Reasons Why New York is Better than San Francisco

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Not that long ago, I wrote a post for this very website which chronicled my experience as a sun-kissed, burrito-fed Californian living for three years in NYC.  Soft of heart and fake blonder of hair, I bemoaned New York’s frigid winters, sleazy one-upping “networkers,” and lack of publicly-placed recycling bins.  I posited that many native Californians move to New York City for a summer, two years, or five years, but rarely for a lifetime– the ever-present allure of redwoods, warm beach sand under our toes, and cruisin’ with the windows down while listening to Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” and (singing along at an offensive volume) almost always eventually beckon us back to the Golden State.  For me, this hypothesis definitely turned out to be true.  I moved back to California– San Francisco, in particular– nine months ago, and haven’t missed New York for a minute (or even a New York Minute, ha).  Well… except for a couple of things.  Okay, more than a couple.  It’s just that San Francisco has changed so much since I last lived here in 2009!

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Who can blame me for missing New York?  There are a handful of all-too-obvious things that are just plain better there. Sweltering summers spent in shorty-shorts.  All-night sweltering summer rooftop BBQs spent in shorty shorts.  Affordable 24-hour public transit that runs more often than once every 20-something minutes, or… you know, hour.  24-hour bodegas.  Being able to use the word “bodega.”  Drinking at a bar with friends til 4am, then gleefully, blurrily wandering home just as the sun is about to rise.  People on the streets at every hour of everyday, always seeming to be up to something meaningful or important.  New York truly lives up to its cheeseball movie nickname, “The City That Never Sleeps”–  I mean, I never really slept much there, between my go-go-go lifestyle and the teenagers blasting reggaeton outside of my window at 5:30am.

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Surprisingly, New York also beats SF in a competition for cheap rent.  As we all know, San Francisco now officially boasts the highest rents in the nation, and it seems like this city is set on kicking out anyone who is not well-off.  Poor and middle class people in NYC can live in less-cool areas, and still have total access to everything via the extensive subway system.  They can pack six roommates into hip, bohemian Andy Warhol-esque artist lofts, and pretend to their friends back home that their lives are just like an exciting episode of Girls.  Here, the non-rich are being forced to do horrible, unthinkable things like move to Concord and hang out at Applebee’s unironically– a fate worse than death, as far as I’m concerned.

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And while San Francisco is certainly no podunk corn maze filled with Wal-Marts and toothless hillbillies, it really has nothing on NYC’s cultural offerings.  San Francisco’s MOMA, the city’s only acceptable source of modern and contemporary art, will be closed for construction for the next two years.  Not to mention that we ain’t got no Met, Whitney, New Museum, Guggenheim or Fricke.  Patti Smith doesn’t play free shows here on the regular– in fact, the only cool entertainer who frequently performs for free in SF is that accordion-pumping Nintendo music guy in the BART station.  San Franciscans don’t get access to the very best concerts, movies, art exhibits, and designs before the rest of the country– let alone free passes to advanced showings, gifted by one of those “sleazy, one-upping networkers” who I just claimed to despise so much (freshly-pedicured foot in mouth– I’ll admit it).  New York City is a mythical place where Average Joes like you and me can suddenly find themselves in attendance at Justin Timberlake’s party, ordering artisanal ice cream cones with Bill Cunningham, or standing less than a foot away from Chloe Sevigny at a Very Important Opening.  It’s a city that shamelessly panders to the television-reared, celeb-obsessed, name-droppy, status-conscious, wannabe-famous disgusto that secretly lurks within all of us.

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But now that we have the obvious Top Three– real summers, awesome public transit, and status as a cultural mecca– out of the way, let’s move on to what’s most important: style.  I once wrote a Facebook status that read:  “Everyone in New York City has good taste, and that gets a little boring sometimes.”  At the time, I was sick of seeing girls with expensively shampooed hair tucked into the collars of their conceptual coats, pounding the pavement in Acne boots with red lipstick smeared artfully across their mouths.  Everyone in New York walks with purpose and has amazingly defined glamour-cheekbones, the latter the product of weight loss from being too poor and/or overworked to eat properly.  The ubiquity of chicness in NYC might thrill some, but for me it was a serious snooze fest– where were the nudists, the leather daddies, the casual tutu-wearers that I so loved in San Francisco?  Where were the furry Burning Man boots, and the ill-advised tattoos of Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest in Ironic Situations?  Fashion legend Diana Vreeland once said, “We all need a splash of bad taste– it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical.”   Maybe that’s why my cheeks were so concave in NYC– I was wasting away from lack of exposure to hideous fashion decisions!

