Had an awesome conversation over tapas and beer at Thirsty Bear with an in-from-out-of-town work associate who asked an interesting question – what is that one thing about San Francisco that makes it, well, San Francisco? Other cities have defining characteristics- Boston has red brick buildings, higher learning, and history. New York has multiculturalism, Times Square, and a pace that overwhelms outsiders (including this little Wayfarer who only made it a year in 2007). Calgary has cowboys and the Rockies. London has style, sexy accents, and cobbled streets. Berlin has grit and dichotomies. Toronto has New York envy (I kid, I kid). San Francisco, he argued, has too much of everything.
There’s something to his argument - San Francisco is a city of newbies and locals, neighborhoods and microclimates, and just about every style of facial hair on the planet. Though most residents love San Francisco as a home, the home of a resident of the Tenderloin is vastly different than that of a Haight dweller, just as a North Beach resident might not have as much in common with a Pac Heights denzien – though we can all agree on GO GIANTS.
San Francisco contains many separate social ecosystems, and I think our lackluster public transit encourages it. Think about it – getting from the outer mission to Cow Hollow without a car takes a long time – 45 minutes and a train and a long bus, according to Google maps. In a city that is merely 7 miles by 7 miles, that is significant, especially since a trip from Brooklyn to Times Square, covering 11 miles and a river, is the same amount of time.
I live in North Beach and don’t have a car, so I don’t often check out some of the fabulous restaurants in the outer Richmond, go running in Golden Gate Park, or explore Berkeley on foot. My world is pretty much limited to my bike ride from my apartment to work, exploring the little pocket of Potrero where my work is, and the various radii extending from the Farmers’ Market, Marina Green, the Presidio, Tony’s Pizza, and 15 Romolo. Heck, sometimes we get crazy and head down to Nopalito out near Divis, but that’s only when we have wheels – that’s a pretty small square mileage to exist in.
I have to think about this a bit more. For someone like myself that grew up driving long distances in Canadian suburbs just to do anything, the fact that I walk to the grocery store every day makes me very happy. My little world is peaceful and fulfills everything I need, all within walking distance.
There’s something to be said, however, for the fact that I hardly ever venture beyond MY San Francisco, as there are so many different versions of this city. MY San Francisco is just that, mine, and consists of a very narrow view of a very complicated place.
Something to think about…