1) Europeans' favorite vacation spot. We are obsessed with Europe. I'm sure that a poll of white people in San Francisco would show that we'd prefer to be part of Europe. We regularly compare ourselves with Paris
(and New York, a city we treat embarassingly like a high school nerd with a crush on a cheerleader), and the phrase "Mediterranean" is sometimes tossed about to describe our Pacific town. Why Europe? Because it's better than the U.S., of course!
Eiffel tower or Golden Gate Bridge: you make the call.
2) We are the only American city to fully appreciate the World Cup
. The day Italy (it was Italy, right?) clinched the championship, we San Franciscans were treated to the full front-page treatment -- the big headlines, the color action photos, the man-on-the-street interviews with a bunch of drunk people in North Beach. People in San Francisco, many of whom pride themselves on a disdain for pro football, baseball and basketball, suddenly became rabid soccer fans in this past June. Somehow, to them, soccer on the world stage represented something sublime and pure, free of the ugly commercialism, vulgarites and general jockishness
of American sport. The lack of American appreciation for the "real" football only underscores the limited, nationalistic world view of our home country.
These same people, horrified by the sight of American flags flying on July 4, can be seen pridefully waving the glorious flag of France at a bar on Belden Alley, jingoism somehow being okay if it's representative of a country different than the one in which you presently reside.
And remember that time when all of the black players were violently and systematically harassed at that Giants' game? Oops! That was at a soccer game
3) In San Francisco, Ralph Nader regularly tallies more votes in Presidential elections than Republican candidates. Remember, you're the ones who are out of step with reality, not us. But who am I kidding? I voted for Peter Ueberroth
Hey, man, it's not our fault
. He's not my president.
4) Our original hippies
are not yet all dead. You can't blame us; the Summer of Love was the first countercultural movement to have the commercial savvy and sheer numbers necessary to maintain their momentum all the way up to retirement. In San Francisco, "He's a sixties guy," is still a synonym for "good and trustworthy, with his heart in the right place."
The hippies were by not stretch of the imagination the first major youth subculture to come out of San Francisco, but they might be the last. With the cost of living so high, the city's resources tied up in tourism and businesses that manufacture actual things fleeing at an alarming rate, the convergence of factors required to fuel youth culture rebellion is, sadly, gone. Into that rebel vacuum stormed the hippies, grey ponytails flailing in the wind. Because they didn't really "tune in, turn on and drop out." They played for awhile, coined some awesome slogans, then used their overwhelming size and power (in San Francisco, at least) to convince their kids that they still held the key to all things good and rightous
. Leaving these poor kids to reminisce about Dead shows they never attended when they should be creating their own culture.
No, I won't mellow out.
5) Toyota sells more Prius's (sp?) in the Bay Area than anywhere else in the U.S. Well, it is good that we do this. Because we drive in a city, Toyota's hybrid setup makes sense. The Prius actually gets better mileage in stop-and-go traffic than they do on the freeway. Also, since the cars usually appear outfitted in classic low-budget trim levels
, owners can pretend that they didn't just pay $30,000 for a Tercel with a good publicist.
Best of all, the Kerry / Edwards 2004 bumper sticker is a no-cost option. I think you do have to pay more for stickers containing clever messages relating to the President's lack of intellect, however.
6) We are the most diverse city in the world! Uh, in the U.S. Hmm. On the West Coast! Okay, we are the most diverse city in California located between Fresno and Sacramento. That is, if you consider a city that is 50% white, 31% Asian and 15% Latino diverse. Wait a minute. That's not actual diversity, is it. Lets face it, L.A. kicks our butt. Which brings us to our next point...
7) We are SO much cooler than L.A. Los Angeles is a city full of plastic surgery-enhanced air heads who are obsessed with how they look, call each other "dude," and have no skills other than a burning ambition to "get into the industry." They do not have our emphasis on the arts, important political issues, and World Cup soccer.
Well, actually, that's kind of a dated argument. I hate to admit it -- and I do, really, because every time I go to Los Angeles it freaks me out -- but San Francisco has long since taken a back seat to L.A. in terms of world importance. Maybe it's only because it's the complete opposite of the Big Apple, but it's L.A., not San Francisco that is New York's closest rival
. L.A. is a jungle, it's true, but it's a thriving jungle.
San Francisco, on the other hand, is, well, a nice place to visit. A place to be romantic, to visit the sites of great things...that have already happened. You come to San Francisco to eat crab and sourdough bread, to have Italian food in North Beach, to see a show three years after it's run on Broadway... but not because you have business here. Unless you're in technology.
8) San Francisco is the world's center for technology. It is true. We are cutting edge, and darn proud of it. Unless we're mad about it because it's ruining the city for artists
. Unless those artists somehow find jobs in technology. Then it's okay, because they can still afford to live in the Mission, in proximity to all of the Hispanic families who keep it real. Except for the one they displaced by moving into the Mission.
Lets face it, we have a love-hate relationship with almost everything in San Francisco. We create it, but because we're (honestly) really trying to do the right thing, we can't move forward without seeing all of the negative consequences of our actions. Unless we're protesting something we really, really care about.
9) We protest. Oh, how we protest. I drove by Dolores Park yesterday. It was sunny and warm. Gay men lay on towels all over the place. The skyline shimmered in the distance. And walking purposely, dodging muscle boys, was a rag-tag group of protesters. I couldn't read their signs but man, they were determined.
Some guy throws a Bichon out of a lady's car, we protest. Martin Luther King Day, we protest instead of celebrating. War in Iraq? Protest upon protest
. Immigrants' rights? Bring it on. And if you're particular position happens to fall outside the parameters of this protest, no problem. Come along anyway. Save the turtles? Fall right in. Against or for gay marriage? We've got a spot for both of you, but the anti- faction will have to endure lots of angry shouting.
Well, maybe not everyone. If you're pro-life, or think that Israel should continue to exist
as a country, you might want to head down to San Jose for your protest. After all, we're kind of stretched to the limit as far as tolerance goes. We really can't be expected to respect everyone
, can we?
10) Finally, we live in this insane, expensive place where people come not because they have a job waiting, not because they have family here, not for any of the normal reasons people come to a place, and never by accident, but because they really want to be here. Remember Mary Ann Singleton
in "Tales of the City," standing in front of the Buena Vista, looking out at the Bay and telling her mother in Cleveland that she wasn't coming home? I'm afraid that's all of us. Sometime in the past 150 years San Francisco changed from being just one of many American cities to the last city at the end of the earth.
We came here for ridiculous reasons, most of us, and it's ridiculous to stay, but we do. Sometimes just to get a glimpse of the Bay Bridge lit up at night between a couple of buildings on Russian Hill
. Sometimes to start some new phase of our lives that we didn't think was possible in Detroit, Miami, Springfield. Sometimes -- and I'm speaking of myself here -- we come knowing that it's going to drive us nuts, but we found that when we didn't live here, all we thought about was coming back here.
Which is insane, and is exactly my point.