Tuesday, May 12, 2009


on a rooftop on O'Farrell
The Tenderloin
Sunday afternoon


I’m just as excited to live here in the Tenderloin today, as I was when I first moved here four years ago. I was born in the East Bay, grew up in Seattle and moved to San Jose a year after I graduated from high school. After the dot com bubble busted five years later, I decided that it was time to ditch my 9 to 5 job and go back to school full-time. A month after I graduated from San Jose State, I gave my car to my little sister and moved up to San Francisco, deep in the heart of the Tenderloin. I have never looked back.

I began my career as a bartender when I went back to school full-time at San Jose State. At first, my plan was to bartend my way through college so I could have the schedule flexibility to handle my full-time course load. After graduating and living in the city for a year, I worried about what I should be doing with the rest of my life. I decided at the time that I couldn’t possibly make a career out of bartending. That’s when I traded in my weekend night shifts for weekdays behind a desk, in a downtown office.

After working full-time in an office for a couple years, I realized that I was not happy being stuck inside an office building 8 hours a day, five days a week. I missed my nights behind the bar. I missed having my days free to pursue my creative interests. Once again, I ditched the 9 to 5 job and returned to bartending.

I’ve learned that I can make a healthy career out of bartending. Not only do I bartend a couple nights a week, but I also teach people how to bartend and write about my bartending experiences on a daily basis. My life revolves around bartending and I have never been happier.

I am proud to live here in the Tenderloin. In fact, most of the people who live in the TL are very proud of living here. When I tell people that I live in the TL, they just think of all of the crackheads, drug dealers, homeless people and prostitutes who litter the streets, but we have all walks of life here. We have all sorts of cool restaurants and bars. We are surrounded with local artists and local art galleries. Anything one could ever need is within walking distance or is a short MUNI ride away. The Tenderloin is such a central location in the city. It’s right in the middle of everything. The beautiful thing about the TL is that it is vibrant and full of energy. Day or night, there is always something going on here. There is never a dull moment in this part of the city.

There isn’t anywhere else in the city I’d rather be.

You can read all about my bartending experiences through my bartending blog at:


I also post daily on my Examiner.com page as the SF Bartender Examiner at:


I am also the founding editor for a local, underground zine called Xploited Zine which can be found online at:


Saturday, May 9, 2009


inside the Port of San Francisco
China Basin
Friday afternoon


There are so many things by which San Francisco is recognized. We have the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Giants, Lombard Street, Union Square, and Fisherman’s Wharf, among countless other things that appear on postcards. What really defines this city are the people, who come from literally every walk of life and exist together like pieces of a puzzle. Each one is unique, but together they create a beautiful composition that expresses a peaceful coexistence not seen elsewhere.

So many distinct people call this place home, from the Marina girl to the Tenderloin crackhead to the SoMa yuppie to the Haight Ashbury hippie to the Mission hipster and everyone in between. Though it may not be obviously inherent at first, we all share one common trait. We are all daydreamers and risk-takers, not letting any preconceived notion or cast determine who we are or what it means to live life. That’s what I love about this city. There are so many unique individuals but no one is ever alone. I believe it’s this state of mind that draws so many people to this city, whether it’s on a subconscious level or outwardly intentional.

It’s exactly what brought me here the first time. I was off to college and the next few years were some of the best, as they should be. And then it happened. I fell in love with a girl.

Suddenly the city was more vibrant than ever. It was as if I’d been viewing our city through a standard definition lens, and then seeing it in HD, as life (and TV) should be experienced. The food, the sights, the sounds, and the smells all rang with such conviction that I was convinced I was literally high on love. And then it happened. I loved, and then I lost.

The downward spiral clouded my judgment and I didn’t see life the same way, and that included the city. It just didn’t feel the same to me. So I moved away, down to the South Bay where I’m originally from, to chase other dreams and start anew. The next couple of years were filled with ups and downs, but the spirited energy of life that only exists in San Francisco wasn’t there. It took me a long time to realize this, but San Francisco didn’t hurt me, it never has. It will always be there, vibrant and bold as ever. So I did what any daydreamer would do. I packed up shop and moved back, because I left my heart in San Francisco and now I’m here to chase it.


Gene's blog is http://hoodscope.wordpress.com/

The rest of Gene's photo shoot can be seen here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


On Cole
Cole Valley
Saturday morning


There’s something about this place….something about how little cable cars climb big hills…something about how every house is it’s own piece of art…and something about how escaping to the parks or the other side of a hill puts you in a wonderland far from the city you have come to know.

