Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

A Postcard from San Francisco

sooomaI joined the line at Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood at 8:40 a.m., on the dot. Despite the early hour, the temperature was already in the eighties. The light and sky were big and empty in the way that the light and sky are only in the West. When I moved here, in the nineties, everyone used to debate whether or not “SOMA” was a real thing. Once largely empty warehouses and live-work lofts, it's now full of excellent restaurants and soaring apartments and there’s even a Whole Foods on 4th street, and so, we've all arrived at the conclusion that it does in fact exist in some sort of definite spatial sense.

Soon enough, my visitor from Los Angeles arrived. He wore a suit jacket and a densely woven shirt with french cuffs. Cufflinks. He didn't wear a belt on his black jeans, and I assumed that it was intentional; it was a good look. Mint Plaza used to be a desperate little shit-squat of an alley. But it's nice now. It has a long line of chairs that no one uses, and it's literally in the shadow of Jack Dorsey's old flat. Just across Mission Street, nearly within eyesight, is the Chronicle building, where the paper was published before it presumably went out of business a few years ago.

We ordered two iced coffees and two orders of poached eggs over toast. I paid. With tax and tip, it came to slightly more than $26. Blue Bottle has a few tables outside—perhaps only when the weather is nice since I’ve certainly never noticed them before—and so we sat in the sun. My visitor was staying at the W, where, he said, the cocksuckers were charging him some $640 a night for a bed and a flatscreen. Can you imagine? Have you been to the W? Sure, it's okay, but it's basically the Marriott with better shampoo. If you come to San Francisco, skip the flowers in your hair and definitely bypass the W.

As we sat in the intense California sun, I watched a teardrop of sweat swell on my visitor's forehead. I could feel my own brow beading up. (Oh my God. You can’t believe what the weather is like here right now. Even now, 12 hours later, as I sit on the steps of my Ocean Beach apartment writing this letter and drinking a beer in the moonlight, it's still blowjob temperature. Normally, you can't go outside in San Francisco at night, or even during the day, because it is consistently chilly. But not today. Not tonight.)

We talked about Los Angeles, and we talked about San Francisco.

Los Angeles is rising again. It is the most American of cities, and maybe our last great city, given the spoil of New York and San Francisco, and Chicago's mean winter. Everyone worth a goddamn is moving there. Only the hangers-on, too slow to realize what has already passed them by, are sticking around elsewhere. You can still find a comparatively reasonably-priced home—an entire home—even in hotspots like Los Feliz or Silverlake. And then there are always the hills and canyons. But if enough refugees flee there, who knows, maybe it will end up in a miserable state too.

San Francisco, on the other hand; San Francisco is all train jumpers.

Is it really happening, he wanted to know, is the city really emptying itself of the middle class? Will it really let itself become a city of the very rich and the very poor?

I wish I could repeat his exact words, but I can't, because there was a front-end loader next to us tearing up the street—but first, it had to change out its dump bucket. This took about ten minutes, and it was exceptionally loud, making it hard to hear. Yet also impressive, given the complexity of the task.

The thing about San Francisco is that nobody will tell you when you have a bad idea.

I'm sorry. That's not what I meant to say.

The thing about San Francisco is that someone or something is always vying for your attention. The guy handing you a flyer for something you don’t want. The cyclist ringing her bell at you as she blows through the stop sign. The rattle of Muni. The homeless, everywhere the homeless, San Francisco’s great intractable shame. And something is always under construction—I mean, other than houses.

It can be very hard to focus on any one thing here. I had to cup my hand to my ear to hear what my visitor had to say. We sat there in the sun, creatures of warmth and youth. And it was good.

(Well, mostly good. Our breakfast was repeatedly interrupted by the homeless, who kept asking us for money. Or at least two of them did. The third person to interrupt us wasn't clearly homeless—he was both clean-shaven and wore clean clothes. He had light colored Levi's on, in fact. Dad jeans, I'd say, and a nice, if casual, shirt. He pointed at my visitor's plate as he walked past us, and asked if we were finished eating, which of course we were at this point. We were just sort of lounging before going back to work. When my visitor said yes he was, this stranger, who looked like me and my father and your father and everyone's father picked up the half-eaten toast with the half eaten egg on top and thanked us and walked off down the street sating his appetite and we were both a bit taken aback by it all. Shocked, even. Can you imagine eating another man's eggs? I am a father myself.)

It's a funny time here. Half-eaten plates of charcuterie left on the table. Last week, my family and I were evicted from the apartment we have lived in for nearly four years, and now we have fewer than sixty days to find a new place to live. My landlord wants to sell. Who can blame him? Times are fat. If you own property or vestments, it’s a great time to be here. And I just can't stress enough how nice the weather is here these days. Which is what I told my visitor, too. He'd picked a good time to come up.

Mat Honan is a senior writer for WIRED. He lives in San Francisco and would like that to remain the case. Photo by npzo

26 Comments / Post A Comment

Silver. Lake. I cannot repeat this enough.

alicesherman (#237,158)

I have been thinking of moving to LA for the past year, and I should just really do it should I.

iantenna (#5,160)

you sound like an asshole.

