Now that the Internet circulates millions of bits of information about people for eternity, SF Weekly often gets requests from people who Google themselves and don't like what they find. Sometimes a subject of a story will ask us to take down comments from snarky readers, or perhaps a revealing photo of said person in a bikini at a street festival. But many times the residual nature of online information can help people — for example, in locating a long-lost relative.
For years, Kelli Christensen, 23, knew very little about her father, Marty. He'd had a drinking problem and drifted away from the family while she was still a toddler. Christensen and her family, who live in Kingsburg, near Fresno, heard through his infrequent contacts that he was homeless in San Francisco. She traveled to the city once to look for him, but had little idea of where to look or even what he looked like.
Recently, Christensen's mother Googled "Marty Christensen" and found SF Weekly's recent cover story, "Terminal People" (9/22/10), which detailed the city's attempt to help relocate chronically homeless people who had been living in the Transbay Terminal before its demolition.
"My heart stopped!!" Christensen wrote SF Weekly. The father she hadn't seen in 20 years was the main character, photos and all. So earlier this month, she decided to come to San Francisco — again — and find him.
She printed out photos from the story and traipsed through city streets, stopping at all the hangouts the article mentioned. She chatted with some 40 people. Many of them claimed to have seen him around, and one said he had left 10 minutes earlier. "It was just a big race around San Francisco," she says. "Some people said I look just like him."
"I just want to see him while he is alive," Christensen wrote us. "I want nothing from him except to meet him again and give him a hug ... tell him his pumpkin still remembers him playing with her."
After we posted a blog item about Kelli's search, a woman texted her to say she often sees a man who looks like Marty hanging around the industrial intersection of Cortland and Bayshore. The woman left a message with a nearby store and was planning to post signs in the area.
Marty is in his late 50s, 6 feet tall, and trim, with a white beard and ruddy face. He usually wears a black baseball cap and a gray jacket. If you spot him around the Ferry Building, near the bow and arrow statue on the Embarcadero, along Bayshore, or busking on Market, have him call Kelli at 559-312-7264. We're hoping this tale might have a happy ending yet.