The Myth on Market Street Series: Inside the So-called Mess

root - Posted on 23 September 2001

by Joseph Bolden

Editor’s Note: For the last three months, The San Francisco Examiner has been running a series on its front page entitled The Mess on Market Street –referring to the Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco. The series is part of a well-crafted propaganda campaign in support of the upcoming gentrification sweep- New York Style -that the Mid-Market Redevelopment Project Area Committee is planning. The sweep is modeled after the newest embodiment of economic and racial cleansing in the U.S.: The Business Improvement Districts (B.I.D.s). The BIDs were established over the last ten years by a collective of corporate and private business interests whose main aim is to “sweep” panhandlers, vendors, artists, street newspaper vendors and other micro-businesses owners out of downtown business districts across the U.S., bypassing the police departments and hiring private security firms to “patrol” these districts.

Last week the Examiner series took on a more dangerous slant - an alleged attack on a white female police officer was covered by a front-page full color photo in the Examiner with no actual accompanying story. This development caused us at POOR, many of us being folks who reside in the Tenderloin/Mid-Market district, to launch the second part of our series The Myth on Market Street, Pt 2: Inside the So-Called Mess, with contributing writers who actually live in the supposed "mess-zone," i.e. poor folks, folks of color and homeless folks who eat, write, walk and survive in this supposed "danger zone, where yes, there are people hanging out, yelling, swearing, selling drugs and god forbid, sleeping, but our point is that those activities are part of living in a modern urban environment that includes all people "

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Before 7 pm: An odd, strange, horrible, incident occurred. All I know is that somebody hit a cop and the cops went nuts. Or someone hit a lady, then hit a cop, and the cops went nuts. Someone hit a female cop. Her partner beat the suspect right there on the street. All I know is... it looked like a lotta cops went nuts.

I can’t get into my home because the police have blocked off the sidewalk. I turn around and begin walking to the bus stop island to catch a bus, hoping I'll be able to bypass the cop-flooded area and get home. Unfortunately, I forget to get off the bus and accidentally ride beyond my apartment building.

Thursday, Aug. 16, 2001

9:35 am: After Wednesday's downed-cop excitement, complete with swarming, pissed-off cops, Thursday has an artificial calm, almost brittle, feel to it.
You know, like the cinematic or televised mood when a character says, “It's quiet... too quiet.”

That’s the effect the cops had on Market Street after they chose to overrun the area, even though they had already found and helped their hurt and bleeding fellow officer, placing the suspect in the police van.

I hear the words, “Black men are 'fuckin ignorant. You buy your own 'fuckin pack, shit stinking ass mother fucker. Sicka' yo' buggin' people for fuckin' cigarettes."
This is at Jones and McAllister, just before crossing onto Sixth Street.

5:40 pm: Forty people gather loosely on the street, 12 near my building.
7:30 pm:

I'm on my way to the main library's video's box return.

I see another cop car and 3 other cops. I don’t know what happened...the presence of John Phillip Souza or other waltze music in the background of the Renoir Hotel.

7:56 pm:

I buy beef chow mein at a restaurant offering Chinese and Japanese cuisine- yeah, good stuff.That's at the corner of 7th and Market Streets.

Friday, Aug. 17, 2001.

9:03 am: I meet a new neighbor. He has not been in his apartment for months, though he's paid up until December.He's traveled to Washington and back.

Early Monday, Aug. 20, 2001

6:02 am: One person with bags of crack whispers as I walk by, “Nickel and dime.”

As I pass I say, “Quarters and dollars.” The guy says, “I’m talkin' crack.”

I must have pissed him off — with my peripheral vision, I see him walking behind me. I don’t respond and knock on the glass doors of my apartment and get buzzed in, greeting the man at the front desk.

I check my mailbox with my key—nothing but space inside.

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2001 8:37am. 3 familiar faces walk on Market St., some tourists taking in the sites from both sides and across the street.

4:45pm. There's police cars-2 of 'em lined up side by side across the street on Market. Right across from the International Art School of San Francisco and United Nations Plaza.I think that they(police)are protecting either students or tourists-more like tourists as a crowd of tourists cross the street.

I'm just observing heading to my own destination.

5:02 pm. 17 people on the street regular street folks, young men, women, and children.

5:10pm. Too many people to count, lots of tourists, young white adolescent children on Mission and Turk St.A young white girl hits her head with a piece of cardboard 3 times while yelling "Watch This."

I pass her by because that's not entertainment to me.I'm thinking 'Lot's of self hatred but not entertainment.

5:58 pm.The Go Go's are playing at the Warfield (Concert Complex).

I figure they're mature, more experienced, louder, and more pissed off or... mellower.

Mellow or po'd I'm not gonna pay for any of it.
I count 15 to 18 people on Market St.

Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2001, Outside my apartment 13-15 people straggling around and assorted tourists as usual.

8:37 am. 11:45 am. [When off-work I sleep in late]

More people than I can count on the street, a mingling of dealers, hustlers, street people, and tourists.

One police car that I can see, 5 cops, a black male suspect handcuffed, people watching.

This is on 7th. right across the street or corner of 6th. st. It's funny, things are happening all over 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, Union Square, Folsom, and Haight Ashbury but the police concentration is on 6th. st.

I don't know if its because the financial district is a few walks away on Market St. or that working poor, middle class, rich, and homeless folks mingle.

Or is it that new fast, vast amounts of money can be made by forcing both long time native and immigrant residents away from what is now deemed valuable real estate for development?

Though a solid, physical wall may not be feasible
an economic or mental one will be placed there.

People go where they feel comfortable.
Because many of us do feel we don't belong or do not have the means, don’t look like we belong or fit in.

It’s why once in a while I'll go into an expensive restaurant or café just for the hell of it to eat there.

I might not order the most expensive foods but I’ll order something to eat and if people see me from outside or inside entering the establishment they may automatically assume I have money – which is good 'cause when I pay my money, it feels great.

Its very disconcerting for some patrons or owner/managers seeing someone looking like they have no money, dressed like he/she has none, actually paying there bill

When my bill is paid tipping for me is a rarity. After being as quiet and courteous as possible. It makes those patrons looking on, whispering about me look like foolish prigs instead of enjoying their own well prepared meals.
I enjoy my food, then I leave.

Now the people inside either rethink their first impressions or go back to their same thoughts.

I don’t really care. All I know is they saw me go inside, order, wait patiently, eat my meal, and pay for it.

I did not disrupt anything or anyone elses meal, stopping to watch me eat is their problem not mine, in fact, they are disrupting my leisurely outing, my meal, my time, my gastronomic exercise.

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2001, 6 am. I see
exactly 2 people, one is walking behind me, the other walking towards me.It’s dark out, a light mist lands on my forehead.

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001, 8:26 am.

Its misty outside, no sun, light gray clouds provide the only light.
Market Street is quiet.

Wedneday, Aug. 29, 2001

7:50 AM:

Not as boringly cheery and sunny as yesterday, but gray with a slight breeze - no clouds, an empty listless dull sky.

Five regular street folk, including me, plus a police car, its flashing lights stopping a red truck across the street near the Market Street Cinema.

Someone feeding flapping pigeons, making them fly everywhere to peck for free food. Always have headgear on or at the ready because they’re always flying, perching, preening and dropping green-white droppings where ever they go.

12:05 PM: Tourists, streets folks mingle all along Market St. To separate out the regulars from everyone else is impossible, especially when the U. N. P. United Nations Plaza) Produce Market merchants are selling their wares to anyone with the scratch to buy.

As I walk from Jones and Mc Allister, the whole of Market St. is awash in humanity casually strolling, fast walking, or some stumbling by the best way they can.

6:38 PM: Breezy, a light drizzle gray as my mood matching cloudless, washed-out looking skies. 25 or more street folks and a few tourists along the way to the Produce Market at the United Nations Plaza.

They begin to dismantle their ugly, bland, uniform white tents. Give some ware away, close up their shops and finally drive or walk away.

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2001

7:44 AM: Picked up a Central City Newspaper (Ten Years That Shook The ‘Loin). It has eyes, faces with words. "The Fringe" on the front page. 10 or 14 people street folks and tourists scattered about, though most of the street is empty. It’s chilly outside, the sky is overcast again with bits of drizzle –see, sometimes I don’t know if it’s rain or bird droppings ‘cause they feel the same. They don’t smell the same after an hour.

In summer, if there are bits of frozen sprinkles falling on you, it’s probably not summer snow or frost but tiny green-white bird drops.

8:45 AM: on Market St. I see a bro’ on the street. Either he is high from being stoned, or drunk, maybe a hidden medical condition. Two friends to help him up because he couldn’t get up himself.

9:23 AM: Saw a police car at Jones and Mc Allister waiting, maybe stopping crime by just being there.

While walking down BART, saw a bit of Madonna’s "Drowned World Tour" from an HBO special on a wide screen monitor. Three energetic women painted in Japanese style makeup and costumes expertly swing chained nun chuck sticks near and around themselves, music blaring. Sexually explicit, sensual, full color close up a young pretty Asian girl getting
"sexed up" by what looks like an oversized, anatomically correct human-looking demon -complete with horns growing out of his head.

And I always thought of Japanese people with controlled, sensual, calm.

Very interesting- an animated video, Madonna wearing a snug, skin caressing leather cowgirl outfit. But I have to get to work.


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