Friday, July 31, 2009


On Sutter Street
Saturday afternoon


my name is roo and i love and hate pigeons! don't know but i have to be near them! i love sniffing poop and also i always want cheese and i will sit and wait until you give me some of that carnitas. the days that mom and dad get burritos are the best because then maybe there will be carnitas also it is good when dad barbecues because then he gives me burger but it is not as good as carnitas. i follow your feet. i have to lick this thing right now. i will follow your feet even closer if you have carnitas! that looks good to lick. let's go for a walk i want to see if there are other dogs that are really big like me who might want to let me hump their sides. BURRITO? barkbarkbark. do you want to run down this hall with me? i am running down this hall right now! HA HA HA! i wonder if there is cheese down there. is that a cat? i love and hate cats! i don't know but i have to be near them! i smell meat.


Roo has Kate wrapped around his little paw.

You can see more of them together here, and read Kate's story here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Outside the Macedonia Baptist Church on Sutter
Saturday afternoon


i grew up in this city, skinning my knees on geary, pecking with trepidation at dim sum, skipping around the richmond district to fetch after-school candy, swaddled in fleece at nightgames at candlestick, sleeping on my floor of my parents' bedroom for weeks after the '89 earthquake, visiting my mom's office in the haight, and my dad after work in the embarcadero, sneaking into filthy bars in north beach without even the pretense of an ID. the spread of the city, all right there. an embarrassment of riches.

my parents still live in the house my sister and i grew up in, a statuesque shingled masterpiece near the presidio--near enough that you can smell the eucalyptus. after high school i left, because one must to truly appreciate, for seven years. i went to college in connecticut, where i embraced the snow, slipped on the ice, cursed the distance, and pined for my city. i went to law school in north carolina, where i was intoxicated by the spring blooms, the uneven sidewalks, the drawl, the sweet tea. it was a social experiment and i loved it. but still home is home is home, and after graduating i did the most natural thing in the world and drove my life straight across the country back to where i belong. i ended my torrid affair with the south. i believe it is hard to grow up in san francisco and end up anywhere else.

i practice a very san francisco kind of law, at a very san francisco law firm. i am one of what i can only imagine is a very select group of litigators who occasionally wears a crinoline under a full skirt to work, with my red and occasionally black nails and sky high heels. then i come home, take it all off, put on ratty shorts and a giants hat, and take roo on a long walk. i prefer to do so in the fog. i love it when this city is brigadoon. it is all very, very san francisco. this is who i am as an adult here.

i was born in 1980 at the alternative birth center at mount zion hospital in lower pacific heights. and that's all very san francisco and appropriate. i now live in that neighborhood, where each block is an adventure. i explore my city, camera in hand, and i rediscover it. there are few things more gratifying than showing this city off to visitors, walking from neighborhood to neighborhood, noting how they segue into each other, and how their smells and sidewalk art and denizens match and clash.

i ride the bus in this city, and it informs and pushes me. to ride the 22, and sometimes the 1, is to have my romance with this city challenged from every angle, but isn't it a real relationship, to ride the 22 at 11pm, and still consider san francisco one of my truest loves?

the summer after my sophmore year in college i was supposed to live in los angeles ((insert hissing noise here)) and i had a plum job in the entertainment world. my mom had recently recovered from an illness, and the minute i got to LA i knew it was wrong. i returned to san francisco days later, despite the fact that i was, in essence, alone in the city with my parents and our cat. none of my friends, the faces that defined the place for me until that summer, were there. and that summer i nested in the city alone. i worked at a book store and i ran the steepest inclines and i redefined what this city is to me. i would drive home, late at night, when the traffic lights on pine are flashing and there is no stopping, and i could feel the city living in me. it was then that i became an adult in san francisco, in a mature relationship with this remarkable place.

i grew up here, yes. i had a childhood that is filled with drives to berkeley, landings in sfo (where you think, you truly think, the plane is going to land on water), japanese food downtown, the roses in golden gate park, the windows of mom's office looking out onto the haight. but i did not know, then, how lucky a duck i was. it is a proud thing to be a san franciscan, and a native at that. but i don't think i had context for just how remarkable this place is when i was young. it was simply home.

it took leaving. it took, even, loving another place, to realize that san francisco is where i come from but it is also where i belong. it took reacquainting myself with the city on my own, away from the trappings of my childhood spent here, to realize it is my city through and through. and to belong here is an honor, bestowed on the many, because that is how san francisco rolls.

Monday, July 20, 2009


St. Boniface
Golden Gate Avenue, The Tenderloin
Friday noon


I want to tell you about The Tenderloin. My version of the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin can be a rough place, but I see a lot of little miracles here every day. I certainly do not want to romanticize the difficult things that the people of the Tenderloin have to deal with. But, I have seen a lot of beauty here, a lot of kindness, I have seen heartbreak and I have seen joy.

I am the Advocacy Coordinator at St. Anthony Foundation. Once, after introducing myself as St. Anthony's Advocacy Coordinator, I asked a group of high school aged volunteers if any of them knew what advocacy was. One young man raised his hand and said, "isn't that when you, like, don't have sex, or something?" I don't know if he was thinking of "abstinence" or "celibacy" - he surely wasn't thinking about advocacy.

Some people think of advocacy as "standing up for someone else." It can be that. Sometimes, it is that. But I try to do advocacy so that I give people a chance to speak up for themselves. Shame is one of the most debilitating side effects of poverty. Some people are so ashamed of being poor, of being homeless, of having to eat in a soup kitchen, that they feel like they are somehow less than human just because they need help. The opportunity to get involved in advocacy, to stand up for yourself, to use your experience to help other people who may find themselves in your situation someday, is one of the most powerful ways to banish shame. I'm lucky to work for an organization that prioritizes providing direct services like meals, medical care, and shelter as well as working for social justice.

