Written by Catherine Uy Photos by Hillary Smith and Catherine Uy
Beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors. Photo by Catherine Uy
Azalina's meatball sub was hearty and delicious, according to one attendee. Photo by Hillary Smith
Salumeria's fried chicken drew a constant line of hungry customers throughout the festival. Photo by Hillary Smith
Mexican macaroons with chocolate from La Victoria Bakery Corp. Photo by Catherine Uy
The food festival brought out an array of colorful street performers. This man, for example, dressed as a giant dancing skeleton. Photo by Catherine Uy
Asian street food truck Chairman served authentic steam and baked buns nonstop at the annual event. But Chairman is also known for its pork burgers, which are sweet and delicious, this couple said. Photo by Hillary Smith
A cook from Kama Food Lab prepares “super samosas.” Photo by Catherine Uy
A musician entertains festival-goers as they wait in line for their food. Photo by Catherine Uy
Cholita Linda' Peruvian street food tent was quick at serving up freshly made carne asada and baja fish tacos, which were ordered almost every minute. Photo by Hillary Smith
Last Saturday, thousands gathered to celebrate La Cocina’s 6th Annual (and final) Street Food Festival. The widely anticipated event took place in the Mission District, and showcased more than 80 Bay Area vendors. With free admission, delicious food, and drinks at cheap prices, it was every foodie’s dream come true.
As a fellow foodie, I felt obligated to try almost every food truck and stand. The variety of food available included everything from El Sur’s braised short rib empanadas to Rice Paper Scissors’ beef pho rolls. I cried a little inside after I finished eating El Sur’s empanadas. They were light, fluffy, and bursting with flavor. The beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors were a unique twist on Vietnamese spring rolls. Instead of using rice paper, beef and lettuce were wrapped in thick rice noodles. It tastes exactly like you are eating a bowl of beef pho, but without the broth and extra toppings.
According to the event’s website, this was La Cocina’s last street food festival. Word is that they’re looking for another location to host their epic block party. So, if you missed out on last weekend, don’t fret! Most of the vendors are from San Francisco. Here’s a list of our top 8 favorite vendors and where to find them on a regular basis.
Summer dresses and floppy hats are must-haves this season. Hadiha Nayebi pairs hers with an array of bohemian accessories and cutout ankle booties.
A knee-high socks and dress combo gives Andrea Rocca's outfit a retro feel.
Instead of wearing the usual denim cut-offs, Mikayla Wasiri rocks floral shorts.
Xpress Magazine Writer, Farnoush Amiri, looks boho chic in a crochet lace crop top and floral pants.
Summer hats give Talia Kalwani and her friend Erica Soto a '70s vibe.
BY FARNOUSH AMIRI
San Franciscans and avid festival-goers came together for one last weekend before the end of the summer season for the 2014 Outside Lands music festival.
Undeterred by the cooling temperatures and the return of the ineludible fog, fashion enthusiasts swayed to headliners like Kanye West and the Killers while rocking crotchet tops, army jackets and printed bottoms.
While attending tastings at Wine Lands, getting henna tattooed and enjoying a set by local band, Grouplove, women of all ages rocked their best hipster/bohemian/San Franciscan looks that would only be socially acceptable at an event like this.
The overall theme of the seventh annual music festival was comfort, comfort and more comfort.
Unlike festivals such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, locals and out-of-towners came ready for the ever-changing Bay Area weather. The key to surviving this three-day, non-stop fest was layers.
As the early afternoon bands took their places at the Panhandle and Twin Peaks stages, attendees rocked out in Summer-appropriate gear but as the Super Moon and headliners like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out, so did the beanies and cargo jackets.
One trend that was parading through the seven stages at the iconic Golden Gate Park was the ’70s printed bell-bottoms. This trend gave the music fan enough comfort to jump up and down to Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis while keeping warm and making a statement.
If you live in San Francisco or in any city that has four seasons (unlike Los Angeles), tights are a staple in any female’s wardrobe — instantly making a skirt and crop top cold weather appropriate.
August brings the Bay Area chill on in full force, and many festival-goers relied on trusty tights to avoid catching pneumonia while maintaining their festival style.
In any weather, Golden Gate Park’s thousand-plus acres of hills and mystical forests can get down and dirty, whether you are wandering aimlessly through the Digital Detox or running from the Killers stage to Tiesto’s light show.
The solution to the endless dirt and grass stains for this year’s attendees were boots of all styles and colors. The classic black bootie could be seen on almost every other flower child that weaved through the crowd of more than one-hundred thousand attendees on each night of the festival.
The last trend that (literally) capped off “festival fashion” season was an array of neutral colored fedoras and floppy hats that could be found flouncing on the heads of girls and boys alike over the three-day fest. This year-round appropriate accessory aided concert-goers from the rare rays of sunshine that blessed the music event and kept them a bit warmer as night fell.
With their flower crowns, knee-high socks, band-tees and fringe overload in tow, the people of Outside Lands enjoyed one of the best line-ups of any festival this summer, but made sure to stand out through the fog with their festive style that will sure be outdone next year.
Written and filmed by Andrew Cullen
Photos by Jessica Christian
Stand at the end of Fourteenth Street in West Oakland. This neighborhood has seen the worst of Bay Area gentrification, and its reflection is in the glass that covers the sidewalks, flowing down into gutters, stretching into the distance. It sticks to the walls of buildings and the fronts of homes, where everything as tall as the average person is covered with decades of graffiti frescoes.
A leather recliner, like the one your grandfather used to sit in, is now tipped over on to the asphalt, lacerated from end to end, hemorrhaging foam into the storm drain.
There are no people here. There are signs of their presence, though there are merely only clues as to where they may have gone, yet the only sound is the static of the constant humming vibration of traffic from the overpass overhead.
Track homes are huddled, wall-to-wall, all the way down the street, only broken by a chain link fence surrounding a dirt lot where one of those houses burned to ground so many years ago.
But this lot is not vacant.
Tucked behind the trees lies a treasure. Shrouded in shrubbery sits a shack, only slightly smaller than a garden shed, fitted with a loft, a fire burning stove, a desk and an old grand piano.
Built from the ground up, Matt Christensen gathered as much materials as he could from the local dump, where he worked, and eventually piled up enough to begin building himself a home.
“I moved back here, and pitched a tent, and started collecting materials,” he says. “I worked in the dump at the time, so it was pretty easy to get building materials.”
Construction of the shack is an ongoing project, and now that Jake Wobig, Matt’s husband, moved in, the project is beginning to expand. They hope that soon, they will be able to install solar panels for electricity and piping for running water.
The San Francisco Bay Area is undergoing rapid changes in the wake of what some are calling the second “dot-com” boom. The rise of tech companies and their mass exodus from Silicon Valley to San Francisco is propelling the Northern California economy in ways that are only comparable to New York City at the dawn of the industrial age.
Of course, our golden city is less than fifty square miles, so when we see a great influx of residents, we also see the San Franciscan middle class begin to dwindle. While the lower class, is literally being pressure washed off of the sidewalks, and pushed back into the shadows to paint a picturesque portrait for app developers, and startup entrepreneurs.
For many, surviving in the Bay Area means resulting to drastic measures. Jake and Matt have found a way to dodge the fist of gentrification by building their home from what others saw as trash, in a vacant lot in West Oakland.
Historically, San Francisco has served as Mecca for a collection of people from no where. San Francisco is built to sustain the lonely; packed to the brim with dark alley pubs, SROs and one bedroom apartments.
