F. Babbitt, they are upstanding members of Zenith. You see I was provoked to write not because Safeway is any different but because they are the same. It was that incident with the man in the wheel chair, an incident I have witnessed far too many times at that store and that is the point here: it’s a ground-of-being that’s sadly not anecdotal but depressingly the same.And tomorrow we will, no doubt, witness the smiley-faced talking heads on the evening corporate news who call themselves ‘journalists’ but, for six figure salaries, will read from the Teleprompter any public relations clap trap spoon fed to them by the corporate spin-scum to ‘inform’ us of the ‘news’ that the banks who kicked the working-poor from their homes and into our streets have instituted a program to assist troubled homeowners as I will vomit my Safeway sandwich sans extra charge bacon.
No, it’s not just Safeway Inc., but far more insidious than that. It’s the mega-corporate coup that has taken over this loved city and surrendered it to developers and the vapid plastic formula store Disneyfication. And all we see by way of protest are naked old men who ‘occupy’ the Castro in protest against being asked to spare us a view of their decrepit paunches and withered tubers. All done in good humor, of course, and in the spirit of camp. The problem is that, when it comes to political activism, that’s all there is besides anarchy in Oalkand and an ‘occupy movement’ so tough and committed it could not weather one mild San Francisco winter.
Posing a smiling face to tell a man in a wheel chair he’ll have to pay an extra dollar for a slice of withered bacon is not just one Safeway no-class faux pas but representative of the yuppification of San Francisco. There is nothing wrong with gentrification – as long as the gentry are not disingenuous about their advantages.
What is to be mourned the loss of humanity drowned out by the squawking bumper-sticker slogans in a corporate city for the 1% where the activists have died out, sold out, got the hell out, or capitulated and collaborated in the selling of the one thing we thought money cold never buy: The Spirit of San Francisco. The torch has not been passed and the flame is dying. There is no place in America like San Francisco. But it used to be different where it is now sadly the same.
The Spirit of the place as in the lay of the land is the same. But the working class humanity that gave us so much character has given way to a vapid careerist paper-pushing uniformity. Only the lay of the land has not changed but the corporations would plow that down too if profit could be made. And as long as they get an invitation to the cocktail party or can throw off their cloths in public you will hear nary a bark from the toothless lap dog activists. The emperor has no cloths and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Copyright © 2012