A line of cars extends out to the highway as passengers patiently wait to swap their ticket stubs for the durable, multi-colored wrist band. Already there is a buzz in the air about how if you snip off the excess length of a few wrist bands, you can weave them together and falsify one.
Vehicles of all sorts file into the massive, open lawn area. Little Honda Civics, old VW vans and bugs, giant Econoline vans spewing exhaust, a brightly colored mini-bus, new pick-up trucks, the works-they all stack in one after the other. The people park with a car length or so in between each vessel, leaving room for a tent and a shade structure. Thunder clouds loom in the distance, offering the threat of rain, but no one seems to mind. The sun is out and excited faces begin to survey their surroundings. Strangers introduce themselves, they will be neighbors for the next three nights and there is nothing better than a good neighbor.
Beers are cracked open and tent poles begin to fly about, as camps are assembled. Music drifts through the spring air and in the blink of an eye the parking lot/campground is becoming a party. Girls run by skipping in tie-die dresses, little kids chase each other around barefooted, dogs are barking, a rooster is crowing, transient kids make their way up and down the aisles of cars selling mushrooms, acid, pot-brownies and other assorted narcotics; and respectable old-timers recline in their lawn chairs to watch the magic that is happening all around them. Camp sites turn into makeshift vendor booths; selling tie-die clothing, smoking accessories, food and a variety of other handmade crafts and goodies.
All these people; young, old, knowledgeable and naïve; they are all here to see three nights of music at the first ever Furthur Festival. Furthur is the current formation of the classic San Francisco band, The Grateful Dead. From May 28 through May 30, 2010, the iconic band took over Angel’s Camp in Calaveras County just a few hours east of the Bay Area to perform three nights of music.
Each night promised to be two full sets of assorted tunes and then a third set where they would be playing one of three classic albums: Working Man’s Dead, American Beauty and Terrapin Station.
The festival was a success. All three nights delivered incredible renditions of every song they played, many of which had not been played in a very long time. For old and new fans alike the three nights was just about as good as it can get when it comes to hearing Grateful Dead music.
Not many bands have the musical stamina or integrity to do three nights of five hour concerts, a quality that has set them apart from so many other bands through out their existence.
Furthur is only two original members of The Grateful Dead. On guitar and vocals there is Bob Weir accompanied by his long time musical companion Phil Lesh on bass and vocals. The two original members have toured for years since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, but they had done so with their individual solo bands.
In the spring of 2009 the two reunited along with original drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman and toured the U.S. as The Dead. For this tour, Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Government Mule took over lead vocals and guitar in place of Jerry Garcia. This tour reignited the spark between Weir and Lesh and they decided they wanted to get back together and breathe new life into the timeless music.
The result was Furthur. Further was the name of the magic bus that Ken Keesey and the Merry Pranksters tooled around the country in, in the early 1960s. They, along with the Grateful Dead became famous for hosting parties called Acid Tests or Trips Festivals; in which they would give out LSD to everyone and just watched to see what happened. The Grateful Dead were a mainstay for many of the events, including one at San Francisco State University on October 2, 1966.
Weir and Lesh wanted to assemble a team of musicians who they felt comfortable playing with. The band is known for their improvisational ways and they needed musicians who could hear what was happening and be able to react accordingly. There was also of course the issue of who is going to take over the part of Jerry Garcia.
John Kadlecik had been the lead singer and guitarist for Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band that has been playing entire replicas of Grateful Dead shows since 1997.
In an interview on Lehigh Valley Music on February 14, 2010 by John J. Moser; Bob Weir said, “We went through the various options and listened to a lot of guys, and John seemed like a good idea on a number of levels. First off, he knew most of the material. And so it would require a whole lot less of the back-breaking rehearsals that it takes to teach somebody a whole book. I don’t know if Phil or I have that in us to do again. But, fortunately, there are a number of players who know our stuff, know our book. And of those folks, given that we play with a number of them, it was time to check out a couple more. And we started playing with John and it just, it clicked – the guy’s great.”
To back the three front men, they employed Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and Jay Lane on drums; both of whom had played with Bob Weir in his band Rat Dog. Too remain in the tradition of two drummers they harnessed the ability of Joe Russo from Benevento/Russo Duo. To give the band the vocal depth they needed, back up vocalists Zoe Ellis and Sunshine Becker also joined the band.
The new group premiered to sold-out audiences for two nights in September 2009 at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. After these shows the band hit the road for a small U.S. tour followed by a two night run at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in down town San Francisco for New Years Eve.
After the New Years run, they treated Marin County fans to a small show at 19 Broadway night club/bar in Fairfax, which was then followed up by a nearly two-week run of live “rehearsal sessions” at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. The town was turned up-side down as Dead Heads descended upon the small town, with or without tickets to the intimate live shows.
On March 12, 2010 Furthur celebrated Phil Lesh’s seventieth birthday by holding a concert at Bill Graham Auditorium. Lesh thanked the audience and as he does at all shows he publicly remembered the young man who donated his liver to Phil Lesh in 1998, Lesh then encouraged everyone to become an Organ Donor. This remembrance was particularly heart felt because it was his birthday.
Shortly after, Lesh announced to fans through his website, philzone, that Jay Lane would be leaving the band to rejoin one of his original bands, another Bay Area great, Primus. The Furthur Festival in May would be the band’s first show with just one drummer.
As of now Furthur is still on the road. Selling out shows across the country, choosing to do multiple nights at some-what smaller venues and keep ticket prices reasonable rather than giant arena shows; they keep fans delighted and guessing each night as to what songs they will play and where they will take the music next. Their New Years Eve shows at the Bill Graham are most likely going to remain a tradition from here on out; a two night extravaganza of floats, midnight antics and delirious, mind-altering crowd mayhem.
There is more than one pan on the stove though. Weir has been working with the Marin Symphony to create a musical experience being billed as “First Fusion”. Weir and accompanying musicians will join the Marin Symphony to create unique renditions of selected Grateful Dead songs. A project that has been in the works for over a year, it will debut on May 7 at the Marin Music Auditorium in San Rafael. Proceeds will go to benefit the Marin Symphony and other Marin music programs.
As if Marin wasn’t getting enough love from the band, Lesh is close to purchasing a building in Fairfax to turn into a music venue. He plans to name it Terrapin Landing, and let it stand as a sort of home for Grateful Dead music and a place for him and his friends to host intimate concerts. The plans are still in the preliminary stages, and as of yet the purchase has not been made, but with recent press coverage the reality of it seems to be materializing.
Furthur will be back to the Bay Area for two nights at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on June 3 and 4. The boys have not been there since their 2009 tour as The Dead. The venue was built by legendary Bay Area concert promoter Bill Graham in 1985 to 1986. The shape of the venue is meant to resemble the Grateful Dead’s “Steal Your Face” logo.
Since the beginning the music of Grateful Dead has been about the fans and about community. The phenomenon of their followers, the open taping policy and sharing of the concerts and the relentless touring is only matched by a few other bands; and even with those bands, it is partly done in appreciation or in absence of the Grateful Dead.
But they’re back. Old fans are rejoicing to hear the music being played so well and new fans are happy to be given a chance to witness and experience one of America’s most interesting cult followings. They are a band that has transcended time and demographic and rests at the core of the jam band/festival scene which is very much alive from coast to coast to this day. Their music and their following started it all, and now in 2011, they are once again astounding crowds and creating followers of young and old.
There is indeed a plan. That massive, blue-tinted, glass curtain that jets out from the seemingly never ending library construction is part of a larger vision. Once completed, the glass wall will lead the eye on an unobstructed visual trip, from 19th Avenue straight down the walk-way, past the future site of a new Fine Arts Building and ending with a view of the Humanities Building. It is one building block in the puzzle that is the Campus Master Plan.
The San Francisco State campus has been without an official, centrally located library since the summer of 2008. The original completion date was set for the fall of 2011, but that date has since been moved back to the spring of 2012.
For many students, the long walk across campus to the Annex building between Lake Merced Drive and Winston Boulevard is just a way of life while attending SF State.
Alyssa Hagood is in her junior year as a business major. Most of her classes are in the business building, which would just be a stone’s throw from the library, if it were completed. But rather, she makes the ten minute walk at least once a week to the Annex where she can meet with other students to study.
“I never saw the old library and I don’t think I will be around to see the new one,” says Hagood. “I don’t mind the walk that much, but it’d be nice if I could just stop in really quick for a quiet place to study or meet with a group without having to go from one extreme end of the campus to the other.”
Once you are there, the Annex is a pretty decent place to study or use a computer. But during mid-terms and finals, the large white room which has become known as “Club Annex” to some students due to its 24-hour accessibility gets crowded and space becomes scarce.
[pullquote author=”Deborah Masters, Head librarian”]”I am really going to enjoy that moment,” says Masters. “Of walking into that building and seeing the students using it. I just want to see them everywhere. For students to have that kind of environment, with the natural light coming in from that glass façade is just so great. They are just going to gravitate to it.”[/pullquote]
Computers fill up, comfy chairs are taken and study tables are packed, but what every student can be sure of is that when the new library opens up, this will no longer be a problem.
It would appear that no one is more excited about the unveiling of the completed library than head university librarian, Deborah Masters.
Masters has been at SF State for sixteen years and for the last ten years she has been hands on in the process of getting the school a new library. Now, with just over a year toward the projected completion (a date that is likely subject to more delay), Masters is finally seeing the state of the art library materialize into its final form.
“I am just so going to enjoy that moment,” says Masters. “Of walking into that building and seeing the students using it. I just want to see them everywhere. For students to have that kind of environment, with the natural light coming in from that glass façade is just so great. They are just going to gravitate to it.”
Aside from enjoying the beautiful aesthetic of the architecture and the flood of natural light, students have a modern and very well equipped mega-library to look forward to.
On the ground floor of the six-story library, students will enter into a state of the art facility which will be known as the study commons. On this floor alone, students will have access to sixty desktop computers as well as forty places to use a laptop computer. Students can bring their own laptop and plug it in or borrow one of the hundred loaner laptops which will be available. Those same laptops are currently available for checkout in HSS 127.
There will be media viewing and listening rooms with a checkout center located next to them. Any CDs or movies you may have seen in class will be available for viewing on your own time in a private room. Twelve study rooms will give students a private place to meet, equipped with white boards, media capabilities and enough seating space to hold six to twelve students depending on the room. This floor and all of its resources will be available to students 24 hours a day and can hold up to about three hundred people.
The next floor up will be an almost identical space, with computers, study rooms and media capabilities, unlike its ground floor companion with a small café serving ready-made foods, pastries, coffee and all the little things that fuel good studying.
