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Friday, July 5, 2002

h. brown's columns of June 27, June 28, and July 3

June 27, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

We have come to see your City Whore!!

– Visiting bureaucrat from Macao states his purpose

I know, it ain't PC to make fun of someone's pronunciation. But, that's what he said. He really did. I don't make this stuff up. I couldn't.

Of course, he meant to say he came to see the “City HALL” but that's not what he said. Rolled his Ls into Rs and what he got was what I said.

He could have been talking about almost anyone in the building. Not me, of course. Only because I wasn't there. I was off waiting in the welfare office. Applying for my General Assistance check. Same one Gavin Newsom is out collecting signatures to take away. Ain't life weird?

They're gonna make a big star out of me …

and all I gotta do is act … naturally.

– Country song

Hollywood is after my story. I'm guessing Spielberg is behind the proposal. Or could be Lucas. Whatever, their front is a guy named Rich Hillis. His partner in the venture is a dude named Courtney. They want to film my campaign against Gavin Newsom. Hope it ain't for an edition of “Cops.”

You'll want to dial into this project early. It's going to be very big. You really want to be seen waving a bottle of beer in the background. Or waving something or other.

Imagine sitting in your rocker on the verge of death & your great-great-great grandkid says: "Grandpa, is that really YOU waving your thing?" Think about your place in history, man.

Filming will start in late August. The purchasing of beer for moi began last Friday. Thanks, boys.

Nowinski evades Gonzalez & Brown

The Guardian's Amanda Nowinski is leaving town. Going to New York City. Damn!

I just read her column for the first time last week. Matt Gonzalez turned me on to her. I been trying to get her to party with us since. What a natural fit for City Hall.

Waita minute here. Good friend brought over some hash & I'm getting a good buzz on for the first time in about a week. Ya know? Cheap bourbon on the rocks and Moroccan blonde. Beat that shit if you can.

OK, where was I? Yeah, today's Rules Committee & the charter proposal for an Entertainment Commission.

Go to Sacramento. Bring back whores, minstrels, whiskey, and a roulette wheel. Ride em into town in an open wagon!

– h. brown advises Mark Leno

Ever go to a party thrown by a cop?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying cops are all square but, I mean, ya know? Anyway, the cops have been in charge of deciding who gets to throw parties large and small in this town for over 30 years. Not a good idea.

Even Police Chief Fred Lau agrees. Fred sent his number one party pooper (Captain Harrington of the Anti-Fun Squad) to say just that at the June 25 Rules Committee meeting. While Chair Tony Hall staked out all the ground to the right of Lawrence Welk, Vice Chair Gonzalez, member Gerardo Sandoval & visiting future State Assembly rep Mark Leno did a nifty conga line with the Late Night Coalition and a host of other people who know what's on after Letterman. Rock n' roll won. Come November, get all your friends to come out & vote in favor of Leno's “San Francisco Entertainment Commission.” Thanks, Mark.

Can we do that?

– #1 question answered by Ted Lakey

Back where I was born and raised (St. Louis) the city board members are called “aldermen/women” & they aren't quite as smooth as our local group here in San Francisco. A few months ago, in order to maintain a filibuster, a female member had a number of her counterparts surround her while she took a whizz in a waste basket. And, you wonder why I have so little class?

About 10 years ago, one of the aldermen threatened the mayor in a fit of rage. Given the alderman's rep and connections, the cops put the mayor in a “safe house” for some time thereafter. And you think I'm uncivilized? Hey, it comes naturally.

Nature? Nurture? Nature? Nurture? haaaaashhh! Where was I?

Oh yeah, Lakey's tie on the 24th almost retired the trophy. White like a polar bear but with sweeping jet black swirls rushing in from the edges. Wow!

Back when I taught severely disturbed young teens, I used to always tell them, "If you can't be good, at least LOOK good!!" It worked. True, my kids spent more time in jail. But they also got the most compliments on their wardrobes.

Yeah, I know, you've seen me & I dress out of a dumpster from behind Goodwill. That can be done with panache too, you know? Where was I?

