I haven’t really written since I arrived in San Francisco more than half a year ago now. In part its because I don’t want to be a downer, the transition has been a difficult one and endless woe is me entries in this blog wouldn’t exactly be endearing to you faithful readers. I feel like I can at last unload and debrief about the past few months, the challenges and the victories and the potentials for the road ahead.
To say that I’m settled in, cozy and warm in my new environs would be a lie, but I don’t hate it anymore. Yes I hated San Francisco. Many out there consider it a kind of high tech, counter cultural nirvana, which is something I used to buy into as well, but its just a city like any other. I think the fairy tale version of San Francisco is in part the cause of my dissatisfaction. The street level reality of San Francisco can never match its mythical extolled virtues, at least for me.
There’s lots of income disparity, public transit isn’t great, there’s not as much green space as I’m used to, the job market is insanely competitive (due to that fairy tale vision), there’s a bit too much flakiness in the air and speaking of the air, the weather is rarely bad, but rarely good.
It feels good to have that off of my chest. Phew.
All of that said, if I were to list my top ten cities to live in San Francisco would still be there. I no longer hate it here and the longer I’m here the more I come to understand and appreciate it. Many of the disadvantages and frustrations are also what makes it great.
The high cost of living here and the competitive nature of it is hard to cope with sure, but it also summons you to bring your best to the table. It wasn’t until arriving here that I really started to get serious about being a photographer. Its an uphill battle, slow moving and sometimes frustrating, but I’ve been making ground, picking up jobs and making connections. I’m not really making a living (and that’s a big source of pain) but I’m getting close to it and I can imagine a day when I do thrive as a camera for hire. Its the best and worst of America, you can achieve a lot if you work hard, but nobody is going to pick you up if you fall.
The flakes and the wierdos come with San Francisco’s extraordinarily accepting nature – everyone is welcome here and they’re welcome to do and think whatever they like without judgement. There’s definitely a lot of stuff that pushes my buttons (both good and bad) but I love that so many possibilities are open as a result. If you’re into it, chances are there’s a community here for it, even if that also means crazy cultists and geninuely crazy people roam the streets. It also means that there are people here working on truly groundbreaking and challenging new (and old) ideas. It can be overwhelming, but its an amazing form of democracy and diversity.
Finally San Francisco’s geography wreaks havoc with its attempts at public transit and a well integrated park system, it also crams a lot of density into a small area (in a way that can sometimes feel stifling to this prairie boy) and traps crummy weather right overhead. When the sun shines though, hot damn, its gorgeous here. San Francisco is a beautiful city, if you’re here on the right day and go to the right places. Most of it is concrete jungle, but the parks and waterfront and hills are tremendous. The many historic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and the rest are pretty stunning, I just wish I could take the Metro there. 😉
There’s a lot more pluses and negatives to go around. One of the biggest challenges for me is being underemployed, not having my own space and no real disposable income. Slowly that is changing and I’m sure that as it does my resentment of hipsters in designer toques will wane (though really, toques in the summer is just dumb). I’ll be talking more about SF and digging into it. Its a fascinating town, but for me this relationship is off to a rocky start. I think it was just bad timing, so let’s do it.