Man, just a quick google and the amount of doom and naysaying, negativity and hatred about SF comes at you like an avalanche of property price ruining shit. Poop on the streets! Drugs! Read all about it: San Francisco is the new Detroit! Mentally ill! Shootings! Crime! Homeless (bah humbug! can’t have that now, can we! How dare they be homeless!). If you believe the hype, then I live in the dying wreck of a city destroyed by tech bros and sis’s entering and leaving, whilst real people living real lives in a pandemic that destroyed many a hustle are struggling for survival.
I am not about to put on my cherry blossom tinted glasses and pretend to you all that this all total media hype and bullshit. Yes we have a large homeless population, of which I am one – though I’m sheltered adequately for now. Yes, there are a lot of drugs in SF. Overdose – read the dreaded shitty fentanyl – deaths surpassed covid deaths 621 to 173 at the end of December 2020. Yes, there are not enough public bathroom options which does sometimes lead to human poop on the streets. We are not drowning in shit, but you do have to watch where feet are put in certain greyer less gorgeous areas of town. Yes, you sometimes see needles on the street, but hey, it’s a large city in the USA, what do you expect. Yes the tech bros drove up house prices, and are now leaving for other places in droves since they are mostly working from home now. We have all the issues of pandemic USA, all the suffering and deprivation, and the city has been closed up. Some of those businesses will not be coming back, but new ones will fill the holes eventually. Tick all those other boxes and you don’t even partially have an accurate picture of the wonderful city of SF.
This is truly the greatest place I have ever lived in my entire life. I was pretty nomadic for a long time, I lived in Tokyo in a nice apartment, I’ve been to Europe…and well…all over the world…but there is not a city as beautiful, as warm, as friendly, as alive as San Francisco. We are undergoing a bit of a tear-down and rebirth right now, but this city won’t ever just shrivel up and die, not even if they did build it in a mountainous – forget hills, they are damn mountains – area with water on three sides, and this is why..
The people! The people! We are a diverse bunch ethnically, we are diverse in our interests, in our passions, in our food, our culture. Just take a look at my photo posts, from China Town, to Japan town, to the bay, and out to the Tenderloin, we are not a homogenous whole. We are a majority of minorities and are so much better off for it. San Francisco embraces its inhabitants. My accent and my son’s Asian face and darker skin are just part of the tapestry that is SF. Ok, so this isn’t always roses and bunny rabbits, there have been anti Asian hatred and crimes, and we are not immune from racism, but I look around at my neighbors, and the community I live in and I feel hope that the people that populate this city can do better, be better, be happier, be more inclusive and loving.
San Francisco has a vibrant gay community…ok…so the lesbian scene appears to be dead, but this is a world wide phenomenon. Any place that has a used clothes store (on Polk) that is called Out of the Closet (https://outofthecloset.org/) just has to be a good place to live. I haven’t been to the Castro yet, I guess I kinda feel it is for my Gay guy buddies, not for me, but I know if I did, I would be surrounded by friendly, accepting people.
From the people who have forged new money streams delivering food and things to other people, from the scrappy food joints in Japan Town, with their delicious smelling takoyaki and lush maccha ice-cream, to my friends at the Shelter, to the guys I see on the Streets trying to make a buck or supper, San Franciscans work hard. They are enterprising, and tough, visionary and indominable, and they do all of this while maintaining a certain sense of style. If I can say so….we are a pretty fine looking bunch of people who have pretty good sneaker game. It is one of my favorite hobbies, if slightly creepy I guess, to check out the gorgeous sneakers on the feet of fellow San Franciscans. There are some beauties. I had to come home and google until I found the Nike’s that were so aesthetically pleasing, after I spotted them being walked around Trader Joes. Kill Shots. Gorgeous. If I am ever rich I will buy a pair and never step in another puddle.
Did I tell you about our weather? Cooler summers, and mild winters. Well, we barely have a winter. We have an atmospheric fog which softens all the edges off the city and makes you feel like some hard boiled detective from an Elmore Leonard novel, or else expect to fall into a movie with smoky bars and beautiful cars. Not only great weather, but beautiful architecture, gorgeous views in a city which is only seven square miles, most of them hills, lots of sea and bay to admire just off in the distance where rich people live. The views! Just stand on top of a hill and look out and you see, not so far off there is nothing, wilderness, green and tan and lovely, and there is water. It is a city of possibilities. It feels like anything can happen here, and happen it frequently does.
From the Beats, to the hippy hey day, the music scenes, to the tech boom, to this new eve of what I think will be an artistic renaissance San Francisco, we are a creative bunch! Kerouac and Ginsburg, the City Lights, and Janis Joplin. The Grateful Dead and Country Joe, the Merry Pranksters and the acid tests. From Haight to the Tenderloin and Bay to Bay our history is so rich, so vibrant, so beautiful so inspiring, we have a foundation to our culture and our identity. It is one that says to newcomers that they are welcome and valid and heard. It embraces those that struggle…and those that don’t. Christmas time in a shelter with a kid, SF homeless charities made sure he had a gift. Made sure we had food. We felt loved and supported, like we were going to be helped to our feet, not knocked off them! That is rare. That is San Francisco. Heck, even our motorcycle gangs seem to be more chill than your average biker…at least from what I’ve seen…
You can wax lyrical about the food – yes it is great, and if you are a vegetarian working towards vegan celiac who loves vegan muffins, you can find things that other people will cook you and that won’t make you sick. Mariposa Bakery (http://www.mariposabaking.com/)- I very occasionally get lucky enough to get some bread and a muffin or one of their lovely cinnamon rolls, and live it up. It is so good you forget it is gluten free. Weekend farmers markets, affordable groceries in the lovely Nijiya Market (https://www.nijiya.com/) in Japan Town, SF knows how to cook, and how to eat. You can live well here, and to be frank, in my experience it is more affordable in this respect than Seattle or New York.
I haven’t been out and about at night in SF this time around, so I can’t tell you about the nightlife and the bars, but in the past, I have, and my ..do San Franciscans know how to party! This is a happy city, a vibrant city, it is alive. It does not have the dark edge of New York. It isn’t as grey as Seattle. It is always summer in the city, and even on the darkest days it feels like someone, somewhere might have some hope to spare.
I love this city. It doesn’t ask “where are you from”, just is glad you are staying. It is generally loving and supportive to it’s citizens, even if it doesn’t always get it right. Yes, we have problems, yes there is crime, it is partly that the net lets everyone know in real time what is going on. We are more aware and can bitch about it more. Like any city, keep your eyes open and be aware of where you are going and what the time is. To be frank if you don’t have to be walking the streets after dark, it is probably best you don’t.
I hope the people that don’t live here stop gloating that SF is struggling and let us get on with making things better.
I love SF. I love the people who have made it feel more like home than anywhere has felt for a long time. I don’t see the end being anywhere close any time soon.