Every time I’m in San Francisco I think it should be amazing, but it isn’t.
Why is that?
The houses are beautiful, the weather is brilliant, food is great, there’s lots of money for parks and bike lanes and museums, and it's surrounded on three sides by water.
But I always I end up getting pissed off.
Maybe it’s that it’s impossible to really belong here. That’s just economic: the young woman with the half-mohawk at the stainless-steel coffee bar doesn’t earn enough to pay for the 2oz. green tea she just served me for $8. Nor the $8000 1-bedroom in the Mission that's advertised upstairs.
Most of the artists, families, young people (not in tech), and weirdos that I remember when I grew up here, and that you read about in books like Tales of the City, have left. Everyone else feels rich, temporary, or left behind.
What remains is the nagging feeling that we're living in an app. San Francisco's problems mirror those of the technology industry: take whatever idea is trending at the moment, hire a lot of smart people, mix in some market research, and throw a ton of money at it, and you'll solve the world's problems.
But you can’t engineer community, culture, and heart.
Which may be why this city always feels so tenuous — as if everyone is waiting for the next wave (or earthquake, or for the funding to run out) to wash it all away.
A Particular Kind of Heaven, Ed Ruscha, 1983. At the de Young Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco.