Friday, December 11, 2009


"I was deployed on September 11 for homeland security. At 21, I was in Iraq as a prison guard (No. Not there.)"

Read the rest of Dottie's story on i live here:SF.

Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

Monday, December 7, 2009


"London is a place that should retain a special place in my heart, after all it’s where I was born and bred."

If you want to know more about Tom, you're gonna have to go to the BIG BEAUTIFUL BRAND NEW SITE!

Change your bookmarks!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

i live here:SF has a new home!

Bigger IS better!!!

I'm happy to announce that i live here:SF has a brand new domain:

Please change your feeds, bookmarks and sidebars so I don't lose any of you!

I'm still working out some of the kinks, but for all intents and purposes, this site is LIVE!

Tell all your friends and I'll see you around town.



Thursday, December 3, 2009


Amongst the redwoods
National AIDS Memorial Grove

Saturday morning


While I am a native Californian, born in West Covina and raised in Covina until we moved to Florida when I was 10, I never considered myself a Californian until I moved to San Francisco.

And apart from a brief hiatus in Washington DC (2 years, ten months and 30 days, but who counted?) I have lived in San Francisco for just about half my life.

What first brought me back to California, specifically to Hayward in 1985, was a one-year domestic Peace Corps-like program sponsored by the University of Notre Dame (where I had just graduated from) that had me teaching in a predominately black Catholic elementary school in West Oakland.

By June 1988, I was finally living in San Francisco.

I first became involved in HIV/AIDS work before I ever knew anyone who was infected or who had died. My first involvement was in 1985 through the Shanti Project as an emotional/practical support volunteer. Interestingly enough, while I was an undergrad at Notre Dame, I was a teaching assistant in the Biology lab for two and ½ years (a required course for pre-med students). The lab lecture both semesters of my senior year that I taught was about this new and emerging threat, AIDS.

Once in the Bay Area, AIDS became much more profoundly personal and real. One could not help but note that the Bay Area was hard hit by the epidemic. One could ignore it, certainly, but it took effort to make-believe it was not real.

Then October 1985 came around. And my world changed.

While in a demonstration in San Francisco regarding the US involvement in El Salvador (I was doing a little volunteer work with the Sanctuary Movement when not teaching), we were walking through UN Plaza towards the Federal Building when I encountered something that would forever change my perspective and politics and soul -- the ARC/AIDS Vigil.

In late October 1985, a group of homeless and nearly homeless gay men who had AIDS and ARC chained themselves to the doors of one of the buildings in UN Plaza in protest to the inaction of the US government in the face of the AIDS epidemic. It was the second act of civil disobedience ever in the history of the epidemic, the first having transpired a few months earlier with a gay man chaining himself to the doors of one of the federal buildings in similar protest only exception being that the first man was arrested while the men who set up the ARC/AIDS Vigil were not.

As our contingent of protesters marched through UN Plaza, past the Vigil, one of the men who was part of the group there stood up and cheered us on, clapping in solidarity. To reach across that divide by such a simple gesture, I was blown away.

By 1988 I was actively involved in AIDS, not only professionally, but as an activist, an advocate, but also as a person living with HIV disease. (BTW, I have now lived with HIV for 23 years of my life.)

Fast forward to December 1995 to my last official function in San Francisco before I moved to Washington DC. As Health Commissioner and executive director of Mobilization Against AIDS (the organization that had sponsored the men who created the ARC/AIDS Vigil back in 1985), I was invited to help christen the South Portal of the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.

What was once an eyesore in the park was now a beautiful living memorial to those who had died of AIDS.

Returning to SF in late 1998 was the best thing I ever did for myself. I wish I could say that my last eleven years home have been smooth sailing but in fact, just the opposite – I spent several of the past years sick or recovering.

The past decade has been one of dealing with very personal losses as well as my own decline in health (although now my health is stable and pretty darn good I’d say). I retired from AIDS work in 2001, swearing that I had put in my time and was tired and needed to take care of myself.

Through a friend, I was coaxed out of retirement to join the Board of Directors of the now National AIDS Memorial Grove (President Clinton signing the Congressional resolution deeming the Grove to be one of the 44 National such memorials in 1996).

Like other parts of my life, the Grove now brings me full circle. Just as I say that when I am in San Francisco I am alive, the same holds true for the Grove.

What the Grove embodies is that inexplicable but unmistakable reason why I live in San Francisco. When I am in the Grove I am alive.

I know the City has flaws and challenges and its own problems, but this City has more of one thing than any other city I have ever been to – heroes.

San Francisco is a terribly fortunate city – terribly because of the tremendous loss that we have experienced as a city because of AIDS and yet fortunate because we as a city have been lucky enough to have had an entire city decide to be heroic, from the beginning of the epidemic and even until now. Heroism in the face of the AIDS epidemic often is to be found in the ordinary.

At its core, San Francisco is defined by its response to AIDS and that response, that legacy is pretty astonishing -- at its core the legacy of MY San Francisco is one of ordinary people rising to an extraordinary challenge solely because of concern and compassion for their neighbor, lover, friend, family member, co-worker, child.

An extraordinary city brimming with extraordinary people who just believe themselves to be doing nothing out of the ordinary – that is my San Francisco.


You can read more about the National AIDS Memorial Grove here and here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Inner Sunset
Monday evening



I'm Caroline and I think San Francisco is truly a beautiful place. Though I do dislike some things about it, most of my thoughts about San Francisco are positive. My bad thoughts about S.F. is that the pollution is okay but ugh! The litter! Geez! People are constantly trashing this precious place and I don't appreciate that.

My great feelings about S.F. are how the community is finally thinking about how the litter is going overboard. Also, I have noticed how more considerate people are now. I am glad and if we can do this every day, we can help the environment improve.

You know, if you're wondering what being a nine-year old kid is like, you're lucky 'cuz I'll tell you. In San Francisco, life here as a kid, well, let's just say it's not boring life but it's not exotic life either. I think am going to build my family here for now. You never know what life or future brings. But San Francisco is a very special place and I am very lucky to live here.

By Caroline (signed)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dear San Francisco,

My name is Sadie. If you see me on the street, don't make any sudden movements. It freaks me out. I am a Mama's girl, she is paws-down the awesome-est human I have ever smelled (and I sniff like it's going out of style). The rest of you humans are okay as long as you can keep your voice at a reasonable level and not be too hyper. If I sniff you over and you're chill, I'll hook you up with a nose bump or two. People love them. They are cute.

The thing is, you city folks recognize how blonde, adorable, and perfectly apartment-sized I am. But deep down, I'm a hound dog, y'all. Mama rescued me back in the day from a farm off a country road in North Carolina. Don't get me wrong, the farm was dope. But you can only handle ticks in your ears (and sleeping outside) for so long.

Despite my modest beginnings, I made my way to the the city by the bay and, as it turns out, I'm pretty fancy. Go on, Google me -- I'm what you might call a "comfort retriever," the rather charming hybrid breed of Cocker Spaniel mixed with Golden Retriever. So boo-yah to those chickens back on the farm that were all flappin' about saying I didn't belong. No, I didn't belong you stupid hens! And how's that smelly shack treating ya?! I'm currently lounging in a warm hardwood flat and sleep in a BED. Try to peck me now!

I take my Mama on walks several times a day. First thing in the morning and late at night are regular strolling times. Give me a friendly holler if you see me, but don't get to close to my Mama. Or I will go from cute city dog to ruthless guard dog in less time than it takes to say "bite me."

Smoochies on the face,

Sadie lives with her beautiful mama, Megahn, in NOPA. You can see the two of them together here.

Megahn's i live here:SF story is here.

Monday, November 23, 2009


On Stow Lake
Golden Gate Park
Monday morning


There are moments that never fade with time. You can call them up in an instant over years, over decades, and their colors remain as brilliant as ever.

It has been ten years now since our big yellow moving truck lumbered out of the Waldo Tunnel and I caught my breath as the bright towers of the Golden Gate Bridge shot into view. That was the moment I came home for the first time.

I grew up in one of those wholesome towns in the Midwest, surrounded by a vast green ocean of cornfields. Despite a storybook childhood replete with fuzzy puppies and devoted parents, I hit puberty feeling like there might be something profoundly wrong with me.

I almost fit in, but not quite. Something was always off. I was never on the same page, the same boat, the same planet as the rest of my classmates, my friends or my fellow 4-H’ers.

By the time I reached my early twenties, I was living near Chicago, writing copy for an ad agency, spending my weekends as a black-clad club kid and penning maudlin poetry about my inability to find happiness.

Happiness isn’t a place, according to conventional wisdom. But I never was one for conventions.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of leaving Illinois sooner. Perhaps I was waiting for some kind of permission, some indisputable sign. It came in 1998 in the form of a guy named Bruce. We weren’t yet married when he pulled out a map of the United States, spread it open on the table and said, “If you could move anywhere in the country, where would you go?”

It took me about two seconds to say, “San Francisco.”

I had never been to the city, but I had heard the stories. I read the books. And as soon as I said it, I knew it was right.

Two years later, I sat weeping and astonished in the front seat of a moving truck as we rolled across the bridge, the fog reaching out to welcome us.

I can’t imagine myself anyplace else. This is where I belong, here in this beautiful city of misfits.

This city is more than famous landmarks and steep hills. It’s more than eclectic architecture and summer fog. It’s more than hippies and beatniks and liberals and homeless. It’s more than a muse, more than a melting pot. There is something inexpressible about this city, something virtually magical.

In San Francisco, you are allowed to be whoever you really are. This city will give you the chance to find yourself and the inspiration to make that self a better person.

From that very first day to this, I am constantly overcome with miniature love epiphanies as I wander around San Francisco streets. Topping Twin Peaks to see the whole bay stretched out before me like a promise. Watching the fog creep up Judah Street like a damp, benevolent cat. Running through Golden Gate Park in the early morning as the light begins to glimmer through the green. Feeling the salt coat my face as the waves throw themselves again and again onto the sand at Ocean Beach.

Every time it happens is new. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I fall in love all over again.

And so I’ve built a life here, at land’s end. I’ve discovered who I am. I’ve learned to be happy. I’ve come home.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


In an artist's loft and workshop
Near Folsom and Dore, SOMA
Tuesday morning


Everyone always says, "There's SOMEthing about San Francisco." And then they proceed to try to nail it down by making lists of the things that make this city what it is... But you can't do that and actually capture that something. Maybe because it's different for everyone. Maybe it's not actually something and people just need to justify why they live in a loud, crowded, dirty city with a bunch of loud, crazy people.

For me, it's the pulse. This city is a living breathing thing that feeds creative energy into the lives of the people who live here. There's a constant need to produce, to do things, to make art, to make science, to marry the two to each other and to make things Interesting. There are places in this city that you'd never could have dreamed existed. There are people in this city that defy the laws of common social nature. And they're all proud to be who they are and excited about what they do. It's a city of life filled with alcoves of hidden art, cultures from all over the world, and people with zillions (yes, zillions) of stories. It's a colossal panoply of universes all laying one on top of the other and we are here in the middle of it all, eyes rolling, mouth stretched taught with glee and in awe of everyday life.

I fall in love with someone or something in this city at least once a day. I've never experienced that before I moved here. And I wouldn't give that experience up for anything.

I'm a menswear designer. Something, had you asked me 5 years ago, I would have never considered doing. This city found this passion in me.

I dance and perform. Something I would have never had the courage to do if it weren't for the people in this city who drew it out of me.

I make art for people to play in and to change perspectives on the possibilities at hand. And if it weren't for the other artists defying logic and pushing possibilities, I would have never thought to try.

For the first time in my 27 years, I found a place that feels like home. A place that I can always come back to and feel comfortable with friends who are excited to see me. This is why I live here.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Off 24th Street
The Mission

Thursday morning


San Francisco.

You call it what you want. It’s just as simple as that, period. I been here for 27 years; born at General Hospital and been raised here ever since. I told a friend one time “I’m going to buy a house here in the city and I don’t care if I have to use candles to light my house and be the poorest home owner on that block. I will own in SF.” It’s still my goal after all these debts disappear...

Ever since I was younger, I have never been one for school books. School books in my opinion seem cold; impersonal, lots of writing, and no pictures. Granted though, their job was to give us information that we may use at some point in our lives. But I guess I’m a person that needs pictures. I need imagery to let me understand or relate to something that is read or something that is described to me. That is why San Francisco cannot be put into words. It is a place that can’t be explained on paper and if you try to, you risk missing something about this city that may be dear to someone else. Also, on the flip side of that if I were to put what San Francisco is famous for on paper, the next person could say “I have a bridge in my city,” or “ I have a pier/wharf/(insert similar item common between cities here)What’s the big deal?” Well…it is a big deal. San Francisco has to be experienced firsthand. This place is DIFFERENT than anywhere else. You may walk down one block and see a guy and a girl kissing and on the next block two girls (or guys) are doing the same thing. You could be on one side of town and it could be foggy as hell but about 3 miles down, it’s clear and sunny. You could see the rich on one side of town with the million dollar mansions and on the other you got the homeless sitting on a bench asking for money when you pass by. Every moment in this city is an experience – a mental picture that the person was able to capture.

Now some people may argue that things are changing in the city for the better and others will say it’s for the worse. A friend of mine gets mad when he walks by Pops bar on 24th because it used to be neighborhood regulars and drunks and now its fixies and more fixies. Some things are for the better though – years back the Mission used to be VERY heavily gang populated and I remember when the park near my house had initiations that had huge crowds that rivaled something like Dia De Los Muertos crowds. Police would come around and they would scatter like ants from under a rock. Now the same park has a soccer field and a basketball court and the same area has a ton of coffee shops next to the taquerias and liquor stores. Change is inevitable I guess but change also brings out new things and better things that make this city stand out from the others.

San Francisco is magical. It is mysterious. It is grimy. It is beautiful. It is just there like an old friend or it is like that new opportunity that is placed in front of you. It is something that is planned or something that is at a moment's notice. It emits an aura that brings people from all around the world to come see and experience it. Just drive back into the city on one of the bridges and you can just feel San Francisco radiate just because it is one of a kind.

People want to come to San Francisco and I think you should too.


You can see the rest of Eze's photo shoot here.

His flickr account is here.

You can find him on twitter here.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Near 19th Street
Potrero Hill
Monday afternoon


Le mystère

Today it’s been 9 years since I moved from Paris to Pacifica, and then San Francisco. I left Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport on November 09 and arrived one day later, after 2 planes broke and the last one missed our last connection in Pittsburg, on November 10th. Since then, for nine years, every single day I walk outside and meet somebody new, wherever it is, whoever they are, no matter how short our interaction, they systematically ask me the same question: “what brought you here?” This is why I decided to write this, and to participate to Julie’s project. To tell you my story about why “I Live here: San Francisco…”

I came here for love.

In 1998 I fell for an American man in Paris, he was on vacation, extremely long karmic story short: I commuted two years from Paris to Redwood City, “Deadwood City”, before deciding to leave everything I had built and adored to live with him in California. We bought a house in Pacifica, I got married in this red silk dress, and here I was, the Parisian girl on a coastal retreat. None of my French friends could believe it! Me neither.

At first I thought I will not survive. I could not even look though the windows: all these small houses and the big ocean were so scary too me. I was looking desperately for high energy, crowds, and tall buildings! Despite my job in San Francisco, I felt so isolated, dying inside. Then step by step, I met incredible people, developed new true friendships. I began yoga, enrolled in a 3-year Feng Shui program which I graduated from and uncovered my spiritual path. I founded Your French Accent, my “Decorator Extraordinaire and Beyond” consulting company. I learned so much during these Pacifican years…

When we divorced in very good terms in January 2008, I decided to stay in California against all odds, and moved to “The City.” I picked or actually I got picked by a studio on Potrero Hill, the place where I always wanted to live since I discovered San Francisco. I saw this apartment waiting for me in a dream before it got even posted on Craigslist! I got it despite the other 13 applicants. I moved close to the railroad, close to 280, and the noise and the pollution welcomed me as a longtime lost friend. I was back to my own life of a joyful city girl: I was back to Moi, better!

Here I learned more. The gentleman on the pictures is a close friend who I very rarely see but who opened up my heart on a new world of possibilities, revealing a part of my soul that I never acknowledged before. This is why I asked him to be part of this photo shoot. When I met him, he told me: “Catherine, you are free, nobody can claim you as his own, and nor can you claim anybody either. Now live your own life, and enjoy, fully.”

After more new beautiful heart filling karmic encounters on the hill and… a lot more meditation and introspection, I finally integrated that no love has to be possessive and exclusive to be real and durable. I understood that the biggest act of love is to set the person you want for yourself totally free. I realized that watching the seeds you planted grow on their own is more important than to gate a dry garden. It feels so good! My love and my respect for every person in my life, past/present/future, is sincere and intact, for ever.

