20th annual SantaCon

SantaCon appeared in San Francisco in 1994 and has been a local staple ever since. In recent years, it has gained popularity and notoriety, with 15,000 people attending in San Francisco alone and satellite SantaCons popping up all over the world. The 20th annual San Francisco SantaCon took place on December 13, and I went out to document the jolly debauchery in the Mission. Check out my interviews with the Santas here.


12th Annual Altered Barbie Art Exhibit

Everyone who’s owned barbies as a child probably knows that they are not often played with in the ways promoted by Mattel. Barbie, despite being criticized since her advent of being “too perfect” and unoriginal somehow lends herself to creative and imaginative endeavors by children, and, as demonstrated by the Mission’s Altered Barbie art exhibit, by adults and serious artists. The event has been held since 2002 and moved to 50 Shotwell St. four years ago, according to event curator Julie Andersen. I documented the exhibit’s final day and spoke to some of the artists last Sunday. Check out some of their work here.

I started this blog primarily for the sake of my own optimism. I moved to the Mission last year, and while I’ve been thrilled live in the city again, the complicated social and economic issues embodied by the neighborhood are not something I can ignore. While my “mission” is to chronicle the more positive aspects of the neighborhood, I knew it was possible that maybe there just wasn’t anything that I loved about the neighborhood left.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Mission Comics and Rodger’s coffee while running errands, mostly trying to mind my own business. While in Rodger’s, drinking coffee and reading my new Batgirl comics, the woman next to me asked the barista what he thought of the new facebook messenger app, and went on to express her trepidation about various other aspects of technology and society. The barista’s  position was that of snarkily suggesting gadgets and apps to deal with everything, and, although I resisted at first, I wound up chiming in. It lead to a two-hour long conversation between me and the woman, Paula Tejada Rieloff, about virtually every aspect of society and economics, and particularly what’s happening in the Mission right now. She told me about a protest the following weekend against a proposed project to build a high rise building with luxury apartments at 16th and Mission. I went to and chronicled the protest, which I will have another post about tomorrow.

Update: The changing face of the Mission and the push-back against it have proven to be much to complicated and personal for me to effectively chronicle at this point, as a lone amateur writer. I will post pictures from the protest, but, in light of things that have happened since then, I have determined that I am not the right person to document the political and economic climate here at this point in time, until I have more time and resources.

Book store hopping

Although recent years have seen some trouble for small businesses in the Mission and bookstores in general, the neighborhood is still more saturated with bookstores than anywhere else I’ve lived. Sister stores Alley Cat and Dog-eared books are some of the only traditional used bookstores to weather the strains to the book industry. It’s exciting that they’re within walking distance of each other, as well as in the vicinity of a myriad of other, more specialized bookstores, such as Borderlands, which stocks sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, and Modern Times, which carries small press social, political, and alternative literature. I’ve created an interactive map with five bookstores in the neighborhood that are relatively clustered together and make for a fulfilling day trip, even if you don’t actually leave with any books (although you should…book stores are struggling!)

Partner dancing takes off

Swing, blues, tango, and other forms of  social dancing seem to have dramatically increased in popularity in the past few years. Every time I walk by Balancoire during one of their dance events, they look far more packed and bustling than any other bar or club on a week night. I recently spoke with my friend Jimmy Ho and with Brian Gardner, teacher and coordinator of Electric Swingset at Balancoire about what makes something as seemingly “old-fashioned” as social dancing such a popular past time in the modern age. Both had some great insights! Check out what they had to say on my podcast: https://soundcloud.com/jlyman5/partner-dance

Karl the fog

I often feel bad for fresh transplants to the neighborhood. They have to deal with condescending and hostile reactions from long-time residents and a strange, unfamiliar city that can be overwhelming and somewhat frightening at times. I’d imagine each day is a learning experience and that they quickly give up on the idea of knowing what to expect on a daily basis. At least I hope so, since anyone who thinks that the warm, sunny, Californian weather we’ve been experiencing for most of 2014 is the one thing in this crazy world that they can count on in is for a surprise. Anyone who’s moved to the Mission since February probably hasn’t heard of Karl the fog, or thinks that he is a myth, like the boogie monster or Bigfoot. But as fall continues its descent, not even the Mission is safe from Karl, who is often too busy other places to make it into our neighborhood. For those confused about what this all means, check out my introduction to Karl on Storify.


Mission Statement’s mission statement

Some of my earliest memories are of the Mission District. Every week, I used to take Bart to 16th and Mission with my mom, where we would go to Walgreens, Rainbow grocery (which used to be at 15th and Mission) Thrifttown, and the fabric store next door to it. I used to play at Dolores park regularly and had friends who lived across the street. Mission Dolores was one of my favorite field trips, and I nagged my mom into taking me their multiple times. As I got older, I discovered that the Mission was also a wonderland of books, comics and trendy (before trendy was trendy) coffee shops. When I moved back to the city last year, I was delighted that my apartment was in my favorite neighborhood.

Much has been made of the “downfall” of San Francisco, particularly the Mission. And it’s an undeniable truth that the landscape and population has changed drastically. Yes, it can be painful to hear 32-year-old tech workers talk about how they embody the Mission. It’s sad to get blank stares and bewilderment from people who can’t understand why anyone would live here for any reason other than a tech job. And yes, there has been an influx of truly insufferable people.

But I think that the city and the neighborhood are more resilient than the naysayers think. The city is changing, but so is the rest of the world, and San Francisco has long been on the forefront of change. The goal of this blog is to highlight some of the things about the Mission district that still make it unique and beautiful and present a perspective on the neighborhood other than that of it’s primary demographic. I feel that one of the only ways to keep it from becoming the homogenized nightmare that San Franciscans are afraid of is to not forget or take for granted all the things that make it wonderful. If we just complain about what’s wrong and ignore it’s unique culture, diversity and history (which are still there!) we risk letting those things fall by the wayside and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things are changing, but that doesn’t mean the neighborhood or the city should be forsaken quite yet.