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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: No walk in the park

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Columnist

A couple of weeks ago, I not only left a little bit of my heart in San Francisco, but a piece of my soul, as well. A few friends and I made good on a “two years past due” birthday gift — postponed due to the pandemic — and went to a San Francisco Giants baseball game. We enjoyed a Sunday afternoon contest, watching the home team defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, concluding a homestand sweep. Spirits were high. After the game, we meandered back to our hotel, made plans for dinner, and had a relaxing evening enjoying the company and intimacy of close friendship.

It was a quick trip. We planned to head home the next day but needed to make a detour to SFO to pick up the spouse of our driver, who had his flight canceled out of the Midwest back to California the night before. With a couple of hours on our hands, we could have enjoyed a leisurely morning at the hotel, but I thought it would be great fun to take a stroll through Golden Gate Park on a beautiful, sunny and mild Monday.

I lived in the city by the Bay in the mid 1980s and worked close to the park where I would leave my car each day (if I were lucky enough to find a spot) and trek the few blocks to the video production company, owned by a gastroenterologist who practiced at nearby UCSF. My point being, I spent a lot of time in and around the park for several years, always enjoyed it, and wanted to share that experience and memories with my friends.



In preparation for additional passengers, we engaged the third row of seats in the SUV, loaded up our luggage and bags and navigated our way through the city. The streets near the park were lined with cars and full of tourists. We found a spot just behind the California Academy of Science on a populated street and set out on a short walk, meandering past the Lily Pond, and working our way through the Music concourse before circling back. It was lovely … until it was not.

As we approached the vehicle, we noticed it looked different. As we got closer, the reality of the situation became clear. The back window had been smashed out. Glass was everywhere. We quickly realized two of the four bags that we had so carefully packed were gone. Thieves had made off with our drivers’ overnight bag, and a backpack — my backpack — which contained my laptop, journal, notebooks, my USB backup, wireless ear buds, my portable audio recorder, and a plethora of other items I am still discovering gone. My friends’ losses included a pair of running shoes, a pricey coiffing device, a favorite jacket, makeup, perfume and along with other sentimental items, in terms of value, rivaled the entire contents of my pack.



Most importantly, they stole a huge chunk of our faith in humanity and our love for our Golden City. Shock and disbelief kicked in. We were not doing anything that hundreds of other people were’nt also doing that morning. Why us? Why anyone? We sought out the park police and were dismayed to learn our plight was not only common, but so common that while we were filing the report, another victim of a similar fate arrived to do the same. It is called a “Smash and Grab” and the police let us know it happens multiple times daily. Daily!

Feeling a bit naïve and a bit “country bumpkin” we realized the chances of ever seeing any of our items again was highly unlikely. We headed home with a nice breeze on our backs and a punch in our guts.

The following week, a popular Sunday morning news program included an expose about San Francisco, and its crime problem, reporting 8,000 homeless among the population. As my friend wisely stated, “8,000 people is not a problem, 8,000 people is a city.” The number of property break-ins such as we experienced has increased 17% in the first half of 2022. Thank you, Jane Pauley. You were a week too late to save us.

Literally every person I have shared this story with has, in turn, shared a similar tale of their own or of someone they know. I have been admonished for being foolish enough to have left anything inside the vehicle when leaving it, which I find incredibly annoying. Sure, blame the victim!

San Francisco is a city I have loved for decades. It is my husband’s hometown. The site of countless memories with friends and family alike and now it is a place I do not wish to visit again any time soon.

I am so sad about it. I am sad about the cost of replacing what we could and the loss of irreplaceable items, of course, but also, the bigger issue of the blatant disregard and lack of respect for another’s property. It is a societal matter.

I grew up with a fear of God, with a respect for authority and was taught right from wrong. These basic values are deteriorating at an alarming rate, and I can not begin to emphasize how much I fear for future generations. How do we get back to caring about one another? How do we return to respect for that which does not belong to us? I do not mean to sound like an alarmist, but in the war between good and evil, evil appears to be gaining the upper hand.

I am not blaming the homeless. I am blaming the housing crisis. I am blaming the opioid crisis. I am blaming the rising disparity between wealth and poverty. I am blaming the lack of mental health services for those in need. I am blaming the societal shift under the previous administration.

I am looking for solutions. I am praying for a cure. I know there is no easy answer, but something must change. For certain, it will not be a walk in the park.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at http://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com

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