Archive for the ‘ 21st Century Living ’ Category

Survival Strategies In A Modern World

Election night, I started the evening sharing beers with a couple Canadians currently biking down to Mexico, talking the ins and outs of our electoral process as hope slowly crystallized into despair. I don’t know how many beers I had. I wasn’t really keeping track. Perhaps your memory did funny things on Tuesday night too. Let’s just say not that many, but enough. And I thought for sure I’d get home and pour a glass of whiskey or have another beer or 6. But as I sat there I didn’t. I couldn’t even get up. I sat on my couch, and read until I cried, and repeated that cycle a few times. My friends and I texted entirely too late for us normally, but we were up because how could any of us sleep? How was anything ever going to be normal again for so many of us? I channeled my despair into a few cohesive thoughts; I had so much more to say, but life is not fair and I knew no matter what I had work to do the next day. Eventually, I slept.

The next morning, I had a little bit more to say. I found the words that had been percolating which I just couldn’t find the night before. I spent a lot of energy wondering about what I had just challenged myself to do: What am I going to do better? How am I going to give more? How am I going to do more? The first thing I did was go to the ACLU and donate. We are going to need them more than ever in the coming days. It wasn’t much. But it was something. It was a first step. What’s the next one? How can I give more, not just to them, but to so many other worthy organizations? What sacrifices can I make as someone who knows she has plenty more to give?

I thought about my budget. I thought about my needs and my wants. I am glad I have a passport that accurately reflects who I am, especially now, but the idea of travel seems more anxiety-inducing than anything right now. I’ve rarely felt comfortable flying as an openly transgender woman the past few years; that was before our nation elected a bigot whose Vice President-elect would rather will trans folks out of existence than treat us with any modicum of compassion. You’ll have to excuse me if the thought of air travel fills me with trepidation now. And while that will certainly free up some money, I had already talked about doing that in 2017. Perhaps I was subconsciously preparing myself for this reality.

I could go to fewer shows. But let’s be real, they are going to be more essential than ever. PWR BTTM delivered a fierce statement Wednesday night, and it was amazing to just be in a room with so many LGBTQ folks. I may be more mindful of the shows I go to, though most bands I see seem to be composed of like-minded folks. It was gutting to hear how hard it was for the bands to get up on stage the past couple days and yet so affirming to see them play despite all of that. Because in times like this, that’s what we need. So I may work to ensure I’m supporting more socially conscious efforts, but now more than ever, we need to support artists, as many of them will be directly affected as who they are in addition to being musicians.

I could give up alcohol. And finally, I found something that is both tangible and necessary. I found something that I do spend a decent amount of money on. I need to eat, but I don’t need to drink. Looking at the amount of money I’ve spent at breweries and bars in the past year, that would be more than enough to free up plenty of money for other causes. That’s not even including the cash that I spend that never hits the budget as anything more than cash. So that is what I must do. That is where that money is. And as much as I love supporting local brewers and bars, they are not going to miss my money. In fact, I think plenty of other folks will be lining up to help them with that. I cannot blame them.

So that’s what I am going to do. I’m done with drinking. Or at least done spending money on it. However the mechanics of it are much easier if I just avoid drinking alcohol altogether for the time being. So that’s what I will do. The reality of a Trump presidency got me to do something I never thought I would. I doubt this is the last time I will have that thought. I need to start taking care of myself better. Some of that starts with paying down my own bills so I am prepared for whatever is next. Because who knows what that looks like? If I can do that while also helping out worthy causes like Planned Parenthood or Southern Poverty Law Center, even better. This is something that more than allows me to do that. In addition, it frees me up a bit to give my time, to take better care of myself physically. It’s a lot easier to volunteer at an event if you aren’t hungover, I’ve found.

Beyond all that, I cannot afford to approach the next few years without a clear head. For my own safety. Even in San Francisco, I fear things are about to take a dark turn. The bitter irony of Trump campaigning on the lie of making our dangerous cities safe again is his win makes them unsafe for so many of us. He has emboldened bigots, and if you don’t think they are here, even in a place that overwhelmingly supported (mostly) liberal policies and politicians, I have some news for you. Voting for someone with a D next to their name doesn’t magically remove hate from your heart. I currently do a lot of things by myself; I’m going to have to think about that a lot harder. And if I keep going out there as I plan to, as myself, unashamed of who I am, I am going to need to be at my best. Be that a stronger buddy system, or more awareness, now is not the time to simply wish things will be better. Now is the time to practice so we are prepared.

As much as I want to not think about the next few years, I cannot afford to forget them. I need to be at my best, and as much as I fear it is going to hurt to read, to listen, to watch what comes next, I cannot afford to look away. We must remember. We must burn this into our memories. We must not forget. Perhaps you can entertain notions that things will not so be bad; I have to entertain the opposite. I will keep looking at what I must change. This is an easy sacrifice, and a necessary one. I may, before long, have to give up much more than just the things I want. I don’t want to think about any of this. But as I keep saying, I cannot afford not to. That doesn’t mean I’m going to dwell on it though. What’s done is done. For better as some folks seem to believe or for worse as so many of us fear, Trump will be our next President. We don’t get a different set of facts here. It’s time to start doing better today what I want to keep doing tomorrow. I encourage you to ask yourselves the same questions. Perhaps you won’t arrive at the same place as me; perhaps you find the only thing that makes the next few years tenable is a good whiskey. That’s neither right nor wrong. You have to make the decisions that work for you, though some of us have much more flexibility in that regard. I am making the decision that makes the most sense for me at the time. I’m not going to stop hanging out with my friends. I need y’all now more than ever. All that’s changing is what’s in the glass. I’ll share a drink with you again when we have something to celebrate. Until then? There’s work to do.

In The Morning Light

Thanks for everyone who has reached out, public or private. But after a night of a lot of thinking, and crying, and sleeping, I remember that I will probably be fine. Perversely my company’s stock is doing more than okay this morning (I guess everyone forgot about all those fake accounts?), I have a job that isn’t going anywhere unless the entire global structure collapses (gonna lean towards no on that front in the light of morning, but I guess we’ll find out), and though we passed a couple odious measures here in San Francisco (really Q?), I still live in San Francisco, which, right or wrong, is still seen as a bastion of certain ideals that I do not think will crumble overnight.

But not everyone will be fine. Not everyone feels that way this morning. That’s okay. Support them but don’t tell them they have to be at some point this morning if they are not. This is gonna take a long time for some folks to sort out. For my part, it’s time to redouble those efforts. Get involved at the local level. Groups like Transgender Law Center and the SF LGBT Center will become more essential. It’s time to start putting more money and effort into those groups. I get not everyone can, but I know that’s something tangible I can do, and I ask you to also look at what groups and organizations you can support, especially if they center their work at those in the most vulnerable intersections of our society.

And I will be okay because have my relative privileges. To my fellow folks who don’t feel that way, or know they won’t be, I need to use those to help them. Specifically when it comes to trans folks, remind your trans friends they are loved, sure, but if you want to provide more salient kind of help, also remind them now would be a good time to make sure they update as many legal docs as they possibly can, because who knows what’s next? Help them with things like that if you can because they are going to need it.

Support those that are different. Speak up for LGBTQ folks, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, folks with disabilities, and so many more. Speak truth to injustice even when it seems no one wants to listen. Fight what comes next.

If you can, get involved on the local level in other ways too. It’s hard to think about 2018 now, but we must. This is when we can start building toward that in our communities. The fight to support each other starts at that level.

It’s odd to approach this with equanimity. I guess that is just how I process stuff. But don’t confuse that with complacency. Also, I’m not really walking back how I feel about Trump supporters. I am not sure exactly how to interact with them at this moment, not sure if I’ll ever know how to interact with them, and while some may say we need bridgebuilding, I am also tired of being asked to meet people halfway who never take a step forward. Remember that’s what is being asked of so many folks. At some point, I’m sure I’ll figure out how to deal with that as well, but how do I meet people who refuse to acknowledge my existence is just as valid as theirs? Certainly I will have to continue to interact with people who did. I am just not sure exactly how yet.

Find your support. Find your people. We are going to need each other. I know a lot of us probably cried last night; don’t forget to laugh too. It’s a weird time to be looking for joy and silver linings, but I love y’all. That didn’t change last night. In fact, in many ways, it galvanized it. Y’all are family. And even in the darkest times, we need to lift each other up. We’re gonna need each other to do the work ahead. I am not here to say you need to start doing that today; take your time. But know I am here to help when you are ready.

