As you all know, I am living in the ‘loin. Well-meaning, yet slightly condescending friends of friends have corrected me several times, saying I actually live in the “tender-nob,” as if to say in a posh British accent, “Oh, stop being so hyperbolic.”
To them I say, “Bullshit.” A) It’s only “hyperbolic” because you are assigning a judgment, value, or image to the “Tenderloin” that may or may not reflect the reality of my everyday experience; and B) If I hear gunshots (or a car backfiring) outside my window at 4am, I get to claim the Tenderloin, no matter how your image of my life looks.
For the uninitiated, the Tenderloin is the area of San Francisco where many of the city’s unfortunate are corralled into a space of three-square blocks (give or take a street corner or two). There are police-operated cameras attached to light posts, drug deals that occur anyways and a plethora of shaky hookers willing to do just about anything if you fill their crack pipe.
There are also families with children and struggling artists and people in transition. It is probably the city’s most diverse neighborhood.
The “tender-nob” is the invention of leasing agents trying to rent apartments on Geary (my street) as it extends from Union Square to Polk Street. In reality, it doesn’t exist, but it gives white yuppies who can’t find an apartment anywhere else the promise of future gentrification.
So am I being hyperbolic when I say, “I live in the Tenderloin”? I guess it would depend on why I’m “claiming” it. If my purpose is to give an honest answer as to which section of the city I live, then, no. If my purpose is to imply something about my everyday life experience, or simply to shock people, then I guess you could accuse me of exaggeration for effect.
And anyone who has ever read a word I write knows that I’m slightly prone to exaggeration.
For example, I don’t see the hockey jersey-wearing guy from the second floor every day, so I don’t really know how often he wears it. Maybe it’s his Tuesday jersey and every time I see him, it happens to be Tuesday. Or, it could be like the favored sweatshirt of my +1 that gets thrown on over whatever he’s wearing in the interest of warmth and comfort.
What’s that? Oh, you want to know what a +1 is. It’s the dude or chick that leaves a toothbrush at your place but isn’t your official “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. If you were to reply to an Evite, they would be your “+1”.
Saying, “the guy I’m dating,” or “seeing” or [insert whatever verb you happen to be –“ing”ing] is really too cumbersome, so I’ll employ the +1 reference whenever talking about him. Which probably won’t be that often since I think he started reading my blog…and if he hasn’t, it will only be a matter of time before he does. And really, getting his permission to talk about him would take away half of the fun.
So where was I? Oh, the Tenderloin. I live here. And I think my very favorite part about it is when I walk home at night from either yoga or dance class. I take a route through Union Square that passes by some of the nicest hotels in the city, and while the tourists gather on the sidewalk, dressed in their evening splendor, smelling like perfume and hair products, I push through them smelling like a Tom Brady’s jock strap on a Sunday.
Before any of you ladies or gentlemen get too excited (because I know Tom “Perfect Hair” Brady can elicit that kind of reaction), no one wants to jump my bones after yoga or dance. Not even the +1. I’m sweating like a fat kid in humidity, my hair is a tangled mess on my head and I generally have black streaks running down my face. In short, I look like the lost member of KISS after a drug-amplified performance.
So being the hot mess that I am, I pick the tourist (guy or girl) in the douche-iest outfit, standing and smoking like they are just way too cool for this shit, and I rub right by them. I make sure they get a sprinkle of sweat from my hair, can smell the stink of my skin, and just as they are about to launch a full-on assault, they realize that I am walking home.
“She actually lives here,” they think. I’m wearing my iPod, unconcerned, and since they have been fed all sorts of crap about the Tenderloin, it’s fabled (and not-so-fabled) dangers, they look at me like maybe I’m one of the “dangerous” people they’ve been warned about. And since I’m all of about 5’4” (maybe 5’5”) and as “hard” as Natalie Portman giving a Golden Globes speech, I enjoy this immensely.
I think the reason I enjoy it, is because my neighborhood genuinely terrifies some people. They think that anywhere that doesn’t call to mind the bucolic avenues of happy town or the raging party of a college campus, is something to be feared or dismissed. To them I say, “You’re missing out.”
Not only are some of the city’s best restaurants and bars within a few block radius of my apartment, there are the lesser-known gems as well. Like the Lebanese café across the street, the Asian sports bar across the other street and the Mom ‘n Pop grocery stores that remember your name, the groceries you buy and any special requests you may have.
That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced unease in my neighborhood—there’s a crazy guy that sometimes hangs out on my corner, jingling a cup of change and walking into oncoming traffic, but overall, it’s got more perks than drawbacks. I think I’ll keep it.