Thursday, June 27, 2013

San Francisco Dreamin'...

I grew up in New York, and I'm certainly not about to sell a bill of goods about it being better to grow up in than any other place in the world. It just happens to be where I grew up- with all its seeming advantages, and disadvantages. And as Jimmy Breslin was fond of saying, many a New Yorker might as well live in Ohio for all they identify with or take advantage of it.*

One thing New York does spoil you with is food, the best from every far region of the world. For those on a limited culinary budget, it's also the only place in the world (bar none) where you can get great bagels and consistently delicious pizza in a variety of places. Step outta NY and you only have a handful (literally) of places in America that even knows what good pizza (by the slice) tastes like, or even what a bagel is supposed to look like- definitely not a doughnut, or "a roll with a hole." But I digress...

Top Hat,  Photo: S. Banos
Been living in San Francisco for round about a decade now, my "retirement villa" as I like to call it (despite the fact that I'll be working till I drop)- because things are, well... considerably more laid back. How laid back? The first thing I noticed when I moved here were all the squashed pigeons on the street, red feathered blotches peppering the downtown asphalt. Unlike their street smart NY counterparts, these guys can't seem to grasp that unless they actually move, oncoming cars will cease their ability to live. Very laid back.

Despite New York being a pedestrian city, cars very much rule when crossing the street there. Anytime one attempts to cross at a stop sign in NY, one must confront the driver, stare him (or her) full in the face and negotiate terms before either of you makes the move to advance- several false starts by either party are not unusual, the stop sign a mere pleasantry. The first time I attempted crossing a street in SF at a stop sign, the car slowed, stopped (and stayed stopped) before I even arrived at the corner. What manner of devilry is this, I pondered!? This son of a bitch is actually waiting for me to play chicken with!!! It never crossed my mind that he was simply preparing to wait for me to cross. Culture shock.

Another thing that (some) New Yorkers are at least familiar with is style. I'm certainly not anywhere near a clothes horse, but even this aging geezer can still appreciate a sense of fashion, be attuned to it, recognize what works and what doesn't. And as with most anything else, good style (no matter the taste) can be a rare commodity, and fashion sense is pretty much non existent in San Francisco. Guys have the CA slacker/hipster thang down pretty good and little else, and even gays (except for the drag queens, natch) are lacking; the women... sorry, gals- I have never seen a more hopelessly lost conglomeration of every mismatched mixture of costume regalia from every decade imaginable so thoughtlessly and unimaginatively thrown together! Yeah, that about sums it up- clueless. But that doesn't stop these guys and gals from trying to dress up at every possible excuse!

Bay To Breakers,  Photo: S. Banos
And it doesn't stop there! Practically every home town fan that goes to a Giants game is wearing coordinated bits and pieces of various kinds of SF Giants uniforms: hats, jackets, shirts and other official team sanctioned regalia of every hue, size and mutation. It's like mothers throughout the town dress up their grown, adult sons and daughters to go to the ballgame for Chrissakes!

Every holiday, parade or celebration in this town is, in fact, a costume party. The annual Bay To Breakers Race is supposedly some kind of actual race- but what the Bay To Breakers really is, is yet another excuse for every twenty something in town to get badly dressed and costumed (yet) again, while getting slobbering drunk and urinating their way through various neighborhoods in their breakneck pace towards inebriation... And achieving, at long last, a fitting excuse as to why they look like shit.

* BTW-  Before you profess your own personal hatred of New York, no one hates New Yorkers more than... New Yorkers- those who live in the rest of the state, well apart the maddening city limits and must nevertheless suffer the brunt of being labelled "New Yorkers."


Noah Beil said...


Very funny writeup of your view of SF. I'm curious if you like living here. Do you miss NY?

As someone who grew up in upstate NY I understand your "BTW" comment...

Stan B. said...

The NYC I miss is one of time and culture, as opposed to location. It's why I moved in the first place, while I still had my sanity and a few bucks left to my name.

Back in the seventies, NYC still had its rep, but anyone that actually lived there realized it was just a hollow paper tiger, an inside joke. It was a pretty miserable place in many ways, but there was a wider diversity and dispersal of classes. And considerably less crowded.

Now that's significantly changed, physically it's much nicer, but very much catered to the monied (more than ever thought possible) as far as housing, entertainment, education, etc, etc, etc... And (sadly) it increasingly believes its own bullshit. It's become kinda like the Texas of the Northeast.

9/11, incredible tragedy that it was, brought a much needed reality check, New Yorkers rose to the occasion- but that has long since dispersed and dissipated. NY thrives on hope, or more accurately- denial.

And there are no longer any places in the greater metropolitan area to escape the ever increasing hordes of consumers. Before, one could go to places even in Manhattan itself that would be relatively vacant of people on weekends, that has long passed. It's a much prettier place in may ways, but a much less livable one for those that can no longer afford it due to the massive gentrification.

SF? Like I said- it's basically my old age home... Though it does drive me crazy whenever San Franciscans whine about the "absolutely freezing" temperatures should it go a degree under fifty, or how they're "burning up" if it's a degree over seventy five!