After living in the strange place known as San Francisco for a few years, we begin to take a lot of things for granted. I’m not just talking about the food, the weather, etc. I’m talking about some really strange shit. Things that people outside the city might find truly bizarre, but that we don’t even question.
For example, there are damned few American cities where an ad campaign featuring a giant pot leaf (the kind we used to draw on our notebooks in high school) would draw no incredulous looks when plastered on city buses all over town. The product is some hemp-enhanced shampoo, but the icon is unmistakeable. This ad (and probably this product) wouldn’t fly in, say, Charlotte or Oklahoma City.
Marijuana smokers aren’t outlaws here. Cigarette smokers are.
San Francisco is the sort of place where someone in full drag on Market Street draws no stares and where someone walking down the street in an army uniform is assumed to be en route to a gay bar. Here, the controversy is not over whether to have a gay parade, but over how may points in the Kinsey continuum should be included in the name of the parade.
We don’t argue about whether or not sex clubs should exist, but about how closely the city should monitor them. People here discuss their sex lives with an openness which might make even New Yorkers blush.
San Franciscans use terms like “liberating” and “negative energy” and “inner child” without even a trace of irony. San Franciscans think terms like “lesbian – gay – bisexual – transgendered – questioning” roll effortlessly off the tongue.
In San Francisco, people ask “do you drive?” or “do you have a car?” In most parts of the country, the question is skipped because the answer is just assumed. Transit trauma has replaced “my car wouldn’t start” as the primary exucse for being late to work. In many circles, people who DO have cars are viewed as the oddities.
People here take road trips to the suburbs to go to Target or Pak-n-Save. It’s a really big production, not a daily way of life.
No one here finds it the least bit strange that it’s easier to buy imported coffee than to buy a hammer, or that juice bars outnumber drugstores in many neighborhoods. We take it for granted that we’re never far from a nice Peruvian or Laotian resturant, but finding a meat and two vegetables for under ten bucks is all but impossible.
It’s not “liberal vs. conservative” here. It’s more “libertarian vs. socialist vs. communist”.
The strangest thing, though, is that people here have an annoying tendency to forget that things ARE different here. We forget that minority groups are more worried about keeping their jobs and homes than about which terms urban white liberals use to “empower” them. We are shocked and appalled when small-town diners don’t have our favorite brand of “imported from God knows where” coffee.
We can’t understand why most of the country couldn’t give a flying fuck about how our Board of Supervisors condemned the heinous injustice in Burkina Faso or Brunei last week. We can’t believe that the Des Moines city council didn’t pass the same resolution and thank us for the idea.
We can’t cope with the fact that most of the world does not share our eccentricities. It’s nice that we’re a little bit odd in San Francisco. It would be even nicer if we could remember that we’re a little bit odd in San Francisco.