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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

At Least When People Say "Only in San Francisco," They Don't Mean Zombie Attacks

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

click to enlarge Rudy Eugene, left, is accused of gnawing the face off Ronald Poppo
  • Rudy Eugene, left, is accused of gnawing the face off Ronald Poppo

San Franciscans revel in the oft-bizarre nature of our city. And why not? You don't come here to thrive for regularity.

That said, the tedious cliché "only in San Francisco" had a seamier side several generations ago. City residents had good reason to worry about attacks from bizarre revolutionary terror groups, and not one but several random serial killers.

The horrifying face-eating attack in Miami is a pretty good indicator that "only in San Francisco" is a phrase that has changed -- thankfully for the better. Or, at least, the safer.

There is a case that the phrase ought to be retired: It's most often used to either pat San Francisco on the back for its beneficence, or simply point out how quirky we are.

Sometimes, however, it is justified. A baseball player who spent time on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder fervently being cheered on by throngs of homosexuals during LGBTQ Night at the Ballpark -- which happened at Tuesday's Giants game -- is a candidate. So is a transgender former sex toy company CEO being criticized as the conservative "downtown" candidate.

This is a city, however, that gets a lot of mileage out of a rep that's 40 years out of date. And, back then, the truly bizarre and dangerous behavior we now associate with Florida was part of San Francisco life. Most readers are familiar with the Zodiac Killer, who taunted and terrified San Franciscans for years. You may be less well-acquainted with The Doodler, the Trailside Killer, or the Zebra Killers -- who killed 16 people in two tumultuous years and left nearly that many horribly wounded (including future Mayor Art Agnos).

(Things grew so bizarre in San Francisco at this time, an acquaintance once complained to your humble narrator's aunt that, "At least back East, they kill you for a reason." Her response: "Yeah. For a dime.").

Even if you weren't killed, your day could be ruined by a run-in with the New World Liberation Front or some such creatively named, violent terrorist group. San Francisco still ranks as one of the nation's most heavily hit terror targets, almost entirely due to the astounding number of 1970s-era incidents.

Along with affordable housing and blue-collar jobs, freakish killings and exotic terror groups are a vestige of San Francisco's past. When older locals glance back through a rose-colored mist, these are the things they often forget to note.

"Only in San Francisco" may be an annoying phrase. But at least it's no longer scary.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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