I guess we’ll always have a complicated relationship.
After spending my first appreciable amount of time in “The City” since I escaped it in 2005, find that my feelings toward it have moderated to some extent. Part of me expected (or maybe hoped for) some grand revelation that I really missed San Francisco and wanted desperately to “come home”. That didn’t happen, and the bigger part of me didn’t really think it would. But I no longer feel the grinding hatred that drove me out way back when. In fact, I feel fairly neutral about my old hometown. It doesn’t excite me in any way. It’s just another place I used to live, and not one I’m especially eager to live in again.
And maybe that was the problem all along. San Francisco just stopped seeming “special” enough to justify the premium one pays to live there. It’s an aesthetically pleasing and generally pleasant sort of place. (Granted, the silly politics and the pretentiousness annoy me rather a lot, but so do the religious nutjobs and anti-intellectualism found in many parts of the South.) But for me, at least, there’s really nothing that sets San Francisco apart from any other major urban area in the country. In fact, I find it less appealing than many other cities. Thus, I can’t see paying such an outrageous price to be there when I could get an equivalent (or superior) urban experience in almost any other major city.
San Francisco is analogous to a “fine dining” restaurant for me. Maybe it’s my lack of sophistication or maybe I’m just a tightwad, but I’ve never yet found a $100 meal that was really ten times as good as the average ten buck meal from a really good dive. Similarly, I can’t image life in a $3000 San Francisco apartment being half again as good as it is in a $2000 apartment in another big city. Or am I just missing something?
Yes, I realize there are things that make San Francisco special for some. I was one of those people back in the day. In the 1990s, it was a great place to be a young alternaqueer who wanted to drink and get laid a lot. I was willing to make the sacrifice and pay the premium then. There are certain career paths that it’s probably somewhat easier to follow in the Bay Area. And yes, I have many incredibly happy memories of my time in San Francisco. But they’re just that: memories. The San Francisco that helped create them no longer exists and neither does the younger version of me that experienced them. And that’s not a bad thing. San Francisco is a part of my past, and now I feel like I have to look toward the future.
As for that future, I could very well see it taking a more urban form a few years down the road. I think part of my recent reluctance to do so is related to my tendency to think all urban places will be like San Francisco. Deep down, I know that they won’t, and I think that with exploration I may well find the one I like: one where I don’t have to give up quite so many other comforts of life in order to experience it. If it came down to it and money weren’t an issue, I guess I could live in San Francisco again. It’s not a choice I’d ever make on my own, and the thought doesn’t excite me any more than does the idea of living in Greensboro for the rest of my life. But what would it take? I just don’t know right now.