A Conversation with Broke-Ass Stuart in His Kitchen Nook
I stopped in Hayes Valley to get lunch before going to Broke-Ass Stuart‘s house—otherwise and legally known as Stuart Schuffman—to conduct an interview discussing the future of his mayoral campaign, the city of San Francisco, his other endeavors in doing dope shit, and to help promote the campaign launch party and fundraiser San Franpsycho is presenting at the Independent this Friday.
If you are unaware of Stuart’s legacy, he is not simply a writer. He’s a TV host, a poet, and a mother fucking hustler. Oh, and he’s also the underdog making quite a bit of tumultuous noise in running for mayor against theformidably disliked Ed Lee.
I went to Stacks on the corner of Hayes and Octavia. It was alright. My mediocre lunch was matched by Stuart when I arrive at his house, for he was disappointingly eating a kale salad. Although kale is “healthy” and “good for you,” we both complained a bit about what should be respectable lunches—or rather talked about how we both really like Carl’s Junior a lot. But that is neither here nor there—and for the record, healthy organic food is tight.
The sun shown through the window on the south side of his kitchen, at which we sat in a little nook with a view of Sutro Tower and the hills hiding the Sunset District from the rest of the city. I thought I would start out a little light hearted.
San Franpsycho: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Broke-Ass Stuart: When I was much younger I wanted to be a writer. And then I got to be a teenager and I wanted to be a rock star. So now I’m somewhere in between.
So you didn’t always want to be the mayor of San Francisco?
Fair enough. When did you know you wanted to embark on this endeavor?
I’ve thought about doing it for a little while. And now, over the past few years, seeing all the fuckery. It’s been so sad to see the city that I love changing, and not in a good way. Falling apart. Ed Lee is unstoppable, as they say. I decided I might as well try and get out there, make some noise and bring attention to the issues that matter.
So, what are some of your favorite parts of the city?
I love North Beach. It gets a bad rep because of all the titty bars and knuckleheads who go there. But with all the great old man bars, cool artist bars, and great restaurants, it’s actually a cool neighborhood that feels European. I spent most of my 20s in the Mission, so it will always have a special place in my heart, even though it has changed dramatically.
On the topic of change in the Mission – how do you specifically think it has changed and what can be done about it?
There’s been a lot of change. I moved there in 2004 while it was on the cusp of still being a Latino neighborhood and still home to a lot of artists. It was a hip place to be if you were young and… broke (*wink), and if you were there it was amazing! The history of gentrification starts when a neighborhood is cheap. Then the artists move in, then businesses move in, and then people who want to be cool, like artists (which they aren’t) want to move in. So it’s this cycle… Is that a pot plant?
[Classic. Stuart pointed to a plant in the window behind me. We decided it wasn’t pot.]
Back at it – the Mission has changed a lot, and not necessarily for the better. Even today, I read an article saying that the most expensive automaker in the world is trying to open a showroom on Valencia. And they only make 30 cars per year, each of which costs a million dollars. It’s called Pagani or something like that. If you told me ten years ago *read in snarky voice here* “Yeah man, the most expensive auto maker in the world is moving in”, I’d be like “Shut the fuck up.”
Things that can be done to change it: I was outwardly a big fan of Mission Moratorium trying to take measures outside of the market. If you just trust the market, we’re all gonna lose. So basically, buying up the plots of land that are left in San Francisco and developing them strictly for affordable housing.
Going back to your favorite parts of the city, and again on the topic of change, how do you think they have changed you? If given the chance, how would you want to change them?
They’ve changed me because of all the experiences I’ve had. We live in a beautiful city filled with really interesting and amazing people. It really shapes who you are. In that sense living in San Francisco really helped me. And being a progressively minded person, living in such a progressive city, it’s molded me into being very thoughtful in the way I perceive all of it.
How do I want to change these places? I just want to see them be the best that they can be.
Simple enough. What was your goal in writing the Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide Anthology?
Just to do cool shit, ya know?
Totally. Fuck yeah.