Voilà. Now you know my story. I came here for Love. I came here for me… I have absolutely no clue where I will be in a month, a year. Times are shaking and with this boots I bought in 2000, I am walking through ruins and miracles. But you know what? Today, I live here: San Francisco. I mean: I LIVE here, and I am thankful for every second of it!

Namaste. Be good and never behave!


You can see the rest of Catherine's photo shoot here.

Catherine's website is

Her vlog is


William De Avila Elementary School
Wednesday morning


I hate this place. It stinks and it's dirty and there's piss everywhere and needles and garbage and yesterday when I went for a run in the park I had to traverse a trail that had been completely covered in used toilet paper. I've been robbed at gunpoint here, just down the street from my apartment. San Francisco is expensive, and I'll never be able to afford to buy a home. The city government is corrupt, there's nowhere to park, the people are all fucking crazy, and don't even get me started about MUNI.

I'm never leaving, motherfuckers.

I moved here about a dozen years ago. My plan was to stick around for a year and then head for the brighter lights of New York, and a glamorous career in publishing. Instead I've been here ever since. Because as much as I hate this place--and I do, I really, really do--I love it even more. I'm originally from Alabama. I spent my late teens and early 20s in Georgia. I've also lived in Colorado, Virginia, South Carolina, Iran and Kuwait. But if you ask, I'll tell you I'm a San Franciscan.

I adore this never-ending freakshow of a city. It's a place that taught me to be comfortable and confident with who I am. I love moving between its various scenes, from hipsters to hippies to house kids to old school punk rockers, political activists, futurists, artists, scientists, students, burners, bohemians, surfers, cyclists, and tech-addled transplants who dream of changing the world. (Or at least: making a lot of money.) I love its Victorian charm, the grit of its industrial zones, the beauty of its Bay and ocean. The hills and the way the fog comes tumbling across the sides of Sutro, gliding across the valleys into the heart of the city.

I love going to parties and striking up conversations with people who've come from other places--Arizona and Nebraska and Oklahoma and Mississippi and Massachusetts and Paris and Peru and Senegal and points beyond--to make a new life here next to the ocean, on the farthest edge of the American experiment. And I love that experimentation. I love the gay boys and the butch dykes and those with many myriad variations of self-defined gender roles that illustrate so well why it's a plane, and not a polar construct. We're not afraid of something new. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. We'll take it, we'll try it, we'll embrace that which you fear and show you that it's not so bad. That it's good. That it's better, even.

I love running through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, and across coastal trails that look down on the crashing Pacific. Riding my bike across the brilliant red bridge into sunny Marin county, and looking back on the city hidden below fog, like cake beneath a layer of perfect white frosting. I love watching the sun crash into the Pacific to die another day, and the moon rise big and yellow over the hills of the East Bay, floating softly above our low slung skyline.

And I love that it's the city where I fell in love. Where I met my beautiful, kind, and caring wife, whose heart is as big as California itself. Who took me in not despite but because of eccentricities. It was in this landscape where we first looked deeply into each others eyes and saw the future spread out fifty years before us. And it was always here. Right here.

I'm never leaving. I just want to make it better. My dear friend and sometimes mentor Patrick Hughes, the Baron of Haight Street, told me that this is a city that rewards those who give to it. "Give to San Francisco, and San Francisco will give back to you." And I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change it. I'll live with that I hate, because it's worth it all for that I love.

Friday, November 6, 2009


At Central Coffee Tea & Spice
On Hayes
Monday afternoon


In 1996 I arrived as a young European tourist to stay indefinitely, to see how things go out there in California. And they did go. Everything from there on is now part of my history and created in this town. I am realizing more and more why I live here.

San Francisco is the town that has allowed me to flow through all my live changes, providing me with endless opportunities to try new things, grow and emerge out of my shell at every stage in my live. It is the town that catches me when I fall and just when I lose sight of direction waves me into consciousness with its absolute beauty and from there offers the next opportunity, the next chapter.

This is the city in which I moved through several stages in my personal life with relationships beginning and ending, picking up my tears on the local park bench or letting my hair get brushed with a stroke of wind during a long embrace at the beach. This is the city in which I was once arrived as an illegal alien and I felt for the first time what it meant to fight for something that you truly want and become a legal resident to claim and hold my entitlement to be one with this town.

This is the city who honored me with titles such as a nanny, a bar tender, a student, an artist, a dancer, a single individual, a woman, a foreigner, a manager, a divorcee and a unique individual. This is the city in which I learned what it meant to say good bye over and over again when friends move away, leaving you behind in the arms of the city to find myself at a local bar and the next story sitting near you on the bar stool if you just listen closely enough. This is the city in which I was a poi spinner for one moment and a burlesque dancer for another, a pottery maker for about second and an acting student forever. This is the city in which I got a piercing and danced to break beats into Burning Man and back.

This is the city in which I went from poor to rich and back down into current unemployment while all along feeling a never changing level of wealth due to calming strokes of happiness by the endless buzzing town corners. This is the city in which I discovered my first grey hair and found myself looking at strollers wondering what the motherly hands of the city would offer to me. This is the city that keeps me just scared enough to move and evolve up and out into the unknown.

This is the city that asks me to recommit my relationship daily when forcing me into a mind battle between the reasons for staying or following my home sick heart to be with my family who lives far away - the city always wins.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


On a rooftop off of Post Street
The Tenderloin
Monday afternoon


I can tell you the exact place and moment when I first said I was going to move to San Francisco.

My friend's and I had taken the trip from Sacramento to San Francisco, and (as tourists) of course our first stop had to be Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. After getting clam chowder in a bread bowl from Guardino's, we snagged some empty tables outside of Castagnolia's. Looking up Jones St. toward Russian Hill, that was my moment.

