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Five Tips to Surviving the Ghettos of San Francisco

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Late one night while walking home to my apartment across the street from the Westside Courts projects, I was having a peachy time and looking forward to crawling into my cozy bed. I was texting my friend when I heard a neighbor say 'œHey!' When I looked up to see who it was, my eyes didn’t make it to his face but rather the gun pointed at my chest. Instead of my bed, I found myself lying on the cold concrete emptying my pockets and forgetting how to formulate words in English. I’ll never know what my friend texted back to me, but a thug in my neighborhood does and I hope he appreciated her joke.

After a couple of weeks living in terror and thinking that even children on playgrounds were out to kill me, I finally toughened up and taught myself how to make it in the ghetto. In a city like San Francisco, I think we all know there are certain areas that can have business men walking with their briefcases on one side of the street, and cracked out tranny hookers stumbling along the other. If you live here, chances are you’ve turned a corner and wound up in a scary place a block later. Whether it’s the Western Addition, the Tenderloin, Outer Mission, or one of the many other areas that sometimes give me that not so fresh feeling, there are five tips I live by and I’d like to share them with you now:

1. Don’t use your cell phone in a sketchy neighborhood.

True, it may seem safer talking to someone you know while you’re alone in a bad part of town, but statistically using your cell phone increases the chance of an attack.

2.If you’re in a place where everyone is insane, act insane.

I typically do this by running as fast as I can and making a series of awkward noises. No one is gonna mess with you when they think you aren’t afraid to go Mike Tyson and take a bite.

3. If you’re stuck waiting somewhere where everyone is inebriated, act inebriated.

This one is better for daytime use. I’ve been stuck in the '˜loin a couple of times and seen some shady MF’s that looked like they were zombies ready to see some blood. So I just became a zombie. Drop your jaw, let your eyes droop, walk around slowly in circles like you’re dead on the inside and you’ll just be one of the guys. You might even get a date!

4. If no one is around, walk in the middle of a lit street rather than a dark sidewalk.

Less creeps will approach you if you’re walking in the light, and there’s the spook factor of a car coming and you being in their direct view.

5. Have your keys out while you’re walking home.

You can get right into your front door as soon as you get to it, and this way people will know you’re a local so instead of mugging or raping you they might bring you cookies.

I hope these tips have helped you gain a little confidence about living in or traveling through a  less than desirable neighborhood. If you stay alert to your surroundings, street smarts will come like second nature and you’ll be rocked to sleep by the gunshots outside in no time.

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Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst

Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst

Ryan Miller was raised in a small, quaint village named Portland, Oregon before spontaneously packing two suitcases, scrounging up $300 and catching a flight to San Francisco. Judging from his garbage, he is a connoisseur of Sun Chips and rather inexpensive wine. His personal goals are to refrain from hailing and accepting rides in random cars as well as greatly reduce the amount of hugs he provides for the homeless community. While touring Jamaica and prompted for his opinion on the prevalence of TB in third world countries, Miller eagerly asked, "They have Taco Bell here?"


  1. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    August 26, 2009 at 10:07 am — Reply

    Another one is not to wear your headphones at night! I can’t tell you how many people I see listening to their headphones at night. If I was to jack someone, they’d be my first target.
    A. they can’t hear you coming up on them and
    B. whatever device they are listening to probably has some street value.

    • Hill To Da Billy
      March 13, 2011 at 2:40 am — Reply


      • Phantom
        March 13, 2011 at 2:42 am — Reply

        Man, shut yo redneck ass up. Fuck Texas! Texas iz da most hillbilly state in the U.S. Bring yo ass to Vegas and w’ell show u what happens to fuckin rednecks in dis bitch

        • Phantom
          March 13, 2011 at 2:44 am — Reply

          Dumbass Texas Niggaz

  2. Chloe - Pennywise Reporter
    August 26, 2009 at 10:42 am — Reply

    another good tip: don’t be female.

  3. Curran
    August 26, 2009 at 11:08 am — Reply

    man, I just moved to SOMA and parts of that part of town have the eeriest quality. I lived in the TL for 3 years so I’m no stranger to the surreal and the impoverished that SF offers, but at least in the TL there’s people! In SOMA if you see some weirdo walking down the street at 3 in the morning, chances are it’s just you and that weirdo.

  4. Katy
    August 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm — Reply

    Another good tip: ARM YOURSELF! I carry a 17 gram unit pepper spray and a stun gun. But then again I live in Oakland. I don’t intend to take anyone out, but I figure it will be enough of a distraction/aversion that I can run like hell and get away. Even just the mini sprays that go on your keychain are useful. You’ll already have your keys out anyway if you heed the the article! Oh but do be warned, when you use pepper spray, there’s a good chance that you will be affected somewhat too, so cover your face if you can, and if you use a stun gun, make sure the attacker is not touching you when you shock them. You’ll take some if not more of the shock and probably piss off the already agro villain!

  5. Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    August 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm — Reply

    See, the thing about arming yourself is a double edged sword. I always thought if something like that happened, I’d totally be able to handle myself and be able to say “You should see the other guy,” but when in the situation, the only thing I could even think to muster up was “Oughblahaaa?” and then I followed the orders hoping I wouldn’t have to feel a bullet. There was definitely no time to reach for my imaginary weapon and they can easily be used against you, but it is a good idea circumstantially. Plus, I believe in hugs not drugs. Wait- I love drugs, I meant love not war.

  6. Godlesscupcake
    August 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm — Reply

    The above comments and ideas are all good. I want to state that you should always have something on your person that can be used as a weapon, that you can access easily, like a serrated knife, with an easy to open case in a pocket for example. The point about the keys is soooo important especially for the ladies. If you carry multiple keys, try placing the ring in the palm of your hand and each key between a different finger in your closed fist so you get a sort of Wolverine hand. It may look kinda odd but it gives you an extra edge if you end up in hand to hand combat with a drunk bum/potential rapist. Also, turn the g.p.s. tracking function of your phone on before you go anywhere sketch, so at least if your dead body and your phone are discarded of in the same place it makes it easier for the cops to find ya.

  7. August 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm — Reply

    Another great tip is don’t be a scared hipster PUSSY

  8. Not Ted
    August 26, 2009 at 7:06 pm — Reply

    Good point Ted, not being one has stopped many a stickup in the past!

  9. SOMA guy
    August 26, 2009 at 11:42 pm — Reply

    Start going to the gym. A lot. Steroids. A lot of both.

    Although, the keys thing I do, not so much to get into my door more quickly, but so they know I’ll be seeing them again (me awake during the day + them passed out or drug-addled during the day = some ass kicking).

    Also, if you hold the key just right, it can most certainly be a weapon.

    Well sheesh…with all this thought about alternate uses for keys, I’m getting some ideas. This keys thing is bigger than I originally thought. Could it…wash dishes? pluck ingrown hairs? cut a burrito? Hmm.

    Or, go to the gym and take steroids. Rinse and repeat.

  10. Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    August 27, 2009 at 8:12 am — Reply

    Totally, I always have my key ready in case I need to use it to stab someone in the heart. Man, woman, or child. Also, my key has been doing my laundry for the last four years but I give it the weekends off so it can volunteer at a homeless shelter.

  11. Fritz The Cat
    August 27, 2009 at 8:32 am — Reply

    You’re a pussy. Hope you get robbed again.

  12. Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    August 27, 2009 at 9:20 am — Reply

    That’s not very polite. But I think you’re right, I will take advice from a hardcore LaCoste polo wearing soccer player and man the fuck up. Thanks!

  13. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    August 27, 2009 at 9:43 am — Reply

    Hey Fritz, Ted, and Not Ted:

    Are you serious? Don’t be such fucking wankers. I’d like to see how bad ass you are when there’s a gat in your face. What are you gonna do about it then, post stupid comments about it on the internet?

  14. Fritz The Cat
    August 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm — Reply

    Thank you for posting my name. Very cool.
    I have been stuck up before. It is terrifying.
    I was commenting on your suggestions, the
    title of your piece and more specifically the
    use of the words ‘survive’ and ‘ghettos’.

  15. Fritz The Cat
    August 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm — Reply

    Sorry – the use of the word ‘surviving’, not ‘survive’.

  16. Fritz The Cat
    August 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm — Reply


  17. Fritz The Cat
    August 27, 2009 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    Alright, alright. I enjoyed your piece, and your other writing here. Apologies for the language. Somehow it rubbed me the wrong way. Leave it at that.

  18. girl
    September 16, 2009 at 10:35 am — Reply

    Chloe: so true.

    Ryan: why are all the ‘scary’ photos on this page of black people?

  19. Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    Ryan Miller- Depleted Resource Analyst
    September 16, 2009 at 10:55 am — Reply

    Because we’re the scariest. That wasn’t my implication, hence the reason the fellow holding the gun happens to be a little boy. And Mike Tyson is scary as fuck, but it’s in reference to what I mentioned in the tip.

  20. Hill To Da Billy
    March 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm — Reply


    • Phantom
      March 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm — Reply

      Man, shut yo redneck ass up. Fuck Texas! Texas iz da most hillbilly state in the U.S. Bring yo ass to Vegas and w’ell show u what happens to fuckin rednecks in dis bitch

      • Phantom
        March 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm — Reply

        Dumbass Texas Niggaz

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