Taking advantage of the perfect weather today, I took a bike ride into my district to preform one last recon for journalism 300. It proved to be one of the most action packed an entertaining excursions to date. I saw cops arresting people and a hilarious scenario play out between a man shooting off religious rhetoric and two woman who decided to make-out in front of him, setting him off into a frenzy of religious dogma that made everyone in the area shake their heads in disagreement.
First of all, working in the Financial District this semester was fun but very challenging. The packed weekdays and the empty weekends recruited me into the difficult task of finding reliable and constant sources of information. Market Street was the main spot that had people constantly plowing though to do whatever it is they needed to do. I spent a lot of my time talking to people walking up and down the street, working in the stores and hotels, and security guards that are stationed at the entrance of most building. Moving here for the spring semester from Santa Barbara I had my reservation about jumping into this class. Still, weather pass or fail it taught me a lot about what it takes to be a journalist and where I might like to steer my own career.
My first interview of the semester was with eccentric historian and photographer Ron Henggeler. He invited me into in home, a four story Victorian decorate in all kinds of objects Ron had collected over the years, stored mostly inside of those gallon olive or Maraschino Cherry jars you see at bars. He showed me maps and pictures of San Francisco before and after the 1906 earthquake and shared his knowledge of how the financial district and much of San Francisco was created. It was a great staring off point to understand the dynamics of a district that was created on the explosion of gold-rush money and is still on a solid ideological foundation of accumulating wealth today.
The district is, as it seems, 95 percent big companies and banks. One of the most frustrating things working in this district is how closed off many of the business professional are during the workday. I know there are some amazing stories just waiting to be told about the riches accumulated by one person and what they do with it, or back door deals that leave some vanquished and others flush. Or big CEO’s who have absconded with large sums of money and are never really punished, while the homeless are ticketed under the no-sit law for sleeping on the street. As an outsider it was very hard to break into the tight knit ground of businessmen and woman, especially as a nosey reporter.
From the waterfront to 5th street, there are nice hotel and every high-end store you could every want. Another question that still lingers as I stroll thought the confines of busy Market Street is why the hell do so many tourist shop while they are on vacation? It drove me crazy to hear all the different languages determining where to go next and purchase useless crap. There are so many better things to do while on a vacation. I understands eating and drinking, I’m all for that but shopping? That’s my rant on the Financial District. It was made by money to make more money.
While interviewing people for our last story I interviewed one man named Andre Thurston. This was a man who was down on his luck, in his late 50’s and living on and off the street. He asked me for some money and I asked him for an interview. He agreed and we sat at the Peet’s Coffee on Market to talk about the district, how it changes and what is was. He shared some very compelling things with me about what it was like on the streets at night and what the city does or does not do to help them. The thing that was really powerful about the experience was when he nearly broke into tears because he was so hungry. I gave him what I had, which was $5 and hoped he was able to get something to eat with it. This is the odd ballet that marches around the district. The everyday clash of the very rich and very poor is a staple characteristic of the Financial District.
It may not be my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco but without its history and its contributions, for better or worse to the local and global economy, it is vital to the health of this wonderful city.