Nothing to do with IA

Last night my sister, a friend and I went to a club in the tenderloin. The friend drove, […]

Last night my sister, a friend and I went to a club in the tenderloin. The friend drove, and we parked on 6th, across from tu lan– a heavily trafficked street. Heavily trafficked by drug addicts, street people and society’s underprivileged. We came out two hours later to find the window broken into. They’d hurriedly gotten into the trunk, grabbing my sister and her friend’s two bags.

I didn’t carry a bag, and my jacket was untouched, but my sister had been apartment hunting lately, and almost everything she valued, including many artifacts of her identity, was in her bag. She spent 2-3 a.m. last night and 8 a.m. this morning trying to protect her identity, as well as canceling cards, disabling her phone, freezing her checks etc. She’s an office manager for an university, underpaid and will be unable to replace her birthday/christmas gift, or the fruits of her tax refund. She lives a precarious life, making enough to live and a little bit more. Which means when something bad happens, there isn’t much to do except cry a bit and move on. It’s frustrating, to work hard and finally get ahead, and then just have it gone.

I’ve been robbed twice, and the worst thing is the personal items the thieves will discard– they mean nothing to the thieves and everything to you and it’s still taken away. In seattle my bag was stolen from my sister’s van, and my sister and I walked down the nearby alleys to see if we could find anything. We were lucky– we found my sketchbook, a trail of origami paper, the novel I was reading and other personal items scattered every few feet as if the theif had been emptying the bag as s/he ran. In Europe I wasn’t as lucky. My bag was stolen and the item I still mourn was a sketchbook with about 30 drawings of Paris in it. I’m sure it ended up sitting in a trash can somewhere in Avignon.

Another friend told me a story about how she was in the lower haight, some years ago, and was jacked by three girl drug addicts. She was beaten with one of those sticks that are used to hold up sapling trees. This particular stick had a couple nails that ripped up her skin. She told me she would fall, and then get up and didn’t know why she kept getting up, because the girls would beat her again. Her mind had stopped working. When she told me this story, as we drove through the now-gentrified lower haight I had a chill– how easily she could have died, how easily I could have been cheated out of meeting one of the dearest people in my life.

San Francisco has always been startlingly beautiful and now it is so cleaned up and gentrified I think we’ve started considering it our personal Disneyland. Safe and clean and full of adult games, like “live in the heart of the mission” or “clubbing in dangerland”. My sister and I started to walk down an alley to see if the thieves had thrown her bag in a trashbin or a corner, and we did see a pile of discarded purses (though not hers.) Then I looked up, saw several men in black parkas, and encouraged my sister to quickly return to the main street where we hailed a cop.

When I got home — after my sister talked to several remarkably unhelpful institutions — I called my husband. I just wanted to hear his voice, hear him tell me about his ordinary day at his Dijon university. In five days I’ll know if he can come here for good, if the INS will allow us to finally live in one country as man and wife. At that moment I felt a strong urge to just see that he still existed. I was checking to see if my valuables were safe.

Why I am telling you this, why am connecting these events? I guess I’m warning you to remember that this world we live in is always dangerous, is never a themepark. Know what matters to you. Keep your valuables close at hand.

What is most precious to you?


Add Yours
  1. 1

    My bike.

    I have been considering rejoining the world of the bike commuters. I did it for six years and loved it. To prepare, I’ve been doing a little experiment by not getting into my car for as long as possible. If it weren’t for the street cleaning in the Haight, I’d be going on about 2 months.

    So at this point I’m seriously considering selling the car in favor of my awesome purple Trek 9000.

    That is, until I came back from coffee the other day and found that it (and the $50 lock which was securely attached) had been stolen.

    It was in my building’s bike storage area sitting next to about six other bikes. The building is secured (have to buzz to get in) so it’s not like there’s a big risk of things being stolen.

    I put a note up asking the residents for any information about how this could have happened. I got not a single response. Apparently, my bike was stolen by someone who could walk through walls.

    I’m so dejected right now… Not so much because of the bike, because that’s simply an issue of money. My space was violated and apparently none of the others who live in this 5-unit apartment building has the decency to tell me that they accidentally left the door open unattended, or that they buzzed someone in blindly, or that they saw someone suspicious and did nothing.

    Lastly, San Francisco apartments aren’t known for their size. I don’t know where I’ll keep my bike now.

    Sorry for taking up so much space, Christina… 🙂

  2. 2
    Paul Nattress

    Christina, you said you’ve lost a sketchbook of Paris. I was thinking about the photographs I took when I was in Egypt last year. I have dozens of pictures of Cairo, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings. I was thinking about what I would do if I lost them. I would be devastated. But then I thought, if I lost these pictures, I would want to replace them. I had a great time going to Egypt and taking these pictures so why wouldn’t I have a great time going back and taking them again?
    I’m sure you love sketching and would jump at the opportunity to go back to France to sketch again.

  3. 3

    My guitar.

    I haven’t seriously played for quite a while, but I still know that losing it would bring me to my knees.

    My guitar was once an underappreciated workhorse, and nowadays it’s more of a museum relic, even more valuable now, though for different reasons.

    I got home from a drunken evening a few weeks ago, and, undressing and not thinking, tossed my jeans toward where the guitar was resting on its stand. I saw the tripod stand wobble forward and the guitar careen toward the hardwood floor.

    For a split second it was 8th grade once again, an overturned box fan headed for my previous guitar. This time I managed to avert disaster, but for a moment I saw that loss and all that it meant to me.

  4. 4

    Photographs of family. As I’ve delved into my family history over the past year, things like photographs of my grandmother as a ten year old in Poland and of my great grandfather preparing for a trip from Italy to America as a 14 year old in 1885 have become increasingly dear to me. I’ve taken quite a few photographs of family myself. Those photos represent memory, and without them, my memory would become less reliable, and I would lose connections to things I consider important.

    A 40 year old Polish radio. The radio used to belong to my grandmother. I listened to it in her house as a youngster. It’s got names of cities on the dial in a way that all European radios of a certain age have, exotic cities like Warsaw and Lodz and Berlin and Budapest. It gave me dreams of the world as a child.

    I know someone who lost his house in the recent floods in Houston, and it’s the things he can’t replace, the fruits of personal efforts, that had personal significance, that he mourns the loss of. Tapes of interviews he conducted with rock stars as a young reporter. Photos of his children growing up. Proof of memories.

  5. 6

    Stuff stolen from my porch in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago:
    –A cheap rocking chair that I’d had for 15 years and had rocked my baby in. I didn’t grasp its real value to me until it was ripped off.
    –A four-foot tall cactus that my ex-partner left for me. Ouch to whatever lucky person got it.
    –A bushy schiaflera plant that I’d nursed from four dead-looking sticks into full health.
    –Pocket picked in full view by professionals who were so good that within five minutes they’d stripped the cash and credit cards and tossed the mementoes into a downtown stairwell, where someone spotted them and called the number on my unendorsed paycheck.
    –My car window smashed when I forgot and left my cell phone in full view.
    My sympathies to your sister. It is such a total trauma, and it takes a good long while to recover. These city lives we live do not come cheap.

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