"I love your hair!"
"What are you up to today?"
"I’m new so I’m still exploring."
"When’d you move here?"
"You are super new, welcome. There are many layers to San Francisco."
"I’ve heard. This is my 2nd kind on Haight St. and I love it."
"Where’d you move from?"
"Maryland, just outside of DC. I’m in school here at the Academy of Art studying communications."
“How bout this day huh?”
“Yeah, it’s gorgeous.”
“I don’t know if it was just me, but when I came outside today it seemed especially beautiful.”
“San Francisco can take your breath away sometimes.”
“You live in this neighborhood?”
“Yeah, for about 5 years, San Francisco in general since 1974. Fell in love with it. Came here for a family trip and had some fresh crab in Lake Tahoe and it was like ‘Ahhh, I’ve gotta be in this city’. So once I was in that in between stage between college and making a life, I packed up and came here.”
“Where are you from?”
“Denver, Co. When I first moved here I was in Russian Hill…beautiful place. Every place I’ve been in since then has gone downhill, but now I’m in a pretty good place.”
“Is that because of the way San Francisco is changing?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it go through a lot of changes and I escaped a lot because I managed to hang on to the same apartment for 25 years. Garden apartment…with A GARDEN…all to myself in the Castro. But like everyone else, especially when we get older, I got kicked out of the employment environment and couldn’t fight my way back in. 4 years ago I got evicted from the Sheriff’s dept. and was out on the streets.”
“Yep, and then at the psych ward at general.”
“Wow, how long were you there?”
“2 weeks. Then they put me in a rehab place where I wasn’t qualified because unfortunately I don’t have any drug or alcohol problems. And then for 2 years I was in the basement of the Zen center here staying for free by cleaning their toilets. Then got to know a gentleman up the street that invited me to a unique environment that was created in the 70’s. When health activists and the republicans got together under Reagan they closed all the crazy houses. So it’s a different kind of rehab place.”
“What’s it called?”
“The Odyssey house. I was able to squeak in there because people took pity on me, and now I’m living with schizophrenic people.”
“Are you schizophrenic?”
“No. I have depression problems and anxiety because of the experience of being evicted from my apartment but that’s it. A new roommate just moved into my room, we have to share a bedroom, so I’m taking a few hours out here.”
“That’s a lot. With all you’ve been through in the past few years, what makes you want to stay in San Francisco?”
“This is my life. Now even more because I’m dependent on the mental health services, I’ve got free health care, free meds, a cheap place to live. Now I have time on my hands so I enrolled in a web development school, and a graphic arts program. If I go anywhere else I’d have to pay more rent, and I couldn’t afford my health care services.”
“Thank you for sharing that, tell me your name again.”
“Toni…Parks. I’m the great niece of Gordon Parks.”
"You guys wanna take a picture for a blog?"
him - “Only if it’s dope.”
"It’s definitely dope."
him - “What’s it called?”
"Souls of San Francisco."
him - “Aight.”
"Thanks. (to her) What’s your favorite thing about him?"
her - “…”
him - “yeah, what’s your favorite thing about me?”
her - “way to put me on the spot.”
to him - “alright, you wanna go first?”
him - “my favorite thing about her is that she gets all nervous like this…naw, my favorite thing is that she just said ‘I don’t feel at home until I see someone pissing on a house’, which is what we just saw.”
"What’s your story?"
"I moved here from Thailand about a year ago."
"What do you like to do for fun?"
This guy can see into many many dimensions
"What are you passionate about?"
"I’m passionate about people coming alive and reaching their full potential in life. I think it’s unacceptable that 70% of people are disengaged with their jobs, so I wrote The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, a book that would help people find more meaning in their lives."
"Did you have a quarter life crisis that inspired you to write this book?"