And yet, for those who fall on the ends of humanity’s bell curve; those who cannot be so tightly fit into society’s little box of “normal,” San Francisco shines as a beacon of hope in the fog, a city wise beyond its years, nurturing the broken and the lost.
San Francisco is of course famous for being one of the most important LGBTQ rights hubs, and because of that, the city’s widespread greeting arms attract many young LGBTQ kids who have been shunned out of their homes in middle America.
Unfortunately, San Francisco isn’t the place it used to be, and many LGBTQ kids who make the pilgrimage here in the hopes of finding a LGBTQ community with open doors wind up with a reality check that knocks them into homelessness, addiction, or sexually transmitted disease.
According to the San Francisco Department of Human Services, as many as twenty-nine percent of San Francisco’s entire homeless population is LGBTQ.
Before meeting Matt and moving into their cozy West Oakland shack, Jake’s life almost became one for the statisticians.
“High School wasn’t the greatest,” Jake says, sitting in the office of the French café he now helps manage. “It made me like, mentally fucking crazy.”
He is not alone, but often living as a gay man in Idaho, it felt that way. He remembered the feeling he had when Idaho lawmakers pushed for a bill that would legally protect police officers, firefighters, doctors, teachers, and nurses from providing any service to gay men and women, based on their religious beliefs. “Shit like that” he says, “it impacted me a lot.”
“I was more than out,” Jake says, reminiscent of his younger years. “I showed no fucking mercy. The hatred people would show towards me would just fuel me.”
His memories of his adolescence are ones that one may hear echoed on the nightly news. He remembered being bullied, “getting called names, getting shoved around” for the clothes he wore.
Jake always chose to bite back. “I would just make it even more extreme,” he says. “In ninth grade it got to the point where I would just wear full on drag makeup. I would do it on the bus. I had this scarf that I would pull out and pull down as a skirt. I would always just piss people off.”
“I was just an obnoxious, in-your-face kid; I hated everything around me,” he says. “It was always just one extreme after another. I’m a lot more mellow now though.”
It was after high school, when he got a solid friend base, that things weren’t as bad, he says. “But Idaho still just drove me insane. I couldn’t stand it there.”
After high school, Jake got a job as a custodian in a hospital kitchen. “It seriously sucked,” he said. “I was living paycheck to paycheck, in a city I grew up in my entire life, for the most part, that I really hated.”
With that thought in his head and three hundred dollars in his pocket, Jake hopped on a Greyhound bus, and headed west. “I decided there was nothing really to lose if I left,” he said. “And I have not gone back.”
After bouncing around with a few friends in Portland, Jake grabbed the last twenty dollars he had to his name and jumped another bus to San Francisco.
He came to San Francisco with no place to stay, no job and no flowers in his hair; yet he fought to make it work. He had one friend in the city who let him stay at her Inner Richmond house, but it was not a free ride.
“I had to find a way to come up with three-hundred and fifty bucks and find a job for an apartment,” Jake says. “It was all stressful for a minute, but I met some people, and did some porn to get by.”
San Francisco is one of the few cities in which a young man can “get by,” legally, using only sex. Later that year, Jake appeared in a “sex theatre” performance at the Folsom Street Fair, where Cum & Glitter hosted a fetish themed play.
“I happened to be in the incest act, where I had an older brother,” he said. Later, the director of the show gave Jake a room in his apartment in the Richmond District. “Porn and sex work pays a lot of money and thats how I was able to pull that off,” Jake said.
Shortly after moving in with his new roommate, Jake was finally introduced to someone who would make his stay in San Francisco more permanent.
Matthew Espinosa met Jake at Jake’s Richmond apartment and based on nothing but “faith and trust” offered Jake a job at an unsuspecting establishment: a coffee shop.
According to Jake, Espinosa’s boss even told him “it’s your ass if it doesn’t work out”.
“That was great,” Jake says. “I felt really grateful for that.” Without Espinosa’s generosity, things could be very different for Jake in San Francisco. Unfortunately Espinosa moved to Southern California shortly after, where he committed suicide in February.
A mutual friend from Jake’s time in Portland suggested that he and Matt Christensen meet, since they both lived in the Bay Area.
They did, and after a short time, they moved in together; into Matt’s shack in West Oakland.
Although their humble abode is expanding, there is still no certainty of how long the honeymoon will last. According to Matt, the rightful owners of the lot have a defunct address and a disconnected phone, making their return unlikely, but in the realm of possibility.
“I started looking into the legal parts of it, and how we would eventually be able to claim it,” Matt said. “I looked into how adverse possession works, and its basically just a fancy word for squatters rights.”
The shack is built primarily from wood collected from Matt’s old job at the dump. The only portion of the house that was purchased, was some roof insulation and a ceiling pipe for the chimney they have connected to a small iron fireplace in their living room, which all together cost them about three hundred dollars.
Neither Matt, nor Jake knew anything about architecture or carpentry before building the shack, but rented books from the local library to teach themselves.
In the future, they hope to expand the compound by adding a second shack, and a compost outhouse, which “sounds gross, but is actually great for gardening,” according to Matt.
In their front yard, they have two planter boxes which they have grown edible vegetables in, alongside a synthetic beehive. “It’d be nice to have something other than microwave pizza… not that microwave pizza is bad.” Matt said.
They have dabbled with the idea of installing solar panels to generate electricity, but are weary because they are both away from home most of the day, and fear that they may get stolen.
The house itself is built around Matt’s old grand piano, which he claims was “actually built into the plan.”
Matt collected as many items from the dump as he found interesting and brought them home. If the boys did not find a use for it, it usually was simply nailed to the wall and used for decoration. The house is littered with family pictures from people they have never met, fragments of the past lives of those who never were.
The “off-the-grid” nature of their cottage may seem extreme, or weird, but it is exactly that weirdness that makes it their home.
Now, stand back at the end of 14th Street. Look past the flowing stream of broken windshields and see through the dull vibration of broken dreams. Imagine the times when one could see children sliding in the park, throwing footballs in the street, and families having barbecues on their driveways. Imagine a time when the homes on the street bore no graffiti on their walls and when a kid could lay on the grass and imagine pictures in the clouds.
Do your best to see this while you can, because soon enough, even the shadows of neighborhoods like this will soon be bought out and replaced with parking spaces, and temp positions and the quintessential Bay Area feeling may be gone.
So, whether you are here to stay, or just passing through, look closely at the faces of the destitute begging for change, listen hard to the bus drivers who carry a bus packed with broken hymns, and as you walk through the streets remember to breathe it in, let it become part of you. Remember each star in the sky, hanging heavy above us all and know that although like the stars, we may seem to drift through the darkness alone, we all still have a home.
A photographer takes a photo downtown on Saturday, April 19th, 2014. The group was part of Flaskmob, a flashmob of photographers who meet monthly to take photos and network together. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress
Kyle Thomasson plays the guitar while others take photos on Saturday, April 19th, 2014. The group was part of Flaskmob, a flashmob of photographers who meet monthly to take photos and network together. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress
Written by Marianna Barrera
Photos By Ryan Lebrich
As soon as the sun sets, the mob slowly starts to gather between Sansome and Commercial Streets. Soon hundreds of people are gathered on that same corner being loud, drinking, and drawing attention to themselves.
“Flask Mob! Flask Mob!” chants everyone as soon as founders Evan Thompson and Sabina Farrugia show up and begin to lead the way. Once at their first stop, everybody poses for a group picture and smoke bombs are distributed. In no time, the air is filled with smoke and the flash of cameras is all around.
Filling the streets by the hundreds, they drink, smoke, laugh, and photograph anything around them. They are a family; they are Flask Mob—some of the Bay Area’s most creative minds gathered and ready to take over the streets of San Francisco.
Flask Mob started as an idea after Thompson’s friends and online followers constantly asked to go shoot with him. Thompson is known for his truly invigorating pictures of the San Francisco skylines, not fearing boundaries and always going above and beyond to capture the perfect shot.
“There’s always new spots to find, and there’s always new buildings,” says Thompson, “so once we found a name and a reason to meet up, that’s how it organically started.”
The idea behind Flask Mob was to create an event where people with an interest in photography could gather and learn to take pictures in places where Thompson usually does, all while having fun and drinking.
“We’re creative people,” says Farrugia, “So we wanted a forum for people to hang out, chill and network, and do stuff that we like to do.”
The catchy name was created by Farrugia, taking the idea of flash mobs and making it their own.
“Flash mobs meet and dance at a random location. Flask Mob would meet and drink at a random location,” says Thompson.
One of the main group objectives is for people to network with each other, in a more nontraditional way.
“We want it to be fun, because I have to do networking stuff all the time, and a lot of it is stuck up, wine, suits—not fun,” says Farrugia, “creative people typically aren’t’ the people who want to be in suits with wine discussing what they can work on together.”
Flask Mob was the answer, it would be a networking event in which people could still have fun and not have to worry about traditional networking stuff.
“So we started telling people to pack a flask, pack a camera and show up,” says Farrugia.
The first meetup took place last November with about seventy people. Since then, word of the mob has been spreading quickly through social media, increasing the number of attendees by the hundreds.
“Everyone was so about it from the get go,” says Faruggia, “It became a lot bigger than we had planned. “
The mob now has almost four thousand followers on Instagram, and more than five hundred email sign-ups for their upcoming website.
Throughout the night, the streets and alleys of San Francisco are illuminated by flares, spinning steel wool, and everyone’s excitement. Bystanders were confused, their cars slowing as they tried to figure out who this group of people was. Employees would come out and ask who they were as the mob passed by their business.
The group made five stops in their route. Leaders of the mob tried to control the crowd by separating and communicating with each other via walkie-talkies.
One of the bigger problems the mob has had to deal with, is the constant tagging.
“It got so out of hand with the tagging that we actually pulled the plug. We said it’s done you guys,” says Farrugia about one of their previous meets.
“We do encourage expressing yourself, but there are ways to do it,” said Farrugia, “A lot of our friends are graffiti artists, and I have tagged back in the day, but that just has to be separate from what were doing, mainly because we can shut down really quickly.”
Flask Mob is trying to keep under the radar as much as they can, thus staying out of trouble is a big concern. John Kim, a former social media follower of Thompson was taken in after the first meetup, and is part of crowd control for the mob.
“The crowd started to get bigger, and I kind of tried to control it on my own,” says Kim. “It’s hard, but I’ll try to start at one section and try to keep them in line, and we communicate with walkie-talkies too, because nobody answers their phones.”
Kylle Thomasson walked with his guitar and was singing with others throughout the night. The crowd cheered for him and sang along, bringing even more enthusiasm to the already rowdy group. At multiple points, he provided music for a free style rap performed by two other attendees.
“I feel like I’m family. It’s like I came here and was accepted, you feel me?” says one of the freestyle rappers and first time attendees, Michael “Burnt Toast” Young. “ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh he’s an outsider’ I felt welcome here.”
The night continues until past midnight, the crowd’s enthusiasm going strong and by the end of the night, after a few security guards kicked everyone out of the Yerba Buena gardens, the mob slowly started dispersing.
Flask Mob events are held once a month, and every other month such as last month, instead of walking the streets, they will gather at a spot to network and drink with each other.
“Flask Mob, as it grows, it’s a learning experience in how we coordinate the large amounts of people,” said Thompson.
Thompson felt as if he was not able to communicate with everyone by just doing the walking Flask Mob. His goal for the alternate meet ups is to be able to know everyone in the group, and have a chance for everybody be able to talk to each other as well.
“I like how we’re meeting all these new people and learning from each other,” said Andre Soto at his first Flask Mob event, “We get to make a connection with everyone, and it’s a way of connecting with your community. It’s perfect.”
For now, the renegade group is staying in San Francisco, but Thompson is already working on expanding the mob and, by the end of the year, plans to take over 3 more cities.
Their next stop: Los Angeles.
Speakeasy Ales and Lagers Brewery, located at 1195 Evans Avenue in the Bayview District. Apr. 6. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
Written by Katie Mullen
Photo by Tony Santos
It’s a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco. The sun has come out to play and so have you. You and a group of friends decide that the only thing to compliment the beautiful day at hand is a well-crafted beer. You guys are in luck, you live in a city dotted with some of the finest micro-breweries out there.
Beer has quickly gained popularity in the past seven to ten. More people are learning about it, attempting to make it, and simply drinking more of it. Home brewing was not made legal in the United States until 1978. This is not to say that home brewed beers were a pigment of the imagination though, they were just a well-kept secret.
Now, it seems that every other person you talk to will tell you how they are attempting to brew at home or that on of their friends are. It use to be taboo for girls to drink beer, it was a drink for manly men. It was the alcohol of football games and arm wrestling tournaments, and besides it had too many calories for girls to drink it, right? Well not anymore.
Beer has become a coveted and respected drink. Its no longer just the drink of beer pong and beer bongs. It is a hand-crafted alcohol that people smell before tasting to get a whiff of the hops in it, they sip it and attempt to decipher hints of coffee or hazelnut, perhaps there is a hint of fruitiness or citrus.
Perhaps the most trending type of beer is the infamous IPA, short for India pale ale. You may have head people say, “oh, its so hoppy, I love it!” and may of you may have shook your head agreeing but really had no idea what on earth they were referring to. Well let me break it down for you. Hops are one of the few main ingredients found in all beers. It is simply the flower of a hop plant, which is part of the hemp family. It gives off a bitter taste, which is what many IPA lovers search for. Shockingly, there are over three hundred different types of hops grown anywhere from Germany to California and Washington.
Hops were originally used to balance the beer. Grains that are used in beers are extremely sweet and sugary. So, by adding hops and bitterness, brewers were able to create more of a balanced flavor that was less overwhelming for the drinker. The IPA took that a step further to overpower a beer with the hops.
Here is some information about IPAs to impress your friends with. India pale ales came into existence around the 18th century. A man named George Hodgson would ship beer, his pale ales, from England into India. Because the voyage was long and hops acts as a natural preservative, he would add extra hops in order to help the beer stay fresh. The taste because increasingly demanded and born from the pale ale came India pale ale we know and love today.
Currently, the West Coast IPA has become a new way to brew using the process of dry hopping. Which in short gives you the aroma and flavor of the different hops creating different tastes in beer. This is why no two IPAs will taste the same. And our recommendation would be to try them all!
San Francisco is proud to be the home of Anchor Steam Brewery but it is also home to many other amazing breweries that have somehow remained under the radar for many years. With beer now coming into the social scene, they are gaining popularity and foot traffic but they are still considered local gems.
Some of these breweries are Cellarmaker Brewing Company of Howard St., ThirstyBear Brewing company in the Financial District, and a Giants fan’s home away from home: 21st Amendment. But at the top of the local beer guru’s list would have to be Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Triple VooDoo Brewery, and Southern Pacific Brewing.
Speakeasy is a locally brewed and mostly locally sold beer. It specialized in Ales and Lagers. Ale beers are brewed from malted barley and yeast. It is fermented very fast, which gives it a fuller taste and is often times fruity. These also contain hops to balance the malt. Lagers ferment much more slowly than ales. They are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast then are stored at cool temperatures to mature their taste. The hops are much easier to taste in a lager than in an ale.
