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Posts Tagged ‘Jon Carroll’

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 1, 2015

A brilliant little op-ed piece, written by San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Jon Carroll:

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle
Mayor Ed Lee stopped to talk with residents of the Raman Hotel on Howard Street where he made the announcement Wednesday May 13, 2015. Mayor Ed Lee and members of the Board of Supervisors announced $28.9 million in new funding over the next two years to support the homeless in San Francisco, Calif. including the addition of more than 500 supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, expand medical care and continue the new Navigation Center.

Ed Lee urges homeless to self-deport
By Jon Carroll
August 31, 2015 Updated: August 31, 2015 7:11pm

So this happened: Ed Lee told homeless people on the Embarcadero that they will “have to leave the street” before the weeklong waterfront-spanning Super Bowl carnival of cross-promotional opportunities that will precede the 2016 game.

“OK,” said the homeless people, “we’ll go to our second homes in Tahoe.”

So many questions! The first, I would think, is “Why is Ed Lee pimping for the NFL?” The NFL is a gigantic corporate entity, zealously guarding its brand while doing everything possible to degrade it. The league came very late to the notion that beating up women was a bad idea, and is now in an utterly dumb and maddening fight with one of its star quarterbacks over deflated footballs.

It’s just like when Lee tried to pimp for the Olympics, a known money loser that leaves behind a lot of infrastructure and no money to pay for its upkeep. Residents of the Bay Area were all “Can we think about this?” while Lee was going, “It’ll be great!” Lee lost that fight, so he transferred his allegiance to another rapacious entertainment cartel.

So the idea was: Get out, you filthy people, because we need a postcard-ready city for media executives to stroll around in.

Then there’s the larger pesky problem of what to do about the homeless. Many words have been expended recently on the deepening problem of San Francisco residents forced to encounter urination and defecation in public places. I hold no brief for those activities, although I do point out that they are a predictable consequence of being alive.

It should be mentioned that a fair number of the urinators and defecators are, to use the clinical term, crazy. We don’t believe in mental hospitals anymore (because they are too costly, unlike homelessness, which is, wait, even more costly), so the crazy people walk among us and, guess what, act like crazy people.

And there’s no street-level policy that can deal with that. Either kill ’em or move ’em out or deal with ’em. San Francisco has made a morally courageous decision to deal with the problem. That decision has to be made again and again, because the problem is intractable.

That decision comes with consequences, one of the least of which is bad smells and disgusting sights. Caring enough about human misery to risk discomfort is a virtue; caring together is a civic virtue.

A large subset of the crazy people are also addicts of various kinds. They’ve been offered the programs; they didn’t want them. Or they couldn’t stay with them. Or whatever. Addiction kills people by convincing them they don’t need help.

Most homeless people are not crazy addicts. They would experience great shame and humiliation if they were forced to do their business in the streets. Like any experienced urban resident, they have a very good idea where the publicly available bathrooms are. If that alternative were somehow not feasible, they would do their best to go deep into the most secret corners of the landscape.

Homeless people are not animals; they are very poor people, is all. Poverty is not an infectious disease; you can’t get it even by brushing past a homeless person on your way to the Nike Gatorade Punt Like an All-Star Celebrity Game.

Homeless people are sort of like me and you. They have mothers and fathers. They’ve known love and heartbreak. Maybe they never had a chance; maybe they had a chance and then stuff went wrong.

How far are you away from homelessness? How many multiple bad things have to go wrong before you run out of your last couch to surf on? Suppose financial reversals plus death of a partner plus debilitating costly disease — how’s your cushion? Maybe all that would be so depressing you’d seek escape in a bottle. And then you’re at a bus station and you’ve got $2.30 in your pocket. And, hey, how about a civil war? You a refugee yet?

It could happen. It could even happen to Ed Lee. Everything is mutable; status comes and goes. We’re all human. Which is sort of the point. We treat other people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. I think that’s some kind of Rule.

So maybe there’s something better than urine-shaming as a social philosophy. Maybe there’s trying to be useful. The problem will be with us as long as there are people, so the only approach that makes some kind of sense involves finding your place in the social fabric. There are dozens of useful volunteer groups; find one.

