Funny thing about that. When I was a kid, I heard it was a town in Colorado. But I think even Herb Caen, as he got older and progressively more senile, uttered the ghastly word, and not just once.
Odd how I still have the prejudices I grew up with in San Francisco. I still worry about Los Angeles. Of course, as a kid, I learned that they took all our water. And, of course, I know now that it is wasteful corporate agriculture that takes over 90% of the water. But setting LA and SF off against each other seems like a clever thing for politicians to have done to divert us from that fact.
Hell, I don’t even like San Francisco anymore. When I first left the town, I thought every other place I went sucked by comparison. Sacramento was an overgrown hick town. Reno was Redneck Country. And Selma, a little town 15 miles south of Fresno, was where life ended in high school.
San Francisco changed while I was away. And those towns (except Selma, which is still pretty much the same) improved after I left them. For me, San Francisco became a big city, a New York-wannabe; I really don’t have anything against it now that I wouldn’t have against any big city. But after some bad experiences, I learned my lesson. I no longer have to prove something like those obnoxious young men who ride around in taxis on Friday and Saturday nights proving how slick they are to the young women they’re hauling around by being cheap with people who will never earn anything like the amounts they take for granted.
Even the Richmond District, where I grew up, has homeless people. I saw the other day that the Alexandria Theater had closed down. Of course the old drug store–I still remember the orange Rexall sign–across the street (on the same side of Geary) is long gone. So much has changed.
Odd how a little rant about the word, “Frisco,” can set me off. I prefer rural environments nowadays. I can always find a parking spot. I never have to excuse myself to get past circle jerk sessions to get in my front door (this happened regularly at the last place I lived in San Francisco). I can walk down the street without trash being blown in my face. Rush hour traffic is something less than the agony of two weeks of constipation compressed into the space of a couple hours, every single damned day, made worse by stupidest and meanest meter maids on the planet, who direct traffic when they aren’t eating their young.
I’m glad to be out of the city. Slowly, I’m forgetting my way around. I actually thought that Howard still connected with South Van Ness last night as I made my way to a SF Vegan Drinks get-together. That particular connection has been broken for decades. I wish I could so easily forget so many other unpleasant memories of the place.
It takes about ten years, I notice. After you’ve lived in San Francisco for that long, you start noticing that the town is going to hell. There aren’t a lot of people who have lived there longer and still love it. So I told the people I met at that get-together to enjoy the city while they could. But San Francisco has always been a facade. The architecture around the civic center is a testament to the pretensions of politicians early in the twentieth century that their city should rival the grand cities of Europe. The Palace of Fine Arts was originally built in papier mache.
So much of the city is like that. The glitzy hotels on Nob Hill overlook the rotten core of the Tenderloin, where discarded people waste their lives in prostitution and drugs and wait for meals at the soup kitchens long established there. Occasionally, the police clear Golden Gate Park of homeless encampments–so the homeless can sleep in peoples’ stoops and shop entryways instead. Restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf get their fish from anyplace except the long gone San Francisco fishing fleet (docking fees are far too high and stocks of valuable fish are nearly depleted); instead you’ll find tacky souvenir shops and tacky shopping–including a shopping center built on a pier. North Beach has been more about strip clubs than Italian restaurants for decades. Motorized cable cars with tires, steering wheels, and internal combustion engines heavily outnumber the real things. The city’s storied Victorian houses are of a style imported someplace else like the Greco-Roman pretensions of and around City Hall.
So what, I wonder now, is it that still draws people to San Francisco? What is it they adore? Why are they so thrilled to be there? It is symbol more than substance, I know. Is it the lack of that substance they seek to drown with their obnoxious drunkenness on Friday and Saturday nights? Is it the crushing of an image that leaves the denizens of the Tenderloin and of Sixth Street so far beyond sensation?
I’m glad to be out.