On any given day in San Francisco there are certain neighborhoods--the Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Mission, and the underground transit stops along Market Street, to name a few--where street performers and panhandlers congregate. If you go out with the sole purpose of finding them you won’t have to look hard.
What will be difficult is remembering one after you’ve seen so many.
In my time, two of them stand out--a hammer dulcimer player at he Embarcadero BART station, and the Bush Man at Fisherman’s Wharf. The dulcimer guy got a 5-spot from me for lugging a temperature-sensitive, heavy, stringed instrument down into the tunnel, and the Bush Man got the 5-spot for scaring tourists, including me. He made me aware of my surroundings.
The rest of the performers and panhandlers I don’t remember; they’re not all alike, but they are all weird.
I was thinking about them as I read an article over the weekend in the April 9th issue of the The New Yorker about the Miami Marlins. In the article writer Ben McGrath profiles the new spangled stadium, the new players, and the new manager, Ozzie Guillen. For those who aren’t familiar with Ozzie, you’re probably living in the same ignorant state of nirvana as those who don’t know who Nyjer Morgan is--the parade of sports figures who want to be known inside and outside of Major League Baseball for something besides baseball. Ozzie’s extra-cirricular activity is his mouth, and his blatant disregard for tact or humility. Most quotes from employers of such characters are along the lines of “Aw, that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie” and then we’re all to go on, dismissing the behavior as that of a celebrity who became famous by utilizing precisely that behavior.
What separates Ozzie from the other pack of weirdos (and maybe includes Nyjer as well, since he uses his San Francisco visits to anger fans who are from the community where he was born and raised) is that while he just had a mouth in Chicago, he apparently possesses a megaphone in Miami. As of Tuesday morning, Guillen states he “has to live in Miami” and that he misspoke and that he meant to say that he’s surprised that Castro is still alive instead of saying that he admires him. The question begs, “then why didn’t you say that?”
I have to wonder, too, how such a market-specific topic came up in the Time interview. Was this Time’s question? Or Ozzie’s offering? Who’s pushing the buttons here? I imagine the Marlins were seated to get all kinds of nationwide attention before this happened, which would explain why Time might have posed the question, or that Ozzie wanted to keep the national spotlight, which might have explained why he made the comment.
At the end of this hoopla another question is begged by the comments in the social networks, “Why should we care what Ozzie’s political positions are?” In a utopian society, we wouldn’t, but utopian societies aren’t run by the consumer of the end product. (If they were, I could watch the Nets or the Padres on Time Warner Cable.) Ozzie’s consumer base is over 50% Cuban-American, and that consumer base is also no longer living in Cuba for a reason, and that reason is not because they too admire Fidel. Well then, you say, boycott the games. If only it were that simple. Because the “Florida” Marlins had such a low fan turnout for their previous seasons, the new venue is mostly subsidized by the Dade County leadership. McGrath explains in his profile that the mayor of Miami lost a recall election because of it. So, whether you agree with the new venue, the name change, Ozzie’s politics, or if you aren’t even a baseball fan; if you live in Dade County, you’re a consumer.
And if you’re Cuban-American, you’re probably an infuriated consumer in Dade County.
In another passage in the New Yorker article McGrath talks about all the bells and whistles on the new Marlins stadium, bells and whistles inserted because the general manager and the owners believe that the Miami fan prefers to be entertained than watch baseball. “Come to the ballpark--look at me, look at me!” One of the team mottos is “Did you see that?” and Ozzie’s placement seems to have been to add to the theatrics even before the Time article.
It all reminds me of the collection of the fantastic selection of weirdos who I don’t readily remember...unless they make the impossible happen or they scare me into awareness.
I wonder which of those two categories best fits Ozzie in Miami...if either one fits him at all.