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San Francisco is a Thieving-Ass City

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In San Francisco, your wallet can jump out of your back pocket and decide to go home with someone else. (Courtesy photo)

This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the SF Examiner.

San Francisco is a thieving-ass city. It steals hearts. It takes away breath. It captures people’s imaginations after just a single visit. But it’s also larcenous in more concrete ways. Shattered car windows cover sidewalks all over town, sparkling like ill-begotten street diamonds. Laptops disappear from cafes when the owner gets up to order coffee. And the eviction of families from their homes is certain kind of thievery in itself.

I love my city but, goddamn, it can be treacherous. When I was in Japan, other than a few places in Tokyo, you could leave your wallet on the bar to save your seat when you went to the restroom. Not that I tried. I’m used to living in San Francisco, where your wallet can jump out of your back pocket and decide to go home with someone else.

Street Smarts 101: Never leave your shit unattended anywhere.

Many years ago, I was out with a friend who prosecutes war criminals. She had hung her purse on a hook beneath the bar, and even though she only ignored it briefly, it walked out of the bar without her. The crazy part was that it had classified information in it regarding a case she was working on. Luckily, most cutpurses are interested in cellphones and credit cards and have no use for dossiers about monsters.

I’d like to think I’m pretty streetwise, but even I’ve had things stolen from me over the years. I’ve collected a pretty stellar collection of blazers and jackets — since it’s always layer weather in San Francisco — but unfortunately a few people have collected my coats from me.

Once was at the Phoenix Irish bar on Valencia. I’d left a really awesome green velvet blazer on a stool, and somebody decided it probably looked better on them. Another time was at 111 Minna, where I’d laid my black pea coat on a pile of other warm clothes. Either someone took it thinking it was theirs or they thought they’d find a wonderful surprise inside.

Both times, the coat thieves were surely disappointed to find that the only items inside the pockets were stacks of stickers saying “You are Young, Broke And Beautiful.” In fact, you can get some right here without having to steal my coat.

It’s important to note that I’m not singling these spots out as hubs for nefarious rings of thieves. The truth is that every bar in San Francisco is a target, and we have to be diligent about keeping an eye on our things … which I obviously wasn’t in the two previous stories. And I wasn’t this weekend when it happened again …

I had stopped into The Stud to visit my friends who work there. At some point, I realized I no longer had possession of the maroon blazer I’d walked in with, so I looked under beneath the bar, under everyone’s legs, with the flashlight on my phone. The jacket was nowhere to be seen.

“San Francisco strikes again,” I said to Marke, Rachel and Dottie. “Looks like someone pinched my jacket.” They told me they’d let me know if it showed up, and I headed home. Then, just when I was getting into bed, I got a text from Rachel in which she was wearing my coat and holding out one of the Broke-Ass Stuart stickers that was in my pocket.

“Where was it?” I texted.

“Dunno,” she responded. “Someone turned it in!”

San Francisco might be a thieving-ass city, but really, at its heart, it’s also full of good people. And the good ones outnumber the crooks a thousandfold. So thanks to whoever turned in my jacket! I hope you at least kept a couple stickers for yourself.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".