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june 12, 2000

Random cogitation. Thereís a splendid new view from Macyís fourth floor these days: Union Square. The park glows with greenery, and happy people converse or simply soak up the sun. How different is Civic Center Plaza, which Civic Prideís Jim Haas calls a "big dead space." A recent report calls for the city to spend $80 million to spiff up the area with chess tables, shady trees, and a sidewalk cafť. For starters, how about installing a few benches? And raised curbs suitable for sitting? Will "they" ever learn that open space doesnít require planned activities? Many apartment dwellers in the Tenderloin and Hayes Valley would settle for a comfortable place to sit and quietly read the newspaper. <> Anyone who has climbed aboard one of MUNIís billboard buses must wonder who is being served by the advertising. Peering through tiny holes in screens that cover the windows gives an odd pointillist tone to the passing landscape. Sitting inside encourages claustrophobic tendencies; standing outside renders meaningless the song "The People on the Bus." For some passengers, the ride must invoke fond memories of embarking on a forced vacation in Santa Rita. <> Last week PacBellís internet system was once again down, this time for more than 24 hours. One message sent Monday evening finally made its way across town late Wednesday night. According to Saturdayís Chronicle, the digital revolution has failed to bring about comparable transformations of PG&Eís power grids, so the summer may be freckled with brownouts and threats of rate increases. These utilities time-outs affect thousands of customers, often deep inside their pocketbooks. Why has the PUC never suggested rebates for services unprovided?

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Clear eyes, smart mouths. Last Mondayís meeting at Providence Baptist in Bayview ended inconclusively. How, the mainly adult congregants wondered, could they chart a course for the future without listening to the people who would be most affected? They agreed to hold the first of several "youth sits" at Joseph Lee Recreation Center in the middle of the month. What do young people want? A bunch of WritersCorps kids could tell them. A public reading in the library last Wednesday to introduce their sixth anthology ó appropriately titled Smart Mouth ó was eloquent and enthusiastic. Hereís a sample, excerpted from "Invasion," by Nez Carrasco, 18, YWCA Mission Girls Services:

You all need to stop invading
and stop parading.
This is our hood, our homes.
Canít you get that through your domes?
We only have one district
and this is it.
Canít you see that you donít fit?
What? You enjoy watching us go
cuz rent is too rich and we too poor.
Yaíll got money, go elsewhere.
This is what we can afford.
Ainít that fair?Ö

Itís a cheerfully in-your-face book. In the introduction, "Mouthing Off to Save Your Life," writer and teacher Justin Chin notes that these young poets "are fearless enough to articulate this simple but indomitable fact: This is my life and it matters because I matter."

(The artwork on the cover is by Joe Sorren.)