Speakeasy is a fun place to spend a day. Sampling beers and talking to the servers and bartenders that could talk to you for days about the beers they currently have and beers they use to carry. “I love going to Speakeasy not only because I love their beer but because I always seem to learn something about beer whether it be about how it is made, how it is processed, or what is in it,” says Michael Herndon, a previous SF State student now living in the city. If you are interested in the process of how ales and lagers are brewed, the tour would be the place for you to go. But, take a pen and a notepad because brewing is a long and complicated process. Luck for us, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers has it down to a science, literally.
Next on the list would be Triple Voodoo Brewery and Tap Room. If the name alone isn’t enough to draw you in there, you are in luck because I have more information for you. Berkley student and beer enthusiast, Derek Campbell says, “Every time I come into the city, I make it a priority to come into Voodoo. I hate to be corny but I really do think they cast a spell on me or put a potion in their brews or something.”
What is cool about Triple Voodoo is that you can have food from local restaurants delivered to you as you are sitting and enjoying a nice, cold, well-crafted beer. The brewery has sixteen beers on tap that rotate, meaning that they are not all available year round. This is kind of fun because if you are use to drinking a beer but it is not on tap when you go in, you are forced to step outside the box.
And finally, probably the least known and talked about brewery would be Southern Pacific Brewery. This brewery is awesome because it is not what you are expecting when you see the building. It also has some tasty food to compliment the beers they have on tap. One woman’s favorite is the Porter, it is on tap and when that tap runs out, it is gone for a while. “I literally cried one time when I came in here and the Porter tap was gone,” says Raimi Mitchell-Young who lives in the city. “The thought of it was the only thing that got me through my day, it is the best beer I have yet to find in the city, and it was gone!” She also went on to say that the black bean burger and sage fries are to die for.
These breweries only scratch the surface of what San Francisco has to offer the beer obsessed individuals. But to get into it would take hours to read through. The best advice is to start at a microbrewery, spark up a conversation with a bartender or fellow beer drinker, and ask them what other breweries they enjoy. Then the fun part comes, go explore them! There are so many beers out there that it can be daunting, but the more you try, the more you will know and the more you can narrow the search for your personal perfect beer. Beware of the sours though, rumor has it that they grow on you if you can drink a full glass in one sitting, emphasis on the “if”… Now go forth and taste!
A child of two deaf parents, Meir Schneider, was born with cataracts, glaucoma, astigmatism, and nystagmus. As a young boy he underwent five unsuccessful surgeries that shattered and scarred his eye lenses. He was declared permanently blind. Despite being told that his condition was hopeless he was determined to see. Now he drives.
Schneider spent his childhood reading and performing schoolwork in Braille. At the age of seventeen his life changed dramatically when he met an instructor who introduced him to the Bates Method of eye exercises, a natural vision therapy developed by William Bates in the late nineteenth century.
Schneider diligently practiced the Bates Method and combined it with his own regiment of self-massage and movement. Within six months he began to recognize visual objects for the first time and today he holds an unrestricted California driver’s license.
“Working on my eyes was at first painful,” says Schneider, who attended SF State from 1978-79. “Then slowly as I built more and more vision it became more normal for me. We worked and I improved my vision from something like 20/2000 to today about 20/70.”
Schneider ability to see defies the basis of modern vision diagnosis. An optometrist might take one look at his eyes and immediately conclude that he is blind because his lenses admit less than one percent light. Yet he can read the eye chart and he drives throughout the Bay Area on a regular basis.
“To be in a place where I can drive is beyond anyone’s imagination,” says Schneider. “The day that I got my driver’s license was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was like a prize. The biggest prize I could possibly get.”
Despite the rising rates of vision failure Schneider’s story of natural vision improvement runs cross current to the swell of traditional vision correction. The National Eye Institute reports the number of Americans who report some form of visual impairment is expected to double by 2030. But as the rates of vision failure continue to increase, mainstream medicine remains stagnant in its approach.
“Medicine does nothing about it,” says Schneider. “What happens with medicine is that they give you crutches to deal with it, but they are not doing anything to help the essential reason why vision gets worse.”
Schneider challenges the notion that vision failure is irreversible and the prolific tendency to over-correct through the use of lenses.
“The whole world is resistant,” says Schneider. “They say [vision failure] is a process of life, and that’s that.”
Medical professionals state nearsightedness, farsightedness and other refractive errors are a result of eye shape and a hardening of the lens, which cannot be changed. Schneider sites poor blood circulation to the head, stress, bad habits and environmental influences as the causes of most vision problems and believe that people can improve their vision if they explore these factors.
At his School for Self Healing on the corner of Santiago and 48th Street in San Francisco, Schneider, 59, analyzes habits like excessive close viewing, the prevalence of shoulder tension, and other symptoms of modern times, which have led to increasing rates of vision failure.
“When people were illiterate there were very few people with nearsightedness,” says Schneider. “When people started to read some of them became nearsighted, and when people used the computer many more become nearsighted.”
He has taken his experience and research, and translated it into a program of self-healing. He works with patients individually to improve their vision, leads group workshops periodically, and travels throughout the world helping others achieve the unthinkable.
“The reality is that traditional optometry and ophthalmology could do nothing for him,” says Erik Peper, professor at the Institute of Holistic Health at SF State, who met Schneider in 1976. “Here’s somebody who had horrible vision from birth, but he did not listen to a culture that told him he had no hope. He’s an exemplar of what is possible when we really have a drive and desire to achieve whatever we want.”
The exercises Schneider teaches draw on principles derived from the Bates method with the addition of massage, relaxation, and various forms of bodywork. The physical exercises are an important component of vision improvement because he says the eyes are a function of the body and cannot be treated separately, and blood flow to the eyes must be developed.
At his school near the ocean he has fourteen massage tables, a sauna, and a trampoline. Schneider leads his patients on Ocean Beach excursions and instructs them to walk backward in the sand. He wants people to activate muscles they rarely use and to relax the muscles they frequently use. He helps patients learn to isolate muscles and then unite the parts.
After relaxation has been cultivated, Schneider leads his patients through the eight principles of natural vision improvement: deep relaxation, adjustment to light, distance viewing, looking at details, periphery, balance of two eyes, balance use within each eye, and body-eye coordination.
He says that a myopic lifestyle leads to poor vision habits. Staring at a computer, or remaining transfixed on a cell phone for too long decrease the eyes’ abilities over time. He also believes that sunglasses are anti-productive, but he does have one use for them.
“We break sunglasses, that’s the only use I have for sunglasses,” says Schneider frankly. “We break one lens and put duck tape on the other lens, and it becomes an obstructive lens and we use that.
He frequently rubs his eyes, gently massaging them throughout the day, a technique he teaches his patients as well. Night walks and sunning are other practices he employees to strengthen various parts of the eye.
“The body sees well. We do things that make it not see well and we don’t compensate for what we do, and by not compensating we create all these problems.”
“Yoga for the Eyes” is a series of YouTube videos in which Schneider demonstrates how a person can quickly improve their vision. One of the methods, developed by Bates, but practiced by Tibetan yogis for thousands of years, is a palming practice, in which a patient cups his hands over his eyes. Schneider says that this is the most integral of all eye exercises because it both rests and energizes the eyes at the same time.
Lindsay Cartwright, a massage therapist and Schneider’s former operations manager, was hesitant to buy in at first.
“I was skeptical because his story is very grand,” she says. “But you see it’s not only true for him, but for a lot of the clients we have coming here. They have results that are just as miraculous. It’s not often the big stories you hear are true.”
