I took a buttload of pictures and videos on my phone while I was up there with the intention of editing them into a snappy montage, but my phone refuses to sync up with my computer until I update iTunes, and iTunes refuses to update no matter how much I yell at my computer and flip off the screen, so until I figure this out you’ll just have to use your imagination.
In retrospect, I wish I’d gone to Sioux Falls. Or Detroit. Or Little Rock. Or Elizabeth, New Jersey. Or either one of the Kansas Cities. Or anywhere in Florida. San Francisco was a shitty destination for this trip, because from pretty much the second I arrived in the city I was wishing desperately that I lived there, and now that I’m back in LA enjoying another 95 degree evening I still wish I lived there.
When you think about it, the way we do vacations doesn’t make any sense. We go to places like France, or Hawaii, or San Francisco so we can unwind and relax, but inevitably we always have to return to wherever we came from, which usually pales in comparison to wherever we were vacationing. Really, if you want a vacation that improves your state of mind, you should go someplace worse than where you live, because then when you go home you’ll realize how lucky you are to live wherever you do.
If I’d gone to St. Louis for the weekend, I would’ve eaten some good barbecue, looked at an arch, and almost gotten stabbed by a meth addict, and upon returning to LA I’d think to myself, “Gosh! It’s so nice and toasty here, even in October, and there’s fewer racists, and the smog is giving that sunset such a beautiful orange hue!”
But no – I went to San Francisco, ate some spectacular seafood, looked at some breathtaking panoramic views from the city’s enormous hills, and almost got stabbed by a meth addict when I took a wrong turn through the Tenderloin District on my first day in town.
Awhile ago I wrote about how I liked the idea of living in a densely populated, culturally rich, walkable city like New York, but didn’t think that I could handle the rampant filth, humidity, and nonstop East Coast lifestyle. What I realized this weekend was that all the stuff I like about New York – tall buildings, strong local culture, the increased likelihood of living in an apartment directly over a bar – was available in San Francisco the whole time without a lot of the New York bullshit like a constant odor of garbage or rats the size of horses and roaches the size of rats.
When I wasn’t with friends, I was mostly just out walking around seeing the sights and enjoying the fresh air and absence of freeways and police helicopters. On Saturday I took a bus out to Haight-Ashbury and walked through Golden Gate Park, and then, needing to get to North Beach ASAP in hopes of catching the Oregon game, I hopped onto a city bus so crowded that I thought I’d inadvertently joined in some sort of Guinness World Record attempt.
I’m pretty sure that this bus was the most densely populated neighborhood in the city – every square inch of space was occupied, including the steps down by the doors. I was flattened up against the greasy plexiglass partition between the driver and the rest of the bus, held in place by the asses of three separate elderly Japanese businessmen sandwiched in behind me. Come to think of it, it might have been their crotches – I didn’t have the range of motion to look behind me, nor would I want to if I did.
Now, as soon as I saw this situation I prepared myself for some serious Stranger Bitching – that is, the awkward moment where you’re in an unpleasant situation with a group of strangers and one or several of them starts going verbally postal for lack of anything better to do. While waiting in a huge line at a post office in Hollywood I watched a fat old man yell, “WHY DON’T YOU HIRE MORE PEOPLE!?” thirty or forty times at the one clerk on duty, and I myself was once nearly mauled by whiny rich people waiting for shuttle buses at a celebrity wedding.
But I was shocked at how silent this bus was. Every time someone needed to get off, the mob as a whole worked together to make space for them, and most of the departing passengers shouted, “Thank you, Driver!” as they left, to which he replied, “You’re welcome!” to every one of them.
Standing there, my cheek pancaked out across the glass, I was suddenly concerned that I’d missed my stop and the bus had taken me clear to Canada, or some alternate reality California where people actually behave like adults.
LA has a way of making everybody who lives here at least a little bit pissed off most of the time, because everybody is either suffering from road rage or has been yelled at by somebody who has road rage. Even if you’re having a good day, you’re still kind of having a shitty day. Living here wears you down after awhile, and then 40 years go by and you’re standing in line at the post office, yelling at people just because you can.
Living in San Francisco doesn’t seem like as much of a grind – constant uphill walking and insane real estate prices be damned. All of my friends I saw who lived in the city could walk to work, and every one of them lived in some sort of eclectic neighborhood with its own unique set of bars, restaurants, and schizophrenic homeless people. It’s the hip, urban, sitcom lifestyle I want, with the added bonus of there being a hot girl in Ray Bans on every corner.*
*I mean, seriously. They should just rename the place ‘San Wayfarers’ and get it over with.
What San Francisco doesn’t have, though, is an entertainment industry – a huge oversight on its part, if you ask me – and my ultimate goal in life is to write sitcoms, not live in a beautiful city that I find aesthetically pleasing. (If I wanted that, I never would’ve left Portland, which remains the greatest city in the world.)
My only hope now is that I can get what I need from LA and get out before I’m the guy in line at the post office, shaking his fist and yelling for yelling’s sake.
Truman Capps spent most of the weekend wishing he had a walking stick to get up and down hills.