You & I Go Together Like A Cherry & A Spoon

The Twin Cities have an allure I cannot deny. I feel it in the anticipation between trips back, from the first sip of Furious once we’ve reached a safe cruising altitude to the last gasp to cram in just one more sight or sound before I resign myself to returning to Terminal 2. It’s in the latest building converted to condos in Lowertown, the next declaration that Uptown is finally over. It’s in the bike lanes, the lakes, the palpable fear in August there will not be many more days like this. Because there won’t be. So we must live them all because winter is coming and with it, a different pulse, an icy resolve to keep that vivacity alive, no matter how early it gets dark, no matter how many layers it takes.

But here comes that ambivalence again. I love the permanent autumn of San Francisco, watching fog roll over the Presidio through summer until we get our oddly placed one in September and October. It feels weird to bike without a hoodie and a toque whenever I leave. I could live in the bulk section at Rainbow, and I can always get a good burrito. Minnesota is where I’m from, but California is where I live, and will for the foreseeable future. Even as horribly broken as it is at times, it’s still an amazing place. Though honestly, I’ve been served up a heaping amount of dumb luck which I plan to keep on taking advantage of, so what do I know?

Invariably, any discussion of San Francisco turns to how much it costs to live there, or by proxy, how much it costs to live anywhere else. And it’s hard not to notice that everywhere you go. Most taprooms have $5 pours instead of $6. Everything costs just a few cents less at Target. Perhaps it’s a function of how I spend my time and money, but a lot doesn’t seem to cost that much less. I know it adds up; it’s an extra beer here or there or a couple more shows. Then again, I wouldn’t be making the same money in Minneapolis as I do now. Perhaps I could parlay that if I really tried, but I know what the pay scale is at Wells. I’m just trying to be honest here. While it’s not just about the money, I do like paying the rent. Well, I don’t, but my landlord likes it when I do. Still, who doesn’t live in San Francisco and have a escape route? It’s just as essential as an earthquake kit, and much the same you never know when you’ll need it. Because when you do…

So I idly browse Craigslist in Minneapolis (and let’s be honest, Portland). It’s nice to daydream in those bad days. Then it’s nice to go for a run and look at the Bay Bridge and say to yourself, “That’s the fucking Bay Bridge”. And remember how I mentioned those heaping amounts of good luck? The apartments aren’t that much cheaper everywhere else because of that. If I were rent-poor I already would have made my escape. Though you may doubt it, I’m not that much of a fool (most days). If I think about it, I can frequently pinpoint the frustrations that leave me feeling like it’s time to get out of here. Work is frequently the culprit and the best paths up seem to be elsewhere some days, Charlotte or back to Minneapolis or just anywhere but here. Perhaps the future for me is NoDa, but it’s more likely Northeast. It’s always been Minneapolis, it always will be.

My only constant sometimes seems to be that ambivalence. I don’t see it as a negative. It’s important to question yourself. Just don’t forget to live your life in the process. I appreciated getting caught in a storm in Minneapolis. Because it’s novel. Because it was a reminder I definitely was not in San Francisco in August. I appreciate falling into old patterns when I am back. I miss the fog. But I don’t pine for it. And it will be waiting for me anyway. If I don’t ever appreciate being in Minneapolis, then I should just get on the next plane out of town. Minneapolis is never just a vacation. It’s so effortless. If it ever is right then I probably will move back. Until then, I’ll dream about that investment property I can Airbnb all the weeks I’m not in Minnesota. It’s a good dream, and if it ever comes true, then perhaps it’s more than that. But for know, I have a life to live back in the City that I don’t exactly shy away from. And I plan to live it

The calculus remains the same, though. Minnesota has made an indelible mark on me; how do I keep the Twin Cities a permanent part of my life in more than just memories? That’s what every trip back is about. I didn’t figure it out anymore on this trip than the others. But between sidling up to the bar at The Depot or biking the Greenway most days or wandering the Fair or chatting with the wonderful people at Bang, I found what I was looking for. Minnesota is a part of me. We will always go together like a cherry and a spoon. Which perhaps doesn’t make sense, except that it makes perfect sense. Perhaps you just don’t understand. Perhaps you just need to go to Minnesota to find out

More Or Less

Like many folks, I’m excited for the season finale of Game of Thrones this weekend. It’s been fun watching the women take the reins this season, even as it’s had some missteps, and I’m curious to see how they will shape affairs heading into the next season. But I’m also excited because that means the last thing I want to watch is over for the time being. Sure, I’ll come back for Last Week Tonight later, but that isn’t exactly appointment television as much as it is television I can watch. Which means I can call Comcast bright and early on Monday and tell then I’m canceling my cable.

It’s been fun to have. I watched a lot of hockey this year, and it was great to be able to watch Sharks games this season. But like many things, I wonder about the cost. Cable is not cheap, and my time with Comcast is nearing an end anyway as Sonic rolls into my neighborhood quite soon and I can leave behind their middling internet for gigabit fiber (and apparently a home phone?). Sometimes living on the west side pays off, and in this case, it’s a boon to be in the Richmond or the Sunset. I look forward to not only getting faster service, but paying less for it.

I also look forward to moving away from my television more. The thing about having cable is it’s very easy to start using it. It’s insidious how it pecks away at one’s time. It’s fun to believe the internet invented that phenomenon, but it’s existed as long as we have had convenient distractions. Perhaps you don’t have that issue, but I certainly do. And even if it’s just Sportscenter on in the background while I’m doing something else, it’s on, it’s there. Streaming services may have perfected the “one more episode” model of sucking us in; add that to all those channels at your disposal. I feel like there were quite a few shows I added to what used to be a tighter rotation of what I was watching in previous years. Because I could. Because I was paying for it. To say nothing of the many, many hockey games on most nights. I enjoyed it, but now, I feel it’s time to renegotiate my relationship with television.

Given that time is finite, what do I want to do with the time I’m allotted? What will I do with the time I get back because I’m not watching a baseball game I really don’t care about that much as I surf the web? What else should I be consciously trying to change about what I’m doing? I don’t like making completely intangible goals, though some of these inevitably appear that way. Like, sure, be more present is a great idea, but what does that mean? And why are we judging whether we’re using a device as being present? Maybe I’m talking with a friend half a world away with my phone while at a show? Maybe that’s a cool thing too. What I’m looking at and thinking about are more tangible uses of time and what I have here. Moving to San Francisco, I winnowed out a lot of stuff, but it builds back up. And some of it I never use. What should I do with those board games that collect dust? What about the books that do the same? With that in mind, here’s some things I’d like to be better about going forward.

Listen to records more

I have a decent record collection; I like it; I don’t play it all that much anymore. It’s hard to listen to a record and watch tv. There’s lots of stuff I own that I don’t have digitally. There’s lots of stuff I never think to play when I’m using my phone because I don’t see my collection in the same way. It’s time to find some of those records I forgot I had, to spend more time with those records that I cannot listen to any other way (that goes for the tapes too). I have it because I like it. So I should use it. This is a pretty easy one because I feel I’ve barely been listening at home recently. It may also finally give me the motivation to either get wireless speakers or a shitton of speaker wire and some Goodwill speakers for the kitchen too.

Read more

I should qualify this. I do lots of reading. I think most anyone in this day and age does. But I’d rather do more in-depth reading. Novels, non-fiction, whatever. I’d rather just spend time with a topic beyond a few thousand words at the most like I do on the internet. Some topics only require a few thousands words; many require much more. I have books on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years now. I have a library card. I live walking distance from both Green Apple locations. I should be able to do this. One of the projects I stalled on was the Hugo/Nebula winners. It’s time to get back into that. Another easy one, since I haven’t spent much time reading anything of length recently, which I’m ashamed to say as an English Lit major.

Run more

The funny thing about television is how it can dictate a schedule if the main reason you have it is for live sports. That’s the main reason I had it, and those game times are set. I can catch up with a show in a couple days, but that’s not how live sports works. That’s why they charge the most for that package. The funny thing about living on the West Coast is that sports are on at weird times if you grew up following an East Coast team, like 4 pm. Which is awesome, it’s fun to watch a Caps game and still have my night, but something’s gotta give in that equation. One of those things that gave more often than not was going for a run. Then you might have a couple beers, and then you’re like, should I really go for a run? And then you don’t. While my mileage is up from this time last year (254 miles at present) I’d like to up that. I’d like to become more consistent about how many times I’m getting out in a week. I’d like to become more consistent about running when I’m on vacation. Can’t hang that all on the tv. But it’s one more excuse at times.