Jeanne Harvey, 67, of Quebec City, Canada, had pseudo laminar dystrophy, which her ophthalmologist recommended treating with surgery. If left untreated, pseudo holes can lead to blindness. While waiting for the surgery she found out about Meir Schneider in a book, flew to San Francisco for one of his workshops and began practicing his exercises. Within a month her ophthalmologist told her she no longer needed surgery.
“My mother was blind, two of my uncles were blind, and my husband is blind,” says Harvey. “I’m very grateful to find Schneider and his work.”
Schneider has been acknowledged by many leading experts in the vision field, including August Reader III, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at California Pacific Medical Center. Reader says that he has personally seen improvement in his patients who have worked with Schneider.
Doctor Edward Kondrot, an ophthalmologist and homeopathic physician, is interested in Schneider’s work and focuses his own vision research on reversing chronic eye disease, with an emphasis on light. He says that ‘light at night’ is not normal for humans and it is the most dramatic environmental change in the last thirty years, a direct result of computer use and artificial light. He says the intensity of this light is much higher than natural light and the wavelength is much shorter—a dangerous combination.
In the face of miraculous results, Schneider, Kondrot and other natural vision healers remain ostracized by the traditional vision world.
Kondrot says mainstream ophthalmology and natural vision therapy are “two different approaches to healing and they will never agree.”
Schneider says the fathers of ophthalmology in America decided that vision cannot improve and the issue has never been revisited.
“It’s a false decision,” says Schneider. “I’ve disproven it thousands of times so far.”
He thinks most ophthalmologists and optometrists are merely students of their teachers and ignorant to natural vision improvement, but he also thinks there’s more to it than that. He says his accomplishments challenge the entire system and people are scared.
“The whole school is to give you a correction and you’re brought up in that thinking,” says Alfred Lee, 93, an optometrist on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.
Lee says that optical schools are starting to come around to natural vision techniques, but not too long ago an optometrist could get his license revoked if he tried something like what Schneider is doing.
“At that time if anything is out of the realm or not the way they want it you’re blacklisted,” says Lee.
The UC system came close to conducting a research study on Schneider’s techniques but eventually backed out. He’s still waiting for someone else to come calling. Meanwhile he continues to help people get out of glasses.
Schneider’s School for Self Healing is intended primarily for people with vision problems, but also for those who wish to improve various muscular issues, learn embodiment techniques, and increase mindfulness. It has a vocation school status, so not only does he work with patients, but he also trains people to teach his method of healing. Schneider has one-hundred seven instructors teaching his method of vision improvement in Brazil and many others teaching throughout the United States. His new book Vision for Life is available worldwide, printed in English, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Hebrew and Czech.
Unfortunately, he says there is one downside for the people that visit him.
“They have to contend with my terrible jokes.”
Liz Piscano, of How We Roll, throws the ball between her legs during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs and The Big Laballskees congralute each other after a game of skeeball at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Kayla Clark prepares to throw the ball during her team's skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Clark plays for the team Aww Skee Skee. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Ty Hyland monitors the score during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014. Hyland runs the San Francisco Skeeball League with two other people. The league was started three weeks ago, and plays every Thursday at Bar None. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Myra Navarro (left), of Fighting Falangees Balls of Fury, and Chris Chang, of ASTRO Ballers, play each other during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Brad Davis, of The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Amanda Hoffman, of The Big Laballskees, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
Written by Jessica Mendoza
Photos by Gavin McIntyre
As you walk down the streets in the Marina district, every corner you turn is bursting with restaurants showcasing the finest meals and small boutique shops that carry the cutest clothes. The Marina is the perfect place where twenty and thirty-somethings can unwind from their busy lives to enjoy a cocktail at a sleek lounge. But what people may not realize is that the Marina district is also home to the San Fran Skeeball League.
Yes, a skeeball league.
The San Fran Skeeball League take place at Bar None, located on Union Street. The inside of the bar is like a frat boy’s fantasy home. There is foosball, pool, boxing games, beer pong tables, television and of course, a skeeball machine.
On February 6, 2014, “San Fran Skeeball League” held the first game of the skeeball season. The league coordinated by Ty Hyland and Sean Pratt, has become one the newest attractions in the Marina district where people can drink cheap beers, engage in casual conversation, and play skeeball all at once.
Teams sport names like Ball Don’t Kill My Vibe, ASTRO Balls, SKEENUTZ and The Big LaBallSkees
“Its super fun” says Amanda Hoffman of The Big LaBallSkees, “It’s competitive, but we’re here to have a good time.”
The mastermind behind the Skeeball League, Giovanni Marcantoni, wanted to create something competitive and fun for people to enjoy.
“We wanted to create a sociable environment to distract people from their problems,” says Marcantoni. Before he created the Skeeball League, Marcantoni and his friends established a bocce ball league in Baltimore. Marcantoni and his friends played bocce outside in the grass, but weather conditions sometimes put a damper on the bocce game forcing them to cancel.
“It was too cold outside,” says Marcantoni about playing bocce. People were also getting hurt and injured during the game. The bocce league’s problems inspired Marcantoni to create a league that is indoors in a bar where people can drink and play games without traveling anywhere else. Marcantoni branched the skeeball league into different cities on the East coast. He has expanded the league to Manhattan, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Charleston.
After a successful run on the East coast, Marcantoni decided to move the league West. Marcantoni added cities Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco—the newest city in the league.
Pratt explored the city to find the perfect bar to hold the skeeball games. The problem in their search was no bar already housed a skeeball machine. That was until they came across the Marina and found Bar None. It was perfect bar, already carrying gaming machines and already with the perfect laid-back atmosphere.
“They help us out by allowing us to have the Skeeball League,” says Pratt, “We help them bring more people to the bar.”
As they finally settled on a location, it was time to spread the news about the new league in the city. They created their website sanfranskee.com where people can register and create a team.
“It’s a good rational mix of people,” says Justin Beann, a league member of team The Artist Formerly Known As Free Ball.
“Anyone can join and play,” Pratt said. “You don’t have to be perfect.”
So how do you join the San Fran Skeeball League? Anyone can register on the website. Each team has to have a captain and a group between six-to-twelve members with each person paying a fifty dollar entrance fee.
“We don’t turn people away,” says Meg Nash, another member. “We want people to come here and make lasting friendships.”
Of course, whoever signs up to play in the league has to come up with a name for their team. People put “Skee” in their teams names. Like the guys from A. SKEE Slater who of course name their team from the popular “Saved By The Bell” television series. Other teams give themselves more progressive names like R.W.A which stands for Rollers with Attitude. Each member has names like Skeeyonce Rolls, MsSkeeElliot, Run DMSkee, Big Skeeballs and Andre Skeethousand.
“We wanted to have names to intimidate other teams,” says Skeeyonce Rolls about her teams choosing their alter-ego identities.
Not only does Hyland and Pratt host the tournament but they join in the game. When David Miller was the only member from his team that showed up, Hyland and few others jumped in and played with him.
The Skeeball League is far beyond different than other tournaments. The league is created for people to come together and have the time of their lives.
“Most of these folks just come here and have a good time.” says Hyland.
