I recently met a man in the Tenderloin who made a modest living off tips from people like me, whom he helped find restaurants and bars with good drinks [he’d suggest] or better music [he was a musician]. Mike took the free maps you could get from tourist junctures, marked the best spots with a highlighter, and pounced on people like me who looked like they were “looking for something.”
Mike’s teeth were in pretty bad shape, and I took that as a sign that at some point in his life [maybe even that one], he struggled with addiction. He told me he used to live above the bar I chose, and thought it was a little overpriced, but that people seemed to like it. I cringed to think that, despite efforts to keep affordable housing in the Tenderloin, bars like the ones I wanted to go to were forcing the cost of living up in the neighborhood. But here was Mike, making the most of the changes going on around him, and helping me support them. I shrugged off the cringe and stopped my mind from wondering about things that I couldn’t really understand anyway, and I accepted the fact that, in that moment, Mike was doing me a kindness.
So I tipped him, and I asked him how long he’d lived in San Francisco. Turns out that Mike is a native. I told Mike how I felt like I never met any native San Franciscans, and when I first moved here [from Boston], this felt very strange to me. Mike laughed, and said, “Well, we’re here! You just have to look around.”