Why I Love San Francisco…Food, Sea, and Dreams
I moved to San Francisco seven years ago on July 4th after a decadent fling with her on a visit only two months prior. Before I met San Francisco, I had intended to relocate to Latin America. I spoke its language, nightlife, and romance. As an adventurous 20something, the United States bored me.
However, my weekend visit proved that adventure, decadence and amazing fish tacos could in fact, exist domestically.
Within three days I was smitten with the eager intellectuals, the gingerbread homes, and the expanse of sea that alluded to poignant unpredictability. I didn’t give Latin America another thought and was determined to become a California girl. I left Seattle, packed up my Honda civic with all it could fit, and drove down the interstate in search of a new, sunnier life.
Those that have lived in the city will laugh at my reference to sunshine. I still curse the ceaseless fog that rolls in nightly. After seven years here, I am aware of San Francisco’s other faults beyond the chilly summers. Taxis are impossible to find, the hills have ruined my car’s clutch, and the income required to support the rent in the hills has forced me to view my career choices with more practicality than I’d like. However, as any solid love affair, I love San Francisco for ALL her traits. After a seven year courtship I’d like to reflect upon five characteristics that make me continually in awe of the city I dwell in.
1. The Dreamers
Since its inception, San Francisco has been a land of dreamers. It was settled during the gold rush where people from around the world came in droves wide eyed with gold fever. Not much has changed except instead of panning for gold the dreamers are panning for checks from venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Or 99 point ratings from their lot in Wine Spectator. Or a book deal. From the writers that rent out space in the Writer’s Grotto, to the tech geeks working out code in SOMA shared working lofts, everyone is hoping to turn their dreams into their own precious metal. By living here I am encouraged follow the rush of my passion, hoping it too will lead to riches.
2. The Ocean
I was born in Montana and always thought of myself as a mountain girl. That was before I drove down the breathtaking beauty of Highway 1 and watched the wild turquoise water throw itself against the cliffs in a passionate dance. Beyond the white foam lay a vast expanse of westward reaching sea; an alluring gateway to far off lands. I learned to surf so that I too could be enveloped by the powerful force. Salty wind and unpredictable waves have taught me more lessons than the solitude of the mountains. I’m an ocean girl now…but luckily, Lake Tahoe isn’t that far away for a quick mountain fix should I need it.
3. The Neighborhoods.
Nowhere else have I found such love and hatred of each other’s five block radius. Claiming where you live is like tattooing your personality across your forehead. Although all neighborhoods are deliciously diverse, I am most intrigued with the rivalry between the Mission and the Marina. The Mission has a reputation as a hipster unshaven zone with surprisingly good restaurants and gourmet street food. The painted murals on the walls blend in seamlessly with the intricate tattoos on the bartender’s forearms. The buttoned down shirts in the Marina are afraid of its dirty streets, occasional violence (one of my friends has a honorary scar) and consider getting dinner there a brave “field trip”. Despite some of its grittier side, Mission dwellers won’t leave it, claiming there is no ‘real’ anywhere else, especially in the white washed Marina. Marina-ites hate being judged and wonder why people snub their noses at clean streets, boutique shops and preference for striped shirts and wine bars over hoodies and well drinks. My favorite wine bar is indeed in the Marina….I always know a poor drunken soul there (some have secretly come down from the Mission) and am treated with generous pours of Napa’s finest. The perfect beverage before heading over to the Mission to hunt down the tamale lady.
4. The Food
San Francisco is obsessed with eating. Farmer’s market outings are a first date activity and everyone knows when heirloom tomato season is. It is no wonder that the company Foodspotting (a way to upload photos of your food) took off here. Every San Franciscan I know takes so long to capture perfect photos of their entrees that their food gets cold before they have taken a bite. From locally produced to eclectic fusion, food is to be revered and enjoyed slowly. (and then written up in detailed notes on Yelp). Slow Food, a movement against fast food and fast living, has a huge presence in the city’s restaurant scene. Some of the concepts gave way to One Taste where they practice slow sex. But in this town, food IS sex.
5. The Outside
San Francisco is such a beautiful city that it encourages you to be actively outdoors at all times. You don’t have to be a tri-athlete to partake; the city plans all types of events that even the lazy can enjoy. From enjoying the scantily clad at the Hunky Jesus contest in Dolores Park, to listening to amazing indie beats through a pot cloud at music festivals in Golden Gate Park, to biking through the Presidio on your way to the Marin headlands, to dressing up in full costume up for the Bay to Breakers race, you will find a new found wonder for being outdoors. The good news is that the prolific fog keeps us from getting overly sunburned.
Happy Anniversary San Francisco! Although I may visit Latin America for vacation, I am pleased to call you my home.
“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”
William Saroyan Author