a 50 something year old man with long, curly brown hair and brown eyes looks at the camera. He wears a colorful plaid mask and brown corduroy jacket; his backpack straps are visible over his shoulders.
Jon Fellman on Mission St. on Dec. 13. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Jon Fellman, 50-something, acupuncturist:

Fellman doesn’t celebrate Christmas (he’s Jewish) but wishes “for this pandemic to end” in the spirit of the holiday. “It would free up a lot of things,” he said. The pandemic was also responsible for loss of his acupuncture practice, although that was the second time. His first loss was due to a fire; he had an office at Mission and 22nd streets. An end to the pandemic might also help sustain Adobe Books at 3130 24th St., where he is a long-time volunteer, as it seeks non-profit status. “We’re just trying to survive,” he said. 

a young man with brown hair, brown eyes, and a beard and mustache wears a gray hoodie and 2015 Golden Gate Warriors NBA Champions hat, looking at the camera.
Jose Estevez at Grand Coffee (2663 Mission St.) on Dec. 13, 2021. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Jose Estevez, 25, barista at Grand Cafe:

Estevez wants a PlayStation 5, or PS5™, for Christmas. Part of the pull factor, he said, is that “it’s hard to get, and a little expensive.” But it’s worth it for the family or his nephew, he added (wink, wink).

There’s one particular game he would play on a new PS5, should Santa deliver: “Demon’s Souls.” “You’re, like, a medieval knight [in the game],” he said. It’s been remade a few times across the generations of PlayStations and, as a self-described game aficionado who cut his teeth on Nintendo 64 and earlier PlayStations, Estevez is excited to play the new version. “I’m really attuned to the art of how they develop games,” he said.

a young woman with dark brown hair and brown eyes in glasses, a magenta pullover, and purple patterned tights and a knee brace smiles for the camera. She is sitting in a folding chair with her braced leg extended.
Rami Jaiswal at the Unidos en Salud/United in Health vaccination site after getting her booster on Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Rami Jaiswal, 25, software developer:

Jaiswal has a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and she wants a “smooth and safe recovery” so she can paraglide again. That was how she tore the knee ligament in the first place, having made it halfway through paragliding lessons in Milpitas before the fateful injury. Originally inspired by watching paragliders soar over Fort Funston, she can’t wait to get back to it after the 8 to 11 months of recovery ahead. “It’s terrifying but fulfilling,” she said.

a man with dark blonde hair and beard in a blue and green plaid shirt smiles for the camera. His sunglasses are tucked into the neck of his shirt.
Joseph Enright on 21st Street on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Joseph Enright, 36, apartment hunter:

Enright was waiting to see an apartment when he spoke with Mission Local, and he said an ideal gift would be a new vinyl record or two. With a collection of some 400 records already taking up a sizable piece of his apartment, that’s something he’ll take into consideration while looking at new spaces. His favorite albums are disco, especially from ABBA and Sylvester. “I’ve always loved disco,” he said. “It makes me happy.”

Olga Boiko, co-owner of CoffeeShop, fixes a reporter up iced matcha and stops midway to ponder the question. What does she want for Christmas for her business, or for herself? Boiko asked. Either. Her answers seem to touch both: “For our city to be better to small businesses. To be less rigid — take less time to open,” she said. She paused again, deep in thought. “I want the city to strive to be clean … and young again, with college kids back, and more music, and more art, and more community events.” 

Mia, a woman with soft eyes and cropped, lavender hair strolls down South Van Ness Avenue and heads into the Mission, where she works. Her Christmas wish: “I wish we had the illusion of safety back. Do you know what I mean? We never were really safe. And I haven’t seen my grandkids in two years.”

Mei Ng in Young’s Cleaners & Alterations on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

Mei Ng, 51, seamstress:

“I hope the world will be peaceful, the epidemic will pass, and my original life will be returned,” said Ng. “I’m just one of those ordinary people with no greater aspirations.”

Angelica Palacios. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

Angelica Palacios, 25, AT&T sales representative:

“I guess just stability. Lately, especially since Covid-19 and the election, everything is on the rocks. Stable jobs are hard to get; stable housing has been really hard to find,” said Palacios. “The community, the whole world, has been very separated. People are just out for themselves. Everyone is just going their own way. It’s not the same anymore. You can really feel that. People are losing trust in each other.”

Abdiel Delapez. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

Abdiel Delapez, 20, AT&T sales representative:

“I wanna go see my family. They live in Oregon. That’s a nine-hour drive and I don’t drive. I think I’m gonna stay by myself for Christmas,” said Delapez. “There’s really nothing else I want for Christmas, except for seeing my family. Maybe Next year.”

Henry Chen. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

Henry Chen, 57, bakery owner:

“I want the outbreak to end and life to go back to normal. It is not good to discriminate against Asian businessmen. Don’t discriminate against us. We are working very hard to cooperate with you!”

Felipe Reyes sells tacos de canasta at 24th and Folsom streets. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

Felipe Reyes, “El señor de los taquitos de canasta”:

Before all else, Felipe Reyes wants his health for Christmas. He came to the United States from Mexico City for a kidney transplant 18 years ago, which he finally got after several years of dialysis. “God willing, on Jan. 6, I will celebrate six years with my new kidney,” Reyes said in Spanish. “Gracias a Dios.” 

Although he hasn’t seen his family since leaving home, and has no idea when he might see them again, Reyes is grateful that he is able to work and support his three daughters back home. “That’s why we’re here, fighting for them.” 

Josefa Beatriz Almazán Romero waits for a Mission Street bus on Dec. 16. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

Josefa Beatriz Almazán Romero, street sweeper:

When asked what she wants for Christmas, Romero answered with little hesitation. “A husband.” She burst out laughing and quipped in Spanish, “New year, new man!” 

But more seriously, Romero wants a job opportunity. Once a truck driver in Mexico, she volunteered in Venezuela and worked “around the world” before landing in San Francisco. These days she is a street sweeper with the nonprofit Downtown Streets Team. A friend helps her out with extra cash. 

“I’m in a shelter, I have food, I have a free bus pass, I have health care. Materially, I don’t need anything. What I need is a job,” Romero said, and joked: “And lots of money, nothing more.”

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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