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                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

one evening in san francisco

There's a kind of balmy spring evening that visits the Mission District in San Fransisco from time to time. The sun shines warm on the fronts of buildings. A kind of stillness hangs over streets like Folsom and Mission and Valencia. Warm. A brief respite from the fog's chill. A reprieve from the oncoming night.

The kind of evening, after a hard day's work, you might be driving with a buddy listening to music on the radio...looking out at the faces on the street...the kind of evening where, of a sudden, you get reminded of simple things that link us human animals together.

Weather. Sun. That tangible feeling of commonality that comes when the gods of nature deign to give us some little gift...


I wish I could paint the picture for you. I wish I could show you the man as I saw him.

A junkie, no doubt. Waving his arms exuberantly. His face turned to the sun. A speed walker. A man singing in public. A man who had lost all care. A careless man.

Somebody's brother. Someone's son. A tragedy. A waste.

But, as the sun hung over Twin Peaks...as it cast its glow over that broad valley of plaster, brick and stone that runs between the Castro and Potrero Hill...there he was, face upturned, speed walking, mumbling, singing, gesticulating, enjoying the sun like the rest of us.

Just another loss. Just another wasted life. Just another evening in San Francisco.

I'm a photographer. I take pictures of people. I study their faces.

When I get to thinking, sometimes, I think...so much is right there...in that willingness to look, to see, to read the story in someone's face.

We human animals can't really keep secrets. Everything is there. It's in our eyes. It's written in our expressions...the stories of our lives. The weight we carry. Our burdens. And, for all of us, our fiercest and closest held hopes.

I wish I could write tonight and say, somehow, that any of us is exempt from being vulnerable. I wish I could write tonight and say that blights like cancer...and addiction...that blights like mental illness...and violence and depravity and sudden accidents did not exist.

Sometimes the sun shines warm in the evening in the Mission District. And it shines warm on all of us alike. It's a gift. It's brief. Like life. And then it's gone.

Knowing that, our job is to understand that the greatest gift we can give one another is to show ourselves. To share the fire that illuminates our hope, to share the secrets, the substance...the ideas, the commitments, the people, the history, the love...the stuff that makes us who we are and who we aspire to be.

And when facing someone else's grief, our job is simply to show our face. To look that grief in the eye. To share it. To take it in. To attempt to comprehend. To be vulnerable ourselves.

It's easy to be brave when there's nothing to lose. It's harder to be brave when you know how much has already been lost.

I don't need to tell you what this diary is about. Life. Loss. Human vulnerability. We've all got that in common.

Not all of us are brave.

When you see bravery, know you have been given a gift. It's uncommon, but more common than you think.

Some evenings the sun washes warm over the Mission District, and when it does, it washes over all of us alike.


  • Rarely do people actually take the time to notice the details, especially the more important ones! That's why this particular entry was refreshing to read, and I agree, people need to be more open, sincere.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:05 PM  

  • "Everybody Knows" by the Dixie Chicks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:59 PM  

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