Bike more

Two weekends ago, I took the ferry over to Alameda and biked down to Hayward. It was a nice ride along the Bay, through quite a bit of land I’d never really spent much time in. There’s so much I haven’t seen in the Bay Area, not that you can do it all in three years by any means, but there’s so much more to explore. I still need to figure out a random weekday to go to the Pulgas Water Temple. John Muir’s home is calling my name. I still haven’t tackled Mount Tam. It takes a little more planning, but it’s easier to bike to many more places than you think much of the time. My mileage is down from last year (only 1,592 miles at present), and it only looks that good because of a really strong past few weeks (thanks Vancouver!). I have a slightly shorter commute now (cut about 1.5 miles round trip) so some of that is to be expected. But it’s time to start making that up on these longer summer evenings and weekends.

Write more

I always say this. It’s always true.

Drink less

I enjoy a fine adult beverage. But I feel I’ve probably been having more than I should recently. Sometimes it’s just saying no to that last one of the night that you don’t really need. Sometimes it’s just not having one at all on a night like tonight. I’m still gonna go to Novel Brewing tomorrow because it sounds awesome and I’m gonna be in Oakland for work. I’m still going to try lots of new and exciting breweries and distilleries and bars and visit old favorites. I will still throw back a few with you the next time we see each other (if that’s something we do together). It’s just cutting back on the reflexive drinks. Especially now that I rarely ever drink soda, it’s very easy to just order a beer with a meal or open one at home. And that’s not a problem. But everything is a balancing act. I feel like I may have gotten a bit out of balance on this front over the past few months. It’s just something to be cognizant of.

Put things off less

It doesn’t really take that long to do the dishes. But some nights, I was racing to get dinner in before a show would start, and after sitting on the couch for an hour, I’d lack the motivation to finish up the dishes properly. I don’t think that’s magically going to change, but not having something like that I’m dedicating my time to should make it easier, no? I hope. And sure, some nights I’m just barely getting the laundry out of the machine before rushing off to a show, but most nights, I have the time, I just don’t use it for those little things that take 10-15 minutes when I should. I should figure out what I’m bringing to work the night before instead of the morning of. I should wash the dishes as they come up so I don’t have a nightmare scenario like I’ve had this week (in fairness, I made a lot of brunch). I should put my laundry away in a timely fashion because dammit, I just should. Living alone is nice, I don’t have to worry about pissing anyone off with that kind of stuff. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone light that fire under you. I gotta do it myself. I’ve been abysmal at it recently, so it time to be better.

Sleep more

I get enough sleep. But I could stand to get a little more most nights. I should be in bed by 11:30 unless I’m out. Instead I fritter away who knows how much time in front of a television. TV is weird like that. Granted, I can still do that with the internet, and probably will. But a girl can dream.

Get out more

It’s been a while since I made it back to Corona Heights. Or Tank Hill. Or McLaren. It’s been too long since I made my way to Mount Davidson. Or Mount Olympus. I haven’t stopped by Retrofit in a while. Or any of the other fun vintage shops up and down Valencia. San Francisco has a lot of nice parks and quirky little spots, I’ve been to a lot of them. It’s time to get back to some of them again. It’s time to take advantage of these longer summer evenings, and since our weather is broken, that goes double for the outdoor stuff. The tv is still gonna be here when it’s dark and the shops are closed.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning how to renegotiate our little habits. And change is a good opportunity to examine other ones. I am a big proponent of the fact we should always been examining our lives, making tweaks and changes, big and small, as appropriate. We can’t just wait for January 1st, and besides, that’s an arbitrary date. I’ve been looking at some of the little things I’ve been doing and thinking to myself “why am I doing that?” I’ve been asking, and I’ve had some reasons, or more likely, excuses; now that some of them are gone or will be soon. I’ve been awful with the deck this year, though I have been doing it. It’s designed to make me do some of those things outside of my comfort zone and make me reexamine my relationship to some things. I should pay more attention to it. I should pay more attention. Perhaps with one fewer distraction, now I will.

Live Deliberately

Maybe this time I’ll get it right. No, no, that’s not the right approach. There are plenty of things in life you will not get right the first time. Perhaps I shouldn’t foist that upon you, but I know there are plenty of things I didn’t, haven’t, and likely won’t get right the first time. It’s taken me a long time to come around on tenets that comprise the core of my being, whether that’s as a vegan, a non-driving city dweller who wants more city for everyone, or as a woman, to mention a few key ones. Each of those has taken me years to refine. It’s never about being the best. What’s best, anyway? It’s about being a better person than I was yesterday. Sometimes I don’t do a good job with that. We all have our bad days. Hell, some of us have had bad lives. Perhaps a younger version of me would have blamed a lot of people for that. The current version knows damn well a lot of us are doing the best with what we have and some of us don’t have nearly as much as we should.

As I become a more realized version of myself, though, I live in a world that does not seem prepared for it. I trundle through a city with laughable bike infrastructure, wondering about what the next pothole or trolley track or car might do to me, aware that the article would inevitably point out that I was not wearing a helmet like that excuses the body count of our car-first culture. I watch as your jaw drops a little when I say I don’t really miss bacon at all, because that’s a difficult world for so many to comprehend. I stand mortified, afraid to correct a co-worker who misgenders me because I hope against hope that no one else even noticed and then my heart drops when I realize they probably didn’t notice because that’s how they think of me too. I used to think they were all demonstrably different aspects of who I am, the cyclist, the vegan, the trans woman, and in some ways, they are but they aren’t really, inasmuch as they are all elements that very much set me apart from the mass of men who lead lives of quiet desperation,  trapped in their cars, trapped in their masculinity. Efforts to push against that will not be tolerated.

Of course, in some ways, they are demonstrably different. People give me strange looks when I say I bike to work, they look like they pity me when I say I’ll pass on the milk chocolate, but they give me downright hostile looks just for assert myself as a woman. There’s a slim chance I’ll get in an accident riding, and I might go hungry for a meal, but being trans is enough to put your life in danger. Less so for me than for many others, less by virtue and more by luck, but it is still a more real possibility than any other danger I face. Some days, I feel I am living less deliberately and more defiantly, though that is just a function of a society that treats any deviation from the norm as defiance. We may encompass vast ranges, but so much comes down to binary choices: yes/no, man/woman, black/white. Ours is not a culture of nuance. It is barely a culture of change. We stake to calcified opinions that we do not question. It’s hard to change your mind on something, and it’s even harder to share that with the world. It always requires an explanation, and even then, we still hold old versions of ourselves over each other. Even as I have changed so much, I still do it. I know this is something I have struggled with and continue to challenge myself on; I understand it is difficult. I know it’s easy to forget how everyone else’s life is in motion just like our own when everything appears static from the outside. I get that our realities complicate and compromise our best efforts to live deliberately. So many things outside of our control affect it. I get that we all have to make choices with the finite time we have. I get that what is right for me may not be right for you, as there are so many different ways of living. Or at least I get that now, though I doubt I understood that nearly as well even a few short years ago.

It’s not about getting there first. I want to live in a culture that celebrates trans realities, and if you are already there and realize that trans people are just that, people, cool. But there’s no special ribbon for getting there first. And it’s also worth remembering there was a time when perhaps you didn’t think of it that way. I don’t take that as a sign that some people are more evolved or anything like that. I take that as a reminder that there are areas that I probably don’t challenge myself on that I may come to realize in the future are absurd. I take as a reminder to be open to thinking another way. I may have once struggled to see myself as the woman I am, but now I can’t see myself as anything but. The act of living deliberately isn’t about questioning every little thing all the time. We still have to function on a daily basis and it can be paralyzing to always be like that. But it does mean we should engage those questions. Being trans is really great preparation for that. Perhaps you have a different teacher in that regard. We can’t change the past. But luckily, we aren’t those people anymore, even if we see ourselves and others that way sometimes. I know it’s hard. I know other people may not understand, perhaps now, perhaps ever. I know it’s a lot easier to look back and ascribe a purpose to all of it than it is to see in the moment. Maybe I will finally get it right this time. But if I don’t, then how am I going to be better tomorrow?

A Little Light

I noticed a little light in the sky as I rode up Market just before 6 pm. Not much, mind you. But a little. It may not feel like it between the waves of clouds and rain, but the days are getting longer. It’s one of the underrated aspects of January. It can be hard to appreciate in the dead of winter, I understand that, but it’s true. The evidence was right there over Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights.