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My dire need of some major freak watching honestly played a large role in my decision to move back to San Francisco, but to say that I was stylistically unimpressed upon my return would be an understatement.  Public nudity is now outlawed.  Tie dye tights have been replaced with a repulsively overpriced dadwear staple: the Patagonia puffy vest.  Psychedelic vintage dresses and funky boots have been eaten alive by an angry mob of see-through Lululemons and gag-inducing running shoes as all-the-time shoes.  Guys who were geeky matheletes in high school suddenly think that they are hot because they are making wads of tech cash and get their hair cut at pricey salons.  Charmingly bad taste has been replaced with straight-up no taste, and if everyone in my city insists upon ruining my world by looking exactly the same,  then I pick New York, hands-down: at least glamorous bone structure and summertime shorty shorts are involved, and those happen to be two of my favorite things anyway.

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So now that I’ve been back in SF for awhile and seen how the city is rapidly changing, I can finally admit to myself and others that it’s not the magical utopian hippie dreamland that I romanticized the shit out of during my time in NYC.  New York City actually pummels San Francisco in more than a few ways– and, although I don’t think that I’ll move back there anytime soon (I just can’t leave the redwoods, or the affordable avocados here), I certainly miss weird New York Moments like riding the subway with 90s teen heartthrob Andrew Keegan at 3am (the closest I’ve ever come to a teen dream-induced heart attack, by the way).

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 Because, when it comes down to it, New York is a city where crazy things like that happen, a surreal place that just doesn’t make any sense ever, and I’m currently missing that in the predictable, tech-soaked San Francisco of 2014.

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Images: PPS, kqed.org, Louisiana Record, sfgate, Zappos, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia, Vogue

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About the author

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food, but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends to have a flair for the dramatic.
  • http://manivafaei.bandcamp.com Mani

    Let’s not forget the New York general public’s ability to engage, whether in conversation, art, politics, etc. One rarely hears, “Back off, I’m just trying to have a good time” at a bar, even if the invite is for a strong dose of Republican-bashing. One does hear, “I have work in the morning, I can’t stay out past two”…as opposed to SF people acting like Cinderella in regards to midnight. The reason I am moving to New York (as soon as my funds are together) is for the local music scene. I am a musician, and have struggled to get the ball rolling in any of the groups I’ve been part of in SF. Not only do NY people show up when they say they will, but they seem to be enjoying themselves! No texting while standing still listening to hardcore. No lame excuses about not having a car or money. When you live in NY, you have to chalk up ballooning debt as an exchange for the best time of your life. It would seem most people there have made this deal with themselves.

  • http://www.urbanartistsblog.wordpress.com Margaux

    I’m a coast-to-coast gal myself. I’m originally from the silicon valley area (unquestioningly boring for the artistic and sensitive spirit) and moved to San Francisco for college in 2007. I ended up living there for 5 years but eventually grew tired of it and wanted something new. I lived in NYC for about 8 months in 2013 and have recently moved back after a hiatus in California. I agree that San Francisco is changing rapidly but I still think it has that hippie, bohemian spirit that I honestly grew out of but still nostalgically miss. if that makes sense. In my opinion, NYC is a much more grown up city for ambitious people who take their lives seriously. Once I was spoiled by the freedoms of the NYC subway, I just couldn’t go back to waiting 20-40 min for a bus or train. Of course I miss the friendliness and fluid-like atmosphere that is SF but I think there is also much to learn about the rhythm of NYC as well. The truth is that historically this fight between hippies and squares is by no means a new one. Unfortunately, the choice you make when choosing the life of an artist is to give up a lot of things such as conformity and comfort. An artist can never be completely stable or comfortable or else their art suffers. Yes, the people with money come in and take over because we as a society listen to the sermons of the almighty dollar and then artists have to find a new place to create a life until the next group of squares come in and take it.

  • Barbara Burdick

    Dear Carrie,
    Apparently you are not a jazz lover.
    SF + Jazz!

  • Michael

    SF is dead. Ive lived here for 15 years and Ive seen the decline. The music scene sucks. The nightlife is even worse. The people just plain suck…unfriendly, self absorped douchebags have totally taken over. Seeing guys wearing little ass clothes, girls wearing mom jeans and hammer pants (88-92…I lived through it, not impressed). Tech dbags that just wont STFU about how their app or whatever bullshit they are trying to push is going to change the world. 3000 a month for a one bedroom. So many, no too many crazy ass tweakers and dopefiends in on and around the streets. I used to love this city with all my heart but its just a bland shithole with a low quality of life.

  • Lizard Boy

    We miss you, too, Carrie. Nice place about NYC–we’re open 24/7/365. You’ll be back. First round’s on us.