Two hours in Chutchui

Though I’ve been here on and off since 1991 I have never been to the actual Mission building in the Mission. I set out in the late afternoon to visit, feeling sad and solemn. I wanted to see the grave markers for Jocbocme and Poylemja aka Obulinda and Faustino. I hadn’t realized they are thin slabs of redwood and not gravestones from 200 years ago. The building, well, it was an old adobe church, I’ve seen a few and it was just like the rest of them. The big church, I couldn’t get into. There was a tiny kind of sad museum with minimal signage and a diorama uneasily juxtaposed with gilded religious things – in separate glass cabinets. The cemetery was a moody place with an untended air; the Ohlone tule house replica and “indian memorial” was full of water and trash inside. I read the gravestones, and a long list of all the people with grave markers there. Some were marked as killed by vigilantes. There were some french names, italian, lots of irish, many spanish including De Haro, José de Jesús Noé, the Bernal family, Captain Arguello. I was wondering if there would be a grave for Francisca, one of the first to die at the Mission (no.) Of course, the entire Dolores Park was a giant graveyard as well. I wandered around and thought of the unmarked graves of the thousands of Ohlone, Miwok, and other indigenous people who died at the Mission. The little statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, engraved “In Prayerful Memory of the Faithful Indians.” (WTF?!!??!!) Moss and grime on all the names in stone. As I went around the streets outside, I tried to see the landscape without rows of houses and pavement and see the landforms, creeks, arroyos, dunes, reed beds, and oaks that were there and the villages or camps of the Ramaytush people moving around the peninsula, including Chutchui. The banks of the creek were familiar to people, particular trees, good places to sit and look out from the hills, all familiar and homelike. As I went past the Maxfields cafe I was debating going in to write up some of my notes and also do some more work for the day. Ada and her friends were inside & ran out to fetch me! A nice surprise. They continued working on their D & D game prep while I got some work done. It was just nice to be around them. Waiting for the J, I was still looking around trying to see into the past several layers deep, my mood quite strange as well from having been reading the book “Ishi’s Brain” on top of the creepy Mission visit, when I realized the next train wasn’t going to come for 40 minutes (weird) so we trudged up to Castro to get the 24 home. The kids got on the back of the bus but the front was too crowded for me to get on. I tried to yell to them to just go without me but they hadn’t noticed so all was well – I would just get the next bus and use the interval to keep thinking my thoughts and take more notes. On the ride over the steep hills of Castro I was trying to re-think Chutchui into an alternate modern existence. The creeks open to the sky and rather than parks, camping sites as part of the infrastructure of the city, interspersed with buildings, the transport mostly underground, marshes and cultivated reedbeds and dunes still there, and people magically inoculated from disease, coexisting messily, much like now but with some different foci, different languages, power centered differently. As we turned onto 30th I got a phone alert on the Citizen app that a man had been stabbed in the back at the bus stop that I was about to get off at (30th and Mission) and traffic was stopped and would be rerouted. People were streaming live video of a woman in a red hat screaming at the police. Two men had run away from the scene, leaving in a white car. As my bus neared the scene we could all see that the block was swarming with cops. At least, I knew the kids were ok. It was their bus empty and parked a few blocks ahead at the corner of Mission and 30th. I got off the bus (explaining to the driver and the people at the front what was going on) and went home, skirting the cordoned off block and feeling so glad for my leather jacket covering the itchy places between my shoulderblades and more moodiness underneath as I thought of my girlfriend who was stabbed there in the 80s. Violence & ghosts are built into our landscapes as familiarly as anything else.

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