Some of drawings are of these outlandish robed figures. They look like the three wise men or somebody form a children’s book. They say to me: sure’s there suffering but there may also be room for joy and naivete on 6th Street.
Before today i would have said, Clean up sixth street goddammit. But I was slapped upside the head by this piece. As wendy macnaughton keeps telling us in all of her Meanwhile columns, community is everywhere. If developers conquer sixth, tear it down, shine it up, it might look prettier but there will be a big human cost (which they’ll deftly hide it from us.)
That put me square on 6th. Got to get some of that Tu Lan Shrimp-Fried Rice. I haven’t lived there in years, but your work always makes me feel like I am still very much a San Franciscan. Thanks.
I used to work at 6th and Market. I’ve seen some things I really wish I could un-see. It is a constant assault on your psyche. There has got to be a way to make a neighborhood for poor people that does not descend into madness, meth, urine and despair. There just has to.
love the overheard conversations on 5th and then 6th Streets, and the smells of 6th Street. Brilliant, Wendy. Once again you capture what is right in front of us but which we dont slow down to realize is there.
I had lived at the end of Market for 3 days, and would walk all the way to downtown, passing through 6th and Howard, and although I have never ventured into the streets, I could sense and smell depravation, and somekind of sleazy and downright poverty and wastefulness, of human life and will. As rightly pointed out, early in the morbning there was feaces on the road (on some parts), which was a big big eye opener, as I could never in my wildest dreams imagine it in Frisco, and then urine etec. And then I knew the reason why the Best Western Hotel was cheaper compared to the other counterparts, if supposing the decor and the set-up escaped my eye. I wish I was braver and could have ventured to have a look at the seedy side of life, but my own inward fears were fortified after the hotel receptionsit advised me to avoid certain streets, which included the 6th and Howard. I also remember passing through a hospital on the way, and and even the hospital had all the markings that its ER care would have been the centre of action all the time, and most probably may have had a lot of stories to tell about incidents happening there. Very interesting, and if I ever get a chance to visit Frisco again, I am going to be brave and venture into 6th and Howard, before they transform that piece of valuable real estate of human helplessness into something artificial and robotic.
No one’s ever pulled a gun on me, at 6th x Mission.
The Crossroads used to scare me, but any place with locks I didn’t have keys to did, back then. These days I come from out of town to Tu Lan, once a week or so, if nothing else has beckoned me across from East Oakland. I stroll through. I know where and how to park, to walk. I nod, return greetings, and cry when someone setting up a table from the back of a station wagon offers a free hot meal. I compliment folks on their ensembles, smiles. I learn something. 5th x Mission was, to me, the stench of the Greyhound station before and after a trip to one of my grandmas’ homes for summer. Today, the stench is still there but so are all those conventioneers: it sounds, looks like confusion fronting for a tiny hint of anything, tastes like preconception-driven angst laid down on top of history.
6th x Mission still feels like the city I grew up in.
This reminds me so much of why I am glad I moved back East, after having walked off of Market and down 6th by accident, and before I realized how bad it was, I saw some guy get shot in the head, right in front of me..I mean his head was almost blown off. I called 911 but after ten minutes waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive, with people stepping around the body and barely stopping to stare, I took off. On my way back to Market I looked and smelled the despair and violence. Three weeks later I was back in Boston. Yes, there is crime, poverty, and suffering here too, but it is not as bleak. 6th is where hope goes to die.
It’s hard to explain San Francisco to people who’ve never lived there. I was just trying to explain San Francisco to some New Yorkers the other night, and I didn’t do a very good job of it. This piece, however, nails it–I’ve never lived anywhere else where the contradictions were so total, so complete. In some ways, San Francisco is like going back in time, and I don’t mean to the good old days. Wendy captures what there is to love and what there is to question and cry over about this strange city and its dichotomous community.
just beautiful wendy. I did the 6th street books and cafe. Unfortunately if I had about $30,000 more dollars I would have survived. I maxed all credit cards…and well was too wrong about a lot of things. What I was not wrong about was that the people on sixth street, and around……were gonna turn out to be more beautiful and full of life and real life despair than in any hipster area. I don’t miss dealing with the really crazy people (social workers are way UNDER PAID) but I really miss so many people…that in the flurry and foolishness of my business….I didn’t get to know better…..nor keep in touch with after. I wasn’t there to write a book. In fact I haven’t written anything about my two years on that failed project anywhere. I was there….to get away from the arrogant apathy and smug upper class ness of half the city.
