Danger Ahead

Out this week, my piece on the policies and politics of being green in San Francisco, a Sisyphean task even in this most environmentally minded of cities.

Such is the current character of San Francisco that it’s possible to construct a social schedule composed almost entirely of “eco-drinks” mixers, a latter-day cultural marker that combines earnest environmental talk, a full bar, and a certain amount of networking and/or cruising, depending on your interests. Sometimes there are DJs spinning house music; sometimes there’s a group circle in which everyone joins hands and declares what he or she is passion­­­­­ate about; sometimes people just get drunk…

Also, my review of Stephen Elliott’s excellent new book, The Adderall Diaries:

If you followed the 2008 trial of Hans Reiser, the Oakland software guru who murdered his Russian wife, you might have been struck by Reiser’s sense of victimhood—he really seemed to believe that he was the one who’d been wronged. San Francisco writer Stephen Elliott gets into Reiser’s head in this fearless memoir/true-crime hybrid, but it’s only partly about the homicidal programmer. Elliott is most interested in the stories we construct to govern our lives—“how we order and interpret what we believe to be true,” as he puts it—and what happens when those stories break down, as Reiser’s nerdy alpha-dog self-image did when his wife left him, with disastrous consequences. Elliott examines his own life in sharp vignettes that ping from Chicago group homes to San Fernando Valley porn shoots to dot-com-era San Francisco. He scours his troubled past—drugs, homelessness, a horrific family life—for clues to his calmer but still troubled present, which includes bouts of depression, Adderall addiction, and a toxic relationship with his abusive father, who may or may not have killed someone himself. People are mysteries, though, and Elliott (thankfully) doesn’t offer up the certainties of most true-crime lit, even to explain his own actions. “How little we know about ourselves,” he writes, but he deserves kudos for this skillful attempt at making sense of his own history.

A lot of my recent stuff isn’t online and I’m too lazy to scan it, but the city did me a favor and posted my piece (.pdf) on biking with Jared Blumenfeld, who runs the department of environment. He was serving as interim Parks and Rec chief at the time, and leading bike tours around SF. I tagged along one day for a trip to Mclaren Park, a massive chunk of greenspace straddling the freeways down on the southern edge of the city. It’s mostly known for the body dumpings that turn up within its borders on a semi-regular basis, but it’s a beautiful place, too.

South of Bernal Hill, the traffic thinned and the group began to climb up into a land of steep, winding streets with names unfamiliar to most San Franciscans, past rows of boxy, sun-baked houses and curbs lined with big-rimmed Buicks.

Out on the margins here, park care tended toward entropy. At a reservoir further up the hill, Blumenfeld watched a woman repeatedly toss a tennis ball into the water for a brown Labrador. “That dog is pissing in our drinking water,” he noted in a deadpan voice.