A typical San Francisco girl-meets-boy scenario, circa 2012:
6:30 PM on Thursday. Happy hour after a hard day of work. A relatively nice but not-too-pretentious bar in the financial district. BOY walks up to a jukebox and places his Fat Tire on a small table next to the machine. It’s one of those new-fangled jukeboxes with a touch screen that’s connected to the Internet so you can access pretty much any song you want. BOY stares at the screen for a few seconds and then rapidly taps at the screen with a look of determination on his face. Paperboy’s seminal hit “Ditty” comes on. GIRL, standing a few feet away, gets very excited, then turns around and grabs BOY’s arm.
GIRL: Oh my god, did you pick this? I love this song!
BOY: Yeah, I thought you would.
GIRL: It totally reminds me of middle school dances!
BOY: Haha, that’s the idea. Clearly we have a lot in common. Can I buy you a drink, in the hopes of getting you a little inebriated so that you’re more attracted to me?
GIRL: Yes, that sounds wonderful. Get me a long island, so I get drunk fast. I really like that hat you’re wearing.
BOY: Thanks. I like your earrings. Where did you get them?
GIRL: Aren’t they great? I got them in Bali!
BOY: Wow, you’re so worldly! I would love to get to know you better by going on several dates with you. I would consider entering into a long-term relationship with you as well.
GIRL: I agree so much. I am positively titillated by you! We are meant for each other.
BOY: Yes. Where do you live?
GIRL: In the Marina.
BOY: Oh. [pause] I need to go stand over there now.
If you’re a non-San Franciscan, you’re probably wondering what the heck just happened. They were getting along so well—hell, they practically seemed like soul-mates—and then, just like that, he lost interest. But if you’re a San Franciscan, you know he made the right move. Based on the location of her apartment, he knew that the two of them had irreconcilable differences, and that any further attempts at pursuing a meaningful connection were futile. She understood. In one telling moment, it was clear that they weren’t compatible. He let her know it, and they moved on.
For those of you who don’t understand, allow me to explain. In San Francisco, there are essentially three neighborhoods in which somebody in their 20s…er…30s (ugh I’m getting old) will go out at night: the Marina, the Mission, and the Castro. This is an over-simplification (there are plenty of great places to go outside of these three areas), but bear with me—you’ll understand why I made this split soon enough. One often lives close to his or her going-out spot of choice. Thus, people who live in the Marina, North Beach, Pac Heights, Cow Hollow, Nob Hill, and maybe NOPA/Western Addition are what I will call “Marina people” for the purpose of this post. Similarly, people who live in the Mission, Haight (lower and upper), SOMA, Cole Valley, and the Tenderloin are “Mission People”. People who live in Hayes Valley (like myself) can go either way. I’m not sure about people who live in the Richmond or the Sunset—if any readers can offer any insight, I’d love to hear it. The Castro is the gay neighborhood and is a bit different—gay people living all over the city often go to the Castro for a night out (and yes, they go out in the Mission and the Marina too). In fact, gays can also be “Marina people” or “Mission people,” and straight Marina people and Mission people might sometimes go out in the Castro. For the sake of this post, let’s assume that there’s a dichotomy in which every person, gay or straight, is either a Marina person or a Mission person.
I’ve divided the city into these two groups to further explore what are sometimes referred to as the “Neighborhood Wars” of San Francisco, the battle between Marina people and Mission people for superiority in the city. And by “superiority”, I mean the ability to roll your eyes when somebody from the other side says where he or she lives, or to even reject somebody because of it (as occurred in the scene I described above).
I am a Mission person, and I can really only speak for Mission people. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably a Mission person too by virtue of being my friend. I can tell you that we Mission people do not usually like Marina people. There is no way in hell you’ll get us to go out in the Marina. I don’t even know the name of any Marina bars. Maybe one—Circa? Is that a Marina bar? I went there once and it sucked. I’ve been out to a few other Marina bars and they sucked too.
So what makes us so different? Aren’t we all people? I mean, at the very least, we’re all Giants fans who bleed orange and black, right? Yes, but affinity for sports teams is probably where the similarity ends. Beyond that, we are not equals—we Mission people are better than Marina people in almost every way. Marina people are rich elitists, former frat-boy douchebags and the women who love them. Mission people are passionate artists who are just totally interesting. Marina people are whities who grew up in Marin and play golf and tennis on Sundays. Mission people are ethnically and culturally diverse (read: participating in gentrification). Marina people are snobby and superficial, and only go to restaurants where the chef is famous and bars where wine costs at least $14 a glass. Mission people have street cred, and eat cheap burritos and drink PBR at dive bars. Marina people listen to Lady Gaga, Rhianna and other poppy crap. Mission people listen to punk rock, soul, reggae, and music that you haven’t heard of because you’re not cool enough. There aren’t really many Republicans in San Francisco, but if there are any, they’re Marina people. Mission people are all liberal activists who are making the world a better place. Marina people loved high school, Mission people hated it. Marina people are the Socs, and Mission people are the Outsiders.
