I’ve had a lover’s quarrel with San Francisco since former mayor Ed Lee opened the flood gates to unbridled corporate access over aesthetic and cultural preservation. The Sales Force Tower looms like a wart on a once beautiful face, unremovable by any process except the most extreme. The traffic is every day more unbearable. The gap between rich and poor grows wider and wider and housing is simply off the charts. It makes my old war stories of sharing a lovely flat in the Upper Haight with a great view for a whopping $45 a month (my share) in 1973 seem more extraordinary, but it doesn’t give me any pleasure knowing that today’s young folks starting out aren’t given a grace period of affordable and livable conditions while slowly building their careers.
But in the past few days, I’ve been able to lay all that to the side while roaming the city with my daughters, son-in-law and grandkids. It helps that we’ve had simply perfect weather, temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, sun today, no wind or fog. But also in spite of everything else, the city has retained its stunning beauty. The views from the top of the Fairmont Hotel, from Bernal Heights Hill, from Twin Peaks, the roar of the surf at the Cliff House and Monterey pines and cypress at Land’s End, and the oxalis “sourgrass” that keeps Zadie so happy as she chews on its pungent lemon flavor, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the drive through Golden Gate Park— beauty in every direction. Tonight to Union Square to take Zadie to her first play (A Christmas Story), complete with the ice skating rink and gingerbread house in the St. Francis. All of which is as enticing and charming for a 2 yr. old and 6 yr. old as it is for this veteran of 45 years in this remarkable city.
San Francisco, we have much to solve to be yet better than we are, but meanwhile, a moment of appreciation for everything we’ve managed to be in the face of a world determined to flatten character for efficiency, exchange beauty for profit. I am happy to have made my home here. And I agree with Herb Caen, that long-departed poet of our city's charm, when he quipped:
When I leave this earth and arrive at St. Peter's gate, I imagine I'll look around at Heaven and say, "It's okay. But it ain't San Francisco!"