I Left My Heart in Orange County
When I moved to San Francisco three years ago, my initial thought was, “Eh, maybe not so much.” I was fresh out of college and in search of a job so I figured I’d give it a try, but I couldn’t understand what everyone was so into about this place. People constantly talk about how amazing SF is but my first impressions of the city were that the weather is shitty, it’s dirty, and there’s no parking. In my first week here I saw two homeless penises. Two. Penises. You can’t erase that.
I know what you’re thinking: “This person is the worst. She’s probably an uncultured suburbanite who’s rude to waiters and calls frozen yogurt fro-yo.” That’s only partially true. You see, I was raised in Orange County. I know, blaming your upbringing for not liking something is the ultimate cop-out, but I’m taking it. Because I didn’t grow up in just any part of Orange County, I grew up in the alternate universe known as Corona del Mar. By San Francisco standards, this town offers nothing. No museums, music venues, parades, pop-up restaurants, hidden bars, or secret workshops. But you know what Corona del Mar does have? The beach. Miles of beautiful, quiet, safe, sunny coastline. And to me, that was everything.
Moving from what I considered perfection to my own tiny private hell (the Western Addition) was a bit of a transition. It meant shifting my attitude and learning to appreciate a different way of life, completely opposite of the one I had been swaddled in for the last 18 years.
The biggest hurdle?
I moved to San Francisco in the summer. Someone who wasn’t Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was freezing my balls off in San Francisco all summer,” or something like that. And yes, summer is cold, but what the famous quote fails to mention is the frustration of leaving your house and being instantly moist on days the fog is so thick it sticks to you. “Moist” is the most unsettling word a person can use to describe their current state of being. But I’ll continue using that term until someone invents a plastic onesie to protect me from this orb of misty bullshit.
But just as I was beginning to formulate conspiracy theories about the sun, something magical happened. The sun came barging into my room one morning without notice and said, “Hey asshole, maybe you’re too hung over to notice, but it’s 80 degrees and awesome outside and you were supposed to be up an hour ago. I brought you a mimosa, now get your shit together.” And that’s what I learned San Franciscans do. As a city, we collectively get our shit together and head to Dolores or Baker Beach or Fort Mason or wherever and we all just party. Sunny days in San Francisco are treated like national holidays. We don’t just appreciate them, we fucking CELEBRATE them. After enduring three straight weeks of moistness, we deserved this.
The Southern California sun doesn’t have the same power to bring people together as the San Francisco sun. Down south, the sun politely knocks and asks, “Would you be interested in going to the beach? Oh? You want to watch a marathon of Lifetime Original Movies in a dark room? That’s fine, I’ll check back with you tomorrow.” And that’s it. You take the sun for granted when you have it every day. It’s totally cliché, but it’s because of the seemingly perpetual lows that San Franciscans experience the highs. I will ride out the shitstorm of angst because at the end, I know the sun will be back, blasting us in the face with rainbows and tall cans.
And I’ve learned that in San Francisco, even though it’s not always park weather, there is a 100% chance it will be bar weather. People here love bars. This was something that took getting used to as well, because the bars in Corona del Mar are nothing to get excited about. (Unless you get excited by ambiguously old men wearing True Religion jeans and pointy shoes.) In Orange County being a young, and even marginally attractive female means you don’t have to wait in lines at bars. You just get right in, because down there, going to bars is less about hanging out with friends and more about aggressively jamming your denim boner onto anyone on the dance floor. Keeping the female-to-male ratio high is simply a responsible business practice to avoid being labeled a “sausage fest.”
In SF, on the other hand, doormen give roughly zero fucks about this ratio. The first time I went to the Brick Yard in the Marina the doorman dismissed me with a single look like, “Who does this bitch think she is? Back of the line. No, farther back.” When I eventually made it to the door, he told me the bar was at capacity, all the while mustaches continued to whizz past me, just walking right in. I started to freak out internally. Was he just fucking with me? Were we in a fight that only he knew about? Why was he acting like such a dictator?! This bar should operate as a democracy. Every person in this bar should have an equal vote on who gets in. If one more person walks in ahead of me I’m going to lead a rebellion. I’ve got 30 ladies behind me who are too sober and too moist for this shit. Don’t test me, I went to Berkeley. I can whip up a protest in less time than it would take to write a bad Yelp review. It will be peaceful as fuck, but a protest nonetheless.
Fortunately for this door tyrant, I was able to harness my rage and find a more suitable bar to decompress and think about the situation more rationally. Bars here just operate differently. I may have to wait in lines, but at least I have options of where to go. If I want a good margarita, no salt, no boners, I can go to El Amigo in Bernal. If I’m in the mood to black out, Blondie’s Bar & No Grill on Valencia has a Big Gulp–sized gin martini with my name on it. Or if I’m homesick and just want to be objectified on the dance floor, the Parlor near Fisherman’s Wharf is waiting with a sea of open arms in silky shirts. No matter what you’re in the mood for, San Francisco has the spot – as long as you don’t mind waiting in line.
Another part of living in San Francisco? Learning to embrace public transportation. In Corona del Mar, public transportation isn’t even a thing. Everyone just drives. Driving is relaxing. Driving here is fucking terrifying. When I first moved here, I had recurring dreams where I’d be driving my car vertically up a steep hill and I’d start rolling backwards. Are these deeply rooted subconscious insecurities revealing themselves through my dreamscape? No. San Francisco’s hills are just literally my nightmare. And then you have to deal with parking. Every time I find a parking spot I get out of my car, stand on the street, and beg strangers for guidance: “Please. What does a mauve curb mean? Help me.” Eventually I just say fuck it and pray my car will be there when I get back. It usually is, but with a $65 ticket on the windshield for not turning in my wheels enough. Seriously? In Orange Country, that’s not even a thing.
But this is why public transportation in San Francisco is such a gift! If I don’t want to deal with parking and sobbing over my steering wheel three to five times a week, I don’t have to. I can just hand over the transportation reins to a schizophrenic cab driver who will Tokyo Drift me from bar line to bar line.
It was at a time like this, sitting shotgun, feeding my cab driver bites of my meat lovers’ pizza, that I started to understand what everyone sees in this place. Sure parking is a bitch, but so am I for complaining about it. San Francisco is hilarious and endlessly entertaining – from the boozy park days to the never-ending list of new bars to try to the crazies on the 38L. SF is weird and quirky, and I’m on board with it. I will always love Orange County, but it’s not my everything anymore. Moving to San Francisco has made me see the light, or I guess, the fog.
Still, I never want to see another homeless penis in my life. Ever.