Written By Chantel Genest
Photographed by Lorisa Salvatin
You are acutely aware of a bang and a roar, a drum cymbal between a ticking beat traveling from your left to your right. A toad croaks amidst the mire beneath you, a deep hooting owl hidden in the trees above you. Chirps and a buzzing of a busy forest evade your surroundings. Silence. Water trickles off of the walls, a child’s utterance coming towards you from the distance. Ascending high and low, far and near, a makeshift symphony heightens your auditory senses as you sink into the pitch-black world consuming the remains of your sightless perception. You are experiencing the Audium
“I gradually fell into a trance state where I was somewhat awake and somewhat asleep,” says Ben Slater, twenty-five. “The fragment of noises brought memories in and out of my mind and made me more aware of time.”
As you pass the ticket booth and make your way into the foyer, you at once cannot help but to look all around you. Moving images of waterfalls stream across the walls and the echo of dripping liquid takes hold of your auditory senses. From the moment you enter the Audium building the experience has begun.
Once eight-thirty strikes you will assemble into a faintly lit room and choose from the forty-nine plastic folding chairs set up in a sphere around the dome-like theater. The lights begin to dim little by little until you find yourself in complete darkness. For the next ninety minutes, if you can handle it, you will be entrapped by a series of noises. Not quite together, yet not far apart, from children laughing to puddles splashing a chain of sounds bring you into a new perceptual awareness.
In the 1950’s, space was still an unexplored element of music composition due to the lack of audio technology available. Composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern shared an idea that space was capable of revealing a new musical language.
Together the SF State alumni took their idea and made it reality. In 1967 the first Audium location opened up, the only space of its kind constructed specifically for sound movement and utilizing the entire environment as a compositional tool. At that time the performance was created through only forty-four speakers.
By the time the present location opened up on Bush Street in 1975, the space was installed with a floating floor and 136 speakers hanging above the audience and embedded into the walls and floors.
“What you are hearing in there is me at a board, changing and altering where the sound is coming from, the intensities, the speed in which it’s traveling,” says Shaff. “The board is an instrument of space. I am literally composing my work, which is on a hard disc in a separate part of the building that comes into the board and I then distribute it into the different speakers around the room.”
Today, with 176 speakers placed specifically around the custom made structure with slanted and protruding walls, the audience is carried into pitch-blackness, allowing no visual awareness, to hear a sequence of noises travel over and under and everywhere in between.
After nearly a half century, Shaff continues to show up every Friday and Saturday at eight o’clock to compose the performance for audiences young and old, both newcomers and returners looking for something new to expand their minds and views.
“With technology has come this world of sound,” said Shaff’s son and employee Dave. “The world used to be a lot quieter than it is now.”
Surround sound, Imax movie theatres, and the boundaries of music being broken down constantly have changed the way we think. Technology has pushed younger generations to crave new ways of thinking and to explore the unknown.
“People nowadays are searching out and looking for that experience with a kick and this is definitely that,” says Dave.
The performance at Audium is unique, no doubt. You are forced to see with your ears and accept the both harsh and delicate reverberations moving through you, transforming from distant clatter to in-your-face bangs.
“You can’t follow one thought for too long because the audio will take you somewhere else,” says Aaron Strick, twenty-four. “It was a nice blend of internal feelings that someone else is guiding and affecting. Its just a rare experience to have.”
Halfway through the performance the lights turn up just enough for your visual senses to return and for five minutes you and the strangers around you sit staring around at the dark images of each other’s bodies and the hanging speakers above you. For those that aren’t grasping or enjoying the composition, this is the time to exit.
“Initially we weren’t sure, and early on more people were uncomfortable with the darkness and the atmosphere,” Says Stan.
For now, Audium continues to use a recorded audio sequence in which Shaff changes every year to year and a half. But Shaff, his son, and McEachern have bigger plans for the future with more elements to add to the mix. Live performers and greater three-dimensional sounds are a hope for the staff.
Learning to use the soundboard is a daunting task, but one Stan plans to teach his son very soon. Dave, who has been around Audium his entire life and even lends to the performance with audio recordings of him as a child as part of the piece, plans to continue and expand further what his father has started.
“I look at Audium as being only a seedling, like a start up of the idea of space, immersion, sound movement and the control of that motion,” says Shaff. “I imagine it only getting more evolved and seeing more places like the Audium popping up eventually.”
You can experience Audium for yourself, every Friday and Saturday night beginning promptly at eight-thirty.
The name Barry Bonds immediately evokes memories of steroids and legal indiscretions. He’s known as the man who took the home-run king title away from Hank Aaron while parading around as the villain of baseball.
But let’s forget all of Barry Bonds’ woes. Move on. But it seems a lot easier writing in words than to actual move on from the scrutiny like Bonds experience towards the end of his career. But it must be harder to make come back from being under surveillance from the media. Bonds was back in the spotlight this year and it wasn’t about his legal issues or whether he should be in the Hall of Fame. In March, Bonds went to Spring Training and offering a week as hitting instructor for the Giants. Bonds back in the orange and black.
Let’s remember Bonds hasn’t been in a Giants uniform and hasn’t played baseball in years. So the question is why now? Maybe it’s to reconcile with Bonds after letting him go after he broke the home-run record. The answer is Bonds loves the game. Baseball is his first love. It’s only the lasting longest relationship that Bonds have ever been in. However, it’s another way to erase the past and start over again with a new generation of players.
“He is trying to rehabilitate his image” says Henry Schulman, a SF Chronicle sports writer.
Bonds asked the Giants to come back to Spring Training, but the Giants had to think about bringing back the former face of the franchise back into the game.
“ The Giants’ brass thought about his request to come to spring training and decided they couldn’t really keep him away while they invite all their other greats from the past to come.” say Schulman about the Giants decision to bring Bonds back.
The Giants brought Bonds as a special hitting instructor for the players for one week. It must have been a sign from the baseball Gods that the Giants were getting the help they need for their offensive.
Let’s face it: the Giants could use all the help they can get when it comes to scoring, by not leaving any stranded on the bases. When Bonds arrived to Scottsdale, Arizona where the Giants Spring training is located, the media circles was there as well.
The more important question is how where the players were going to react with Bonds or how was Bonds was going to interact with the players?
According to Jim Moorehead, San Francisco Giants Head Senior Director of Media Relations. seem to be nervous on the players were going to react when they get on the field.
“He was kind of nervous how he is perspective from the players.” says Moorehead.
The Giants welcome Bonds with open arms and some were star struck by Bonds presence. According to Moorehead, right outfielder Hunter Pence had a poster of Bonds from his childhood.
It seem no one cared about the whole “steroids issue” which has plagued over Bonds. They treated him like a rock star who wanted to learn from one of the greatest hitters in the game.
Every player went to Bonds and seek for his advice on their hitting techniques.
“He sat down with all the hitters behind closed doors for forty-five minutes” said Moorehead about Bonds and his relationship with the players. Bonds worked with all of the players.
Bonds talked to the players about their hitting techniques including shortstop Brandon Crawford.
“Crawford talk about keeping his shoulders in.” says Moorehead about Crawford when it is his turn to bat. “Look at his numbers against left-handers pitchers.”
According to ESPN.com, Crawford’s stats has gone up when it comes to hitting against left handers. Crawford is averaging .400 compare to last year when he was at .199 average. That is a huge difference. After Bonds one-week training ended, there is no doubt he made an impact on the players. Giants fans have seen a difference in the offensive and notice Bonds influence over the Giants.
Antonio Solano, an art major at SF State and long-time Giants fan couldn’t be any happier to have Bonds back as a hitting instructor.
“They can definitely use someone like him and his skills to help with the offensive.” says Solano.
Solano goes on and says “You see players like Crawford and Belt are getting balls into plays instead of popping up. You can tell Bonds made impact in their hitting.”
