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Displaced Sounds : One Group of Musicians Navigate One Major Housing Crisis.

By: Kristen Struckmeyer

Three men sprawl out of a cramped car and walk across cracks of faded grey asphalt in the direction of a brightly lit diner. Sporting collared shirts, dark pants, and coarse beards, their unspoken uniforms affirmed that they were a band.

As they drove through Castro Valley, bandmates Jason Bolich and Zach Rice of the band, Septacy, jokingly argue over their favorite album from high school. Their argument was briefly interrupted by a text revealing that two members of their group, Ricky Marasigan and Justin Vanegas, could not make it because of their tedious commute from Alameda. Patiently sitting in the back seat, lead singer Nick Redmond interjects only to fuel the growing flame between the two. He is tired and growing groggy from a 50 hour work week, and from the commute across the San Mateo bridge that he endured earlier that day.

“I have my choice of two bridges to get into Oakland for rehearsal,” Redmond said. “Both take me about two hours to get across, and I do that probably a minimum of twice a week. It’s not great.”

It is because of this constant stress of commuting, that it a rare and strenuous occurrence for all five members of Septacy to gather for an extended period of time. Septacy’s members have been playing together on-and-off for almost seven years, and despite these challenges they manage to centralize twice a week. The band congregates in a jammed studio in Oakland, which it shares among ten other musicians in an effort to minimize costs.

The band “Septacy” performs at a show at Monarch in San Francisco, Friday, Feb.19. (Photo/Qing Huang)
The band “Septacy” performs at a show at Monarch in San Francisco, Friday, Feb.19. (Photo/Qing Huang)

San Francisco has always been a city synonymous with music and culture; from the Jazz Age of the Fillmore to the Rock Era of Haight-Ashbury, music has always been at the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant spirit. Today, many fear that this city has transitioned into a junction between the growing tech boom and upscale development. This disparity has led to a widespread migration across more affordable parts of the Bay Area and has become a well-known reality among local artists in the evolving music scene. Commuting, housing and accessibility of venues are some of the major hurdles that musicians all over San Francisco and the Bay Area are experiencing.

There was a time in San Francisco when music was lived and breathed daily. But long gone are the days of indulgence for bands like Jefferson Airplane, whose members lived within a single dwelling where creativity flourished in unimaginable ways. When its members were in high school, Septacy was able to meet up regularly, considering its members lived five minutes from each other. After being pulled across the Bay Area, this is a luxury they no longer have.

“When you’re trying to make it as an artist the deck is really stacked against you,” Redmond said. “For us, our distance and housing is one of the many factors. Often [rehearsing] comes down to the other guys because they live closer together. I just won’t join in sometimes because it’s such a pain,” Redmond, who now lives in Daly City, said.

Lead vocalist of Septacy Nick Redmond, 24, switches mics and sets up an array pedals for his guitar before a show at Monarch in San Francisco on Friday February 19. (Photo- Kristen Struckmeyer)
Lead vocalist of Septacy Nick Redmond, 24, switches mics and sets up an array pedals for his guitar before a show at Monarch in San Francisco on Friday February 19. (Photo- Kristen Struckmeyer)

A lack of affordable housing is stripping San Francisco of its artists and culture, and its entertainment industry is crumbling as venues struggle to preserve local music and keep their businesses alive.

“At the end of the day music is a business,” Redmond said. “So depending on where you are, money is going to affect what you are doing. So the first thing venues are going to ask is how many people can you draw.”

Musicians and small venue owners play an imperative role in creating a sense of liveliness within a city. Venues act as an incubator for up-and-coming musicians and are a lifeline to the entertainment ecosystem; however, they require both artists and a faithful audience to stay afloat. As small operation venues are being nudged out of their nestled corners and off the stained city streets of the Bay, musicians are further strained to find a source of income. This interdependence between artists and venues makes it a collective struggle to sustain a living in the city.

For many reasons, San Francisco cannot sustain life for musicians in the ways it once had. In 2009, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted the Music and Culture Sustainability Policy to help improve and promote the music and entertainment industry. According to the policy, “Music and cultural events and performances are a distinct and important feature of San Francisco that make it both an exceptional and a desirable place to live.”

Noting large obstacles for the music industry, this policy incorporates streamlined permitting, event planning, advertising promotions, and the provisions of low-cost housing available to musicians, artists, and performers. These modifications were intended to encourage and help facilitate public events and local performances. Yet, in the time since the policy’s approval, the city has been witness to the relocation and often closure of some of the most prominent venues and clubs in its limits.

On January 30, 2016 Septacy took stage at XOXO Nightclub for the club’s final show. The Oakland nightclub would soon be torn down in order to build rental properties. Development discrimination that favors an affluent group of citizens is a growing sore among Bay Area natives, minority groups and artists as they are pushed to the fringes of the city.

“We found that live music, especially in the Bay Area, is really not that profitable,” Micah Byrnes, co-owner of bar and club, San Francisco’s Monarch, said. “San Francisco’s just really not a live music city compared to other cities.”

Nick Redmond, right, vocalist of the band “Septacy,” and his bandmates rehearse at their studio in San Leandro Wednesday, Feb.10. (Photo/Qing Huang)
Nick Redmond, right, vocalist of the band “Septacy,” and his bandmates rehearse at their studio in San Leandro Wednesday, Feb.10. (Photo/Qing Huang)

San Francisco newcomer Alex Miller, has been deeply invested in all aspects of the East Coast music scene for over a decade now. After moving from Boston to San Francisco four months ago, Miller used his contacts to quickly get a few gigs working as a sound engineer at popular spots like Monarch, The Independent, and Boom Boom Room.

“There isn’t really a thriving local music scene in the city” Miller explained. “There’s a lot of money here in San Francisco … it just doesn’t seem like anyone is taking any risk or putting it towards featuring some of the local scene.”

For a small local band like Septacy this bears bad news and is a major factor in their ability to play shows and get their music out there.

“The thing I’ve found for us is getting our music in the hands of the right people” Septacy drummer Jason Bolich said. “No matter how many shows we play, unless there are people there who are willing to give your band a shot and put in the extra effort, it isn’t going to make a difference.”

Despite the pull to give up on local and small-name artists, creating and performing seems almost inescapable for a band like Septacy, which is willing to go through the extra hoops to be a part of something it loves.

“There are so many bands out there and there’s a lot of adversity in being consistent with your product,” Septacy guitarist Zach Rice said. “That’s one thing I get very down on myself about if I feel I’m not performing well. But it’s still worth it.”

How the Bay Area Grows

By: Tessa Murphy

Growing Up Farms, located in a once-unused warehouse in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood, uses a developing strategy called aquaponics to grow its food.  This system combines hydroponics and aquaculture to create a closed loop that benefits both of its occupants: plants and fish.

Fish waste pollutes their water, which is why fish tanks and household ponds have filters installed.  In an aquaponic system, bacteria that occurs naturally around plant roots converts the poisonous ammonia into nitrates and nitrites – the major components of store-bought fertilizer.  With plant roots growing directly in the water, the fish get clean water and the plants get fertilizer.  In addition, this system retains most of its water as it’s not being lost in soil, which is important in California’s drought.

