La Raza

I met Scott this afternoon in the Mission district of San Francisco. He did such a good job of explaining the meaning of his favourite mural that I asked if he’d do it again for video.

“No problem, brother,” was his reply.

I don’t pay union scale but I did help him out. It think it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Before you read further, click the link below for Scott’s explanation of the mural he was admiring when we met. It’s his favourite in all of San Francisco, he said.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The gang-member-turned-artist that Scott refers to is Chuy Campusano. There’s only one problem with Scott’s explanation: it appears to be complete bullshit.

According the website SFMuralArts.com, this piece is called ‘La Raza’ and it was actually painted by Chuy Campusano, not in tribute to him, and it depicts the plight of California farm workers. It’s supposedly patterned on a Picasso painting that depicts the Spanish Civil War.

Who do you believe: The seemingly legitimate website or the guy who sleeps under said mural every night?

Because good art is whatever you make of it, I’d like to think they’re both right.

http://www.sfmuralarts.com/mural/171.html

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Scott as ‘Lucas’. The real Lucas is pictured below, doing a header with a soccer ball.

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I asked Lucas and the two guys he was playing with if they would mind being in the photo of the mural that I was trying take.

“Absolutely,” said Lucas.

I took that to mean that it was okay to snap away. Lucas later viewed the photos and was very happy with the results.

“Put that on Youtube and it’ll go viral,” he said.

He may or may not be aware that Youtube is for video. Perhaps I should have taken a video. These guys were MLS calibre players when it came to controlling the ball in an alley where an errant ball would roll downhill for about a mile before landing in the drink.

I sensed that Lucas was going to ask me for money so I told him that I didn’t want him to beg, and that I’d gladly give him something, but I’d love to hear his story if he didn’t mind. Is that appropriate? I don’t know, to be honest, but he was happy to talk about life on the streets of San Francisco.

He’s originally from South Carolina but has lived in the neighbourhood for “a long, long time.”

“I don’t do drugs, don’t smoke weed, and I don’t rob people. I just drink. A lot. Have since I was 11,” he said.

I gave him ten bucks knowing full well that he’d probably buy a bottle with it. Who am I to judge? I’m drinking CC & Coke in the lobby of USA Hostel – San Francisco as I write.

DSCN6911I didn’t catch this guy’s name but he too was hanging out in the alley off Valencia where I found Scott. When I walked past him I was carrying 8 pieces of semi-rusty rebar that I will use as tent stakes at Burning Man. (It gets very windy and only 12″ rebar will hold a tent down.) He asked if I wanted a plastic bag to wrap around the rebar. I took him up on his offer. He emptied several half-eaten jars of jam and various condiments out of a bag and handed it to me. What do you say in this situation? “Thanks” is all I could think of.

We talked for a few minutes. He’s a “veteran”, going on 72 next month, and has been living on the street for 33 years. Without the grey beard, I think he would have passed for 50.

When I asked where he usually stays, he said, “Right here. I’ve got a mobile home. Park it wherever I want.”

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This town is swarming with Burners. When I found the rebar section at Discount Builders Supply there were three other people buying and bending metal rod into makeshift tent stakes. According to those more experienced than I, there are two legitimate options for tent stakes on the playa: You can bend rebar and hammer it all the way into the ground so that it’s not a tripping hazard, or you can buy longer pieces of rebar and rather than bend them, you leave a foot sticking out of the ground and cap it with a ‘pool noodle’. You use twice as much rebar for the second option, so it costs twice as much, but these stakes are much easier to get out of the ground at the end of the week. (Burning Man is a ‘leave no trace’ event, in case you wondered.)

I cheaped out and went with the short pieces. I’ll pay for it in 10 days when I have to dig them out of the playa with a spoon.

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IMG_4791My mission for today (no pun intended) was to find tent stakes, a bike, and some ‘new’ clothes for Burning Man. I spent too much time admiring murals in the Mission area of the city to get very far on the clothing front.

I did pick up a new cap though. You had to be quick when the fresh stock was wheeled into the sorting area at Goodwill. The good stuff was snapped up within seconds by people who appeared to be professional pickers rather than needy people.

Hats go for 50 cents, by the way. I passed on the vintage Jays hat and went with the well worn ‘US Open’ number. Since ‘US Open’ seems a tad elitist for Burning Man, I’m going to find one of those thread-plucker things and remove the first and last letters. I’ll be the one wearing the ‘SOPE’ hat.

I had almost given up on buying a used bike in SF. I spent an hour on the phone yesterday and couldn’t find any stores that sold bikes for under about $600. “We don’t sell ANY used bikes anymore because the police come in and reclaim about 99% of them,” said one bike store owner.

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Eventually I did find one shop that displayed a large “We do NOT buy bikes” sign in the window. I walked there this afternoon and wrangled a deal for the cheapest, oldest, department store clunker they had in stock. I added a lock, front and back lights, two spare inner-tubes and handed over $160 in cash. Riding down 16th Street on my brand ‘new’ bike, I felt like I was 13 all over again. Naturally, I had to take a few pictures of it on the way ‘home’.

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Well, that’s it for another day in amazing San Francisco. Tomorrow I will ride my new bike back to the Mission and Haight Ashbury and do some shopping for cheap but funky clothing. You may or may not get to see the photo evidence.

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