You may find homeless people offensive. It may also be that some of them find you offensive, you resource-hogging, water-swilling, ocean-warming, sweatshop-clothes-wearing, vacation-in-Bali-taking human placeholder. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“And the moral of that is — ‘Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.’” “How fond she is of finding morals” in jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

Posted in capitalism, homeless, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

It was a burger joint for the ages

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 2, 2015

I started patronizing Oscar’s in 1991 when I first moved to Oakland. Below is Jon Carroll’s column in the SF Chronicle; part eulogy for what we are losing and part paean to simpler times. Sad, indeed.

oscars3

It was a burger joint for the ages
By Jon Carroll
June 1, 2015 Updated: June 1, 2015 1:48pm

Oscar’s on Shattuck Avenue is closing down. I always assumed it was eternal, a lodestar to guide all the other restaurants in the area — a lodestar now largely ignored by entrepreneurs who have found other means of navigation. But for those really in the know, for those who were Berkeley before Berkeley was a thing, it was Oscar’s.

Oscar’s has an aquamarine logo and an off-pink sign. It has Formica tables and a large counter at one end for your hamburger needs or hot dog needs or milk shake needs or french fry needs. Even your chicken sandwich needs — although anyone having a chicken sandwich at Oscar’s is sort of missing the point.

I started going to Oscar’s when my daughter was young. Sometimes harried parents don’t have the energy to shop and cook, but they don’t have many options, because of budgetary restrictions. There was always Oscar’s, though, three minutes away by car, with a very fine auto takeout window.

The takeout window had no speakers or microphones. You yelled at the guy in the window, and he yelled back, and your order was ready, well, in good time. Because, really, what’s your hurry? There’s one guy with a grill, and he works as fast as he works. Maybe there’s something on the radio.

Berkeleyside broke the story of Oscar’s imminent closure, and tried to get the current owner, Scott (no last name given), to comment. He declined. “I’m not a warm and fuzzy guy,” he said.

That was the attitude at Oscar’s. They weren’t going to bother you with “Have a nice day” napkins or smiley-face logos. The menu board was going to contain no useful information besides the name of the item and the price. It did not care whether anything was sourced. There were no Italian-made products.

Oscar’s is going to be replaced by Sweetgreen, a “seasonal fast-food chain,” which means: “lots of salad.” It currently has 30 locations on the East Coast and one in L.A., and is coming to Berkeley to promote the kind of menu that Berkeley basically invented — as if North Berkeley needed any more vegetarian restaurants. Heck, there are restaurants on University (four blocks from Oscar’s) that are purer even than vegan.

Asparagus that’s been sung to.

I have to say, traitor to my bioregion as I am, that life certainly was easier when we didn’t have to think about what we ate. Get a burger, scarf it down, then it’s time to dance. Have some ice cream, because why not?

At Oscar’s, you could get a big sloppy burger, a burger where the ketchup was always in danger of dropping onto your pants, a burger that would squeeze out the other side when you bit into it, a burger that left your hands greasy and your fingers prone to stick together.

I understand that we should have had a higher consciousness all along, and we should be aware of animal cruelty and pesticides and sustainable land use and gray water irrigation systems. And we need to fight for transparent information. Really, we’re better for it. I’m just saying, subjecting the waiter to a cross-examination is not the Oscar’s way.

Currently, Park Burger in Oakland serves a real good burger, and it is grass-fed and every other kind of good thing. It’s a nostalgic experience and a contemporary one, too. But the meat is less gray than the ideal, and the burger is not slathered with some kind of secret sauce.

The secret at Oscar’s was: Don’t ask about the secret.

Oscar’s was open late, and students would gradually take over the place, replacing the couples with toddlers and the solitary workers. The kids were powered mostly by fries and colas, and they seemed to find endless amount of gossip in mundane events.

The closure of Oscar’s leaves very few hamburger joints open, at least not in my geosphere. There are funky chain places, but a homegrown, home-owned, one-location-only place — not so many.

The Smokehouse on Telegraph remains standing. It, too, remains a great hangout for almost everybody, unemployed dads and PG&E workers and people who need a hangover cure and people who are in a pre-hangover condition.

The Smokehouse is an outdoor place with picnic tables. It has heat lamps, and customers have been known to huddle when the fog blows through. The people who run it — an Afghan family, last time I checked — know every variety of burger on the large menu — triple with cheese, hold the pickles — and produce it efficiently, unless there’s a line. But hey, sit on a bench and meet your neighbors. Talk about burgers you have known.

Or talk about how many years you’ve been coming to the Smokehouse. Some people who are only 35 will say, “Twenty-nine years.” And yet: no special favors for regulars. So it has that Oscar’s vibe, but it ain’t Oscar’s. Goodbye, old friend.

“How do you like the Queen?” said the Cat in a low voice. “Not at all,” said Alice, “she’s so extremely jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

Posted in Berkeley, life, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »