One day last summer Chirag Bhakta and a friend were walking through the Tenderloin, the San Francisco neighborhood Bhakta has called home all his life. Wedged improbably between the city’s gleaming high-rises, tony Union Square shopping zone, and affluent Nob Hill district, the Tenderloin is a sprawl of code-red despair. People shoot up openly, stagger about in various stages of undress and untreated illness; nowhere else in town is such an intricate, root-bound extremeness of poverty on display. This level of misery is one of the most striking things a person can see in San Francisco, topped only by a relatively newer sight—that of well-to-do 23-year-olds gliding blithely through this scene while playing Twilight: The Movie Game on their phones.
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