“Occupancy data shows that you don’t need both floors to be open twenty-four hours a day,” says Masters. “But come finals and midterms, you do. There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them (students) in there. We love them.”
As you ascend another level in the building, you come upon the open stacks and book collection. Rows of traditional library books will be available to browse and among the book collections, there will be more study spaces. Desks and chairs will be located along the perimeter and amidst the rows; outlets will provide power for laptops. In addition to the open book collection, this floor will house the multimedia production center where students can use editing software.
A selection of high demand and more recent books will be available in the open stacks for browsing, but around three-quarters of the school’s books will remain in the automatic retrieval system. Many students have become used to this process since the library first went into construction. A student may request a book through the reference desk or online. Those books are located in stacks where a mechanical arm retrieves them and delivers them to librarians or staff.
Currently, there are about a dozen students and other staff members that work to make those delivered books available to students. Despite what could be considered a lack of students using actual books for resources, Masters assures they are very busy with the automated retrieval system. The system saves space and has been working well. The stacks for the automated retrieval system will remain intact, in the west wing of the first and second floors.
The third floor will have even more accesable stacks of books and another large open study area with laptop capabilities, reference desks, maps, charts and other resources for students. The fourth floor will offer special collections, a children’s book section and more study space with outlets and desks. Masters feels that the higher you go in the building, the quieter it will get.
The fifth and sixth floors will be occupied by the Sutro Library. The Sutro Library is a branch of the California State Library. What started out as a significant collection of a couple hundred thousand volumes of rare books originally collected by Adolph Sutro has grown into a significant genealogical collection, according to Masters. Once the geneological collection is located in the campus library it will gain a lot of attention and will be a valuable asset, especially for graduate students who need primary sources for their research.
The construction of the library has been a two part process which in the end will have added 70,042 gross square-feet to the existing library. The first part of the process was the removal of old library resources, demolition of the Franciscan Building and the construction of the new wing. The exterior work is almost complete and the final phase is underway. Crews are moving onto seismically retrofitting the building and moving onto the interior work. Heating, plumbing, electricity, drywall, sprinklers and other finishing work will soon be uninterrupted by weather once the exterior is sealed.
Simon Lam is the Associate Vice President of Capital Planning, Design and Construction (CPDC) and his job is to oversee construction. He feels that the work running behind schedule is an inevitability of such a large construction project. According to Lam, in a project this large there will always be unforeseen complications that arise along the way.
CPDC is in charge of the campus master plan, which will be keeping the campus in a state of construction for the next several years.
According the SFSU Master Plan Website, the purpose of the phyiscial master plan is to create a functional setting that will meet the strategic goals of the University and support the academic mission. by and large, the plan aims to accomodate an increased enrollment from twenty thousand students to twenty -five thousand students by the year 2020. all new development is to occur withion existing campus boundaries.
While crews are in the final stretch, the library is not scheduled to be open for another year. Now it is time to begin selecting furniture and deciding what vendors will operate inside the building.
For a week in April, test furniture was displayed in Annex 1. A variety of chairs were set up near the computers and a feedback box was left to take suggestions and comments from students. Masters’ said they received a lot of feedback from students and will consider that when choosing chairs for lounging, computers and study tables.
To the untrained or inattentive observer, the campus of San Francisco State University is just that: a campus. The concrete and stucco of the Cold War era buildings are offset by the almost artificial brilliance of the lawns, reflected by the tinted glass that dominates the school’s new structures.
But in this dull monotony of a run-of-the-mill public university campus hides a whole variety of things worth discovering. SF State was, after all, founded in 1899, and over the last 112 years, students, teachers, staff, and artists have all done their part to make the campus into something more than the sum of its parts.
What is it?
Sound Web is made up of 10 different “audible features.” Each of these features is, in fact, a small, brushed aluminum enclosure with a solar panel and a speaker, standing no more than two feet off the ground. Each enclosure plays one of four different sounds: Wind-Chime, Percussion and Rhythm, Bird-Call, or Cricket Chips. Scattered around campus, the sounds are meant to provide a guide to the visually impaired. The components are designed by SF State’s engineering students and professors, and are built as simply as possible—a good thing, since they have been repeatedly vandalized.
Why you should care:
A cool idea, and the sounds definitely add something to the ambiance of the campus, but trying to navigate around campus using only the different sounds? Way too hard, at least for this not-blind reporter.
What is it?
The dilapidated, rusty features that make this metal sculpture so uncomfortable to look at also make it hard to miss. This eerie humanoid metal sculpture by artist R. Stone is located just behind the fine arts building across the road from the Humanities building. Several other works in the same style compliment the weathered metal art piece.
Why you should care:
These sculptures may make you feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make them any less works of art. The fabrication and patience required to create a form out of scrap metal and chain are impressive alone, even if the end result might not be for everybody.
Roots of Freedom/Raices De Libertad
What is it?
This mural is the first of three stunning works of Chicano-inspired art that grace the lowest level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The first mural visible after coming down the stairs, the Roots of Freedom was completed in 1990, helped by sponsorship by the League of Chicano Artists/Taller de Arte Publico.
Why you should care:
Not the most stunning of the three works of art in the Cesar Chavez basement, but it depicts the most powerful political message, complete with activists being kept behind bars.
Cross of Quetzalcoatl
What is it?
The second of the three large works in the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the Cross of Quetzalcoatl was completed in 1991 by the Precita Eyes muralists, which describe themselves as “an inner city, community-based mural arts organization.” While the organization is based in the Mission, they have collaborated on projects not only around San Francisco, but as far away as Brazil, Russia, and Germany as well.
Why you should care:
Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec deity believed to be a half-bird, half-snake deity, although his name was also taken on by many Aztec leaders, making it difficult to separate the deity’s actions from those of the rulers. As far as the piece of art goes, it has a very traditional look to it, which works nicely to balance out the constant noises of the arcade games that dominate the room.
What is it?
This enormous mural dominates the bottom floor of the Student Center. Juana Alicia, who describes herself as “a muralist, print-maker, educator, activist, and painter who loves to draw,” painted the mural in 1990.
Why you should care:
With its bright colors, multiple layers and a hint of graffiti-style, Rise is easily the most eye-grabbing of the three big murals on Cesar Chavez Student Center’s recreation level. This painting manages to keep enough of the traditional Chicano feel to match the other two works, but is also more contemporary, thanks to its use of neon colors and a more modern style.
Universal Design Seating Studio
What is it?
This is actually a threesome of innovative approaches to seating, located on the patio of the Fine Arts building. A joint project between SF State design and industry and engineering students, Facilities Management and the Disability Programs and Research Center, the project tries to create novel ways to solve the issue of seating. MyTable is an adjustable-height table that features a wheel in the middle to rotate the whole assembly, and surrounding benches for seating. The now-defucnt MySolarTable is much the same, but used a solar panel to power an electrical lift to adjust the table height. Finally, The OpenBench is a series of recycled-plastic benches around a planter. The benches slide back and forth and tracks to create a number of different seating arrangements.
Why you should care:
All of the Universal Design Seating Studio is showing its age, but we were most bummed out that MySolarTable seems to be completely inoperable, and to make matters worse, it is stuck at a less-than-comfortable height. It would be great to see someone get the rig working again. Our favorite, and the most practical, is the OpenBench, which still works flawlessly and is very adaptable.
What are they?
While sitting at the Universal Design Seating Studio, be sure to check out these modern art metal sculptures by Manuel Martin on the same Fine Arts building patio. Also, be sure to check out the wooden benches carved out of enormous logs while you are up there.
Why you should care:
The rusty surface of these steel structures falls somewhere in between “cool, old and weathered” and simply “derelict.” It may seem odd to have large hunks of steel on an second-story patio, but it is the fine arts building.
Rigoberta Menchu Hall
What is it?
This makes our list because it is the coolest place to chill out or study at SF State. Located on the Terrace level (the top floor) of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the multi-level lounge/study area feels more like a home than a school, complete with couches and large areas that seem to be meant for fires. The hall’s namesake, Mecnhu won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work to publicize the plight of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala during that nation’s civil war from 1960 to 1996.
Why you should care:
A great place to study, but it fills up fast. Try checking the topmost levels for free seating, but the best bet is to get there early, or go during off-hours when campus is less busy.
SF State Observatory
What is it?
Located at the top of Thornton Hall, the Observatory is open to the public Monday and Wednesday evenings from 8 to 9:30 p.m., weather permitting. The observatory promises views of the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, and the Andromeda Galaxy, just to name a few.
Seriously awesome. If you even have a remote interest in stars, the sky, or astronomy, check it out.
What is it?
On the path leading to the Humanities building across from Cafe Rosso, Kevin La created this metal art enclosure for an electric utility box as a student work. Different size metal circles are cut out and welded together on a metal frame, creating a beautiful floral pattern that encapsulates and hides the utilitarian box that lurks beneath.
Why you should care:
The whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts in this case. It’s amazing what even a little, simple art can do to spruce up something like an ugly utility box. The world needs more art like this.
The Garden of Remembrance
What is it?
Located on the path between Burk Hall and Cesar Chavez, the Garden of Remembrance was created to honor the 19 Japanese American SF State students who were forced into internment camps during World War II. The 2001 build was led by Japanese American artist and internment camp victim Ruth Asawa, and features a waterfall and ten large boulders from each of the ten internment camps.
Why you should care:
A surprisingly touching story behind what many probably just see as a fountain and rock garden in a courtyard. But however you choose to see it, the flowing water has a nice calming effect to help balance out the madness of college.
Ode to Hank
What is it?
These five aluminum totems that lean against the Cesar Chavez Student Center across from the gym are, in fact, a tribute by artist Terry Marashlian to the original installation of five wooden totem poles by artist Hank De Rlcco. “I meant them to be way more architectural,” Marashlian told [X]press in 2008.
Why you should care:
A brilliantly modern take on the idea of a totem pole. Aluminum construction and high tech finishing ala yachting and automotive design bring the icons of the Pacific Northwest into the 21st century.
Buckeye and Benches
What is it?
Outside the gym, this enormous, modern-art metal sculpture by William Wareham would be impressive enough standing on its own, but it is also complimented by three matching benches that are scattered around the area.
Why you should care:
The sculpture we can take or leave, but we love the benches. Whenever art meets practicality, everybody wins. The bright reds, oranges and yellows that color this piece make it stand out from the bright green lawn and the grayed gym building that make up the background.
Making my way out of the M line, as I get off at the Powell station, I pause before heading towards the stairs and see a drawing. Its captivity perfectly colors a memory that I have lived too often. The piece hangs on the BART wall, next to other advertisements which offer a range of subliminal messages from food delivery services to apparel promotion. The drawing, which seems to be done with color pencil, casually displays three teenage girl friends sitting down, their backs hunched, laughing as they patiently wait for a show. They are all wearing black punk band t-shirts; a Misfits and a Ramones shirt I think I still have tucked somewhere deep down in my dresser. It is obvious their black pants are hand-sewn, as Shizu Saldamando made sure to include every crooked detail on the lining. For artist Saldamando, this drawing recounts her adventures of taking BART into Berkeley to shop for records and attend punk shows. She captures a scene most teenage generations can relate to. Whether it is the bright pink hair or the fact that they are all wearing black from head to toe, it is an image any youngster has walked by or remembers being in. Saldamando, along with four other Chicana artists, evolve from depicting the old as they create colorful art promoting the Latina culture of today.
ChicaChic is a new wave of artwork that expands beyond expressing personal identity, reflecting community issues, sending messages of culture, lifestyle and beliefs. Artist Angelica Muro tackles social, cultural, and political problems by using irony and class identity. Muro’s piece, Agricultural Workers in Gucci, is an archival pigment print where a three-piece drawing seems like a simple illustration of workers in the fields, eating lunch. Taking a closer look, there is one female worker wearing designer Gucci heels and matching purse. The workers are black and white, contrasting the majestic surroundings. Muro illustrates detailed flowers full of color, which gives the piece a sense of serenity, diverging the real issue of the drastic conditions workers go through. Muro’s way of displaying issues like this one leaves the observer with questions on how we define certain social economic statuses, and why analyzing a drawing in which a field worker wearing Gucci seems almost wrong.
Another significant piece being displayed around BART stations is a painting of a woman, who is using her knees and hands to lean closer to what seems to be a beach, allowing the ocean waves to wash her hair. The underlying message that artist, Ana Teresa Fernandez conveys is placing herself in a black cocktail dress, her head down as her long dark hair washes the waves at the southern border, where San Diego meets Tijuana. Fernandez feels her piece, Acuario, speaks to the way the exhibition is instilled within a transitory space. “I chose the piece that was specifically at the border, which talks about a place one has to stop at to go to a completely different country, and unlike the BART, it’s a place that you either get rejected to go or not,” says Fernandez.
The posters on BART are an extension of the complete exhibition being displayed at The California Institution of Integral Studies. The paintings can be located at 1453 Mission Street, and the CIIS building is on 695 Minna Street.
Exhibiting this new wave of Chicana art is an example of the many elements Latina artwork is reaching. Incorporating older techniques like embroidery with creating contemporary images of current issues gives the art a fresh, innovative look. While a range of pieces still touch on traditions and culture, they explore new tactics that indirectly deliver deep community concerns, leaving the observer with much more to ponder.
She is sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, leaning towards her long mirror as she carefully applies a thick coat of eyeliner. Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” is playing in her cave-like room. She grabs her black jacket, purse, and heads off for a night out with friends. She pulls her scooter from the garage to the driveway and when she turns it on, she realizes the meter is not working. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kaela PerLee says to herself. Annoyed, she makes her last attempt knowing in the back of her head that it is not going to work. In San Francisco, this would not come as a hastle as PerLee can easily catch public transportation almost anywhere within a short walking distance. Living in Daly City however, is another story. “Walking from my house to Daly City BART takes 20 minutes, and though the actual BART ride is not long, I have to make sure I head to a BART station before midnight to catch the last train out of San Francisco.” PerLee knows it is more of a drag going out at night, so she constantly reminds herself when to say goodbye and start making the long trip home.
PerLee moved from Santa Rosa to attend SF State University almost two years ago, and though it has been a new experience living away from home, she sometimes feels shortchanged not being able to live in actual San Francisco. With rent so high, many SF State students struggle to find an affordable place to live in the city. Whether it is Daly City or the East Bay, having to commute longer distances can get in the way of enjoying the active, lively environment of San Francisco. Some college students transfer or apply to SF State to experience the diverse lifestyle the city offers, along with its campus. Others, for certain reasons, reside outside the city. So are students really missing out on the experience of living in the city? Or is cheaper rent worth the longer walks, commutes and extra efforts?
[pullquote author=”Heather Boyer, SF State student living in Fremont”]”I hate the prices of everything, like rent, parking, parking tickets and taxes. I dislike traffic and the busyness of life [in San Francisco] sometimes, but it depends on where you live”[/pullquote]
Matthew Becerra remembers those tedious mornings when he lived in Daly City. He recalls having to walk up 87th Street, then down the long stretch of Junipero Serra where he walked over the same bridge, passed the same gas station, then the abandoned buildings and animal hospital that never seemed to be open. As the Century Theater sign got bigger, Becerra felt the long walk coming to an end as he reached BART, and left the dreadful fog of Daly City behind. “Because I lived on the border of Daly City and San Francisco, there was no MUNI nearby for me and so I had to walk to the BART station everyday to take the free shuttle,” says the 22-year-old SF State student. Now that he lives in Park Merced, it takes him a swift two minutes rather than two hours to get to class. “The convenience makes my life a lot easier in so many ways as I can plan my schedule and daily routine without worrying about how to get back to Daly City, seeing as how their public transportation seem to stop running around 8p.m.”
On the other hand, art education major, Heather Boyer, can handle the extra hours of commuting to SF State from Fremont all in effort of staying closer to family and friends. Like Bacerra, Boyer’s mornings start about three hours before class. She takes an hour to get ready, grabs a quick breakfast, then walks to Fremont BART, which takes around 15 to 20 minutes. It takes a little over an hour until Boyer makes it to Daly City BART where she catches the shuttle; her final commute to State. When Boyer plans to hang out in the city, she finds ways to save money and time by staying at a friends house and driving instead of relying on public transportation. Living outside of San Francisco doesn’t stop Boyer from enjoying the city living perks, but she does however, prefer Fremont’s weather and economic living. “I hate the prices of everything, like rent, parking, parking tickets and taxes. I dislike traffic and the busyness of life [in San Francisco] sometimes, but it depends on where you live,” says Boyer.
While people choose to make a home outside the city in hopes of saving some money, the cost of public transportation can still add up. Taking BART one way from any city outside of San Francisco to Powell Street is no less than $2.95, compared to the $1.75 spent commuting within San Francisco. MUNI has bus lines crossing any area within the city and offers a transfer that is valid for two hours for $2. As for San Mateo’s public transportation, the SamTrans runs only every half hour between certain times, depending on the day, and charges $2 without a transfer.
Michelle Dayrit a Fremont resident and newly transfer student spends $50 commuting from Fremont to San Francisco then to Berkeley (where she works) twice a week. But like Boyer, despite the traveling woes, Dayrit still prefers the quiet living environment Fremont offers.
Attending a school like SF State usually means that a good percentage of those commuter students do not depend on their parents, and have economic statuses where they have to work in order to pay for their own education. “I don’t qualify for financial aid and both my parents passed away, leaving me with no help from family. Therefore, I have to work full time and take out loans in order to attend SF State,” says Dayrit, 26, a communications major. “But I’m okay with it. They never said it would be easy, but they did say it would be worth it.” Having an ill father, Boyer also felt it was important to stay home to be there for her father, and help out with household expenses. When her father passed away, Boyer’s priority was to stay close to her family. Born and raised in the East Bay, Boyer does not feel the need to move to San Francisco as most of her friends and family live in Fremont while she can still commute to the city for school or to hang out.
In Becerra’s case, moving to San Francisco gave him a better opportunity to find a job, which compensates him having to spend more money. One of the greatest temptations of living in San Francisco, Becerra describes, is its vast variety of delicious local restaurants and bars conveniently located everywhere in the city. Which makes it easier for students like him to spend more money on dining out rather than taking the time to actually cook something. And even if cooking is an option, grocery shopping in the city is not cheap.
Commuting from the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge is mechanical engineering major, Jason Mehrens. Everyday, he spends about an hour in his car battling traffic, from Mill Valley in Marin County to SF State. For Mehrens, the disadvantage of living away from San Francisco is having to commute all the time. Whether it’s a school function or personal leisure in the city, driving is the easiest option. Mehrens lives with his parents to save money and has a tuition waiver through the Veterans Affairs office. Even with some financial assistance from the government, he still has to take out loans and work some hours in order to cover college costs, which leaves him with very little free time to spare. Having spent one year at Chico State then three years living in Santa Barbara working on his Associates Degree, Mehrens feels like he has already experienced college living. “I can’t make up my mind if I want to live in the city because I work in Marin,” says Mehrens. “If I worked in the city, then I would probably make the move, but I don’t like the feel of living in close proximity to thousands and thousands of people stacked on top of one another.” It is a hard trade given the miles of parks and rich forests Marin houses, or the serene atmosphere the county has to offer, as hours can go by without having to hear the loud noises of traffic and busy city people. For Bacerra, moving closer to campus has encouraged him to become active in campus life. He is trying to join the History Students Association and now finds himself having more time to attend sporting events since his commute time is cut significantly. But for others, like Dayrit and Mehrens, getting away from the city’s rowdiness is worth the extra miles and longer BART rides.
She makes her way home on the 9X, a Muni bus line of questionable sanitation, and trudges upstairs. First thing she does is open her MacBook Pro, simultaneously checks her three e-mail accounts and of course, Facebook, for any new messages or notifications. She thinks of a boy she used to date and immediately jumps to his Facebook page. She searches through his recent status updates for any incriminating evidence to reassure herself of the decision to stop seeing him. She looks through some of his posted pictures and ends up browsing through some of his friends. The weekend arrives and she is out and about at a bar. She ends up running into the boy and he introduces her to some of his friends. One happens to be someone she had found on Facebook. Josie Cabrera, 21, has found herself in an uncomfortable situation.
“It’s extremely awkward when something like this happens,” Cabrera says. “You’re standing there and get so anxious when they are talking to you. You have to try to make sure not to act like you know anything about them from Facebook otherwise they might think you’re kind of creepy.”
Not only is Facebook a popular method of keeping in touch, networking or virtually meeting someone, but there is also MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Bebo, Meetup and more. This past February, The Nielsen Company reported that social media use increased to 82 percent worldwide. According to a study from Anderson Analytics, about two-thirds of social networking users will only connect with people they actually know or have met in person. However, this doesn’t mean that their privacy is secure.
