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How to Find True Happiness in San Francisco

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Money inhabits the majority of the real estate of our discussion – blogs, conversation, and articles all seem to revolve around money. The impossible rent and cost of living, the monied population and arguments over culture grab and gentrification. The culture surrounding $4 toast, $16 cocktails, $50 haircuts and $10 farmers market fresh-local-organic-sustainable produce. If you’ve lived in this beautiful city either as a child from humbled beginnings, like myself, or spent your savings on a one way ticket from somewhere else in search of something more, you’ve probably grown tired and slightly disgusted with this green tyranny. But, more than the fact that this exponentially intense rat race is unhealthy – see: our work schedules, stress level, and general uncertainty of livelihood  – it is also existentially distracting from what’s truly import: experience, discovery, happiness and actually experiencing San Francisco. The exercise of San Francisco experience is one of discovering intrinsic beauty, character and personality and the growing culture of ‘cost’ and ‘object/thing’ as the experience in itself is a gross deception. San Francisco’s beauty has always been held in herself, and if you talk to people who have deep love and loyalty to this city, many of their fondest memories have been had while they were broke. Contrary to popular belief, in San Francisco the broke experience can be the best experience.

By broke experience I don’t mean abject poverty, but more so the fact that your life and happiness aren’t completely dependent upon your ability to afford it. There is a beauty that can come from being broke. Being broke fosters community, creativity, appreciation in the essential and simple things, and exploration. San Francisco has always been a place where people would come to explore their personalities and discover themselves and their thoughts and opinions about the world. I would read about old as-is converted living spaces in SOMA that artists would live in for cheap rent and different areas like this that would provide the luxury of time – time to think, create, experience and be. I remember reading about a man evicted in the Mission and he said that his affordable rent allowed him the time to create art and benefit his community. This is the environment that begets the Beat generation, painters, writers, social workers, teachers, and thinkers. Some conditions were not always ideal, but people found happiness and felt the sense that they could participate in this world and be a part of it, which, I believe, is one of our highest wants as humans – that before you die, you were actually here in this world and a part of it and had the chance to experience it.


I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I remember being a child in the city. My father was a hard worker, we lived in the Fillmore without much money, but he found ways for us to have fun – things I cherish and hold deeply. Walking to the park, taking the Muni and looking at the different people, appreciating beautiful buildings, getting cheap barbeque and heading to the Mission every other week for a fat and cheap burrito and being a little older and jumping on the back of Munis and getting into trouble with friends. Some of the most fun and honest experiences and times when you felt the most connected to something authentic in the city are those that don’t require much money. Whether you lounge at Dolores Park all day on Sunday, jog through Golden Gate Park or the beach, hang out with friends in whatever little world, in whatever little bar, getting drunk off cheap drinks and low brow conversations, deeply foggy in your greasy food hangover cures. How many “best night of my life” moments have you had while broke? A lot probably.

The world of Pappy Van Winkle, tasting menus, luxury digs, curated antique goods, specially crafted and sourced goods are all great and add but a piece to San Francisco’s electricity. When I think about what would really make me happy – it’s to grab a few cold beers from the guy at the corner store that has his own nickname for me and climb to a rooftop and sit with friends – laughing, talking about some unimportant whatever – staring out to the city with all its beautiful buildings and views and lights and people and hills like God created this place just for us and the sun drowning in the skyline with its gold amber and it feels like it’s just us – happy, beautiful and broke…

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Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Born in all the jazz that is Fillmore, San Francisco, Jamal has moved all around the beautiful Bay Area. Currently living in the SF diaspora, the married Jamal raises babies, makes cocktails and writes. He is currently working on multiple projects with the most recent being his San Francisco-centric cocktail book: Souvenir. Follow him online, find him, try his drinks, read his writing and have a good conversation with him, he needs adult company...

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