San Francisco

I walked the city tonight. About 3 miles of it. Sun setting, fog spreading, tourists and children and accents of all types chaotically pleasure-seeking, as was I. Other than New York City, this is the most densely populated large city in the U.S., and tourists only deepen that density.

What’s odd about San Francisco is it is home to both nature and technology. Steve Jobs has loudly proclaimed that no tech company can start outside Silicon Valley, or some such bold and likely untrue claim. And I’m here for the tech – attended a Computer Science workshop today. Nerdville. Yesterday I attended an Advanced JavaScript Fundamentals all-day workshop at The Microsoft Reactor. A cool place, more nerds, tech, code, all things artificial and severely human. Code and its power are a direct product of our hands. It is almost a measure of our minds. But back to nature. You could say nature is everywhere, and I couldn’t disagree, but when I say San Francisco is a home to nature I mean it is a home to some of the most stunning views on earth. San Francisco is a collision of mountains and ocean, bays, inlets, and brazenly large and vivid flora.

It’s people are no less brazen and vivid. I’m from Chicago so I can compare: I don’t remember seeing this many, uhm, shall we say “characters”? Sadly, I also don’t remember seeing this many homeless.

The hotels are opulent and loud, the fog makes you believe you’re in another world, a city in the clouds, but the broken-souled teens on the street, the drugs and public masturbation ruin ideas of perfection and purity. If you look in the right places – like the second-story corner Italian restaurant resting above a steeply sloping-away hill, filled with wine glasses and beautiful people, the pacific sun casting an evening hue through the glass-enclosed room – it’s magic. Maybe the world, or at least this corner of the world, is perfect.

My Uber driver tonight played upbeat, relaxing new-age music during the climb up Jones street – a street so steep that it’s actually a bit scary. Last night my Uber driver took the same street but played sexually explicit music. I rolled down my window to try to drown out the words I didn’t want to hear. He flew through the city. I kind of wonder what his ticket history looks like.

And at the sushi restaurant I ate at, a beautiful young Asian waiter paid me more attention than what was needed. His body language spoke mild intoxication – I imagine he couldn’t tell my age – and his last few sentences didn’t make sense. As I was leaving he wanted to know where I was from. Chicago. It appears I can at least I can attract someone. Actually, the entire staff paid me lots of attention – maybe they don’t get a lot customers?

Technology and nature. Hippies and businessmen. Homeless and the stratospherically rich. I have to say it feels kind of, well, lost. But also free. I know this culture bucks restraint, but so often what ends up replacing too much restraint is too much freedom, the next-door neighbor to emptiness. I don’t see a coherent culture, or really a place of hope. I do however see grandeur to the heights, both technologically and in the foggy beauty of the bays, inlets, bridges, mountains, and ever-expanding ocean.


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