Just a little over 12 months have passed since I made the pilgrimage to San Francisco. It will be years before I find myself on the latter side of the learning curve since I continue to find myself discovering new things about the city every day, but I have scrounged up an amateur's amount of knowledge that I will impose upon you. Of course, if I included everything that I have learned -- e.g. the orgasmic joy of each bite of an Ike's Place sandwich and the incredibly talented local bands like NVO -- the article would be about the length of a Jonathan Franzen novel. So, the following is a macro level study guide of the educational essentials to the city smaller than Disney World.
1. There are only so many times you can blame Muni for being late to work before your boss stops believing you.
Before moving to the city, I sold my car as a preemptive strike against parallel parking, tickets, street cleaning hours and break-ins. I heard constant tales of woe and witnessed the battle scars from owners of cars and had no intention on joining their ranks. The roads were packed enough as it was without me taking up more space in my Hyundai. So I soon became one of the sardines on the T Line train, making myself comfortable by leaning on the shoulders of strangers next to me with my crotch in the person's face who was lucky enough to have found an open seat.
This might have undertones of complaint, but for the most part I was content. Not many cities offer such a wide array of public transportation for the masses. However, the mornings soon took their toll with the constant delays and the train cars packed to the brim that always included the random crazy person who managed to find his/her way onto the train I inhabited (you can leave the Tenderloin, but the Tenderloin never leaves you). The only thing worse than the constant train delays are the people standing with clipboards on street corners throughout the city asking for a minute of your time. The 2.5-mile morning commute was taking just under hour on average and I knew something needed to be changed.
1.A. Purchasing a bicycle was the best investment I made since buying a Clipper card.
There's an entire lane just for bikes! It only took me 10 months to realize how beautiful this concept was. There I was, wasting time playing public transportation foreplay with my fellow train riders when I could have been outside enjoying the early morning fog and getting to work in 10 minutes as opposed to an excess of 40. The time-effectiveness and convenience of transporting myself on my time completely changed the way of life in the city and I was happy to be considered part of the biking community.
However, I am not proud to ride next to everybody.
1.A.i. Don't be a dick.
If I had a nickel for every bicyclist making asshole moves throughout the streets with an air of entitlement to the road, I'd be so distracted by my large payout, I wouldn't find it bizarre I was
getting paid in nickels. Seriously, you look like a Chihuahua picking a fight with a Bullmastiff. Respect the drivers and the drivers will respect you.
2. There are consistently awesome things to do if you leave your comfort zone.
It's so easy to sit around on the weekends and work on developing the perfect ass-divot in your couch cushions. I was an avid participant in this activity for a month's worth of Saturdays. It didn't take long to realize how much time I was wasting with all the activity happening around me. There are awesome things happening all over the city by awesome people. I needed to branch out and get on with the gettin' on. Laziness could be saved for Sundays -- the day to worship the Food Gods and show that couch cushion some more love.
2.A. Explore different neighborhoods.
For a city that is less than 50 square miles, it has about as many neighborhoods as a box of Crayola crayons colors. I still find myself discovering new necks in the surrounding woods. However, it is sometimes difficult to get an organized group to head somewhere outside of the normal places we frequent. There seems to be a common misconception that North Beach is all the way out in mother-loving Egypt. As much of a pain it may be to get yourself into a new area, there are countless gems waiting to be dug up in the unexplored territory.
Also, it is easy to forget that we live in a city that people from all over the world travel to see.
2.A.i. Don't be too good to do touristy things.
It gives me nothing but pleasure to grab a camera, throw on a fanny pack and head to the Fisherman's Wharf. Some native San Franciscans may look down on this area of the city, but who could deny the awesomeness of Ripley's Believe or Not? Who wouldn't wet themselves at the thought of running around the sacred land of Alcatraz pretending to be Nicholas Cage in The Rock. These things are right down the street waiting for us to show the 12-year-old inside of us some attention.
3. No matter who you prefer to sleep next to at night, the Castro is a great place to live.
As a heterosexual male that grew up in the Midwest, I have had my eyes open to plenty of different lifestyles in this neighborhood that I normally was not exposed to. Before moving to the Bay Area, I heard many negative comments from the ever-surrounding peanut gallery about the large homosexual population. "Stay out of the Castro!" they would say. I paid the comment-makers no mind. As Slug from the hip-hop group, Atmosphere once said, "people are people and I still love them." I ended up renting a place in the Castro and never looked back (except, of course, when the old, naked guys walk down Market Street). The neighborhood is beautiful, the people are friendly, the location is central making it easy to commute throughout the city, the quality restaurants are aplenty and the people watching from my back window during Pride Weekend is one of the highest forms of entertainment.
What's not to love?
3.A. Homophobic people have no idea what the hell they are talking about.
If anybody ever slanders the gay male population saying that they all have a personality like Jack from Will and Grace, they've never taken a walk down Market Street between 14th and 17th. I've walked by countless amounts of guys that are manlier than a young Clint Eastwood arm wrestling a grizzly bear while chopping down a tree with his other hand. I'd love to see the Fox News watching "take our country back" rednecks confront these gentlemen. Just as it is with everybody else, people's personalities come in all forms no matter what they do in their privacy.
3.A.i. Stop debating the obvious.
There is so much love walking the streets of Castro that it makes the Care Bears look like the Garbage Pail Kids. The fact that people in high places (cough, cough... Mitt Romney) are saying that the two men in their late 50's walking down Noe Street, holding hands and enjoying life should not be able to get married is so asinine that it makes my face hurt. Show me one divorced straight couple and I'll show you a dozen happy homosexual couples.
4. Fernet is the nectar of Gods.