I moved to San Francisco as a kid in Mid-Eighties, and lived there for much of my life there on off since then. Though I wasn’t born there, I consider myself a local- a lot of my mom’s side of the family go back 4 generations in the Bay. Even found out my Great-Great Grandfather, back in 1898, used to guard Fort Point (the old Civil War fort at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge!).
Although its my home and always will be in my heart, so much has changed about it that I find so disheartening. The culture, the music scene, a homogenizing ethnic mix, prices, overcrowding and congested. All has changed for the worst I feel, with not much to speak of to it’s improvement. For those that remember it, SF was a place where a group of friends could rent a rambling Victorian mansion, live there and rehearse their crazy rock band, do their performance art, splatter paint everywhere in the garage etc, and afford a simple, stable livelihood all the while working at a used record store.
The city of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana, Mission Lowrider Culture and Haight-Ashbury Counterculture. A refuge for eccentrics, bad poets, dreamers, gay runaways, gutter punks, nomads, weirdos, freaks, musicians, Hare Krishnas, drag queens, ravers, political activists, slackers and hard-working poor immigrants- all gone (or just about). What a thrilling brew it was!
As a teenager growing up there in the 90s, it was still a run-down, wild place: exploring old Beatnik dive bars in North Beach, checking out alternative music shows in the Haight, running through Golden Gate Park at two in morning out of our gourds on God knows what. It was a freewheeling place to be young, we pretty much got to do whatever we wanted. It was only when I left to go to college, that I met other suburban and smaller town folks, and realized what a strange, alternate reality existence I’d been living that was at complete odds from the rest of the country’s experience. It was a true privilege, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world though.
But now, the City just appears more and more like a gated community for the Millionaire Class. Pretty much everyone I grew up with has now moved out of the city to the outer exurbs, or out of state entirely. And honestly, it just breaks my heart to see another mom & pop Mexican bakery close down to make way for some trendy, sleek martini bar full of bearded zombies thumbing through their smartphones.The Hippies may have started their Revolution, but it was the 1% who won the final war. SF now has a level of wealth inequality on par with Rwanda, yes Rwanda!!
The homeless problem appears to be as bad as ever, and studio apartments are now going for $2,500 (are they connected?). Ah, the fruits of economic progress… How and where do artists, actors and musicians make their homes and their art anymore? It’s not like we get paid like lawyers and bankers. In which city will the next great counterculture movement or musical trend rear it’s rebellious head? Somehow, I doubt it will ever be in The City By The Bay Again…