But let’s pretend for a moment and the Giants did decide to bring Bonds as a hitting instructor. Great news to Giants fans like Solano and it is not because it will help the offensive. The reason is fans will love to see Bonds back in the black and orange uniform. But the whole “steroid issue” will resurface again. People will question either or not he did take steroids.
“I grew up watching Bonds as a kid and I remember the player who was before this whole steroids.” Solano goes on “People do not know anything about how he was as a hitter and they were not paying attention until he was breaking the record.”
Is it fair to justify Bonds as the poster child for steroids man who broke the home-run record instead of the man, the baseball player who never was afraid to hit anything.
No matter what Bonds will be that idol as one of the greatest hitters of all time. Maybe it is a good idea to bring Bonds back so the public outside of the Giants fan base and they can see Bonds before the steroids.
If it can work for McGwire, the hitting coach for the Dodgers and steroids user, why not bring Bonds back?
It’s time to move on…now.
In the summer of 2005 SF State established the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP), which would prove to be life-changing for a number of students.
The program, created to cater the needs of students who were or still are in the foster system trying to pursue an undergraduate degree, serves ten new students every fall and also accepts transfer students.
Erica Sheppard McMath, a transfer student and a part of the GSP, was first put into foster care at the age of sixteen following an altercation between her and her mother. After living in two group homes McMath turned eighteen and was on her own.
She moved from San Francisco to New Orleans in order to experience college in a new environment with a roof over her head. “Dillard University in New Orleans accepted me and they were giving me housing. That was my primary purpose for leaving. I didn’t have an interest for education at all I just wanted a place to live,” says McMath.
Although housing was provided, McMath says that the school did not offer much support for the situation she was coming from.
It was not until McMath transferred to SF State that she began to take school seriously, “My attitude completely shifted. Before I had no interest in school, I was really angry with life in general, and I did not come from any type of educational background.”
Since the program’s establishment, the number of graduates has significantly increased. Director and cofounder of the GSP, Xochitl Sanchez-Zarama, says it’s very motivating for the younger students. “There are definitely several resources for students that need them, and the program encourages the students to be self-supporting, role models, who have an equal opportunity to be successful professionals.”
The GSP offers numerous services to students including priority access to on-campus housing, priority registration dates, internship opportunities, and access to counseling and psychological services.
The programs continued success is largely due to its partnership with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the SF State School of Social Work, and off-campus social service groups.
Oscar Gardea, Director for the Educational Opportunity Program says, “EOP plays a very important role in assisting the GSP with their admissions process, and providing students with academic advising via an assigned advisor.”
There are weekly check-ins with the students from advisors, and constant updates regarding scholarships, and resources regarding holiday activities. As McMath says the program is very supportive and involved with what is going on which each of its students.
The Guardian Scholars Program is truly an outlet for students to pursue a successful life post foster living. Many students who have been in foster care have not been given the proper foundation and support needed to succeed.
From being an inactive student McMath has vastly changed and says, “I pulled a 3.4 GPA last semester and for me that is like a 5.0.”
The GSP is striving to prove that progress and support go a long way.
Those were the words she wrote before she emptied a full bottle of Vicodin in her hand and methodically took each pill. All she wanted was to sleep forever and put the last three years of depression behind her. She was eighteen and wanted to die.
Alysa Hanks, twenty-two, is now an anthropology major specializing in forensics and criminal justice. It has been four years since her second suicide attempt, but her depression is still an unspoken breeding ground for fights between her and her father.
“We ignore it,” Hanks says sadly. “If it comes up, we sweep it under the rug so it doesn’t turn into a fight, he never supported me.”
This situation is all too common, according to Kurt Churchill, a practicing marriage and family therapist with specialties in teen and young adult suicide and depression.
“In our society, there is a very negative stigma attached to mental health and parents will think they didn’t raise thier kids right,” Churchhill says, “They have a hard time accepting mental health issues.”
According to the American College Health Association, serious depression and mental health needs are nothing to be in denial about. Thirty percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function.” In another study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly three-fourths of students diagnosed with mental health conditions say they experienced a mental health crisis while in school.
Despite these statistics, the negative stigma surrounding mental health and the idea that you should be able to handle life’s problems without medication keeps many who need help away, and a lot of the time that begins in the home.
“The negative stigma on mental health can be cultural or family-fueled .Those in crisis believe they can handle it within their own group or family,” says Churchill.
In Alysa’s case, this was all too true and has had devastating effects. The summer before her junior year in high school, she became anorexic and struggled daily with depression.
“You don’t really know when [depression] starts,” Alysa says, pausing to find the words that would express her emotions all those years ago. “You struggle with being happy every day and nothing helps, friends and family just don’t exist.”
As she struggled to keep her grades up, stopped eating, and spent more and more time alone, her parents undoubtedly knew something was up. But they would never use the term depression.
“Mom knew, especially when I stopped eating, but it was never talked about, it was ignored. She thought I was just in a funk and would grow out of it.”
And that was when she first attempted suicide.
“When I was depressed, I wasn’t aware of what was going on, all I could think about was how I am so depressed and there is no help for me. I just want to sleep, if I died it would be like falling asleep forever,” says Hanks.
She had a Vicodin prescription that she would take to fall asleep and there was about a half a bottle remaining, but after taking the rest, she fell asleep and woke up retching, with one of the worst hangovers she has ever experienced.
Churchill has it all down to a science. The lizard brain, or the flight or fight area of the brain, has domination during times of mental crises. But before you can get there, people go through a process where they test out their resources, they go to their mom, dad, boyfriend or best friend.
“When people act on the thought of committing suicide, they feel like they have exhausted all their resources, they are done, there is just so much turmoil going on in their head that they can’t take it anymore,” Churchill says.
According to Center for Disease Control, ten percent of adults are depressed. This same study found that adults aged eighteen to twenty-four were the most likely to report “other depression.” Linking that to suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientific evidence has shown that almost all people who take their own lives have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder.
“In other words,” Churchill says, “The feelings that often lead to suicide are highly treatable. That is why it is imperative that we better understand the symptoms of the disorders and the behaviors that often accompany thoughts of suicide.”
Now the eighth-leading cause of death overall in the United States, and the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, it has become imperative that we keep an open and knowledgeable discourse going. A large part of this discourse is educating ourselves on signs and symptoms so we can address them in ourselves and others close to us.
“Tragically, many of these signs go unrecognized,” Churchill says. “And while suffering from one of these symptoms certainly does not necessarily mean that one is suicidal, it is always best to communicate openly with a loved one who has one or more of these behaviors, especially if they are unusual for that person.”
For college students, it may be important to take note of the fact that of those who commit suicide, while many may have talked about it beforehand, only thirty-three to fifty percent were identified by their doctors as having a mental illness at the time of their death and only fifteen percent of suicide victims were in treatment at the time of their death. The other staggering statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health state that of the young adults and teens, approximately one-third of teens who die by suicide have made a previous suicide attempt.
On campus there are many resources available for students that are struggling with depression. The counseling center, located in the student services center, gives out six free sessions a year to students. A psychiatrist on campus is also available by reference of the counselors. Beyond this, support groups and other services are available.
SF State’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center offers therapy services for students throughout the academic year. Licensed clinical counselors provide six free private counseling in the student services building on the second floor. Group and couples counseling is also available.
For people who live on campus, students have access to the “Let’s Talk” program, which is a safe and informal counseling program available every weekday in residence halls. Other student services include the CEASE program, which provides free support for drug and alcohol problems, the SAFE place for victims of sexual violence, as well as the Active Minds student group for mental health and suicide prevention education.
Phone numbers to memorize or keep close to you are the San Francisco’s suicide hotline that is open 24-hours at (415) 781-0500, and (415) 989-5212 for Spanish.