That was the infatuation. The love of San Francisco came from seeing the people who inhabit it. The idealist's and the dreamers. The artists and the musicians and the writers, and even the waiters like me. The people who envisioned a better world, a world that was possible within our little city.

I went to Africa on a mission trip the summer after my freshman year of college, and after that eye-opener I could no longer accept the cookie-cutter lifestyle of the Sacramento suburb I was living in at the time. It was fake. I needed authentic.

San Francisco was authentic.

Growing up as a Christian, you find lots of people who are anything but authentic. I didn't want to be a fake Christian, and after going to Africa, I knew I had to do something that mattered with my life.

One amazing thing about San Francisco is that it has more non-profits than any other city in the nation. It has people who care. Who dream. I wanted to be like the people in San Francisco. I wanted to dream, to do things that mattered.

One thing that separated San Francisco from other places that I've lived is that in other places, if you share an idea with someone, they'll give you all the reasons why it won't work. They'll shoot you down more often than not.

In San Francisco, when you share an idea with someone, more often then not they are excited. People comment on how unique or original an idea may be. They ask what they can do to help.

I'm at a point where I'm asking you to help me. You see I'm committed to being one of those dreamers who do things that matter. I've been accepted to an internship in Belize, which will give me the chance to learn and grow, not only as a Christian, but as someone who cares about our world and our city. I know there are others out there with these same cares. I've seen you and I've met you, and you're what makes this city what it is.

I don't want to ask for your money, but I need to. So I want to give something back. My 1hundredproject gives me the chance to give something back to you. I'm going to ask for $100, but I want to make your trouble worthwhile. I want to make your life easier, and hopefully you can get to know me a little bit along the way. Allow me to help you with something. I'll paint your garage, babysit your dog, even take your daughter to homecoming. I might be asking for your money, I'm desperate to show why I hope you find me worth it.

1hundredproject is my idea to help make my dream of going to Belize a reality. I'd love for you to check out my idea, and maybe tell me some of yours, and maybe together all of us dreamers can make a better city and a better world.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


In a hallway
Somewhere in NOPA

Sunday morning


There was a fullness of life I felt happening here one cold, wet, December trip several years ago. I was visiting Lauren, my muse and oldest best friend who moved to the city directly after finishing her undergrad at UVA. I was a wide-eyed girl from North Carolina on my first trip to California. A venture which marked my second time being west of the Mississippi River.

I made that trip to San Francisco to understand why (oh why!) my beloved best friend ditched our post-college plans of living together in New York City for this far out city by the bay. Before graduation, she called me in Raleigh, NC, asking and encouraging me to join her. "So what do you think about San Francisco?" Lauren finally says. My full and instant reply was, "I think it's in California."

The West Coast was a foreign concept to me. More than that, I had a mother recovering from a life-threatening disease and my only grandmother faced serious health issues as well. Lauren moved west without me, but with a promise that I would visit as soon as I could. A few months later she was settled into her dark and cozy Pacific Heights attic apartment, and I made good on my promise.

My 10-day stay spanned New Year's Eve, allowing Lauren and I to celebrate our 24th birthdays together and take advantage of some treasured time off from our newly acquired jobs. It rained every day of that trip. Getting around was messy and difficult. The four steep flights of stairs up to her apartment were a real kick in the ass at the end of our long cold days touring the city. I was uncomfortable and unsure of myself in this new place... feelings with which I was not familiar. The change was invigorating. I felt alive.

I went back to North Carolina. I took with me a larger view of my country and a knowledge that one day, I would live in San Francisco.

Three years later, my appetite was whet for change and challenge. The seed planted during that cold, wet, December visit, came to its fruition in the form of a west-bound cross country trip in the Spring of 2008. I had my dog, a great resume, and a friend with a futon in San Francisco.

Now I live here, San Francisco. I still feel uncomfortable and unsure of myself at times, as the city continues to stretch me and force me to grow. But I am living the dream of my imagined life. This life is full of challenging work, in a city ripe with possibilities, surrounded by an ever expanding band of friends and colleagues that challenge me to become my best self.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Lilac Alley
The Mission
Tuesday afternoon


The City that I Love
June 25, 2009

Man in cream colored suit, pedaling away
one hand carrying a bouquet of stargazers.

Ten-week old soft puppy
Hello, welcome to the world
You are so golden.

A song I, yes, have heard before
Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown.

Waiting in line at the Castro theater
someone behind me regretting
jalapeños in his sandwich.

A gray night in June.
I came here eleven summers ago.
My heart is now open
where two cable cars
can pass each other in opposite directions.
No, I don’t mind contradiction at all.

Journal Entry: September 23, 2008

I walk home from the Castro station; I take 17th street as usual. I appreciate the outside air – windless and calm. There is a young woman, a high school girl in uniform, who starts singing once she gets off the train. She starts singing like an opera singer and walks energetically. I follow behind her, to get a feel of her world – vibrating, loud, confident.


You can see the rest of Nani's photo shoot here.

Nani's blog:

And the website of where she works:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Municipal Pier
The Marina

Friday morning


San Francisco was the first American city my father landed in from China in the late 1970s. After swimming from mainland China to Hong Kong, he earned enough money to make it to the United States; he came here on a mission to provide a better life for his growing family. San Francisco was just one piece of the journey, but it was the first place where he was able to experience American life, albeit in Chinatown.