High school volunteers are relocating sprounting plants to help build up the soil at the Bee Farm in San Francisco. Photo by Taylor Reyes.
High school volunteers are relocating sprounting plants to help build up the soil at the Bee Farm in San Francisco. Photo by Taylor Reyes.

“Part of our model is to stay as local as possible,” Mark Hintzke said.  The farm has partnered with several restaurants in the city to provide them with fresh produce.  Among these is Mission Edge Café, a restaurant that hasn’t found fresh huacatay – Peruvian black mint – in the area for the salsa it makes.  In March, the huacatay that Growing Up Farms is growing will mature, and Mission Edge Café will receive its first order.

Local Greens is a unique operation in Berkeley that eliminates the need for chemicals or sprays of any kind by keeping its plants sterile and isolated inside a warehouse served by artificial light. Founder Ron Mitchell worked in lighting and equipment before delving into organic farming.  When he moved to Berkeley to be closer to his daughter Faye Mitchell and her family, he started Local Greens and she soon joined the company on the administration side.  The venture struck a deal with Whole Foods, and now sells to 26 of its stores in the area.

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water.  Without the use of soil, growers can control exactly what their plants consume by adding more or less fertilizer to the water, and they don’t need any special equipment or extra time for cultivating the earth.  Hydroponics also conserves both water and space: water isn’t lost in the ground, plants can be grown closer to each other as nutrients can be easily adjusted, and systems can more easily be stacked vertically and take up less room on the light.  However, a hydroponics system can be difficult to set up, and any disease in the plants will spread rapidly to the whole crop.

Volunteer Gary Lea ( left ) and Director of Building Operations Steve Hunter ( right ) tend to harvesting fresh basil for Project Open Hand's kitchen in San Francsico. Photo by Taylor Reyes.
Volunteer Gary Lea ( left ) and Director of Building Operations Steve Hunter ( right ) tend to harvesting fresh basil for Project Open Hand’s kitchen in San Francsico. Photo by Taylor Reyes.

Everything that comes through the doors of Local Greens is sterilized.  The team does thorough research into the origin of the seeds they buy to make sure they haven’t been sprayed or exposed to animal activity, and they test the seeds for human pathogens and other contaminants before planting.  The water used in the hydroponic system is filtered thoroughly, as is the air coming into the warehouse. The fertilizer used in the process, which comes as compost from Sacramento State University, is autoclaved before introduction to eliminate any organisms.  Even the workers have their feet sterilized before entering the building.

Alemany Farm is a four and a half acre organic community farm that aims to educate local residents on urban agriculture.  Through several volunteer sessions a week, the volunteer group Friends of Alemany Farm seeks to inspire children and adults to create their own gardens at home, help community members develop job skills, and promote area food security, the availability of and access to food.

Alemany Farm also welcomes school, service, and corporate groups to volunteer for an afternoon to learn about food growth, give back to the community, and help build teamwork.
Project Open Hand is a non-profit founded in 1985 that provides fresh, nutritious meals to seniors and critically ill locals.  In 2013, it established an indoor hydroponic greenhouse to produce lettuce, herbs, and micro-greens for its meals.  Steven Hunter, Director of Building Operations at Project Open Hand, spearheaded the idea of a hydroponic system when the building wasn’t able to support a roof garden.

The organization remodeled one of its building’s downstairs rooms with windows facing the street, and installed two four-foot long wheels built by hydroponic company Omega Garden.  Each of these wheels has an artificial light source and rotates slowly so its 80 plants grow evenly.

Local Greens Production Manager Araab Ballard (left) and Assistant Production hand Jarod Metzger prepare the freshly cut sprouts to be weighed and packaged. Photo by Taylor Reyes.
Local Greens Production Manager Araab Ballard (left) and Assistant Production hand Jarod Metzger prepare the freshly cut sprouts to be weighed and packaged. Photo by Taylor Reyes.

“It was just a casual notion,” he said of the idea’s inception.  “’Oh, we should raise a bit of food.’”  But as plans started developing – and the project raised $30,000 in its fundraising stage – Project Open Hand was able to add two more hydroponic wheels and now grows basil, mustard greens, arugula, lettuce, and micro-greens.

What started as a small idea is now bringing passersby inside the doors of Project Open Hand to find out about the big round gardens in the window.  “They would walk in and they would just say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this before,’” Hunter said.  “It’s a pretty nice way to introduce folks to what we do at Open Hand.”

Shielded from the bustle of Highway 101 by a row of trees, San Francisco Bee-Cause is an apiary – or bee farm – tucked into just under an acre of land in Visitacion Valley.  Nine colonies of native bees sit in a horseshoe shape on one side of the lot; fruit trees and other flowering plants occupy most of the other land.

San Francisco Bee-Cause accepts but doesn’t depend on donations, and funds itself otherwise through the sale of the honey it produces.

“The whole purpose of the bee farm is to feed the bees, and demonstrate that the bees can feed us,” Karen Peteros, the organization’s co-founder, said.

Founded in 2006, San Francisco Bee-Cause aims to demonstrate the value of bees by stimulating the city’s ecosystem.  It also offers a two-year apprenticeship program free of charge for dedicated participants.

“I really wanted something that was more charitable and educational in the long run,” Peteros said.

When Life Gives You Lemons…Race Them

By: Jasmine Williams

The Sonoma sun rays shone down on squinty-eyed spectators sprinkled across the bleachers surrounding Sonoma Raceway. The car racing track tucked near the mountains of the county just 45 miles outside San Francisco was host to 24 Hours of LeMons.

The objective of the national race was not to determine the fastest fruit of the land. The name is a play on 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car race, held annually in Le Mans, France.

“Lemon” is a word used commonly in the car community to describe cars that are well — pieces of shit. For two days, the LeMons race welcomes drivers of all experience levels to an endurance race of over 15 hours — in cars that cost no more that $500.

Brian Shorey (left) routes the microphone cable for David Burgoon before Burgoon's stint in the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde in the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)
Brian Shorey (left) routes the microphone cable for David Burgoon before Burgoon’s stint in the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde in the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

Brian Shorey, now an eight-year participant of the race, stood in his white trailer in the car lot just outside the bleachers. The morning driver’s meeting had just ended. It had warned the racers to behave better than they had the previous day, when foul play resulted in a few bad crashes.

“We used up all our luck yesterday. Today, behave!” Jay Lamm, the race’s founder,  said at the meeting.

For most teams, lasting through the whole weekend was victory enough, but the more competitive racers were in it for the whopping cash prize of $601, awarded in a bag of nickels.
Shorey and his two team members, David Burgoon and Tom Sahines, did it for fun.

“For me, driving a car at that speed in a somewhat competitive environment without having to worry about speeding tickets — even if you don’t win it’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Shorey said. “I’m quite proud of the fact that as a part-time novice mechanic and not a professional race car driver — that we won a race and have been able to last this long.”

The three men joined forces in late 2011, after meeting through the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club, a car club for lovers of the compact Italian car.