Some people, such as Mozelle Thompson, former Federal Trade Commissioner and now CEO of a firm that advises Facebook on such matters as privacy, believes that privacy is not a binary matter. In a 2009 interview with Melbourne periodical The Age, he said people need to reveal “a certain amount of personal information so others can find them…and so they can know that they can trust them.”
If a person has an overwhelming amount of “friends” or people they are connected to on one of these sites, it may or may not make someone question their validity. People may wonder: do they really know that many people? Or, why are they willing to be “friends” with just anyone? At the same time, it affects whether or not someone will think you’re worth knowing.
The year is 2008 and Cabrera is living in Irvine. She scopes Craigslist looking for rooms for rent in San Francisco. When she finds one that seems like a good fit she Googles his or her name and searches for their Facebook account hoping it isn’t on a private setting. Sometimes she lucks out and finds a public account. She looks through pictures and status updates to try to get a sense of personality.
“I used Facebook a lot to ‘check out’ potential roommates before I moved up here,” Cabrera says. “For example, if I see a girl with a lot of pictures of her at clubs and bars with a lot of people, I’m probably going to think she parties a lot. Or if I see someone that has frequent status updates then I’m going to assume that person likes to talk.”
Now it is 2009, Cabrera finds employment after graduation in her field of study. Shortly after being hired, she changes her privacy settings to make her profile even more inaccessible. She does not join her company network and does not even list it on her page. The only information the public can view is her current city of residence and her AIM screen name. She deletes her LinkedIn account; it was required by her college to have one during enrollment. Cabrera estimates that she only keeps in contact with under a quarter of the amount of friends she has on Facebook, which is currently at 340.
“I’m only friends with one person from work,” Cabrera says. “I’m a very private person already and I just didn’t want my personal life to be associated with my professional life.”
Since 2008, there have been articles published regarding the use of social media sites as part of the hiring process. CareerBuilder.com reported that one in five employers use this to screen candidates.
“Millions of people are leaving personal information, online, much of which is cached and remains available via search engines even after the author has removed the web page,” said Peter Cunningham, UK country manager for Viadeo, a professional social networking site similar to LinkedIn.
Social Media Sites in the Workplace
She stole from the people she babysat for, she stole a stranger’s purse at a bar and most recently she stole from work. These are status updates on the Facebook page of one of the internship applicants Eve Batey has reviewed. Batey, 38, is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal, an online newspaper. She recalls several other stories similar to this.
“In the era of Facebook, there’s no alter ego, no double identity, not unless you really work at that,” Batey says. “You can no longer expect that different aspects of your life won’t overlap, if you put it online. Remember, when you Google someone, their Facebook profile is usually on page one.”
Batey uses Facebook and Twitter sparingly compared to some people. Batey wakes up, goes to work and checks her Twitter account once. She only logs into Facebook if she has time to answer a message sent. When she gets a friend request, it is usually from an old high school friend. She enjoys looking at pictures in an attempt to feel like she’s aged better, but other than that she doesn’t use Facebook that often. After a long day at work, she will check her Twitter account once more before going to bed. On weekends, she checks Twitter more often to make sure she knows what’s going on online and she will occasionally “tweet” when the urge strikes her. Batey sees a personal status update with too much information from one of her virtual friends and is baffled.
[pullquote author=”Eve Batey, SF Appeal”]“You can no longer expect that different aspects of your life won’t overlap, if you put it online. Remember, when you Google someone, their Facebook profile is usually on page one.”[/pullquote]
“I started personal blogging in 1997 and I was always kind of stunned by people who put ‘it all’ out there, like, how will you get a job?” Batey says.
Young Lee, 29, and Ryan Kirkman, 30, know a thing or two about Facebook. They are part of RockYou!’s business development team. RockYou! is a Bay Area-based company that provides, publishes and develops social media network services and applications for sites like Facebook and MySpace. It is safe to say that the duo have an opinion on Facebook’s potential in regards to user-privacy.
“I’ve definitely checked out an applicant’s facebook profile before or after interviewing them,” says Kirkman, Creative Director of Brand. “Or even checked out a cute girl I met. Most of the time privacy settings really prevent me from seeing much, but sometimes its interesting to see what they have decided to make publicly available.”
Lee believes any related to deeply personal information or business information should be omitted from Facebook. If you are using Facebook or Twitter for a business purpose then it should be treated as a public forum, according to Lee.
This is where Xu has a moral and ethical dilemma with the policy settings. Xu is the type of guy to keep his private life and business life separate. He only caved into getting a Facebook because of work initially. However, if it was not required for work and enough friends sent him invites he would have created an account anyway.
Lee has similar sentiments about the situation. He too does not favor the current set-up for the default settings. He says they are too in-depth and not incredibly user-friendly. Anything that takes more than a few button clicks will lose the interest of many users, even if involves private information. Lee likens it to theft.
“Most people won’t start taking security measures until they’ve been burglarized, or heard of someone else being burglarized,” he says. “The consumer needs to take advantage of the various implications on the social networks. In the end, it really is up to Facebook to take the moral stance on controlling the psychology of users to how much personal information gets defaulted out to the public domain.”
On April 23, the The Conference Board, a non-profit business organization with global membership, held an event on Business Ethics & Compliance. Stephen Noughton, of the Pepsi Refresh Project, which is trying to gain attention of social media users, asked, “Does a potential candidate’s presence on social media [networks] deserve a place in the traditional background check?” This was not resolved at the conference according to Vault.com, a comprehensive Internet resource for companies and job-seekers alike.
Charles Becker, 22, a recent graduate knows what to be leery of when it comes to the job market and Facebook. He has quite a few web sites linked up with his profile page, but they all go to sites that relate to his field of work. He only has a few pictures accessible to the public and his contact e-mail along with some favorite quotes and books. None of which are the least bit distasteful to the average Facebook member.
“It’s regular practice for employers to check Facebook profiles before offering interviews or even a job,” Becker says. “As with anything else, your profile reflects you, your beliefs and your ambitions. It’s foolish to allow uncensored or incriminating entries to tarnish your page, which is your branding in our tech-driven world. I think some people are a little slower to understand the importance of image. They may feel that with enough experience, it shouldn’t matter what you do in your spare time–and it doesn’t. But, the world doesn’t need to know, especially if it involves smoking an illegal substance when you called in sick.”
Branding Yourself on Social Media Sites
Branding yourself, so to speak, has become quite necessary to some. There is even a web site called AllFacebook.com that has an article titled “10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know” by Nick O’Neill that is a must-read if you want to keep or get a job according to Brand-Yourself blogger, Pete Kistler.
Batey, who may not be an avid Facebook and Twitter user, suspects she interacts with Google Reader, a feed aggregator, in the way that lot of people use Facebook. She shares a lot, follows a lot of people and enjoys the engaging conversations that arise from some of the comments made. However, in order to enjoy participating in these conversations more candidly, she keeps her Reader private.
“I’m already on Reader tracking the news and what everyone else is writing about all day, so it’s both useful and nice to have that social networking element to it. But even then, I am aware of my brand and who I am. I’m not going to share an item from a small personal blog and posting ‘What a [insert insult here]!’ even if I was thinking that as I read it. You never know how that might get passed on.”
Batey is pro-honesty and openness online, but believes that everyone, not just media folks, need to think of themselves as brands.
“One of my closet friends is a sex writer,” Batey says. “She tweets or uploads things to Flickr that would keep her application to the convent denied, but getting to the nunnery is not part of her brand.”
In January, Katie Stansberry, an instructor in social media at the University of Oregon posted an article on the ISTE Connects web site about a new approach she took to convey to students the importance of protecting their online reputation.
“When I announced that instead of a typical get-to-know-you activity, I was going to show them what a future employer might find if they were checking them out as part of a hiring decision there were some nervous murmurs,” Stansberry wrote. “However, as we went through the slides and discussed each student’s personal brand there were lots of good-natured laughs and some rueful grins. Several students learned that photos and comments they had thought were private were actually accessible to the public.”
In the comments below her post, one of Stansberry’s students during this exercise wrote, “Katie did introduce an interesting point to me though. Why is my online presence so private? Because I am going into a field that works very closely with social media, I need to be able to show that I am involved with it.”
But again, concern should not be limited to undergraduates or young adults interested or involved in the media rather all should be aware.
“I love Vegas!” reads the status of a young woman.
Meinani Villareal, 25, made a recent trip to Sin City with a couple of friends. One of the friends posted about the trip and her aunt, who is highly religious, ended up seeing it and commented on it. The incident caused a lot tension in the family and her aunt was not amused to say the least.
Villareal is what some may call a Facebook junkie and she is only going on three years of having the account now. She says she uses Facebook “all day, every day” and even has notifications sent to her cell phone when she gets new messages or if someone comments on her profile. She enjoys updating her status frequently and posting pictures of trips like the one that caused some family drama for her friend. But, Villareal has been a bit more cautious with what she posts online since the trip.
“Although I post random pictures that not everyone should see, I do care how people will depict me,” Villareal says. “I don’t want them to create wild interpretations of what kind of person I am. Even if it is a crazy picture, or inappropriate picture, I am not necessarily a crazy person or an inappropriate person with bad morals.”
Therefore Villareal appreciates the Facebook privacy settings that can somewhat censor what some of the younger people in her network can see. “I do limit access to certain people like to anyone that probably wouldn’t be caught in a crazy picture or situation with me,” she says.
According to the list complied by Nick O’Neill for the AllFacebook.com article on privacy settings to know “Using Your Friends List” is the first mentioned. Nava Noori, 23, a recent SF State graduate, utilizes this feature because she says her family and friends have different perceptions of her. In order to keep their view of her the same, she feels the needs to limit what each group can see on her profile page.
Cesar Tapia, 23, an undergraduate at SF State thinks that users needs to have a clear understanding not to put any information that may come back to haunt you in five to 10 years. Private information or information that is not beneficiary to the user should not be posted or at least be aware that it is impossible to fully guard anything you post on a social media site in Tapia’s opinion.
“The fact that I haven’t run into any negative problems with these kind of sites are a result of me being careful with what I post,” Tapia says. “I’m always thinking about my parents reaction if they were to see it. I think that social media sites are not to be messed with and people should be careful with them.”
The Need for Facebook and Update Overload
If you have to watch out for what you post so much, some people may wonder why even have an account? What’s the need for Facebook? What makes so many people, 400 million active users according to the Facebook Press Room, intent on spending over 500 billion minutes per month on the site.
Fernando Novoa, 22, another SF State graduate believes that it is curiosity. “Although we hate the news feeds, the reality is that we are all interested in what other people are doing, and to some extent, we want people to be curious about what we do,” Novoa says. “We want to seem interesting to others.”
