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It is difficult to walk down the streets of San Francisco these days without hearing about the changing demographics of the Bay Area and all of the economic, cultural and technological shifts that are occurring. The Bay has long been an incubator for cultural experimentations, a lineage that can be traced back to the counter culture rumblings of the late 1950’s.
Herbert Gold has witnessed first-hand these many changing faces of San Francisco since he first moved here in 1960.
Born in the suburbs outside of Cleveland, he came out to the Bay to participate in an Actors workshop. Like so many others who migrated west in the late 60s, he never left:
“I went to college with some of the Beats…Allan Ginsburg was a friend of mine…North Beach was much less expensive then…it was easy for artists to live here, much easier than it is now of course. There was a certain funkiness in the town then…When I moved here the Beatniks were flowering… and I was writing about it.”
Over his illustrious writing career, Herbert documented the many changes the city endured since the Beatnik era, from the Flower Power days of the late 60’s to today’s ‘gentrification’ battles, typified by the Valencia Street development in the past decade. His resume is impressive: a professor at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Stanford, a two year full bright scholarship stint in Paris and a regular series in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Admittedly he has always preferred writing quietly in his rent-controlled apartment in Russian Hill, an activity that, at 91, he relishes each day.
But the routine activities he once took for granted have become a little more complicated in his golden years. To make life easier, he began receiving deliveries from Meals On Wheels a year ago:
“Meals On Wheels is a blessing for me. Living on this hill I can’t go shopping and not to have to carry things home is really helpful. I don’t cook and it’s hard to walk…I had a hip operation, I’m lucky to have my mobility back. I’m still fortunately healthy. All my friends my age are either dead or debilitated.”
The realities and complications of old age inspired Herbert to write a book Still Alive: A Temporary Condition. In it, he reflects upon his own life and memories and speaks candidly about the aging process. He touches upon themes of loneliness and isolation in one’s golden years, poignantly capturing the experience of so many seniors in San Francisco and across the United States today.
For Herbert, age is the great equalizer. In thinking about his life the lives of other nonagenarians, he mused:
“For the aged, it can be lonely out there.”
We honor Herbert, and all of our seniors this month during the March for Meals campaign, a national effort to increase awareness and provide critical support homebound seniors.