Tag Archives: Wei Ming Dariotis

Pokeman Go gamers discovering Bayview


By Wei Ming Dariotis

Zubats! Goldeen! And Pidgeys, oh my!

Visitors to Quesada Gardens may now be coming not just to smell flowers and look at beautiful murals, but to catch Squirtles, Pidgeys, Zubats, and a few Sycthers — or, the latest craze: Pokémon Go, a mobile app update of the Nintendo game classic. In just a few short weeks, Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon, enticing adults as well as teenagers and kids to get outside and explore.

What I find most exciting about playing the game is the feeling of being on a scavenger hunt. It makes you feel like you are on an adventure. It is a game that encourages communal playing, and social groups of co-workers and friends, and even families, are organizing PokéWalks to PokéStops and PokéGyms.

Pokémon Go has reshaped players’ relationships with the urban landscape. Bayview, like the Mission, provides an important cluster of PokéStops, many of which are places of artistry, like our community murals or Founders’ Memorial. These are often places that might be passed by, or are located in obscure locations. But, as they are marked on the PokéMaps people follow on their phones, these places are made more visible.

Both the Quesada Gardens’ Community Mural, at the Quesada turnaround, and the “Bayview Is…” Mural on Newhall just under the Bridgeview Garden are PokéStops. At a PokéStop, players can collect items like PokéBalls, which are used to capture or collect the seemingly infinite variety of creatures. (Pokémon is short for “pocket monster.”)

In a form of augmented reality, players can see the Pokémon superimposed on their lived environment through their phones’ cameras. It can be quite exciting to see the fish-like Goldeen gently waving its fins among the flowers you can see in front of you in real life, or the Pidgey jumping up and down on the hood of your car (while you are safely parked, of course!). It blurs the line between the virtual and the real. Using GPS, the game tracks players and gives bonuses — like specially hatched eggs — to those who make the effort to walk. (Driving or riding a bike does not unlock the Pokémon eggs.)

Not only can players collect important items at PokéStops, or battle other Pokémon at PokéGyms, but they can also find specific types of Pokémon in environments that draw that particular variety. For example, Ocean Beach is the place to go for water-type Pokémon. This aspect of the game has encouraged notoriously neighborhood-bound San Franciscans to venture forth beyond neighborhood boundaries in order to collect a wider variety of Pokémon. (There are over 150 in Pokémon Go and hundreds more in other iterations of the game.)

After less than a month of being active, Pokémon Go already has more users in the United States than Twitter. The Pokémon world includes card games, collectible stickers (in gum packets), television series, movies, and video games for various gaming platforms (handheld, console, arcade, etc.), as well as stuffed animals and other toys, but Pokémon Go is already the most successful version of the franchise. It is so revolutionary that it will reframe how video game apps will be developed from now on, and it may just pave the way for other forms of interactive, place-based entertainment.

Getting to know the neighbors: Rithy Chan

By Wei Ming Dariotis

Some people mishear his name as “Ricky,” but it is pronounced “ri-T.”

He was born in Battambang, small little town in northwestern Cambodia, in 1968. Rithy’s wealthy family was targeted by the Marxist Maoist-nationalist Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian genocide. Rithy’s parents and most family members were killed, leaving his older sister to take care of all their surviving siblings.  

WMD: How do you feel about being Cambodian American?

RC: How do I feel about my Cambodians roots? I guess when you are born somewhere you always feel connected to the place you were born. I love my culture and my roots, I am very proud of Cambodian heritage and culture, but at the same time, I am happy where I am now. Like my nephews, even though they were born in California and Hawaii, they are drawn, like I am, to go to see their family’s original roots.

Being Cambodian American to me means being my own person. We are such a minority and there are only one or two families in San Francisco that I know personally. I’m not so involved with the Cambodian community here. I try to blend in with my neighbors. I have gone to temples and community centers and I feel a little left out. I prefer diversity and integration. Since we moved to America, we settled in the middle of Harlem and lived there for two years with no other Cambodian families around and we integrated with many different ethnic groups all the time.  Surprisingly, I do still speak perfect Khmer, or “Cambodian.” When I come back to the US after speaking Cambodian for two weeks I can’t speak English because my tongue muscles won’t switch over.

