Recently I joked that if you want to bond with any San Franciscan, you can just strike up a conversation about how much this city sucks.
I love living in San Francisco. It’s absolutely stunning. My home city, DC, comes close in terms of beauty, with its profusion of trees and stately architecture, but it’s sadly very flat, and quite difficult to get a sense of DC as a whole. San Francisco is quite different. It’s a city of vistas. As I speak I’m staring out my bedroom window and watching the sun rise Potrero Hill.
The architecture here is incredible. Every house is unique, different, idiosyncratic, and yet they’re constructed in a handful of style and painted in a roughly similar palette. Even the few modern houses have a boxy, spare frame that’s dictated by the relatively small lot sizes and frontages.
The other great thing about San Francisco is that nobody here reads books, but everybody respects writers. It’s the perfect combination. You never meet another writer (certainly not one that’s my age, because they’ve all moved to Oakland or Portland). And nobody ever tells me how much they’re enjoying the latest book by my literary rival or tells me their uncle is a writer too, have I heard of him? His name is Salman Rushdie.
Nobody reads, but everybody has a living room full of books. My exposure to the literary world is entirely modulated by Twitter. When I get tired of the BS, I simply switch of Twitter and go outside.
Recently I’ve been thinking about sentences, and how much nonsense is talked about them. People praise books for having great sentences, but when you read them, you’re like…these sentences are the opposite of great. They’re vapid and overwritten and full of self-conscious signifiers of ‘beautiful writing.’ They’re like that pop band that everybody thinks is a cut above simply because they’ve got a violinist. Like, yeah, you’re smart and polished, but the music’s actually nothing special.
And yet it’s okay. You just go outside.
San Francisco does suck, I suppose. But the thing is, I never knew the San Francisco that’s now supposedly lost. I only moved here three years ago! My In my San Francisco the beautiful people in the cafes have always talked about computers. Maybe once upon a time they talked radical politics or avant-garde literature, but not anymore! Now it’s all about computers. Seriously, if you’re ever here, you should try sometime looking for the coolest, most glamorous, put-together people you can find, the ones who’re sipping wine and having an animated conversation, then slowly creep closer and closer to them. Inevitably there’ll come a moment when you realize…oh…they’re talking about computers.