I could have been born in San Francisco, but I wasn’t. After my father left San Francisco, he traveled around the United States a little more until he found a place to call home: Virginia. I was born there in Virginia, but perhaps my pull to move to San Francisco had always been in my blood. When I initially decided to move to San Francisco, I was drawn more by a promised job than anything else—my father had a friend here who was willing to give me a job straight after university. Although that offer ended up falling through, I still felt determined to move to San Francisco after graduation. At that point in time, I thought of San Francisco as just a different place to wait out the years—but, as time has shown me, the city has definitely been more than that.

What I’ve discovered over the course of these past two years is a lot, including most importantly, my passion for writing. I guess you can say I had my own kind of “coming out” in the sense that I let my hidden passion for writing become part of my public, professional life. I had buried my love for writing over the years—throughout school, I thought that people would look down on me when I said I wanted to be an artist or a writer. So I covered up these thoughts of mine and went on studying other subjects in order to feel accepted by others.

I stopped writing creatively for a long time until I moved out to San Francisco. Here, somehow, I have found myself drawn to writing more than anywhere else I’ve been—in the past two years since living in San Francisco, I have written three novels and am currently working on my fourth. Some of these novels were completed during the month of November, for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which I have to thank for helping me find my passion once again.

Although I have yet to officially publish my novels, just being in San Francisco has helped me re-awaken that looming giant within me. The city, the area, screams of the artistic vibe that infuses into my soul and mind. Everywhere I turn, there’s something to appreciate, something to perhaps tack onto a future storyline.

Living in San Francisco has also heightened my sense of culture and diversity by enjoying the different foods and languages that surround me on a daily basis. I have met some amazing people here from all walks of life whom I would have never met if I hadn’t moved here. Perhaps my journey to San Francisco has been more or less similar to my father’s: trying to find a better life for myself and my future.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Outside Pirate Cat Radio Cafe
21st Street, The Mission
Saturday morning


Mills College in Oakland was the only college located outside the Midwest I applied to, so naturally I chose it above all others. I left my hometown of Minneapolis in 1996 at the age of seventeen, arriving to pursue my degree and the ultimate education: living in the Bay Area. During those four years I interned with the Harvey Milk Institute on Castro Street under the guidance of the organization’s executive director, Kevin Schaub.

One July afternoon while we were out for a smoke on the steps, Kevin pointed out a mural of Harvey Milk I hadn’t noticed before, though it was directly across the street from our office. The portrait (by Josef Norris, 1998) is partially shadowed by a luscious tree. It is as though Harvey is looking down on the shop, bemused, checking in on business. The mural also includes Milk’s message, You’ve gotta give ‘em hope! “That was Harvey’s camera shop right down there,” Kevin told me, pointing to the storefront below. Less than a week later I finished reading the biography of Harvey Milk in tears on the 22.

The following spring on Easter Sunday morning, my interning duties led me to a street fair hosted by HMI and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I arrived thinking I’d be manning the HMI booth, but first Kevin tasked me with providing general support to the Sisters in their dressing room. All morning I mixed cocktails, zipped dresses, pinned hats, buckled shoes, and fetched accessories. I was harshly, and quite fairly, admonished by several Sisters after I mistakenly referred to one as a “he” – even though the Sister in question was dressed as the Pope. “We’re all ‘she’ when we’re in drag, honey.” They were gossipy and bossy, and I was becoming increasingly cranky from the task of perpetually indulging the Sisters rather than the other way around. But after all the fuss was over, each Sister emerged quite suddenly, full of grace, into the sunshine, beautiful with their painted faces, hats adorned with butterflies and silk roses, and delighted the gathering crowds the way they do.

I returned to Minneapolis in 2000 and stayed for years. I visited the Bay Area a couple of times a year, and missed it dearly. But there in Minneapolis, a wintry city of fortitude, I fell in love, got married, went back to school, learned how to cook, sang in a band, gardened, made lifelong friends, loved my work.

And still, after all that, when the opportunity arose to move back to the Bay Area, the answer was yes.

Rediscovering the city now is resonating. One can never be nineteen again, so it must be the city itself, ringing.

Today I pursue the education in experience that is doing research with ISKME, and living here in the deep of the Mission.


You can see the rest of Clare's photo shoot here.

Clare is a Research Associate at the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME):

Follow Clare at

Friday, October 16, 2009


Alta Plaza Park
Pacific Heights
Tuesday afternoon


When I twelve I made a plan. I was going to be a writer and I was going to live in San Francisco. As far as plans for twelve year old girls who love books go, it was not an especially original sort of plan. I didn’t really know much about San Francisco literary culture or history, but I had a sense and I made the plan and, in theory, this plan has sort of worked out. I live in San Francisco, now, and I study creative writing and when I go home and my best friend reminds me, hey, you’re doing what you always said you were doing! I go with it. It feels good to have that sense of accomplishment, that sense that twelve year old me was really onto something, despite her poofy hair and leggings.

Only, it turns out that living in San Francisco and trying to be a writer is not nearly as romantic as it sounds. First of all, the muse doesn’t automatically show up just because I settle myself into a chair at a coffee shop with my laptop, even though I’m pretty sure that before I came, I secretly believed this would happen. Also, it turns out that even when you are living the life your youthful self imagined, you still have bad hair days, you still miss your family and you don’t great a break on the crazy rent your youthful self conveniently never factored into the equation.

Which is all to say, sometimes I don't feel as though I live in San Francisco. Even in quintessential San Francisco moments I can be caught off guard, wondering suddenly if it is really me there on Muni, if this really is San Francisco or if I will, at some point, wake up and walk out of my apartment and find the city I imagined I knew before I got here.

And the cool thing about all of this? I don't think I'm alone in this experience, or that any two people really know the same San Francisco. In a city of transplants, almost everyone has this story. It becomes a ritual, a familiar moment in every introduction. We trade our San Francisco origin stories along with our names and neighborhoods. We draw out the paths that led us here. Even the ones who have been here all along, the ones born near the bay, can tell a story about leaving and returning, or the moment they knew they couldn't go.