The car they raced in LeMons was a 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde, and this Sunday marked its 37th race. Its life in LeMons started back in 2008 when it was first raced at a LeMons race in Boston.

Evidence of a fuel leak that led to a black flag for the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde during the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)
Evidence of a fuel leak that led to a black flag for the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde during the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

In 2010, Shorey brought the car to the Golden State.

The Milano was a faded black, small and weathered. Three racing stripes — painted in green, white, and red like the Italian flag — ran from the car’s hood to its trunk. A dirty rubber chicken hung out of a broken rear light and a miniature toy deer was taped to the roof.  The hood of the car was stamped with various faces and slogans.

The car was essentially gutted of its interior, and had no glass and only one seat . It was, however, equipped with a roll cage, a fire extinguisher, and a cooler built by the team to offer cool water to hydrate the driver, hands free.

The end of the morning’s meeting marked the beginning of the race and was the cue for Shorey and his team to begin prepping to get the car on the track.
After checking the tires for air, hooking up the radio, and starting up the GoPro attached to the inside of the car, it was finally go-time.

Shorey’s trailer sat in a parking lot littered with at least 100 others like it, as well as RVs, cars, and trucks. He bought the trailer in 2000 to transport his cars to the various LeMons races he participated in throughout the country.   “Alfa Romeo” was written in brick-red cursive on the trailer’s side.

Throughout the lot, white tents provided shade for lounging women in foldable chairs, while kids played tag with dogs and circled the perimeter on their bikes.  The grounds smelled of burnt rubber and motor oil.

Clouds of smoke billowed from BBQ pits; the sizzling of hotdogs and burgers on grills added to the symphonic buzz of roaring engines. The day was cool, the sun’s heat offset by a light but steady breeze. Rolling green hills stretched for miles as a backdrop to the track.

With such basic requirements — showing up in a car worth less than $500 dollars with a team of at least four people, both driver and car equipped with proper safety equipment — the turnout for LeMons was always a spectacle.

“They [the race organizers] encourage themes, so you get a few wankers out there every race,” Shorey said, chuckling, his native Boston slang showing through.

And “wankers” there were.

A particular car, Number 169, circled the lot plastered with enlarged photos of naked women with ungroomed private parts. Another, with the word “ASSCAR” emblazoned in bold on the door panel, featured a life-size , plastic rendition of the bottom half of a woman’s body protruding from its trunk. One car, read  “TRUMP” on one side, “You’re Fired!” on the rear, and had an enlarged toupee on its roof.

Brian Shorey (left) and Tom Sahines (right) help David Burgoon strap in for his stint driving the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde in the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. In addition to seatbelts, the driver is connected to hydration and cooling hoses and a two-way radio. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)
Brian Shorey (left) and Tom Sahines (right) help David Burgoon strap in for his stint driving the No. 75 Scuderia Limoni 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde in the 24 Hours of LeMons Sears Pointless at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. In addition to seatbelts, the driver is connected to hydration and cooling hoses and a two-way radio. (Brian Churchwell / Xpress)

Meanwhile, the drivers on the track raced at their own pace, cautious of competitors, careful to avoid bumping into one another so that they wouldn’t be called to the penalty box.

A blue and yellow tow truck circled the raceway, prepared to pick up any totaled vehicles to clear the track. A few times, all cars were instructed to stop so that the track could be cleaned of oil spills.

By three thirty in the afternoon, Shorey was coming up on the final hour of the race. He had taken over from Burgoon two hours earlier.

By that time the lot had begun to empty. Loyal spectators remained in the stands to watch the final laps, while others scrambled to grab a bite from the only food truck still open.

The rumbling of the engines began to grow faint as more cars broke down or were kicked out the race altogether. A buzz from the radio told the rest of the team to prepare the trailer for Shorey’s arrival.

An exhausted Shorey drove the car into the trailer and climbed out.  The car emerged from the race virtually unscathed.  The team was satisfied.

“Well the race was awesome because we finished, the car’s on the trailer, and it’s still running,” Sahines said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The team suffered only two pit stops during the race.  One was to fill up the gas tank, and the other to fix a fuel leak that the judges spotted.

“We actually lost 12 positions from the first unplanned pit stop,” Shorey said.

Despite the penalties and not knowing the exact place they finished out of the 147 competitors, the team left Sonoma more than satisfied.

“LeMons is really rewarding people who can work on their own cars and drive their own cars,” Shorey said.

“This is the purest form of racing.”

Seizing Life

By: Pricilla Salahuddin

Shake it off. Blink. It’s not happening. I promise. You’re still here.

These things go through my mind when I feel like someone is intensely looking at me.

It’s that same kind of look that I confusingly woke up to over and over again when I was 15 years old. That look still haunts me. I used to be traumatized by ambulance sirens too. Every time I heard them I had to pinch myself and tell myself that it was not me in the back of that red racing truck.

This all started at the end of my freshmen year of high school, 2008. I was a healthy teenaged girl — until one afternoon I was convulsing on the floor in my grandma’s living room. Next thing I knew I was in an ambulance, screaming, “I don’t want to die.” I tell myself that the reason I was yelling such a horribly scary thing is because my cousin Sarah also had seizures and died when we were both eleven. But Sarah’s story is completely different than mine. She had a brain tumor.

Before my first few seizures I had no idea what epilepsy was. A person has to have three seizures to be diagnosed with epilepsy, which for me happened fast. It was not until after those three episodes that I was able to see a neurologist and go through the different tests, including several CT scans and EEGs. These checked for a brain tumor or anything else that could cause seizures. I was clear.  If nothing is found, doctors generally diagnose the patient as epileptic.

Nearly 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from epilepsy. When I first went to the End Epilepsy Walk, I was mind-blown by how many kids were there. I saw kids in wheelchairs and heard stories about how many of them had to go through brain surgery. I was grateful I did not need to go through any intense procedures, but that time of my life was still one of the darkest times I can remember. I felt sorry for myself, and I felt guilty for feeling that way.

I felt sorry not only for myself, but also for those who had to see me go through this hard time. When I started to have seizures my little brother was about five years old. I know he got scared when he would see me convulse suddenly, my eyes rolling back in my head. To this day I feel guilty that he had to see me like that. I have to tell myself that it is not my fault; it was out of my control.

Then there are my parents. They had to see their first-born child go through something that they never could have anticipated. Not only did they see me go through the seizures, but they saw me at my worst. I think it’s safe to say that during that period of time I was depressed. As far as I know, that is the last thing a parent wants to see their child go through. We were all confused and scared.

I went through 15 grand mal seizures from the end of my freshmen year through my sophomore year of high school. I went from doctor to doctor, each one putting me on high dosages of different medications, but the seizures remained uncontrollable. There seemed to be hope when I was put on two different medications, Topamax and Keppra, but when lab results showed that my liver was being affected, something else had to be figured out. My doctor decided to lower my meds, but it happened too fast — the seizures came right back.

