I Hear San Francisco Singing: Poetry to ignore jackhammers by

By Dan Raile , written on July 9, 2014

From The News Desk

Here’s a little post- Independence Day digestif for San Francisco residents seeking inexpensive thrills in the Season of the Rich. Skip local poet-hero James Franco and turn to the American father of free verse, Walt Whitman. Yesterday afternoon, Pando’s John Dolan wrote an analysis of the debt Franco’s free verse owes to “Whitman’s worship of the ‘I’.” For San Franciscans gritting their teeth and yelling into their earbud microphones over the excruciating din of a construction boom, Walt has another treat in store for you today.

I’m not suggesting you go in for any open-ended aesthetic self-indulgence – if you’re a paying a rent or mortgage in San Francisco you don’t have time for that. And we won’t need to trudge out to Mork’s castle in Sea Cliff with our school desks.

No, this purely a practical matter.

Skyrocketing rents have created a housing crisis along with mouth-watering capitalization rates for developers, and its been lost on no one. With cap rates a full percentage point higher than in Manhattan, San Francisco is the best-performing market of office space in the country, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In the first quarter of 2014 there were 181 building developments in the construction phase, representing 4,600 residential units and 3.4 million commercial square feet. With the onset of summer and another 693 projects in the pipeline, the surge won't end anytime soon.

And public works are in full swing as well, with the long-time-coming Transbay Transit Terminal and adjoining Salesforce Tower underway, and the central subway extension ripping up a warren.

Back in the paternalistic, protestant post-bellum, gay old Walt wrote a poem that should serve as a mental-health survival guide to the San Francisco summer of ‘14. And god bless him, he kept it short.

Inoculate yourself against jackhammer induced angst by consulting the Whitman poem below along with handy resources like the Dept. of Public Works’ list of street projects, or Buildingeye’s map of current building permits. Find a project that suits you, pack a camping chair, thermos and sandwich, and have a nosh and gape. Swoon in appreciation of a hard day’s labor well done, and the future of San Francisco being wrought before your eyes. Highlights include the renovation of Dolores Park, the  Transbay Terminal and accompanying Salesforce tower and pretty much all of Mission Bay.

I Hear America Singing

Walt Whitman, 1867

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. [Photograph by Chris Goscinski for Pando]