You can see the rest of Margaret's photo shoot here.

Margaret's website is here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Marina
Thursday morning


Living on an edge is a must for me. Something to do with my Viking ancestry, no doubt. I was born and raised in Florida, lucky to have a warm beach to walk every day after school or work. When I moved to San Francisco 20 years ago, I fell in love with the Marina at first sight. A lot of people live in The Marina; I live IN the marina.

My piece of San Francisco is 39’ long by 15’ wide. In this slip lies my sailboat, a 1968 Islander 37, designed by renowned yacht designer and naval architect Bruce King. Though she’s a fiberglass sloop, her classic exterior lines, swoopy stern, ample beam and teak bits give her the air of a more traditional wooden boat. Down below, her salon is warm and cozy. I sleep here, lulled by the foghorn and the rhythmic thrumming of the halyards against the masts. It’s best when raindrops join these to create a hypnotic symphony. The salon also serves as a reading room, home office, and when friends come to visit, an intimate wine bar.

On sunny days, the view from the boat’s cockpit rivals that of any of my land-loving neighbors. Look left, there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. Swivel right and the sky is filled with kites above Marina Green. Gaze across Marina Boulevard at the barrel tile roofs against the sharp blue sky, it’s easy to imagine being in my beloved south of France.

While the boat herself gives me as much pleasure as I can stand, my little marina ’neighborhood’ has its own tempo, which changes depending on the day of the week. Weekdays are special to me since they are typically quiet—there are boat owners who go out during the week, but they are few. Most Monday-through-Friday action comes from the intrepid guys who don a wet suit and tank and brave the murky harbor waters to scrub boat bottoms, or the occasional marine electrician or refinisher out to fix bad wiring or refinish someone’s teak.

Weekends, though, the marina is a Happening. Boats wander in and out all day. Friends bring their friends to share an afternoon on the bay, a trip to Angel Island or maybe sail over to Sausalito to dock at Sam’s for lunch. Kids learning to sail brave the distinct possibility of capsizing to work on their mastery of this most enthralling sport. We have periodic festivals or exhibitions or film crews on Marina Green-and those ubiquitous kites. Volleyball games here, regattas there, those funny little yellow rent-a-scooters navigating the traffic—it’s an extravaganza starring all of us who love being by the Bay.

Marina Boulevard, our very own parade route, draws tourists and locals looking for views, views and views. And maybe a flat place to run, walk or bike. The runners run, from sun up long into the evening, weather be damned.. The wide sidewalk that extends all along the waterfront lures locals to pedal and tourists to rent bikes—Blazing Saddles must be doing box office, since every rental bike in the Marina sports its signature Blazing Saddles handlebar bag, complete with a trusty map. Segway tours pass often-I shouldn’t but I have to giggle every time I see these clots of peoplemovers, since they do look kind of silly and the mandatory helmets and vests are so matchy-matchy, and I still don’t understand how those things stay up anyway, so I watch and wait, expecting a brutal Segway pile up at any time.

Park, who works in the Harbor Master’s office, pops out every few hours to check on the boats, or to get some fresh air—he has worked in the office at least as long as I have. Park is a wealth of local knowledge. He told me about the weekly emergency alert signal one day when I was passing by him, it blared, and I shot several feet straight up. He gives me the skinny on the jumper situation when there are emergency rescue personnel at the marina. Most importantly, he knows who belongs in the marina and who does not: our one-man security force and guardian angel.

I love to walk to Greens for a cup of soup or a cookie, up to Chestnut for coffee, down to Crissy Field, along the beach and the warming hut at the end of the path. I belong to a boating club that is close by also; I’ve made so many good friends here. There’s something special about people joined by a mutual passion. Walking from the boat, I can be alone or with friends, in the middle of urban or at the end of the world within minutes. Where else can you do that?

What I notice most is how kind everyone is here. I attribute it to the gestalt of the marina: the soothing feeling inherent in being on the edge, knowing there’s an exit just there, within spitting distance, if you should need one. Add to that the views worth crossing the globe to see, the scent of the sea, the wail of the seagulls, the gentle to gale force breeze, and the warm kiss of the sweet sun—or as we learn to love in San Francisco, the caress of the kitten-gray fog—and I can’t help but smile and be grateful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Near MacLaren Park
Thursday afternoon


My Life in Motorcycling

I had my first ride on the back of a motorcycle at age 15. I was immediately hooked, but it wasn’t till I’d been living in San Francisco for almost a year that a friend of mine at work happened to mention the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) class. Until then, I had no idea there was a class one could take to learn how to ride; I assumed I’d have to find a patient biker friend. I cut the conversation short, RAN upstairs to my desk, and phoned to reserve a spot in the class.

A few months later, I had a license and a bike of my own, and it was then that I began to really love San Francisco. The freedom and mobility opened up the city, the Bay Area, and the whole state to me—I saw a lot of gorgeous places in my pursuit of curvy roads. I was so excited about riding that I would get up earlier on the weekends to hit the twisties than I did during the week to go to work. I explored the coast north and south of the city, the East Bay hills, the Santa Cruz mountains, and the back roads of Marin and Sonoma, including many places I would never have thought to visit in a car.

Often riding alone, I met a lot of people in my travels, including some who are good friends at least a decade later.

I can’t omit mention of my awful accident; I was hit by a reckless driver on November 26th, 1999, suffering a compound fracture of my right tibia, and breaking both bones in both my wrists. That happened on 14th Street and South Van Ness. I was taken to SF General, which fortunately has the best trauma unit in the city, though it’s not the best place to recuperate. I was subsequently transferred to Saint Mary’s—by two incredibly hot, butch, tattooed, lesbian EMTs. Only in SF!