Not only did my physical appearance begin to change but my mentality changed as well. I lost a lot of weight because of the different medications I was on. I no longer looked like the built soccer player that I used to be. I began to isolate myself because I was embarrassed about what I was going through and I knew people were talking. I had several seizures on campus and it was new to everyone, including myself. My second seizure happened in class when I was about to take my math final, and from what I heard it was definitely a scene. My group of friends got smaller. Thinking back, I’m not sure if it was because they began to distance themselves, or because I did.

I have now been seizure-free for almost two years, and I’m pretty sure the last one I had was my fault. It was the day after my 21st birthday. I had been told several times by doctors that the medication that I am on now does not combine well with alcohol. I’m able to drink, but I have to know my limits because one drink is like four for me. Knowing this, I stupidly decided to not take my medication the day of my 21st birthday because I wanted to be able to drink all that I could. The next day, on December 28, I had what I hope will be my last seizure. I still drink, just with set boundaries.

I’m now 23 and I have not made that mistake again, nor do I ever want to. I hope that more people will grow aware of epilepsy and what to do in a case if they see someone having a seizure. Epilepsy is not a rare thing; it is far more common than you would ever think.

Today, I took 500 mg of Keppra. I will do it again this evening, and I will continue to do it for the rest of my life. If all I have to do is take two pills a day to keep me from returning to my worst nightmare, then that is exactly what I’m going to do.

This is just one story about a teenaged girl who had to go through some crazy adversity. There are many stories similar to this one and some that are much worse. I am thankful that I am here today. Although the nightmare still haunts me, it is something that I have learned to live with and not let hold me back. I hope that this can motivate someone to move to forward even in the darkest times.

A Monthly Challenge: The Bay Area homeless population struggles to find access to feminine care products

Written By: Sekinat Shiwoku

 

Mary recalls crying and writhing in pain as she sat to await treatment for toxic shock syndrome at Lifelong Medical Care, a clinic in Oakland that serves low income and homeless individuals. She had contracted it when she could not afford to buy feminine hygiene products and fashioned herself a handmade tampon of wadded Kleenex tissues. The makeshift tampon got lodged deep inside of her after many failed attempts to remove it. Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, recalled the incident in a harried manner; she was ashamed of the circumstances surrounding her contraction of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Menstruation can be an emotionally and physically taxing experience, but one that becomes even more difficult when homeless and without access to feminine care products and shower facilities. This situation can result in a myriad of significant health concerns. One of these health issues is TSS, which is a bacterial infection that can result in kidney failure, liver inflammation and can even become fatal.

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“There are a list of complicated issues that come without access to hygiene and sanitation,” said Leah Filler, Director of Global Community Engagement at Lava Mae, an organization that recycles Muni buses into mobile hygiene services for the homeless in San Francisco. “On the shower side, if you can’t clean up after and you’ve had your period and soiled yourself … you’re far more at risk for infection, for infectious diseases, putting others at risk as well.”

Without proper attention and care, many homeless women throughout the Bay Area may find themselves in situations similar to Mary’s.

Thirty-three percent of the homeless population in San Francisco is female. These women face a slew of issues that come without access to feminine products and sanitation. Although there are various organizations and shelters in the Bay Area that homeless people can turn to for hot meals and accommodation, homeless women often have nowhere to turn when it comes to maintaining healthy feminine hygiene practices. Coming across a clean and safe shower or access to toilets strictly for women or menstrual products is rare.

“There are not enough shelters that cater to women,” said Michelle Myers, 57, who lives on the streets of Oakland. “We just go from place to place, and get as many [tampons and pads] as you can when you can, so when time comes you’ll have enough, and when you can’t find access to showers, you just do without. You go to McDonalds to access the bathroom. You go to Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or somewhere.”

This is the reality a lot of women on the streets have come to accept. According to Filler, women make up about a third of the homeless population in the Bay Area. There are many resources that serve both men and women facing homelessness, but their needs are quite different. It’s not just inconvenient — it’s dangerous for homeless women to menstruate on the street without proper hygiene practices.

According to Jeb Creech, the Outreach Coordinator at the Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco, and Heather Rose, manager of the Homeless Shelter for Women in Oakland, there are only two shelters in the Bay Area that serve homeless women without doubling as a domestic violence shelter.

“I am not aware of any other organizations around here that pass out stuff like we do on a regular basis,” Rose said. “They might get a donation of [feminine products] once in awhile but there’s not a place where these women can consistently go and get the products and service they need.”

Currently, out of 40 operating shelters across the Bay Area, only seven are drop-in centers accessible to women who do not need to live at the facility. Of those seven drop-in centers, only two were not associated with domestic violence survivors.

According to Healthline, a medical information website, not having the proper products and hygiene practices during menstruation can lead to toxic shock syndrome, vulvovaginitis, risks of reproductive health and STI infections, and HIV.

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However, the effects sometimes go beyond the physical consequences.

Many shelter employees agreed that women also face psychological effects from inadequate access to resources. Creech stated that when women are not able to receive clean clothes or do laundry after soiling their clothes it brings down their confidence. Filler shared stories of women who deprived themselves of water or food so they wouldn’t have to go use the restroom and soil themselves.

According to Creech, services to homeless individuals in the Bay Area are male dominated. “There are ten homeless men for every woman,” Creech said.

Many homeless women tend to stay near shelters they know will provide them with resources they need, stay hidden, or stay with a domestic partner.

“The visibly homeless people on the streets tend to be men, and tend to therefore get public attention,” said John Lozier, Executive Director of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, a membership organization of health care providers that work together towards the betterment of homeless people. “It may well be the case that services for men are better funded than services for women.”

Because the number of homeless men is higher and because they are frequent clients of shelters, resources tend to target males. Rachel Howard, Program Coordinator of the Homeless Shelter for Women, believes that even when agencies do focus on what particular needs women have, they don’t always factor in feminine care products.

“There’s certainly a history of menstruation being viewed as something that is dirty and not a fit subject for polite conversation,” Lozier said. “And it’s reflected in all sorts of religious traditions but also in social norms. This is probably impacting support of shelters, but probably not in a conscious way, but in a subconscious way.”

Menstruation on the streets is a multifaceted issue. Many of those like Howard who are aware of the issue believe that it is in the hands of the city to make accommodations to increase those services. “I don’t think they’ve made it a priority,” she said.

 

4 Organizations on a Menstrual Mission
The Homeless Shelter for Women is a drop-in center started by nuns in the early 90s that serves 55 to 60 women a day.  The shelter is a place where women can eat breakfast and lunch, drink coffee and tea, shower, do laundry, and sleep.

Conscious Period is a company in Los Angeles founded by Annie Lascoe and Margo Lang, joining the menstrual revolution by selling comfortable tampons. Its tampons are 100% organic cotton and have a BPA-free plastic applicator. With every box purchased, Conscious Period donates a box of organic cotton pads to a homeless woman.

Lava Mae is a group that turns Muni buses into mobile hygiene services for the homeless in San Francisco. It launched its first vehicle in June 2014, and its second in September 2015. Altogether last year, it served 2,000 homeless people in San Francisco. It will also be doubling its schedule next month to serve more people in need.

