Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve written a post, what with the massive amount of recent work and a few other things going on, but I just spent the weekend in Philly for a friend’s wedding and now, on the plane ride back west, I’m inspired to share some thoughts. I liked Philly a lot—the city has a bit of charm, the weather was beautiful (apparently I got lucky; it ends up that the whole “it’s always sunny” thing is a joke), the cheesesteak was tasty, the tastykake was cheesy, and I went to this place called Bob and Barbara’s where the jazz band played a mean “Watermelon Man” and they had something called “the special”, which is a PBR and a shot of Jim Beam for $3. Yes, you read that right. Three dollars (actually, I think it may have been $3.25…after 4 of said specials, my memory is a little hazy)—Cherry Tavern, eat your heart out (or drink your liver out, as the case may be).
The point is, for a very short tourist stint, I was diggin’ the Philly scene. And you know what? I want people to dig the San Francisco scene too—tourists and residents alike. We constantly like to claim that we’re the best city in the U.S., if not the world, and maybe we are, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Although I am fiercely liberal, I have absolutely no faith in the government—federal, state, or local—to solve any of our problems, so I’m relying on you, the bold and attractive San Franciscans, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining the kick-assedness of our fair city. And for those in my readership who aren’t fortunate enough to be based out of the Fog City, many of these tips can apply to your city as well—even if your city is New York. Hell, especially if your city is New York.
Without further ado, here are J’s TOP TEN WAYS TO BE A BETTER SAN FRANCISCAN:
10. Be a better sports fan. That’s right—none of this fair weather bullshit. Right now we are blessed to be in a year of plenty, with both the Giants and Niners kicking ass. But we all know that back before August of 2010, there were no Giants fans in the city, and nobody gave a hoot about the Niners in between Steve Mariucci and Jim Harbaugh. I myself admit to being guilty of the latter, but no more. Together, I want all of you San Franciscans to take the following pledge: From now on, until the day I die, I, [say your name here], promise to make best efforts to watch every single Niner game. I promise to love them even when they move to Santa Clara. During the summer time, my blood will bleed orange and black. If Giants tickets ever become affordable, I promise to buy them and go to AT&T Park, or whatever they’re calling it at that point, in order to make sure that we maintain our streak of sold-out games. GO BUSTER!”
We can learn a lot from Philly sports fans. True, they are horrible, horrible people, but they do love their teams in rain or shine. When I lived in Hollywood there was a Philly fan across the courtyard from me who would yell at the top of his lungs during Phillies and Eagles games. “FUCK YEAH! GO EAGLES! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME REF?!” etc. He also had extremely loud and discomforting arguments with his girlfriend. I think he didn’t have a/c and thus never closed his windows, much to the dismay of all other tenants in a 100-foot radius. Don’t be like him—just support your teams.
9. Pick up after your goddamn dog! For fuck’s sake, people. The other day I was walking with my friend and her little poodle through Fort Mason, and this couple was walking their big dog in front of us. The dog did its thang, and the couple just sauntered away as if nothing had happened. My friend called after them “hey, do you need a plastic bag?” and the dude yelled back, “it’s too wet to pick up.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? We actually looked for the poop to pick it up, but were unable to find it. I’m sure some unfortunate little barefoot kid found it later. This is why I hate people in the Marina. As my friend pointed out, the dude was probably a Republican.
8. Practice polite parking. If you are blessed to see find a stretch of curb where two cars could conceivably fit, and you’re going to take the front spot, park as close as possible to the car in front of you to make sure that a second car of normal size (i.e. not a smart car) can fit behind you. If the car in front of you is at the end of the curb (so it can get out just by moving forward), feel free to leave nothing more than a millimeter gap. If not, try to leave the car a tiny bit of wiggle room, but just enough for it to get out. I can’t believe I even have to write this, but I can’t tell you how often I see assholes taking up multiple parking spots when the rest of us are driving in circles for 20 minutes looking for parking. And yes, I do stick notes on windshields that say, “Please park closer to the car in front of you to allow more cars to park”, so if you’re in Hayes Valley and you get one of those, you can thank me.
7. Be nice to tourists. We all want people from outside of the city to love San Francisco, but then when we do get visitors, we complain about how they have funny accents, don’t know how to properly recycle, and cause crippling traffic jams just because they want to drive down a zig-zaggy street. The result is that we’re hesitant to do anything for tourists, and so they’re stuck with the cliché guide books that leave them thinking that San Francisco is nothing more than sourdough, the Haight-Ashbury street sign and the house from Full House. Unless they’re Japanese, that’s not going to be enough to really wow ‘em. When I travelled to Brazil, I found that Brazilians loved their country, and went out of their way to ensure that I loved their country too. People invited me to BBQs, parties, and concerts, and into their homes for meals. I didn’t need a guidebook because the locals would take me to the best spots off the tourist map. More importantly, I left with the impression that Brazilians were incredibly kind, fun, sexy people. I want tourists to leave San Francisco with that same tingly feeling that I still get when I think of Brazil. I’m sick of people thinking we’re snooty.
