Response Crafting


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San Francisco

I love the irregular rises and falls off your body; the beautiful little ridges and peaks and valleys. Your toe bones and knee joints and hips. Your small stature so unadorned, bare shoulders still exposed beyond cloth.

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I love the roughness of your heels, your skin that’s cool to the touch, the soft gray of your eyes and the real tone of your hamstrings that you hide. I love your ugly, pilling socks; your stretched-out woolen sweater. And I love the looseness of those curls.

I love that deep little scar across your sternum, right over the hollow of your heart. The broken, disjointed stretch of skin that some of your less worthwhile lovers call imperfect. That is one of my favorite spots.

I hear that scar has a dark history and this only makes me love it more. I watch as you raise your hand to shield it, and I want my hand to be there with yours too.

They tell me that I’ll tire of you – that you’ll break me or bore me before we even crest “forever” – but I don’t believe them. Some things, you just know.

Some say you make us soft – that you go too easy on your lovers; boost egos; string us along too long.

They tell me you’re no better than your painted ladies, luring farm boys in with smokescreens and empty promises that they pay – too much – for the chance to believe.

But those farm boys, they are laughing.

“Even under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of
the people,
Laughing!”

And so while others may prefer to stand on the sideline and sneer at the spectacle – tell us that you’re no good and we’re no good and we’re even worse, on top of that, for our naïveté in the ring – they don’t know what they don’t know.

That this is who we are and why we’re here. This is part of why we love you.

That, and: the irregular little rises and falls of your body; the cool roughness of your touch; the intoxication of those soft gray eyes.

You won’t be my lover forever, but you are the one I’ve most loved to love.

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Chicago, San Francisco and New York: why we love one and don’t like the other two

Chicago:

Chicago is happy and happy to be happy. Easy-going and easily eager (fair-weather fans and lovable losers, anyone??) and if you express any other emotions, Chicago fields it by fetching you beer. Or bacon. Or burgers. Or boats. Or sports.

Let’s be honest: Chicago is pretty much a golden retriever.

I liked Chicago. I was never crazy for it – never got gaga over it – but I could never bring myself to hate Chicago in the same way you can’t really hate a golden retriever. Even if you could, his simple-minded pleasantness would make him immune to it.

Don’t get me wrong, Chicago is smart enough. Hard-working, too, and plenty trainable. It’s just that at the end of the day, he’s no more complex than a roll in the park and a belly rub. (And what kind of person are you, really, if you don’t like those?)

People always say that the best part about Chicago is that it’s “right in between west coast and east coast – not just geographically, but politically, personality… pace.” They’re right. It is a little bit of everything.

But that also means it’s also not too much of any one thing. i.e., anything. 

You throw the ball and go on walks and all of this is fine and well… until one day you realize maybe you aren’t getting enough out of a city that stares at you, tongue out and tail wagging, for absolutely no reason. For four years straight.

And it occurs to you to go elsewhere.

(And it ain’t you, Chicago. It ain’t you. Don’t you worry your pretty little head – you were good to me. And before you know it, you’ll have brand new friends and have forgotten all about that one girl you once knew who, crazy enough, didn’t eat bacon.)

San Francisco:

San Francisco is definitely not a golden retriever. San Francisco may be available but never even pretends to know you, let alone try to be your friend.

What I like about San Francisco – what anybody likes about it (and it seems that it’s the tourists who are especially vocal) –  is what I see as its “intoxicating subtle roughness.” It’s like a hand-woven rug or the first sip of whiskey.

San Francisco is feminine; San Francisco is cool to the touch. San Francisco is, perhaps, a bit reptilian – beautiful without the easy answer of softness or gloss. And we like it.

It’s the creativity; it’s the promise of creation. It’s existing with one foot on the edges of subculture and the other immersed in true markets (finance, tech.) Nobody likes grit and grossness, per say, in and of itself. Rather, we like that grittiness is white space; a reprieve from the Play-Doh casting of other places.

