Denise Sullivan

Author, Journalist, Culture Worker

Goodbye Old San Francisco, Hello Great Unknown

The pandemic has served to empty out the city of San Francisco leaving its park and recreational areas lightly traveled by locals.
Photo by Denise Sullivan

Since mid-March when the City & County of San Francisco went early and hard on its shelter-in-place guidance and beat the odds by flattening its COVID infection curve, much has been written about the way our local and state officials coordinated – and didn’t coordinate – efforts to keep residents, essential workers and people living on our streets safe. Nine months later, we’re in a very different place: The coronavirus continues its surge on the West Coast, threatening to overload hospitals and death rates by early next year, particularly within our small city limits. A new stay-at-home order took effect this week, its aim to reverse the uptick in cases, but compliance with the mask, curfew and reduced retail capacity orders are hard to enforce. People still seem to be moving freely about and I’m as lost and confused as the rest of us.

As a columnist, specializing in arts and culture with an eye on our tightly-woven, interconnected communities, I’ve tried to cover a wide cross-section of folks contending with the virus. I’ve been fortunate that my fellow San Franciscans have graciously opened their lives and are willing to share their stories about the ways the pandemic has impacted their businesses, their art and their/our lives in general. My series of SFLive columns for the San Francisco Examiner can be read at the link here, and my work for the San Francisco Chronicle is here. With each, I’ve tried to give you a portrait of the person profiled, while painting a picture of what’s been on my mind in these months too: A couple of recent columns, one on the removal of our iconic, 83-year-old Coca-Cola sign and another on the city at holiday time, are a little more on the personal side. Both were harder than usual for me to write: I’m not accustomed to revealing that much of myself in the paper, though if you are a regular reader of my people columns, you probably get that I always leave a piece of myself in each one.

While the isolation of the pandemic has suited this writer’s life and has served as an opportunity – a chance to recharge, slow down and catch up with myself – I understand this is a grievous time and it’s certainly not a gift to those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, their homes and mental health. To those who are suffering, I wish you restoration and a sense of peace as we ease into the welcome new year. Stay safe and thank you for standing tall. Brighter days are surely ahead, we just need to keep seeking the light and it will soon come.

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