He says that whatever you post is a reflection of you in the same way your clothes, friends, habits and the activites you join are. “However, couple it with the concept that we live in an age of social media networks and you can start to see the depth to what a minor drunk night might do for your reputation,” he says.
Teenagers and young adults are not the only social media users. In fact, the largest age group of Facebook users is actually 35 and older. Less problems may arise with these users than younger users due to a variety of reasons.
[pullquote author=”Lee Young, former RockYou! employee”]“In the end, it really is up to Facebook to take the moral stance on controlling the psychology of users to how much personal information gets defaulted out to the public domain.”[/pullquote]
Xu says he rarely updates his Facebook page and most of his friends follow suit. “A lot of my friends are older and usually on post updates if they have a child, go on a trip or have pictures of a special event,” he says.
So, what about the younger crowd? A lot of younger people aged 17 and younger are still using sites like MySpace according a study conducted by Royal Pingdom, a blog dedicated web development. Pingdom monitors the performance of such sites.
In June 2009, The Neilsen Company published a report called “How Teens Use Media” and found that “social networks are a key source of information and advice in a critical developmental period: 57 [percent] of teen social networkers said they looked to their online social network for advice, making them [a third] more likely to do this than the typical social networker.”
Bryan Reyna, 16, a Bay Area high school junior, says he uses Facebook to talk to people in the same way he uses his text messaging. But, he also says he does not post anything personal or things that would upset his family. He believes a lot of his peers are either ignorant about the consequences of certain things getting leaked or that they just do not care.
A former classmate that attended a Catholic school in the South Bay posted comments related to smoking marijuana and his parents as well as school administration found out. He was expelled from the school. Reyna says it does not affect the student because he still post similar things on his Facebook page.
Another incident happened with a different student where an inappropriate YouTube video was posted with the student wearing the school jacket. The student was suspended. This is a strikingly similar to what can happen in the workforce. An employer can fire someone based off inappropriate postings on the Internet as long as it is not used to discriminate against the employee.
The amount of use for some teens seems a bit excessive. In December 2009, AOL News reported that “a poll conducted by Common Sense Media found that nearly a quarter of all teens who belong to Facebook check their page more than 10 times each day”.
Reyna who says that he checks his own Facebook account about three to four times daily speculates that people in his age group are attention seekers. “Guys and girls are needy,” Reyna says. “It’s rewarding if they post something revealing and a person compliments them or comments on it. It makes them want to keep doing it.”
Xu says people that update constantly crave attention. They need the world to hear their voice, which is a lot of people. But, he can understand why people post a lot and relates it to being in high school. “Everyone wanted to be special and unique…but your profile is not the confession room,” Xu says.
Cabrera has spent a little over an hour halfway browsing on Facebook and halfway folding laundry. She admits it can be distracting, especially if you’re trying to “get over” someone you dated. She is contemplating deactivating her account for a while like she had done before. Her longest deactivation period is three months. But, she admits that even when she deactivated hers, she would just log into her best friend’s account and see what people were posting.
“Anyway, I really have to clean up my room,” Cabrera says while clicking away at different people’s Facebook pages, her eyes in shock at the screen of what no doubt has an image or blurb about something someone posted.
If the glowing yellow walls could talk, they would echo every story uttered in broken tongues. The walls are silent today, but every first Friday of the month, the multitude of stories told over Hip Hop instrumentals along with the low hum of acoustic guitars breaks through those walls and out onto the streets, where poetry smells like the trailing aromas of hot tortillas and carne asada mixed with weed smoke.
For decades, a vibrant literary arts and open mic scene has flourished in San Francisco. From the beat poets at City Lights bookstore howling at the moon to the Chicano poets on 24th and Mission streets reclaiming history forgotten, the spirit of the open mic has never been more alive, especially in unknown enclaves of San Francisco, like the Excelsior District.
The Excelsior District is located barely beyond the city limits of the Mission District— one of San Francisco’s more popular and well-known neighborhoods. Southeast of the more affluent West Portal neighborhood, and southwest of Bayview Hunter’s Point. Graffitilike hieroglyphicsglare honestly at passerby, telling visceral stories of a neighborhood that is not usually recognized.
In Progress Open Mic, a social-justice centered open mic is created by community organizer and SF State alum Anthony Navarro. He attempts to change the perception of the neighborhood, rarely covered in the media unless the stories are about crime. Every first Friday of the month at Mama’s Art Café, between Leo Street and Russia Avenue, the unbounded creativity from Excelsior residents, particularly “at-risk” and immigrant youth, fill in the space where silence used to be.
He is sitting uncomfortably on the floor in the cramped children’s section of the bookstore. Against the backdrop of brightly colored and overpriced stuffed animals and disheveled books, he stands out in his modest brown ADIDAS zip up jacket and tan paperboy hat. “My parents were both immigrants so there was a generational disconnect,” Navarro says. “I grew up in a broken household and faced issues of domestic violence and criminal activity. My siblings and I learned how to survive in extreme abuse.”
Navarro’s own life reflects many of the youth he works with as the youth program coordinator for the Filipino Community Center (FCC) in the Excelsior District. The straight line on his lips turns into a slight smile as he reminisces about the Hip Hop community that shaped him.
“Hip Hop has always been around me and the culture has been present in my life for a long time,” Navarro says. He discusses his move from San Diego to San Francisco in 2005 and connecting with the Hip Hop community in the Bay Area and realized that many of the immigrant youth in San Francisco had little support and access to resources.
“Nobody was building with the youth,” he says. “I connected with the youth because I was determined to connect with them. I spent every day at the FCC getting to know them, even though I could not speak Tagalog. The language we would communicate in was Hip Hop.
Kristen Sajonas, 28, sits with her legs crossed on the old couch that once resembled the color gray as her rebel tongue recites the the history of the literary arts scene in the Bay Area that she was surrounded by. Her brown tousled hair and crooked septum ring do not distract the years of poetry history she has memorized by heart. She is one of the main organizers for the Asian and Pacific Islander Poetry Summit that occurs every two years in different parts of the U.S.
“I was always writing as a kid, but then I started to share my work and realized there were other people writing in high school,” Sajonas says. “Spoken word started becoming cool and I think it was greatly influenced by hip hop and the rejection of mainstream culture.”
According to Sajonas, the open mic and strong poetry community in the Bay Area has served as a transformative space for dialogue, healing, and reclaiming personal and collective histories.
“Poetry takes a lot of different forms, but the craft of writing is arguably the most important thing,” she adds. “The bottom line is that sharing is important. Just as long as [the writing] is communicated, that is powerful in itself.”
Every first Friday of the month, the small and colorful cafe becomes home to a diversity of young people’s stories whose topics range from ex-girlfriends to various every day survival stories about rape and sexual abuse.
“Every culture has some sort of storytelling nature. The point is to be able to harness our oral histories and apply them to the conditions in which we live,” Sajonas says. “To use and control your own voice is especially powerful for someone who has felt like they don’t matter.”
According to organizer for In Progress, literary arts and poetry, Ed Jr. Arimboanga, 23, open mic is an important for “at-risk” and immigrant youth because it provides a space that is free from rigidity and scrutiny.
“At In Progess, anybody of any background can grace the mic with whatever is on their mind and more importantly, the audience is always more likely to applaud, cheer, and embrace that person’s performance, no matter what it was about,” Arimboanga says.
His gray and white streaked slick back hair is stiff as he lectures enthusiastically in his class at SF State. His arms flail in excitement and his youthfulness is evident in wide eyes and sly smirk. Oscar Penaranda, 66, has been active in the literary arts scene in San Francisco and the Bay Area since the student strike at SF State occurred in the late 1960s.
Penaranda is an SF State alum who now teaches in the Ethnic Studies department. He has been published in several poetry anthologies like Field of Mirrors and Seasons by the Bay, and his own book of poetry entitled, Full Deck (Jokers Playing).
“Poetry and oral storytelling keeps a person’s self worth intact and gives you a voice to free and liberate yourself,” Penaranda says.
According to Sharim Hannegan, 21, an SF State alum and frequent participant in open mics, for a long time, poetry and the open mic have been part of a larger literacy movement. She also discusses the political ways poetry has been used in Arizona to resist the anti-immigrant bill known as SB 1070.
“Being able to write down your history is monumental,” she says. “Some of our histories are so rarely documented except in the tongues of our families. The poetry scene provides a space for people to reclaim their voice when other institutions don’t give them a space. Open mic spaces allows you the space to reclaim your humanity.”
He remembers the first time he met the now 19-year-old former Galileo High School student who suffered from being bipolar a mental health problem. After working with him day in and day out at the FCC even on the harder days when the former high school student wanted to fight him, Navarro understood the importance of pushing youth to their potential and providing them with a safe space. He recalls those harder days much easier now as he closes his eyes and smiles thinking about the 19-year-old who has become a regular participant at the In Progress Open Mic. “He raps off beat sometimes,” Navarro laughs, knowing very well what it feels like suffer as a young person who is lost and silenced, with no outlet to speak.
“Because we are so powerless economically, institutionally, and politically, to use and and control our voices in a way that serves us is amazing,” Sajonas says. “Being able to speak is a very basic but powerful act for young people who are scared of their own voice or think that what they have to say doesn’t matter.”
Every Friday afternoon the basement of the students’ center at SF State becomes a place of expression and peace for the Muslim Student Association. Rhythmic and song-like, the group recites the five daily prayers from the Quran, the religious text of Islam. They form four rows of men, all on three feet wide and twenty feet long strips of bright red rugs. Women make up the last few colorful rows draped in pale yellow, red and blue. Barefoot, the group recites in a series of prostration, where one goes from standing then bends over halfway to kneel upon the rug. They then bow their heads to the floor to praise, glorify and humble oneself in front of Allah (God). Their motions are careful and in unison, like a dance. The act of standing and kneeling is to clean the body, and release breath, which if held in can lead to health problems. It also helps focusing.
This congregational prayer is called the Jummah and is led by Danial Shahbaz, the president of the MSA at SF State. Today he is wearing a dark wool pea coat cleanly buttoned up with a black scarf elegantly wrapped around his neck. He has piercing, dark eyes and neatly trimmed facial hair. His dark framed glasses suggest a seriousness which is also conveyed in his posture. His smile is warm, and as welcoming as his laugh. “Out of all the groups on campus we are the only ones that have our own room and this room to pray in on Fridays,” Shahbaz says. He feels at home at SF State since his Muslim community has been recognized and accommodated by the university.
