Except for going to college in Oregon, I’ve lived my entire life inside a two-mile radius of where I grew up on Cesar Chavez. When I reveal myself as a native San Franciscan in casual society, eyes widen as though I just ripped off a latex mask like they do every 10 minutes in a Mission Impossible movie. People act like I’m the last of the Yahi, carrying the weight of history in an unbroken legacy from Father Junipero Serra straight through to Faith No More. Which I do.
We’re all very specific in our San Francisco pride. My disclaimer of time and place: I am purely an East Side denizen: Noe Valley, the Mission, Western Addition, and Bernal Heights. I’m familiar with the avenues, but because I am not Chinese, first-generation Irish, or Russian, I have limited indigenous knowledge. Also, I was born in 1975. My earliest memory to which I can attribute a date is the Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978 as depicted in Milk. So I realize West Siders have all manner of sentimentality about Zim’s, and old-timers recall the salad days of the Fillmore jazz age – that’s not my city.
But thanks to Facebook, we are beset by native San Francisco groups, such as 415native, You Know You Grew Up in San Francisco When…, San Francisco Native, and You Know You're from San Francisco When…. Social networking is for nothing if not pandering to self-indulgent parochialism and shallow nostalgia. These groups are chock-full of insider knowledge about the city, memories of things long gone, and the unique cultural literacy San Franciscans take for granted. Some of my favorite tidbits include: “You don’t honk driving through tunnels.” “When u see the fog and think, ‘It’s a nice day.’” “Uve never worn an ‘I Love San Francisco’ t-shirt and never will,” although you have decidedly un-San Francisco grammar.
Here’s my version. You know you’re from Nato’s San Francisco when…
- You can identify all the salad greens individually.
- You ghost ride the whip on Muni.
- You bought your used copy of Naked Lunch at Adobe Books and then watched the David Cronenberg movie version at the Vogue.
- You eat at Chef Jia’s instead of House of Nanking.
- You are not Vietnamese but can pronounce “Nguyen” properly.
- You rummaged at Cala for cardboard to use at the Seward Street Slides.
- You are convinced the true crookedest street in the world is Vermont from 20th to 22nd.
- You watched cholos cruise Mission Street on a Friday night with “Another One Bites the Dust” blaring from all the radios.
- You identify with a bus line. (I am the 24 Divisadero.)
- You were expelled from multiple Montessori preschools.
- Your parents were evicted.
- You can walk through Glen Canyon, up into Diamond Heights playground from the back, across Diamond Heights, and down the back of Douglass Park into Noe Valley.
- You can’t enjoy Bullitt because the car chase does not follow a recognizable route. For bad San Francisco movie geography, see also Ang Lee’s The Hulk, Romeo Must Die, Vertigo, and Star Trek IV.
- Pickle Family Circus is the only circus. Ringling Brothers can suck my trapeze.
- You are straight, but are attuned to transgender retroactivity and other subtleties of LGBT etiquette. As in, “When he was 20, Jonathan had an abortion.”
- BAM was the only music magazine you read. Who reads Spin?
- You watched The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. at the Red Vic many of times.
- You got excited when you ran into Greg Proops and Matt Weinhold getting coffee at the Blue Danube before their sets at the Holy City Zoo, where Dogs Bollix is today.
- Your first sexual fantasies involved Mission in Motion dancers.
- You want the US out of El Salvador and my uterus. And the US.
- Your high school career counselor said that according to your test scores you should become an affineur.
- You were mad that you couldn’t get coffee at Picaro Cafe when it was closed for filming So I Married an Axe Murderer.
- You think the Mime Troupe is too mainstream.
- Your first pre-Craigslist roommate was your brother and/or sister.
- You think the Academy of Sciences is a parable about elevating style over substance. The old one had a shitty building and shitty food, but it also had the Hall of Man and alligators surrounded by motherfucking snakes. If I wanted good food in a pretty building with nothing scary in it and that was hard to get lost in, I’d go to the Ferry Building.
- Pork buns, falafel, and pupusas are your comfort foods, and you’re white.
- You feel entitled to riot when the 49ers win the Super Bowl even though you don’t watch football. Bonus if you also rioted for “the catch.”
- You still say “moded,” “roll-outs forever,” “hella,” and “scratch your dirty neck.” (I’m too old and white for “urry,” or however it’s spelled, but I recognize the call on the streets.)
- You think burritos are one of the four basic food groups. (The others are coffee, pho, and heirloom tomatoes.)