SAN FRANCISCO – Passing the bustle and grime of Fifth street with its soot wafting down on the dingy Hall of Justice and its asbestos-ridden caves of crooks and cutthroats and where idling autos queue to sail past a plaque marking the end of the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway System, one turns past a sketchy former SRO now unoccupied by residents but having something-to-do with a Carlisle Group affiliate called the Community Housing Partnership. I peered inside and did not see much housing, let alone community, so unfearingly I turned onto Clara street – more of a slot than a street by San Francisco standards. After all, before it was “South of Market,” it was “South of the Slot,” but it retained the Bay Windows characteristic of Oz. Before Governor Brown 2.0v2 banished redevelopment agencies to the far side of the Moon, Clara was officially blighted, or as the tune whistled by activists in decades-long eminent domain battles lauded over by San Francisco’s newly minted mayor went, “London Breed is tearing down.”
One beneficiary of this heroic effort to displace long-term residents to build affordable housing (or in some cases hotels like the ghastly post-modern Marriott and the trendy Yerba Buena Center, scene of many an Apple product rollout) in the city where Jim Jones once sat on the Housing Authority is long-time Clara Street condo owner and newly minted California Senator Kamala Harris. Before her days of appearances on “Politics & Eggs” in New Hampshire or posed over an egg and cheese Breakfast on ABC’s Good Morning America, Harris lived for over a decade in a cheerful sunny condo here in the name of Amon Hurlihey overlooking a lovingly-maintained garden adjoining a rare Federal-style Victorian. There, in her modern kitchen inspected by Building Inspection Chief Angus McCarthy, a modern Horatio Alger rising from street riff-raff on the tattered sidewalk of Clara to became a developer to the Politico-stars (or so goes the fable), I imagine Harris poached her own eggs as she gazed down on her friendly gardener neighbor and collector of Oriental carpets – Brian Egg, lately severed of his head. She the then easied on over to dispense justice to the parents of truants and check in with her varied and sundry informants, or when her matters of importance rose so that a limo was necessary to loftier purveyors of fine kool-aid – it would idle in front of Brian Egg’s garden.
I imagine she occasionally purchased her free range eggs from a nearby “formula-retail” establishment otherwise known as Whole Foods on 6th. Brian Egg’s head (before someone ran off with it, or more technically, “poached”) was usually stuffed with nourishment from St. Anthony’s Kitchen, a place hardly changed from when Upton Sinclair ran for Governor. Debasing myself to walk in his shoes with shoeleather journalism, I discovered Clara street formed tight and beautiful community of neighbors. The “suburban looking boy, clean, not like the others” stocking the Whole Foods would even bring over buckets of water – and sometimes Blood – hop up on the roof of Egg’s Federal Victorian and pour them down. Surely, he was testing the waterproofing. And so it went on for months, according to Egg’s other, far more approachable neighbor, a retired teacher and West Coast Artist named Wilma of the type that is becoming a rare breed in San Francisco, as I heard her recount the tales of the numerous military-looking men appearing on Egg’s block in the months surrounding his disappearance.
Egg was certainly familiar with the type (High and Tight, muscled, roving in packs), having escaped to San Francisco in the 70’s like many with diminished capacity searching for communities like those once flourishing on Clara from his oppressive Father – an Army general buried at Arlington who for some reason liked Florida. Egg’s family were prone to untruths and concerned about the impact of notoriety on appreciated property values. Egg’s lifestyle was not sexualized. In fact, he proclaimed himself to be asexual, I learned, concerned more with art and things of beauty as he fertilized his garden and made it grow. Not enjoined by Wilma, I peered though a foxhole and gazed out to an untended Paradise.
The real news on Clara Street is that of its community and its artists. It is the news of Wilma’s studio and the stories of how she bought the place when housing actually was affordable for some reason from its builder who recalled hauling rubble during the great earthquake. I met Wilma talking to neighbors on the street, and they were eager to speak and excited I actually presented myself as a journalist with a platform to tell their stories. In spite of the tabloid headline opportunities to match the Big Apple Post’s Headless Body in Topless Bar, that bar was not truly topless, and few journalists had made the effort to head down and check out the fishtank. It was not a fishtank. It was Brian Egg’s fishtank and Brian Egg’s garden and Wilma’s art that should be the news. The real news is what makes this community thrive and what are the threats to it as the city imposes parcel taxes, the state re-legislates re-development, and London, Mayor of the City, regularly dispatches clipboard commandos to poke and prod Wilma with harassing inspections in her earthen, almost-antiseptic smelling frame-home unique to those made of old-growth Redwood. The City Hall commandos are well dressed in pantsuits. I am sure they will ride someone’s coattails to more prestigious communities than Clara St., where the residents complain of a “besieged mentality.”
Sadly, the News that is Fit to Print is that of San Francisco Thugs wielding sledgehammers to attack journalists. They evidently can enter a building. The News that is Not Fit to Print is that of the Community on Clara calling for months in hopes the SFPD would care. After All, Kamala Harris is on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and the disappearance of her neighbor might be considered strange. This after the death of the Mayor, Police Commission President, and Public Defender.. So much loss. The SFPD claimed it had no authority to invade Brian Egg’s privacy. I wish the same was true of the Intelligence Community and its favored black ops contractor, EG&G.
But that is the way of Justice. San Francisco is full of contradictions. Consider Just, Inc. an eggless mayonnaise factory on Folsom in the Mission with an inflated IPO that was once caught up in a lawsuit whether eggless mayo is mayo and where employees were caught buying up their own product at retail to prop up sales. I walked past it too – in a warehouse that used to be a Leather factory and where conductor Kent Nagano would produce underground performances of Shostakovich operas for the countercultural classical music scene in a facility surrounded by hides. Now, it’s full of Silicon valley types doling out fake mayo and fake news over easy money.
Speaking of the Mission, Wilma told me the SFPD had just discovered bones in a double-wide Victorian on Folsom! A Green Double Wide! By the fake Mayo Factory! Were they Egg’s? Wilma was not sure, but she had seen pictures of Brian Egg’s dog, Lucky, shown to her after Egg’s disappearance in a photograph by “that very nice looking young man” from Whole Foods who was pouring the water and blood on the plants. Not that the SFPD would make a sketch (although I’m sure Wilma could – she is planning an exhibition of her recent work, which I can assure the reader is far less macabre but will get far less publicity. She once painted for the Navy in Alameda). The picture showed the dog in a beautifully spacious fully furnished Victorian room – the type one only finds in old San Francisco. Where is Lucky? Sadly, even I as a journalist have my limits.
So Headless Torsos in a bygone community. Jack London once lived nearby. A new world Legend like the Headless Horseman of Tarrytown up from the Tappan Zee. Incidentally, as news of Egg’s Head broke, the opening of the Tappan Zee bridge was delayed seven days. A broken beam. Our London Breed would sympathize.