The Daly tapes

I was watching Channel 23's City Desk News Hour the other day. Now, there is an argument for heading for the AT&T offices with torches and a rail. Best concept possible: good reporters talking about their beat. Worst execution of concept: a wall of right-wing reporters who spend their time bad-mouthing the same Board of Supervisors who presently have the company's local franchise under consideration. Only the Examiner's Adriel Hampton had a modicum of fairness for the progressive board.

AT&T refused to put three of the public channels required under their old contract on the air at all. Is it any wonder the only news from major outlets in this town is slanted toward the rich? They'd rather show large color photos of Gavin Newsom watching some poor little kid get circumcised than get the cops to release the uncropped photos of their assault on Supervisor Chris Daly.

Yeah, uh huh. It was on City Desk News Hour. Rachel Gordon was filling in for Bruce Pettit and her guest was Daly. It was amazing.

Gordon kept trying to keep the focus on the photo all the media except the San Francisco Bay View ran that made it look like Daly was yelling at a cop. Finally, Daly brought out a set of photos not seen in the local media. They show the cop in Daly's face while Daly is sitting on the floor. They show the cop behind Daly applying a “pain” hold on Daly (just for the shit of it!) and Daly reacting in an open-mouthed gasp. It was the top portion of the photo that was “cropped” by the local media to only show Daly with his mouth open.

You know what “cropping” a photo is, don't you? That's where you frame only the area you wish to emphasize. From a direction that proves your point. It's a lot like lying with a camera.

That got me to thinking.

Don't the cops film demonstrations? Always did. I asked Chief Rick Bruce of the SFPD's Airport Division if they still filmed demonstrations. "Yes." That was his answer.

I went to the department's legal section and asked for a copy of their film or whatever. "File a written request." That's what they said. I will too.

You can bet the local fascist TV stations and newspapers won't run it.

How much will it cost? My welfare isn't approved yet. I wonder how many people use their General Assistance to pay for FOIA ('freedom of information act) material from the cops? In this town, I'm probably not the only one.

I go on the dole

It took three trips to the welfare office at 1235 Mission to get approved for food stamps. A huge room. More than 150 seats. Over a dozen rent-a-cops and one of the real McCoy who oversees your finger printing and mug shot.

Yeah, they print and mug you for welfare applications now. I thought that was a proposal in the works.

I got $184 in stamps to cover the end of June and all of July. That's $135 a month, or about $4.50 a day. Not bad. This morning I spent the first ones. Bread, milk, eggs, and butter. $9.86. I thought I'd be embarrassed.

I got offered $140 for the stamps when I went to pick them up at 281 Ellis. No cops around. Several really thug-looking black dudes hung around the place and asked everyone going in and coming out if they wanted to sell their stamps. I told them I was a reporter and weren't they afraid of getting busted. "No." That's the way they put it.

Enuff for today. Five minutes to midnight and there's a bottle of wine in the kitchen with my name on it.

I want to write a column with Amanda Nowinski and Matt Gonzalez before she leaves for New York and he heads out for Baltimore.

send help: sobone@juno.com


June 28, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Is any member in the household avoiding or running from the law to avoid a felony prosecution, custody or confinement after conviction, or in violation of probation or parole? If "YES," who?

[Have your roommates] traded or sold food stamps for firearms, ammunition, or explosives?

– SF Food Stamp eligibility monthly questionnaire

Who the hell says that Willie's Department of Social Services is out of touch? Shit, they could turn up Osama bin Laden hiding in a closet in the Tenderloin taking advantage of our lax food stamp program.

It gets worse.

Da Intake at Da Glide

I promised you an honest report of what it's like to go on the dole in this town and this requires I record the “orientation” session at Glide Memorial's Freedom Hall. “Free,” it ain't.

Around 50 of us were ushered into the large room at 9 am & uniformed guards began to warn us about the seriousness of keeping our mouths shut & staying awake during the speech that would follow. It honestly sounded like Martin Bormann was about to enter the room. "If he has to speak to you, he will throw you out & you will have to start your application over … You won't get any money!"

