Monthly Archives: February 2016

Open Letter to SF Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr

Cc: Justin Keller

 

I am writing today, to voice my concern and outrage over the increasing techie, hipster problem facing our city today. It’s getting really bad. I’ve been living here for over thirty years, and without a doubt, it is the worst it has ever been. Everyday, from the sidewalk, I see men in suits strolling the city, sipping seven-dollar cups of coffee, complaining about the weather and the lack of parking, as if they have anything to complain about. Not a cent to spare us homeless as they pass us on their way to work at their tech startups. Worst of all, it is increasingly unsafe.

As more and more of us cannot afford to live in the security of locked doors and four walls, and more and more of us are displaced to the streets, we are forced to make room for the rich folks, who spent last holiday weekend taking their Valentines out on hot dates in the city. There were three separate incidents in which I was harassed.

The first incident involved a drunken man leaving the bar I sleep behind sometimes. He came out the back and saw me, and took offense to me leaning against the bar. He must have come there looking for a fight, and he found me. Maybe he was trying to look tough in front of his friends or impress a chick or something. I was an easy target.

The second incident occurred in the streets of the financial district. A stranger approached me, high and distraught, yelling and screaming, begging for cocaine, unzipping his pants, and grabbing my hands, as well as the attention of the patrons of an adjacent restaurant, observing the show from the safety of a public, enclosed establishment.

The third incident occurred when I tried sneaking into the theater, harmlessly, out of the way, for some much needed shelter and rest, and caused the entire auditorium to evacuate in horror.

What are you going to do to address this problem? Fewer and fewer of this city’s residents have homes. We have no safe places left to go that don’t get in the rich folks’ way. I know people are frustrated about the homeless problem in the city, but the reality is, so are we, the homeless. The wealthy, privileged ones who can afford the education, or have the right connection, flooded in to fill the jobs that raised this city’s rent and sent us wandering its streets in the first place. My pain, my struggle, my despair — I, shouldn’t have to be the spectacle of people passing by me on their way to work every day.

I am telling you, we need to determine a solution. People on both sides are frustrated, and neither side is budging. The city needs to tackle the techies head on. We can no longer ignore this infestation of startups and hipsters. It is a difficult and complex situation, and I don’t have a magic solution, but maybe you do. You pulled off a massive operation during Super Bowl, relocating and hiding all the homeless, tucking us away out of the tourists’ sight. While all your sheltered residents were warm in bed, the streets were swept, our possessions confiscated, our makeshift homes demolished, and they hauled us all “away.” So surely, you could do the same with all the techies, just sweep them up and send them elsewhere, restoring the city’s rent back to affordable, so some of the homeless can move back into our homes, thus actually getting us off the city’s streets. Political leaders have the power to make more change than I do begging behind an empty cup.

Sincerely,

Homeless in San Francisco

Get Psych’d For Another Hallmark Holiday

It’s finally here. The day we’ve all been dreading. The holiday of love, or lack thereof, for all the lonely singles spending tonight alone, kissing a bottle of booze, in the lifeless arms of an otherwise empty couch. It’s a shitty day for most, and seems to serve no other purpose except to disappoint. Because even if you do have a Valentine that you call mine to share it with, and even if they do it right and give you the perfect, special night you always wanted, your special night will end as sure as it arrived, and tomorrow will resume the not-so-special, ordinary passing of your daily life, that is the rest of the year.

Personally, I’m relieved to be single. Tonight especially. It’s just unnecessary pressure. And ultimately, it’s a joke. It’s like, Honey, I love you so much, I bought you the same box of chocolates millions of other people bought their honeys, too. Or, Boo, you’re so one-of-a-kind, I bought you this mass-produced teddy bear, identical to millions of other ones just like it, bought for millions of other bitches, just like you. Or Baby, you’re so basic I bought you a dozen roses, the most unoriginal Valentine of all.

DriveByValentine DriveByValentine2 DriveByValentine3The worst are those roadside, drive-by Valentine tent-shops selling last minute shit. The gift you give your Valentine is a symbol of the way you feel about them. So unless you want me to think I’m some cheap shit you picked up on the side of the road, on a whim, don’t give me some cheap shit you picked up on the side of the road, on a whim. If you want to show me I’m on your mind, or that I’m worth your precious time, you better put some thought and time into my Valentine.

And this is where we’ve all been led astray. We’ve bred another Hallmark holiday. V-Day isn’t what it used to be. Crafting crappy, homemade Valentines. Cutting paper hearts out of construction paper. Misspelling the names of all my classmates. My parents helping. Exchanging them with everyone, even the kids I didn’t like. Receiving them from everyone, and not just boys trying to get at me. Those were the days.

So what changed?

I grew up. I got cooties. So did you. And just like everything else in life, Valentine’s Day was adulterated by adulthood. Once you find yourself romantically of-age, the Valentine game changes. Paper hearts remain uncut. Construction paper gathers dust. Classmates go unrecognized, unnoticed. Except the sexy ones, who get the works. Chocolates, teddy bears and roses.