Heather Wagner (#9,797)

As a former SF resident I am well versed in all sorts of weather-related terminology ("marine layer!") and musings (mark twain et al) but I must admit I'm flummoxed by "blowjob temperature".

Jane Donuts (#2,857)

@heather wagner: Seriously, I had to stop and think about that one. What is blowjob weather?

18769888@twitter (#279,213)

@Heather Wagner a blowjob is warm and moist. Hence, a hot, humid night would be "blowjob tempurature"

alorsenfants (#139)

Wow – incredible glimpse — the most shocking thing is to see the self-effacement of a San Franciscan?

One difference between Los Angeles and San Francisco, I always thought while living in the former, is that while Angelenos waxed poetic about the Bay Area, the Northerners hardly returned the favor — you always would feel their condescension.

Doesn't make me gloat to read this: although I personally root for L.A., and do think it may become the greatest city in America before much longer, if not already, I wouldn't want to live there now either, But I'm old!

My solution? I'm moving next month from Charlottesville to another place in California… ain't saying where! I can't wait –

Ohhhjohnny (#273,812)

"The thing about San Francisco is that nobody will tell you when you have a bad idea."

Like, this article.

KarenUhOh (#19)

You sound more like a Stockton kind of guy. Plus they don't have postcards there.

Jane Donuts (#2,857)

Just what L.A. needs; an influx of Bay Area assholes to supplement the Hollywood ones.

5148411@twitter (#273,817)

Mat, stop reading the comments.

scrooge (#2,697)

Well, obvs, when it's too hot for normal coitus.

NinetyNine (#98)

"Mat Honan is Going to Move To a New Apartment."

LA or SF – it's all in CA. Lots better places to live all around the country.

asfaltics (#273,833)

have lived both, and elsewhere besides (Tokyo, Cambridge).
I carry Los Angeles around with me, wherever I am.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

Okay, Balk, Sicha, et al., 'fess up: you're just messing with us now, experimenting on us to see how deadpan you can make the satire before nobody notices it's satire anymore.

skyslang (#11,283)

@Ralph Haygood Right? I mean…it's getting ridiculous.

Jag Pop@facebook (#273,853)

Woke up with a migraine. It is a good time to read the Awl, don't even know what the weather is like outside.

Haven't taken somatriptan in days, was this a good idea?

My wife has a cold. She never ever snores unless she has a cold. Snoring is my thing, but I never get colds.

But I do get warts. You don't have to tell me that is a bad idea.

Viruses cause colds and they cause warts (you can tell I am not from LA because I am going to ask you if I have that information correct).


As I am typing this I keep thinking about that previous post, it is right up there ^ a bit. "you sound like an asshole." It is a complete sentence because it has a period on the end. (wonder if that guy is on parole?)

But that is not why I am thinking about it. Ever do one of those things where you wonder off the sidewalk for just a step. You aren't intoxicated, you aren't even thinking about what kind of a snake it was that you accidently drove over five days ago (should not have looked in the rearview mirror, it made me think of someone in the throes of being lynched), nope, what causes that?

You are walking along just fine and then, "you sound like an asshole".

Ok, so I can blame the migraine, or is it the soma… or the fact that it is 2 am here on the eastcoast of the world and I just read an article by someone that I do not think strayed with his writing into sounding like an asshole but there it was anyways, "you sound like someone that is an asshole".

But I was talking about colds and warts. They are both from viruses, how come I can clobber cold viruses and not warts? If you are from LA you would never ask a stranger that question, if you are from SF you would give an answer without a twinge of introspection, even to a question that might seriously affect someone else's life.

No rearview mirrors in SF. Nope, none at all.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I read this again. It's not your fault I felt surly when I whizzed through it yesterday. And I like San Francisco; like it lots. It merits examination.

I'm sorry you've been asked to leave your home. Ocean Beach is nice. Try Bernal Heights, perhaps? It seems slightly middle-class, as far as the City goes. I have a colleague who lives there; she says so, and I believe her.

Your friend's shirt sounds interesting. Who made it?

I read this again. Now, I see: if you'd eaten your breakfast inside, you would have had nothing to write about.

"He wore a suit jacket and a densely woven shirt with french cuffs. Cufflinks. He didn't wear a belt on his black jeans, and I assumed that it was intentional; it was a good look."

No, it wasn't.

BoHan (#29)

In LA our assholes are out and proud. I'm not sure we're ready for these SF assholes camouflaged as the priced-out middle class.

descriptdds (#274,000)

This guy sounds awful and insufferable.

OMG yes please: everyone move to LA. The weather is AMAZING. Never mind the traffic and civil unrest!

@vigorousnorth (#274,413)

Hey want to invest in my startup? It tells San Franciscans when their ideas are bad.

106433398@twitter (#274,468)

So many oral sex references!!! Cocksuckers and blow job weather…makes me sad. Don't leave SF, mat. Don't do it!! We need straight guys talking about fellatio. The gays need hope or at least this one does!

randalmflo (#274,587)

I like it!

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