English is an interesting language to me because it is non-hierarchical. “You” in English is just “you”—not upper or lower class “you” just direct simple “you.” That’s why when I speak to Cambodians who speak English I prefer to speak with them in English. Cambodian derives from the two main root languages of Sanskrit and Bali from India, where there was a caste system. So the language is hierarchical, like the society is hierarchical.

Being Cambodian means a lot to me. The culture dates back over a thousand years. For Southeast Asia, Khmer culture, art and architecture is as the Greek and Roman cultures are to Western culture. Everyone in the region tries to identify and associate with it and preserve it. Classical Khmer art and architecture were extraordinary achievement for any society, in any era. We have “golden proportion or ratio” just like the western world. I did a study and analyzed Angkor Wat, which was built in the 1100s, and the golden proportion or ratio is everywhere. Being Cambodian means a lot of different things. Even the Khmer Rouge [note: the nationalist socialist regime that massacred over a million Cambodians in the genocide often referred to as the Killing Fields] —it was a bad thing, but what I got out of it was that living through that drove me to be a better, tougher, stronger person and to have more tolerance.

My family was wealthy, but during the massacre both of my parents and two of my siblings were killed. In 1979-1980 was a desperate time. I begged people for food. We would go to the jungle where the Khmer Rouge was with land mines to pick fruit then walk for miles to the market to trade it for a little rice to survive.

My family escaped to Thailand and spent three years there in the refugee camps. We were the first ones there and almost the last ones to get out.  We waited for my older sister to be old enough to become our guardian.  We did not want to be split up to orphanages. My older sister is my hero, role model and also like a mother to all of my siblings.  She is so amazing and to this day, over three decades later she is still the most successful one. She is a single mom living in a brown stone in Park Slope, New York City. 

WMD:  You are working on a body of drawings; how would you describe your artistic style?

RC: I guess right now it is pencil: realism combined with surrealist and imaginary images. I don’t want to say just surrealist—maybe fantasy/Escher-esque. “Tricking the eye.” To me, artwork doesn’t have to be realistic because for that you can take photos–so you might as well have fun with it.

WMD: How would you describe the themes in your art?

RC: The stories usually involve figures in universal themes. For example, in the latest piece, the single figure is trying to help all the others stranded together below, but he is holding on to broken brick balloons, which don’t exist; they don’t make sense. The people below are being oppressed or massacred, and he can’t do anything to help them. Like the UN which was supposed to stop massacres after WWII.

A lot of times I try to juxtapose images that are transcendent—between the planes of this world and those of another world.

Humanity repeats itself all the time—look at San Bernardino recently—or Paris. It’s like WWII, Rwanda, or the Khmer Rouge all over again. This kind of trauma doesn’t seem real to the population at large, so I try to put it into my artwork. It’s an abstract concept until you have experienced it yourself. For example, what Donald Trump says about immigrants and refugees shows that he hasn’t experienced that kind of trauma.

For each person it’s different; I was younger than my older sister when we survived the Khmer Rouge. So, compared to her, it is much easier for me to talk about it because it seemed normal to me to see people getting killed. From the eyes of a kid, you think it’s normal and natural.

If you grow up in the ghetto, you would think that is normal life, too, unless you move beyond it. Some of my friends can’t understand why I live here in the Bayview, but I love it. I won’t say I’m not scared—I’ve been on the street when there have been gun shoot outs and it doesn’t matter who you are—Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Buddhist, rich or poor, you can get hit. Bullets don’t discriminate.

WMD: What do you like most about living in the Bayview?

RC: I love the weather, and the diversity of the community. All the houses are separated and you get a big garden.

WMD: Have you always been a gardener?

