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Things Living in San Francisco Teaches You

Updated: Mar 31, 2015 09:58
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Hello, I’m here to regale you with things I learned in San Francisco in 2013. I realize that I lack credibility because I’m not a native and it’s not my adopted city, and I realize my balls are made more of a koosh ball material than steel because I let the cost of living chase me out. However, living in SF was such a unique experience and it marked me in such a way that now, as I am sitting in a bathtub of olives wearing a flamenco dress and sipping Sangria (average Sunday in Spain, yo), I still think about it every day. You probably won’t learn anything that you don’t already know from this piece, but you might find some nice reminders for that one really foggy day when all you wanted to do was sit in the grass surrounded by people that looked like they either walked off a fashion shoot or escaped an insane asylum, and you end up reading Broke Ass Stuart instead (because what else would you do). After a year, turns out all of these things are still more or less true for me.

Here goes:



If you haven’t moved anywhere new yet, first get ready for loneliness. There is something so uniquely isolating and discombobulating about moving to a new city that no one person can assuage, however awesome they are, and that you probably won’t be prepared for, either. It happens regardless of the network you have somewhere, and it’s a weird lasting reverberation that starts the first night in a new bed and ends when you finally don’t feel completely lost at the grocery store by your house (shopping at the Trader Joe’s in Nob Hill is a confusing time in a girl’s life). If the weather is bad, also, you’ll probably feel worse. YES, I know SF weather is quite good, all in all, but it can also be cold as balls (manifesting as hoards of tourists having to wear I <3 SF Chinatown sweaters in August) and if you don’t live like IN Dolores Park then you might get deprived of sunshine quite a bit.

How Valuable a Solid, Core Crew of Friends isfriends-not-friends-bus-for-burningman

[My friend Artie]

No matter how goopy or special the love you feel for your friends is, there isn’t usually any new or unique way to describe it (I think Kerouac was maybe able to do so but now everyone quotes it so much that it’s kind of ruined). ANYWAY, even though there is no good way to put into words the attachment I felt to the remarkable human beings I met in the Bay Area, just let it be known that, at least, it certainly feels as though I love them more than you love your friends. This is partially because it feels like they are way better than anyone else’s friends, which I think is how everyone feels (except in my case it’s actually true).

Seriously, though. The friends you’ll make in SF will stay with you forever, kind of like glitter in your hair after the strip club.

To Take Pleasure in the Smallest Things


For example: making friends on the street, having a connection with a stranger on the Muni (actually, scratch that, most importantly, not getting hit or on/flashed/harassed/threatened/yelled at/fallen asleep on/sat on/tackled on the Muni). Beautiful flowers in a garden in the Tenderloin, or a view of the city you weren’t expecting to come by in the Sunset. Jaw-dropping, stupid beautiful graffiti hidden in a part of town you never go to, or finding out that you’re actually getting a ride home back up a hill late at night. Sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and Bahn Mis too, Fernet’s and coffee everywhere to poop out this amazing food you’ve been eating, the fact that every food item here has avocado in it, tiny dogs in sweaters everywhere, and the summer-y, December, sunny days.

To Try Not to Make too Many Solid Plans


To try not to make too many solid plans because you will probably break them. Also, being always late and kind of flakey, while a somewhat well accepted SF cliché (or at least enough of a thing that the Bold Italic writes about it**), can legitimately screw up your life.
Let it be known that I have in no way changed my ways, and am still late all the time. But like, now I know how much it can ruin things.

**I <3 YOU BOLD ITALIC (but seriously).

Let SF Inspire You


To let SF inspire you. If you want to be Emperor of San Francisco and protector of Mexico (look it up), why not? If want to make a googol of money (…get it?), why not do that too? If, instead, you’d perhaps prefer to a starving artist and have to hunt pigeons in the Tenderloin to eat, what’s stopping you? The fact that pigeons are kind of fast and difficult to catch, perhaps?? Ok, fair point. In any case, in SF you have everyone around you’s full support. Maybe not the Tenderloin part. Point is, though, that going for the secure suit job that makes you money is the exception in SF, not the norm.

