Thursday, February 10, 2011

San Francisco - 43 years too late.

My 2nd day in San Francisco happened to be Halloween. I remember changing my Facebook status update to a very sociological inquiry:
"Do people in San Francisco always dress like this, or is it just because it's Halloween?"
Within 90 seconds, I had about 45 responses, all of which said pretty much the same thing:
"To the people of San Francisco, Halloween is amateur hour."
The city is easy to poke fun at because of its obvious differences with the rest of the country and the strong liberal undertones (overtones?) of its citizens. But I think that's what makes it so likable. There is no norm there. No specific fashion, or attitude. Without these typical characteristics in place, it allows the city to open up and accept anyone. (Including the naked dude sporting only a sock sitting outside one of the BART stations.) San Francisco, it turns out, is a microcosm of the United States: a melting pot of people from all over the world whose only commonality is how different we are from each other. Once we can admit and accept that, the more welcoming of these differences we become. And few cities are as welcoming and, in turn, friendly as San Fran.
Obligatory icon shot.

For a few hours, on the night of November 1st, 2010, I became an adopted citizen of this great city. It was impossible not to. This native Floridian was fortunate enough to be there the night the Giants won the World Series. Their first in 53 years. One of the items of my bucket list was to be in a city when they won a major sporting championship and party in the streets with the celebratory locals. This bucket list item was a long time in the making. Let's look at some of my near misses:

  • In Gainesville when my Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2002.
  • In Miami, Birmingham and Panama City Beach when my Gators won the NCAA Championships in 1997, 2007 and 2009.
  • In Orlando (and too young) when my Cincinnati Reds won the Series in 1990.
  • Still waiting on my Orlando Magic to take the NBA title...
I'm not a Giants fan, but this was my chance. And the city was more than accommodating. We watched the game at a bar just outside of AT&T Park, anticipating that would be the rally point. (Sadly, the game was being played in Texas, but that didn't kill the buzz.) We hurried to the stadium after the last pitch. Because we were so close, we were lucky enough to be among the first group there. But the crowd quickly grew, as pretty much the entire city showed up to celebrate. I had never given out so many high-fives to complete strangers as I did that night. It was loud. It was crazy. It was fun. It was controlled pandemonium. It was San Francisco.

The rest of the trip was a bit more subdued. There was a lot to see, do and experience. What's great about a big city like San Fran is how it is divided into different neighborhoods, or districts, each with a personality all its own. China Town, Haight Ashbury, Little Italy, the Castro (Gay district), the Mission (Latin district), Japan Town, etc... We also drove outside of the city to tour California wine country, which was a surprisingly different, and educational, experience. 
Me, enjoying wine country with both hands.

All in all, I was very impressed with both the city and the people of San Francisco. The only downfall would by that it is probably the most un-walkable city on the planet, thanks to its VERY seep hills. Fortunately, it has a very reliable public transportation system made up of the BART light rail, buses and historic street cars that can help get you to some of the important philosophical cornerstones that molded the progressive mindset of this country. This is where the Beatnik generation was born. Where the Summer of Love movement began. Individuality and nonchalant freedom are very attractive characteristics to me. San Fran more than personifies those traits. It defines them.


  1. I have always wanted to go here!! :) It sounds like its full of a lot of interesting people and places! simply s'marvelous

  2. I've always wanted to go after reading this I want to go tomorrow!!!!!!

  3. SF is my favorite city in California... San Diego being a close second.

  4. I didn't realize until this post how much I take living an hour and a half away from SF for granted. When I go into the city its usually for a purpose, a night out with friends or a show, but very rarely do I actually get to experience the city as a tourist. I might have to go soon and just hang out and soak in some San Francisco again. :) thanks for your post!