August 06, 2003

We had what amounts to excitement in my sleepy part of town yesterday. I'd decided to take a walk on my lunch, which is something I don't usually do--I usually prefer to walk after work so I don't spend the rest of the afternoon sweaty. But I decided to go yesterday. As I walked down Irving, listening to my new MP3 player playing loudly, I came to a road block.

They had Irving blocked off from 14th to 16th and in the other directions from Judah to Lincoln. There was a fire engine on the corner and a bunch of firemen on the sidewalk. I took one earphone out of my ear and asked if I could walk up--they only had the street blocked off, not the sidewalk. The woman said no--I had to go to Judah or Lincoln (one block in either direction). I must have looked a little cross because she said, "They're going to detonate a grenade, so you don't want to be up there anyway."

Surprised but foolishly uninquisitive, I started walking up to Judah. As I walked, I realized I really should have said, "Uh, what?" So as I walked up Judah and saw another DPT person with his little scooter blocking the street, I asked him what was going on. He said there was a bomb. He didn't have any other details and just then a news van pulled up and he went over to talk to them.

There were helicopters flying overhead as well. It seemed to me that there was big excitement. I decided to continue my walk, though, as there seemed little else I could do and nothing to see. I pondered what in that neighborhood could possibly be the target of a bomb. There's a dance studio. A little grocery store. A coffee shop. That's about it. It's not an exciting or controversial area.

I walked on, went to Walgreens, then headed back down Irving. Of course when I got to 16th the road was blocked. It was a lot more interesting on that side of Irving though. There were 5 or 6 police cars scattered around, a couple of fire engines, and an ambulance as well as a PG & E truck, for some reason. There was also a channel 5 news van and a lot of cops standing around. As before, there was not much for me to do. I walked around, over to Lincoln this time.

There were more fire engines and police cars on Lincoln and the side streets. As I walked along I saw firemen rolling up hoses and it appeared that they were done. I saw a cameraman leaving the scene. And I hadn't even heard a boom.

When I got back to my office, I looked up on one of the local news websites and found out what the story was. Apparently a man who had recently moved to a care facility had left 4 grenades in his apartment. They were of Japanese origin and apparently were souvenirs of WWII. Live explosive souvenirs. I heard on the radio this morning that they had to explode them on site to get rid of them as they were too dangerous to move. Which means this foolish man could have blown himself up with his souvenirs at any time.

Today I found this story on Yahoo! News, which gives a little more (and different) info:

Explosives Detonated in SF Home

San Francisco's bomb squad detonated a cache of explosives Tuesday found in a Sunset District home.

Authorities evacuated 17 houses along 15th Ave. near Irving before blowing up three hand grenades and two mortars.

A caretaker discovered the explosives inside the house of a World War II veteran. The vet now lives in a convalescent hospital, and the caretaker was retrieving some papers when he found the devices.

"I only picked up one," said Jay Egger. "Ignorance is a great calming device. I had no idea what I was handling."

The detonation sparked a small fire, but caused no injuries or damage to nearby homes.

Other curious news--This morning I heard about 17 Starbucks stores getting vandalized in SF, mostly downtown. Apparently the vandal or vandals put a white substance, possibly paste or soap, on the windows of the stores and posted signs saying "For Lease" and letters saying the stores had closed. At some the locks were jammed so employees couldn't get in. Apparently at one store a flyer said, "We are moving over and making room for local coffee bars, our last best example of our commitment to fine coffee and local culture that got us into the business in the first place."

Now, for full disclosure, I used to work at Peet's Coffee and Tea which is a local business which started in Berkeley. Alfred Peet, the founder, taught the Starbucks original owners how to do the coffee thing and for years they had a non-competition agreement that kept Starbucks out of the Bay Area. When the agreement ended, Starbucks moved in, and took over, as we all know. Peet's has continued to do fine, but I do take umbrage with the way Starbucks works.

They offer so much in rent for a space that the local business that was there has to close because they can't afford to stay. They move in sometimes literally next door to a local coffee shop and take away all their business so they have to close. And frankly, I don't think their coffee is very good. Once again, full disclosure, I'm surprisingly not a coffee drinker but the only coffee I've ever really liked is Peet's.

Also, SF being what it is, this is not a surprising development. In fact, I'm surprised this sort of thing hasn't happened before. A lot of neighborhoods fight to keep chains out and some have won. Last I knew, you won't see a Starbucks in the Castro for instance. And SF people are usually big supporters of the little shops that keep diversity alive in our neighborhoods.

Still, I don't believe in vandalism as protest. I'd much rather see people marching outside of the store than property damage. But I can't say I'm shaking my head in disapproval. And I bet those employees weren't terribly sad to get to start their shifts a little later. I know if it was me I'd be sitting and napping against a wall after waking up at 4:30 a.m. for my 6:00 shift.

It does bring a little smile to my face thinking of all those latte-hungry investment bankers having to go to the mom and pop coffee shop down the street for their fix. Maybe they liked it better. Maybe it was mom and pop who soaped those windows....

Posted by Alyssa at August 06, 2003 06:12 PM
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