I happened upon this neighborhood by chance. In late 2006, an e-mail arrived from my then- landlord notifying me that the building was being sold. Still fairly new to San Francisco, I had a few weeks to find a new home. I roamed the neighborhoods looking for the right fit. I couldn’t quite describe it, but I was in search of something similar to the six-plus years that I lived on the Park Slope/Windsor Terrace border of Brooklyn. It was diversity yes, but something more. I bounced all over San Francisco and finally found myself in a tiny section called Alamo Square. I knew nothing about the neighborhood and everyone I asked shared in the unknown. Alamo Sqaure is squeezed in the middle of uncommonly diverse sections of the city. Just a few blocks each way and you’ll find yourself either in the projects, amongst pot-blowing hippies, taking photos for tourists or trying to squeeze past the baby strollers. But these few blocks didn’t seem to have an identity. It was everything from each of the surrounding neighborhoods blended into one. It seemed right.
I spent those first few months hanging around my local coffee shop. The place was falling apart, but I got to know the owner, “Mike.” He hailed from Brooklyn by way of Palestine but for the past 20 or so years called San Francisco home. We talked world events, shared our mutual joy of the 2008 presidential election and gradually became friends. “Christopher!” he would yell every time I opened the door to a business I slowly witnessed fall apart. As the economic collapse took hold, Mike’s business crept towards the end. We tried a fundraiser, a number of locals chipped in to paint the place and clean it up. Nothing seemed to work. Mike ended up selling the shop to his friend Mohammed. I figured my time there was up.
After a few weeks of renovations, Mohammed re-opened the cafe. Alamo Square Cafe it was re-named. In addition to coffee, they would serve sandwiches, and various homemade Middle Eastern dishes. I just wanted to hear Mike yell my name as he peered above the day’s New York Times.
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