Spending time with the MSA is a great way to become educated on the reality of the Muslim culture while undoing the stereotypes that the American media has brainwashed consumers into believing. For one, Muslims respect women and recognizes them as equals. Shahbaz explains that the women stand behind the men in prayer not as a way to show dominance or exclusion, but out of respect and modesty. Shahbaz says, “We are here to pray and speak to God. Men can be very distracted by the female figure so we stand in front of the women out of respect.”
Dr. Dina Ibrahim, an Associate Professor in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts says the media paints Muslim women as submissive and domineered. “Because of the media, an American sees a Muslim woman wearing a hijab and thinks she is being forced to wear it out of shame when it is a choice.” Wearing a hijab, which looks like a scarf worn around the head, is a sign of maturity and respect towards religion and Allah. Alaa El- Saad from NPR.org says she wears a hijab to exercise her freedom to be Muslim and to be different. “To be honest, I also like to wear it to be different. I don’t usually like to do what everyone else is doing. I want to be an individual, not just part of the crowd,” El- Saad says.
The MSA is not all serious either, after prayer they hang out and play games, goof off. Shahbaz asks, “Yeah, we will play Trivial Pursuit later if you want to join us?” The MSA are open to newcomers and those interested in learning more about their community and the Muslim culture. Sam Hadwan, vice president of the MSA says, “Anyone can join us and feel welcome.”
On March 16, 17 and 18 the MSA hosted Islam awareness week. (MSA hosts one every semester) The events were held on campus in front of the Cesar Chavez building and on the grass area. It is an opportunity for SF State students to be educated on Islam and undo the damage the American media has done to public opinion of Muslims. Zishan Safdar, a member of MSA says, “We will be discussing the misconceptions about Islam and stereotypes about Islamic women.” Each day had a different topic of discussion. On Wednesday the 16th, the topic discussed was Islam awareness. On the 17th they talked the women in Islam, and on the Friday the 18th, they held a “Jummah in the sun” prayer session on the lawn in the quad. After the prayer, they held a free barbecue as a way to give back. “Charity is a big part of Muslim tradition, giving honoring god,” Shahbaz says.
Another campus group from the Middle Eastern community is the General Union of Palestinian Students. They have their own room located in the Cesar Chavez building, mezzanine level 100B. Aymen Abdel Halim is a graduate student at SF State and is a Palestinian. Halim says, “GUPS offers a fantastic opportunity for students to ask questions and learn more about Palestine, and also gives students the chance to take part in social justice causes regarding Palestine. The group is open to everyone and encourages people to come to their meetings.”
Palestinian students also have their own mural on the Cesar Chavez building, above the bookstore entrance. The mural, painted by Fayeq Oweis and Susan Greene, is a dedication to Edward Said, an Arab-American professor, writer and activist. According to Oweis, bordering the mural is a quote from Said’s famous book, Orientalism, in which he discusses the stereotypes associated with the word “Oriental”. The quote reads, “Humanism is the only, and I would go so far as saying, the final resistance we have against inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.” On the bottom of the Mural is the quote in traditional Arabic language and calligraphy. The mural was made to educate students on the Palestinian community on campus.
On Saturday March 12 the Arab Cultural and Community Center hosted an Arab Women Conference at the San Mateo Public Library. The conference highlighted Arab women in lecture, music, photos, poetry and artistic performance. Covering topics like Arab women’s health, political activism, artistic expression, relationships, gender roles and Arab women living in America. According to the ACCC, the conference illuminated, “diverse, powerful and non-conventional narratives of Arab women that have committed their life’s work to challenging injustice through various mediums and who have become inspirational to our community.”
The ACCC is a nonprofit organization that promotes Arab art and culture, addressing and enriching the Arab American Community. They provide social services and cross cultural events open to anyone.
Unlike the majority of America that stereotypes the Muslim and Arab community, SF State is a place of acceptance and expression. It is a campus that has been welcoming to many Muslims and those of Arab decent. Although they are a group long misunderstood outside campus walls, at SF State there are plenty of occasions to become educated on and interact with this vibrant growing community. The university has a strong and vivacious women professors who are of Middle Eastern descent that are available for students to learn from and reach out to. The Muslim and Arab community is represented on campus with murals, student groups and ethnic studies classes. But are students outside the community paying attention and are there any attempts being made to try and understand them?
Off campus is a different story, where negative and violent perceptions of the Middle East are projected by the American media that frame and skew reality for entertainment. Sadly, Fox News can not even properly identify Egypt on a map. In January the news outlet owned by media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, posted a map, used previously, depicting the Middle East showing Egypt where Iraq should be, between Syria and Iran.
The American media is shaping the way Americans negatively view the Middle East. “The majority of America sees Middle Eastern people as barbaric, uncivilized, inhuman, not-normal, terrorists who want to destroy America,” says Dr. Ibrahim. The American people continue to soak up these stereotypes and skewed perceptions to re- affirm their existing beliefs and stay within their comfort zones. “People soak up the stories on say, Fox news, to re-affirm the right wing ideology, they like debate and popular format,” says Dr. Ibrahim. The media makes no distinction between the different religions of the Middle East and the different ethnicity’s within the Muslim community. Dr. Ibrahim says, “The biggest misconception is that all Muslims are Middle Eastern, when they aren’t, for example, there are some Muslims who are from Vietnam or Jordan. And there are Middle Eastern people who are not Muslim. There are Arab Christians, Palestinian Christians, it is widely misunderstood.”
“Even with the mural and Palestinian groups on campus, I don’t necessarily feel understood as a Palestinian much of the time a SFSU, partly because I feel many of my fellow students aren’t familiar with Palestine,” says Halim. “For those that have heard of Palestine, it has generally been in some sort of negative context within the media.”
Halim recently worked on a chapter in a book for Dr. Ibrahim. “We asked Arab and Muslim youth about how they feel about portrayals of Arabs and Muslims on TV news,” says Halim. “Our study concluded that skewed media representations of Arabs and Muslims had an extremely negative effect on our participants. Such as being victims of hate crimes, vandalism and racism, to dropping out of school, and being discriminated against for their ethnicity and religion at the workplace or at school.”
During their work, Halim and Dr. Ibrahim heard from the family member of a girl from a San Francisco High School who dropped out due to constant harassment from her classmates. “A local high school girl from Yemen who wore a hijab to school was taunted and mocked at her school and couldn’t take it anymore so she moved back to Yemen,” says Dr. Ibrahim.
Despite the many adversities Arab and Muslim youth are experiencing, Dr. Ibrahim believes the Middles Eastern community in San Francisco and SF State are represented and understood. Dr. Ibrahim says, “SF State and San Francisco is a little different, here people are enlightened, and progressive.” Dr. Ibrahim has seen improvement in the campus media as well, “Recently in the campus newspaper, there has been some good coverage of the Middle Eastern community.”
The conflicting walls within the Middle East are changing and being broken down every day. The takeover of Egypt by the people and the struggle within Libya is sparking an evolution in the Middle East. Now is as great time to get educated about the Middle East and the people of Arab and Muslim descents. So start with SF State. Go to the GUPS’s and MSA’s events, get to know them, have a conversation and make friends. Take some classes in the Ethnic Studies Department. Or, explore classes within the segment three programs like Mediterranean, the Middle East, Multicultural Human Relations, and Islamic Societies and Cultures. Step out of the FOX news bubble and consume news from alternative sources, like NPR, Al Jazeera and other Internet sources.
By exploring outside the confines of safe and comfortable, the layers of ignorance and fear disappear. There is strength and peace felt around these groups that is remarkably rare, and can be experienced directly. Everyday people pass unknowingly under the Palestinian student’s mural above the bookstore entrance and walk above the basement of Cesar Chavez, where Muslims practice their Jammah prayer. By branching out, anyone can discover how this community is enlightening and educating at SF State.
It is Saturday night, and just like the week before you’re sitting in a bar, hoping to meet someone new or at least have a decent conversation. But all you see are the same faces and hear the same conversations. And as the night comes to an end you’re closer to your cocktail than any person and if you do happen to meet someone you’ll be so clouded by alcohol you may even forget you met them. My friend complains that being a full time student who works, she’s limited to a certain dating pool. And she is sick of meeting people in bars because it never goes anywhere, she believes the situation is helpless. But she’s wrong.
The dating scene in San Francisco doesn’t have to be desperate, unless you make it that way. There are plenty of places to meet people in San Francisco that won’t involve sitting in a bar. Even if you don’t leave with a number (or a person) at least you’ll still have a good time.
Academy of Sciences– Every Thursday the Academy of Sciences hosts an event called ‘NightLife’ for those 21 and over. The entire museum is open, they serve drinks and food to enjoy with live music. The event goes from 6 to 10 p.m. entry cost is $12 and drinks run from $5 to $8. The downstairs aquarium is a hot spot for meeting people. Unlike a bar, the music down there is usually ambient and the blue lighting from the aquarium is relaxing, taking the edge off, of meeting new people. Be amazed by the amount of people “on the prowl”. At some point sit down in the aquarium and watch as people strike out or get numbers. “This is definitely a great place to meet people,” SF State student Jon Orellana says.
Mission Cliffs– This is a climbing gym in the Mission that offers introductory climbing classes at a reasonable price of $28 for mornings and afternoons. The gym and the people are mostly unpretentious and interesting. And unlike a bar, people are out in the daylight and conversation is not a requirement since everyone is there to get some sort of work out done. It is best to go on a Saturday afternoon. Go with a friend or go solo and climb with another single person. After the one hour delay and climbing lesson the whole gym is open, so keep climbing with a partner or hang out in the bouldering room, where you can climb smaller bolder shaped wall sans rope.
Ferry Building Farmer’s Market– Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Ferry Building holds an impressive farmers market which brings in all types of people. Walk around under the sun while sampling all the vendors has to offer and end up with a full stomach without paying a dime. The food options are diverse and there are endless things to look at and try. Besides, unlike a neighborhood farmer’s market, you are bound to meet someone new as people come from all over the city to the Ferry Building, so there is a wide variety of people to meet.
DNA Lounge– Is one bar worth mentioning and their events are worth checking out. Every second, third and fourth Saturdays of the month DNA Lounge hosts an event called Bootie. Entry costs $6 before 10 p.m. and $12 after. Want a good drink while getting the most bang for your buck? For $5 DNA lounge well serve you a strong alcoholic beverage, be sure to have a designated driver! Aside from their good drinks, this is a good place to go to dance and unwind. They have a band that performs live mash-ups of older and newer hits. It is a lot of fun. There are hardly ever people sitting on the side wall at Bootie, unless they are taking a rest break from all the drinks and dancing. According to the event organizer and singer, Adrian Roberts, Bootie will host an event in honor of the Coachella Music Festival held in Palm Springs every April. Bootie DJs will be spinning tracks from bands in the Coachella lineup.