"Yeah, two years ago I was stuck in a job that made me miserable and living in a city I didn’t want to live in. I had a great job on paper, but it was not the right fit for me. I was really nervous and scared to leave a job that provided salary, benefits, and job security, because it was the recession and the job market wasn’t great. But something inside me knew I needed to listen to my heart, and make a change. It was only when I met other 20- and 30-somethings facing the same kind of situation, the same question of how do you figure out what you love and then get paid for it, that inspired me to make the leap and move across the country to San Francisco, start freelance writing, and start building communities of young people who refuse to settle for mediocrity. Then I wrote the book I wish I had during my own quarter-life crisis."
"Where can we buy the book?"
"You can buy the book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/QzNjMn”
"What’s next for you?"
"I’m going to be on tour in April and May on the East Coast sharing the book with college students, impact-driven communities, and other twentysomethings. I’m also working with programs like Hive Global Leaders Program and Camp Grounded to facilitate passionate communities. And hopefully I’ll have time to start writing my second book.”
"What do you do in the city?"
"I teach piano to 3-9 year olds."
"What’s your story?"
"I’m from Santa Cruz, I moved here the beginning of last year, I’m a dancer. There’s more opportunity here. I grew up in the mountains of Santa Cruz, hippie parents, that kinda upbringing. Now I’m here pursuing my dreams."
"What kind of dance do you do?"
"Ballet, modern, contemporary."
"My girlfriend does that same type of dance, I really like it. Where do you dance?"
"Studios around here like Shawl Anderson and Lines Ballet. I’m part of a really small company called Dance Lumiere. We’re going to New York in few days."
"Thanks! It’s not necessarily the style of dance that I’m into but it’s going to be a really cool experience. I’ve never been, so it’s going to be pretty fun."
"So what does dance mean to you?"
"For me, there are a few things in my that make me feel a certain way, I’ve been dancing since I was six and when I dance, especially when I perform I just don’t think at all. I’m just really in the moment. I think that’s really hard to do in day to day life. That, to me, is such a cool experience to just completely give myself over to something."
“You live in this neighborhood?”
“I’m actually staying in my camper in the Presidio. I’m from New York. I moved out here not so long ago to work at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It’s been really hard to schedule with people. I’ve reached out to a few friends out here but no one really has time to host me right now. It’s all good though. The Presidio is amazing, can’t believe you guys have something like that here. And once the festival gets started I’ll be so busy I won’t know what to do.”
“Do you live in this neighborhood?”
“Yep, my whole life. Me and a lot of my friends don’t leave the city unless they have a baby because then you can’t afford living here, but it’s a great city to live in. I travel a lot, but I always love coming back because it’s really hard to beat, besides Europe or New York. How long have you lived here?”
“A little over 6 years. It was love at first sight for me too but my relationship with the city has changed. I’ve lived in lots of neighborhoods, most recently Hayes Valley, which isn’t a very diverse place, so I’ve started to crave different things. I just moved to Oakland and I love it. It seems more grounded, more affordable, more artists have moved that way. How do you feel about the way San Francisco is changing?”
“It’s more expensive for everybody so that’s my thing…I’m pregnant right now so I can’t think.”
“Oh, how long?”
“Thanks. Yeah, so this has always been a place where people want to come but it seems like now there are less San Franciscans because new people are coming in pushing everybody out. But I still love. Like, this neighborhood just opened a farmer’s market on Sunday, and I see all the people coming in bringing in new people and business. The neighborhood has evolved a lot. Still a lot of good Chinese food restaurants around here.”
“What’s your favorite one?”
“Uh..for Thai food I like ‘Thai Time’. There’s a chinese restaurant called ‘China First’. It’s basic good homestyle stuff, like steamed egg custard with a 1000 year old egg. It’s something you would get at home but you get it there. Um…there’s a Japanese place called ‘Halu’, I like it there too.”
