Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Everything that is wrong with San Francisco can be summed up in one word: NOPA

I've been unexpectedly enthralled by this book, called Freakonomics (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) written by Levitt & Dubner. Freakonomics focuses on how the study of how economics (i.e. using certain tools and data to answer questions) can be used to explain or shed knowledge on social and human behavior.

One of the more controversial theories in the book tries to explain why crime rate lowered significantly in the 90s despite nearly all economic predictions to the contrary. Levitt proposes that this reason is due to the Supreme Court's decision of Roe v. Wade in the 1970s - that children that should have (and would have) been born previously to lifestyles under extreme adversity were now no longer being born. And just as these children would have been entering their criminally prime ages, the rate of crime began to plummet.

Anyways, it's ballsy, it's kind of heretical, it's offensive to both left and right, and I love it. "Conservatives were enraged that that abortion could be construed as a crime-fighting tool. Liberals were aghast that poor and black woman were singled out. As the media gorged on the abortion-crime story, Levitt came under direct assault. He was called an idealogue, a eugenicist, a racist, and downright evil. In reality he seems to be very much none of those. He has little taste for politics and even less for moralizing... genial, low-key, and unflappable, confident but not cocky... he speaks with a considerable lisp. There is nothing in his appearance or manner that suggests a flamethrower." (from book)

Now now, you're thinking, Ed, stop with the fucking lecture, and yes yes I promise you, there IS an actual point to this post.

NOPA (the restaurant itself) fucking sucks. Like hardcore. It's just not good. The braised duck legs are egregiously oversalted, the grass-fed burger consistently dry and mealy, the pork chops unimaginative at best and flat-out bland at worst, and for a place which harps on its "seasonal" menu, why, September 2007 sure looks a lot like May 2008, doesn't it now!!!

Coupled with the fact that the whole "neighborhood comfort" theme of an open kitchen and a communal table doesn't work in a space so cavernous and cold and loud (for a restaurant that does "neighborhood comfort" well, see Blue Plate on Mission), and disinterested servers and a wannabe Pac Heights (MORAGA CHIC!) crowd keen on coming down the hill to "clean up" the Western Addition (oops I mean NOPA oops I mean "we gotta call the hood a trendy name so we don't feel bad about gentrifying it even though OMG we'd never go into a restaurant where Black people go"... ever heard of Stuff White People Like = Knowing What's Best for Poor People?) makes NOPA an overall insufferable addition to the SF dining scene and an insufferable new "trendyhood" leading to the suburbanization of our urban hoods.

And, in the interest of taking this post full circle, I am fully aware that I'm gonna get flak from the "conservative" right (i.e. Newsom Democrats), who think I'm being too harsh on them for being rich and needy for their desire to purchase property and "clean up" (i.e. to marvelously VANILLAFY!!!) every last neighborhood in San Francisco with any morsel of personality whatsoever, and I am going to get flak from "foodies" who orgy over the very words "organic" and "sustainable" and "local" when every fucking other restaurant in the entire city serves the same exact nouveau comfort menu and has the same exact philosophy because I don't fucking care if it's organic if it is NOT GOOD.

But you know what, in the end, I'm just another guy, in an increasingly monotonous one-toned city, who actually cares about businesses and their effects on neighborhoods, who doesn't feel the need to gentrify every corner of The City, and who longs for a simpler time, when normal people could enjoy this gorgeous and modern and breath-taking City just as much as gentry could. In other words, I just want to be a normal guy in a normal world.

I am not a flamethrower.

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