It was a scene from “Cool Hand Luke.” "Ya do this … into the box!" "Ya do that … into the box!"

I looked around at my fellow beggars. What a surprising lot.

I'd noticed this the previous week at the intake center at 1235 Mission. Almost none of the applicants were fucked up. Not one drunk as far as I could see of the150 or so people waiting. Too many of them looked like me. Older folks who simply couldn't get a job. Still, there were more guards than you'll find on a San Quentin block & they were not friendly. The low point came when we were fingerprinted and photographed. I mean, really. It was a criminal kind of moment.

Back to Glide.

Stand up!! This is NOT optional!!!

– Glide facilitator

These people could put an insomniac to sleep inside of five minutes. Hey, I've been arrested before and the cops were much nicer than the “facilitator” who “helped” us fill out our application for General Assistance. I have never in my life seen such an abuse of a petty position of power. Incredible.

Two lesbians sitting next to me listened for about five minutes, then got up and left the room. They'll have to reapply if they hope to get aid. Perhaps they thought there would be more dignity in doing a Thelma & Louise thing. I didn't blame them.

On my other side, a black chick who weighed around 300 lbs kept falling asleep and her sister?/mother? who weighed at least a hundred lbs more kept hitting her in the leg to wake her up. The ripple effect went all the way down the aisle.

Most of us made it through “Adolf's” 50 minutes of reading several pages of drivel while he glared at us over the top of the pages, looking for someone to sic the guards upon. It was ugly. It made you wonder what you'd come to. How low had you sunk?

No one complained. They'd make you start the process over again.

Damn, man, they WANTED you to fuck up so they could throw you out.

Gavin Newsom would have been proud as hell to have them on his team. People abusing the most vulnerable. Gavin wants to take it down a notch. Not only will desperate people have to be humiliated. The end of the process will yield only a ticket to the poorhouse. No staying with your friends anymore.

Nope. With Gavin, you have to list who you stayed with each week & that means, basically, they won't let you stay with them. Not if they have a lease.

What a bastard. Everyday I spend in the welfare system strengthens my resolve to get that prick on the stage and humiliate his ass in a debate. I ain't Billy Getty, Gav.

Things food stamps won't buy

Soap. Toilet paper. Aspirin. Tampons. Diapers. Pencils & paper. The Examiner. Cat food. That's a partial list.

If Newsom has his way, people will sell their food stamps to purchase the above items. It will be the only thing of value they have. I mean, who wants to buy a voucher to spend a night in Multi-Service Center North?

I'm burning out on this item now. I've been writing it for three days & I keep getting more rather than less pissed. Let me move to a different area.

I have graduated through the welfare system thus far (if you are keeping track): I have received a month and a half's worth of food stamps at a time investment of under an hour and a half which spanned three visits. (That's good, I think – congrats to Trent Rohrer & Da Mayor). I have been oriented in preparation for my final intake hearing at 1235 Mission where (if I pass) I will be given a check for a week of GA (General Assistance) or PAES (Employment Sacs – the program I want – I just need help getting a job – I gots lotsa skills). I have learned that most of the programs available under CAAP (County Aid) are for disabled or otherwise impaired (CALM, SSIP – all defined later. Keep your excitement in check). Only GA has an actual work component and they encourage you to dump it as fast as possible and get into a training skills or straight assisted job search program as quickly as possible.

That is to say, so far the system looks to work for those who care to access it (that is NOT a final judgment).

Next week, we go where Gavin wants to cut … the tampon money.

How would you feel if Tom Ammiano called you an asshole?

It appears to be one of the board president's favorite appellations. I have had many, many complaints (some from just COMMON folks) who say that big Tom has attached that moniker to them.

A reporter from another paper told me recently that he'd been leaning over the press rail at a board hearing eavesdropping (that's what reporters do dummy) when Ammiano gave one of his famous stage whispers and said something to the effect of "this asshole will report that." Poor form, Tom. Very poor form.

Did you know that this ace kid reporter was raised by missionaries in New Guinea & is a fundamentalist who doesn't even drink & that this was the first time in his entire life that someone called him that. He was truly shocked.