And because it’s more than Play-Doh – or golden retrievers – San Francisco inspires much stronger feelings all around.

People who hate San Francisco:

If you Google “I hate Chicago” you get little more than a Bro Bible article wherein a Chicago native writes, in a self-deprecating but-still Chicago bro way, about the “worst” ways Chicago is annoying… like – get this – how Chicagoans actually eat at Grand Luxe Cafe and restaurant row and “try to fill emptiness by proclaiming FOOD as their passion.” (Ugh, I totally hear you. So annoying!) #goldenretriever.

Google “I hate San Francisco,” though, and you’ll get 600+ word rants on how truly deplorable this city is. A real cesspool of human depravity. The lowest of low. Worst of the worst. (It is, one person even threatened, “my least favorite big city”! Whoa, Pacha. Stand back. Anything but that!)

All the SF critics kinda cite the same reasons: dirtiness; poor transportation (public transit, parking, walking the hills.) They say that “people” (read: “girls”) are “flaky;” that people are “entitled elitists.” It’s too cold, it’s too expensive; not kid-friendly and nobody dresses up. It’s not only dirty, but also “filthy” (I found several people who cited both.) And on top of that, it’s full of lib’rals.

One person told me that what they hate about San Francisco is that “everyone has ideas.” Hearing this I was like “wuht? How are ideas a threat?” But others agree: tech bros “think they’re saving the world with their crackpot schemes aka ‘start-ups.'” Some people use the cop out: “it’s the hipsters.”

But if you take the opposites of that criticism, you can begin to shape an understanding of what the SF critics do like and look for in a city. You get things like: “Clean. Easy and reliable parking. Friendly, dependable people. Clean. Low cost of living. Republicans. Clean. Conventionality rather than new ideas or world change. Kid-friendly… Clean.”

Guys. That’s a suburb. You’ve pretty much gotchoself a golden retriever.

New York

I’ve never lived in New York and have only visited like two or three times. I liked it – though what do I know, being a tourist? But I liked it enough to feel I can say so. It’s got the economic (read: fissscal) diversity without any of that “social” shit: the idealistic or socialist or burning-man-istic bullshit. You either make money – in the ordinary ways – or you don’t. And you either work hard, or you don’t. End of story.

You don’t just work hard, play hard. You go hard. You get ready when you go out and you stay out until the early hours. Even dating is a competitive sport. Hell, even walking around is a competitive sport.

New York’s got the polish, but it’s also got a bit of the pretentiousness – and the impatience. They can be pretty and put-together when they like you, but they’re also not afraid to tell it like it is if you’re in their way.

Aren’t there sharks that eat their own siblings as embryos? That might be what New York is. Or maybe a swan – pretty, but then goes around killing people for seemingly no reason.

Don’t get me wrong – I like winning. And I like NY plenty. And maybe I could move there; I’d just have to prepare myself for zero-sum games first.

What it all means

I have heard that you either love San Francisco or you love New York. And when you love one, you hate the other.

And I started thinking about this in the context of Chicago, too – sweet kid brother Chicago (if New York is the hard-knocks older brother and San Francisco is the free-wheeling sister.)

And, more importantly, what it meant for personalities, because if cities are reflections of ourselves, then what sort of “self” does each city have?

Studies have been done on the personality spread of the United States, and they have found that there are three dominant types.

Americans living in the north-central Great Plains and the South tend to be “conventional and friendly;” those who reside in the Western and Eastern seaboards can be described as “relaxed and creative,” while New England and Mid-Atlantic dwellers are prone to being “temperamental and uninhibited.”

Mood_map_update

The study broke the states down by the big five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

The Midwest is more extroverted, more agreeable and less neurotic, but also more conscientious and less open. Both of the coasts are more introverted and less agreeable than the Midwest; less conscientious and with above average to high openness (west cost being the higher of the two.) Also, east coast is a lot more neurotic.