This year has been an especially difficult one for advocacy. Our city and state budgets are a mess, and health and social service programs are on the chopping block. Actually, these programs are on the chopping block every year, deficit or surplus, but this year, our state and city deficits are so large that we may actually see some permanent cuts to programs that really help to save people's lives: drug treatment, welfare programs, child health, mental health, senior services, and homeless services. And, these cuts are coming at a time when more and more people need help.

One of the Governor's staff people said this to me recently: "When times are tough, hearts must harden." I'm sorry, but that sentiment just is not going to fly in the Tenderloin. What I see is that when times are tough, people are working even harder than ever to help each other out. City Hall and the Capitol really need to catch up to the Tenderloin in the heart-softening department.

One of the places in the Tenderloin that really makes my heart feel mushy is St. Boniface Church. During the day, the church opens its doors to people who simply need a safe place to be. The sound of the parishioners saying the rosary intermingles with the sound of snoring from the homeless folks asleep in the pews. Those snores are prayers, too: prayers of thanks for the sanctuary of the church, prayers of peace from those who have so little of it in their daily lives.

I could tell you stories from the Tenderloin that could make you cry. But I really see the Tenderloin as a place of resilience rather than a place of desperation. People who have been beaten down by life, who have faced challenges that seem insurmountable are here, pushing through every day, trying and trying to make it despite living through things that would make most of us give up. Please come visit us sometime, with your heart and your mind wide open. You'll see things that break your heart, but I guarantee that you'll also meet people who inspire you with their resilience and their spirit, despite the fact that they have nothing but the clothes on their backs and the strength in their hearts.


You can see the rest of Colleen's shoot here.

To learn more about St. Anthony Foundation, visit
Follow Colleen on Twitter: @crivecca

Friday, July 17, 2009


Outside Hospitality House
Turk Street, The Tenderloin
Friday noon


Michael passed by as I was taking photos of a new subject for i live here:SF. He asked if he could be a part, so of course I said yes.

Michael is a San Francisco native. He grew up in the Fillmore and watched it be destroyed by redevelopment efforts. He later became a construction worker to rebuild the Fillmore Center, the very area where he and his family was forced to leave.

Now he lives in the Tenderloin and is looking for a nice girlfriend.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Near the fountain in Levi's Plaza
The Embarcadero
Thursday noon


I grew up in San Francisco. I wasn't born here, but I grew up here.
In September of 1991, just one month before my 21st birthday, I left the smoggy sun of Southern California for the best City in the world.
In San Francisco I learned how to be an adult and how to be accountable for my actions. But most importantly, I learned how to be me, and how to be comfortable with me.
I learned not only how to be comfortable with my peculiarities, but to enjoy them. I learned that I could love, be strong, be myself. And be happy.
In San Francisco I learned to dance.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


At the front of the Pacific Telephone Building
New Montgomery Street, SOMA
Wednesday afternoon


I moved here in 2007, after slowly being drawn to it over ten years in other parts of California and the world. I'd lived in the East Bay and worked in the city, and subletted two summers' worth of rooms. Many of my friends lived here, and I've slept on many a couch, but it wasn't until July 1, 2007 that I had a lease.

It's humbling to write about my experience here, to claim any authority as a San Franciscan. I love this place and do my best to do right by it, but there's so much I'm either yet to or will never know.

My favorite time was the summer of 2003, an era known as Camp NoJob. Some were unemployed, some worked nights, I had just come back from living abroad and didn't really have a plan. I hung out in Dolores Park and played games, temped to pay bills, and had plenty of free time to absorb this city.

To have so much flavor in such a small area is magic. There is awesomeness in probably most places, but in San Francisco everything is so accessible.

Living here compels me to be a better person, whether that means being sure to experience as much awesomeness as possible, living in harmony with both planet and people, or being creative and bold and stupendous to the fullest extent of my ability.

Sometimes you can't get out and do those things, or just don't, and that's nice too, because the last thing this city will do much of is judge you for it.

I'd hoped and wanted to live in San Francisco since I moved to California, and sometimes it just seemed like a foregone conclusion I'd be here sooner or later. Still, if a cheap room in a great house with awesome people I knew hadn't opened up, I may not have come here just yet. I had finished grad school and was looking for opportunity, whereever she may find me.

A room here was opportunity. In some ways it felt like scoring a ticket to the show or something - I was in, and that was all that mattered.

I've been a nomad of sorts since I've been in California; only once otherwise have I been in a city for this long, and that only two months more. Part of it's me settling down in general, but this place feels more like home than any of the others have by a longshot. Living here scratches the itch of wanting to live everywhere pretty well.

I've mostly known the BART corridor - working downtown, living in the Mission or Bernal Heights. I like Lower Haight a lot, and the Divisadero corridor. I think I'd like Russian Hill, with a view of the water. Much as I love the Mission, I figure sooner or later it's for the best to experience the city in some different ways.

I can understand people who don't like it, sorta. Every day I live here I find it harder to imagine living anywhere else.

I arrived in California on July 29, 1999. I had limited ideas of where I would live and no idea what I would do. I was fortunate to be with a core group of amazing people and surrounded by many more, who made my moving all the way across country under such a scenario remarkably easy. I feel humbled and privileged and indebted to be a part of San Francisco, to me the most unique and comforting and amazing city and state I've ever been in. I can only hope to give back as much as it has given me already.