My god. I wish I could do it over…..and have it work….Thanks so much for your portraits and words.
This is an amazing piece of work and I’m so grateful for having seen it live at Intermedia Arts. Thanks Wendy, for again, working your craft to tell a story of people whose voices often go unheard. So great.
The most beautiful thing about 6th street is when the sun goes down and strikes the dome of the Golden Gate Theater. The street glows at sundown.
As someone who used to live right off 6th street, I can say that this comic strip is dead on. So many folks there are stuck in endless ruts, but they survive.
If Twitter were to move into 6th, you would expect a heated resident’s rights struggle against eviction.
The “Western Addition,” is the name given to the gentrified “Fillmore.” When neighborhoods are gentrified they get a cute safe real estate name like, South of Market = SOMA & Spanish Harlem = SpaHa! So really those displaced folks came from the Fillmore! I learned this from an old Panthers paper archive which showed the developers surveying the Fillmore and the plans displace black people to create the, “Western Addition” for white people.
Great art piece that captures the vulnerability of those who facing colonial gentrification! “San Francisco a sanctuary city for the rich!”
It hasn’t changed much. I grew up there in the 60′sf. We lived at the Ford Hotel on Mission, btw 5th and 6th. My brother and I used to play in the parking lots nearby. The corner of 6th and Mission always smelled of piss, cheap wine and bums. We used to shop at some grocery store behind the Pickwick.
I’m glad we made it out, but I’m not ashamed to say that I came from that hood.
Wendy, very interesting. I used to be in a band called Secret Chiefs (not to be confused with Secret Chiefs 3) back in 1984-1985. I had moved to San Francisco from Michigan in May of 1984 (spent nearly 8 years there). We used to go down to the 6th Street area and hang out in the bars. I remember it as being a very hospitable place to drink (the old men, most of them war veterans, used to buy all four of us rounds of beer, never cost us a penny). They really liked the company of younger folks who would sit and listen to their stories. I wish I could remember the names of the bars we hung out in. One was very much set up like the bar on the television show “Cheers”, with the big rectangle wooden bar in the middle of the room. One of the women regulars at that bar was called “Crazy Mary” by all the old men. If my memory serves me right she was the only women who I ever saw in the establishment. The other bar we frequented liked us so much that (at least I think they did) that they put a photo of our so-called band on the wall. Anyways, it was an interesting spot to go and spend a few hours on a weekend night. Somehow the people there were very much down to earth in a town that quite frankly is a bit of a roller-coaster ride! By the way, I now am living on 6th Street in my own home town. Ironic!
Touching. As bad a 6th street is it always triggers a sense of nostalgia in me. Reminds me of my childhood in the city. Back then kids were allowed to roam free. Sixth street never scared me. I saw way more disturbing stuff the few times I had to use the the bathroom at the Castro St metro station. It was all some sort of crazy orgy back in the late 70′s. No public space was off limits.
I don’t mind if 6th street goes away as long as the people there get the help and support they need. Hopefully staying in SF. I am tired of everyone I meet in SF being from somewhere else. Very few of us left and fewer everyday.