RC: No, after coming from Cambodia, our family lived in New York City; I never had a garden before. When I came to Quesada Street I saw the palm trees and they were the main draw. I love the palm trees and lots of wild life here and I especially love the parrots. And then I found out the neighbors were very diverse, which is a major plus that I didn’t know before. In my mind, since I knew I was going to make it my home, I just planned to get to know my neighbors anyway, so the diversity was a nice bonus. It is like a little paradise in the city.  

But it a paradise with garbage—I picked up three bags of garbage this morning because the people that come here to buy drugs just throw trash out of their cars. But even if you paid me to live in the Sunset or Richmond I wouldn’t live there—the summer is just depressing.

WMD: What do you think you’ve learned about yourself from living here?

RC: How to be tough and kind to the neighbors at the same time. It’s a balancing act. You have to respect the people you live next door to, and at the same time, some people are doing certain things that are destructive. I have to negotiate to make sure people respect my space like I respect theirs.

I also learned how to garden.  It’s a lot of physical work but it is sort of meditative for me. Weeding, I can let my mind go instead of thinking of the stress of the city. Seeing plants produce fruit or vegetables, taking care of them, seeing some plants succumb to disease—its all very challenging. It’s fluid—it’s the relationship between life and death. It’s like anything else—you have to take care of it to keep it surviving. For example, this year we really cut back water and a couple plants died. We learned what can survive in these drought conditions.

This yin and yang is also reflected in my artwork. You have bad people and good people working to balance each other. No matter how it is resolved, I think everyone has good intentions.

I wish we had better services—like a gym. Better stores. More restaurants. But on the other hand, house prices are lower because of that so I can’t complain. It would be nice for your neighborhood to be walkable. Homelessness in this city is just growing, and it makes me sad to see that.  It is one of the richest cities in the US and yet, the disparities are growing rapidly and the gap is getting wider.
Overall I feel lucky to have ended up in this neighborhood and community – the Quesada Gardens Initiative and the people here are unique and special.

My Quesada Saga: Another Connection

by Wei Ming Dariotis

Today, another member joined the planning group for the “JUST LOVE, on the block” celebration of African and African American music, food, and culture we are somehow pulling together for October 3rd here on Quesada between 3rd and Newhall.  Amongst those neighbors and community organizers gathered in a circle of chairs inside the African Outlet, our newest, Suaro Cervantes, announces he is from Precita Eyes, the muralists who have reshaped the Mission district through street art. I hear the name “Cervantes,” and I have to ask him, “Is Luz Cervantes your brother?”

I went to high school with Suaro’s brother, Luz, what feels like a million years ago, but was really only the ‘80s, in a place that feels a million miles away from the Bayview but was just Pacific Heights: San Francisco University High School, class of 1987.

The streets around that school—around that whole neighborhood—were always clean and empty. No traffic, no loud music, no trash. There were mansions all around us that looked like hotels, but only one family lived there. The views of the Bay could be called “million dollar” except none of those houses is under ten million these days. The sidewalks sparkled white and I never saw a pothole. In contrast, here on Quesada there are tiny liquor bottles tucked into every bit of random vegetation, and driving down any block feels like taking a trip over rumble strips. But we have “million dollar” views here, too, and art, and mostly what I love is the people.

After the meeting, I asked Suaro if he wanted to see our Founder’s Mural, and the turnaround area where he would be setting up a space for kids to paint a mural in the Kid Fun Zone on Oct. 3rd. As we walked up the gentle slope and passed the main garden area, with its beds bursting with tomatoes, squash, and corn, I told him how our neighbor, John Davila, has been hard at work to clear and maintain these beds not just for himself, but for the kids and elders to have areas to plant. As we got to the top of the block I showed him the mural I’m painting on the side of my stairs: I didn’t need to ask anyone for permission. I’m pretty sure if I lived in Pac Heights someone would have stopped me or filed a complaint.

Unlike most people when they see the Founder’s Mural, Suaro headed first to see who painted it, to see if he knew them. Of course, he did. Precita Eyes, which was founded in 1977 by Susan and Luis Cervantes (Suaro and Luz’s parents), serves the community by supporting the development of murals that not only beautify, but also educate.

