California, you're such a wonder
The week I just spent in San Francisco was really marked by two things I noticed, both odd and horrifying in their own way.
The first was the number of old people begging on the streets. And by old I don't mean 40 or 50, I mean people you'd more expect to see in managed accommodation being prepared for their final days - most looked 70 at least, and could barely be heard as they requested spare change, in vivid contrast to the brash and exceedingly vocal patter of the younger beggars. Even more surprising was that such a large number of them seemed to be women. This isn't the venue to discuss demographics or social policies, but a country which venerates the virtues of family and motherhood is a shocking place to find elderly bewhiskered women pleading for a dollar.
Secondly, while attending a talk to mark the launch of 'Surviving Justice', a collection of the stories of 13 wrongly convicted and subsequently exonerated American prisoners, a woman stood up, and in a moment of almost grotesque self-congratulation, chose to apologise to the present exoneree for being an American tax payer, and thus responsible for the tragedy that had overtaken 16 years of his life. Naturally the man accepted her apology with grace, but it was hard to swallow the sense of rising anger at such a selfish appropriation of one individual's woeful story to advertise your own glorious humanity and pity.
That said, I was still sorry to leave. Deep blue skies and warm breezes in January would probably make us all a lot happier.