My San Francisco Days

Loren Kantor
6 min readFeb 22, 2024
Woodcut of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Artwork by Author)

My definitive San Francisco moment occurred in 1993. I was walking east on Polk Street when I encountered two young transvestites smoking weed in front of a burned-out building. I was drinking a Kern’s Nectar and after taking the final sip, I tossed the bottle into the trash. One of the transvestites put down the joint and said, “Hey man, don’t you recycle?”

I moved to San Francisco two weeks after the 1989 earthquake. The day I moved into my apartment I noticed a spray painted message on the sidewalk reading: “I don’t believe in Bob Hope.” I understood. This was the land of Jack Kerouac, Jerry Garcia and the Zodiac Killer. Alternative was the norm.

The first person I befriended in the city was a Berkeley Linguistics professor who loved archery, Hungarian cuisine and Japanese bondage. My revolving door of roommates included an animal taxidermist, a stripper, a funeral home cosmetologist, a William Burroughs impersonator and a narcoleptic house painter.

My first job in the city was as videographer for a local bar hosting a Monday night talent show. Homeless men were recruited just before showtime with promises of food and drink if they sang pop songs or attempted absurd dances. The proprietors sold semi-ripe tomatoes for 50 cents apiece that audience members hurled at performers.

Subsequent jobs included being a urine messenger for a law firm that drug tested employees. (I carried samples to the testing lab.) A night desk clerk for a Tenderloin hotel whose clientele included prostitutes and drug dealers. I wrote fortunes for a Chinatown Fortune Cookie Emporium. I was also a customer service representative for a company that made oven mitts.

My lengthiest job was as counselor at an Alzheimer’s Day Care Center. The aging clients reminded me of my grandparents. One day a client with dementia turned up missing. He’d been an Oakland bus driver and whenever we served lunch he said, “I’ll take the T-Bone, medium well.” The day he was discovered missing, I called a taxi and asked to be driven to the nearest steakhouse. Sure enough, the man was sitting at the bar drinking a Manhattan and eating a steak.

Dating in San Francisco was difficult. The first woman I dated was a bisexual waitress who’d had a spat with her live-in girlfriend. She spent the entire meal insulting…

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Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.