A Quiet Alley

The alleys of San Francisco always held a special fascination for me when I was a teenager.

My high school was in the heart of downtown on the sixth and seventh floor of what is now the Ritz Carlton. Back then, once a week, my friends and I used to navigate a series of alleys to an off the beaten path Chinese restaurant where the waiters were cruel to tourists and outsiders.

We'd see other San Franciscans using the alleys as short cuts too. It was like a subculture made up of those who know the hidden paths of the city.

Walking past an alley on the way to an early breakfast meeting in San Francisco the other morning brought back a flood of memories. It also highlighted how different things are today. Poor political stewardship at the city and state levels has turned downtown into a hazardous landscape. The alleys are empty, the streets are grim. What used to be a vibrant metropolitan center is now just shy of a ghost town.