Take a nap on the N Judah sometime and you might just wake up to a land inhabited by families, long-timer friends and newly-wed lovers. Without a hint of irony some of the cafe dwellers wear their SF Giants hats not so much with pride as with habit; it is who they are, and they have always worn those hats.
As I sip my coffee - black, imported, delicious, reasonably priced (!) - I am convinced of a particular fact: these are most definitely locals. Like an Attenborough documentary I observe them in their natural habitat: at home in the fog, joyous in sunlight and positively radiant when among their homies (?). These are San Franciscans and this is Ocean beach.
It is possible that they are a special breed. It is possible they are surfies hibernating through the wintery off-season in between long sips of Colombian-ground. I can’t quite tell but there are glimmers that betray their utter comfort in these surroundings. Not a word about tech or passes their lips - they are alert to the rawness of nature.
A petition-weilding hippy is poached outside on the street corner. The political skirmishes of last century have long since passed and he is beyond caring what others think. Just shy of 6 ft, he looks the part of the life long activist: stainer hair, scruffy beard (flecks of this morning’s breakfast on display?) and wavy white hair tied back in a pony tail behind a brow is perpetually furrowed despite his warm facial expression - scars of wisdom, one might say.
Patrons and neighbors don’t mind his invitations to sign. Quite to the contrary, he has a demure charm about him and most are receptive to his attempts at engagement. They express interest of a sort that belies their admiration; “if he is giving up his Saturday collecting signatures from the community then he must feel it is important, and perhaps he has a point…”
His relax tempo betrays a lifetime of community action. Building, organizing, fighting, acting. Bred with the ideals of an engaged citizen, he collects his signatures unobtrusively and with a collected energy that knows its purpose. Overhearing snippets of his method, it goes a little like:
- "Don’t you think it’s unfair that…" (instills outrage)
- "If only we could…" (inception)
- "Which is why I have…" (leader/actor/Line in the sand")
- "So by collecting ____ petitions…" (easy call to action)
- "it will trigger a review at the local government level" (sense of urgency/common goal)
- "All of the residents on this list (validation) - combined (community) - will demonstrate enough passion to remind councillors that their constituency would prefer that they re-evaluate their position on this particular issue.”
Polite to a tee, insightful, and tactically astute, he and others like him are the pillars we imagine when dreaming of San Francisco freedom from afar: residents stand up for what they believe in. In his mastery, it is a spectacle of beauty.