Period Packages is a project created by Sidney Hood and two of her friends after learning about the crisis homeless women face on their periods. The ladies had an initial goal of raising a mere $500, but they exceeded their expectation and raised over $4,000. With the money, they were able to purchase over 21,000 tampons and thousands of pads. After a couple of weeks, the ladies completed 500 Period Packages, each containing 30 tampons and up to 8 pads.

 

Written By: Sekinat Shiwoku

From Farm to Bong

By: Brandy Miceli

The inflammation, swollen cartilage, and swollen joint linings that come with 39-year-old Amanda Reiman’s foot arthritis keep her immobile and in pain.

Refusing to put chemicals of any sort into her body, Reiman opts out of doctor recommended steroid shots in her toes and painkillers of any sort  — even Tylenol.

“I decided that if I could get away with using cannabis instead, and not see progression in the arthritis, I would do that,” Reiman said. “And it’s worked.”

Just as with most other things she puts into her body, the organic marijuana is imperative.

As Reiman’s oven timer beeped and her vegan pie crust began to brown, she said, “I want to consume as few chemicals as possible in my life. It’s the same philosophy I have about whether I choose to take pharmaceutical drugs, and organic or nonorganic foods.” Reiman uses  one specific, transparent delivery service over the plethora of medical marijuana dispensaries in her area.

A delivery service called Flow Kana is making it easy for Bay Area cannabis patients to access quality, sun-grown, organic cannabis. The company has humble beginnings, playing a different role in the farm-to-table movement. In the same time that you can have an organic meal on your table, you can have organic cannabis in your bong.

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Buying pot used to mean hopping in your dealer’s luxury car, driving around the block to avoid being seen, and paying in cash — without having any idea the type of marijuana you’re smoking.

Only recently did your “dealer” pull up in a Miata, hand you your organic cannabis in a tiny Mason jar with a personalized thank-you note and a piece of chocolate, and ask, “Cash or card?”

“Ultimately, our goal is to make our products available to patients in as many channels and avenues as possible,” Adam Steinberg, Head of Sales Development at Flow Kana, said.

They established its presence through its delivery app, that allows their patients to find the cannabis that best suits them and order it to be delivered in thirty minutes or less. With a steady revenue increase of 15 percent per month, according to CEO Michael Steinmetz, its year has been a success.

Once a patient’s California ID and Proposition 215 recommendation given by a physician for legal use, are verified through Flow Kana’s system, the patient will get a confirmation text or email saying when the patient should expect a delivery. Through the app, the patient can track the driver, just as with other food delivery services.

Occasionally Joe Maddox, a delivery driver for Flow Kana, still gets “old school” clients who try to jump in his car to whisper about “the goods,” looking around cautiously to make sure nobody sees.
“For god’s sake, it’s legal!” He would proclaim reassuringly.

The company consults its legal team weekly to ensure complete state legality.

“It’s also,” he pauses, “Absolutely fire,” referring to the great quality of the cannabis.

It will continue delivering to a variety of patients: those that lack mobility, those with disabilities, and those who use cannabis recreationally. Steinberg says that Flow Kana’s marijuana and concentrated products will begin popping up in brick-and-mortar dispensary locations around the Bay Area soon.

Reiman favors Flow Kana because of the way they let their patients know exactly who grew the pot they’re smoking. “When I order from Flow Kana, I feel like I’m getting that kind of information about my product that you don’t get when you go to a dispensary,” she said.


“Instead of just an on-demand delivery service, we view ourselves as a premium cannabis brand,” Steinberg said. The company’s goals are to bridge the gap between the patients and the mystery of where their cannabis came from, and to normalize this medicine in general.

Steinmetz envisions an industry with more transparency. He saw a huge lack of that in the industry today, which is why Flow Kana shows its patients exactly where and how its marijuana was grown.
“‘Our farm is located on a sun-drenched, 3000 ft. ridgeline in Mendocino County. We run a micro-scale, 100% solar powered, diversified family farm, with roughly two acres of mixed vegetables, flowers, herbs, and connoisseur grade medicinal cannabis’,” it’s website advertises.

Growers use the terms “chemical” and “organic” to distinguish the two different production manners. We put food into our bodies that contains chemicals from pesticides and GMO’s, but inhaling the smoke from those chemicals has completely different bodily and environmental effects.

According to the Honest Marijuana Company, an organization that teaches the public about the importance of organic marijuana and how to grow it, super chemicals and specialized plant foods used to grow chemical marijuana carry chemicals and toxins that are not supposed to be funneled through our bodies.

“Smoking can create pyrolysis compounds with unknown toxicities, and inhaled chemicals enter the bloodstream without first undergoing first-pass metabolism by the digestive and hepatic systems,” according to the Cannabis Safety Institute’s Pesticide Use on Cannabis study in 2015. “As a result, inhaled chemicals are typically present at much higher levels in the body than those that are orally ingested.”

The study also shows that when chemical weed is concentrated into hash, edibles, resin, or any tinctures, the pesticides are also concentrated, leading to extremely high levels of toxins in the final product. Up to 70 percent of the toxins are left in the concentrate being inhaled.

Mother Jones says an estimated one third of America’s pot is produced indoors. Per pound of pot, this estimate would emit 4,600 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and use enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes nationwide.
Beyond the science, the comparison is in the taste.

“Organic is the most natural taste you can get,” Maddox said. “The way I’m thinking about it is, compare sweets—something to indulge in. Would you rather bite into a fresh
It’s no coincidence there are some people who would pick the latter. Some prefer organic, while others don’t care or aren’t informed about the effect of chemicals.
Louis Davis, a medical marijuana patient suffering from systemic lupus, doesn’t know the difference.

“It doesn’t necessarily matter to me,” Davis said. “If I knew the real effects behind organic versus other types, I’d probably care, but I don’t really know the differences so I can’t say whether I really care or not.”
The frail 23-year-old lies in the center of a dimly lit hospital room rating his pain at a nine. Nurses come in and out multiple times an hour to administer the various medicines needed for the side effects of his lupus. Davis describes his kidney failure, itchy lesions, and the cracked right hip awaiting a replacement.

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“My reason for using marijuana is for pain,” he said. “The pain I’m in without it is not the business.”

He gets up in the morning, stiff and sore, and takes the array of pharmaceuticals for his list of health ailments. “Then I’ll smoke, and I’m able to eat breakfast,” Davis said.
When Davis doesn’t have the energy to go to a dispensary, he uses delivery services similar to Flow Kana to get his cannabis, such as Eaze, Green Cross, Green Rush, and Waterfall Wellness. He recently had a special delivery from his friend to the UCSF Medical Center, where he snuck out of his room to meet smoke outside.

“I was admitted here seven days ago and one of my friends came through while I’m on a shitload of frickin’ pain medicine and my blood pressure is through the roof so I went out to smoke a joint,” he said. “They [the nurses] didn’t know I went out to smoke, but I came back in and my blood pressure dropped dramatically. They didn’t even know why, they’re thinking it was some medicine but nah, it’s because I was smoking.”
Davis smoked a high cannabidiol (CBD) strain, which is known for lowering blood pressure.

