Disclaimer: I moved to San Francisco in 1999. I was part of the last wave of douchebags that came here to strike it rich. I was one of those people. But I stayed, and I made this city my home. I love this city. It is insane. It is a mess. It is broken. And it is beautiful.
San Francisco has been dealing with those people, those who came here to strike it rich, for a very long time. Whether it be missionaries looking for savage souls to save, miners looking for gold, or nerds looking for funding, San Francisco does a decent job of attracting the hopeful, culling out the douchebags, and rebuilding itself around those it wants to keep.
This list is in no way exhaustive. Nor it is an attempt to gloss over some of the city’s serious problems. But it’s a reason to believe those problems are worth solving.
Look up towards Twin Peaks around mid-afternoon and you’ll see one of the most amazing sights in the world. A beautiful blanket of fog about to descend upon the city. And I’m not talking about some weak-ass mild fog. I’m talking about a thick luxurious milky blanket of cool air that protects the city from the ridiculous heat the rest of the country’s been dealing with. Karl is a gift.
We can’t make pizza for shit. Fact. But we don’t need to. Because if you were eating pizza you’d have less room for that burrito from Taqueria Cancun. It’s less than $10 and fits perfectly in the water bottle holder on your bike.
We’re a three hour drive from snow, a train ride away from the beach, and an hour’s drive over a beautiful bridge from the tallest trees in the world. We’ve got not one, but two huge city parks. We’re surrounded by water on three sides. The next state to the west of us is Hawaii. If this were Civilization, San Francisco would be the Pope spot on the board.
And we’re small enough that no matter how drunk you get, you can walk home from anywhere else in the city.
Take a walk over to Mission Dolores on a Sunday morning and you’ll see a line-up of those little ice cream carts waiting for church to get out. Hang out long enough that you can see the little kids running out of mass in their Sunday best to get their ice cream. That was the deal: “You come to mass and afterwards you can get ice cream.”
Not a bad seat in the house. Sit in the upper deck and face the Bay. Between pitches you can watch ships passing back and forth. And if Karl is agreeable you can see all the way to the Oakland hills. And there’s been the occasional ring ceremony (but probably not this year).
Amoeba’s bigger. And has more stuff. But the people at Streetlight are friendly enough that when someone drops off six boxes of records that have been sitting in their basement for twenty years, they’ll let me go through them before putting them in the bins.
Most of our buildings are old. And packed together. And made of wood. Many with horse hair insulation and electrical systems that pre-date the gold rush. Just in the last year, three houses in my neighborhood have gone up in flames. And in every single case, the fire was contained in time to spare the houses on either side. Our fire department kicks ass.
But women are pretty awesome anywhere.
Most of all, San Francisco is a survivor. It builds itself up, draws people to it, and then when it’s had enough, it shakes them off. It celebrates the good times because it knows the bad times are probably around the corner. And it makes it through the bad times because it knows the good times are coming. And it’s happy to have you aboard, under Karl’s protective blanket, and you’ll do well here. As long as you remember the main character in our story isn’t you. It’s the city itself.
Now, I’m not here to convince you that my city is any better than yours. I hope you love where you live as much as I love where I live. Everyone should love where they live. But love isn’t usually easy or free of messiness. And great love never is.
The city isn’t here to serve you. You’re entitled to no more, or no less,city than you’re willing to work towards. And you’ll get out of it no more, or no less, than you put into it.
And if you’re not willing to work towards a better San Francisco, we have seven U-Haul dealers within the city limits that can serve your needs.
Honorable Mention: Mitchell’s Ice Cream, my bartender Peter, the secret Addam’s Family pinball machine only I know exists, Frank Chu, Delancey Street Christmas trees, Musée Mecanique, nuns with glitter in their beards, dogs everywhere, watching a nerd trying to chase the kid that swiped his iPhone down Market Street, 22 Fillmore moving theater, Sutro Tower, Castro Theater, my idiot friends running into the freezing ocean on New Year’s Day.
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