SO, next time you see a pair of tourists standing on the corner of Powell and Market, looking frantically at a map and trying to figure out how to take the trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf, ask them where they’re from and take advantage of the free Spanish/German/Japanese conversation partners who have dropped into your lap. Take them to El Farolito for some authentic cheap SF food, and then buy them It’s-Its. Drive them up to Twin Peaks for a better view of the city, then take them to the Folsom Street Fair. Show them what our city is all about. It will be a rewarding experience for all parties involved (and yes, there is a big chance that you’ll get laid).
6. Support your local dive bar. When I described that bar in Philly with the jazz band and the ridiculously cheap alcohol, did you get excited? If so, then (a) I’m glad we’re friends, and (b) you probably feel, as I do, that we need that kind of scene in SF. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more San Franciscans would rather drink $8 microbrews, fancy hand-crafted cocktails, and $14 glasses of pinot while listening to Lady Gaga than knock back a PBR while listening to some Skynard. Hell, it seems like now the only folks drinking PBR are hipsters who do it because they think it’s funny. Bottle service has come to SF—for now it’s only north of Market, but who knows how far the trend will go? Remember when DaDa was cool? It was my favorite bar in SF—now you wouldn’t want to go there…trust me on this one.
How do we fight this horrible development? We need to get back to our dive bar roots. Spend less time at Magnolia and more time at Noc-Noc and Molotov’s. Choose Zeitgeist over RN74. Hit up the Knock-Out instead of…actually I don’t know. Truth be told, I think Magnolia and RN74 are the only two non-dive bars in the city inside which I’ve ever been, and I only went to the latter because I was trying to impress a girl. It didn’t work. Oh, I also like the Orbit Room…but you’re only allowed to go there if you go to the Mint afterwards, and I’d better hear you sing, okay? And no Journey—they have an amazing selection at the Mint and you can do better. I’d love to hear a sexy girl with a sultry voice do some Nina Simone. Or some Patti Smith. Or even some Joni Mitchell, for that matter. Is that too much to ask?
5. Be a respectful cyclist. Like many San Franciscans, my bike is my primary mode of transportation. It’s good exercise, great for the environment, and generally an enjoyable way to get from point A to point B. Bicyclists fought City Hall hard in SF, and the result is that we have bike lanes in major thoroughfares, stands for free bike repairs, and more bike shops than you can shake a U-lock at. An unfortunate side effect that bikers, and I’m referring mainly to the young folks, have grown too big for their designer britches and turned into complete dicks. People need to understand that the phrase “share the road” means just that, and it cuts both ways. I feel your pain—I too wish all drivers would ride their bikes more, but for people who have to commute to places BART doesn’t reach, sometimes the car is the only option.
Bikers need to recognize that cars take up more space than bicycles, move faster, are less maneuverable, and take more time to stop. Thus, bicyclists, if you have a bike lane, please use the goddamn bike lane instead of riding in the middle of the street. That’s what it’s there for, you insolent cretin. Or if there’s no bike lane, ride as close to the side of the road as you can, so that cars can pass you, you miserable a-hole. Stop lights and stop signs apply to bikes the same way they do to cars, so please refrain from riding at full speed through a stop sign, forcing the car whose rightful turn it is to go to slam on its brakes to avoid spilling your guts onto the pavement, you monkey-nutted douche placenta. For fuck’s sake.
4. Bring back the SF music scene. Name the last good band you can think of that came out of SF. I’m struggling. The Grateful Dead? Dead Kennedys? Faith No More? Are we counting Metallica? You have to go waaaaay back. Other than The Bang, I can’t think of any hot SF-based music acts from the bulk of my lifetime. The East Bay brought us Primus, Green Day (as well as the more “real” Gilman scene), and Hyphy, and E-40 hails out of Vallejo, but what does the city proper have to offer? I know there are some extremely talented musicians out there, so can’t we please make some contribution to the music world to convince everybody that we’re not a bunch of wine-sipping, pork-belly eating snobs? Of course, if the SF music scene was revitalized, I probably wouldn’t notice. These days I’m mainly listening to Boney M and Jonathan Richman. But I’m lame like that. You guys, on the other hand, are cool, right?
3. Don’t defecate on the sidewalk. Because of those assholes who don’t follow number 9 on this list, there’s an unpleasantly high chance you’ll step in dog shit while walking along the streets of SF. But if you’re really unlucky, you might step in human feces, or get to witness a local relieving his or her bowels right in front of the outdoor ATM, or 30 feet away from a playground (and these are both sights I have seen with my own eyes in the past couple of months). Human feces on the street. That’s just nasty.
