Ah...San Francisco...North Beach...home to the beat movement....Haight/Ashbury....home to the hippies....the bay.....the hilltop views....the Golden Gate Bridge....the homeless people shitting in the streets....
I have to admit that I never saw myself living in California. However if I had to live anywhere in California it would be San Francisco...the city that is loved by so many writers and artists that I admire.
This past December I finally got my wish and headed to the peace loving hippie filled city of my dreams.
Living here has definitely been an experience and unlike any place I've ever lived before. My first California experience was in San Diego, which was unique in its own right. When I was in San Diego I felt almost as if I was living in a foreign country. I felt really far away from the world in my corner apartment in the southwest most corner of the country. Being from the midwest it took awhile to get use to things like seeing palm trees, lizards, and wild parrots on a daily basis. It felt like I was visiting some exotic land and never really felt like home.
San Francisco on the other hand has been a completely different experience from my initial SoCal adventure. I feel like if I were only visiting San Fran it would probably be my favorite city in the country. However, living here is a completely different experience and not exactly in a good way.
First of all San Francisco is not a huge city. It's unique in the fact that the entire city is a little penninsula, so we're isolated from the surrounding bay area. Now, even though it's not a huge city it is very congested. The city is extremely built up with many things crammed into a small space. Including people. There are a lot of people living here. Housing is a huge problem as I've learned the hard way. Once you have an apartment, you better learn to love it because you're more likely to win the lottery than find another place to live.
Also, if you want to live here and you do find an apartment, you'll quickly learn that every single penny of your paycheck is going to go towards rent. I rent a room in an apartment where I live with 3-4 other people and for the same price in a city like Chicago I could rent my own 2 bedroom apartment.
Here's where things get tricky though...the price of living here isn't quite as insane as people would have you believe. Yes, things do cost a little more here, but you also make more money. The public transit system costs less than what I was paying in Chicago and you don't have to pay outrageous heating bills in the winter. Mainly when it comes to cost of living it all comes down to your rent and most people just can't afford the high rent prices (such as myself).
Now, I could have moved out to the East Bay and maybe my experience here would have been different. However, Roibeard and I both got jobs in the city and decided that it would be too much of a hassle to rely on the BART everyday. Also, my job sometimes requires me to be at work earlier than the BART starts running and Roibeard's job requires him to work later than the BART stops running.
San Francisco does have some nice qualities that are completely new to me. One such thing is composting. In the midwest composting is something that wealthy people do. You have to buy a really expensive composting machine and it smells awful and doesn't work very well. Here we have city wide composting and every place of business you go into has a bin for garbage, recycling, and compost. The city is about to launch a bike-sharing program that sounds really awesome and if I were staying here I would probably take advantage of it. There are community gardens everywhere where the garden area is communal and people are able to grow whatever they want. There are also community restuarants that use produce from the community gardens. If you go to a corner store you'll find fresh produce for sale and walking around you'll find more independly owned fair trade organic stores than any type of coporate owned mega giant. Also, no matter what day of the week it is I gaurentee you'll find a farmer's market open in at least one neighborhood of the city.
Unfortunatlely as the years have gone on the vibe in San Francisco has also changed. Instead of young poets and artists you'll find young profressionals who moved here on a trust fund and care about nothing other than advancing their careers. Instead of peace activists you'll find yuppies drinking conocut water and walking their dog in a stroller. I have met some really awesome people since moving to California, but both in San Diego and San Fran I've learned that people in California honestly believe they are better than you just because they were born here (this isn't just an observation I've actually had a co-worker say this to my face before). In order to live here and be successful you have to be either extremely wealthy or homeless. There really is no room for the middle class in this city.
This leads us to the bad parts of the city. San Francisco is filthy. Seriously. It is a really dirty city. I live in the Mission District and work on the edge of the Tenderloin. It used to be kind of funny when Roibeard and I would have to dodge feces on a daily walk and we'd jokingly say, "what do you think...dog...or human?". I quickly learned the answer to that question after seeing too many homeless people drop their trousers in a busy intersection and just shamelessly take a number 2. The cops don't care or do anything to regulate it. I mean, I guess they have to do somewhere, right?
The amount of homeless people here is overwhelming. The amount of completely insane homeless people here is shocking. I read up on all of the mental institutions that were closed down in the 80s leaving so many unstable people on the streets. It's awful to see so many people on a daily basis who really need some serious help. Instead of seeking or recieving help though they turn to drugs. Which is another huge problem in this city. We've found so many "h" needles in our bathroom that we had to put up threatening signs stating that if we find any drug use in our bathroom we will press charges (great thing for a business to advertise, eh?). So I'm not talking about pesky teenagers smoking a joint, I'm talking about serious hardcore drug use. When I walk to work in the morning I'm walking behind people who are clearly on crack, hung over, reek of urine, and are missing all of their teeth.
This is the reality of San Francisco.
Oh...also it's cold here. While the rest of the world is complaining of heat waves and not enough air conditioning I'm walking to work in my winter coat and scarf...in August.