SF, I Love You, But I've Been Talking Shit
I co-wrote yesterday’s “Reasons Why San Francisco Is The Worst Place Ever” for Vice, and I thought: who better to respond to the support, outrage, and genuine honesty of our friends and neighbors, than one of the guys responsible for either brightening or ruining your day?
I’ve got no apologies to make; I think it’s perfectly normal to hate on your city. It means that you care, that somewhere along the line you had grand expectations, and that your displeasure has a voice – not an indifferent murmur. The nature of hate is really the resentment of being prevented from love. It’s one of the few experiences that brings us together, even if only for a moment to say that you too had to wait half an hour for the 38 in the rain next to a guy taking a dump on your shoes. Unlike in Los Angeles, we get it in San Francisco, because we’re out in the trenches too. There’s no private personal bubble to block out all the nastiness.
San Francisco originally draws you in as a beacon for the way a pragmatic society should function. Clean water, compassion towards the less fortunate, acceptance of the marginalized, concern for our environment, and a beautiful seascape view. We listen, we love, we care. Yet, in the last decade, everything has gone horribly wrong. It’s in the air. We want to love our home but for some frustrating reason it doesn’t always feel right.
The problems are so annoying to us because they’re indicative of where we fucked up. We see the thoughtless tech bros and clueless tourists as signs that we’ve sold out to make a bit of cash. The culture drain tells us we’ve lost the delicate balance that is intended to inspire more than it depresses, and we hate 16th and Mission not because it’s dirty, but because we’ve shoved all the grime into one desolate corner and kind of hope it goes away. We’re guilty and we know it. The infrastructure is collapsing, the Golden Gate Bridge costs $7, you can’t smoke in the Phone Booth anymore, and the fucking Dodgers just beat the Giants.
It’s “others” who make the bus smell bad, who stand in groups on the sidewalk, who buy up all the housing, who pound Bacardi in dive bars, who move to the East Bay, and who make a left from the right turn lane on a one way street downtown. San Francisco used to be about bringing it in, now our slogan might as well be “STOP! Turn Around and Stay Out!”
Some blame it on the incoming techies, the nouveau-rich, the media, the hipsters, the trust fund babies, the gutterpunks, the addicts, the whites, the uneducated, the poor, the transplants, the natives, the mayor, the tourists, the list goes on in perpetuity because we’re all an active part of it. We’re all getting shafted. Personally, I think we’ve lost what makes us fundamentally San Francisco: our willingness to empathize with those outside our in-group.
It’s “others” who make the bus smell bad, who stand in groups on the sidewalk, who buy up all the housing, who pound Bacardi in dive bars, who move to the East Bay, and who make a left from the right turn lane on a one way street downtown. San Francisco used to be about bringing it in, now our slogan might as well be “STOP! Turn Around and Stay Out!”, as echoed by an enormous number of tweets in reaction to the Vice piece.
We don’t hate SF, we just hate seeing it this way; bloated and rotting from the inside, ready to burn or collapse – we’re not quite sure. Instead of discussing the problems listed in our article, the comments on our story became about the background of my co-writer and me (he lives in Los Angeles), when it doesn’t take a local to see that the art community is moving to Oakland or that driving in this city around 5 p.m. is like riding a malfunctioning roller coaster. The only things worse than complaining are turning a blind eye – or even more tragically, total indifference – and pretending the city would be perfect if it weren’t for “others.” Maybe we can’t fix all of our problems, but instead of hopping the bay or demanding everyone go home, maybe we can work together just like any other damn city, and make something we’re proud of instead of pointing a finger at everyone else.