For professors or employees at SF State who want to increase their knowledge of depression and suicide and learn some tips on how to help, the Counseling & Psychological Services Center, in conjunction with SF Suicide Prevention, will offer a free 2-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop from 9am-5pm on Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28. According to the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, “The goal of ASIST is to increase the knowledge of laypeople to the signs of possible suicide ideation and how to help the person through it – suicide first aid.”
Prefacing a suicide prevention conference at SF State in 2013, Yolanda Gamboa, clinical counselor and suicide prevention coordinator says in an University Communications article that “Mental health disorders typically emerge during the college years, and stressors and environmental factors can be triggers. Symptoms of depression or the diagnosis of a mental illness can be precursors to thoughts of suicide. We want people to know that if they do have these thoughts there’s support available for them.”
However, when walking in to set up an interview with someone from the counseling services, they declined to being interviewed for the school magazine on the basis that scheduling and appointment for an interview might take away from another students time.
Alysa utilized the counseling and psychological services here when she struggled with depression and mania during her freshman year, going to the psychiatrist when she felt she needed immediate attention. But for her, things have been looking up ever since she took the first steps to get help now four years ago.
“I struggled with depression a lot freshman year, but nothing compared to when I was in high school,” Alysa says. “It is hard when you move to a new environment, have to make friends, but it has been two years since I have seen my psychologist, I rarely visit my psychiatrist, and only when I need my meds adjusted.”
Despite her first year struggles, Alysa thrives in her major and works hard. Her passion is evident when she talks about different classes she has taken and how she was ecstatic to take a class in which she was able to work with real human bones. She still takes the lowest dose of antidepressants, and some days are really hard, but she has a steely sense of determination in her voice when she talks about it and the changes she ultimately wishes to see when it comes to depression.
“It’s a part of me,” Alysa says. “but it doesn’t define who I am. When people know that you are being treated for depression, people treat you differently like they have to wear kid gloves just so they don’t upset you.”
This is only one of the changes Alysa wishes to see concerning the discourse of mental health and depression. “Mental health issues are just not talked about, when people ask you how you are they aren’t really asking, they just want to hear ‘fine’ and move on. We need to listen, ask better questions, and pay attention to those close to you.”
Shako brings up one of his projects onto the computers of BAVC.
Written by Katie Mullen Photos by Lorisa Salvatin
To define hip-hop as a musical genre and culture is to make sense of an oxymoron. The true essence of hip-hop resides on the continuum between intention and interpretation. Hip-hop reflects, and always will reflect, the people that surround it.
Drastic differences between what hip-hop started out as, what it is now, and where it is headed, make it even more difficult to define. To genuinely attempt to understand hip-hop culture, it is necessary to explore all three phases.
The story goes that in 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister threw a back-to-school party that featured the sound of hip-hop and it exploded as a culture. The sound gained popularity so artists began to take songs with percussive breaks and isolate those portions; this became a distinct hip-hop sound.
For a while, hip-hop remained beats and beats only. Then, rappers would write rhymes over them and perform at house parties or battles.
Hip-hop rapping is a way of communicating African-American oral tradition. Therefore, this form of expression was dubbed “black culture”. Hip-hop is a culture because it is more than just a musical style. It extends to breaking, emceeing, graffiti art, deejaying, beatboxing, street fashion, street language, and street knowledge. In other words, its a way of life, not just a way of making music.
In this society, calling hip-hop ‘black culture’ gets a little tricky. There are many that agree with the statement whole-heartedly and there are also many that disagree with it.
DJ and hip-hop activist, Davey D. says, “using the word ‘culture’ is a slippery slope. How expressions are used in hip-hop makes it black culture. But in this day and age, what is culture? People come in and out of culture all the time.”
Hip-hop had a political and social force propelling it forward; it was not something that was whimsically created that could feature any subject. It was an open forum that was thought- provoking and meaningful for those listening.
Adissa, the so-called bishop of hip-hop, wrote an article for daveyd.com that says, “For anyone to even try to insinuate that hip-hop is not of a complete and unique African or African-American tradition is an insult to everyone who truly loves the art.” He goes on to clarify that all races enjoy the music today but that in the beginning, it was exclusively the black community.
SF State student Sheni Olora, better known as Shako Shake, feels differently about labeling hip-hop as black culture. “Even though hip-hop was created by black people, I don’t feel it’s just black culture. So many artists and producers of other races have contributed to the progression of the genre through different styles of flow,” says Olora.
He continues to explain, “Hip-hop is a global culture and has spread so far from its origination in America. The hip-hop culture has evolved too largely across the world for it to be bounded by one race.”
SF State student and bboy, Joey Kao puts records on the turntable in his room on Feb. 27.
So what is hip-hop today, and what will hip-hop be in the future? The most crucial thing to think about is interpretation. An artist’s intention is completely separate from how an audience takes it in and what emotions are evoked within them. With a corporate centered society at hand, hip-hop has gone through a multitude of changes. It is much more restricted than it use to be. In the beginning stages of hip-hop, at its grass-root origins, the music was a shared commodity.
If you heard a beat you liked, you would write lyrics to go with it and you would perform it. In the same sense, if you liked a phrase from a rap, you were free to use it in your work with a different beat. This is what Davey D. refers to as open source. Today, this does not happen because of copyright laws and music labels trying to own and monopolize pieces of work.
Corporations have changed the original intentions of hip-hop not meaning to be owned. It is not supposed to be limited and it is not supposed to be defined. Hip-hop is universal, the coming together of the human race, no matter their racial background.
The open source way of creating hip-hop music is black culture. It is the black community that believed in the culture and lifestyle of the music banning together and being resourceful in order to create something new and worthwhile.
As hip-hop progresses, there will always be battles between creating something real and creating something that will sell. Do artists remain true to themselves or do they brand themselves to gain popularity?
The future of hip-hop is promising. The sound is changing while still remaining true to its roots. Traditional hip-hop has an easy to follow beat that governs the genre. The beat consists of a few notes repeated; creating a rhythm that becomes almost hypnotic. But in recent years, specifically the past five years, it has evolved.
Artists such as Jay Z and Kanye West have been two very key players in changing the hip-hop game. They have both explored and tinkered with the music, attempting to nail down exactly how far they can push the envelope and still have their work accepted by the hip-hop community. Kanye is known for his beats which are catchy and draw in the audience. While on the other hand, Jay Z is more of a lyrical master.
“Today, even in sampled old-school hip hop music, the use of the heavy 808 drum sound, snappy snares, and fast stop-action percussion has dramatically changed the sound of hip hop,” says Olora. “I feel in the earlier 2000’s producers like Timbaland used more natural sounds such as real pianos, live-recorded drums, sampled MPC drums, beatboxing, and analog synthesizers. With today’s hip hop producers having the capability of fully computer-based music production, I personally feel today’s music has more emphasis on its processing; the amount of technical effects used to enhance its sounds.
As hip-hop progresses, you can expect more artists to continue playing with the percussion breaks in their songs, adding layers of new technology, and to also incorporate other genres. For example, hip-hop artists have begun mixing jazz and soul sounds with their breaks.
The genre is one that will never stop evolving. It reflects the people who support it, the people that believe in it. So in reality, the music and the culture are not changing, the human race is changing and the music is victim to our unpredictability.
Hip-hop culture is not developing in a vacuum; the concept of the genre is not linear and explainable. It is an uncharted territory and a genre that is itching to be expanded and explored.
*Headline is a lyric from the rapper Nas’ song “Nas is Like.”