San Francisco is Just Not That Into You
This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the San Francisco Examiner
Is it enough to love the way the fog tiptoes through the trees in the Presidio? Can the 47 hills that undulate across The City keep you satiated? Will the skyline that nearly scratches heaven be able to stop you from wandering away? Is the staggering beauty of San Francisco enough to keep you here?
The low huff and fizz of cars passing by trickles in through my window as I sit at my desk. This room is my office, my living room and my bedroom. The other night, I put out a funny little thing on Facebook that said, “‘I really want to have a living room one day’ is the most San Francisco thought I’ve ever had.”
It was one of those jokes that managed to cut right to bone.
The amount of reaction it got was incredible; people shared all the different things they’ve given up just to live in San Francisco. It was the kind of laughing you do to keep from crying. It was one of those stark moments when you remember the place you’ve given your heart to might not love you back. Maybe San Francisco is just not that into you.
It’s not like all of us haven’t been sacrificing things in exchange for living in San Francisco for a long time. But lately, more and more people have been coming to the conclusion that it might not be worth it after all. First, it was the evictions that pushed our friends and loved ones out of The City, but now so many of them seem to be wandering off on their own.
“That’s why I left,” said one commenter. “That’s why I’m leaving,” said another. For some, it’s easy to cut the cord and go; for others, it’s like Fleetwood Mac’s song “Landslide”: “Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I built my life around you.”
They’ve left for Oakland, for Portland, for New York and L.A. They’ve scattered to New Orleans and Chicago and Toledo and abroad. It’s like a great San Francisco diaspora, spreading the seeds of tolerance and weirdness across the world. But with all these people taking their love someplace else, how much of what makes San Francisco special leaves with them?
What keeps you here? What’s stopped you from looking at the corruption, greed, selfishness and sadness that’s come to define San Francisco, and kept you from packing your bags and splitting town?
For me, it’s partially the beauty. I am literally awestruck every time I cross the Bay Bridge and see my city shining back at me. Another part of what keeps me here is the community. Sure, most of my really close friends have left, but that’s also pushed me toward finding new communities that care about San Francisco and are willing to fight tooth and nail for her. Another thing is that I’ve built a really wonderful life here. I’ve been able to cobble together this weird existence, in which I manage to make a living by creating cool things. And the people here support me and cheer me on … except for a handful of assholes.
Yet, what might be the biggest thing that keeps me in San Francisco is that I’m almost scared to leave. How do you leave the greatest love of your life? It’s like losing your religion or devoting your life to studying alchemy and finding out it’s all a lie.
Instead, I try to focus on what I love about this city and fight to keep it the magnificent place I’ve always known it to be: a city for everyone. Because without people like you and me, this is just a collection of hills, big buildings and trees.