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Storied: San Francisco

Mar 31, 2022

In this podcast, Mason picks up where they left off in Part 1. We continue our conversation about Mason's background as a photographer.

In 2010, they were, as they say, dating someone out of their league. They were celebrating New Years at a joint in South of Market and needed to pee. Naturally, they went outside. When it was their partner's turn, she gave Mason her purse. An SFPD cop approached and questioned what Mason was doing with her. After the cops' condescending questions, they grabbed Mason and ended up dislocated their arm.

Meanwhile, one of their friends had been roofied inside (they didn't know this at the time) and was very ill. The cops left at the sight of the sick friend. But there happened to be an ambulance within eyesight, so they set off to catch it. But the EMTs were drunk (remember: it was NYE).

Everyone went home in the East Bay and Mason was left to walk to their SF home with their dislocated shoulder. This effectively ended their photography career. In 2011, the PTSD from the episode and the depression it caused inspired Mason to leave The City for Portland.

The anonymity they experienced in a new town allowed Mason to present however they felt comfortable doing so. When the question of renaming themselves comes up, Mason takes a sidetrack to talk about their Okinawan grandmother. It was her story of being exiled, first to Hawaii and then to San Francisco, that inspired Mason to delve into history while in Portland.

​Alarmed at the prospect of not being able to move back to their hometown, Mason returned to San Francisco in 2013. Later that year, the residents at MidTown Park Apartments, where Mason had grown up and where their mom still lived, were served with rent-increase notices. (For more info on the ensuing rent strikes, which eventually fought back the increases, at this city-owned property, check out this Examiner article.)

The history of the place goes back to "redevelopment" in the 1960s. Its residents had been displaced and promised new city housing. Several of the older tenants buckled under the subsequent stress caused by proposed hikes and relocation (yet again). One of these was Mason's grandmother, who suffered a stroke around this time.

All of this gave Mason a new purpose, a new direction. They would devote their life to exposing wrongs and doing everything they could to right them. And they're uniquely positioned to effect change because they grew up immersed in tech.

​We talk about Mason's being a member of Still Here SF, an intergenerational cultural preservation project amplifying the voices and creativity of LGBTQ2S+ Black, Indigenous, and people of color raised in San Francisco. Mason joined to help them heal from the trauma of growing up going to so many funerals of friends and relatives who died of AIDS. Their involvement with Still Here lead to their work with the Hormel Center, the SF Public Library's LGBTQIA archives.

Among other passions, Mason spends time finding and telling the stories of the queer people who were at Jonestown. We breeze through the last four years since we met Mason, and end this podcast with their thoughts on what it means to still be here in San Francisco.

You can buy Mason's book, Crossbones on My Life, over on the Nomadic Press website.

We recorded this podcast at Jefferson Square Park in March 2022.

Photography by Jeff Hunt