In an attempt to find out if there was a reason why the sidewalks of Mission Street are tiled, I ran across an article published by The New York Times in October of 1989. Finding it rather poetic, and also an interesting read, I stopped wondering about the tiles, and started reading this rather lengthy article.
EACH TIME AMERICA SEALS ME IN A laminate of deadlines and Dow Jones averages, bills due and bills payable, I journey to a place where urgencies fade, colors brighten and all claims on reality begin to look relative. Just a stroll down the hill – though, like a good Californian, I usually drive – leads me out of my silent, wind-scoured, chillingly pretty neighborhood into a raucous, mouldering, charmingly unscrubbed caldron. Suddenly, the sidewalks are bordered with azure tiles and doused with the perfume of rotting mangoes; the streets are serenaded by thumping basso laments broadcast from souped-up Chevys; the advertisements appeal to a dozen loyalties and languages. Black-shawled Guatemalan women ply the restaurants, peddling red carnations, followed by packs of Vietnamese urchins toting bags of fresh-picked garlics; each available clapboard wall bursts with murals of naked Aztec deities and painted jungles; every sight conspires to defeat grayness and to sabotage the straight-and-narrow. Where thousands have sought asylum before me, I am a refugee in reverse – fleeing the benefits of the Promised Land for the immigrant hothouse and global miscellany that is San Francisco’s Mission District.
Full article here.