10 Reasons San Francisco is Great
1) Fog. Though cursed in many ways -- and for many reasons -- fog is what allows sweaty, hairy guys like me to appear cool and stylish throughout the difficult summer months. For example, last weekend we went to the Alameda County Fair, in Pleasanton. After a few hours in the life-threatening heat, we returned home, delighted to watch the "Outside Temp" indicator in the Acura go from 102 (Pleasanton) to 64 (San Francisco) in the space of 45 minutes.
Fog is also responsible for some of the coolest-looking cityscapes in the world. Stand on a hill and watch a big old white clump of fog ease under the Golden Gate Bridge sometime and tell me that fog sucks. Looks pretty cool when you're driving up 101 and see it sneaking over the hills, too.
2) Irish guys who work in the trades. San Francisco was once a city full of Irish guys. They dominated the Mission at one time, and then later the Sunset. Not so much now, but you know how much I love stepping back in time; well, schedule a home remodel and step back and watch the hands of time spin backward. It's likely a guy will show up who can tell you stories about San Francisco back in the day.
See also Italian guys who hang out in bars in the Excelsior.
3) Gavin Newsom. I know, I know, I'll get it from both sides for this one. Everyone who lives outside the city thinks he's a nutball radical who cost the Democrats the presidential election in 2004. Inside the city, everyone thinks he's an insane, silver spoon Republican who wants to force renters out in favor of his business cronies. Whatever. He went to Santa Clara, he played baseball, he shows up at murder scenes to see what's going on, and he does what he thinks is right. I'd follow him through a burning ring of fire.
4) The Hyatt Regency downtown. When I was 10 and we'd first moved to California, we came to San Francisco to see my mom's cousin Alice and her kids. I don't remember all of the circumstances, but I will never forget seeing the inside of the Hyatt Regency for the first time. It had a cool sculpture, fountains, glass elevators and looked more like the inside of Willie Wonka's factory than anything I'd ever seen before. It's completely dated now, but no less interesting to the little boy mind. And if you don't believe me, just ask the Jawa and his various friends we've taken there to ride the elevators.
5) BART. Last night the Jawa and I went to see "Cars." To make it more of an adventure, we took BART, a very efficient mass-transit system that he has been riding like a pro since age 3. My child may not know how to ride a bike, but he will show the true impatience of a city-dwellar when presented with some rube who doesn't know which way the ticket goes into the gate. Hillbillies.
We were waiting at the Daly City station last night at about 10:30, eavesdropping on an Irish couple (see above) and talking about "Cars." The train approached. The Jawa grabbed my Treo out of my hand and took a really cool video of the approaching BART train.
6) It's surrounded by the Bay Area. We lived in Seattle for 8 years. It is a place that, I think, takes a back seat to nowhere when it comes to natural beauty. On a clear day you could see mountains in three directions and the Puget Sound. Breathtaking, really. Yet somehow I never got the same charge out of the that inarguably superior landscape as I do from the wrinkled gold hills of the Bay Area. I love the whole thing, even Milpitas.
7) Really cool houses. Though the architecture of Washington, DC and Boston also hold special places in my heart, there's nothing as unmistakeably of somewhere as San Francisco's hodge podge of Victorian and Edwardian shacks, falling all over each other in efforts to cling to the sides of hills. Sure, the fussy, multi-colored stick Victorians get all the pub, but there's also something really cool about a 1930s stucco cottage in the Sunset with a speakeasy hidden downstairs, or a house with a circa-1900 streetcar hidden somewhere on the second floor.
My love for the houses in San Francisco got me into real estate. The jury's still out on whether I should thank them for it, or curse them as if they were the fog and I wanted just one hot July day, for crying out loud.
8) Fisherman's Wharf. Yes, the oft-maligned tourist trap made my list. Why? Because anytime the daily hassles of living in a city get you down, you can always take some interesting form of transportation down to the Wharf and be reminded that a bunch of people from all over the world thought to save up their money and their vacation days and spend both of them here. Head down there, grab something to eat, and then sit on a bench and watch them all go by. They're elated to be here.
Also, if you're the parent of an 8-year-old, Fisherman's Wharf is a no-miss good time.
9) Cool history. 2006 is the 100th anniversary of the Great Earthquake and Fire, so we've been bombarded with reminders of the colorful history of our colorful city. Believe it or not, I am also enthralled (and always have been) with the history of the Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s.
The great thing about San Francisco history, besides the fact that so much noteworthy stuff happened here, is that most of the places where stuff happened are still here. You can go to North Beach and see where Lenny Bruce fell out of a hotel window. You can see where the Jefferson Airplane lived on Fulton Street, but you can also see the first glass curtain building, designed by Willis Polk in the 1920s, and the places where people lived in Telegraph Hill in the 1960s. In fact, one of them is presently for sale.
10) Mission Street and the J Church. You want to see the whole of the city without taking so much as one left or right turn? Start at the county line and walk the length of Mission Street. You'll get the postcard city and the hidden city, and can stock up on housewares, extremely large jeans and illicit drugs for very reasonable prices. Then, when you get downtown, hop on the J Church Muni train and take it back out to Balboa Park. It'll take you through the Castro, Dolores Park, Noe Valley, Glen Park and then, finally Balboa Park. It's an E ticket for $1.50.
There is plenty to boast about, and I even left out the part about the artists and restaurants and theater. I do love San Francisco, which is convenient, because once you stop loving it, it's time to leave.