The Back Room

Fuchsia super bloom flowers.

Bloom Loop

Claudia La Rocco

You may have heard (and heard, and heard) that San Francisco is in a doom loop. Reports of the city’s demise has been all over the news, local and national.

Even when the rest of the country hasn’t joined the chorus, it can be easy to get caught up in sky-is-falling prognostications here, where lamenting losses is a time-honored pastime; as Theadora Walsh noted in her essay “Lost and Found,” which opened our winter season, “Sometimes I get the sense that history in the Bay Area is always on the brink of tearing apart, momentary and fleeting since it started — sporadically mourned, forgotten and then in a few years mythologically recalcified by small, splintered groups of friends so it can be mourned again.” 

As a counternarrative to this sensation (which I was definitely feeling as this year’s rainy season persisted, and persisted), I recommend reading Carolina A. Miranda’s recent Los Angeles Times column on the doom loop phenomenon. Carolina doesn’t shy away from the difficult issues facing SF — difficulties shared by more than a few urban centers — but she does smartly sidestep a lot of the reductive explanations and half-baked solutions floating around, reminding that what’s bad for big development isn’t always bad for cities. My favorite paragraph:

[Elizabeth Weil of Curbed, author of this deeply weird account] writes that San Francisco needs a shared project: “museums, a university, people, community.” Housing for those communities would be a good place to start; museums, not so much. (Another interesting fact: SFMOMA and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts were built on a literal graveyard of demolished single room occupancy hotels.)

Yes, please, protect us from such “shared” projects as behemoth cultural institutions. What we need are networks, places to gather, to connect. Which is why it’s been such a relief and a pleasure to be out and about this spring, juggling more events than any one person can attend. And to see, among all the justified bemoaning of losses, the blossoming of new and re-emerging ventures. In recent weeks, I’ve been to the inaugural event at Et al.’s new space at 2831a Mission, crowding into a packed, delighted room for Eileen Myles’s first Bay Area appearance in years; to downtown Oakland for the celebratory return of Creative Growth’s annual Home Show, up for another few weeks and not to be missed; and to Berkeley’s Finnish Hall for the gorgeous season finale of PARADISO, Claire Grossman and Noah Ross’s six-month-old reading series — where Robert Glück was celebrating a new book, I, Boombox, and Shiv Kotecha, who wrote this evocative essay for us, was celebrating a new marriage. Three very good reminders that doom and blooms go hand in hand. 

In our own small way, The Back Room hopes to be a community outpost, a place to find old friends and encounter new things. We’re now closing our first (!) year of publishing and are already getting ready for year two, even as Small Press Traffic gears up for year fifty (!!), combining with Creative Growth to mark a century (!!!) of serving and celebrating artists and writers in the Bay Area. I’m grateful to SPT colleagues and collaborators for making TBR a reality, for the dazzling inaugural offerings of our contributors, and to all of you for reading, and supporting, and being. 

If you need a TBR fix this summer, our archive awaits. For now, I’ll leave you with the words of Creative Growth artist Nicole Storm, courtesy of this Home Show handout — some Bay Area instructions and predictions I think we all can get behind.    

I’m gonna go remember what it was like to be tall as a tree. See you in the fall. 

The Back Room