He’s never used Flow Kana, as he favors indoor cannabis.
“Indoor is all I smoke, I don’t really touch outdoor too much,” he said. “I don’t really like the makeup of the bud, it’s sort of stringy; I’m really picky when it comes to bud. It has to look and smell potent—it can’t be some crumbly stuff.”
To each his own.

While people use different strain types to achieve different healing effects, these strain types fall under five species categories: indica, indica-dominant hybrid, sativa-dominant hybrid, and sativa. Indicas are great for sleep and pain, sativas offer a head high and energy, and the hybrids fall somewhere in between. Flow Kana associates these species with states of being: zen, chill, awe, and active. This makes it easy for people to find the species and strain that best suits them.
In addition, they offer CBD strains, which have higher cannabidiol levels than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. These are excellent for customers decreasing pain and relaxing without getting absolutely “wrecked,” or too high.

This simple, innovative means of care-taking has been helping people with vision impairments, broken limbs, anxiety, and depression for one year now as they celebrate their foundation anniversary.
Flow Kana welcomes full legalization with open arms. In a world carrying so much suffering, getting marijuana to as many patients in pain is the true goal of anyone in the business.

The Age of Tech : While Tech Companies Create Younger Environments, The “Not-So-Young” Struggle

By: Eric Nyulassy

All you can eat food around the clock. Beautifully landscaped grass as far as the eye can see. Basketball and volleyball courts for the active crowd, and video games with big screen TVs for everyone else—there is even a laundromat. This is not your run-of-the-mill, high-priced country club. This is the environment of new-aged employment campuses in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley provides the luxury of living in an area that has a plethora of jobs that pay an average of 79,108 dollars per capita personal income, compared to the United States average of 46,049 dollars. The job growth rate is the highest, it’s been since 2000 according to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index report. However, middle-aged men and women are finding it increasingly difficult to land a job in the tech field.

In years past, issues of race and gender were prevalent in the hiring process. According to the United States Department of Labor, women are now projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force from 2008 to 2018. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36.4 percent of the Silicon Valley community is foreign born, significantly higher than the average in California or the United States due to outsourcing firms and companies bringing in skilled workers from overseas.  The new concern for candidates actively seeking employment in Silicon Valley is age.

According to research done by Economic Synopses,  the long-term unemployment rate after the great recession has more than doubled in most cases for individuals aged 30 to 65. Long-term unemployment is described as an individual being out of work for over six months.

“A very good friend of mine was in the tech industry for many years,” Deborah Borlase, a middle-aged employee for MagnaChip Semiconductor said. “He got laid off and struggled to find work, so he resorted to teaching.”

Individuals with extensive experience in the tech industry are being over-looked for younger and cheaper workers. Resumes riddled with titles like, “Director of Sales” and “Vice President of Global Marketing” do not hold as much value to companies, as observed by Jeff Rose, a 66-year-old unemployed worker in the field.

“Companies are all about the bottom line. Somebody cheaper and younger is out there. When I left Silicon Quest International, they actually replaced my job with two people. My salary was worth the cost of two younger workers with much less experience,” said Rose.

Beyond companies looking for cheaper prospects to fill positions, the issue of cultural adaptivity creates a roadblock for middle-aged techies.

David Flor is a business development representative for Salesforce, a highly sought-after employer in the Bay Area. Going in for his interview, he remembers his interviewer stating it was easier to get accepted to Harvard than to be hired at Salesforce and for every opening there are thousands of applicants. Flor talked about his job with an exuberant amount of energy and expertise.

“Everyone wants to have fun here at work,” Flor stated. “It is a Wall Street type of attitude here. Work hard so you can play hard.”

Flor exudes the type of cultural attitude many tech companies are looking for in their working environments today — a culture that could create a problem for the older crowd of techies who have families and other responsibilities that remove them from work and their coworkers.

Staff recruiting firms that push recruits into these coveted positions are under pressure by many companies to fill these vacancies with a specific candidate. According to recruiters, the criteria for these candidates are similar across the board and detrimental to those who do not meet them. According to a recruiter from Premiere Staffing,  this shift in culture is emulated and modeled after Google by other companies and can be correlated to an emphasis on increased productivity. Both recruiters asked for anonymity in fear of backlash or potential termination by their employers for providing this information.

Companies like Google, now provide food, beverages, sleeping arrangements, dog parks, and fitness rooms that enable workers to stay at work all day. The perks are great, but older employees are more likely to have children and other responsibilities that take them away from the campus, not allowing them to dedicate the same amount of time younger prospects potentially have.

“People do not want to leave and the vibe reminds you of a college campus. Employees like to work outside on the grass, sleep in the pods and play games throughout the day,” said Gilbert Padilla, a contractor in his third year with Google.
One recruiter said that the most common response he gets from companies is that older candidates are “too experienced” and they would prefer to fill their vacancies in a competitive market with young talent who “live and breath tech.”
“Companies do not want a ‘suits and ties’ environment anymore,” he said. “Companies are going against the grain and that is inviting to a younger talent pool, which is what they want. If you are 50 years old, there is a higher probability you will have issues taking orders from a 30-year-old owner or boss and the ability to take direction becomes a concern for the employer.”

Agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) take action against age discrimination, according to The Age of Discrimination Act of 1967. The EEOC resolved 21,273 age discrimination charges in 2015, recovering 99.1 million dollars in monetary damages for charging parties and associated aggrieved individuals.

According to 2016’s Silicon Valley Index (SVI), 64,363 jobs were created between 2014 and 2015. There has also been a 24.4 percent increase in jobs titled “Innovation and Information Products & Services” since 2010 and has steadily increased every year creating a trend in a wanted field. Jobs in this growing category primarily have tech related ties.

Despite the increase in tech related jobs in Silicon Valley, many middle-aged workers cannot capitalize on the opportunities available, according to area recruiters. They are forced to become more flexible with regards to salary, creating a financial burden in an area where the cost of living has reached astronomical heights. According to a recent Trulia report, only 14 percent of homes in San Francisco are affordable to the middle-class.

However, there are still companies in the area who hire solely on merit and expertise. Symantec executives pride themselves in finding a candidate that meets their needs based exclusively on their experience and passion to succeed.

Mitch Underwood, who leads Symantec’s AMS Demand Operations team in Oregon, detailed what he looks for in a potential job candidate.

“First thing we look at is education,” Underwood said. “Does it pertain to the position we are looking for? Their aptitude; how well they articulate ideas tells us how organized they are. We are also interested in what they do outside of work. Philanthropic work and community service is another element we look at,” he said.

Many older workers struggle to find jobs in a booming industry that now places more emphasis on cultural fit and cost effectiveness than on experience. People are more dedicated to the company than the company is to the people. Workers like Jeff Rose still have fight and passion in them and wish companies would see the value in experience once again.

“We still have a desire to make an impact,” Rose said. “We are innovative and we want to show that there is still value in hiring people older with more experience.”

What’s Growing On

By: Stephanie LaRue

At 11:30 a.m., the fenced-in slope a block up the hill from the Bayview’s busy Third Street didn’t turn any heads. After a few hours of dirty work in the beating sun, patches of strawberries, dark green kale, and a booming cilantro plant are visible from the street. This corner of Bridgeview Drive and Newhall Street is home to the Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden, where its tenants are clearing out the weeds that popped up after the rain.