[Sidenote: again, written approx. in 2013. I hope this is still true]

It actually is (or at least it felt) easier to follow your dreams, there. This provided, of course, that you are ready to brave the fact that it’s so expensive, and are willing to bitch about rent prices w people in every conversation you have, which is great, because there is endless material there.



That there is something so vaingloriously (yes, that is a word, the internet says so) satisfying about living in a city everyone wants to be in (except for Oakland – they seem to be happy across the bay. Whatever, Oakland. Call us sometime. We miss you).

I saw tourists take what ended up as heavily filtered Instagram pictures of themselves with what was briefly my city for a while? Hell yeah suckers!

Rely on Who I am Instead of on What I Do


To rely on who I am instead of on what I do. In a city full of people who have anything ranging from no job to the job of their (and potentially your) dreams, wanting to define yourself by your work it first became a source of slight panic, and then ceased to be important.

I, for example, had a job that was just hard to explain, and then once explained, it fell short. It was like a stupid joke that went on for too long. Consequently, I had grown to sidestep the “So…what do you do?” question, which (I guess) then left me with nothing else other than a real live conversation about other things. Hell, I could then talk about the rising rent prices, that’ll go on for hours. Instant friend!

[I feel like I’ve mentioned this before.]

This of course meant also having to come to terms with the consequent “Well, then, what do you like to do?” question, the answer to which, for most people, is “sleep.” This, of course, when you’re not hustling like a raving lunatic to try and keep up with your newfound addiction to cocktails with egg in them (San Franpisco!).

[Again, 2013. Apologies if I’m tragically behind the times.]

What we are then left with is just getting to know the person, which is a neat thing that in SF comes more easily than in most places.


That I, at least, need sun. Unapologetically, all the time, I need sunshine. Damn you Karl.
Also, that the fog in SF has a name. It’s Karl.

  Get Your Hot Boozy Sauce On


That when you want to get your hot boozy sauce on ’till the ‘breaka ‘breaka (or at least you know, until, you get sleepy and annoyed at people) it’s really fun to oscillate somewhat indecisively between the grittiest dive bars you can be in without feeling like too much like Richie Rich, and the nicest vintage cocktail bars you can afford to go to without having drinking yourself out of house and home after one cocktail. Unfortunately, it looks like the dive bar situation will probably change soon. As far as cocktails go, though, San Francisco was, at least in 2013, in looooove love love love with its Barbary Coast history. The amount of saloon inspired bars with a wide selection of awesome cocktails is, well, a lot.



On a completely unrelated note, walking up a 90 degree hill with a hangover is less fun than you’ve seen in the Disney movies, guys.



That, generally, people in LA think SF is the cat’s pajamas, even though San Franciscans usually hate LA. Wap wap waaaaap.



That dancing is fun, yes, ALWAYS FUN, and especially twerking (also ALWAYS FUN, except for when I do it, and then it is just hrmmm).

I would imagine that this is just a big city phenomenon, but people in SF (see: transplants, not natives) sometimes love to over-think, try endlessly to define, and pontificate about what it means to live in a city like San Francisco.

[Yes, I know, this list. The irony.]

Even while I’m in Spain in my bathtub full of flamenco dancers wearing only sangria (typical Sunday in Spain, duh) I’m still a little afraid that in posting this, I might get my own Annie Hall moment where a born and bred San Franciscan crawls out of the woodwork to tell me “I heard what you were saying. You know nothing of my city. How you got to live here at all is totally amazing.” I think maybe it’s because that SF, like NYC, is like nothing like anyone who moved here from elsewhere has ever experienced. It’s new for us, and love it or hate it, it is definitely unique.


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Rae Bathgate - Down and Out and Overseas

Rae Bathgate - Down and Out and Overseas

Rae, known also (depending on the country) as Rachelle/Raquel/ Rachele (and often sadly mistaken as Richard, because biblical names are hard you guys) is an aspiring writer and now sort of a dick for having actually defined herself as such. She was born and lived over the first half of her life in Italy; she then moved to the States and lived a good ten years there (including in SF). Currently back in Europe, she is neither a hapless American tourist nor a snobby European jerkyjerk; luckily for you, she is some weird ungodly combination of both. Also, she’s broke and is probably stealing bread crumbs from pigeons.