So having now been a San Francisco resident for several months there have been a few observations I have made that make me realize I am no longer in Denver. This is a town I have visited many times over the last nearly 35 years but being here for a prolonged period brings into sharper focus some of its uniqueness. Though I had gotten to know the City pretty well over several decades of visiting I was still here as a tourist really.
I am going to list just some of the striking images and elements I have come in contact with in my new home. These are not things I think are necessarily better than in Denver but definitely different. Stuff that seems to have at least temporarily left an impression:
- Shortly after arriving I had to go downtown to the Apple store for some gadget or the other and on entering the store I was greeted and assisted by a sweet young Bear in a kilt and very neatly pressed blue hanky in his left pocket!
- I did participate in the LGBT Pride parade here in late June. It was in most respects similar to the event in Denver especially the commercialization and corporate sponsorship that has taken over these Stonewall Riot commemorations. What was different though was that I was able to march the entire length of the parade with a modest but very vocal contingent of 25-30 folks in support of Bradley Manning. Manning of course is the young gay hero currently imprisoned by the military for supposedly leaking classified documents detailing among other things potential war crimes committed in Iraq to Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
- Real Farmer’s Markets!! The one I go to most often, though they can be found everyday somewhere in the City, is at Civic Center now three days a week. By real I mean there is stand after stand of fresh fruits and vegetables and most vendors focus on one or just a few items: nuts, mushrooms, or eggs with other vendors selling only organic greens of all sorts, many new to me, and then the melon and stone fruit dealers and their many free samples. Most markets have very limited or no non-edible items for sale and no prepared foods. The idea is to take it home to eat and cook if needed.
- Somewhat related are the fading green grocers. There are still quite a few corner markets (no 7-Elevens to be seen) most of which do have fresh produce but there are still a few that really are green grocers. My favorite being across from the Safeway on Church Street.
- On a less esthetic note the recent announcements that the escalators at the BART stations at Civic Center and 16th & Mission had been closed having broken down because of excessive fecal contamination in the works! Still not sure why anyone would take a shit on an escalator? I mean what does one do if your pants get caught in the works?
- Public transportation that really functions quite well most of the time goes almost everywhere and costs less than RTD in Denver. MUNI fare is $2.00 and in a year and half once I hit 65 it will only cost 75 cents!
- Rats. The City has lots and a long and checkered history with the varmints. I brought my two cats out with me and they are particularly fond of nighttime garden forays and I have no doubt this is part rat patrol! Though I think they would be clueless if they ran into one up close. I have just finished a great non-fiction read called The Barbary Plague by Marilyn Chase. The fascinating tale of the bubonic plague in San Francisco in the early 1900’s and the amazing efforts of the city’s politicians and merchants to deny it and when acknowledging it at all to blame it on the Chinese. Racism that was shocking in its openly, blatant and crass extent.
- Mark Twains frequently quoted observation: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”. He wasn’t kidding. Perhaps it’s my Irish roots but I have really enjoyed the frequently cool, misty, foggy mornings walking to my gym. Most often the fog dissipates by early afternoon to be replaced by a brisk ocean breezes being sucked inland by the torrid temperatures just a few miles to the east.
- I have joined a gym I enjoy very much but now find my work out compatriots to be mostly older Japanese men rather than older white guys. I am a member of a club up near Japantown and there are plenty of gay folks of all ages and stripes too. I avoided the gym facilities on Market and SOMA that cater to the sculpted queer boys.
- The sight of naked people, most often male but not always, walking down the street on most sunny days is still a bit jarring. The locals though hardly ever seem to notice. I am not well versed in the law but understand that public nudity is not a crime in San Francisco. The idea supposedly is a celebration of the naked human form but I wonder if pure nudist philosophy doesn’t cross over to voyeurism for some when there is a cock-ring involved?
- I have met very few confirmed and practicing Buddhists, though I do live across the street almost from the San Francisco Zen Center. I must say there are more statues of Buddha in this town in private homes and in various businesses than you can shake a stick at. Countless different depictions of the Enlightened One everywhere certainly can’t hurt I suppose. There is also currently a large red inflatable lotus in the public square to the east of City Hall.
- There are many bicycles on the streets and though I think this is wonderful and would probably support a total private automobile ban in the city the reality is you are more likely to get hit by a scofflaw bicyclist than a motorist. I prefer to walk with both eyes wide open!
- The fog! Oh my I find it, so far at least, to be amazing in its many forms and permutations and love especially when it races and snakes into town pushed along by a cool wind. Have I already mentioned my Irish heritage?
I expect this partial list of San Francisco life impressions will continue to grow and be updated and added to from time to time.
Hugs and kisses from the City by the Bay.