By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
After eight years and nine months as a staff writer and columnist at SF Weekly, I have decided to move on, to pursue, as they say, other interests. This column will be my last act of journalism -- for a while at least. I'm leaving the craft to which I have dedicated my entire professional life. I didn't want to leave journalism. For a lot of reasons, personal and professional growth among them, I'd decided to leave the Weekly. But I discovered quickly, and sadly, that there was nowhere else I could go in local journalism and be happy.
I was left with a choice: leave San Francisco for journalism. Or leave journalism for San Francisco. There was no contest. Like a lot of other blessedly foolish people hereabouts, I always choose San Francisco.
But enough about that. As it turns out San Francisco has already rewarded my fealty. My new job, as an investigator for City Attorney Louise Renne, is something I am truly excited about. It promises to be rewarding in all aspects, full of opportunities for that personal and professional growth I mentioned. Besides, a private tale of professional disappointment would make for a sorry goodbye.
"Waterfront Downs" and "The Politics of Arrogance"
Cothran, September 9, 1999
All I really want to do is say thank you.
I complain a lot about how overindulgent this town is. How undeserving people are allowed to occupy important posts in various fields when they wouldn't be tolerated in any other city.
You can name the syndrome after anyone you choose: trust fund radicals, self-promoting authors with bedroom eyes, socialites who marry well (over and over again), sclerotic district attorneys, or whomever. I am sure some people call it the Cothran syndrome. And in many ways they should.
Like a lot of folks, I was a beneficiary of this civic character flaw, which was so aptly described by City Hall lobbyist Marcia Smolens years ago, when she told me, "George, in San Francisco we have one simple rule: Anyone can play."
When I started out I didn't know squat about what I was doing. But I was still allowed to play.
I wrote some pretty awful examples of journalism. I trusted the wrong people, and I trusted them too much. I believed in the myths of the left and never bothered to think outside that box. Consequently, and for many years, I missed seeing all sorts of wonderful corners of this city, and I missed out on telling many wonderful stories. I was a propagandist. I was everything I abhor today.
But this is San Francisco. And I was allowed to stick around until I got it right. Until I learned how to tell a story well.
I was tolerated. I was indulged.
And for that, all I can say is thank you.
Through these years of immaturity, I grew into the city, loving it more and more for its tolerance of me. See, that's the reciprocal deal we make in San Francisco. A city full of people making mistakes and fools of themselves is frustrating, until we realize we are or were one of the fools.
Nearly a decade later, I'm still all tangled up in San Francisco. I couldn't leave it without losing too much of myself. I made my mistakes here. I paid my dues here. And finally, in the last few years, I won my victories and my modicum of respect here, too.
A few years ago, I listened at the edge of a man's bed as he died telling me with his last breaths what he hoped his life had meant. We had at one time been bitter enemies, cursing each other from different sides of a political divide, and he had once threatened to have militants march on my house. I was one of the parade of people who dropped by his house in his final days of battling cancer, each bringing gifts. My gift, which I think he appreciated, was to finally let him have the last word.
And then I drove back to the newsroom and wrote about it.
If I lived anywhere else, this experience would fade into a story to tell over dinner. Here it remains alive. Here, I still smell his death room -- the mixture of marijuana and decay and futile fight -- every time I drive by Ashton Avenue.
Exactly one year ago, I sat on church steps in the Mission and watched as people slowly built a memorial to a beautiful young girl who didn't have to die. Like a lot of beautiful young people needing to reinvent themselves, she had come here from somewhere else and consequently had no townspeople, no family, no friends to celebrate her life in the city where she died. The memorialists barely knew her, but they all knew the loneliness of being young and on your own for the first time, a San Francisco tradition, especially in the Mission.
Guided by a rescue impulse, her S.F. friends built a memorial out of candles and scraps of paper and flowers until it was a sad and beautiful thing that transcended anything a more traditional hometown ritual could have offered.