Living in San Francisco Means…
This piece was the first thing I did that ever went viral. I originally wrote it for The Bold Italic. SF has changed a lot since I first put this out.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS HEARING YOUR NEIGHBORS FUCK.
The noise comes through the walls, through the ceiling, through the floor. The sound of muffled moans and love murmurs in Spanish, in Cantonese, in Tagalog, in English, in Arabic, in French, in…
Living in San Francisco means having worked at a start-up, made lattes, mixed Bloody Marys, sold shitty clothing, waited on morons, and invested your heart, your soul, and all your energy into a nonprofit. It means still walking dogs, still trimming weed, still babysitting, still doing random gigs from Craigslist, still participating in clinical test studies at UCSF, still doing whatever the fuck it takes to pay rent in this city. It means thinking that half a million dollars for a one-bedroom condo is totally normal.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS HAVING AN EX-GIRLFRIEND WHO IS DATING YOUR OTHER EX-GIRLFRIEND.
It means having a crush on a girl at Tartine. Having a crush on a bartender with a fancy mustache. Having a crush on a dancer at AsiaSF even though you don’t know if she still has a penis.
It means having fucked your ex-roommate, which is exactly why they’re an “ex” roommate. It means walking into a party and encountering at least three people who’ve seen you naked. It means falling in love with someone you met at a free concert in Golden Gate Park.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS MOVING TO THE MISSION AND COMPLAINING THAT IT’S GETTING GENTRIFIED.
It means knowing the Marina actually isn’t that bad after all. Knowing that Nopa is a restaurant and that the neighborhood is called the Western Addition. Knowing that Upper Haight is always about five degrees colder than Lower Haight. That 6th and Mission is both sad and shady. That the Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond are more than just fog-engulfed neighborhoods with fine ethnic food. That there’s a certain magic in North Beach, as long as you don’t go there on the weekends. That the Financial District is full of suits, Noe Valley is full of babies, SOMA is full of condos, and the Castro is full of gays. Actually, every neighborhood is full of gays.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS CONTINUALLY DEALING WITH IMPERMANENCE.
It means having places you love close up forever. It means having friends get married and move to Oakland. Friends who leave to join the Peace Corps. Friends who go to rehab. Friends who lose their minds. Friends who move back to wherever the fuck they’re from. Friends who OD and never move again. It means dreading the inevitable earthquake that will ultimately wash this city into the sea.
Living in San Francisco means never leaving the house without wearing layers. Having just one wardrobe. Owning lots of hoodies. Owning lots of scarves. Owning lots of hoodies and scarves for your dog. It means having pale legs that get sunburned every time it’s warm out. Calling in sick to work because, for once, it’s 80 degrees and you want to drink a 40 in the park. Enduring the cold summer months and savoring the warmth and festivities of Indian Summer. It means being worried that the term “Indian Summer” may not be politically correct.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS EMBRACING ANY CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION.
It means having a costume box for events like Bay to Breakers, the Love Parade, Burning Man, Halloween, Decompression, the How Weird Street Faire, or whatever new dress-up holiday gets added to the calendar this year. It means accidentally buying blow in the Beauty Bar. Having a medical marijuana card. Getting 86’d from Zeitgeist for doing something stupid. Getting 86’d from Zeitgeist for no good reason at all. Drinking with 75-year-old Beat poets at Specs. Dancing in the streets when Obama won. Dancing in the streets when the Giants won. Dancing till 4 a.m. at The Endup, at Club Six, at 1015 Folsom, at some underground warehouse in the Bayview where the directions weren’t even sent to you until 10 that night.
Living in San Francisco means having friends who are sex workers. Friends who have PhDs. Friends who have PhDs who are studying sex workers. It means having gay friends, straight friends, and friends who are somewhere in between. It means being open-minded about people – unless, of course, they’re Republicans.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS WAITING AN HOUR FOR A CAB IF THERE’S THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF RAIN.
It means riding the Night Owl and thinking you’re gonna get mugged by the teenagers in the back. Taking the 22 from the Marina to the Dogpatch and observing the city’s vast spectrum of existence. Sitting on BART and trying not to think about what lives inside those cushions. Riding Muni and seeing feats both beautiful and wretched within seconds of each other. It means walking these streets and witnessing broken beings weeping, sleeping, peeing, drinking, shitting, fighting, smoking crack, shooting up, screaming, bellowing, raging against some hellish torment that only they are privy to. It means having a local bum you kinda look out for, slipping her a buck or two, even though it’s been her “40th birthday” every day for the past five years.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS COMING OVER THE BAY BRIDGE AND HAVING YOUR HEART RACE A LITTLE WHEN YOU SEE THE CITY’S SKYLINE.
Crossing the Golden Gate and smiling at the way the fog sits right on top of it. Snaking up the 101 and Candlestick Park being the greeting that tells you you’re almost home. It means visiting Middle America and being thought of as some kind of socialist gay hippie. It means traveling Europe and being considered one of the enlightened Americans. It means missing burritos, missing pho, missing Tapatio. It means missing Dolores Park, missing farmers’ markets, missing the ability to walk wherever you need to go. It means flying back from two and a half months in South America and getting a little teary-eyed watching Doctor Doolittle , just because it’s set in San Francisco.
LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO MEANS THE MIDDAY SMELL OF POT.
Cold winter winds that cut right through you. Sweet summer strawberries grown not too far away. Crisp salty air by the ocean. The occasional sound of gunshots. Being able to actually count the number of stars visible in the sky. Warm whiskey and late-night chatter on a new friend’s rooftop. It means walking by bodily waste and unfortunately being able to tell that it’s from a human, just by the way it smells. It means feeling the hum of the city as it gets revved up for another Saturday night.