Suaro and I talked about how art brings communities together, and especially how it can be healing. The process of designing a mural can take years, but that process itself brings people together as they share ideas and stories. As they share pain and hope. As we talked, I told Suaro about another neighbor, Rithy, who lived through Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia. Rithy is an artist who’s been telling me he wants to make some sculptures for our community garden. “Something that represents our diversity,” he said. Rithy’s elegant pencil drawings blend surrealism with agony and precision. His bronze sculptures capture the human form moving between states—perhaps between worlds. While he draws at his dining room table, Rithy is looking out at our shared garden and thinking about what he can add.

Is this the next stage of this beautiful community garden: more art to fill our hearts with hope? To help us share our vision of the world as a place filled with human and ecological diversity?

There is no street in Pacific Heights so filled with palm trees, parrots, a community garden, and art. The weather is better here, and so is the love. Our street can be rough but those challenges bring us together. If everything was always smooth we wouldn’t need to talk to each other. There is no street where I would rather live than here.

I’m constantly amazed at the way living on Quesada allows me to connect not only with a large and diverse community, but also with my own personal history.

Gardening to dance, dancing to garden

by Wei Ming Dariotis

The words “garden” and “dance” don’t often appear in the same sentence, but maybe they should be linked more often, if my experience as a gardener with the presence of 14 young dancers on our Quesada Gardens block recently is any example.

During the 4 weeks that the young women were choreographing and then rehearsing their performances, I looked out my window and saw them moving through and around the garden in ways that created spaces that hadn’t previously been significant. Their dances called my attention to parts of the garden that I didn’t really see before.

Before they came I knew who they were because the Quesada Gardens community had been planning for the program and I’d seen the video of their previous visit—and I totally supported them in theory. Yet, my first reaction when I saw them moving through a bed of tomatoes carefully tended by my neighbor, Shane, was to say, “Don’t step on the tomatoes!” They quickly reassured me that they were very aware and respectful of the work we gardeners do in the garden, both by stepping carefully and by working themselves to prune, weed, and clean out trash from the space. It might have been to make their dancing easier and safer, but it also meant they were giving to us and to the garden.

I felt inspired to give in return, and spent a bit more time than I might have otherwise under the summer sun (which we have in abundance in the Bayview!) pruning and weeding and generally trying to tuck everything into shape. I also felt inspired to start a mural on the side of my steps in my driveway, as a kind of artistic call and response. Seeing the girls dance every day—especially the solo taking shape on the stairs right across from my bedroom window—filled me with creative energy. My high school and college dancing days may be mostly over (never say never), but I can still swing around a paintbrush.

My favorite interaction, however, was more direct. Neighbor Jeffrey invited me to participate in the education portion of the girls work, so I got to meet with them for a (too brief!) lesson on feminism, Womanism, and Pinayism related to how we as women experience walking down city streets. I shared my own experiences of being their age growing up in San Francisco, and how I have handled catcalls, for better and worse.  We talked about what those experiences mean, especially for women of color. The girls also analyzed poems I brought them and I realized that they were equally astute intellectually as they were physically impressive. We could have talked for hours. I wish all my neighbors had had the same opportunity to talk with these amazing young women and just gotten to know how smart they are—how brilliant they are.

The day of the performance was so exciting! I had taken the opportunity to invite friends and neighbors over to enjoy barbecued peaches and nectarines from the Alemany Farmers Market, as well as veggie and beef burgers and chicken, of course. We stayed out all day, through both performances, and we met several new neighbors (including the new owner of the castle on Newhall). It was an exciting, community building experience. The dances were just amazing. As often as I had watched them rehearsing, seeing them perform the dances wholeheartedly brought another level of intensity and emotion to the experience.

In the end, as a gardening neighbor, I feel our garden has become a more sacred and beloved space because of the energy brought by the dancers.

A San Franciscan born in Australia, Wei Ming Dariotis teaches Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and is the co-editor, with Laura Kina, of War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). She is co-chair of the Quesada Gardens Initiative.

