Saturday, July 9, 2011

My neighborhood — 1/3

I’ve lived in the 900 block of Eddy Street for some years now, and have really quite enjoyed being here. Despite the fact that it lacks the defining characteristics of a more authentic San Francisco neighborhood—it’s one of those streets you walk down to get somewhere else: two blocks east to Van Ness, two blocks west to the Fillmore, two blocks north to St Mary’s Cathedral—its central location also enables me to walk to the Main Library, BART and Muni Metro in a quarter hour or less.

It’s also situated on the 31-Balboa bus line, one of the more felicitous routes in the city. The vehicles hustle along efficiently and noiselessly every twenty minutes or so along mostly empty streets. In fifteen minutes you can get to Powell and Market going east, and in thirty you’re at Ocean Beach to the west, perfect for a stroll on hot days. And there’s almost always a place to sit.

My apartment is quiet, comfy and suffers only from being overloaded with books and plants, which would however doubtless characterize whatever living space I chose to inhabit. And it has the inestimable advantage of  facing south with an unobstructed view to the sun, enhancing and nurturing my window garden, the light crisply sutured or softened at various times of the day through the judicious deployment of wooden Venetian blinds purchased at IKEA.

But if the neighborhood is nondescript today, it was not always so. I live one door down from what was once one of the city’s most remarkable architectural assets. The Saint Paulus German Lutheran Church profiled itself so prominently against the skyline of the city that you could see it from miles away, from Noe Valley, Bernal Hill or Twin Peaks. It seemed visible from almost anywhere, and you could orient yourself spatially by observing it on the horizon. That steeple you're looking at sodomized the sky at a height of about eight stories.

Built in 1893, the church disappeared overnight in a terrible fire in 1995.

The razed property remained deserted for years, surrounded by a tall chicken-wire fence, home on occasion to a small number of the city’s homeless, whose encampments got periodically annihilated by the police. Its dismal appearance even qualified it in my feverish imagination as an official entrance to hell, described elsewhere on this blog.

All this changed last year when the plot suddenly exploded into prominence as a community garden, now verdant with  flowers and vegetables, complete with proprietary beehives ensuring rapid fertilization, and described in considerable detail at the sponsoring organization’s website.

What the Free Farm has meant for local residents is inestimable, not exactly in terms of forging us into a viable community, but serving rather as a constant source of intense curiosity. Walking past to and from the bus stop, or marching down the hill to the Safeway, one can’t help pausing for a few minutes to observe what-all is going on in the new community garden.

Thanks flickr user dluck for the fire picture.



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