Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Which I Opine On San Francisco

I've been living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area for the past 10 years of my life, and essentially, my entire adult life. Of course, like most people here, I love it, although I haven't exactly thought about if it is because I have a chip on my shoulder regarding my previous metropolitan of residence (San Diego). I can note, however, that when I do visit elsewhere, I often pine for San Francisco. I miss certain aspects that I know if I ever move elsewhere, I'll forget. And in this city of wild contradictions, of hypocritical wealth, of liberal elitism and a wealth of confused people searching for true authenticity, I find solace in the simple things.

I miss the Mission, my current neighborhood of residence, where within 2 blocks of my home, I find two cafes, two taco trucks, 3 high-end restaurants serving California interpretations of Japanese, Italian, and French cuisine, 4 corner stores, one of which employs an elderly Hispanic woman who calmly churns out hundreds of handmade tamales, pupusas, and the patented bacon wrapped hot dog, all for around $2 each, an independent radio station + cafe, a vegan raw food place wrun by cult-like owners where every dish is titled "I am Forgiving and Eternally Selfless" or some other kooky life-phrase, and a window inside of a building where you can purchase $1 tacos filled with every choice under the sun, including tongue and liver. And I live in an area most locals would describe as "off the main drag" in the Mission.

I miss the people, for whom I can always count on to be almost comically liberally biased, who give preference to issues like national healthcare over their own personal health, who realize that what they believe in would offend the majority of Americans, yet who are unapologetic in their strident beliefs, and who don't realize that we're essentially all of the same mind, value, and thought.

I miss the fact that I'm rarely the token Asian person wherever I go. That it's not something different to be Asian, that it's just another person with a set of narrow eyes. That I belong here just as much as anyone else, and that my presence here is not and will never be questioned. Like most Asian-Americans, I've gone through the central identity crisis inherent in perceived model minorities, and I'm comfortable in my own skin and wish for my environment to be as comfortable as I am.

I miss the lingo - the fact that I can allude to a PM on Twitter, or a Yelp Talk Thread, or how I don't understand Tumblr, and everyone knows what I'm talking about. I miss the pervasiveness of iPhones, the world-weary sighs of AT&T, the Googlers showing off their Nexus Ones.

I miss the myopia of idealism. I miss that while the people here may be world-weary, they haven't given up. I miss that other cities can't or don't incubate ideas which turn into Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yelp, Burning Man, Craigslist, Pandora. I miss that in San Francisco, there is a fundamental passion for a new method of communication, a new way to speak the same language we've always known. I miss the idealism of idealism.

I miss Muni. I miss being forced to interact with cross-sections of people from wildly different socioeconomic strata in such an intimate and personal way. I miss the woman with the crying child who is always at the 8:25 bus stop with me, and I miss the way I half smile at her through tired eyes every morning. I miss the old men and women who sit on buses for 45 minutes to get to Chinatown every morning, so that they can then belong with their community. I miss the shared frustration we all feel when there's a train backup in the tunnel, when our 30 minute commute turns into an epic 90 minute sludge.

I miss youth. In many forms in San Francisco, it turns up as Peter Pan-ism, where perfectly grown men refuse to act maturely. But I miss that men my age aren't expected to act a certain way, aren't expected to yet be married, aren't expected to have children, and aren't expected to adopt a certain role that most others have adopted by this time. I am not against maturing and I am not against growing up, but I do like that there's no set timeline for it. I will grow up and mature on my own terms, which I think involves a lot more self-examination and self-perception.

I'm going to move from San Francisco one day. I know it. There's really no economically possible way to afford to buy a living space here, and despite what my deeply held desires tell me, I know I'm not willing to sacrifice that for all the positives San Francisco brings.

But I'll try. And if and when life brings me elsewhere, then life brings me elsewhere. But let this entry at least show that in February 2010, I love where I live, and I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else.