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Friday, October 16, 2009

So You're Leaving San Francisco

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 3:48 PM


Writing about a major city with any kind of authority is tough. However long you've lived there, someone's lived there longer than you, though in all that time they haven't learned to properly spell "go home ignorant jerk-wad" in a comment thread. Luckily for me, this post is directed at people leaving San Francisco, who usually have lived here just long enough to not catch the 22 outbound.

So if you like San Francisco, or even if you don't but you're still planning on staying, this article is not for you. Also, if you're the type who sends angry emails to writers, or basically if you're going to judge this article based on the facts I present and give me anything but fawning encouragement, you should just close this window. Well, first you should refresh the page and maybe click an ad, then you should close the window.

If you're thinking of leaving the city, maybe it's because you've read "So You're Moving To San Francisco," the controversial article by Alex Payne, a developer at Twitter, and you're tempted by his argument: That the cultural advantages of San Francisco don't outweigh its inherent filthiness, the lack of stuff to do, and the fact that you have to wait in line for the little good stuff there is.

These are kind of fair accusations! But I want to ask you: Have you really explored all of the city, and have you sucked the marrow from its bones? And then have you thrown those bones into the compost even though you're privately unsure if bones count as compost or normal trash?

First off, there's the festivals  (Payne doesn't count those among "things to do" because he already used them in the section about how people shouldn't have fun until San Francisco is devoid of homeless people and litter.) There are of course the Haight Ashbury Street Fair, the Folsom Street Fair ... Actually I don't know a lot about festivals.

Second, the constant events. Having just moved from San Francisco to New York (shut up shut up shut up), I've noticed that all New Yorkers do is eat and drink. This is because we have more and better places to eat and drink than in your filthy city. But the upside is, San Franciscan venues have to offer novel and exciting things to keep you coming. So the Modern Times Bookstore hosts Gay Shame Radical Queer Vegan Socials and the Make-Out Room hosts Writers With Drinks and presumably things happen outside the Mission as well.

Including my personal favorite, the tourist activities! San Francisco tourism is much more fun if you already live here. You have the proper clothing, you already have a camera (for building your Flickr collection of intentionally blurred streetlights), and you have a general idea of how large people should be. And this last part is the clincher, because if you take the F train up past the Ferry Building to Fisherman's Wharf, your assumptions about America's average size will be shattered, as will your camera when you freak out at the guy who dresses up as a bush and scares people even though by now you should have read about him in about fifty alt-weekly profile stories.

While you're in tourist-town, try out the Musee Mecanique, an honestly satisfying nickel arcade, and get a drink upstairs at Boudin Bakery for a break from the families. (You should be aware, many of the people visiting San Francisco bear and raise children. In other parts of the country this archaic practice is still preferred to simply importing 20-year-olds.)

Then take the F back into the Castro, walking off the last stop and into Orphan Andy's, the 24-hour diner with a heart of gold and a big bulging hard-on. Andy's symbolizes the real magic of San Francisco, which is that no, there isn't an endless party out there waiting for you, and no, you won't get noticed by a talent scout or swept away by a gondolier, and no, you can't catch a cab without calling three companies to pick you up from Potrero, but you'll definitely see three people you know today, and you'll definitely get recognized at the coffee shop, and you'll definitely get a dozen chances to go "I may be weird, but at least I'm not the target market for the gay shame radical queer vegan social."

And that magic, the small-towniness of San Francisco, the only city where the homeless hang out on the lawn of the mayor's office and Chinatown residents take the 12 across town to shop at the vegetarian co-op, is why sooner or later we'll all regret moving to bigger, cleaner, less caring cities.

You can follow us on Twitter at @nick and @sfweekly.
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Nick Douglas


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