Involved neighbors, dancing, and marriage at the gardens

Arthur and John 6-2015
Arthur and John after work that transformed a section of the Quesada Gardens. Photo: Quesada Gardens

It’s a busy summer at the gardens. You may have seen John Davila pictured in a DPW media campaign as a model community member he is.  John just led a transformation of the center section of the garden with a huge assist from Arthur.

Joel and Mary keep up with the little miracle we call the Bridgeview Garden.  A group of neighbors gathered for a Sunday gardening hour which they hope will become a monthly tradition.  Scott, Noe and Rosheddy, skilled tradespeople working through SF DPW, are installing tiles on the big staircase at the community mural and gathering space located on Quesada and Newhall.

As if that weren’t enough for one month, QGI has partnered for a second time with Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions bringing 15 local teenage girls to the gardens for a month of dance- and video-making.  My house is all-in-one home base, video studio and classroom for a curriculum emerging from the intersections of community building, social justice and art.  The gardens and art projects outside are the stage for GirlFly at the Quesada Gardens dancers. More

Amber 7-1-2015
Amber helps harvest fruit from Baybloom Backyard Gardens trees as part of her GirlFly experience at Quesada Gardens. Photo: Jo Kreiter

I’m grateful to my neighbors who have worked to make the gardens beautiful and safe for dancing, and to others who have squeezed into the house to share their professional and practical experience.  Among the community co-educators are: Joel and Mary McClure, Marie Harrison, Wei Ming Dariotis, Shane King, Heidi Hardin and Justine Remo.

On Quesada, just across 3rd Street, neighbors Lee Rolfe and Michael Hamlin brought home the meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s same sex marriage ruling by getting legally hitched 25 years into their partnership after their 2004 marriage was declared null and void.

Lee and Michael were among the first to host progressive dinners so that gay folks along Quesada could get to know one another.  The series of dinners became a network of folks known as “Gayview” (and, after a dinner at Davon Frascas‘ place that included people from the broader neighborhood, rechristened as “Gayview Homos Point and Silver Tiaras”).

See a very moving video about Lee and Michael – Love Prevails

Other inspiring Bayview residents, Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, have been national leaders in the effort to legalize same sex marriage.  You may not have known who they were, but you probably saw them in the media.

More about Stuart and John

SFSU comes to Bayview

Wei Ming Dariotis

SF State’s President Les Wong is asking what could it mean for our Bayview community to house a campus of San Francisco State University

On Jan. 31 the Bayview YMCA hosted the first open meeting between SF State President Les Wong and members of the Bayview community, and more talks are happening at multiple levels. We can all see that having SFSU campuses in the Bayview or in Hunter’s Point would make a huge impact on the landscape and could potentially bring a lot of positive change to these neighborhoods, but how will being in the Bayview change SF State?

At another meeting I attended a few weeks after the first, other community leaders alerted Pres. Wong that large institutions have often made the community promises that remain unfulfilled. Fulfilling the hope implied by SF State coming into the Bayview may seem like a daunting task, but only if we look at this project as one sided. Having been a professor in the College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU for over fifteen years, and a neighbor (and now a member of the Quesada Gardens Initiative Board) for just over one, I have a few suggestions for how to make this move and this commitment by thinking about this as SF State joining the Bayview neighborhood.

We can hope that SF State will do all the things we hope a new neighbor will do-fix up their house and not play loud music too late at night. But what else can SF State really do other than what any new neighbor must do?

First, be present. That doesn’t mean just moving into a building, it means getting out on to the street. Respect the people who live here and what they have to teach us, the “teachers.” Look around and see who is there. Talk to people. Listen to them. If you are lucky, like I am, maybe build a garden with them. Eat with them. Laugh with them. Dance with them. Let them see the many facets of who you are. Invite them into your house.

SF State can be a good neighbor and help make the Bayview a safer place socially and environmentally. It can help guide people of all ages-kids and youth of course, but also 25-year-olds who never graduated from high school, the parents and even grandparents of those young kids to engage with higher education. (As a teacher, I always love having older students in my classes. They remind me how much I still have to learn).

