How San Francisco can write a new love story


Each year, the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America host an annual conference in beautiful Napa Valley called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives. Conference attendees will be immersed in a world of the latest nutritional science, in addition to hands-on and chef-led techniques. You will learn and teach others to enjoy a wide variety of foods that can reduce the risk of disease and, ideally, replace unhealthy lifestyle choices. The goal of the conference is to make attendees advocates and role models for healthy food and lifestyle choices. It is on this inspiring annual retreat that I have been presenting for 18 years that I go happiest despite the pandemic and keep my connection to the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley alive.

Just as we need to be mindful in our choices and lifestyle in the culinary world, we need to be mindful in politics and governance. We need to think beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort and beyond our own time frame. We need to think life more holistically. At this week’s conference, I looked out over San Francisco from there, and I realized that much needs to be done.

My maternal grandparents had three children abroad and one child in India, so they began to spend more and more time in San Francisco after they retired. Nani didn’t see this as something to bring her down, but rather to lift her up. She learned new tricks when she settled in the United States. She cooked, cleaned and enjoyed the company of her grandchildren. She took care of herself and her husband, learned new cooking techniques, new ways of baking, new recipes for salads and sandwiches and cornbread. My grandfather read the New York Times; Nani would read it too, but then she would look for the grocery section and learn new recipes from it. She taught herself how to live in a new country, embrace it and learn from it.

San Francisco has the same opportunity – not to get lost in the gloom, but to see its challenges as opportunities that keep it alive, thinking, arguing and challenging itself. And in that way you grow to become better, more inclusive, more thoughtful, more welcoming, more exciting, more adventurous and a place for all who come and make it their home.

Homelessness is San Francisco’s challenge. You can’t hide it or hide from it. The homeless don’t want to move into new quarters that the mayor and the city have found for them. They want to be in the city where they learned to deal and survive.

Each and every one of these homeless souls speaks of the smallness of the minds and hearts of their fellows. Their untold stories are those of neighbors cozy in their homes. Every street in these corners, considered too lonely to walk at night, tells a tale that the mist might hide but is seen all too clearly by open eyes and intelligent minds.

This is a space that houses Twitter, Google, and Facebook. There are tech giants all over San Francisco. These are people who can band together and find a smart way to deal with homelessness, but no one has the will.

Nani suffered a stroke in her later years and, through physical therapy, learned to move again with a walker. Instead of mourning her limitations, she had her walker fitted with a tray that she would use as a cutting board. She would sit and chop vegetables, then use her walker to carry them to the kitchen to cook. She cooked three meals a day for herself, my grandfather and for guests who came by.

San Francisco is a beautiful city inhabited by incredible people who genuinely believe in doing good things. It is now time for this city and its citizens and its government to come together and create a “walker” that not only helps them do what needs to be done, but also gets the world looking at them and saying so : “Wow, if you can do it, so can we.”

American author Armistead Maupin wrote the Tales of the City book series from 1978 to 2014. The stories revolve around a landlady, Anna Madrigal, who has a deep, dark secret. But that doesn’t stop her from being a magical woman, a gracious hostess, and the most caring of elders to her tenants.

San Francisco is Anna Madrigal. Don’t let her challenges stop her from being a caring landlady to all of her residents. It’s time San Francisco woke up and harnessed his amazing talent, found a solution, and gave the world a way to make homelessness a thing of the past –

to care for their residents and to give everyone a sense of belonging.

San Francisco has an excellent reputation and is middle-class at heart. It may be lost, but it is not misguided. It’s taken a few wrong turns on its journey to greatness, but it’s slowly moving toward a tomorrow that wants to make it better for everyone. San Francisco has the right heart, mind and soul. It just needs to own itself and appreciate its reality. His struggles are of his own making, and his solutions will also come from himself. It must make its love story one that will bring joy and nirvana to all who call it home.


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