Joel McClure trims the growth on the chain link fence surrounding the space. The sun catches beads of sweat in his greying mustache. Joel’s wife, Mary McClure, carries a glass dispenser of ice water to a wooden bench on the first level of the terraced garden. Slices of oranges, plucked from the tree ten feet away, knock against ice cubes with sprigs of garden-harvested lavender, frozen inside.

Damiana Bruno pulls weeds with friends Oriol Codina (middle) and Daniel (Back) during Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden's volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)
Damiana Bruno pulls weeds with friends Oriol Codina (middle) and Daniel (Back) during Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden’s volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)

The McClures built the Bridgeview Garden in an unmaintained city lot next to their home. With help from the Quesada Gardens Initiative and other local agricultural nonprofits, they developed the space from a dumping ground to a sustainable vegetable and fruit garden in a geographically isolated neighborhood in one of the Bay Area’s food deserts. The garden serves as a teaching ground where elementary school students, medical school residents, and community activists learn the importance of access to fresh, healthy food.

When the McClures moved into their Bayview home in 2001, the city lot next to them was trashed. The slope was overgrown with weeds, and scattered with garbage and old mattresses. A cyclone fence, padlocked shut, surrounded the lot. It was such an eyesore for Joel that he would drive home from the opposite direction so he wouldn’t have to look at it.
“I can’t run away from the problem because I live right there,” Joel said, pointing up to the house that overlooks the lot. “So I decided, as I looked out the window I said, ‘Joel, somebody has to do something about it,’ and I think the window looked back at me and said, ‘Guess who’s going to do it?’”

Damiana Bruno poses for a photo near their designated spot in the Brigdeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on on Monday February 23, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)
Damiana Bruno poses for a photo near their designated spot in the Brigdeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on on Monday February 23, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)

Their first action was to call the city’s customer service line to send someone to clear out the lot. They were told that there was no funding for the city to provide that kind of service, but the McClures could have the keys to the fence if they wanted to take care of it themselves. For two-years, the McClures chipped away at the littered lot. Mary said every time they would go out and pull weeds, it would rain and new weeds would pop up.
In 2004, Mary said they noticed something interesting down the street. The median dividing Quesada Avenue was transforming from a neighborhood dumping ground to a flourishing garden oasis. Bayview residents Annette Smith and Karl Paige, built the Quesada Gardens, which evolved into an award-winning nonprofit called the Quesada Gardens Initiative (QGI).

The McClures asked QGI for help with the lot, and they sent it in droves. Volunteers from the University of California, San Francisco Architecture and Community Design class drew up new landscape plans and offered to help build and maintain the lot as a garden. In a neighborhood-wide vote, the plans were approved to become QGI’s next project.

The Bridgeview Garden is sustained through donations, but receives funding from QGI for any materials they need. The city sent over dump trucks full of topsoil, mulch, and broken-up concrete to use for landscaping. A nonprofit in the Presidio, Friends of the Urban Forest, donated fruit trees for the garden, and the primrose trees that now line the sidewalk along Newhall Street.

Oriol Codina helps pull out weeds during the Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden's volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)
Oriol Codina helps pull out weeds during the Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden’s volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)

“That’s a big expense right there,” Mary said. “If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t be affordable for us to have purchased the trees.”

One of Joel and Mary’s former neighbors, Roberto Vargas, remembers back when the Bridgeview Garden was in its original state. “I used to walk by here, and this was a dump,” Vargas said. “This is one of the spaces that for me is very representative of transforming a space that represented neglect, into a space that builds community and provides nutrition.”

Vargas, a resident of the Bayview for 25-years, is Co-chair of the Bayview Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Zone, which recently merged with Southeast Food Access (SEFA). He also works as a navigator of the Community Engagement and Health Policy program at UCSF. He said the neighborhood — specifically Hunters Point — is geographically isolated.

“My mother used to drive the one MUNI bus that goes in and out of that community, and she used to always tell me, ‘You know, I feel bad charging anybody! I let folks slide because it feels like an injustice that this is the only way in and out for many of these folks,’” Vargas said.

He said that the geographic isolation creates barriers to healthy food. The United States Department of Agriculture Food Access Research Atlas characterizes Bayview-Hunters Point as a low-income, low-access census tract. Areas like this one, with limited access to sources of healthy food, either by geography, income, or transportation, are called food deserts.

Compared with the rest of the city, hospitalization rates due to diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure are the higher in the Bayview than any other neighborhood, according to the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership. These specific conditions are all directly related to poor diet. Additionally, 18 percent of the Bayview’s residents live in poverty according to the San Francisco Planning Department Neighborhood Socio-Economic Profile, which also limits the ability to buy healthy food.
The Bridgeview Garden manages to rise above the statistics, and provide solutions to the issues that plague the Bayview. The garden hosts students from elementary school to medical school to learn about the importance of sustainability and healthy eating habits.

“It’s really good because we’re learning as we’re imparting information,” Joel said. He said he remembered when a 14-year-old boy visiting the garden on a field trip learned what Brussels sprouts looked like. “He saw them in the rows in Safeway, but never knew where they came from,” Joel said.

John Kosich(left) and Sherry Scott (right) pose for a photo near the Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden during the garden's volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)
John Kosich(left) and Sherry Scott (right) pose for a photo near the Brigdeview Teaching and Learning Garden during the garden’s volunteer day in the Bayview District in San Francisco, CA on Sunday February 14, 2016. (Aleah Fajardo/Xpress)

The garden also provides bags of fresh produce for elderly neighborhood residents on a fixed income. “Whatever we pick we want to make sure that we give them the first harvest,” Mary said. She said she didn’t think much of it at first, but the deliveries had a lasting impact on a neighbor who approached her and said the food helped her eat better and save money.

That interaction inspired Joel and Mary to keep up with the deliveries and double their crops. “We got to the point where we had so much zucchini that I would try to give it away to the neighbors and they would refuse it,” Mary said, laughing.

“This is something that brought pleasure to both my wife and I, because we were on the receiving end ourselves at one time,” Joel said, “And we’ve been blessed to have a fulfilling life, and I think that we as stewards of this garden, and also citizens of where we are, we need to share that with people less fortunate than we are.”

 

It’s All About Bridal Fashion Week- For Now.

Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera. 

If you are affluent in fashion, you know very well of Paris, New York, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, whether it be spring or fall; but are you well-versed with Bridal Week?

This writer, was not. I always knew that some designers, like, obviously, Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta, were known for their bridal gowns, but I never knew that there was a dedicated week for showing them off, like there is for the above mentioned fashion weeks. I guess when you are not a soon-to-be bride you are not too concerned with designer bridal gowns. However, after one look, I was hooked.

Bridal Fashion Week is much more than just bridal gowns, it’s a chance for designers to entirely change the scope of what traditional wedding gowns are “supposed” to look like, in each of their own particular ways.

Photo courtesy of Vera Wang.

