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Monday, February 18, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Little dogs, big cats & a car named “Jesus”

Most species need someone to touch at night. Whether it’s doing the “spoon” or touching wings while sitting on eggs. When we’re deprived of touch, we grow sad or insane or bitter. If we are unable to establish such a necessary bond with a member of our own species, we get a pet. Or drink. Or do drugs. Or … in the most perverse of cases, we stare out our windows and write newspaper columns. A few of the truly demented, do all of the above. Ah, loneliness is a terrible thing.

In San Francisco, on the most valuable piece of property in the world, realtors are able to impose stringent restrictions upon the occupancy of rental property. Two thirds of San Franciscans are renters. Faced with a world of few yards, parks & alleys … there simply aren’t many places to curb a truly large beast. Thus, most realtors don’t allow any dogs at all in their rental units. Cats find less discrimination. People reach out to birds, fish, snakes & I even had a tenant once who considered the thousands of roaches she fed to be her pets, but you don’t want to hear that story.

Anyway … let me paint you a picture in words of the scene out “my” front window.

My friend’s apartment (I “sleep around“) faces several hundred windows of a half dozen or so abutted apartment buildings. I sit at my friend’s wicker writing desk and gaze this Sunday morning across a street blackened & slick with rain as traffic shifts to lower gears to roar loudly in its escape from the Tenderloin, up Leavenworth & clawing toward Nob Hill where the morning paper says that Supervisor Gavin Newsom will be giving a speech at Grace Cathedral. He’ll be speaking about homelessness to an audience of folks who created the problem. It is unlikely he will condemn his audience for their greed.

I digress.

It is early and the lights in the windows across the way flicker on one at a time. It is 6 am & most people are still asleep. Their cats are not. Neither are mine. At least a dozen cats are already visible in opposing windows. They push their way past drapes & blinds & shades and sit framed to watch us as we watch them. Directly across the street is parked an old Nash-Rambler automobile with the word “Jesus” scrawled in flawless cursive by some skilled graphic artist. Aside it is encamped a drunk with a soaked blanket tented from his shopping cart to a small sapling. He sits forlornly & scratches at a string of Lotto tickets … & dreams of hitting it big & moving into one of the $500,000 condos at his back. I muse about the relationship between Newsom & the drunk. There is movement on the sidewalk coming up the hill. The drunk turns to look. I turn to look. All of the cats tense & grow alert. It is what they have been awaiting. It is the beginning of the “walking of the little dogs.”

The first stroller is a 30-ish blonde with hair frazzled by the rain. She is barely awake & has a muffler but no umbrella. In each hand she has a leash. At the end of one is a miniature Yorkshire terrier. He scuffles to & fro searching for the scent of intruders. The other leash sports an auburn little Pomeranian who trots sprightly and covers the other half of the sidewalk. The rain falls lightly and a huge tandem bus roars by. It is nearly empty. The Pomeranian pauses to whizz on the sapling that anchors the drunk’s makeshift shelter. Somewhere in Pacific Heights, Supervisor Newsom arises and goes for a hot shower & notices it is raining outside.

I open the Chronicle’s classified ads & search for a paying job as the second set of little dogs comes by – a pair of matched miniature bulldogs headed in the opposite direction. Cats in lower windows crouch in practice attack positions knowing that only a thin pane of glass saves the oblivious canines from certain destruction. The bulldogs are followed by the sexiest transgender chick in the neighborhood … and, there’s lots of competition. A skinhead youth appears & shakes the rain from the canvas covering his expensive motorcycle. He watches the tg disappear & the cats & I watch him. Two cabs accelerate, racing to reach Geary first. They are both empty. Times are tough on the cabbies. Board President Tom Ammiano proposed a temporary lowering of the industry “gates” at last Monday’s board. A driver testified at the Taxi Commission a couple of weeks ago that competition for the few riders is making drivers tense & their driving is more aggressive. Supervisor Newsom, who did not offer to co-sponsor Ammiano’s legislation, shaves & considers which thousand-dollar suit he will wear for his appearance. In the boom economy of two years ago, he drove through legislation to add another 500 cabs to the streets. Some drivers now drive twelve-hour shifts and lose money. A single Chihuahua sprints along dragging a tall blonde who’d rather be back in bed. She’s looking good. The Chihuahua is a lucky dog.

The morning Examiner says that Supervisor Chris Daly is a “hothead” for seeking the construction of housing affordable to the poor. The same edition calls Falun Gong practitioners “outlaws” for seeking religious freedom. The paper’s publisher, “Mamma” Fang does big business with the brutal Chinese dictatorship. The paper does not mention this. Daly’s argument is that the Redevelopment Agency refuses to follow its staff’s advice to allow a group called TODCO to build a new building on the site of the Plaza Hotel which will include a cultural center for Filipinos with services for that community’s arts & elderly. The new director of Redevelopment abstained from the latest vote to approve the project, shamelessly, showing herself to have no scintilla of independence from the Brown juggernaut. I find it all amusing. A couple of weeks ago I went to TODCO for a job & talked to their big wheel, John Eberling. He regretted to inform me that there was no way he could get an interview for me because all of TODCO’s building managers were hired by John Stewart! Oh, good Lord! This is the John Stewart who threw the old people out of North Beach public housing so’s he could build a new place including bunches of “market rate” housing into the new development. The same John Stewart who is playing with the lives of the poor in the Presidio & on Treasure Island. On Pacific Heights, where the view of Golden Gate & the bay is perfect, Supervisor Gavin Newsom considers a selection of silk ties.

Bow wow: sobone@juno.com