The Roaring Twenties: Pick a Side

09/26/2011 08:07 pm ET | Updated Jan 30, 2012

Brace yourselves, SFTs. I think I might have a case of Bay Envy. I need your help with the diagnosis.

Perhaps I should explain my symptoms first. I've been spending a bit more time in Oakland of late, which isn't entirely unreasonable given that I work in Emeryville. I'm beginning to get comfortable with the layout of the East Bay's focal point, too. Broadway and Telegraph's acutely-angled intersections still confuse me, but as long as there's a numbered street somewhere, I know where I am. I'm digging the bar scene over there, too, because I can actually sit down when I get there and hear myself talk once I'm sitting down. Compared to the clusterfuck that is the Friday night dive in San Francisco, Oakland's easy-going vibes are a godsend. And the food is so much more reasonably priced! When I return to the other -- er, my side of the bay, I'm always a little heartbroken when I have to shell out around twelve bucks for a sandwich or six bucks for a beer. It just doesn't feel right.

Pet ownership in the East Bay is a completely different situation, too. For one thing, actual backyards are in more abundance over there than they are over here, so pets are free to be their animalistic selves and run around and breathe normal air and chase after smaller, unassuming squirrel (or squirrel-adjacent) creatures. For another, the terms "pet" and "accessory" are far less interchangeable over there than they are over here. San Francisco is chock full of women with large purses containing dogs, and an equal number of suited-up dudes walking said dogs and bearing slightly embarrassed countenances. That culture just doesn't exist in the East Bay.

And another thing! Oakland's BART stations are within walking distance to so many things! San Francisco's... aren't. At all. Sure, downtown has its four evenly-spaced stops, and the Mission has its two Grant Sketch Central stations, but what about the rest of the city? Hayes Valley? Potrero? Russian Hill? Nob Hill? Chinatown? (The) Western Addition? (Note: I can't bring myself to use the "the." It's related to the fact that I'm from NorCal and also don't put definite articles in front of freeways.) BART neglects all of the cool places, and all of the places where people actually live. I don't necessarily mind walking 25 minutes to get to my apartment, because it's still faster than waiting for and taking MUNI, but it'd be nice not to be neglected by all forms of public transportation.

There is something, though, that's leading me to think my case of Bay Envy might not be terminal. And it is this: the East Bay is simply not San Francisco. I lived in the East Bay for four years, but I never really called it home. It was the place where all my stuff was while I went to class. Once I graduated and moved across the bridge, however, I got that "at home" feeling almost instantly. San Francisco, for all its different neighborhood personalities and climate mood swings, has an oddly small-town feel to it. You recognize people who grocery-shop at the same time you do, you get used to the street-sweeping schedule, you know when the lights are going to change. You find your pocket of comfort, with its built-in idiosyncracies, and pretty soon it becomes your entire world. The East Bay doesn't have that same bustling charm, that same undeniable aura that surrounds San Francisco. At the end of the day -- and I use that phrase literally, so it's not totally cliché, guys -- I'm happy to come home to this overpriced, hodgepodge metropolis because it's where everything is happening. And who wouldn't want to be in the middle of that?

I think my Bay Envy is starting to subside. I'll make a full recovery.