Week 4: Tenderloin Heights

Civic Center Post Office Mural: Street Art/ Mural Performance Painting/ Social Theater

It’s either “Tenderloin Heights” or “Tondo (famous slum in Manila) in the Tenderloin”.  Our scaffolding is periodically inhabited.  There are sleeping things stuffed in the tree next to the second level.  I call it the “Garden Level” .  We look over the top planks gingerly every work day hoping for no surprises. What’s worse, a tag or some human dung. Hmmmmm.  Hard to say.

One of the young guys of the Honduran corner drug cartel took quite a bit of interest in my painting style today.  “Do you have much experience?”  “Yes I do, lots of practice. I’m old, 54”  “No! you’re not old. You look young. You have a nice figure”  I do accept compliments in my layers of paint rags while I quickly focus back in on the wall.

Cristina, my student, helped again last week.  Spanish is her first language so she was quickly engaged by our fellow corner dwellers. One of the older guys (as in maybe 29) apologized to her for selling drugs while she painted.  “I have to. It doesn’t matter what I do if they catch me they will send me back.”  Much of their conversation Cristina later reported concerned friends caught by Immigration.

The police are not around this week.  People are corralled into this neighborhood.  Arrests seem very arbitrary. There is no space in California prisons and clearly not enough mental health services.  An anti Drug War demonstration came down the street last Friday.  The police were all around that.  There was also a bomb scare at the Federal building 2 blocks down so it crowded up on our block that day. A little too cozy. A blind man knocked over a blue jar of paint and it splatted on to the sidewalk.

So many places to eat in the Tenderloin but we go everyday to the quiet Vietnamese restaurant right down the street.  We are treated very well its great food. People are pointing out their favorite sections of the mural now.  The colors get richer. The Hummingbirds flutter around. Taj Mahal flowers in yellow and payne’s gray. Venetian red and quinacridone majenta.  It was the hottest day of the year today. Julie and Molly, Jenifer’s students braved the heat to paint the black and blue borders. John sweated out some garden level painting while Jenifer and I stayed underneath the scaffolding for shade.

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