But the Bayview has more to offer than just a new student population. The Bayview is a dynamic place, where people know how to work together, where its diversity is its strength. For all the stress and challenges, for all the things that sometimes make other SF residents fearful of coming here, I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

New neighbors may be drawn to the Bayview because it is affordable, but we choose to live here because of the neighborhood. Because of the neighbors.

Wei Ming at a garden groundbreaking. Photo: Footprints

So it makes me think, what SF State coming into the Bayview is just as much an opportunity for the university to grow and change as it is for the Bayview to do so?

SF State has a lot to learn from the Bayview.

This relationship has already begun; growing forward, we need to both be good neighbors. We will need to be present, to look out for each other, and to learn what we can from each other.

Members of the community are invited to make their own suggestions on Neighborland , a digital platform for open discussion, to ask the community how SF State can help improve the neighborhood. 

SFSU is already here

Wei Ming Dariotis

Moving In? SF State is Already Here

SF State is already in the Bayview and we already have a deep relationship. So many Bayview residents are SFSU alums, or are the parents and grandparents of SFSU students. So many of us who live here also work and teach at SF State. SF State faculty are already involved in community and environmental projects in Bayview/Hunter’s Point.

So, yes, SF State is already here. Then the question becomes, how do we make that existing presence become a force for positive change, to provide more and deeper educational opportunities? To tie education to real career development? To help more entrepreneurs develop stronger community-relevant businesses?

Garden resources pop-up under Quesada Gardens’ palms

Last Saturday, under blue skies and date palm fronds at the Quesada Gardens, urban garden enthusiasts came together to learn from one another, pull a few weeds on Quesada Avenue, try some of Reggie Bass’ healthy food, taste locally-made jams from the Quesada Gardens General Store, and pick up mulch, soil and compost for their own gardens.

Girls2000 quick break at Quesada Gardens
Young gardeners from Girls 2000 take a well-deserved break. Photo: Footprints
Reggie Bass with book
Reggie Bass “cooked” up raw food and shared his dramatic story. Photo: Footprints
Wei Ming and Mei Ling at General Store
Wei Ming Dariotis and Mei Ling Hui sort out name confusion while Mei Ling leads a jam tasting with jams from the Quesada Gardens General Store. Photo: Footprints
Quesada Gardeners Hussain Abdulhaqq and John Davila work with Girls 2000 gardeners as Brandi Mack helps point the way.  Photo: Footprints
Quesada Gardeners Hussain Abdulhaqq and John Davila work with Girls 2000 gardeners as Brandi Mack helps point the way. Photo: Footprints
Young local Zack helps Girls 2000 gardeners.  Photo: Footprints
Young local Zack helps Girls 2000 gardeners. Photo: Footprints
Tracy Zhu helps a gardener "fill up" with top-quality compost, mulch and soil.  Photo: Footprints
Tracy Zhu helps a gardener “fill up” with top-quality compost, mulch and soil. Photo: Footprints

Loquat. What’s that?

The loquat is a tree that normally grows to 20-30 feet and is indigenous to southeastern China. It has been spread far and wide by Chinese immigrants; it was brought to Europe from Japan and is known by various names implying a Japanese origin. As many as 800 varieties are known in Asia and loquat has been the subject of careful hybridization to develop the flavor of the fruit.

The skin of the loquat fruit is easily removed. Peeled and seeded fruits are delicious fresh, and are sometimes mixed with banana, orange and grated coconut. They can be stewed with a little sugar added. Canned loquats exported from Taiwan can be found at Ranch 99 and other local Asian groceries. The fruit is also made into jam, and when slightly underripe, has enough pectin to make jelly, which was formerly manufacturedin California on a small scale commercially.

Though the pests that attack the tree and its fruit in Florida and other locations are not a problem in California, pear blight (bacillus amylovorus) is a major enemy of loquat here and has killed many trees. Crown rot and cankers in California can also be problems. In Japan, loquat trees are often planted on slopes (as we have done in Quesada Gardens) to increase air flow and drainage, which increases the health of the plants.   More about loquats

– Wei Ming Dariotis