Good-bye to my city

Pub date November 13, 2007
WriterHenry Kroll
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

EDITORIAL My marriage to the city is ending. Yes, the one on a peninsula tipped with astounding beauty, filled with rich cultural communities and the fullness and complexities of the growing inequities in American life.

It is the city that has witnessed the nurturing scenes of my adulthood on the West Coast of North America since 1966. I was here as the beat generation turned over my new city bride to newcomers during the Summer of Love. They called us hippies. Later I witnessed the tear gas flows at Haight and Ashbury the year that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis. I watched television with Students for Eugene McCarthy on Haight Street on the warm June night when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

Although my city bride is scarred and worn down, like any bride would be with too many lovers fighting over each blink of her aging eyes under a wrinkled brow, how can anybody leave after a 41-year love affair?

Sadly, the deepening citywide housing crisis, well documented by the Guardian, has now reached our rental home near our beloved Unitarian Church and Center.

I have been in the "good fight" for most of those 41 years in San Francisco, where I have been arrested in solidarity with homeless people, witnessed for peace and justice, and engaged the body politic at City Hall on behalf of sound environmental and planning policies. I have worked continually for better public TV and radio services, including 10 years of elected service on KQED’s Board of Directors.

Now what is a responsible lover of a city bride to do? Jump ship? Leave on the next voyage of the SS Bilge Rat?

As an aging groom, however, my choices are few.

Along with my human bride, Jean, I could live in the cramped, crowded, and often dangerous gray ghetto for folks of limited income. Perhaps we’d win the California Lottery so we could "afford" the city’s lottery for a so-called affordable-housing condo.

We could continue to mount the barricades, trying keep our bride from being dressed up for dates with the limousine-and-caviar set and the arrivistes of wealth and power who want to steal her remaining treasures.

Instead, we are now heading toward building a new community in Boulder, Colo., where my life in the West began nearly 50 years ago as a college student. We will be members one of America’s first cohousing villages designed by elders who are now building an intentional community of self-managed affordable and market-rate units in a city where there are successful policies geared to meet the housing needs of all income groups.

In many marriages facing uncertain challenges, at times ties are dissolved unwillingly. I will miss my haughty, imperial, and strangely vulnerable city bride called the city of St. Francis — in Spanish, San Francisco.

To you, the remaining citizens of San Francisco: I have had a wonderful relationship with my city bride, with many gifts from insightful people. It was a time of great love, affection, expectations met and unmet, with disappointments and frustrations and — of course — laughs and tears. I have had them all with you.

Henry Kroll

Henry Kroll moved to San Francisco in 1966.