It’s a gray day in the Mission. It’s never summer, not even in July, but this is supposed to be the neighborhood that’s always sunny. It’s windy and everyone’s in transit and in a hurry to wind down the day. I start walking slowly, taking everything in and trying to really see what I haven’t before.
Next to a bus stop I meet Luis, a sidewalk flower peddler who says he’s been living in San Francisco for 49 years. He doesn’t have a strong opinion about gentrification. He wishes the streets were cleaner and blames a different decade, the ‘80s, for Mission Street’s decline. He doesn’t want me to take his photo but allows a photo of his hat that has the Chivas logo on it.
A few blocks later I see a homeless man sleeping on a mattress next to a building under construction. Above him wheatpasted on the wooden frame wall is a wheatpasted poster with the word “Techboom.”
A lot of stores are closing for the day. Produce is getting wheeled back into supermarkets. A woman named Sofia cleans cowboy hats outside of a store that sells Western clothing.
I walk over to Valencia street. Mission has color, grit, atmosphere while Valencia has pretty lights and whimsy. The bikes, the fashion, the food, the babies, everything is hip and beautiful to look at, but pricey and out of touch.
At the corner of 16th and Valencia, I hear music coming from outside the taqueria La Cumbre. It’s a musician I’ve seen playing before at Radio Habana Social Club. He says he’s happy to be here in San Francisco, shows me his book of lyrics, and keeps playing.