Meetup.com– An amazing website for people to meet, offering something different from any other “dating site.” Create a profile based on interests and the site makes suggestions of groups in or around your area that are meeting up. There are no personal questions and they do not even require photo uploads, so there is no pressure. They have a group for almost everything, so there are endless meeting options. They offer everything, from support groups, hiking, cooking, dancing and even book clubs. San Francisco resident, Cory Logan, used meetup.com to join a rock climbing group. “The thing that I most enjoyed about the whole experience was how it was like watching a movie. Watching a bunch of people interact that I don’t know. Their characters slowly unfolding, and in such an interesting place,” Lohgan says. “Some of the people you meet, you might not like all that much, but it’s just for a limited meet up. I’d say that most people are pretty cool. And if they’re not, they at least make for an interesting story later.”
Whole Foods– On afternoons and weekends the deli area of this grocery store turns into a great pick up spot where you can potentially meet someone worth your time. While waiting for a sandwich, take look around at all the people buying lunch, chances are, just like you, they’re alone. Eat on location and start a conversation with a stranger about how fresh and tasty your lunch is.
Dolores Park Movie Night– Beginning April, Dolores Park will be having free movie nights during the second Thursdays of the month. Dress warm, bring a blanket and buy some popcorn. They usually show cult classics so the mood is light and with everyone on blankets in close proximity it is perfect for starting conversations with locals and meeting new people.
College Events- Sick of the same crowd at SF State? Going to events at other colleges is a great way to meet new people while learning something new. The Academy of Art University hosts galleries, fashions shows and social events every semester, all over the city. UC Berkeley and Stanford University have many fun things to offer like lectures, art shows, movies and sport events.
Friday night at the yoga studio, my friend and I are assessing the situation, and by that, I mean scoping the scene for cute guys. We are surrounded, but decide to keep to ourselves. Suddenly, we both realized how amazing we feel from the great yoga session so we leave satisfied, despite the fact we did not meet anyone special. In San Francisco, there is always a new place to go and new people to meet.
It’s a usual school day, and your classes are running dreadfully slow. Your stomach is growling from hunger, so after class you decide to swing by Cafe Rosso hoping to get a quick bite of food or a coffee before you run off to your next class. The only problem is, the line is as long as the eye can see as three long formation of students depicts that of a mad sale during black Friday.
There is not always enough time, or food in your fridge, to pack a lunch before school. Most students moved out of their parents’ house and have had to say goodbye to the good ol’ days when Mom would send them off with a bag full of snacks. But there’s no need to stress, there are many places located around campus that offer a variety of cuisines at a reasonable price. BBQ, Thai, Mexican and Japanese are each available, to name a few. Unless students have some free time to wander around between classes, they might not know where to find these restaurants.
“Some people who have been on campus for four years don’t realize we’re here,” Frances Valbuena, an employee at Tuk Tuk Thai and Psychology major at SF State, says. Tuk Tuk Thai opened almost two years ago and is located below the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Valbuena says their most popular dish would be the Pad Thai, which cost between $4.50 and $6.50.
Many students happen to stumble upon places to eat. Tanya Schleyer moved to San Francisco from the Los Angeles area this semester and found restaurants in the Cesar Chavez building by wandering around, simply searching for somewhere to sit and eat. Her favorite item to get is the veggie wrap from Healthy-U. Matt Juul, a Math major, says he knows about places on campus from just walking around, but usually heads to Cafe Rosso for a sandwich.
For students who don’t feel like wandering around, or have the time, the following is a guide to a list of restaurants located on campus.
Cesar Chavez Building
Natural Sensations: Wraps, smoothies, frozen yogurt, and fresh squeezed orange and carrot juice. Most items are under $3.00.
Cafe 101: Espresso, teas, and pastries. Some of the pastries include: croissants, muffins, apple fritters and scones. Prices are $3.00.
Taqueria Girasol: Quesadillas, tacos, nachos, and burritos for under $5.00.
Gold Coast Grill: Breakfast items such as pancakes and omelette’s. Also, burgers, sandwiches, baked potatoes, and a salad bar for less than $6.00.
Quick bites (On Plaza Level):
Healthy-U: A convenience store with ready-made sandwiches, wraps, and sushi rolls. Also a variety of juices and teas in cans and bottles are available.
Lobby Shop: A convenience store that offers chips, cookies, crackers, gum, energy drinks, sodas, and some student necessities such as Scantrons.
Carmelina La Petite: Fruit, cookies, trail mix, and sandwiches. The most expensive item on the menu cost $3.75.
Jessie’s hot House: Soul food. Jessie’s offers breakfast items such as oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and grits. They have sandwiches, fried and grilled chicken and shrimp, and vegetarian items such as BBQ tofu and veggie sausage patties. The most expensive item on the menu is $7.00.
Lower Conference Level:
Tuk Tuk Thai: Specializes in Thai food. Pad Thai, one of the restaurants most popular dishes, comes with your choice of chicken, pork, veggie, or shrimp.
The Pub: Serves beer and other alcoholic beverages. Some beers available on tap include: Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams. Also, a good place to get some garlic fries and popcorn. Alcoholic beverages cannot leave The Pub.
Recreation and Dining Level (where the games are):
Asia Express: Asian dishes with vegetarian options.
Pizza and Pasta: A slice of cheese pizza goes for $1.70. Some of the pastas inlcude: spaghetti, penne, or fettuccine with your choice of sauce.
Taza: Burritos, gyros, wraps, and smoothies. Taza usually offers a special that might include a buttito, drink and side such as a bag of chips that cost around $5.00.
Cafe Rosso: Bagels, coffee, pasta, pizza slices, salads and sandwiches.
Subway: Five dollar footlongs, sometimes.
Sushigo: Sushi rolls for around $7.00, udon, ramen and rice bowls.
Village Market and Pizza: a convenience store and fresh made pizza.
No matter your time and budget, Campus eating has never been so easy. Now you can go to class with a full stomach, ready to tackle those papers and or finals!
It is a typical Tuesday night. Homework is piling up and the weekend is still days away. In times like these, a quick and easy home cooked meal is just what you need to make it through the homework-ridden night. You need things like a bowl of fresh guacamole to stuff yourself with, or a quick and spicy burrito you were able to cobble together from leftovers.
The kitchen should be a place of comfort, the wafting smells of home cooking promising a fresh meal to recharge after a long day. The refrigerator filled with food just begging to be cooked. The dishes, pots, pans and silverware all cleaned and gleaming, ready to go. Even the stove top is free of crud.
But if you are like most college students, this is not your kitchen. True, your stove top might be spotless, but only because it is so seldom used. The refrigerator probably has beer, and if you are lucky, a mostly-random collection of leftovers and condiments you most likely inherited from the house’s last tenants. If you have silverware, it is probably thrown willy-nilly in the sink along with the couple of glasses stolen from the nearest dive bar that you got so you would have something to drink out of.
Do not beat yourself up. Not only are you not alone, there is indeed hope for that once-forgotten section of your studio or city-sized apartment. It takes surprisingly little work—and even less money—to turn your kitchen from that-awkward-extra-space-to-put-knick-knacks into a warm and happy room. A room that is capable of turning even the most basic ingredients to tasty, healthy and easy meals.
The first part of having a kitchen is having the tools to use it. You would not, say, try to change your car’s oil without a wrench or maybe use the bathroom without toilet paper, so do not be fooled into thinking the two-burner hotplate your apartment came with is going to be enough. It is not.
Fortunately, it does not take much to equip your kitchen. Simply looking on websites like craigslist.org for free stuff can work great, just make sure to act fast, as the more desirable freebies tend to get snatched up right away. Second-hand stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill are equally helpful. If sparkling new cookware is more to your liking, discount shops like Ross and even Wal-Mart sell most kitchen essentials at rock-bottom prices.
And basic tools really are all you need. A pot and pan are the first obvious essentials. If you are short on space or college-aged, you probably should stick to medium or small gear. Besides, how often do you really cook pasta for five people anyway? Make sure that your pots and pans come with lids. Not only do they help save energy by heating up food and water faster, but they also help keep the kitchen clean by keeping food in the pot where it belongs.
With the basics covered, make sure to have a few cooking utensils, like spatulas, tongs, big spoons, and so forth. Sets are available that include all the basics plus a nice bucket to keep them in, helping to keep clutter at bay. The last things needed are a few good knives and some silverware, plates and bowls for actually eating with. If the kitchen is tiny and has limited dishwashing space, disposable plates and cutlery are a convenient, if less earth friendly option.
Always make sure to have some dishrags lying around, because life happens, and food gets spilled. Shop rags, the little red squares of fabric used by mechanics, work surprisingly well in the kitchen, and are sold cheaply at auto parts stores. Fancy dishtowels might look nicer, but when you can get ten shop rags for the price of one, the price is hard to beat. Keep a few within reach at all times.
Even if your kitchen is only a hot plate and a toaster oven, don’t get discouraged. “Sometimes, you just need to look around at what you have,” says Amber Crago, 25, a mostly-self-taught cook-extraordinaire. When cooking dinner aboard an old houseboat, with only a toaster oven and weak, two-burner hot plate to work with, Crago pulls out a trick she first discovered while living in Hawaii, where the local love for rice means every house is equipped with a rice cooker.
“It’s not just a rice cooker,” she says. “It’s just like a hot plate, but with an auto-off switch and built-in warmer.” Rice cookers are perfect for making soups, stews, and even chilies and beans. And here’s a tip: a used rice cooker can be picked up for under ten dollars.
GETTING THE FOOD
With the kitchen brought up to speed, it is time to actually buy the food to cook. Having food in your kitchen is what really makes it the happy place it is meant to be, but choose carefully, because it’s easy to go overboard.
If you have recipes you know you want to try, read up beforehand. But more often than not, purchasing every single ingredient listed in a cookbook rapidly becomes prohibitively expensive. After all, if you have to spend twenty dollars to have everything for a burrito, why not just buy a burrito for six dollars instead?
Rather than thinking in terms of recipes, appraise in broader terms. Consider ingredients as components. For example, bread, tortillas and buns are really all the same part of a dish—something to hold everything together. Rice, pasta and noodles all serve as the base to put something else on top of.
“I buy a log of the really cheap ground beef, and add it to regular pasta sauce to make a meat sauce,” says Jonathan Scion, 24, in his extremely cluttered and mostly unfurnished kitchen in Berkeley, Calif. “I cook a lot, believe it or not,” Scion says, looking around and noticing the partially-full trash bag on the floor.