I hope that now you understand why the Boy and Girl in that scene depicted above were incompatible. Surely a Mission person would never stoop so low as to date a Marina person.
Neighborhood Wars are not endemic to San Francisco. Think about it, you wouldn’t date somebody who lived in Georgetown, would you? Or the Upper East Side? Or anywhere in LA besides maybe Los Feliz or Silverlake or Echo Park? Of course not. In every major city, there is the cool neighborhood and the uncool neighborhood. You’re not uncool, are you?
Marina people have one advantage. They are way hotter. In fact, a few months ago, I was hanging out with a fellow Hayes Valley-ite and a friend of ours who was in from out of town (Oakland). We were eating tacos in the Mission, and the out-of-towner asked, “where all the fly honies at?” My Hayes Valley friend looked down at his taco and said, “Sorry man, for the hotties, you gotta go north of Market.” Marina girls have long, flowing blonde hair and wear expensive designer dresses that accentuate their perfect breasts and pilates butts, and they’ve been wearing make-up since they were ten so they know how to look pretty. Marina guys all have $70 haircuts and wear khaki pants and blue striped dress shirts when they go out, and are ripped from spending hours every day at the gym.
We Mission people, on the other hand, are lanky and awkward, or chunky and awkward. Some of us dress “uniquely” in a style only other Mission people could ever understand, while some of us (like myself) have no fashion sense whatsoever. We have tattoos and piercings—often too many. We spend much less time looking in the mirror, and it shows. But who cares? We don’t care about looks as much because we’re not shallow and superficial like Marina people. We have and see inner beauty in ways that Marina people simply can’t comprehend.
The funny thing is, I’m starting to think that the Neighborhood Wars of San Francisco might be one-sided. I don’t think that those snobby Marina people really dislike us morally-superior Mission people the same way we have utter contempt for them. In fact, I don’t think Marina people really spend much time thinking about Mission people. They’re more comfortable hanging out up north, but they don’t have conversations with their friends talking about how much Mission people suck, and they don’t write blog posts about it either. Do they?
I recall back in 2002, when the Giants and Angels were in the World Series (and let’s please not talk about Game 6, okay?) While the series was happening, my AIM away message (yes, I said “AIM”—do you feel old now?) was something about how Northern California was the land of creative, artistic, passionate geniuses and Southern California was packed with a bunch of snobby, plastic, vapid phonies. A friend of mine from LA told me that she often hears people from SF bash LA, but nobody in LA ever bashes SF. In fact, she loved visiting SF and thought it was a great city.
I think that there’s a similar dynamic between Mission People and Marina People. Everybody knows that Marina people are complete snobs, but for whatever reason Mission People seem to care much more about being “better” than Marina people than vice versa (but it’s totally not snobbery because, as we all know, Marina people are the real snobs in this city). I had a friend who was a Marina person—true story! I took him out one night to an 80s night in the Mission and he had a great time. He even made out with a cute Mission girl! Of course, I never had any desire to go out with him in the Marina when he invited me, and had I gone, I don’t think I would have made out with any cute Marina girls (and probably not for lack of trying).
These days, I feel like I’m outgrowing the Neighborhood Wars. On New Year’s Eve I went to a Mission people party (it was in Chinatown, but it was still a Mission people party). I was talking with two friends and they started bashing the Marina. I said, “hey, we’re all in our thirties—aren’t we too old for the Neighborhood Wars?” My friends looked at me like I was some kind of circus freak. “Are you crazy?” one of them replied with a scornful look on her face. “You’re never too old to be judgmental about the Marina!” My other friend explained to her, “He’s a rich lawyer now, he’s probably one of them.” Of course I had to defend myself by saying, “no way, no way, I totally hate the Marina! Total douchebag central!” Then I went and ordered a PBR to prove that I was still a Mission person.
But really, just between you and me, I think I’m over it. At 30, I care less what people think about me, and I’m trying to be less judgmental of others, especially people whom I don’t really know. So, in the spirit of this new, more mature me, I don’t care if you’re a Marina person—I’d love to get to know you more. I’m sure you’re cool. Maybe you can even teach me a thing or two about expensive wine! Heck, let’s hang out! But, um, can we please meet in the Mission? The weather’s nicer down here.
And here’s your outtro music: