Monday, August 04, 2008


As I have now been in San Francisco for almost two weeks (has it really been that long?), I have amassed a set of observations about this city.  I love observing culture, people, places, buildings, restaurants, and generally how people live.  And inherently these observations are comparatory (which is not a word, I know, but it would be if I had a say), given that our own culture/locale is (most often) what we know best.  So, I have noticed both similarities, striking ones at that, and differences, equally striking, between my home urban setting of New York and this urban enclave of San Fran.  

First some of the similarities- both great American cities made up primarily of young single professionals.  Both international cities with a great mix of races and cultures.  Both great cities for food.  Mmmm food.  And though I would guess SF was copying NY when it named some things, it's definitely eerie to be across the country visiting places like the MOMA, Union Square, and SoMa (for 'South of Market,' oddly reminiscent of SoHo- south of Houston, pronounced "how-stun" not like the city in Texas).  And that is about where my striking similarities end.  There are others, but some of my more interesting observations have related to the contrasts.

Everywhere you go in SF there is a view nearby.  I was looking through my pictures realizing that nearly half of them are "views" from all kinds of places.  Oh right, because it's hilly here.  They are not kidding when they say that SF has some serious hills.  Like hills that I would rather sit in a room of thousand-legger bugs than ride down on rollerblades.  Or a bicycle for that matter.  That kind of scary.  Though they would make for some nice ski slopes.  Most of the "views" in New York consist of the brick of the neighboring building.  Or if you're lucky something cool like a Starbucks.  I have to say, I'll take the extra exercise to get the views.  

No one honks.  I literally thought something tragically horrible was happening in the general vicinity of our car when some dude honked at us once when we made a U-Turn in Napa.  I had not heard a honking horn in so long I was nearly traumatized by the blaring sound in an otherwise serene life.  I may purchase earplugs when I return to New York so as not to go into an epileptic seizure.

Along those lines, I have yet to see a single Hummer.  Or many large SUVs for that matter.  And oddly enough, no vans.  Anywhere.  Not that many New Yorkers have cars, but certainly on the east coast in general there are oodles and bunches of SUVs.  Which may or may not be related to the fact that we get a little substance called snow back east which is not so much ever present in SF.  But still, even in Florida I saw outrageously large vehicles with more frequency than here.  Oh but wait, maybe that's because unleaded regular gas is $4.55 a gallon.  Maybe. 

Or maybe it's because EVERYONE IS GREEN.  I live in what I consider to be a fairly liberal city.  Heck, I live in a state that elected HILARY CLINTON as a Senator.  And I'm not saying that liberalism = green.  Because I happen to be more conservative and also happen to think we shouldn't be trampling mindlessly about our beautiful earth so destructively.  But it just so happens that liberalism is often linked with "green" and so one would think that living in New York one gets a healthy dose of "green."  But I knew I was in a whole new league when one day the front page of the San Francisco Chronicler was an article discussing the potential for legislation mandating recycling.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A law requiring every person to recycle in the manner prescribed by said law.  And enforcing it with people who will LOOK THROUGH YOUR TRASH to make sure it is appropriately sorted.  Front page of the paper. Now, I'm all for recycling, and in fact become unnecessarily outraged when I find out that a building/city doesn't recycle.  But a law?  That's not messing around.  Two days later there was an article about 100% electric cars.  Front page news, folks.  They take their environment seriously here- from trash to recycling to cars to, well, everything.   They even have Green Taxis.  I don't know what makes them Green.  But they are Green.

Speaking of green, this city has more green space than I have ever seen in a city.  And I've been to Munich.  It's like they value nature or something crazy like that.  And we're talking nature nature, not fenced in perfectly manicured green space like in New York.  Where you can only sit on the grass at certain hours of the day for certain lengths of time because it needs time to 'breathe' so it doesn't die from all the people sitting on it, and other areas of grass that are just altogether off limits for humans.  Because that's normal.  Not here, oh no.  Golden Gate Park is just a big mass of nature.  Ok, yes, they have some utterly man-made entities like an area fenced off where Buffalo live, and a Japanese Tea Garden, but the little treasures and seemingly unexplored and untouched areas of this park are endless.  You barely even notice that there are several museums in the park because they just seem like they fit.  And it's not just Golden Gate Park- you walk around the city and every few blocks you run smack dab into a park.  Washington Square.  Alamo Square.  Alta Plaza Park.  Lafayette Park.  Maritime Plaza.  Not to mention the fact that the entire city is surrounded by water.  It's just so... refreshing.  Being in an urban environment yet quite literally being surrounded by nature.  I kind of like it.  I could, however, pass on the fog.

Right next to the article about 100% electric cars was an article about how the San Fran Board of Supervisors voted the city the first in the country to ban the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies such as Walgreens and Rite Aid.  And that major chains have to post nutritional information on menus (we've already done that in New York, booyah).  The writer humorously commented, "What's next from City Hall?  A mandate to eat your broccoli and hit the treadmill 30 minutes every day?"  Here again, they take their health very seriously, and they believe it is the government's job to enforce an individual's health.  Ah the age of the government making you take responsibility for your own actions.  Not that I am AT ALL opposed to a healthy lifestyle, because in two short weeks of eating 4-5 servings of fruit a day (grapefruit, cantaloupe, peach, berries, and a fruit smoothie nearly every day), more vegetables than meat, walking everywhere, and doing Pilates, I feel a remarkable difference.  In an entirely positive way.  However, I AM opposed to the government telling people how to be healthy.  But this is a bad example because a glaring exception to that (in my mind) is cigarettes.  Because YOUR choice to smoke when it impacts MY health is not ok.  You are free to do as you please and go about killing yourself until that freedom infringes upon someone else's freedom.  But I digress.  Because my real point is that people are healthy in SF.  But in a very different way than people in New York are healthy.  I would say that most of my NY friends eat well and have active lifestyles.  That would be before I visited San Fran, whose people put the healthiest New Yorkers to shiggidty shame.  I'm just sayin, they're doin something right.

Chill to the max.  I have been utterly calm every day.  All day.  Everywhere.  It's slower, calmer, more peaceful here.  Maybe it's all the green space, maybe it's none of the honking, maybe it's the Pilates, I don't know, but it's definitely a much different kind of urban environment than any I have experienced on the east coast.  Actually a whole lot more like rural PA, interestingly enough.  Not.  So.  Hurried.  

I have said this before after I visited Utah, but I need to say again how much I love NO HUMIDITY.  My skin and hair are fabulous unlike anything I have known on the east coast.  And I just have to say that I like that.  A lot.  

And with that I will wrap up my little meanderings on this city.  I will leave you with a few of the great views of San Fran.  

From Coit Tower

From the Legion Museum

From Alamo Park with the Full House houses in the foreground

From the top of Lombard, the crazy twisty steep street

From some random high hill we drove to then walked up

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