If you live in the Sunset, Pac Heights, North of the Panhandle, anywhere that doesn’t smell like piss: chances are you’re a little bit afraid of the Tenderloin.
Despite what the New York Times says, I’m not convinced that the neighborhood is pulling many tourists into its labyrinth. That’s okay with me though. The T.L. isn’t for everybody—drunks, public urination, buying-selling-smoking, squalor, homelessness, prostitution, sirens, fights, the blatancy of it all—yet some citizens with furniture and health insurance choose to live there. And I’m one of them (well, minus the health insurance).
So is Jonathan Hirsch, founder of the successful Tenderloin Reading Series. On Saturday the 19th, the quarterly event celebrated its second anniversary. Despite the ominous pre-apocalyptic storm outside, diehard fans packed into Koko Cocktails to hear short stories, poems, and nonfiction celebrating the beautiful ugliness of San Francisco’s infamous neighborhood.
Hirsch has been leading a crusade, seeking out artists who represent the Tenderloin that can acknowledge the conditions and forge a creative presence into the landscape. His latest project, Tenderlogues, is a collaboration with Julie Michelle at ILiveHere:SF. Every month or so, Tenderlogues will feature a narrative about the T.L. from one of its inhabitants complete with a sexy photograph taken by Julie Michelle. This month, the TLRS also rolled out the first edition of Tender-Loin, a literary magazine with… you guessed it, Tenderloin-themed poetry and prose.
The Tenderloin Reading Series’ Two Year Anniversary was more of a wedding reception celebrating the marriage of all these new undertakings. It’s no surprise that many of the featured readers were also contributors to the magazine and involved with Tenderlogues.
Unfortunately three of the scheduled readers fell ill and couldn’t attend. Charlie Getter and Valerie Chavez paid homage to Ed Bowers, recovering in the hospital from an injury to his radial nerve. Bowers is the poet laureate of the Tenderloin, no question. His dry, sardonic delivery and anguished smile evoke the presence of William S. Burroughs.
Watch Getter and Chavez read from Ed’s work in the videos below. Also check out Joel Landfield read poetry straight from his experiences living as one of the Tenderloin’s urchins. While you’re at it let Tony Du Shane make you uncomfortable by listening to his story from the perspective of an embryo created from his parent’s sexual encounter in the back of a car. (His parents were in the audience, too.) My trusty camera died as Charlie Getter closed out the show with his own work, but I’ve included a video from another reading to fully illustrate his mind-blowing performance style.
Enjoy! And I hope to see you around the neighborhood.