A Travellerspoint blog

Last day in San Francisco

a near death experience

sunny 18 °C

One final adventure in San Francisco nearly had me killed! I wanted to go to Target and buy a coat as I was quite cold, especially with the never ending wind. Also, I knew Bogotá would be cold too. I decided to read one of the million guide books that I had acquired, and in doing so I found out about a part of San Francisco known as Latino town – think China town, but America Latina style. It was about 15 blocks behind Target, which was 16 blocks from my hostel, so I was prepared for a long walk. It was a lovely day, and I enjoyed seeing some of the pretty buildings in San Francisco
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When I got to the entrance to Target, an elderly man approached me asking for a sandwich because he was very hungry. He introduced himself as Mr Mario, and I thought maybe I should just pop into a shop, buy us both a sandwich and maybe I could sit with him for a while and share a meal. He wasn’t obviously homeless, but he was in need of a little Katy care and as I had the cash, the time, and as usual the desire to save the world – I thought, why not. However, Mr Mario did not like the idea of entering the park outside the Target, apparently he is well known there for hassling patrons for cash so he is banned. I understood and empathised with him, it must be very hard to live on the streets of San Francisco, it’s a cold city and I hadn't made any friends. I had barely received a smile from a stranger, let alone a meal! Anyway, after telling me that we couldn't enter the park, I saw a sandwich bar across the road (they are never far away in the United States) and so we headed that way. Once we were away from the ‘safety’ of the park, Mr Mario proceeded to inform me that what he was after wasn't a meal, it was a room in a hostel. He asked if I would get it for him, all I needed to do was go in and get the key and then meet him in a bar, in I quote, “in a not so nice part of town, so you will need to be careful Miss Katy.” I told him I was happy to buy him a sandwich as I thought he was hungry, but I was not prepared to get him a hostel or to go to a dodgy area of town. I immediately turned around and headed back towards the park outside the Target where I knew he was banned. I was trying to keep him calm, yet he was yelling and getting really upset about how I wasn’t going to help him, that I am just like everyone else who doesn't help. I explained I was prepared to buy him a sandwich, but nothing more, and that he had now wrecked that too because he was rude to me. I started to walk/ semi run while trying to keep him calm, scared of course that he may have a gun – something that is never a worry in New Zealand was suddenly a very large scare. I made it through the park and through the Target doors, leaving him with his angry face smoooshed against the glass, yelling and baring his fists. I stayed in Target for about an hour and a half, hoping he would find some other poor sucker and forget about me. While I was in the Target, I used the bathroom and noticed a needle disposal bin. How naïve of me to presume an employee must have diabetes… Looking back, that was just one of many signs for what was to come…

I finished my Target shopping and started to make my way towards Latino town. I made it about 2 blocks further when I started noticing things were getting a little bit shady. One of the things I have always loved about the United States is the open admiration people give to each other. In just 3 days, I was complimented on my feet, my necklace, my hair, my eyes, and my “ghetto booty ass on a pretty white girl.”
However, by 4 blocks from Target, things were starting to get just bizarre. The people giving the compliments were clearly out of their minds. Their blank stares, rugged and inappropriate clothing, blotched skin, and unkempt hair gave away their preference for drugs or alcohol. Suddenly the blotched skin became burns and sores, the eyes from which the stares came were now made of glass or covered with patches, and the clothing was non-existent and baring wounded flesh. There were people coming out of doorways, beckoning me into their stores with their long, bony, wart covered fingers and a sideways glance from underneath their humped shoulders. I felt like I had stumbled into Chernobyl! People lay slumped against garbage cans unable to gather even the strength to reach up for a penny.
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I suddenly realised why my mother had told me to check out where my hostel was because there are some very awful and dangerous parts to San Francisco. With her words echoing in my ears, I began to get scared – this pretty white girl with a ghetto booty was very clearly out of place! I thought maybe the best thing to do was to ignore the map as it would make me look like more of a tourist, and call Dommy in New Zealand instead. For some reason, people on telephones are always avoided. Poor Dommy, answered the phone at about 4am to the sound of me running, panting, and half laughing/screaming/crying down the phone. The most bizarre thing about San Francisco is the architecture is the same everywhere. Unlike many other cities around the world, other than the needle bin in the Target, there was no warning until I was literally in the middle of what I later was told is the notoriously dangerous Tenderloin… A place named after the old days, where the police made so much money from the fines given to delinquents that they were able to buy the best cuts of meat. Thankfully, Dommy stayed on the phone with me until I was out of danger, which I knew only because very suddenly the shops were no longer selling sex toys, instead selling Chanel, Dior, Tiffany’s, and Marc Jacobs.

I had already checked out of my hostel, I had no friends in the entire city, and I decided I didn’t need to see Latino town in San Francisco when I was headed to South America in 9 hours. I headed back to the United States of America that I know best and love so much – Pier 39, Fisherman’s wharf, and because of the clear blue sky – to see the infamous Golden Gate Bridge once and for all. My Grandma has always shown me the two sides of the USA, which I am forever grateful to her for. Life is not sunshine, rainbows, and candy all of the time for everyone and I understand that. But I thought when alone in a big city it is certainly best to stick to the side where I fit in the most.
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I rented a bike, rode for miles and saw the bridge, the palace of fine arts.
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And before leaving the USA, I finally managed to find strawberry lemonade to drink and a plate of cheese sticks and marinara sauce.
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Phew… time for Colombia! x

Posted by chasingsummer 21:22 Archived in USA

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Wow. From what I hear, it is mainly meth that is doing the damage. Would that be right? Anyway, that's a day you wont forget. Must have been very similar to a zombie movie. Instead of calling Dom, you should have video'ed the whole thing and made another "Escape from LA" movie. Ha! No more "free" sandwich offers I bet. Hell, there is so much to comment on here. Where are the police? I hear that meth addicts will sell their soul for the stuff and I guess that's why they have less than no money. Therefore it's not worth the cops time to arrest them. The "war on drugs" really doesn't work. So sad. But so happy you are OK and have a fabulous story to tell.

by Grantalph

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