I leave town every week and come back just for this place and the people it holds. I’m fortunate enough to meet new people on their way to visit the city, or on their way home from a weekend trip. Some of the ones who stand out are…

The couple who had never left Texas …when they boarded the plane, they had their rental car picked out and all the places in fisherman’s wharf to visit. When we landed, they had cocktail napkins full of my writing, listing places to see in Pac Heights, Haight Ashbury, the Presidio, and the Sunset…and promised me they would cancel their rental car.

Another woman, from Toronto, started crying in-front of me on her way home when she realized something was calling her back. She planned to go home, pack her bags, and head west. Though it was her first trip, she felt a calling to come back.

Like me and many of my friends, we don’t know what finally pushes us to move here, all we know is that once we got a taste of the city, our minds remained 100% preoccupied with being here. It’s a city that requires a leap a faith, detachment from high heels, scarves in the summer, and an open mind. But once you arrive, you won’t go back.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Ocean Beach
Saturday morning


I love this city. I'll admit it: it's a bit weird. I can't figure out if it's a hot city or a cold city, a dry city or a wet city. That's alright though. This place has some of the best parks for dogs in the world. I can go to Stern Grove, Ocean Beach, or Fort Funston, and they're all only 5 minutes from my house. If you haven't, you should really check out Fort Funston...it's like doggy Disneyland. My parents sometimes take me to the park for too long, forgetting that I'm not a high energy lab, but a low-key bulldog. I can go for 45 minutes, tops. Well, when this one female dog is there I can go for a little longer, but usually it's only 45 minutes. When they push it, I need to sleep the rest of the day. Thankfully they give me delicious meals. There's this awesome store nearby called Sunset Pet Supply. Everyone and everything there is awesome. I just walk in the door and I get showered with treats. I'm telling you: it's great to be a dog in San Francisco!

Not many people know this, but there are more of us dogs in San Francisco than there are kids. So guess what: we're just as much a part of this city as anyone else is. So get to know your nearest dog better, even if it's your own dog. Take us out to explore the fun streets and parks and festivals. We like exploring just as much as you do.

See you at Fort Funston soon!


Ocean Beach
Saturday morning


I’ve been on many beaches, possibly upwards of hundreds. As a surfer and avid traveler, my bare feet have padded across so many sandy dunes that it’s hard to remember them all. However, I’ve never been as mystified or enchanted by any beach like I am by “The Beach,” which has been my backyard in San Francisco for almost three years.

Ocean Beach, San Francisco…aka The Beach. To most of the city, it’s a lifeless land of wind, fog, and quiet, over-paved streets. In a city known for its dynamism and vibrant culture, why would one want to live in a neighborhood that has the worst weather in an already tempermental California urban climate, with what seems to be nothing going on?

As a proud Beach resident, I am always reminding people of the unexplored joys of The Beach. While my neighborhood is technically called the Outer Sunset, I think that the neighborhood is so dominated by The Beach that its entire identity is eclipsed by it. With the hills jutting up from the Beach, almost every household has a view of the Pacific. You need to get over a dozen blocks away from The Beach to avoid getting sand blown into your house. The onshore winds likewise blow the sound of the pounding surf up the hills into open windows. The Beach is everywhere, and amidst the cool cafes, parks, and cultural vibes, it’s the best and most definitive part of the area.

The Beach fluctuates between extremes. It can epitomize California surfing and beach-going perfection, with waves that are worthy of surfing magazine covers and glorious, sunny days that bring the crowds out to sunbathe en masse. It can also be home to some of the most unfriendly and punishing waves on the planet, and when shrouded in wind and fog it is one of the most aggressively uninviting places imaginable. Its bi-polarity is a big part of what makes it so intriguing, and representative of our city as a whole. We’re renowned for being a progressive hub of social harmony, and regularly live up to that reputation. However we are also home to a despicable and well-documented sex trade, and our neighborhoods on a micro-level are noticeably homogenous, just to name a few of our many black eyes in the city. The human creation that is San Francisco mirrors the complexity and energy of the natural creation that is our Western border, Ocean Beach.

Those who choose to live out here revel in the Beach’s tempestuous personality. It takes a special breed to like living out here, and those that do, love it. Possibly because on a personal level, they too wrestle with the extremes that rock and roll our beloved Ocean Beach. Who knows. What I do know, is that I love it out here.


Mark's blog is http://harakabaraka.wordpress.com.
He also is a freelance reporter for the upcoming local radio show SonicSF.

The rest of Mark's photo shoot can be seen here.