Scratch

September 10, 2009

It’s not a city of lost souls. It’s not a place where the hopeless end up. From its origins San Francisco has always been a city for the certain few who know that life can be lived in better ways. The early settlers panned for gold, hoping to establish their security through labor and luck; for them, the history of the east retained its oppression. Women fought for and obtained equal rights there; so too did minority races. And in recent years the gay population has endeavored to show that it, too, belongs to the species of homo sapiens, backwards though it may be, fine and dandy overall. This is all to say nothing of the current technocrats who are not satisfied until every acre of land has wires buried beneath it, and every space of air is transmitting frequencies, all for the sake of a better “standard for living.”

And embedded in these pockets of social and economic changes stand out the individuals, nameless as they are. No one moves here without understanding that they lack something. No one living here is not in a frenzied pursuit for a missing piece of themselves. No matter if they’re trying to recreate youth, or hosting sustainable gourmet feasts, or creating costumed bar crawls. Everyone is searching. Whether they find what they seek is irrelevant. The important thing is that they’re looking. The heart knows what it lacks.

The first question San Franciscans ask is “Where are you from?” Since the city is migratory, everyone knows their residence is as temporary as their neighbors. For the sake of conversation, it helps to discuss with fond recollection “the old life,” to quickly follow up with your endevours in San Francisco. The contrast between the two is important, to the speaker as well as the listener. It sets a sort of challenge to everyone involved, to dare to follow the dreams they separately made. That’s as close a label as it can get, probably. A city of dreamers. The world spins in its elliptical orbit while the citizens of San Francisco drift along in their own manners, impervious to land outside its borders.

Hordes of men and women move here out of their own original seed, and while some remain ecstatic over the possibility of bonding with like-minded humans, others turn bitter. It is very difficult to be original here, a city that has seen everything, a city that will permit anything. Within it you will find your niche, and soon after you may discover cliques that even you are not privileged to join. Those who do not accept this basic fact of life–that there are always people better than you–turn vicious.

Happiest are those who appreciate the enthusiasms of others, but find themselves unsuitable for higher callings. After many years of struggles, false starts, external and internal obstacles, depression, and doubt, they transform themselves into the person they wanted to see. Most usually leave, not out of spite, but gratitude. They say goodbye to their city with teary eyes. They have taken what the could, and most important, they have given it everything they had. And yet, they owe San Francisco their lives.