“Cool, I’ll have to check those out. So I know you’re about to be a mother but I’m sure you have some crazy stories from the wild days…”
“I have a lot, I was a wild child. I’m 38, I didn’t started chillin till I was about 35. It’s only cause my boyfriend at the time was like ‘What is wrong with you?!’ Then I thought ‘Ok, you’re cool. Maybe I’m ready for a relationship now. Like…a real one.”
“I feel like that’s how this city is…it’s a playground for adults.”
“It really is, it’s a great places for singles.”
"The way is love, and the way is a loving intelligence. When love and intelligence meet together you create the space in which all that is possible to a human being can become actual. A loving intelligence is what is needed. Intelligence alone becomes intellectual, love alone becomes sentimentality, but a loving intelligence never becomes intellectuality or sentimentality. It gives you a new kind of integrity, a new crystallization."
"Hi! I like your outfit!"
"You mind if I take your picture?"
"Cool, you live in this neighborhood?"
"Yes, I Iive here many years. Very good neighborhood. You like?"
"I don’t know it that well, I have a few neighborhoods I usually hang out in, but I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone."
"This neighborhood very good. Many good Vietnamese restaurants."
"Sweet. I like Pho. I’m Garry by the way."
"I’m Toni. I like you Garry, you very friendly person."
"Thanks, I like you too Toni."
“You two look like you know a thing or two about San Francisco.”
“You could say that.”
“What do you like to do here?”
on right – “My husband Allen Cohen ran the San Francisco Oracle which was a long time underground newspaper. Look it up.”
On left – “I make murals. One of mine is at Cole and Haight. It’s a rainbow that has all of creation on it.”
“How’d you get into doing murals?”
on left - “We got into it in the sixties. We started with a health food store. It was ugly so being a hippie I said ‘We’ve gotta snap this place up.”
“So you said your mural had ‘all of creation’ on it, what does that mean to you?”
on left - “Well…it was evolution with some dinosaurs. I was into Escher at the time, you have to go and see it.”
“Cool, mind if I take your picture?”
on left – “Sure, we’ll be photogenic.”
on right – “So photogenic. We could be 60’s or we could be 2014.”
on left – “Or maybe it could be that we’re in our 60’s.”
Both of them – “Hahahahahaha!”
I saw this guy in the mission and said, “You look cool, dressed up for any particular reason?”
He said, “Thanks, I’m leading a tour” and handed me a flyer with this website on it www.wildsftours.com
When I went there I saw that when not giving tours, J. Jo plays soulful jazz guitar, studies astrophysics, works as a bicycle mechanic, performs improv comedy, and eats organic vegetables. He grew up in San Diego and Phoenix before moving to San Francisco, and spent a year living in Querétaro, Mexico. The key to J. Jo’s heart is through his favorite food pho, that tasty Vietnamese noodle soup.
His goals in life as a musician, an astronomer and a tour guide are all rooted in the cultivation of truth and joy. On his tours, J. Jo is often noted as relaxed and humble with a knack for opening eyes to new perspectives. His music can be found online (go to the website).
“What do you do in the city?”
“I work out here at San Francisco General as a Phlebotomist. It basically means I’m a medical assistant that does what nurses don’t want to do. Draw blood, do inter-muscular injections, take vital signs, and do a ton of paperwork.”
“How long you been doing that?”
“Almost 5 years actually.”
“Seems kinda heavy.”
“Um, I work in a clinical research ward here at the General for UCSF and it can be kind of taxing because the main focus right now is HIV. You meet some really sick people, and you meet some people who in theory should be really sick and they’re not. We’re on the verge of some really crazy stuff in that field right now, they’re effectively curing children with HIV, which is really really awesome. It’s been making big waves, the problem is the people who have been living with it for 35 years are wondering when their relax and lose the anxiety moment is coming. It’s brilliant and sickening at the same time. It’s nice to work and feel like you’re part of that process, and to be with patients on a day to day basis. Some of them have the money to change the world, but the can’t change the world as they know it. There’s tiny moments when you appreciate who you are and what you’ve done, and then there’s moments where you kick yourself and wish you could be doing more. Realistically you can’t. It’s shitty to deal with those patients who wanna get healthy because according to the Pharmaceutical companies we represent and research for, they should be healthy and they’re not.”
