Wednesday, July 25, 2007

San Francisco - a nice place to visit.....

I wanted to post an update on the city, not just baseball or vacation. We're staying downtown, outside of some of the traditional areas. It's not the financial district, nor is it China town. It's a little off the standard tourist area, but not too far.

The city is relatively clean, but not sparkling. There's not a lot of trash like in some cities. But most streets smell of urine. The number of homeless people is amazing. It's tough to walk a block without seeing 10-15. Many of these appear to have some form of mental/physical deficiency. Most are asking for handouts, but no one has been "in your face" with their requests. The few times we've been walking around at night, mostly for short distances, most of the streets are empty of these folks, so they must have somewhere to go.

As for the other people in this city, life is busy as in any city. The sidewalks are full in the daytime of people rushing from point A to point B. Cellphones and Bluetooth are out and a large percentage are making their next deal or calling their bookie (I overheard a conversation in the men's room). The people working here are generally nice, but a few have been down-right rude. These few aren't enough to spoil the city, but it's more than in most cities. The desk-clerk who was rude to his co-workers and some guests, the lady at the metro train station who treatedly me rudely because I had to audacity to ask questions.

The weather has also surprised me. Last night was down right cold at the ball game. 60 degrees for the high yesterday, (cooler after sundown) fog and heavy winds made it almost unbearable with our light jackets. Special thanks to my wife for asking about jackets as we left. Otherwise we would've been in bad trouble. I'm told this is normal.

And we wistnessed a shop lifting. We were at a department store and this fellow was folding shirts. He had a strange bulge under his jacket and I looked him in the eyes. He seemed almost catatonic as he looked back, sort of "the lights are on, but no-one's home." I walked away and then realized what was going on. I went to tell the security guard (who was almost asleep standing up) and she went after the guy as he left. She didn't catch him, but another security guard and store manager came. I explained what happened and then they re-deployed the store employees to watch for the next shop-lifter.

All in all, not a bad city, but not the highest on my list. The homeless people do bother me a lot. Why are so many here? I honestly believe it's a higher per centage than in most cities I've visited (including New Your which is high also). What makes this city attractive to homeless? What will happen to these people? I'm no bleeding heart liberal, some of them are quite capable of getting a job. But many aren't capable and clearly need help.

In the old days, these people would have been in an institution. Many of them should be today. That may sound cold, but they can't take care of themselves. Back in the 80's, many of the mental institutions were down-sized and the patients were main-streamed back into society. While this was good for many and the institutions were bad, it was bad for many more and the streets were worse. The cost of institutions was (and still is) high, but the humanity of leaving these people on the streets is worse.

I think of all the memories I have of this town, the homeless will stand out the most.

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