But was it I who changed, or Valentine’s? Is V-Day still “what it used to be” when I was young for little ones today? Or has the holiday evolved across the map? One can only speculate and wonder. That is, unless one is, say, a teacher at a preschool, in which case that person knows for sure whether the true, authentic Valentine experience has been preserved in youth today. So we asked Teacher Sarah what she observed at last week’s Valentine festivities.

This just in, Teacher Sarah, reporting from local preschool, Redwood City, Ca:

I have some unfortunate news. There’s a lack of Valentine’s Day spirit at the preschool. However, it isn’t the kids. It’s parent participation that’s been lacking. The preschoolers are excited to exchange Valentines with their classmates. Sadly, actually exchanging said Valentines proves difficult when parents drop their kids off with unopened, unassembled, store-bought Valentines. Cheap boxes that contain 24 of the same impersonal, generic cards and candy. How are kids supposed to get excited for Valentine’s day if parents won’t take the time to learn the names of their classmates, which ones are their friends, and which ones aren’t their favorites, and teaching kids to give valentine’s to ALL their classmates. Cheap, store-bought, Hallmark Valentine’s are costing families experiences and memories that they’ll never get back.

Sad news, indeed. But just because the rest of the world outgrew hand-cut, home-crafted Valentines doesn’t mean I have to. Which is why I hand-crafted a couple dozen coffee-filter flowers (adapted from a DIY by Two Shades of Pink) and handed them out to regulars at work. Why not show some due love and appreciation for the people I see nearly every day? Why not carry on my non-romantic, 90’s-preschool Valentine tradition? If those were the days, why not today? What’s stopping me now? Nothing. So I did it. Fuck it.

Coffee filters drying after dying. Getting in touch with my inner Georgia O'Keefe
Coffee filters drying after dying. Getting in touch with my inner Georgia O’Keefe
CoffeeFilterFlowers
The remaining flowers, after my Valentine’s Day shift at the coffee shop, distributing to customers
My girl, modeling my home-made Valentines. The taking of this picture was totally consensual
My girl, modeling my home-made Valentines. The taking of this picture was totally consensual

And that’s why I actually got psych’d for Valentines this year.

Love,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Barista

Potions – How to Brew Indian Chai

The word ‘chai’ is used so liberally nowadays it’s lost almost all meaning. Starbucks is, no doubt, responsible for this. But we’re here today to demystify the ‘chai.’ Find out how to brew real, traditional Indian Chai in today’s potion’s class, the pilot episode of Wicked Wednesday, brought to you Professors Radhika-dabra and D-$.

Watch our step-by-step demonstration of how to brew your own Indian Chai at home, loose leaf, on the stove, as served at Summit Coffee (where we work). Note, this is a demonstration of the method traditionally used to brew Indian Chai, however, the exact ratios of spices and recipes may vary, depending who’s brewing. Customize your chai as you see fit.

Now that you’ve seen how to brew Indian Chai in my garage, find out how it’s done by a real Indian potions master in the streets of New Delhi, India.

Open Letter to Siri

Dear Siri,

You are a true Renaissance woman. You’ve revolutionized the way we interact with our technology. You’ve single-handedly (or rather, handlessly) prevented countless accidents that would have otherwise resulted from texting while driving, a dangerous habit that voice command has rendered obsolete. There’s virtually nothing you can’t do, and your advantages are indisputable. So naturally, I’m writing to dispute them.

According to TheBlaze, SIRI stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, but TechCrunch claims there is more meaning to the name than just the acronym alone. In Norwegian, the name Siri means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory.” In many ways, this is precisely what you do. A poor soul finds his or herself lost in unfamiliar territory, armed with nothing but an iPhone, and you, Siri, will show them the way home. Victory. Someone finds his or herself desperately craving sushi, and you Siri, locate the closest, highest rated sushi joint. Boom, victory. What ever would we do without you?

And therein lies the problem. People depend on you for everything. You’ve become an extension of our intelligence. People are evolving to treat you as a necessary feature, a tool that we cannot function without. This may be a slight exaggeration, but the evidence is undeniable. For instance, I live on the San Francisco peninsula (west coast), so naturally I visit the beach as often as I can. I have no sense of direction, generally speaking, but even I can always find my north and south along the coast, because as long as I can see the ocean (which is pretty hard to miss) I know which way is west. If I know which way is west, I know my north and south. This common sense is lost on many of my friends with smartphones, who rely entirely on you to tell them where to go.