January has always been one of my favorite months. I like summer, but I’m not really a summer person. Everyone loves fall and spring, sure, but winter is my season. I get this is not everyone’s opinion of winter, but give me frozen waterfalls, downhill skiing, the heart of the hockey season, and a good winter beer. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the other seasons. I just really enjoy winter. And I particularly enjoy January because the days are getting longer again, because even if I had nothing to do with it, it’s a damn fine month to be born in. Even if it’s arbitrary, watching the calendar roll over and the sense of recrudescence it foments (even if it is short-lived in many cases) because it’s a new year is pretty cool. Perhaps it would make more sense to time that with spring, but who ever said the Gregorian calendar made sense?

The 2016 edition of January has not been my favorite so far. Work has been…not that great. I missed applying for the job I meant to, have been working way more weekends than I ever want to, and I’m finding myself burned out. And the short-term ramifications are that I find it harder to get done the other things I need or want to do. The dishes pile up, the laundry doesn’t get put away, I’m not cooking as much as I’d like to. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep some other things in motion. I’m still getting my running in, and there’s still time for trivia and I am taking care of myself okay, but not as well as I’d like. I find I’m making more mistakes in little things too, at work, or in the kitchen, almost putting in the wrong ingredient or running out of something I could have sworn I checked on before I started halfway through. That’s why I missed applying for the job I meant to, I saw the email, it didn’t magically mark itself as read, I just didn’t really see it. I’ve felt that way a lot this month.

We all make mistakes. I’ve learned to own mine. Sure, there are a lot of other unlucky little things that happened, but the first mistake I made was missing something I said was important to me. I didn’t take the proper steps to ensure I took care of myself. There’s not always going to be someone to catch you when you fall. In this case, there wasn’t. While the ramifications feel bigger right now, everything just feels a bit more exaggerated. And it feels like the lows have been lower. Or perhaps not lower, but just way more frequent than I’d like. Lots of little indignities piled up on each other. It’s just been one of those stretches where I find myself muttering “of course” a lot. And it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that if I’d received an offer for the job (strong possibility), that would have meant more money, more prestige, I don’t know, whatever you imagine goes along with that kind of stuff.

But mistakes also present opportunities. If I’m feeling overwhelmed doing the position on an interim basis, why do I want to do it on a permanent basis, while adding an hour to my commute each day? Is it worth it? Is this really the best opportunity for me right now? Sure, some of that is spin, bargaining as I work my way through processing the mistake I’ve made. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Perhaps this isn’t the right fit for me, or the right time. How do I juggle a longer commute and more responsibility with still wanting to have the flexibility to make it to the Hemlock on a random Wednesday? Time is a finite variable. What gives in that equation? How can I use my time more fully in ways that I want to? Money is not the only measure of success, and due to a fair amount of luck, I’m doing just fine. I won the lottery when it comes to my living arrangement. How much do I want to actually enjoy living in San Francisco? Even in its (current/constant) broken state, it’s an exceptional place. I am exceptionally lucky; I have a good thing going on right now. How much do I want to disrupt that?

Of course, I’m not just thinking about present me. I’m thinking about future me. I turn 35 tomorrow. Which is not old. But it’s hard to call myself young anymore. How many more shots am I going to get at that next chance? Do I want to delay it another year? Well, now I don’t have much of a choice. I did delay it, at least for the indefinite future. But that also creates new choices.  I can evaluate the path I thought I was going down and ask myself why I really was. And the answer is…I’m not really sure? Because it seems like the right thing to do? Because the rent doesn’t pay itself? Because it allows me to do the other things I want to do? Because it is the right thing to do? It’s probably all of those things, and a few more.

As I pivot, I applied for something else. Now I can wonder if that’s the right fit. There are different challenges to that position, as it’s a lateral move, not a move up; it does not present any immediate financial reward, which let’s be real, never hurts. I still need to be offered a job before I get too far ahead of myself. But that position is where I thought I was heading if you’d asked me a year ago. And then some things changed and I thought I was heading somewhere else. Now I may be heading back to where I thought I was going all along. On the surface, it plays to my professional strengths. While it may be short on the immediate bump, perhaps it is what’s best for me professionally in the long run. There’s not really any way to know that, of course. Perhaps they are all justifications. What isn’t? When I write it out, it’s a ridiculous thing to be hung up on. But that’s a reason to write. It helps me step back and remember I am objectively a very lucky woman. I am mad at myself for missing this opportunity, but that I had it at all would have been hard to fathom even a few years ago.

Perhaps that’s the clarity that comes with acceptance. It’s still real a couple weeks later, but I’ve processed it. Not 100%, of course. I’m in no rush to say that I’m past this, or I still won’t feel the effects for a while. I will. We live with our mistakes. They are not our sum, but they inform who we are. How we respond, who we are in the face of them, who is there for us when we make them, how we move past them. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes. We make changes. We become more fully realized versions of ourselves. We explore new opportunities. We take new chances that lead to new mistakes, and through this cycle, we continue to grow. It may not feel like everything is going the right way right now. But there’s still 10 days left in January, still time for it to be the month I know and love. Sure, it’s gonna rain tomorrow. But we need the rain. And behind the clouds, it’s only getting brighter.

Why Do You Drive?

As I strolled down Götgatan one last time, I soaked it all in. It was a warmer day than the rest of my week in Stockholm, but it looked the same as the others. People driving cars, slowly making their way down Götgatan, going perhaps 30 km/h, sharing the road with people biking in a bike lane that deftly shifted between the sidewalk and the road, well separated from them. Lots of people walking, but respecting the bike lanes because they had ample space of their own to amble.Parked bikes up and down the streets on numerous bike racks. Everywhere. Even as the temperature stayed near or below freezing the entire trip. Perhaps you’ve been to Stockholm, or another European city with a strong cycling culture, but this was a first for me. It was just so beautiful to see so many people cycling like it was a perfectly normal everyday thing. When I got back on my bike yesterday, I was immediately reminded of the difference in the United States again. Bike racks hidden, off to the side of buildings, if they are anywhere at all, and mostly empty. Several dudes on their fancy bikes in their spandex talking about the latest mountain they climbed, but not many folks who looked like they were just going to enjoy a cup of coffee or running errands. People driving on 30 mi/h at speeds that felt faster, buzzing me in my bike lane if I had one, cutting me off at intersections for no good reason other than their false sense of road ownership. It was a frustrating 10 miles yesterday.

We make the decisions about what we set up as normal even if we don’t realize it. It’s accepting that it’s always been there, that it will always be this way, that it couldn’t possibly be any other way. It’s in how we talk about it. When I talk about being a bike commuter in San Francisco, the responses are a mix of admiration (“I could never do that”), fear (“isn’t it dangerous?”), and curiousity (“how long does it take to get to…”). People never ask why I ride a bike, but that’s always the underlying question. I can list all sorts of positive elements to riding a bike in the city. It takes less time than riding transit for sure, and I can’t imagine driving in this city is any quicker, especially factoring in parking (though I cannot truly speak to that since I’ve never been a driver here). It’s a good way to burn a few calories. I can still do all the things I did before, I just have to do them a bit differently, a couple smaller trips to the store instead of one big one, for example. Bikes still require maintenance, but they cost a lot less to maintain than cars, and I spend a lot less getting around on one without dealing with aspects like parking and gas. If anything, the only real detractor to riding bikes in this city is the infrastructure for it is terrible. But consider turning the question around: why do you drive a car?

In the United States we have created a car culture. It did not always existed. It is a mistake to view it as such. The automobile as a consumer product is barely more than a century old. Even San Francisco is older than that, as are many American cities. Roads have existed for far longer than that; it’s how we’ve used those roads that’s changed. As I sat in a 5 that was held up, like usual, along Market due to the overabundance of traffic, I was quickly reminded of that. It’s a space that is ostensibly for all, with wide sidewalks, four lanes for transit and other vehicle traffic, and occasionally a bike lane. Transit could use better right-of-way in that stretch. But cyclists in that stretch get short shrift, both by those driving and the actual design. A sharrow is not a bike lane, and while it may serve as a heads up bikes may be there, there’s a big difference between creating a space for those who bike and simply saying this space for those who drive may also be used by bikes. That’s mostly what we have here in San Francisco and throughout the US. There’s very little space that is dedicated to bikes. Even in those areas where it exists, there’s a lot of other traffic to contend with. Sure, it’s great there’s a contraflow by City Hall for two blocks that’s a protected bike lane, but I rarely go through there, and I never see anyone there when I do. But stretches I do see lots of people biking that would benefit from greater and/or respected space for bikes, like Valencia or the Panhandle don’t have anything nearly as nice as that Polk contraflow. As a culture, we largely refuse to create space explicitly for those who bike; when we do, we rarely police it in such a way that it’s free and open for those who bike to enjoy it.