The best and worst thing about me is all I want to do is make dope shit. And it’s great because I get to make dope shit, and it’s bad because I stay poor.
What’s your favorite local watering hole? And what would you do if Ed Lee tried to tear it down?
My favorite bar in the world is Specs’. I swear to God, I will fucking riot if they try to close that place down. I will chain myself to the door. But other ones: I like Benders. I really just like dive bars.
How can you not? So now I’ve got a one-part question, but you’ve gotta give me a two-part answer. If elected for mayor, what would be your first citywide decree? One real one, one dream one.
The first thing we are going to focus on in my platform is cleaning up poop. We need more public bathrooms, straight up. Open up the BART and MUNI bathrooms and get more popup bathrooms downtown. That’s the first step. From there we start to tackle homelessness. We have more than 10,000 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, which is huge. We need to figure out how to get people off the streets and into homes and safe places.
And then my dream shit? Oh man…
Probably still clean up the shit?
Yeah, clean up the shit for sure. What else? I don’t know… EVERYTHING.
So what’s your next grand writing endeavor?
I mean one day I want to put out a novel of some sort, or a book of short stories.
And what’s your next step for your mayoral campaign?
The next step is the party on Friday!
What are your biggest inspirations for both your writing and your political campaign?
Writing – I mean there are so many and they change constantly. I love Tom Robins, but he doesn’t reflect in my writing that much. I like Aaron Cometbus a lot. Fuck, there are so many good writers. Michelle Tea is amazing, and she’s local. Hunter Thompson… Herb Caen is awesome.
Political – I’m a fucking lefty liberal pinko bastard, so I consider myself a social democratic. I think that the state should step up and take care of its citizens more. Pretty much, all the anarchists and communists—and I’m not talking about fuckin’ Soviet tyranny; I’m talking about people who organize labor unions. American labor for sure. It’s really inspiring shit. People power… And Bernie Sanders! Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.
I’m sure we have touched on it a bit, but what, in your opinion, is the most important issue our city currently faces?
We have a serious rent crisis. We need to find places that people can live that are not exorbitant. We need to alleviate the $4,000 rent for one-bedrooms. We need to build more housing and figure out a means to accomplish this that are smart and equitable—and don’t just line the pockets of rich people.
You have mentioned in one way or another that you don’t think you are going to win this race, so what is your reasoning behind the endeavor and what is your endgame?
It’s a protest campaign. They say that Ed Lee is going to just walk right through this and it’s not fair that people are so afraid of him because of all the money he has. All the other candidates are not running because of his money, and that’s fucked up. This guy has less than 50% approval rating, yet people are afraid to run against him. To me, that is the sore that signifies the sickness of what’s going on in San Francisco. I’m not doing this to win obviously, I’m doing this to make some noise and bring light to the situations that need to be brought to light. And to point the finger at motherfuckers who need it.
So, you’re pretty much grabbing San Francisco politics by the balls.
Yeah. It’s going to be one part circus and one part serious, and you’re never going to know quite which is which.
On that note, if you could say one thing to Ed Lee, what would it be?
Your past self would be ashamed of you. He used to be a radical housing rights activist. He organized rent strikes in Chinatown. He used to be a radical and a real good dude. He used to be a fucking hero, and look at him now. Ed Lee from twenty, thirty years ago would spit in current Ed Lee’s face.
Now, if you could say one thing to San Francisco as whole, what would it be?
Get involved. Care about your city, and vote. Lets get rid of these bastards.
Lets go towards San Franpsycho. When were you first introduced to San Franpsycho?
I’ve known Andy and Christian for so long. We met through Indie Mart, probably in 2008 or 2009. There was no San Franpsycho shop or anything. They just lived their lives printing at Indie Mart. And Kelly Malone (founder of Indie Mart) brought so many makers and artists through IM who are doing great things now—including San Franpsycho and Indosole. People who started off doing little food popups now have restaurants, which is rad.
How can we continue helping with your campaign?
I don’t want to say it, but money. And more than anything, just getting involved through volunteering, promoting, and voting.