Nine Reasons to Never Give Up on San Francisco
San Francisco is objectively beautiful.
In San Francisco, you can still get lost in the woods. Mount Sutro cloaks you in eucalyptus groves until you reach the summit crowned with its eponymous Tower. Glen Canyon slices the hills south of Twin Peaks, the creek that cut it still running its natural course. The 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park, 20% larger than New York City’s Central Park, features almost every Bay Area landform. Exposed layers of tightly folded brick-red chert on Strawberry Hill signal the tectonic forces at work beneath us. The entire Bay Area and all of California owes its stunning natural beauty to them, after all.
When I need to get out of my head, a walk through San Francisco often helps. I love how an explosion of haphazard housing adapted to the undulating landscape, terraced like the white-washed yposkafos of Santorini. Within a matter of blocks, modern architecture yields to pockets of pre-1906 Victorians, each painted in their own colorful schemes. I can take a walk like this virtually year-round, and do you know why? Because, unlike in the sun-baked Mediterranean, the weather here is perfect. It rarely gets too hot (although this has been changing) and perhaps best of all, it virtually never snows. God I hate snow.
But what about the fog?
Climatologically, it’s basically the water condensed and dripping from our marine-window AC unit, but it’s more than that. The fog is its own entity (and no, I’m not talking about Karl). It merits our respect. I imagine it factored into Ohlone legends; the coastal tribes viewed the shimmering Farallon Islands as a spirit realm. Was the fog also spiritual, what my tribe calls a kishe’, or perhaps a miasma?
On the mortal plane, between rains the fog nurtures the ferns and pines which collect water droplets in their branches. Insects drink them up, birds eat the insects, animals consume the birds. The fog is part of the food chain. It roves Twin Peaks and floods Noe Valley like a ground-hugging gas, dangerous to none except people operating motor vehicles. Fog is so characteristic of San Francisco, it’s inseparable.
My partner and I can see the Transamerica Pyramid from our ninth-floor Tenderloin studio. On clear nights its beacon blinks in the closet door mirror. He and I don’t see the fog roll in from our east-facing windows. Instead it floods the sky from all sides, vanishing the Pyramid and the Salesforce Tower. To many it’s an unhappy gloom, and that’s understandable. I humbly exempt myself from that class. To me, watching the fog engulf downtown feels like meditation.
SF Attracts the Erudite and Innovative
A lot of brains and talent walk these streets, and not just techies. Philistines will find themselves outnumbered. The Bay Area has birthed too many artists, musicians, and writers to count, each deserving of their own lengthy article. Significant firsts and breakthroughs happen in our medical schools and hospitals. If you want to study here, San Francisco wants that for you too. The city attracts great minds not just for the institutions and offices it holds, but the great blunders it gets itself into as well. Please, won’t you help us clean up our mess?
Sports, I guess
Look, I know sports are important to people (rivalry, tradition) but as a queer person I couldn’t give a damn. Not one. Almost every city has a sports team; having them does not make us special—didn’t we buy our baseball team off New York? I see how it earns revenue for the city, but still I ask, at what cost? Stop torching shit and snarling traffic whether the Giants win or lose. Burn cars when it really means something.
If you want your city to be competitive, why not make our public transit the best nationwide? What if we become the ones to best answer the housing crisis? I’m not saying, “let’s abolish sports.” I just wish people cared about more pressing issues with the same kind of vigor.
The San Francisco Gay Area
Speaking of high faggotry, the Bay Area is a gay haven. “I ran screaming from Missouri when I was 21,” is my answer to “Where are you from?” I knew coming out here that my zealot relatives wouldn’t dare set foot on San Franciscan sand. The city’s reputation protects me like a circle of salt.
It isn’t bulletproof however. Few places are in this country. In June, ten men associated with the Proud Boys picketed a drag queen story hour at a San Lorenzo library. Days after a gunman killed five at a Colorado Springs queer nightclub, a proselytizer tried to start shit in the Castro. Intentionally provoking a grieving community, he condemned the city’s gay population through an bullhorn. SFPD reportedly did nothing to stop him, despite the man allegedly not having an amplified sound permit.
After twenty minutes, somebody dumped a canful of thick white paint on the unwelcome preacher.
We can hang.
Underground raves, illegal sideshows, silent discos on BART. I learned how to party the right way here. In 2012 I attended an event held on the unrented upper floors of a downtown Oakland highrise. Local talent supplied the entertainment with DJs spinning house, jungle, drum ‘n bass, and techno. Twice we had to shut off all lights and sound because cops were entering the building. Everyone sat where they’d been standing or dancing, sworn to silence until police left the scene. The second time, right before a crewmember gave the all-clear, the DJ got the giggles. A friend shushed him gently like a mom.
Like he was telling a secret he said, “I’m so fucking high.”
SF has a mighty spirit.
Discovering more about San Francisco furthers your appreciation for it. If you can recognize its heavily layered past, you can fathom its inevitable future. You’ll learn who truly belongs to this land at the edge of the world, that San Francisco’s only constant is its ever-changing face, that the Gold Rush never really ended. You’ll understand the city is made up of its losses just as much as its successes. Shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake claimed sixty-three lives, journalist and literary legend Herb Caen said of SF’s character:
San Francisco is diverse as f*ck.
Across the city I hear conversations in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi. The San Francisco Unified School District ensures wider access by offering courses in twelve of these languages. City College educates residents in French, Mandarin, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and American Sign Language for virtually zero fees.
Since language is directly tied to culture, cuisine is sure to follow. You’ll no doubt find a restaurant that hits every mark of yours. Sadly it’s expensive to eat here, something I get around by shopping at ethnic grocery stores. You’d be surprised how quickly you can adapt to cooking outside your wheelhouse, and YouTube is the new Food Network. That said, I let my partner handle the Asian dishes. I can’t seem to strike a balance there.
You’ll make friends for life here.
Though it may take time (that’s true wherever you go), you’ll find your people. One of the connections you make will flower and lead to more interactions with others. If you weather the misses, you’ll see the hits. A solid bunch of friends activates what San Francisco has to offer like Mentos hitting Coke. Take that however you will. Before you know it you’ll have befriended someone who has to leave, which ages you in ways only you notice. You start labeling eras based on when certain folks enter and exit your life, when your barber closes up shop. You rent better, smarter, and that first shoddy apartment you leased just to live in San Francisco retreats into memory.
There may come a time when you have to leave. Loving it here depends on your awareness of that fact. Don’t let that perspective get you down should it try. If anything, let it move you to enjoy what’s right in front of you. Find what you like and do it with people you love. For instance, I love that whatever bar I stumble out of, a freshly grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog isn’t far away.