Downtown in San Francisco I visited an institution that, like Hopper's paintings, blurred the lines between art and everyday. Gump's department store boasted that everything in the store was for sale. I found this verified when I approached an employee at her desk, which also happened to be a dining room table. It made this workplace seem like a home.
The petite woman had an elfin chin and short auburn hair lightly touched with gray and parted in the middle. She wore pale pink lipstick, a pink frosted sweater, and a blue coat with yellow braiding.
"I grew up here," she began, "so I don't feel that people here are isolated. I see a bunch of people I know everywhere I go. I live in the Portrero District, which is the most diverse. There are Philippines and Blacks, and it started off Italians. If you go down the block, every single home changes ethnicity by its owner, and I like that diversity. Now, I don't know any of my neighbors; none of them speak English. I like the buffer zone, the anonymity of not having to say hello to everybody. When you're in a city, you can't say hello to everybody. It would get daunting or overwhelming. If someone comes up to you and says hi, they usually want something--usually money, but occasionally directions. San Franciscans are used to being nice and offering directions because so many people come to visit. But San Franciscans are not as friendly as they used to be. There are a lot more scary characters on the street now."