But car culture doesn’t just succeed because of path dependency and how we’ve constructed our communities, though both those things help its continued dominance. Car culture succeeds because we don’t even think to walk or bike or take transit. While design obviously influences that, even when it’s an option, it’s just not even a consideration to most people. For many, the alternative to not driving is to take an Uber, but it’s a manifestation of the same point. It’s still taking a small occupancy motor vehicle from point a to point b. We’re changing is who’s driving it. And certainly, there are advantages to that, ostensibly better usage of vehicles that largely sit unused, avoidance of drunk driving, and so on. I just say this to illustrate that even when we don’t personally drive, we still see driving as the solution to our transportation needs in many cases. We don’t worry about whether a new building has good access to transit in our laws, but we legislate how many parking spaces are required in building codes. We call auto crashes accidents, as if they occur by chance, even though almost 34,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 according to the CDC. And even then we call them accidents or unintentional injury deaths. Driving is dangerous, even if the numbers have been trending downward. But even if you opt out of driving, you still face the danger of being hit by those who drive. Irrelevant of how we navigate our cities, we all share in interest in lowering this trend, in creating safer streets for all to enjoy.

If you start biking around San Francisco, I think you’d see a different city. Not just because the bike routes tend to take you different ways. Because you are freed up to see more. It’s a more leisurely way of getting around; my stress is mostly trying to avoid the danger of motor vehicle, and even that pales in comparison to the stress of operating one of those motor vehicles on these streets. If you start biking around San Francisco, I think you’d realize the hills aren’t that bad. If you start biking around San Francisco, I think you’d realize biking is a pretty good way to get where you are going. You’d also realize that we can do a much better job of creating better systems for that. The Wiggle is a terrible bike route. Its only redeeming value is its flatness. But the problem with The Wiggle isn’t where it is but that we refuse to truly dedicate a space to those who bike. This doesn’t happen overnight, of course. Cities like Stockholm didn’t just magically create an effective multimodal system. That’s years of hard work and planning. That’s having effective mass transit as a backbone. That’s my problem with saying we have to drive here. We’ve created a system where we have to, but that’s a different issue. We have to make better decisions for those who come after us. Some of that would be making people pay more of the true costs of driving. Whether it’s the cost of gas in this country or how enamored we are with the concept of free parking, we most definitely do not pay the true costs. Some of that involves creating cities where driving is less necessary because people have more and better options than driving, are able to live closer to where they work, etc. But I still think the biggest part of that is a question I asked early. Why do you drive? It’s a thorny question to untangle, I am aware, but it’s a series of decisions and systems we build that lead us to that point. If you say you have to drive, well then, what forces created a system where you have to? And why is that what we judge as what should be normal or expected? Normal shouldn’t be thousands of people dying every year in preventable crashes. Normal shouldn’t be having to drive because we have failed to create other effective options. Driving is not an equitable activity. It’s expensive, and it shuts out many who cannot afford it from a lot of opportunities because we’ve constructed a society that largely views it as necessary. If you don’t want to think about why we set those sorts of ideas up as normal, ask yourself why not.

There’s Worse Things Than Being Alone

It’s funny how a move can shake up your life, change your perspective, force you to do things differently, but we always find ways back to who we are. Not that I think we are doomed to repeat things over and over. Just that we keep finding our way back to ourselves. We all have life changing experiences, but I know first-hand that amazing things can happen that change your perspective that just don’t last forever. Probably the most notable moment in my life like that was when I was hit by a car leaving the 400. It may be a reminder of the fragility of life in that moment, or for the days after, and it still is one of those things I look at and realize could have happened in an entirely different, and possibly deadly, way. But it was nine years ago, too. I just don’t think about it that much anymore. So I guess it’s not the events, but rather whether we can make lasting changes coming out of those events. I certainly realize that it could all be over tomorrow. But you got live like you’re gonna die tomorrow and plan like you’re gonna live forever. It’s a delicate balance. When is challenging yourself to do something taking care of yourself? When is telling yourself not to do something taking care of yourself?

Have I made any lasting changes here? Of course. I’ve gotten better at honestly answering those questions at least. But I find myself troubled by many of the same problems I experienced in the Twin Cities. Whereas I felt many of my friends were going in different directions with their lives in Minnesota, here I’ve just found it difficult to even make those friends in the first place. It’s still a pretty sparse roll call when I’m trying to get people together, which frequently leads to the same result. I do a lot of things alone. I have yet to really develop the same level of community with the music venues in this town. Some things I knew wouldn’t be much different, but I guess I was hoping for more in that regard. It’s not a bad town to be trans in, but it’s not much different than the Twin Cities in that regard. There are still a lot of assholes everywhere, which I’ve said before and I’m constantly reminded of. This move didn’t make my life easier, but then again, no one said it would, and I didn’t believe that it would anyway.

Even if it feels like it gets harder each day, I do a better job of taking care of myself. Whether that’s remembering to floss or paying more attention to what goes into my body or getting in a few runs a week. Or being honest with myself, at least. Sometimes it’s just processing how I feel. That could be the totality of feeling like I am an outlier in a lot of ways. Whether it’s as a bike commuter or as a vegan or as someone who still goes out on a Wednesday night for a show or as a trans woman, I feel like I’m in the minority a lot in regards to the decisions I make. Or perhaps not necessarily a minority, but someone for whom systems are not designed. In other ways, I am not. But I don’t make those decisions to consciously being different in any regard. I make those decisions because they are the right decisions for me. In some ways, I think being trans makes it a lot easier to make those decisions, because really, what other decisions am I going to make that are harder or people are going to treat me worse for. People laugh at me when I say I bike everywhere, they scoff at me when I say I’m vegan, but that’s nothing compared to moving through the world every day as trans, and as someone who is definitely perceived as trans with frequency. And I say this as someone whose experiences have been fairly tame. Many people might not believe that I could live without bacon, but many people straight up refuse to accept that I’m a woman.

But there a lot of positive ways in which I feel like an outlier too. When I look at all the great people in my life, or I think about the fact that modern technology means that even if I spend a lot of time alone, I rarely spend a lot of time lonely. I know my problems are fairly minor, and even if I get piqued fairly frequently. I have multiple friends I went to high school with only a few miles away that I’m still in touch with. And I live 2,500 miles from where I went to school. I feel like I will always have a home in Minnesota, even if I don’t live there any more. I have the means to go to all those shows on Wednesday nights, and have a drink or two, or a good meal. I can go to those cities and see you. That is a rare thing, and rarer yet for many trans folks, to have that security and means. And as frustrating as it is, there’s a reason people keep moving here, and it’s not just the jobs. There’s just something about this place. If I end up leaving tomorrow or I’m here for the rest of my life, there’s still a chapter of my life where I can say “this is my chapter in San Francisco”. It’s not perfect, but it’s important to remind myself of in those moments where I feel like things aren’t going anywhere, when I’m frustrated because I’ll never be one of the pretty ones, when I can’t seem to get anything done after work because all I want to do is sink into the couch. I remember that things are going places, that there’s a lot more to life than a pretty face (though it never hurts), and some nights, it is okay to sink into that couch. It’s just important to not keep doing those things.though. I don’t want to deny my feelings, but I don’t want to be captive to them either. And if I force myself not to dwell on whatever has me down at the moment, it’s pretty easy to see things are pretty fucking awesome. There’s worse things than being alone. As a car reminded me nine years ago.

Too Much Democracy (Or One Voter’s Guide To Civic Duty In San Francisco)

If you’re a resident of San Francisco, then a couple weeks ago like me, you likely received a 200 page Voter Information Guide & Sample Ballot. The number of pages is not a typo. California, in general, and San Francisco, in specific, remain somewhat extreme examples of direct democracy. I don’t remember voting anywhere else in my life (Iowa and Minnesota) where the process and the amount of work I needed to do to be an informed voter involved this much research. In an effort to ensure that I do that research, I thought I’d write a bit about the process, and really the book itself, because it’s a gem

Pages 0-13 Table of Contents and general information

I am sympathetic to this section, and the efforts of the city. It’s all important stuff (where to vote, language services, how ranked choice voting works). My favorite touches are the exhortations to recycle this voter guide and the fact that they have to explain the very purpose of the book (Purpose of the Voter Information Pamphlet, page 3), but the best is a note on page 3 telling you to go to page 153 to find out how to save paper. But this is the kind of basic stuff that is required, and therefore I have no issue with it. In addition, it highlights the multiple channels and resources for voters, and if there’s anything other places in the United States truly should emulate about the voting process in San Francisco, it’s that. Early voting, vote-by-mail, language services, accessible voting are all things this city seems to do well.

