SAN FRANCISCO, California, USA (North America)

June 2018 — Meeting strangers, I often go through this conversation. “Where are you from?” “San Francisco.” “No, I mean, where are you REALLY from?” The idea that San Francisco is not merely a fantasyland of hippies, bohemian poets, and tech bros, but a quite ordinary place where ordinary people live and do ordinary things, such as raising a family, seems in itself so weird that it is hard for many to grasp. Do locals in Paris and London feel the same way? I sometimes wonder. I grew up in the Sunset District, on the western side of the city, where the numbered avenues run north and south and the named streets east and west, so that standing at an intersection you can look down to the ocean at the end of every street, seeming to rise to the horizon. It’s named the Sunset for a good reason – sunset over the ocean every single night. Cold and windy and the smell of salt spray. Lost in the fog much of the time, sometimes for days or weeks on end, particularly in the summer when the sea fog moves in and sits like a white blanket. Most of the Sunset remained sand dunes until after World War II, when the builder Henry Doelger purchased large tracts, eventually building an estimated 25,000 units or so of housing, mostly two and three story townhouses, side by side, with gardens in the back filling the interior of the block, and one-car garages in the basement, priced for the working class families who needed a home as the population exploded after the war. Derided by the artistic as ticky-tacky little boxes, in the words of a popular song by Malvina Reynolds, they were (and are) in fact comfortable places to live. When I grew up in the fifties and sixties, our neighborhood was largely composed of Irish and Italian families, often with half-a-dozen or so children. How did they all fit in? Boys in one room, girls in another, the youngest in with the parents, and Grandma sleeping on a couch in the living room. But it was an incentive to be out of doors. We were expected to get ourselves to school on foot; being driven was a luxury as unknown as your own bedroom, even in winter storms – as my mother always put it, “You aren’t made of sugar and you won’t melt in the rain.” There was no school busing, and a choice of only two school systems – public or parochial. In either case, we walked, with our friends and siblings. After school and on Saturdays and holidays (Sundays were for church, of course) we ran wild in a way that would never be permitted now. There were plenty of things to do, and in a time with much less traffic, it was safe to play ball in the street or ride bikes, which were for children, not rich adult professionals. At that time you could ride horseback in Golden Gate Park or along Ocean Beach, or ice skate at Sutro Baths or Iceland, or swim at Larsen Pool. There were organized after-school sports and clubs, of course, Scouts and church-sponsored activities, playgrounds with tennis and basketball courts, softball fields. Back then art museums, the zoo and the aquarium were all free and we could wander through anytime we liked, Golden Gate Park being only a long walk or short bus trip away. In the summer, there were free concerts in the park and at Stern Grove. A happy time and place to grow up.

May 2018 — I have lived in San Francisco for 6 years and I think it is a very awesome place. It is very diverse, in its ethnic makeup and gastronomy, and you meet a lot of very interesting and smart people here. If you like professional sports, you have a lot of options in the Bay Area. There are also a lot of cool neighborhoods in San Francisco, such as Hayes Valley, Inner Sunset, The Mission, Bernal Heights, Cole Valley, Laurel Heights, Inner Richmond, etc. And all these neighborhoods have different “personalities”. This city also has an amazing variety of eating establishments. If you crave Turkish food you can eat at a la Turca in the Tenderloin. Craving Burmese? No problem, just go to Pagan in the outer Richmond. The bad part is that SAN FRANCISCO IS VERY EXPENSIVE!

February 2018 — I grew up in San Francisco back in the 80s. There were so many things that I still remember to this day that I love. The people, the city, the food, the stores! I guess you can say it was one of the most interesting places around because there was a great concentration of Asian people there. There’s always been a great variety of Asian restaurants that made me excited each Sunday because dad and mom would take me there!

Thinking about it now, it was quite amusing seeing kids my age back then having those mohawk hairdos. Just like any kid back in the 80s, I was into heavy metal music. I remember going to the local Tower Records all the time and then hanging out with the other kids there while listening to cassette tapes from bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden!

One of the most iconic places I remember was the Fisherman’s Wharf! As a kid, I was always scared of big bodies of water, but when mom and dad took me there, I saw some strange creatures in the water. They were seals!!! After that, I became less scared and I actually visited the place multiple times even as a teenager. Remember the cable cars near the “Crookedest Street in the World”? I took my first girlfriend there for our very first date as a couple! We were very awkward teenagers back then. After that, I also took her to the Wax Museum! Some of the wax people there were so creepy because they were badly made! We laughed so much at them. I actually just laughed again now because I remembered how hilarious they looked!

I also definitely remember my first trip to the Golden Gate bridge. My first comment to mom was “It’s not gold, it’s ORANGE! I’ve been TRICKED!” It was a mixture of disappointment and awe because even though it wasn’t really made of gold, the view was very beautiful! San Francisco will always be my special home. I’ve been away from it for more than a decade (hey, life moves on!), but as the great Frank Sinatra once sung, “I left my heart in San Francisco”.

January 2018 — Growing up in San Francisco from the early 90’s to the 2000’s you will quickly learn of the diversification that exists. The place is more concentrated and smaller compared to the melting pot of New York City but you can experience it all in one day. The city holds its roots through the division of neighborhoods by various ethnic groups which over the years have developed into a complete melting pot but still holding its own unique historical characteristics. The city is an amazing place just the architecture and landscape is very stimulating. The city varies in terrain and you could be hiking through a beach and end up in a small forest park and then end up in downtown with all the high rises and then enter a neighborhood that looks a suburb.

All of this variety concentrated really influenced my perspective from activities to the people you meet is a new experience. The best part of living in the city is walking and public transportation, it allows you be part of the city and gives greater freedom in what you absorb and enhances your interactions.

I moved away 10 years ago and the place hasn’t been the same since. Although more beautiful than before, big money is flooding the city from tech giants to overseas money pushing the real estate market to the zenith and there is no end. Most people I know growing up has moved out of the city, the only ones left are those with a substantial income or are barely surviving. You can’t really blame the city for the prime real estate from the parks to the transportation, cleanness, safety, etc. but this will gradually reduce itself as a hub of high ideals and uniqueness and diversity.

The beauty of San Francisco has no equal only to the people that has shaped and built the atmosphere for centuries creating the beacon that draws people from all over the world to see. These monuments and landscapes are what’s left and slowly the city that I once knew is fading away; like a light in the fog, giving way for those who were destined to live and die here a new path.