I really didn’t think I’d keep riding after that, but at the end of a 6-month convalescence, I found that my passion for riding was still with me, and I bought another bike.

Almost exactly a year after my accident, a friend of mine invited me to head to the annual motorcycle expo with a group of her friends. We met at Seal Rock Inn at Point Lobos. My friend brought a passenger—a friend of a friend who’d just moved to town and wanted to learn to ride. He sat next to me at breakfast, and we engaged in polite chit chat. At the time, I had no inkling whatsoever that I would be married to him a few years later, living in a house in the Excelsior with a garage full of motorcycles.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Wentworth Alley
Thursday afternoon


Too Blessed To Be Stressed

I met Lee in 1997. He squatted at the bus stop shelter by my house in San Francisco’s Lower Haight.

Lee was a tall, exceptionally fit brother, mid-to-late forties, with natty shoulder-length dreads and a long, scraggly beard to match. He was missing most of his top and bottom front teeth.

I was 18 and living in a sectioned off hallway of an old Victorian. The hallway was nicknamed “The Taco” because the walls were so narrow that my hand-me-down futon mattress folded up on both sides resembling a taco shell. The space cost me $150 a month, utilities included.

The living situation was suitable for me back then. I worked only part-time at a bagel shop downtown, making just enough to get by. I was broke, but content. I had ample time to skate with my friends, plenty of bagels to keep my stomach full and a running tab at the corner store.

Lee was without question one of the hardest working recyclers in town. He had Upper and Lower Haight, Hayes Valley and the Upper Market/Castro area on lockdown, scavenging the recycling from these neighborhoods hours before the garbage men arrived. Afterwards, he cashed his collection in at the buy-back center on Market and Church streets. He then spent his evenings lounging at the bus stop shelter by my house, smoking rollie cigs and weed and listening to the classic soul and R&B station on his portable radio.

One evening, while waiting for the bus to Upper Haight, Lee told me that he’d been living on the streets of S.F. for over fifteen years. I know he made decent money recycling, probably as much or more than I was making at the bagel shop, so why he remained homeless, I don’t know. I guess he preferred it. During this same conversation, Lee said the only three things he ever spent money on were tobacco, weed and batteries for his radio. That’s it. Everything else, including food, he scavenged out of the trash.

In the summer of 2000, my landlord sold the old Victorian to a real-estate developer who wasted no time giving me, my roommates and the other tenants the boot.

I ended up couch surfing for a month before finding an affordable room in a skate house in The City’s Richmond District.

Close to four months went by before I saw Lee again. It was a Thursday afternoon. I had just finished eating lunch by myself in Upper Haight. Lee was posted up on the corner of Haight and Masonic. He had five large, heavy-duty garbage bags overflowing with recycling tied down to his cart.

I was feeling down this particular day because I had just received word two days earlier that my old friend, Rubin “Peanuts” Grimes, died of a heroin overdose. The news didn’t come as much of a surprise. It was only a matter of time, really. He overdosed twice before. I was scheduled to leave town early the following morning to attend his funeral on Sunday.

Rubin and I were the same age. We actually started skating together in the sixth grade. His nickname was “Peanuts” because he was obsessed with the Charles Schulz Peanuts comics. He even had a tattoo on his right-shoulder of Snoopy (as “Joe Cool”) doing a wheelie on a skateboard. The tattoo was corny as hell, yet fitting.

Rubin was a natural on the skateboard, definitely good enough in the mid-90s be sponsored, but quit senior year of high school to shoot junk fulltime. He started dabbling with the drug junior year, snorting a little here, smoking a little there. By mid-senior year, he was shooting it. It was all down hill from there. He never did graduate.

Pretty much everyone had long since given up on Rubin, his family included.

Although Rubin and I lived in different states, we talked on the phone every so often. We’d reminisce about the old days, and he would always tell me that he was going to start skating again, maybe even come visit me in S.F. That obviously never happened.

Given the circumstances, I wasn’t in the mood to socialize with anyone, but decided I would at least say Hi to Lee before heading home to pack for my trip.

“What up, Lee?” I said as I approached.

An immense smile came over Lee’s face, revealing his missing front teeth. “How the hell are you, my man?” he replied.

We shook hands.

“I’m good,” I said, trying hard not to look sad. “How ‘bout you?”

“I’m blessed,” he replied, pointing towards the bags of recycling tied down to his cart. “Too blessed to be stressed. Business is good.”

“I see that.”

“Where’ve you been hiding?” Lee asked.

“I moved. The landlord sold the building and the new owner gave us the boot. I’m living out in the Avenues now, Richmond side. It’s much quieter, you know.”

“I’m glad I finally ran into you,” he said. “I got something for ya’. Been holding onto it for a while now.”


Lee dug deep into the bottom of his cart and pulled out an old beat-up skateboard.

“I found it in the trash over on McAllister Street,” he said handing me the board.

All at once, I felt extremely emotional. The skateboard was a Peanuts-themed Nash from the mid-80s. The faded, scratched and peeling graphics were of Snoopy (as “Joe Cool”) sporting shades, a Hawaiian shirt, jam shorts and full pads, busting an ollie off the side of his doghouse. The die-cut griptape read “Joe Cool” in bubble letters. The trucks, bearing and bolts were rusty; the yellow and green swirled wheels coned.

“What do ya’ think?” Lee asked. “I don’t know nothin’ about boards, but it looks like a good one to me.”

So much was going through my mind that I could barely speak, but somehow, in a shaky voice, managed to murmur, “I love it.”

Lee smiled and said, “Can you believe someone would throw a good board like that out?”

I shook my head.