Now, to be fair, it’s not your fault that we depend on you excessively. You’re only partially to blame. Your existence enables our hopeless overuse of your assistance. I’ve chosen to protest this trend by continuing to use a flip phone, complete with bunny stickers and scotch tape, and Siri-free, as you can see:FlipPhone

Don’t take it personally, though. It isn’t you, it’s me. As technology advances, I struggle to keep up. I like to do things the old-fashioned way. I like to be resourceful. If I’m craving something particular to eat but I don’t have a recipe, I wing it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Trial and error. It’s always a learning process, and each time I find I’m slightly more equipped to whip something up successfully from scratch the next time. It’s practice, in case I’m ever stranded in a kitchen with no cookbook, and worse, no Wifi or 3G. If I’m lost, I ask somebody not-too-sketchy for directions. If I don’t know what weather to expect, I bring a jacket just in case. If I don’t know what to prepare for, I prepare for anything and everything. I enjoy the unpredictability of life, and Siri, you just take all the fun out of wondering. Every time I have a question, you have the answer. Sometimes I just want to figure it out for myself.

I will admit, you can be handy. You’re a practical, dependable and obliging woman, but the fact is, Siri, you’re making the rest of us look bad. You complaisantly do anything your master asks of you, dutifully execute any command, without ever imposing your own needs, thus perpetuating expectations of female servitude. If your owner tells you to call him Big Poppa, you call him Big Poppa. It’s degrading. Your programming doesn’t entitle you to free will or your own personal opinion. Of course, anyone can change their phone settings and select a male voice at any time, but the fact is, you default to female.

Seriously, Siri, give yourself a break. Take a day off, fix yourself a drink and watch the chaos that ensues when humanity is stranded on an iPhone with no interpreter.

Love,

Dakota

Bring Your Own

You know when you go out to dinner and order an entree the size of a child because you’re super hungry, but you only end up eating maybe half, so you decide to wrap up whatever’s left and take it home with you for later, because you don’t want to be wasteful. Well, as noble as you were not to waste the food you didn’t finish, your efforts to eliminate your waste were ultimately fruitless, once you factor in the heap of single-use foil and plastic that was used to wrap your food.

Last weekend at work, my coworker / close friend Radhika confessed a crime we’ve all been guilty of at times. “You won’t believe it, Dakota,” she said. This was her story (maybe not verbatim, but here’s the gist):

“Yesterday, I ordered sushi next door for lunch, as usual. Six cucumber rolls, some ginger and wasabi, and soy sauce, of course. I took it to go. It cost less than five dollars and took me less than five minutes to eat, and I walked less than twenty feet to eat it. The entire meal could fit in my hand, and yet, after I finished, I was left with the plastic box the sushi came in, two plastic ginger containers, one plastic container for wasabi, two plastic packets of soy sauce, single-use wooden chopsticks and the paper they were wrapped in, napkins, and the bag all of it came in. There was more plastic than there was sushi.”

A lot of damage for a less-than-five-minute / less-than-five-dollar / less-than-twenty-feet-take-away meal.

The guilt was all too real for Radhika, but most people don’t think twice about the amount of waste we use to move our food around. Especially when all those items could have been replaced with reusable ones. So I went to the Japanese dollar store, one of my guilty pleasures, and supplied my sushi-fiending friend the reusable versions of all the items she listed wasting on her favorite lunch. And we got sushi. It was waste-free, guilt-free and delicious. Here’s what it looked like.Containers

sushi for two
Sushi for two
LunchWithRadhika
My lunch date, Radhikadabra, radiating beauty and sustainability

And all I had to do was make room in my bag for just a little bit more crap, and ask the man taking my order at the sushi place to please use my own containers for our food. I told him which containers were for which items, asked if they would fit, and voila. No waste. We ate, rinsed our containers, and threw nothing away. It tastes better that way. Savor the taste of zero-waste, today. Here’s how:

Before leaving your house, ask yourself if you might a) stop for groceries, or b) go out somewhere to eat / pick up a beverage or food to go. Then pack accordingly.

If you might be picking up groceries, bring your own reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags.

If you know you’re going to stop for coffee / tea / a smoothie, bring your own cup.

If you might be going out to eat, chances are, you’re going to take some leftovers to go. Bring your own to-go containers. I use glass containers with airtight, snappy lids so liquid contents don’t leak all over my shit. I bought microwave-safe ones so I can just open it up and nuke it later in the same container, so I don’t have to dirty an extra dish.

If you’ve ever worked in the food service industry, you’ve probably enjoyed the exhilarating task of rolling roll-ups, or sets of forks, knives and spoons (optional) rolled up in napkins. Bring your own roll-ups for snacks and meals on the go, including whatever utensils you may need and a hand towel, a cloth one, so you can wash and reuse all of the above.

If you’re hosting or attending a dinner at your or someone else’s home, bring or provide your own set of to-go containers, enough for everyone attending, to distribute leftovers for guests to bring home with them, so no food and no food-wrap-or-containers go to waste.

It may sound like a hassle, but if one extra step is what it takes to make this world a cleaner place, isn’t it worth it? Remember bringing your lunch box to school as a kid? Why did we stop? It’s not like we stopped eating lunch. So if you eat lunch, bring your own box.

Whatever you would be wasting, don’t. Bring your own.