Connect with us

A tree grew in San Francisco



San Francisco, where I live, is a city with many cosmopolitan aspects.

But unlike, say, New York City, where the City Never Sleeps, one problem with S.F. for nocturnally oriented types like me, is that it does start snoozing around 2:00 AM, the time the bars close here.

There are a few after-hours places, if what you want is to go get a hamburger and sit on a plastic diner seat, but for refreshment of the spirit there’s not really anywhere much to go.


But by night as by day, the picturesqueness of the city itself pays off, if you just feel like going for a walk.

Since I like to have a destination when I set out, I’ve often made mine the Safeway on Market Street, more than a mile from my apartment.

It’s always open, though an obstacle course for people like me; aisles in the wee hours are blocked with crates and boxes, or entire sections are closed off for floor cleaning, as practiced by slow-moving, unmotivated low-pay grocery workers. Still, that’s part of the challenge, and the place is technically open.

A few years ago I discovered something interesting as I walked there. On my ramble, as I crossed Market at Church, I noticed something curious about a palm tree growing in front of an otherwise undistinguished restaurant.

The place is in a traffic island, not particularly well landscaped. The tree is the only attempt at sprucing up the space that occupies the property’s eastern end. A battered trash can surrounded by litter is the only other object there. But–


There was something funny about the tree.

A few drooping branches radiated from the thick, pine-cone like trunk of the palm. These, I saw, were distinguished with entirely the wrong kind of leaves, and with clustered yellow fruits. Dates? But this tree is not a date palm. Nor were these dates.

I picked one– and discovered that they were loquats.

Loquats, also called Japanese plums, have nothing to do with palm trees. They are flowering plants of the family Rosaceae. Although palms also are technically flowering plants, the loquat, originally native to central China, is not of the family Arecaceae, as all palms are.


And I know the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), and it does not grow on a palm tree.

Just the same, here were the yellow fruit.


Loquats, for those who don’t know them, taste rather like cherries– though the taste may significantly differ from tree to tree. The smooth, glossy skins have a little bit of peach-like fuzz, easily rubbed away with the thumb. Though the individual fruit never grows larger than a golf ball (and that would be a big one), inside are several large, smooth seeds. These take up most of the space in the fruit, but the rest, which surrounds the seed, is more than ordinarily delicious.

The seeds too are interesting. They look as if they were smoothly finished and varnished. I have seen necklaces made of these seeds.

Another property of the seeds is that if you toss them, they tend to bounce and keep on going, for a hundred feet, sometimes, if you throw them right.


It must have been– this is all I can suppose– that there was originally a small loquat tree in that spot which grew inside the palm. That, or the palm grew around it, obscuring all but a few branches.

However it happened, there it was. I wasn’t the only one who knew about it– after the fruit ripened it would sometimes disappear overnight.

There are homeless people who know the location of every tree that bears edible fruit, and they knew about this one.

To get any fruit you had to hit it just right, when the loquats were ripe enough to pick, but hadn’t yet been opportunistically harvested.


A minor oddity, but a feature of my walk. I have watched the tree through several seasons. On my way back from the store, I’ve brought the fruits back to ripen on my window sill.

Until the other night.

When I walked by, the tree had been brutalized.

The palm itself has been roughly cut back, leaving only a few battered fronds. Whoever did it, so savagely and inexpertly, may have needlessly killed the palm.

And of course, of the loquat branches there is now no sign. The inexpert butchery of the tree has removed them.


I will watch for them in the next few years, but I have few hopes the inner tree can survive, with no branches and leaves to reach such sunlight as it used to get.

Oh, damn them, the idiots, with their inability to appreciate something beautiful and useful.

One more idiosyncratic thing now excised from San Francisco. Damn their unwillingness to observe. Damn their uncaring nature, their one-size-fits all insensitivity to living things.

Damn them.

Hal Robins is a renowned underground comic artist and his work has appeared in Last Gasp’s Weirdo, Salon Magazine’s Dark Hotel and many other publications. For decades he has been the co-host of KPFA-Pacifica Radio’s “Puzzling Evidence” program. Reverend Hal is the Master of Church Secrets for The Church of the SubGenius. As Dr. Howland Owll, he has served as MC for many unique San Francisco events, and is the principle of The Ask Dr. Hal Show, still currently running both as a live staged event and in-studio on Radio Valencia (radiovalencia.fm) Friday evenings. Hal contributed his unique vocal talents to the award-winning interactive game Half-Life.

Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
Continue Reading


Trump fears his base will turn on him if he flips and calls for nationwide mask guidelines: CNN



On CNN Saturday, analyst Ron Brownstein outlined the key reason President Donald Trump is struggling to adapt his message to proper public health guidance on the coronavirus pandemic.

"Ron, there is a retail trade group that has asked President Trump to institute federal, nationwide mask guidelines at stores across the country as the country continues to re-open," said anchor Alex Marquardt. "Experts are saying that masks could save thousands of lives in the coming months. Do you see a scenario in which — any chance in which he would issue that?"

"I think the short answer is no, and for a revealing reason," said Brownstein. "He is in a trap of his own construction. On coronavirus, we talk all the time about how President Trump's base is bonded to him, immovably. He's also bonded to the base in the other direction, that he is very reluctant to get out crosswise with a base that includes the kind of people that showed up at the Michigan capital to protest lockdown without wearing masks and waving Confederate flags and carrying automatic weapons."

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead



There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.

This article first appeared in Salon.

What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode



As Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases, the residents of the state are facing obstacles like overwhelmed hospitals and a looming shortage in beds.

This article first appeared in Salon.

There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)

Continue Reading
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.