You can still feel it in certain places. It’s in the Tenderloin, the one neighborhood in San Francisco that still resists gentrification with a force field of drugs, prostitution, and schizophrenia. It’s in the Haight where you can still buy acid from crusty gutter punks who live in the park, God bless them. It’s dive bars in SOMA where you can easily get into a full on bar fight if you walk in wearing a Dodgers jersey. It’s the hole-in-the wall restaurant in Chinatown with a questionable health code score that sells a hot bowl of noodles for five bucks at three in the morning. It’s the ghosts of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Twain. It’s the Giants winning the World Series over and over and over again. It’s the frontier spirit. It’s the vibe that shouted “You’re welcome here!” to my grandfather when he was at his most adrift.
I’m not sure what the future holds for San Francisco, but I have an idea of what I want it to be. First off, there needs to be affordable housing. If that means striking zoning laws and building residences higher than forty feet then I’m all for it. Sorry NIMBYs, the look of the city will have to change a little bit. Tech people: cut this entitled douchebag bullshit. Yes, you are a huge economic force in the city. Yes, you are a highly educated, incredibly intelligent bunch. Yes, you are inventing the future. Cool. Grow up and make a real effort to become part of the community. Maybe try tutoring underprivileged kids on the weekends or volunteering at a shelter. Also stop doing things like writing blog posts whining about homeless people. It’s a huge, complicated problem, no doubt. Maybe you guys could, I don’t know, focus some of those millions of dollars and high IQs on actually solving some of the complex issues that plague the city. Also there should be BART lines everywhere, running through Golden Gate Park and stretch all the way to Ocean Beach. (Yes, I know this is an insane pipe dream and would take decades to build and cost a jillion dollars but let me have my fantasy thank you.)
It’s been more than seventy years since Leo arrived in San Francisco and I seriously doubt he would recognize the place. But that’s a good thing. Cities should never be static. The gritty, dangerous Warriors-era New York of the ‘70s has virtually nothing in common with the glitzy (albeit overpriced) playground it has since become. So I’m staying. For now. Will I be here forever? Hard to say -- I’d either have to write the next Harry Potter series or win the questionable SF Dream House raffle in order to own a home here. But my family has been here for three generations and I feel like my DNA is intertwined with the city. Despite the sky high rent and the tech bros and even the $5 toast it is home. And god damn it, it’s never, ever boring.
Daniel Dumas is a writer improbably based in San Francisco. His work has appeared in GQ, WIRED, Golf Digest, AFAR, Esquire, and The Wall Street Journal Magazine. He has also written for several adventure themed TV shows including Booze Traveler and I Survived a Tornado. His Twitter is a loose collection of puns and other lame jokes. His Instagram is actually much better.