A little context, yesterday someone posted a Top 10 list of why he hated San Francisco. It started a shit storm on twitter and the Internet now hates the guy. I took a more positive approach and decided to write what I liked about San Francisco. Welcome to the free market of ideas.
- You have already won. You live in one of the few places in the world that people aspire to. I have traveled in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and when I meet someone, if I say that I am from San Francisco the response is always a story. It may be about how that soul has longed to see The Golden Gate or how they are saving money to come to San Francisco, or once had a friend who spent a summer living in North Beach writing poetry. San Francisco transcends location or place to become a global ideal. Congrats. You already live here.
- DIY Town. More than anywhere else in America you can manifest your own destiny here. There are a lack of country clubs, institutions, establishments, and cabals. We are a town of castoffs and misfits; a collection of the Blackballed. The place where you can find your cohort, make a plan and eek out a living realizing it. Your cohort can start small, but if you are lucky you will pick up more along the way and turn your idea into a global movement, trend or even a way of life.
- Food. We are not the originators of all food trends, but we do pride ourselves on teasing them to their interesting conclusions. Rapidly twisting, bending and optimizing the trend until it sometimes can be absurd and may often break. We are unafraid to make mistakes and iterate until we get it right or make it better. Do the trends endure, rarely, but can you still get an amazing foot-long, some of the best ramen outside of Japan or a vegan doughnut? Yes, and we’re even willing to wait in line for it.
- Weather. Sure, it makes you feel like you are in an abusive relationship. Just when you are about to give up on it, it promises to be sunny just one more weekend and pulls you back into it’s arms. Of course, you have heard the Mark Twain quote a million times from friends and visitors alike. You may even own a sweatshirt of shame which you purchased on Pier 39, for $60, when it was 55 degrees in the dead of summer. You have cursed the ‘colored fog’ on 4th of July, and outdoor parties foiled by the marine layer and micro-climates. There’s even an app called SF Climates, that shows you how much warmer it is in Potrero Hill than West Portal or The Sunset. It makes you work for it. The fog has it’s own twitter account @karlthefog and it is easy to get lost in the slow-motion beauty as it around Twin Peaks and spills into the Mission. It blankets The City, keeps it cool and keeps the fires at bay. But, when the weather is good and you are able to dine al fresco on Belden Lane or lay back on Hipster Hill in the grass of Dolores Park and enjoy a cold beer or ice cream sando, those are magic moments. The weather is what makes them stick in your head. It makes them worth remembering. The weather is the punctuation that helps you meter out your life here. More importantly, it provides a Goldielocks style environment, it’s rarely too hot, rarely too cold, often just right to let cooler heads prevail.
- The Purge. With boom, comes bust. The U-hauls arrive, single rooms are packed up and contents returned east. Those who leave, abandon dreams and plans. Those who stay pick up the pieces, reinvent themselves and rebuild. In nature, fire is what purges. San Francisco was almost ended with fire, suffering major fires in each of it’s first four founding years. The last fire almost burned SF to the ground in 1852. We proudly rock a phoenix on our city’s flag. We have mastered the purge, the rebirth, the fresh start.
- Equality. Sit on a stoop during Pride or attend one of the almost weekly parades down Market street, or don your sneakers and run for your cause, be it breast cancer, gay rights or just your desire to protest Valentine’s day with a large-scale pillow fight. San Francisco is open to all causes, creeds and desires. It is the standard bearer for acceptance and openness.
- Homelessness. This problem exists in San Francisco because the simple answers to the problem target the symptoms not the actual problem. Other leading cities apply ‘Greyhound Therapy’ and incarceration which are not solutions for this City. Our love of fairness and equality will not let us settle for superficial salves to undesirable symptoms. We strive to get at the heart of the problem. To try solutions until the problem is solved. To consider all angles of an issue. To give voice to those who can not be their own squeaky wheels. Is this process slow? Yes. Is it ideal? No. But it’s fair, equal and inclusive. It is all of these things, but it is core to what it means to be from San Francisco.
- Costumes! Welcome to San Francisco, here’s your costume trunk. We love to dress up here, try out new outfits, looks and gender-bend . See what works. We move from themed event to themed event and it all culminates with New Year’s Eve, Halloween or Burning Man. You take your pick, your special venue for your flavor of self-expression, don your Santa outfit or gather a group for Bay To Breakers. The love of costumes here is universal.
- The Land Of The Bandwagon Fan. While there are absolutely die hard sports fans in the SF Bay Area, what we love more than anything is to come together around the success of a team. If you lived in SF when the Giants won their last World Series or when the 49ers went to the Superbowl last season, you got to experience this first hand. I am not talking about the jackassery that happened the evening they won. I’m talking about the afterglow. The knowing smiles that most of SF wore for a couple weeks while the team was ‘in it’ and after the win. The increase in post-season wearing of Giants apparel. The whole city was united in what could best be described as civic pride.
- N.E.R.T. If you do not know what N.E.R.T. is you should. It’s what happens when, in the wake of a natural disaster, volunteer members of our fine City come together to fight to save it. They work hand in hand with firefighters to carry lines to so they can pump from the bay to put out the flames. They direct traffic, marshall resources and apply first aid. It’s the persistent ongoing focus and practice that happens after the smoke from the disaster has dissipated. It is an organization that has become the model for community engagement and first responders for the rest of the country. It is grassroots self-organizing that other communities aspire to and the standard we hold ourselves to. For our community, for our city of iron and gold, for our beloved San Francisco.
Large parts of San Francisco are built on landfill, material removed from another part of the bay, land created out of nothing. These areas are subject to a geological phenomenon known as liquefaction where water can turn the soil into a type of quicksand absorbing the structures built on top of it. Every day we literally build our dreams on the fragile foundation of trust, calculated risk taking, and optimism. It’s not that ‘the big one’ will never hit, it’s that we know this place is special enough to rebuild and we know we’ll take shovel to hand and join to help rebuild it, and in the meantime we keep creating.