I know, hard to believe. There are, as they say, a million stories in the nekkid city and some of them are about innocence. Clean it up, Tom. Leave the motherfucking obscenities to someone who knows what the fuck they're doing!

Has the Chronicle lost its mind?

I used to work for Otis Chandler. Indirectly.

I met him in passing when I was recruited to run on the L.A. Times track team in the late 1970s. His family owned the newspaper. They had enough brains to let experts run the damned thing while Otis pumped iron or jogged or raced vintage race cars.

Otis & I were a lot alike. Except for the money. And the weights.

OK, he could outrun me too.

I learned much watching Otis and the Times. They were non-union. I came from a very strong union family. My dad got beaten up organizing for the Teamsters on the docks in St. Louis when I was a kid and we had to go live in the country with grandma for awhile until… Anyway, the Chandlers got away with being non-union because they paid everybody lots more than the union would pay. They did the news from every single area of the L.A. basin. Do you know that is an area around 150 miles long and up to over 50 miles wide and they covered every piece of it? Yeah, they really did. Covered it great.

Only problem with being so successful was that (I kid you not) – I heard conversations between the heads of Circulation and Advertising while we stretched out for a track meet – since we were doing over a billion dollars a year in advertising and including neighborhood editions everywhere, the paper had gotten so heavy that it was breaking dogs' legs and knocking down occasional porch rails when it hit the homes.

Back to the Chronicle.

The Chron seems to be trying to compete with the Times. All of the Timeses. Nothing could be more laughable.

Last week editors at the Chron told their beat reporter to leave an important Budget Committee hearing because they did not want to pay the reporter overtime!!! Folks, the Chronicle does not give a shit for San Francisco news. This is a "let them eat cake" item. A fatal flaw. An enormous error in top management. When you ignore local news, the first thing to go is the readership.

If I didn't pride myself with reading EVERYTHING local, I wouldn't waste the quarter. They're only giving me hacks who are copying Pulitzer winners badly. And unfortunately, the Pulitzer winners are still ticking and kicking their asses.

As the readership goes, so goes the advertising. I predict a huge exodus of Chronicle advertising to the Examiner. Hell, you can tell the Ex is printed in San Francisco! They have the high school sports scores. News of neighborhood meetings. Letters to the editor that actually concern San Francisco issues.

My angle? I've insulted the top management of every local rag. I ain't gonna be working for any of them. I want to see either a greatly expanded SF Call or an entirely new daily. One that can … well, you know what I mean.

Folks, I don't like the Hearsts. We're too similar. Except for the money. And the circulation. So they won't listen to me. You tell them. We don't want them to go down the drain. We just want them to remember where they circulate their newspaper.

Demand local coverage. Did you know, for instance, that Director of Recreation & Parks Parks Elizabeth Goldstein told 1st District supervisor Jake McGoldrick the other evening in a committee hearing that she intended to cut back on cleaning and repairing the parks' bathrooms? Yep. No shitskee. Literally.

Now, I'd think someone would want to talk to Tony Hall about that to see how it might affect his legislation before the board outlawing crapping and whizzing on the ground when you ain't got a choice. Obviously, Da Mayor has decided to force the issue. Ugly.

The Chron didn't have a reporter there. Too expensive. They do have people in D.C. Piss on that.

Now Joe at the bar is a friend of mine …

he brings me my drinks for free …

And he's quick with a joke …

or to light up your smoke …

but there's someplace that he'd rather be

– Billy Joel, “Piano Man”

Brazil 4 … Germany 0: sobone@juno.com


July 3, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Come to 850 Bryyyyant …

we want you for our cliiiient!!"

– Paraphrasing a little jingle

What a fuckin' week. Where o' where to begin to do justice for a truly bad run of luck? Let's take today's events and go backwards.

The older Chinese guy hit the black chick as hard as he could with his bag of groceries. He took a really broad backswing to get the thing going and when it landed, it split and spread peaches and canned goods and vegetables all over Geary Street and under the bus which was just preparing to pull away. They were both crossing at the corner of Leavenworth. Bag gone, he began to flail ineffectually at her as she escaped toward the curb screaming back, "Crazy Chinaman!!" A bored Palestinian smoking a cigarette and leaning against the corner building commented, "She tried to take a piece of his fruit."