“What is it about the people that ‘shouldn’t be healthy but are’ sets them apart? Is it something about their mindset? Are they spiritual?”
“Pretty much all of patients have a karmic belief that what they do unto others will come back around. But most of them feel abandoned because they were from a family that was Catholic or Christian and they lost family members because they’re not welcome in their family anymore. That’s a hard part of dealing with these HIV cases because it’s a 99.99% possibility that someone in their family has turned their back on them. A lot of people’s stances is that this is something they willed on themselves by having sex with a man. When you work with them you’re supposed to be there on a medical capacity, but it’s much easier to get involved on an emotional capacity because you immediately feel for them and you ask yourself, ‘If this was me, would I have my support group that I have now?’ It can be very fucking taxing. A lot of them you wish they could have a better life, but you know it’s not going to happen in this lifetime and that’s why they’re there. They feel like it’s worth it to put themselves on the line. Whether it’s for blood draws or lymph biopsies, where they’ll open up the thigh and remove lymph nodes to be sent off to a lab to be studied, or gut biopsies where they go in rectally and take tissue samples from the gut where the HIV reservoirs are. There are huge downsides to participating in this kind of research, from being sore, to building scar tissue in your veins, which makes it difficult to put in IVs. I mean…we do pay them, but it’s absolute shit. And the amount of blood we draw, most people cannot take that much, so we have to stick them 2 and 3 times. They tolerate these things because they think the people that come after them will have a better future. That is the one piece of salvation that you experience in the research world. These people want to leave some positive footprint in their wake. There’s a lot of love in their community to take the chances to maybe…maybe…see a glimmer of hope.
“And it’s crazy because I feel like I’m never doing enough. When I go on Facebook my friends post shit about palm oil deforestation to Russia banning rainbow flags, you can’t even have one of those without being incarcerated and beaten.”
“You’re doing a lot.”
“In my youth I was just a punk kid who rode a bike and smoked weed. Now I’m older and I want to make sure there’s something that I have done or did do…if nothing else I can say to these patients that somebody does care, and somebody does respect you, and somebody does recognize everything you go through. And I will always be here as long as you’re down to come see me. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had. I was in the Marines when I was 18, it was a really bad idea, but I wanted money for college, but this is way tougher than that. When I was in the Marines, we were robots. You got up, you showered, if you had to piss or shit you did it right then and there. Everything from that moment after you put your camouflage uniform on, you belonged to somebody else. Everything you did was structured. When you ate and drank was structured. And this job at the General is tougher than that. But again, it’s the small things. At the end of the day, I’m offering these people humanity when so many other people say ‘Fuck it’ and write them off.”
“I hear you.”
“Even the health care system writes them off. If you’re working in a non-research group your job is prescribe, prescribe, prescribe, prescribe. Diagnose and prescribe. We have a pill for everything but we don’t have a cure for anything.”
“Reminds me of Dallas Buyers Club.”
“We have a pill that can help someone with HIV stay alive for 20 years but it kills their liver and kidneys to take that pill. I worked in a regular part of the hospital for about 3 years and now I’ve been in the research part for 2 and a half and it’s literally a total 180. When I do the intake interviews and listen to all the medications people are on I hear cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. The health care companies pay those pharmaceutical companies thousands of dollars a month to keep these people, what they call “healthy”.
“That’s a lot bro.”
“Yeah I don’t think I could do anything else after this, I’m working on my associates in Biological Sciences to get my RN, once I get my RN I’m jumping right back into clinical research. I don’t want to be part of the group that keeps life at that status quo, I want to be part of the group that makes life better, that makes people excited…things are gonna change. I can feel it.”