Here’s the second in our ongoing city tours of the reimagined San Francisco of the future!  Thanks to all our Permaculture Visionaries for inspiring these posts.

A visionary city drawing by architect Mark Lakeman of Communitecture and City Repair.

Hello again, everyone.  Maya Greenwood, still here as your tour guide!  I hope you’ve all had a chance to get a plate full of something delicious.  Take a seat, out here, where you watch the passing parade of pedestrians, and I’ll tell you a bit more about the city’s culture.

First, you’ll note all the sidewalk cafes that line this broad avenue, the old Market Street, our major thoroughfare.  As I was saying, this area was Blight Central for a good many years, until finally in the ‘teens our city government decided to make it a pedestrian street.  Which only made sense, as no one in their right mind ever drove on this downtown section if they could help it.  The planners were inspired by some of the European cities that closed off their old towns to cars back as early as the ‘70’s.  Oh, the joy of strolling from plaza to plaza in Madrid, enjoying tapas at one place, a glass of sangria at another!  Or strolling Las Ramblas in Barcelona, or wandering through….I’m wandering, again.  A hazard of age!  But I did love to travel, back when it was easy!


You’ll note that we kept this avenue wide.  Partly that’s for transportation…sorry, a question?  Yes, that’s right!  The rolling castle you see passing now is a bus.  So is the giant platter of tropical fruit coming up on the left, and the Little Engine that Could behind it.  The idea came from festival culture—probably from Burning Man, a huge festival that would happen at the end of summer out in the desert.  But back in the era where people still had private cars, we figured one way to pry people out of them was to make public transportation fun.


“Ecstasy!” A sculpture by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito.

Now, the cafes—you’ll see them all over the city.  Most of them are eating clubs.  Just about everyone belongs to a neighborhood club.  Sure, sometimes you want to eat at home with the family, or fix yourself a bowl of soup and curl up with a book and not talk to anyone.  But, face it—people like to eat out, and to have other people cook for them.  So, the way the clubs work, you join one, you contribute produce, labor, and work credits, and three or four nights a week, you get to eat.  There’s generally excess enough that you can bring a guest.  If you love to cook, you might do that regularly—some clubs become known for their chefs and develop a following from the general public as well as the ‘hood.  Most clubs will let you come once or twice for free, so if you want a change there’s plenty of opportunity to sample the whole cuisine of the city.  And they become convivial meeting places, kind of like the local pub, where you get to meet your friends and catch up on the gossip.


Director Charlie Herman-Wurmfeld dishes up a fresh-picked salad at a community garden in Hollywood.

They aren’t all just centered around neighborhoods—there are artists’ cafes, and poets, and techies’ hangouts, and musicians.  And if you’re someone who’s recognized as what we call a GiftGiver—an extraordinary musician, say, or a scientist who makes a new discovery, or a passionate teacher, or a healer—you’ll be welcomed in any café in the city.  People will beg you to come to their place.  They’ll fix you special meals, and create fabulous desserts in your honor!

Oh—listen to that beautiful guitar!  That’s the other wonderful thing about the eating clubs—they provide a perfect venue for performance.  And this is a city full of people who love to perform.  For one thing, we stress art and music and theater and circus skills in the education of our children.  Anyone with a drop of talent can play an instrument.  They all learn to drum before they learn to count—helps them enormously when it comes time to learn math!  Everyone loves to dance.  The place is crawling with poets.  Of course, not everyone devotes themselves to art or music or writing as a discipline and a life-long focus, but there’s barely a person in the city who won’t take a turn strumming a song for their eating club or standing up to recite a poem.

A group sing at Tryon Life Community Farm, Portland, Oregon, during the Village Building Convergence, 2011.

But here on Market Street—these cafes are something special.  They’re run by the folks who want to do more than cook for their friends—for whom cooking is an art form, and music is a passion.  Here’s where you’ll get the best of the best.  Sometimes when a noted chef is cooking or a special group is playing, you’ll see lines like outside the clubs in the old days.  We don’t have nearly as much canned entertainment as before—yes, we do have film and video and even long-running series although they’re on the web, now, not broadcast TV.  But we discovered, even before the Uprising, that a great TV series is like a long-running novel brought to life, a unique art from where you can develop characters that go on for years.

Plenty of fresh, garden produce to cook with!

And of course, now when you watch them they’re not interrupted by commercials.  So yes, we do have recorded entertainment, but we have far more live entertainment going on.  You’ll discover as you wander through the city that music is everywhere.  People play on the streets, in the parks, at the eating clubs.  And music is integrally part of education—but that will come later.

All right, everyone, let’s drink up and stroll onwards.

2 Responses to City Tour With Maya Greenwood, Part 2

  1. TICOR says:

    Thank you for this vision of the future. This is the city I would like to see created.

  2. Now more than ever we need this vision of what cities, people, governments, communities, countries can be. It is so clear what I don’t want more of amidst the insanity of our times, yet it is difficult to focus on what I DO want to replace it with. I know how important it is to give my energy to what I want to grow and build, not just fight against what I don’t want. Starhawk in the Fifth Sacred Thing gives such a clear, distinct, nuts-and-bolts, practical vision of what life can look like in the future. There is unlimited power in co-creating a vision. There is not so much power in only trying to stop someone else’s imposed vision. Without a specific plan of what to replace it with, the patterns of power-over will creep back into the structure of things no matter how well intentioned the revolutionary spirit that seeks to overthrow injustice and oppression.

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