Pages 14-15 Candidate information

It’s nice to see the offices and their duties clearly explained. By far the most interesting aspect is the listed yearly salary. That way you can see just how much Ed Lee is making to not really do anything to make this city a better place to live. Segue…

Pages 16-18 Candidates for Mayor

Did you know there are 6 people running for Mayor in San Francisco? Which makes you wonder, if there are 5 other people running, how are there no legitimate challengers to a mayor that anecdotally not that many people seem to like? Still, I can’t bring myself to vote for Ed Lee. From his sycophantic support of the Twitter tax break (which, I agree is complex, but c’mon…) to his perplexing vow to veto relaxed Idaho Stop enforcement for biking, I’ve just never read anything that has made me excited to say he’s my mayor. Stuart Schuffman (known better as Broke-Ass Stuart) gets my protest vote.

Pages 19-20 Candidates for Sheriff

Three candidates, but this is really a two person race between challenger Vicki Hennessy and incumbent Ross Mirkarimi from what I can see. Mirkarimi is a deeply flawed incumbent. He may be noting aspects of his tenure like pushing to house trans inmates according to their gender identity (while still highlighting his and most cis folks’ unfortunate and weird obsession with trans folks’ genitals) but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan as to how to accomplish things like that and it contains weird onerous requirements cis people would never have to do. Hennessy seems to have walked back some of her criticisms of sanctuary city status, but essentially seems to be saying she reserves the right to reach out as necessary, whatever that ends up meaning. Certainly Kathryn Steinle’s death was senseless and tragic, but I was glad to see the city reaffirm its sanctuary city status recently. Mirkarimi has other issues (previous domestic violence charges, the prison fights, etc) and it’s dismaying that he is not on speaking terms with the Mayor, because that seems problematic. The totality seems to be he has more problems than pluses. To that end, even if I’m not entirely sold, I think Hennessy is my choice.

Page 21 Candidate for City Attorney

Page 22 Candidate for District Attorney
Page 23 Candidate for Treasurer

Three offices, three unopposed incumbents; the only real question is whether they deserve a vote or not, but that has no real impact on whether they get elected. I’m not seeing much negative news about Dennis Herrera, George Gascón, and José Cisneros. It’s there, of course, but nothing that says stay away, or merits a protest no in my opinion.

Pages 24-25 Candidates for Community College Board

Four people running for the remainder of a one-year term that we’ll vote on again in 2016? Yep. The three that stand out are Wendy Aragon, Alex Randolph,and Tom Temprano. Alex Randolph, the incumbent, is an establishment choice, with the endorsements to match. Both the challengers do as well in that regard. This is one of those things where it feels like they’d all do a pretty good job. In a coin flip, I like what I’ve seen about Tom Temprano, and while I think any of them would do a good job, he gets my vote.

Page 26 San Francisco’s Supervisorial Districts

I’m sad the guide doesn’t say anything about the Farallon Islands, which are technically in District 1, though that probably owes to their remote location, lack of humans, and rodent infestation.

Page 27 Voter Bill Of Rights

Again, just some good solid information that’s good to share with people and make known. See, sometimes we get stuff right here.

Pages 28-39 Sample Ballot

Yes, that’s how long it is.

Page 40 Local Ballot Measure and Argument Information

This apparently explains the logic of what’s going to fill more than half this book. In seriousness, though, again, transparency, it’s a nice thing

Pages 41-43 Words You Need To Know

Why yes, there is a 3 page glossary of words and terms. A shocking number of them are for Props G and H, so at least we’ve all learned something about clean, green, and renewable energy.

Pages 44-45 An Overview of San Francisco’s Debt

Wait, I thought we were all so rich here we didn’t have that.

Pages 46-58 Proposition A – Affordable Housing Bond

San Francisco has been doing a system of charter amendments and propositions since 1898. The public library has documents going back to 1907 online. Some of them are the very foundations of the city, setting up maintenance and operations for Golden Gate Park, for example, or setting up the recall mechanism for voters. It’s actually kind of entertaining to dig through if you find yourself with some time. Take, for example, Daniel S O’Brien, who wanted to remind voters even in 1925 that he was, in fact, “a native-born San Franciscan”. Several other candidates that year also made sure to state some variation therein, a reminder that geography as a qualification is not a new thing. By far the best line from that 1925 guide, though, belongs to Julius S Godeau when he said:

Cemetery Removal – I am for the orderly and decorous removal of the City cemeteries. Without confusion, these cemeteries, lying in the center of the City, should be removed and the people of the Richmond District given free and direct transportation from their homes to the downtown business section. (Always providing that the people vote their removal.)

May that also serve as a reminder that we have been dealing with many of these issues for a long time. That was not the first time the City voted to move the cemeteries, but as anyone who’s been to Colma knows, the City did eventually do just that. It’s also a reminder that we seem to be revisiting the same issues again and again. Of course, circumstances change, so it makes sense that votes change.

Back in the present day, Prop A, in short, is asking us to bond $310 million for affordable housing. It requires 66 and ⅔% to pass. This is really a no-brainer in my opinion. Do we need a lot of other solutions? Of course. But arguments against that we shouldn’t put any money in at all or worse yet, that it doesn’t do enough strike me as callous and disingenuous.The city has lots of goals and ideas, but this is a tangible commitment. Let’s make that commitment, San Francisco.

This is also a moment to talk about Dr. Terence Faulkner, J.D. or whatever other appellation he uses. Once you starting bringing the Vikings into your rebuttal, welp, I’ve got nothing else to add. Sometimes, I agree with him though, so make of it what you will. But not in this case. Yes on Prop A.

Page 59 – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This seems like a weird spot to slip in an FAQ, San Francisco.

Pages 60-64 Proposition B – Paid Parental Leave for City Employees

Basically, this proposal is to allow both parents to take full parental leave (12 weeks) if the are both City employees as well as amending the fact they have to use all other leave first by allowing them to retain 40 hours of paid leave.

One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself going through all these props is “should this be a Prop?” In this case, I’m not really sure this is what the proposition mechanism should be used for. I’m having a difficult time finding exact numbers on how many City employees there are, but it looks to be somewhere around 28,000. Considering how many of them are likely married or partners, this just isn’t a high impact issue from a cost perspective, so I don’t think that’s a persuasive argument. Where it is a high impact issue is setting a positive example for other municipalities to follow. Is it enough? No, we need much better leave policies for more than just City employees. Still, let’s be in the lead on something that the United States is abysmal at. Yes on Prop B.

Page 65 – Be A Poll Worker on Tuesday, November 3!

You know, that’d actually be pretty cool to do. I doubt volunteer time would cover it, since it’s paid, but maybe next year.

Pages 66-72 Proposition C Expenditure Lobbyists

This prop basically expands the definition of who is a lobbyist and requires them to pay some additional fees and complete additional registration and paperwork. Yet I’m not really sure this is something that’s necessary. Or that this is the means that it should be done by. I just don’t think this really makes the process that much more transparent, and it seems more likely to impact smaller entities adversely. And all the other municipalities might have disclosure requirements but does that really stem the flow of funds? This just doesn’t seem to be how you truly fight that. Money might be a problem in this city, but I don’t think it’s all that secret. It’ll probably pass, even if I don’t think this should really be something we use a prop on, but since they’re asking me, I’m voting No on Prop C.

Page 73 Ballot Drop-off Stations Outside City Hall

The City really wants you to be aware of the ways it does things well. They even advertise those coveted “I Voted” stickers.

Pages 74-91 – Proposition D Mission Rock

This is a bit wordy, and kind of a two-part issue. Should the city increase the height limit for development at the Mission Rock site from one story to 40 to 240 feet, and should the city encourage the development of that site, including eight acres of parks as well as housing, of which at least 33% will be affordable.