Vera Wang, who has dressed Heidi Klum and Chelsea Clinton for their weddings, displayed quite an existential modern day collection. The line screamed for millennial attention, while simultaneously exuding millennial characteristics: dignified, yet daring.

Classic silhouettes, structured, and trimmed with lace, but sheer, with black accents; generally a big no-no for the big day, Wang decided to run with it, creating a new scope for the new modern bride, while still staying true to her previous bridal lines.

Photo courtesy of Oscar de la Renta.

Oscar de la Renta himself still can be seen in this season’s Bridal Spring 2016 line, even with his passing last October. Peter Copping, the new creative director for the brand, told Vogue that he wanted this line to be entirely focused on the bride… Ahem… who else?

“You have to remember: Most of these dresses are seen from behind,” Copping told Vogue. “That was something I really wanted to consider: to think how it would look when the bride is in front of everyone, and to make it as gorgeous as the front.”

Now that’s all sorted out, we can focus on the collection. Copping was able to retain the regal elegance that de la Renta set forward when he began his fashion house in 1965, that being, simple and elegant, while giving off the essence of individuality and exclusivity. For example, a cocktail gown, white, with lace trim and a high neckline, right after a feathered corset ballgown, this collection was an example of the smooth transition from de la Renta’s hands to Copping’s.

Photo courtesy of Marchesa.

Marchesa, who dressed fashionista Blake Lively for her wedding to Ryan Reynolds, is relatively new to the bridal world, only beginning in 2004. Known for their delicately embellished and sophisticated gowns, it is my belief that color was on the mind of Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman, the founders and creative directors for the brand.

It seems that an eggshell-ish creme color decorated their Bridal Spring 2016 collection, with no white in sight. The hue of the gowns did not misguide their tone, however. Marchesa kept with their mission: designing one-of-a-kind detail-oriented gowns to the brides who crave worldly couture, but this time, with a loss of white.

Bridal Week may be that second-leg layover from the spring fashion weeks, but it is just as worthy, if you give it a shot.

See more trends from Bridal Week Spring 2016 here.

 

Gators pledge support for discounted transit passes

A new campaign has surfaced to help support commuting students who attend SF State, the purpose of the campaign is to make transit accessible and affordable. SF State is known widely as a commuter campus, with only about 10 percent of its students living on campus.

With BART announcing a $.10 to $.15 cent increase next year and many SF State students taking Muni to campus, the “GatorPass” has gained support fast, currently having over 500+ pledges and being shared frequently across Twitter, even being re-tweeted by SF State’s President Leslie Wong. The GatorPass would be paid for by student fees and other funding.

Supporters of the campaign include San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner, BART Director Nicholas Josefowitz, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, SFSU President Les Wong, the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Many took to Twitter to show their support of the GatorPass:

Reactions to GatorPass on Twitter.

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Don’t worry – Fifty Shades will fade away

Xpress Logo 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey was released in theaters last week and people have gone ape shit over it. Over the three day weekend, Fifty Shades broke box offices records making $85.17 million being the fourth all-time best opening. Before the movie was released, people were still losing their minds over the sultry books that lined the shelves of bookstores.

What is funny though is before the author of Fifty Shades, E.L. James, came out with this series, she was writing Twilight fanfic in the privacy of her home, living in the fantasy of vampires and werewolves; just like the readers of Fifty Shades are doing today.

When the Twilight franchise blew up, I was right in the middle of it. Being in my late teens/early twenties, I was engrossed in the books and in love with the movies. The odd “Romeo and Juliet” style book of the forbidden love been a vampire and human was enough to send any fan girl off the edge. I even had the pleasure of meeting Robert Pattinson at Stonestown, yes, the one right by SF State, one evening and sat in the madness of thousands of fan girls awaiting the arrival of the Twilight star.

We all remember that time, too, back when Twilight was the shit. People would be wearing their “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” shirts, battling over who should win Bella’s affection. Hot Topic even went to the extreme by selling fake blood for people to drink – I promise you I am not lying about this – you know so all us vampires could still live.

Now, though, people will not admit to ever being in the Twilight crowd. Being closely associated to Twilight is a social death wish for any cool person. Even the actors of the movies hate themselves for letting the fade of Twilight brainwash them into thinking that the five part movie would be the greatest thing on the planet to make.

Coming full circle back to Fifty Shades, the same thing is happening. We are trapped in this pop-culture bubble where if one thing even remotely peeks the interest of people, it is suddenly a phenomenon. Today, there are people dying to be the next Ana, wishing they could stumble into Christian Grey’s office and be swept away in a dark, romantic fashion, knowing the secrets they keep are deep. Realistically though, by the time the second movie comes out people aren’t going to be as interested; then they will attempt the third movie, maybe even drag it out to a fourth to waste money and the souls of the actors, all to obtain money off of a dying franchise.

By the time the next Fifty Shades comes out, the next big thing will be developing, sweeping people into a crazy fan filled storm of “HOLY SHIT CAN THAT BE MY LIFE.” Personally, I have nothing against Fifty Shades or the franchise. If that is your thing, then you rock it to your fullest content – I am not judging. But also remember that when that next big thing comes out, it’s just a fad and soon will also be swept under the rug making way for the next fandom.

 

How does the port strike actually affect us?

Port of Oakland. Photo by Mark Hogan/ Creative Commons
Port of Oakland. Photo by Mark Hogan/ Creative Commons

If you’ve been somewhat paying attention to the news, you know that the west coast ports, yes even the one in Oakland, are currently on strike and it doesn’t seem likely that it will end anytime soon. Currently, the ports are congested with backed up vessels waiting to be unloaded and taken to their final destination, but for nine long months, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 workers, and the Pacific Maritime Association have been at war over contract disputes. If an agreement is not reached, the ports could completely shut down.

So why should you care about this? Really, why does it matter to you if a bunch of people are on strike? Well this strike is actually pretty significant and can begin to affect us all in a major way. The ports are where we receive our goods, like spices, clothes, and boxes that store your food, basically anything that is not manufactured in the United States is coming by boat to these various west coast ports and then put onto our shelves. You know that the goods we receive from Asia, like video games, have been affected by 70 percent – yep, this strike is making those precious video games hard to obtain.

With the ports on strike, we could be looking at prices of our favorite things skyrocketing. With not being able to receive goods from other countries, that means we are in limited supply here. So places will either just run out of what they are selling, or have to up-charge what they have to make a profit since they have to buy the goods from a United States based company at a much higher cost then an oversees manufacturer.

Here is a list of just some things that aren’t manufactured here in the United States:

  • Converse sneakers
  • Levi jeans
  • Televisions
  • Barbies
  • iPads
  • Spices
  • Video Games
  • American Flags (that’s right – we don’t even make our own flag)

No one knows when the strike will end and if it will end in a good way. All I know is I won’t take my video games and salt for granted anymore. You never know how precious something is until you can’t get it off a truck or boat sitting in the middle of the ocean. #soclosebutsofaraway

***UPDATE: As of 7p.m. Friday night it looks like the ports have reached a five year agreement. Hopefully, the ports will begin to open but who knows how long it will take for the back up trucks and vessels to unload.