Shaun Goo, 22, also touts the benefits of the Italian staple. “All you have to do is dump it in boiling water and boil the hell out of it,” he says. “You’d have to be an idiot to not be able to do it.” Goo says he typically augments the regular jarred red sauce with fresh veggies like zucchini or whatever else he happens to have. “The good thing about pasta,” he says, “is that you can put anything in and it’ll be good.”
Rice and pasta are great to buy in bulk because they have a long shelf life and don’t take up much space. But other things, like bread and tortillas, expire quickly. So choose carefully. When shopping for one person, remember that eight burger buns will last what seems like forever. It is easy to get sick of them well before they are done, and unless you eat them for all three meals every day, they can mold before the bag is empty.
“Farmer’s markets are some of the best places to find deals on produce, especially in season,” Crago says. Even better, the fruits and veggies found there are usually fresher than what is found in grocery stores. But, like bread, be realistic about what you will eat and how much fridge space you have—it feels great to hop on Muni with two full bags bursting with fresh food, but unless you really, really eat a lot of salad, it might be a false economy. Buying in bulk is a double-edged sword. Sure, there are significant savings to be had, but remember that if not properly stored, food can go bad fast, and quickly negate any of the savings.
Meat will last for ages in the freezer, but will also take a long time to thaw, ruining the spontaneity of cooking. Meat in the fridge will last maybe a week at best.
While it’s hard to beat the taste of fresh meat—or tofu, for that matter—there are easier options for the lazy college chef. There are pre-frozen burger patties in practically every combination of meat imaginable, and of course there are veggie burger patties as well.
Inevitably, eating burgers every night gets gross real fast, but don’t look at it that way. Patties don’t have to be eaten as burgers; they can be cooked up practically any way imaginable.
Keeping it simple is key, but never forget that flavor is the most important thing, so be sure to stock on spices and a couple of hot sauces—a Mexican-style one and an Asian-style seasoning will cover most everything. Spices aren’t cheap, but a little goes a long way, so consider it an investment. Cumin is a versatile spice that goes well with just about anything, as do garlic powder and paprika. Just use your nose and buy what appeals to you.
The key to shopping is just grabbing what you think will go well together. Just remember that America’s obsession with bulk purchasing means that pretty much anything you’ll buy will last a long time when just one person is using it, so make sure there are lots of possibilities for every ingredient you buy.
Now comes the fun part. With the kitchen stocked and ready, it is time to cook. Don’t be scared, the most important thing is to just go with it and use your gut. Baking is a science that requires careful measurement, precise temperatures and exact timing. Cooking is the opposite—all it requires in an idea.
“It’s really a matter of getting over the initial fear,” says Tom Shattuck. “It’s super basic, just getting things together and whipping it up.” Shattuck, an English major at San Francisco State University, would know. When he first started working at Whole Foods, he’d never really cooked before. “I started from nothing,” he says. “That’s what’s so sick about cooking.” Now he’s a chef. While Shattuck wants nothing to do with a career in the restaurant industry, cooking is a good skill to fall back on.
Remember that it is the little things that separate a delicious meal from a gross, desperate concoction. Toasted bread is almost always better than cold bread. If you have a toaster oven, just stick the bread inside and keep an eye on it until it is just how you like it—anywhere from lightly warmed to brown and crunchy.
Use spices to your advantage, and remember that even basic things can become delicious with just a little ingenuity. Take instant ramen noodles, for example. Just throw away the gross and MSG-laden flavor pack. Cook the noodles, but add whatever you desire to make your own soup—soy sauce or hot sauce and spices for flavor, and top it off with fresh veggies or tofu. That’s a decent meal in less than ten minutes.
Be sure to think creatively. You may have gotten sick of those burger patties ages ago, but they can easily be re-imagined. Break the patties into pieces and cook them in a pan with jarred curry sauce and serve over rice for a quick Indian meal. Don’t tell, and no one will even guess you used burger patties. Salmon patties can even be cooked and added to salads, instantly making you look like a gourmet salmon chef. If bread is starting to go stale, butter it up and throw some spices on to make croutons by toasting it in the oven until it becomes crunchy.
“You know what you like,” Shattuck says. “Don’t panic. Just fucking get your feet wet.”
So follow Shattuck’s advice. The worst thing that can possible happen is you will make something that does not taste like you hope, but that is what the learning process is all about. Grab some spices, your foods of choice, and get a pan full of home cooking going.
Fluorescent lights fill the windowless grocery store with an artificial glow that, from the inside, makes the time of day indeterminable. Products are crammed in every niche, save for aisles, while shopping carts congest the narrow walkways. Health conscious shoppers analyze the products, reading labels on prepackaged goods that have been taking up space on the shelves for as long as their sell-by date allows.
The concept of the modern grocery has, for some, been both a blessing and a curse. No longer is it necessary to go to more than one store (the butcher, the baker, the pharmacy, etc.) to get shopping done, since it is all conveniently located in one place; yet, some argue that by monopolizing and corporatizing the food industry, the consumers are ultimately losing quality, which has prompted many to go straight to the source.
Living in the concrete labyrinth that is San Francisco, it can be hard to imagine that California is in fact the nation’s largest agricultural producer and exporter. In the city, tall buildings converge with one another, for blocks on end, but if you manage to escape the seven-by-seven grid, open land subsists. The state is home to 81,500 farms and ranches, totaling 4.5 million acres, and counting. From 2003 to 2009, the state’s exports increased 66 percent, proving that California grown products are in high demand.
While the most well known agricultural region in California is the Central Valley, a sweeping 400-mile-trench, most of the locally grown products sold in San Francisco hail from the coastal hillsides of the North and South Bay. Not only are these products fresher than those hauled in from out of the state or country, but as a consumer, you can be sure that your money is being put back into the community.
San Francisco has a long history of bringing rural farmers into the city to sell their goods, a trend still seen today. Founded in 1943, the Alemany Farmers’ Market, currently open every Saturday from dawn to dusk, became the very first of its kind in California. Since then, farmers’ markets have sprouted up in almost every neighborhood, with the same ethic: delivering local, farm fresh food at reasonable prices.
“Farmers’ markets are like an old school traditional way,” says SF Grill owner, Seni Felic. “It is especially important to remind people in the city how food is grown, how it is harvested.” Felic is energetic and friendly, taking the time to engage with every person who stops by his stand at the Divisadero Farmers’ Market.
The market, founded in 2008 and operated by the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, can be found brimming with local vendors every Sunday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., on the tent-lined corner of Grove at Divisadero Streets. Looking East, traffic zips along Divisadero in the foreground. Another block down, a staircase up to historic Alamo Square can be seen.
Each week, a different musical act provides a soundtrack for the market, offset by chatter and buzzing engines. Fresh flowers, produce, breads, and seafood are among the products offered, yet it is not long before you catch the aroma of burgers sizzling on a nearby grill.
Founded in 2009, Felic’s mobile restaurant, SF Grill, serves up free-range turkey burgers and more from Sonoma County. The animals, which roam the farm freely, are fed a vegetarian diet. A towering man, with a creative sense of fashion, Felic believes in serving healthy, quality products to San Francisco residents, as though it were his duty. “Many people shop in grocery stores not knowing where the food comes from,” laments Felic.
Other vendors also share this sentiment. “It is really important to support your local community and eat healthy,” says Shannon Currier, vendor and kitchen aid for Donna’s Tamales, as she folds two plastic tables and packs up the company van, after a rainy day at the farmers’ market on SF State’s campus.
Based in Fairfax, family-owned Donna’s Tamales has been in business for over 18 years. Founded by Donna Eichhorn and Shirley Virgil, the company is focused on organic farming, sustainability, health, and community. “In the long run, it always pays off, even if it is more expensive,” says Currier.
Shopping at any of the city’s various farmers’ markets can be an enjoyable event, but working as a vendor is a unique experience unto itself. “When you go to a regular job you don’t get to meet other businesses and people who care about something,” Currier explains, her eyes flitter as she tries to grasp words that will convey her feelings. “We watch after each other, like a tribe.”
Donna’s Tamales emphasizes healthy eating habits by producing organic, vegetarian, vegan, and even some lactose and gluten free products. The tasty creations are also environmentally sound, offering seasonal selections. Spring tamales include white bean asparagus, tomatillo veggie, and asparagus cheddar.
The fine crafted certified organic cheeses used in Donna’s Tamales products comes from Straus Family Creamery, a family-owned business, located along the cool, foggy shores of Tomales Bay, just north of San Francisco. The creamery prides itself on environmentally sound farming practices and has been in its Marshall, California location since William Straus started raising dairy cows in 1941.
Aside from the basic organic regulations, Straus Family Creamery goes above and beyond. Some of the practices in use include maintaining a closed herd, which bars outside animals from coming to the farm, a practice that aims to prevent the spreading of diseases, such as Mad Cow. In addition, all of the cows are vegetarian and the farmers work with animal nutritionists to ensure the cows have a balanced diet.
If you are looking to add the tasty tamales to your diet, Donna’s products can be found at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at SF State, and in select San Francisco stores.
Though the tamales just recently made their debut at SF State, the market is in its fourth year of operation. In 2007, the school’s Associate Students, Inc. (ASI) started the campus farmers’ market, found sandwiched between the Humanities and Fine Arts buildings. Students sample products in between classes or sit on the curb along the front of the Humanities building to enjoy an alternative lunch.
The market, which runs during the school year, started with only three vendors and has since grown to nine. “We try to find vendors that are a good match for students,” Horace Montgomery, ASI’s programs and services director, says. “We ask them to lower prices for the students. The kids love it.”
The kids are not the only ones who are smitten. SF State’s farmers’ market model is trend setting. According to Montgomery, he has since been contacted by eight other California State Universities interested in following SF State’s example by starting markets at their campuses.
It is refreshing to see the community support such local markets, which place emphasis on a healthy diet, especially since the nation’s obesity epidemic is running rampant. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration released guidelines, which encouraged Americans to cut refined grains, consume less sodium-rich processed foods, and eat more fruits and vegetables. The guidelines have persuaded some in the corporate food industry to reformulate their food packaging and cut sodium.
Luckily, there is no need for California’s farmers to refocus their harvests. As they continue to cultivate fresh foods, health conscious foodies everywhere rejoice. So, take advantage of the state’s natural bounties. When you next feel a hankering for healthy, sustainable, and delectable foods, cut out the middleman, get outside, and locate a market near you.