Of course, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this blog, you’re not a street shitter. Most of the people who poop on pedestrian walkways are likely doing it because they don’t have a home with indoor plumbing in which to otherwise take a crap. As disgusting as it is, what the hell do you expect these people to do? There are very few public restrooms in SF—it’s just not something we do. Make no mistake—public restrooms are disgusting. I remember the first time I went into a public restroom in Central Park in NY—I think I showered for at least an hour afterwards. But I would gladly pay more taxes to get more shit into these bacteria-breeding sex havens (because we know what else happens in public restrooms) and off of the streets that I walk down every day. Since City Hall has not figured this out on their own, we need to do things Cali-style—with a ballot initiative. Now can somebody with more time than me please spearhead this effort?
2. If something is on your mind, speak it, don’t tweet it. Admittedly, I could only think of nine items for this list, so I asked the guy sitting next to me (who is originally from the New England) what bothers him about SF folks. He noted that in SF, people are very polite to your face, but then will talk a lot of shit when you leave the room. Or more accurately, if somebody is in a situation with a person he doesn’t like, he’ll just smile and nod, and then go and tell all of his like-minded friends about the situation after the fact in the form of some sarcastic war story, as if he just went through some horrible, traumatic ordeal when he was cut in line at a bar, an experience that left him completely speechless at the time. Then he’ll hop on Twitter and write,“hey douchebag with the popped collar and Warby Parker glasses, did you not notice that there were other people in front of you when you went to buy your apple-tini?” This is what passes for acerbic wit these days. Shakespeare is rolling in his 12-foot grave (Shakespeare had himself buried 12 feet deep instead of the usual 6 because he wanted to deter grave robbers. Take that one to Mad Dog in the Fog trivia night!).
If this were New York, somebody would have said to the bar line-cutter, “hey asshole, wait your fuckin’ turn like the rest of us!” If this were Boston, somebody would have said to the guy, “hey asshole, wait your fuckin’ turn like the rest of us!”, and then he would have punched him in the face. That’s how real men solve disputes: with profanity and face-punchery. No wonder women in SF complain that all of the men here are pussies. Don’t get me wrong—New York is a city of assholes and Boston is a city of thugs, and I wouldn’t want my fair city turning into either of those, but I think we can afford to ease off the technology-enhanced passive aggressiveness and bring back a little testicular fortitude. Speaking of which…
THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU CAN DO TO BE A BETTER SAN FRANCISCAN IS:
1. Grow a pair of cajones and negotiate with your landlord. And I use “cajones” as a unisex term—remember, I like ballsy women.
Let’s face it—the biggest problem with San Francisco is that it’s getting to be too fucking expensive, and as the city gets less affordable, a lot of the flavor gets priced out. The artists, musicians, activists, hippies, non-profit workers, teachers, philosophers, intellectuals and pretty much every one else who doesn’t work in the corporate world and/or for tech can no longer afford to live in SF, and this is to our city’s detriment. The locals and old-timers are emigrating to more affordable pastures. As I noted above, dive bars and good music are more and more difficult to find. SF is turning into Manhattan, and just as all of my NY friends have moved to Brooklyn, so are all of my friends in SF moving to Oakland. Well fuck that shit. I can’t move to the East Bay—I don’t want to BART to work and I need to be able to ride my bike to where the Giants play. SF is my favorite city in the world and I will not be priced out of here, goddammit!
The situation was already bad enough when I moved in 2 years ago. And then the Facebook IPO happened, and Twitter moved downtown. The following scene occurred again and again:
Nouveau riche tech person: How much is the rent for this tiny Tenderloin studio apartment?
Landlord: It’s eight-hundred…er…two thousand dollars.
NRTP: Sounds great! I’ll take it!
And next thing you know, rents in SF increased by 30-40% in under six months. It’s fucking insane. The unit above mine has the exact same floor plan, and the woman who was there moved out about 6 months ago. The new dude who moved in is paying $500 more than me per month. I heard that another unit in the building that is similar is going for $700 more than what I pay. I understand that landlords are just doing what they gotta do—hell, they’d be stupid not to charge these kids this much. But honestly, it should be criminal.
Sadly, I fear it’s a one-way ratchet. Perhaps number 1 on this list should be, “hey smart tech person: build a time machine, go back to 2011 and grow a pair of cajones and…” Maybe I should be addressing this to the landlords, begging them to make housing affordable again. I love this city and I don’t want it to turn into Manhattan, where only douchebag I-bankers and their lawyers can afford to live, except for SF, replace “douchebag I-bankers” with “awkward tech geeks”. In the immortal words of the Isley Brothers, we gotta fight the powers that be.
And in the mean time, clean up after your dog (and yourself), ride close to the curb, and for the love of G-d, don’t take up two parking spots! L’SHANAH TOVAH!!!