At 6:30 p.m. the Mission’s in the Midst of Change

The lines in front of the popular bars on Mission and Valencia had started to form. Friends—some who had time to go home and freshen up from work—met on street corners while those working retail stores looked bored and tired. Closing time was near, but it couldn’t come too soon. At 6:30 p.m., a sun-soaked Thursday in the Mission was coming to an end, and people everywhere were in the midst of change.

“Where to tonight?” asked one in a group of friends.

While some headed to bars, restaurants, and home, others found rest and a last bit of sun in more public spaces.

At Alioto Park near 20th and Capp, Gumaro and his friend Agapito had just gotten off work at a construction site in SOMA. “Look at the sun, it’s wonderful,” Gumaro said. “I live right on this corner; this is my favorite park.”

Seated beside them in a thick, wool coat and a knitted beanie was Serge, a Brazilian immigrant who has lived in San Francisco for 10 years. He said he was waiting for Santa Maria Homeless Shelter to open at 7:30 p.m.

“I live on the street, so this is all my home, every park is my house,” he added with a small hint of bravado.

On 18th and Dolores, Elena Fowler stopped at the light with her parents in tow. She’d been ushering them around town all day on their first visit since she had moved to San Francisco. Mom, camera in hand, and dad, speaking with a long southern drawl, were far from Galax, Virginia—their small hometown named after a leaf and nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Exhaustion. All they wanted now was a place to sit for an hour or so before their dinner reservation.

Spice and Chino had found their place to rest on the newly paved stairs at the top of the 24th BART station entrance. They enjoyed the last bit of sunshine and shared a brown liquid out of the same plastic water bottle. Spice, barefoot, aired out her socks and grey Nikes. She rifled through a faded blue book stuffed with papers, it’s binding is stretched and cracked. The title read, “Transforming Pain to Power.”

“It’s not too late to dream,” she read aloud.

A man crooned the Beatle’s “Yesterday,” but few seemed to listen. They were too busy getting somewhere else.

The only smile among those at the crowded bus stop came from a black-haired child. He noticed three pigeons pecking at something on the sidewalk. And then, suddenly, his mom scooped him up, and they squeezed onto the 14 Muni.

Those with briefcases still in hand seemed to walk faster than others on Mission Street. Some glared enviously at those already fully enjoying happy hour at Cha Cha Cha and the neighboring Dr. Teeth. Across 19th Street, an empty Beauty Bar awaited a later-night clientele. The rock music was already going strong and spilling onto the sidewalk. The night was just getting started.

But up the street at the La Taza Cafe, it was 20 minutes to closing time. Two attractive older women chattered near the bar, their fingers coiled around the stems of huge wine glasses, teeth stained red. A blue patterned Aztec tapestry hung on the wall next to them, slightly off-center. Beneath it, a busboy in a food-stained black t-shirt hurried from tabletop to tabletop, scrubbing furiously.

Back on the street, some were occupied with running their evening errands.

Those strolling though the 22nd Street Mission Community Market were in a hurry but seemed torn in different directions by the smells of fresh strawberries, squash and greens. A man with office attire nervously checked his watch. There were four people in front of him waiting for grilled chicken and ribs.

Back at Dolores and 18th streets, Wade Johnson said he had just come home from his job downtown when he discovered the food shelves at his 18th and Sanchez apartment empty of dinner, so he headed to Bi-Rite.

Nearby, a man in a sleek blazer and jeans had four bags worth of fresh dry-cleaning slung over his shoulder. The sun had finally removed itself from every piece of sidewalk on that stretch of 18th Street.

A guy named Steve darted in and out of a laundromat at 21st and Valencia. He always does his laundry on Wednesdays, but, this week, tax day broke his stride. He was trying to entertain guests at home between filling up the washing machines with quarters.

Tax day was Wednesday, but this was Holy Thursday, and the only evidence of the latter came at the 16th Street BART plaza, where a group of evangelical volunteers from the San Francisco Night Ministry were busy manning four feet-washing stations.

They were repeating one of the oldest biblical rituals, and, like Christ, who thousands of years earlier had washed the feet of his disciples, they were washing the feet of the homeless. Already, 160 feet had been scrubbed.

Unlike all of the others around them — those running errands, going home, or starting dinner, the volunteers here were going nowhere just yet.

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