The cops were there in seconds.

That's cause car 1010 never seems to go far from the window overlooking Leavenworth where my computer lives while I couch-surf the city.

I know, I'm paranoid and it's a coincidence. Probably there are lots of car 1010's. That's why car 1010 sometimes shows up parked at Marina Green while I do my calisthenics. And on Russian Hill, slowing to pace my jogging figure.

I shook my head, bought an early bottle of wine & headed back to watch the Rules Committee deal with the new appointments to the Planning Commission. To no avail. Canceled while the troops gathered for a war council.

Willie, beware. I smell a battle.

It gave me time to start all over again on my application for welfare. They'd disqualified my first application and the week's work that went into it this morning. That was right before the supermarket refused to take my food stamps because I'd torn them out of the booklet beforehand. Ever had that happen to you?

Gavin Newsom is trying to make it even tougher for the poor to get by. It's making for some interesting copy but it's no fun to live through. It would be different if I were doing some kind of fake process just to learn how the system works. You know, like when Newsom said he was gonna put on a disguise and go sleep in one of the shelters. For the experience.

Wonder if his new bride will be with him? They won't stand out, will they?

Wonder what the disguise is going to be? Matching shopping carts from Stanlee Gatti, for sure. Rags from Wilkes Bashford. Some $500 a bottle reserve cabernet in brown paper bags so's they can really blend.

It's been a weird week. Let's see, I was backtracking the events.

I was up at 5 am from my secret sleeping spot where a cute little black cat has adopted me. She's a cheap date. The first night I gave her a little of my sandwich & she bit my arm & drew blood. By the third night, she was sleeping in my lap & I'd named her Tina after that Turner woman. If I ever get a home, maybe she can come live with me & my little gray feline sisters, CC & Naomi.

It doesn't look likely. Almost a year without work.

Anyway, I got to my “final intake” appointment for welfare. I was fully expecting to get a check for a week's GA (General Assistance). I'd spent the better part of two weeks collecting documents and waiting in lines. Going through metal detectors. Getting mug shots. Fingerprints. Insulted by bully guards and workers. The usual.

I arrived a half hour early for my 8:15 am appointment. I was seated and clutching all necessary documents in the crowded room at 1235 Mission early. Reading the morning paper & watching the three guards in black standing aside doors 1 … 2 and …3. I kid you not. Today it was Door #1 & the luck was not so good.

I had the week's cash spent already. Things you can't get with food stamps. Two 1" x 1" photos for my new press pass to replace the one lost in the move. A big bag of cat food. Toothpaste. All kinds of soap. A battery for my alarm clock.

Just had to get through the interview. I had my rejection for unemployment benefits. Voter registration to prove residency. ID & a social security card. The works. Hell, maybe my Russian case worker could cut through the black lists keeping me on the street and get me a job.

"You got the date wrong and you have to start all over again from where you started two weeks ago." That's what she said. Instead of giving me a note allowing me to go get mugged & printed and vouchered and have a check issued and go get the press pass and the cat food. "You were supposed to be here yesterday."

I looked at the date as I had 100 times before: 7/02 8:15am. I looked again. No, that isn't a slash between the “7” and the “02.” It’s a “1.”

I was disappointed, thinking about going back through the “orientation” at Glide with the brutal facilitator.

"Why didn't you write a “0” in front of the “1” so I wouldn't mistake it for a slash?" That's what I asked her. She called a guard.

I left and went back to start the process all over again. There were over 200 people ahead of me.

That's when I left to go borrow money for wine. I was coming to better understand the system all the time.

But this wasn't the low point of the last week.

No good deed goes unpunished

– Irish wisdom

We were on our way down to check out the “dykes on bikes.” Mostly, the bikes. Not that I'm totally adverse to looking at what sado/masochistic chicks like to do to their boobs before baring them before 350,000 people lining the streets and a TV audience of millions. My gruff sculptor buddy and I were headed down Leavenworth just past Ellis when we came across a family drama being played out on the sidewalk.