Hey @tommystrange! Sixth Street Books was one of the best things to happen on Sixth Street in recent years, as was Rancho Parnassus. It breaks my heart that neither business was able to survive. I have photos of the fundraisers you threw in the basement of Sixth Street Books, Tommy, with Dr. Go-go and other bands and poets performing to help you raise money for rent. You may recall that I tended bar for you at a couple of those events, all of which were great fun. You may also remember that I was just beginning to photograph the neighborhood during the time your bookstore and cafe were under construction, and that you hosted an exhibit of my work to christen the opening of Sixth Street Books. It still saddens me that your bookstore is no longer there, but my memories of it are sweet and I will always be grateful to you for all that you brought to Sixth Street. I would be happy to share my photos of the fundraisers with you. My contact info is on my website http://upfromthedeep.com/.
I used to walk pretty quickly through this area in the late 90s to get to work or pop into Tu Lan, but never gave it enough thought. You’ve captured the beauty, history and sadness amazingly well. KUDOS! Like I needed another reason to move back!
I lived between 7th and 6th street on Mission for about a year, I moved away from it two years ago. I am from Louisville, KY and just couldn’t stand the people defecating on the street and harassing me wherever I went but your art made me see past that and almost miss it. Good job.
I live here. And I say “Be the Change”. Thank you for this great piece. Oh and Tommy I miss you and 6th Street Books. It was one of my favorite places. I made a change in my life there, thanks to your help, y
You and 6th Street Books were a part of it. And I miss your sandwiches.
Please be sure and check out: http://upfromthedeep.com/sixth-street/
It is a classic, well written and very entertaining and informational. And if you really like one of the photographs, I think you can purchase it from the author. Great Christmas gifts.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to look at, share and comment on this piece. I don’t usually participate in comments on my own work but Id like to thank Christine for pointing people to “up from the deep”, mark ellinger’s wll researched and beautiful website. I interviewed him for this project and much of the words you read above are his. Please do take a moment to check out his photography, as well as the work of reynarldo and Bigface, the second and third portraits in the piece. Reynaldo is a photographer with the local group inks of truth, and Bigface is an independent artist working around 6th street. Also thanks to the aritst and 6th street resident Foot, who shared his home and story with me, This piece could not have been done without their generous words and time.
Finally, please note all the original drawings in this piece are on display as an installation in the group show about mapping “here be dragons” at intersection for the arts through January. Intersection is located in the chronicle building at 5h and Mission in SF. thanks again for looking,w
Very moving post. You really nailed the incredibly diverse mix of people who make the Mid-Market district what it is.
I volunteer with the Burning Man Project, a new non-profit dedicated to using arts and culture initiatives to help activate local communities. We’re currently partnering with a wide variety of local stakeholders to find ways to organically, sustainably and inclusively help the Mid-Market district shine.
I also lived at the Ford Hotel in the 60′s. Each morning I walked down 6th Street to the bus on Market Street to go to school in the Sunset District. Looks like it’s pretty much the same now as it was then. So sad. Thanks for writing and drawing your perspective.
Someone got shot dead on 6th str on my 1st night in a Hotel in Minna(?) str. But apart from that 6th str was a place I will never forget,it was a real eye opener and I spent time talking to the crackheads in the middle of the night on my way back to the Pontiac Hotel.I was told to avoid 6th and enter Minnah str over 5th but I was so curious.Hope the peole get theirselves sorted out at some stage but Idont hold much hope for the poor buggers.
I love that you included the story of SRO’s and Filipino manongs in your story of the differences between the narratives of 5th and 6th streets. Thanks for spreading awareness of the fall of the I-Hotel, and the completely separate world one block away.
Great piece, but I have a small quibble. You didn’t mention all the Philippino families that live there now. I used to live on Natoma and 6th for years, and they are missing from your taxonomy. I watched a lot of small kids grow up to become teenagers on 6th. T
Very good. Actually things have not changed too much since 65 when I lived there as a kid. 6th Street is much more run down. Drugs and alcohol were just as prevalent, especially when they started tearing down 3rd and Howard which was “Skid Row”. Does any one remember the South Side Hotel……….. Rooms for 50 cents a night…. Natoma street Pinoy’s…. One thing 6th Street will be changing one day and where will all the people go. Where can they afford to go ?????. Damn. Where will all the people go??????????