All of us as individuals fall somewhere on the spectrum of each of those. And it just might stand to reason that the cities we like – even love – mirror our preferences.

You can take a test to help you decide here. Doing so might explain why you hate the cities you do. It might even save you a move to a city you subsequently deem “too dirty.” Or, rather, one that seems more “idealistic” than “ideal.”


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Oakland, CA

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Slash: “my Oakland suggestion”…

Call me crazy, but here is kind of how I see Oakland:

Why would you not develop that place?

Granted, I have only spent three weekends in San Fran – like, total – one of which was really only 24 hours… aaaaand only one of which during which I actually saw Oakland.

BUT!

Even in those few hours of my “Oakland Immersion Program,” I really could not help but look around and ask, in a slightly manic way: why would you not develop this place?!

Think of it this way: there is a whole market for Oakland. I am absolutely positive about it.

Here:

What if you work in the financial district? That’s the first assumption here. Run with it.

Because here is the thing: plenty of people work in the financial district – plenty. Like, enough to constitute a demographic for development. Like, enough people to be a group.

And then, on top of that: think about the fact that most of those people work long hours.

And yeah, not all. But run with it. Lots of people work in the financial district and lots of those people work long hours.

And. Many of them are young. Not all of them. But many. Many of these people who work in the financial district and work long hours are also “young” – young enough that they do not have families and mortgages. Their residences are important only to the extent that they are not in crappy areas and they do not yield ridiculous commutes. Mostly.

Financial district. Non-ridiculous commutes.

So.

It takes a little more than 20 minutes to get from Oakland to the Financial District by the BART. Let’s imagine that that 20 minute commute sounds pretty rad to a group of people. Let’s just look at that for a minute.

And let’s consider other places within 20 minutes… you can also get to Castro. Mission. You can definitely get to Pacific Heights. Sunset’s out of the question.

So, you’ve got a handful of neighborhoods to consider here. You have the typical ones: Castro, Mission and Pacific Heights (pretend with me, here. I realize that a person looking at one of those places would not necessarily be looking at another. I realize that.) But now let’s throw Oakland into the mix.

And let’s consider this: you care about budget. Maybe you have student loans (you’re young, remember?) Or you are saving for a down payment (you are renting, after all.) Either way, you want to save.

Or… you simply don’t care as much about having one of the iconic neighborhoods because you work long hours, remember? Remember? You’re almost never home. You want the short commute, and for at least one year of your life, you recognize that you can live most anywhere, because you’re almost never home.

Or: consider this… although you work in the financial district, you are also a bit of trend-setter. You like to pave ways. You like to explore new frontiers.

Whatever. Again, I have only spent a few hours in Oakland. I do not really know what I am talking about… but… even I know that it is not one of the, uh, “typical places.” Meaning: to live there is to, perhaps, eshew the, you know, “San Francisco experience.” Or whatever.

And I may be wrong, but here’s this: I only saw Oakland for two hours – or whatever – but I would live there.

I would live there.

And I am a target market. If I lived in San Fran, I would be the “financial district, short commute, long hours, low budget” tenant. I would be that.

And if I exist and I would live there – maybe, probably – then others in my demographic would as well.

Oh yeah, and you’re gonna play the “crime card,” probably. Right? Am I right? Welp. I am a mid-20’s female; professional (i.e., not part of any weird subculture, per say) and, again: I would live there. Have you been over there? Like, lately? They have a Whole Foods, people. A Whole Foods. I could go further, but I can stop there. I have lived in places that don’t even have Whole Foods.

Oakland ain’t all bad, people. Maybe it was – I don’t know – but there are many, many decent areas now. Many. Just waiting to be grabbed – by developers and tenants alike.

And if that is the case, then I think all that can be said here is:

Oakland is a gold mine. And I have no idea why you wouldn’t develop it.