Should this be a prop. Hell no. Every section of the guide has a how “X” got on the ballot, and this has a nice story about how it got there by the number of people who signed an initiative ordinance, blah, blah, blah. But really, how did it get on the ballot? You’ll have to look back to Props B and C in 2013, which involved the 8 Washington project, which the City rejected forcefully. I didn’t agree then and I don’t agree now, but 8 Washington was also practically an exhibition on how to not make something happen. The City gets so caught up in what kinds of development fit its character that it seems to end up with very little to nothing. Emboldened by that, Prop B passed in 2014. They might have celebrated how it’s changed everyone’s development plans, but the irony of this is it also makes everything take longer and cost more, and not necessarily for much benefit. Now you have to win public approval for a project that I’m guessing a bunch of people out in places like the Richmond and Sunset will rarely ever see, unless they go to Giants games. Approval of this project would be a forceful statement about how the winds have changed in just a year. Here’s what I don’t get about the idea. There are places along the waterfront that are literally zoned to a height of 0 feet. I run by these lots all the time, and they are a sad sight. People would rather keep empty piers and parking lots and the views of expensive condos across the street because of character. Character is an intangible; I like character too, it’s tough to make a reasoned argument based on it. I don’t think it can ever be totally ignored, nor should it, but it’s worth remembering that. 8 Washington lost because of a different climate, a poor vision, and a lack of affordability; Props about waterfront development passed in elections that simply didn’t have as many voters. I just don’t think a waterfront wall is a reality, and frankly if it is one, I welcome it. I’d be more concerned about rising sea levels than a blocked view myself. But that’s not what we’re voting on (yet). I’m dismayed I even have to vote on this, but if I have to, you can bet damn well it’s going to be a forceful Yes on Prop D.

Pages 92-97 Proposition E Requirements for Public Meetings

The gist is should the City be required to stream City meetings, allow comments from anyone watching remotely, play pre-recorded comments, and allow requests for discussion of specific items at specific times. Got all that? Because I’m not sure. The City already broadcasts many of its meetings, has agendas available, and allows opportunities for people to speak or submit pre-recorded video, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be played at the meeting. So basically, it’s just more, more, more, but more of…what? It would increase staff, have some one-time costs, and generally feels like a very San Francisco kind of ordinance. It seems like a good idea, but what does it really do? The remote testimony portion is the part that definitely sticks out in a negative way. On top of the fact that they would have to broadcast four times as many meetings. Most of which I’m guessing people are either showing up for if they care. And I am sympathetic to increased access. But it doesn’t really seem to do the job well. Come back with a better thought out Prop and then maybe we can talk. No on Prop E.

Pages 98-113 Proposition F Short-Term Residential Rentals

Prop F is all about codifying the rule around short-term rentals to a further degree than they currently exist, dropping the number of rentable days on all short-term units to 75 regardless of hosting, and increasing paperwork requirements, but I think the sticking point for Airbnb, or why they’ve spent so much on it, seems to me to be allowing interested parties to sue hosting platforms instead of just the City.

Where to start? I have read a lot on this, from this awfully slanted No on F post that went viral to this much more even-handed response that seemed to generate as much response (locally at least). I’ve lived here long enough now to see Airbnb make more than a few stumbles, but their ill-fated ad campaign about how the City should spend its taxes after spending so long fighting paying those very taxes. It’s really baffling. They’ve obviously taken a lot of heat in regards to people pulling rentals off the market or evicting tenants to convert them to temporary rentals, and obviously it’s having an impact, but that seems to depend on who you ask and exactly what you count. I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who will disagree with that statement in general, though. Airbnb is one of the few of these sharing economy services that makes any sense at all to me, though it still has the same general impact of shifting who pays for what. Airbnb lines their coffers because they pass on so many expenses to you, the owner of that temporary unit. They might finally be paying the hotel tax, but they still don’t have to wash the sheets, or pay or a doorman, or anything. Your gain, of course, is taking advantage of that extra room. Or maybe an entire unit. That’s where things get a little nasty, it seems. But even if it’s people renting out a room, that’s an impact. Of course, if it’s there home and they are just looking for some extra money, Airbnb might make that easier, but people have been renting rooms for a long time. The problem seems to be who is renting those rooms, actual residents of the City or visitors. In a healthier environment, it’s doubtful anyone would care that much.

But I don’t need to tell you San Francisco is not a healthy rental market. Every newspaper of record has written about it. You don’t need me to tell you about it, whether you live here or not. You’re probably sick of hearing about it. Guess what? We are too. That’s where ideas like this come from. And in general, I don’t think a lot aspects of Prop F are problematic. But I also don’t think they are all that different from the current rules. And more importantly, it circles back to whether the City should use the Prop mechanism for this. And that’s where I think this fails. Props are very hard to change. So is that the process by which we want to govern something like this that is relatively dynamic? And more importantly, are you just doing this because you don’t like Airbnb, and by extension, many of the new tech companies? I am not a huge fan of them. They are tone-deaf, and like so many tech companies, they think they’ve invented something new when they’ve just moved the work around. They serve a narrow clientele, and while I have periodically used them, I do so with trepidation because I can’t exactly screen for transphobic hosts. I have a lot of complex feelings about Airbnb. I do not think they are changing the world. But I also don’t think a Prop is the best way to govern this, or to show our displeasure with them. I may not be a huge fan, but No on Prop F

Pages 114-122 Props G and H Disclosures Regarding Clean Energy

I am grouping them together because they are essentially the same, however G couldn’t be withdrawn. Both address CleanPowerSF and definitions about what’s renewable. I don’t think it’s going to cost anyone anything. I don’t think it really matters that much to be totally honest. But if that’s the case, why are we taking time to vote on this? Is this something the entire City really needs to vote on? The Yes vote here states essentially that we’ll use the State definition of some terms, and that we’ll urge CleanPowerSF to…do something? I do not understand why this is a Prop at all, and it’s somehow two? I know, I know it’s because PG&E got G on the ballot in the first place and it has a poison pill regarding what’s entirely green energy and a lot of other wonky stuff. So the idea is we vote for H to prevent G from happening, which no one even seems to support anymore anyway. No on both Props G and H for me, and no more thought at all about this other than to say, maybe you can see why San Francisco is a little screwy now?

Page 123 Voter Bill Of Rights

So good they had to print it again 96 pages later.

Pages 124-139 Proposition I Suspension of Market-Rate Development in the Mission District

Shall the City suspend the issuance and permits on certain types of housing and business development projects in the Mission for at least 18 months and establish a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, to paraphrase the booklet.

The Mission Moratorium, as an idea, is an expression of many things, but mostly, I see it as an expression of anger. Anger that the city is changing. Anger that people are moving into the Mission. Anger that people are being evicted. Anger that long-time businesses are moving or going out of business. Anger over who this city is for, and who it intends to serve. Anger over the economic and racial disparities that are further highlighted and exacerbated by much of what’s changed there in the past several years. To that end, we get a Prop after it did not get the nine votes they needed from the Supes to pass it earlier this year. Not it only requires a 50%+1 to pass and it’s in our hands.

I understand that anger. I just don’t see this as the solution. You can call me a dirty urbanist or a believer in trickle-down or whatever. But we need more housing, overall. Do I agree we need stronger components in terms of affordable housing? Definitely  But I don’t see how this solves it? When I read memos like this, I don’t see many plans, just this idea that we need more affordable homes. It’s inchoate. It’s an idea. How are those places being built, though? Prop A? The taxes and money made by the city off those deplorable luxury condo residents? How is it addressing the high building costs in this city, and how is putting up yet another barrier helping that? Many have stated this is like a time-out. But the city isn’t waiting. People are still moving here. And they will keep moving here. Do other neighborhoods need to step up? Of course. But part of what makes the Mission appealing isn’t just its hip new bars and restaurants that people so readily decry, but the fact that BART runs right under it. The core, though, is who the city is for, who is a true San Franciscan, who deserves to be here. This is the angle where I think racial and economic justice makes sense. Those are questions we keep asking, frequently at the expense of newcomers. Have I been here long enough to not be one? Am I still a gentrifier even though I don’t live in the Mission, don’t work in tech, and definitely don’t make as much as the tech workers? Am I more a resident because I try to engage with the culture more? Is it easier to feel better about the fact I have had good fortune because I’m not just another white dude? I don’t know. There are a lot of questions here. My main question, though, is what are we doing to make this city more accommodating not just for the new folks, but how we do it conscientiously with the people who have been here. I don’t see how this addresses that.. As I’ve come to say to myself a lot recently after seeing it online, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. But this is neither.

I think this will pass, and I’m terrified at the thought of other neighborhoods also asking for the same dispensation instead of stepping up and trying to help make up for the fact that this is going to make things even tougher for a while. Of course what do I care, I have rent control. Well, I care in that I want there to still be a city around me. I care in that I’d like the option of moving someday if I wanted to. I care because I care about my city. I do think we need more substantive plans to address those disparities. I do feel bad about the problems in this city. I do want to do more to help, I do think we all want this city to be better, but I don’t think this is it. No on Prop I.

