The City is quiet. Well, more quiet than usual for a sunny, stifling, summer Saturday. The crowds of tourists and hipsters have thinned, and in their wake, left room for the true characters of the neighborhood to emerge.
Children race up and down on foot and on scooter. Even in this heat, their adventurous spirits guide them outdoors and onto the pavement. Their joy-filled yelps echo off the faded building facades. The local liquor store owner is resting in front of his store, eyes closed, head tilted back, leaning back against the wall.
The City is still. The City is hot—too hot.
The air is stagnant, and the mercury continues its slow climb. Here, in our glistening City by the Bay, a hot day is anything over 75 degrees. Stifling rolls in around 80 degrees, and near 90 the City ceases to function. It’s not that the heat here is anything worse than elsewhere, but we’re used to being spoiled with fresh ocean breezes, Carl the Fog, and a normally temperate climate. Texas, Arizona, or SoCal could beat us any day in the degree department, but with our piss soaked streets, overwhelming lack of AC, and dense living conditions, we feel the heat on another level.
We walk up steep hills, and shove our way onto crowded buses. Many buildings are centurions in their own right, and still lack modern conveniences like screened windows, central air, and fridges with ice makers. We line up for Blue Bottle’s NoLa, artisanal ice cream from Humphry Slocombe, Three Twins or BiRite Market. We sweat. We #CANTeven. Our delicate skin isn’t used to this. We’re soon pink, and sticky, and tired. But we’re going to Dolores. We’re going to The Fort. We’re having mimosas and brunch and HOLY SHIT it’s hot.
But that’s just half the story. The other half, the unwashed masses, the broken, the downtrodden, the man passed out half naked on the sidewalk or the woman arguing intently with herself are hot too. But they can’t take refuge in some free A/C or revel at a picnic or BBQ. They can’t grab an iced anything.
And soon the whole city reeks. It’s palpable. We act like its normal. We act like we don’t see it. We ignore the suffering. We ignore the miasma. We choose not to see. The City is seething.
As the sun dips down towards Ocean Beach in the west, the glare becomes unbearable. Like a dream, when you can’t quite make out details, just hard lines between too bright and dark, the light falls harshly on those that have chosen to be left behind, to relish in their wondrous City, on a three day holiday weekend. Even when it stinks, even when it feels suffocating, even when we #canteven, this is home.
And tomorrow might be winter.