A Latino woman was trying to get a Latino man to give her back her child. He was squatting with an arm around the little boy, listening to her but refusing to give up the child. I don't speak Spanish. I can read body language. The lady was keeping her three other small children swept back from the man as she pleaded and made occasional forays to try and gently remove the little boy from the man's grasp. One of her little girls was crying and looked terrified. None of the children appeared over four years old.

People swept by the scene by the hundreds on their way to the spectacle in the streets a few blocks away. Bare-boobed biker broads blustering belligerently. Most the people had cameras.

Like a fool, I stopped to flag down the first cop I saw. Where was car 1010 when you needed it?

Minutes passed. The man reached out & grabbed another child. Now he had two and the woman was growing more distraught.

I jogged a couple of blocks and flagged a black-and-white. The sculptor was not impressed: "Don't get involved man. You're just asking for trouble."

We were walking amid the motorcycles and dykes and boobs and attitude as he spoke. He was right, of course. Sitting on one of the first bikes was a little dyke clad only in thong bikini panties and a fishnet bodysuit. She had closely cropped gray-black hair and was the spitting image of the judge I'd been before the previous Thursday morning. I stared open-jawed at her. She just smirked. I honestly couldn't tell them apart.

The ass-kicking continues …

It was almost Halloween & I was apartment-sitting. A woman came to my friend's door looking for an apartment. She was crying. Her landlord was also her teacher & he'd said something improper to her & wouldn't give her a new lock and she hated him. She was wearing a mini skirt and a halter that barely supported an enormous tattooed bosom. I felt sorry for her.

Being a good guy, I phoned the realty company for her & recommended they give her a break. I advised her that her provocative dress probably was the reason her teacher had come on to her. I offered her the couch for the evening when she said she was afraid to go home.

She got the apartment in my friend's building, moved in and sued her previous landlord for refusing to add another lock and for sexual harassment. She got money and he lost his job at the school.

She hated our neighborhood & moved out within a month, demanding her money back. She accused the company of refusing to give her extra locks and me of sexual harassment for offering her the couch & commenting on her dress. The exact charges she'd filed against her previous landlord.

She demanded I give her a thousand dollars or she'd get me like she did her teacher. I ignored her. Six months later, I got a notice of her lawsuit in Small Claims Court. Wanted her deposit back though she broke her lease. It was all my fault.

So there I was the Thursday before the Gay Pride Parade defending myself before a dykes-on-bikes double. No decision yet. I'm betting on Ms. Mini Skirt winning. Hell, I believed her when I met her.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Ignore weeping women. Don't get involved. And, of course, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Good businesses accept everybody.

– Supe Gavin Newsom discusses toilets

My own mother-in-law, a distinguished English woman, due to a brain tumor, urinated in the streets of San Francisco.

– Supe Jake McGoldrick in the same debate

I want to challenge Gavin Newsom to put signs in the windows of all of his 17 businesses that read: 'Free Restrooms for the Public.” Don't hold your breath.

So this guy says, “Wait a second.” Then this other guy comes up and hits him over the top of the head with a bottle. It raises a lump & the guy is tall enough to be a cop.

– Supe Tony Hall recounting an experience as an intake guy for processing candidates to be cop

I understand that Chief Lau hung himself upside down to stretch out to be tall enough to pass the height requirement.

– Supe Leland Yee in praise of Chief Lau

I wondered if the first cop started every shift by getting hit over the head with a bottle so he'd be legal height. It could eventually hurt your ability to pass the sergeant's test. I mean, I know this is San Francisco & all, but wouldn't you think it was a little strange if you were ushered into the police chief's office & he was hanging upside down like a bat? The chief's aide de camp explains, "The chief will be tall enough to see you in a few minutes."

This has gotten too long. I did the second beginning on my GA application today and got some great notes but I'm too stoned to write them up and by now, you're too confused to follow em.

cover your trail: sobone@juno.com