Pages 140-145 Prop J Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund

This is about establish a fund for what are Legacy businesses. At present, legacy businesses have to have been here for 30 years or more, founded or currently in the City, that have contributed to the neighborhoods they are in that have maintained the physical features or traditions, as they define it. Think things like the Taqueria La Cumbre (secretly a great late night option…just saying) or Anchor Brewing, Cliff House or Tommy’s, Silver Crest Donut Shop or the Little Shamrock. They are things that contribute character to a city, no doubt. The Prop is designed to create a fund for businesses on that Registry, while provide grants and expanding the definition of what can be a legacy business. I don’t think there’s a problem with legacy businesses, but I’m not sure the definition needs to be expanded or that is what I think the city should be spending money on. Historic preservation certainly matters, but what’s historic? It’s a tougher question to answer than you think, and as we approach the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, it’s worth thinking about the challenges there in. The idea of preservation is worthy, but the actual act of it represents a challenge. What maintains something as historic? Its use? Its look? Its location or primacy? These aren’t easy questions. I don’t really feel particularly qualified to address them, but they certainly impact me, because they impact the development of the places I live and have lived. Lowertown in Saint Paul is a curious example of that, with a lot of old buildings that have been converted into condos which certainly adds a cool character to it, but where some of those buildings worth preserving. It’s always a difficult question. I don’t really know. But I can look around and see things that don’t get developed because of that. It’d be great if another theater or similar concept moved into the Alexandria Theater space. But if it doesn’t, how long should we just let the husk of that building sit there undeveloped and unused like it has since 2004? I don’t know. There are other theaters with the same issue not all that far away. This is by no means me advocating just tearing all of it down and building whatever new thing you can. But things aren’t valuable inherently because they are old. And it’s worth a reminder that everything old was new once. Where does that new stuff go in? Sometimes it goes into old businesses. I think we can continue to grapple with questions of use and history without this fund, and I don’t think the definition of what’s a legacy business really needs to be changed at present. Not everything will be a legacy business. And if everything were, would anything ever change? I know that’s not what it’s about, but it’s a question to keep in mind. For me, this just doesn’t seem like a thing we need a Prop for. No on Prop J.

Pages 146-152 Prop K Surplus Public Lands

This is about expanding the threshold for allowable uses of property, and expanding the percentages, essentially. At present the City uses surplus property for housing that is affordable up to 60% of the area median income. Basically this raises the threshold to anywhere between 120% to 150% the median while still putting some requirements on how much needs to be affordable for people in lower thresholds. It basically gives them the ability to use the surplus land to create more housing and loosens the process a bit to push it more toward developing that based on what I’m reading about it. That can all be a little fuzzy in the abstract, but the City does provide the table on their website so you can see what they are talking about. This is one of the few things that almost everyone in the current government agrees on. Which is saying something. The City needs to build more and this is a good use of City power to do such. Doesn’t mean housing is going to magically appear, but this is a tangible step toward making more of that happen, especially in the affordable column.

Page 153 – You Can Stop Receiving This Pamphlet

Yes, please

Pages 154-155

You just read 150+ pages, so here’s a couple reminders about where to vote. No really, maybe you forgot in all the time you took researching and reading about these Props.

Pages 156-195

This is the actual text of and how it will go in the Charter, if you find yourself wanting to read even more about that. Which again, kudos to the City for providing that, but I’m no lawyer, but hey, Prop D has some pretty slick looking maps

Pages 196-197

Visit sfelections.org/toolkit to see all the stuff you just read and more!

Want to learn even more about elections in San Francisco? At this point, no, not really. Is it possible to actual excise some of what I learned out of my brain?

Page 198 Index

It’s in index. Yes, the voter guide requires both a Table of Contents and an Index.

Pages 199-200 Ballot Worksheet

All that to vote on 7 offices (8 if you live in District 3, but I left that out since I don’t) and 11 props. And they only provide 10 lines for notes?

Congrats! You made it. This certainly made me take more time to learn where I stand on some of this stuff, and I can see a shift in my voting patterns even from the last time I voted. I don’t want to say I’ve become more skeptical of Props because I was the first time I voted, but I have thought more about their broader purpose, and the question of whether they are necessary. In this case, I don’t feel like nearly as many are. That will shift from year to year, and I may not find myself on the popular side of several of these (in particular, F and I), but I feel like taking time has helped me get to a more reasoned position. But The City is squeezing everyone these days, it seems. Do we have time for that? And do we have the qualifications? That’s a question after 200 pages that I still do not equipped to answer. Direct democracy is a great concept, but in practice, I’m voting on a lot of things I don’t understand all that well. I don’t ask you how to stop money laundering. So why am I supposed to know the ins and outs of a legacy business? Some of these things seem like matters the entire city should tackle, but others feel like they are better handled by the people we are ostensibly electing to handle them. If we’re not given that, then we could all use some more time to learn and develop informed opinions on these issues. How many people are actually stepping up to share their opinions on the direction of the City come Election Day? We shall see.

Reset

I didn’t intend to take a break from writing. In fact, I wrote a couple things, but I was having some issues connecting to the internet with my laptop at home and didn’t bother to solve it for a month, so they didn’t go anywhere. Perhaps I unconsciously decided a break was in order. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t kept myself busy, between Noise Pop and an impromptu Minnesota trip on top of trying to keep up a good exercise routine, working, etc. I certainly wasn’t sitting on my sofa thinking what should I be doing right now? There’s always something to do right now. Sometimes it’s catching the sunrise. Sometimes it’s getting out for a few miles. Sometimes it’s catching up on The Americans. Sometimes it’s just sitting on my couch spinning Cinema, Red, and Blue.

Lately, though, the room I’ve spent a lot of time in is my kitchen. While it wasn’t an explicit goal of going vegan, it has forced me try to figure out how to make the things I want to eat since they are not as easily available. That, coupled with a few timely gifts in the form of cookbooks, provided all the motivation I’ve needed to find out what works now. Not that I was much of a cook before. Perhaps it’s better that way. I think that frequently in other contexts as well. It’s hard to be disappointed with my performance when I run because I have no body of experience as a runner until the last couple years, so I have no body of performance where I had a lot of testosterone to help drive my performance. While I’m occasionally curious about how fast I could have run if I’d had the discipline I possess now when I was in my early twenties, I just don’t have that data. Then again, that kind of thinking can be self-fulfilling; I try to avoid dwelling on it too much either way. But my mind has been returning to lots of thoughts like that in recent times.

Cooking is a lot like running for me in that my mind wanders during the act, but not too freely. And in those moments, it begins to turn down different paths than the ones I’ve been on. I have something right in front of me that requires attention. It’s not really heavy lifting, though it’s obviously not as simple as one foot in front of the other, it’s still basic things when I’m in the kitchen. Chop this, measure that, mix them together, time this out. To some degree, it’s a bit of mental busy work along with the physical activity, something to clear my head because I cannot exert too much energy toward my thoughts lest I end up with burning the garlic or I miss a step and roll my ankle. And when I’m done, I find I am frequently someplace else mentally. While there’s certainly a degree of importance to thinking things through, I hope I never return to being the kind of person that dwells on things like I used to when I was younger. Perhaps you can function like that, there are, after all, different ways of living, but I cannot. Because when I get too focused in, it starts acting like feedback, and that’s not good for me. It’s that kind of thinking that paralyzed me for so long coming out, as I was too focused on trying to figure out how everything would go and not focused in enough on doing it. In a way, these activities such as running and cooking act as breakers. When it gets too much, they can help reset my mind, forcing me to spend energy on the task at hand instead of the perfect thing I should have said when someone misgendered me on BART for no reason. Because it can be easy to dwell on those sorts of things.

Whether it’s acknowledging and pondering that I sometimes feel I’m too trans for most cis people and not trans enough for most trans people as I try to figure out where I fit in or just dealing with the weight of trying to be a conscious and good citizen of San Francisco or trying to figure out all the ways I can help further support the music I love even though the world just seems to be swallowing up venues and musicians or dealing with the realities of just trying to get through each day, I have no shortage of things to think about. No doubt you can say the same, though what we ponder most likely differs. Sometimes writing serves as a way to get the thoughts out, as if I’m excising them via the written word. It’s one of the reasons I always end up back in front of a computer hammering at the keys. A few years ago, it might have been the set of keys on my piano as well. The problems will never go away, in as much as I’m always working on something. I choose to look at that as a sign that I am (hopefully) always growing and challenging myself to be better. Recently I’ve channeled the energy to be better into how I take care of myself, and perhaps the reset buttons I reach for are a reflection of that right now. Sometimes the reset button means stepping away from the keyboard. Sometimes it means stepping back.

 
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