Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 8, 2007
I couldn’t have said this better myself. You can find the original commentary here in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
By Steven Jones
City living isn’t for everyone. It gets messy, crowded, stinky, loud, scary, and downright weird. Sometimes people block your car even when you have a green light and pound their fists on your hood if you honk. They wear outrageous costumes, play silly games, and follow ridiculous trends. They yell and laugh too loud right outside your window when you’re trying to sleep. Occasionally they pee in your doorway, graffiti your wall, grab your ass, or barf on your shoes.
But that’s city living, and I love it.
If you want clean and orderly, there are plenty of small towns and suburbs to choose from. You can probably even get front and back yards and a roomy house big enough for 2.5 children and assorted pets for what you’re paying for your apartment here. Tempting? Then you should do it. Really. We’ll all be very supportive of your decision to leave if it comes to that, no hard feelings. I might even help you pack and find a new occupant for your place.
But if you want to shut down our party or expect us to dance around your delicate sensibilities, we’re gonna have to fight. And guess what? We’ll win. There are more of us in this crazy town than there are of you … and we aren’t afraid. We dodge SUVs on bicycles, brush past ranting lunatics, stand tall against cops in riot gear, pierce painful parts, bring strange people home to do unspeakable things, cavort with revolutionaries, and take way too many drugs. So there’s no way we’re caving in to the NIMBYs, the conservatives, or the complainers who want to banish our beloved chaos.
The Guardian has long embraced true city living, from the Summer of Love and its hordes of hippies to the summer of 2007, when our glorious urban messiness is being threatened by the forces of gentrification, corporatization, homogenization, normalization, and stagnation. Once-radical neighborhoods like the Castro and the Haight are increasingly filled with aging homeowners, some of whom have grown frustrated with aspects of city living they once embraced.
Increasingly, however, these tragic naysayers are being confronted by groups such as the San Francisco Party Party, which was created to oppose the forces that are suburbanizing our great city. Last Halloween I donned a beard and stovepipe hat and joined the Party Party’s Abe Lincoln brigades as they cruised the Castro. Why Abe? Why not? Two dozen Abes strolled past the phalanxes of cops on overtime whose presence the nervous Nellies had urged (and who couldn’t stop violence from breaking out anyway), whooping it up until the party was shut down at the ridiculously early hour of 10:30 p.m. and city water trucks chased the partyers away, a sight that almost made us weep – and provoked the crowd into a state of restless frustration.
City living is about keeping the party going, not ending it. It’s a massive pillow fight in Justin Herman Plaza. It’s placing your body and bike in front of the angry guy in the Hummer who wants to cut through Critical Mass. It’s the drunken decision to get another tattoo or the hungry impulse to try an unfamiliar taquería. It’s wearing a chicken suit to confront a cowardly mayor. It’s watching Willy Wonka or the World Cup on massive screens in Dolores Park that somebody set up just because they thought it would be cool. It’s a bonfire on Ocean Beach, a blog argument over the latest city hall scandal, a giant purple head suddenly appearing in Golden Gate Park, street dancing at the late, lamented How Weird Street Faire, a bunch of wasted Santas bar crawling through North Beach, a sunny afternoon at Zeitgeist, a shopping trip to the Haight for a good pair of Burning Man goggles.
Or maybe for you it’s something else, something I’ve never thought or heard of, just some eccentric thing you and your freaky friends like to do. San Francisco has thousands of dynamic social pockets, big and small, each with its own passions, routines, and language. And not all civically spirited events are exotic, either. I’ve felt the abstract joy of the Bay descend during the most pedestrian of tasks, like when this great old guy in the Mission fixed the loose soles on my combat boots (bought used on Haight for $20 a few months ago and walked down many wild paths since) and made me a new key for my dog walker, a woman whose control over a large and combustible crew of canines borders on the miraculous.
Whatever our ideas of city living may be, there’s a reason we’re all living in the city, making San Francisco what it is. Some of the corporate-owned publications in town seem to enjoy mocking the free-living, forward-thinking sensibilities we embrace, dismissively deploying their “only in San Francisco” eye roll or casting progressives as somehow floating outside the country’s political spectrum.
Don’t let them put a ding in your wa, as my DJ friend Syd Gris likes to say. We know that it’s the rest of the country that’s the problem, not us. Luckily, there are a million things to do in this beautiful and bountiful city while we wait for the rest of the world to catch up