San Francisco Is My Wife, New York Is My Mistress
By Tony Bravo
I'm in a long-term relationship with San Francisco. She's my childhood sweetheart, the one I've loved the longest. My wife, if you will. It's not like I've never experienced any other city. I've loved other places, but San Francisco is where I want to be. I think I could even see myself raising children with SF when we're ready for that step...
But she's not the only city in my life. I keep another city, on the side.
For all my hometown's qualities I'm never able to resist this other city's considerable charms. New York isn't just a fling I see occasionally on the side: she's my mistress.
Like all partners who "cheat" it's not really the city I grow tired of: I get tired of the "me" I am in San Francisco and rejuvenate when I find a new self reflected back at me in the view of a different skyline. Life exclusively in San Francisco for too long dulls my senses. The same scenes get boring and I'm usually pushed to my limit by some SF-specific incident, like almost getting hit by a tech shuttle or getting in trouble for not being completely current on all the new letters on the LGBT (QIA...MNOP?) acronym. When that happens it's SFO to JFK on the redeye and a binge of passion with my mistress.
Within the first steps onto the streets of Brooklyn, I grab the city in my arms and we roll around obscenely like the torrid coupling we are. Anything and everything I can't do in San Francisco I immediately indulge in New York. I wander the streets of my two favorite boroughs and get lost in the kind of ethnic enclaves and untouched blocks that are fast vanishing back home. I make the ritual pilgrimage to Bergdorfs and every other store (whether it be a boutique or a Duane Reed pharmacy) not found on the West Coast. I cheat on the Ferry Building with the Chelsea Market and I cheat on San Francisco boys with cute New Yorkers who don't bore me with talk about a new app they're developing or by asking too many questions about my feelings or political affiliations. For the record, I am also never asked about my dietary restrictions or preferred pronoun, and I revel in the directness of the citizens who call my mistress home.
I’m a more exciting me once I’m back in New York. I go out more (everything is open late and the subway runs all hours). I take more care dressing too: I probably look better going to the grocery store during my first week in Williamsburg than I do going to dinner in San Francisco the week before. Because my time in New York is slightly illicit and less frequent, the mistress gets a more spontaneous me, while San Francisco puts up with my old married routine.
Eventually something happens during my time with the mistress that serves to remind me that, as much as I love New York, it's not my full-time home. One too many late nights catch up and I start to snipe at the mistress about how terrible the produce is in New York compared to the farmers' market back in Noe Valley or complain that their Blue Bottle tastes different because the NY tap water isn't as clean as Hetch Hetchy. At some point all that refreshing local directness starts to grate on my nerves and I wish to God someone would ask me my preferred pronoun or do something that reminds me of the cultural sensitivities back home.
Once in San Francisco I find that all those qualities that were flattening my psyche a few weeks prior are ready to be appreciated anew. When I'm back from time away I don't take San Francisco for granted as easily. I'm willing to go more often, and I'll even listen to a date talk about some mind-numbing new app he's working on if it comes with a healthy discussion about our sensitives and the state of the Republic. It turns out I like the me I am in San Francisco after all, especially since as much as I need my time in New York, here I have all the comfort and security of my nativism, something I'll never have with the other city.
I settle into old married life again happily: no one will ever know me like this city. Maybe that's why my mistress's siren call finds me every few months: it's luring me to a place where I can be a little more of a stranger, even to myself. When that call to rush and book a flight from SFO to JFK comes again, and believe me, it will, I know San Francsico will welcome me back with open arms on my return.
For the record, when I'm away I'm pretty sure San Francisco sees other people too. It's only fair.