Monday, May 4, 2009

From Patagonia to the Tenderloin in 5 Minutes

While taking a poop, I leaned over and perused the ample reading material on the adjacent table. I had read all the Entertainment and US Weeklies, so I decided to delve deeper into the pile. Past the Vanity Fairs and New Yorkers, I stumbled upon the travel magazines, at the bottom of the pile. I got Alex (wife) a few of these types of magazines as stocking stuffers last Christmas. You know, travel, exotic locations, local cuisine, romance…filler.

Like Playboy, these types of magazines are all about the pictures: sweeping views of glaciers in Montana, rustic storefronts in Milan and Icelanders drinking vodka in the town square and beating the shit out of each other. Rarely do I venture past the pictures, but my bowels were not cooperating (usually I’m in and out - it’s a gift of mine), so I decided to take a chance on an article about Patagonia.

Like finding out a favorite song of yours is a cover, I had the same sensation with Patagonia. To me, Patagonia was an outdoor wear that woman with baseball hats and ponytails wore on the weekend. I was wrong. It was an actual, uh, region (I had to look it up. I was gonna call it a city) at the tip of South America. And it was rather bleak, a place where people who wear Patagonia vacation. Not wimps like me.

The article opened up with this:

“In his introduction to Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, novelist Nicholas Shakespeare warns, “In Patagonia, the isolation makes it easy to exaggerate the person you are: the drinker drinks; the devout prays; the lonely grows lonelier, sometimes fatally.”

This was as far as I got, but it gave me enough reflection and mind wandering to finish the job and get out of the bathroom.

I thought 2 things: the Tenderloin and who the fuck is Nickolas Shakespeare? Regarding the latter, I looked him up and, no, it wasn’t a typo. He’s a youngish writer from England that spent some time in South America and shares the same last night as that other Shakespeare guy. With that resolved, I focused on the Tenderloin.

Last week I read a blog in the SF Chronicle advising tourists to avoid Fisherman’s Wharf and Tenderloin, when visiting San Francisco. It was a hipster type thing, not something advised by the Tourism Board. I thought it was good advice. I was the exception, though. In the comment section of the blog, 10s of people chimed in talking about the great food, community and clubs of the Tenderloin. The comments were obviously written by people that don’t live in the Tenderloin.

The Tenderloin is somewhere you end up….not by choice. Because of drugs, circumstance or economics you find yourself in a 12 square block area, dotted with SRO hotels and shitty apartment building. If given the choice, everybody in the TL would live somewhere else. That’s why it’s infuriating when people talk about it like a medal on their breast, someplace to defend. And when I say people, I mean white people (I can say that, I’m white. Nice to meet ya). And like the quote, you don’t get better in the Tenderloin – only worse.

From the bathroom to Patagonia to the Tenderloin, this mental journey happened in about 5 minutes.


  1. Great juxtaposition and use of metaphor. I felt like I was reading an article on alternate history. As you know from my last post, I know the TL all too well...unfortunately. You have a gift for telling a story, and even make poop interesting. Well done!

  2. Poop is my forte. Scatmando! together,