There has been talk in the news these days about how the quirkiness of San Francisco is actually shocking those who are either watching the Giants in the World Series or visiting our city in order to attend the games. Part of me finds this amusing, yet part of it disturbs me a little. It is true that San Francisco is a very liberal environment where freedom of expression is pretty much viewed as a God given right. It is also true that you may see things here that disturb you at times. You may have to think. Isn’t it a good thing to get out of your comfort zone? I have listed a few things you may find unsettling if you visit San Francisco:
1. Homeless. Yes, we do have a large number of homeless people. It is part of the fabric of our city. Many of them come from all over the United States because we have a milder climate and charitable people. Some are down on their luck and can’t find employment in this economy, some have mental of physical disabilities that prevent them from keeping a job or even working through the piles of government paperwork required before they can get assistance, and some are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Also, some are on the streets because of issues that I haven’t even listed here. Please don’t judge our homeless; you could be there too someday with just a couple of bad business decisions or hard luck. The homeless people are San Franciscans. They live here, they eat here, and when they buy stuff they are also paying taxes here. Many of the homeless have become expert recyclers. They collect bags and bags of plastic and then sale them to recyclers driving pickups who take the bags to the centers. The San Franciscans who are homeless are definitely doing their part in saving the environment.
2. Marijuana. You may see people smoking marijuana out in the open. If you don’t see it, you will probably smell it if you spend a few nights walking through the city. The police will not do much about this, so don’t expect it. I’m just making you aware that it is very possible you might see or smell this drug being used if you visit San Francisco.
3. Costumes. It is not uncommon to see people in costume no matter what time of year. They might be heading to a party, or they may just want to have a personal dress up day just for themselves. It may be shocking to see Darth Vader walk down the sidewalk or a vampire, but just ask yourself why does it matter to you? Are they really doing any harm?
4. Nudity. Honestly, I saw a lot more nudity when I lived in Portland than I have ever seen in San Francisco. For the most part, you won’t see naked people if you visit San Francisco. These occurences are usually more limited to specific events like Folsom Street Fair, Gay Pride, or the Bay to Breakers race.
5. Homosexuals. Ok, yes, you will see a lot of gay people. They may be holding hands, kissing, or sitting in a restaurant with their arms around each other. This may shock you, but is it hurting anyone? Whether you approve or not, this shouldn’t affect your visit to the city. Please don’t glare or stare. This is one of the few places in the United States where gay people can be themselves without worrying about being beat up, killed, having their house burned, or losing their job. This may sound over dramatic, but if you read the newspapers all of these things are possible in other parts of the country.
6. Drag Queens. Some drag queens are transgendered and this is how they feel most comfortable presenting themselves to the world, and some do it for fun. Some do it for charitable causes. Whatever the reason, it can be a little shocking when you first come in contact with a cross-dresser, but please be respectful. What does it prove to call someone names or glare? Unless you like to chip away at other people’s self-esteem, I think demeaning anyone is fruitless. Keep in mind that most cross-dressing men are actually heterosexuals. How many male bosses have you had or even friends that may be wearing panties under those masculine jeans?
7. High Real Estate Prices. I admit, these are truly scary. OMG! When going on a camp out instead of reading ghost stories to scare your friends, just bring a copy of the San Francisco real estate guide. They will wake up in a cold sweat screaming at the top of their lungs. We are one of the most expensive markets, just behind Manhattan, N.Y. Why are prices so high? Because people want to live here. It is a beautiful place to live and a nice way of life.
8. Public Peeing. The other day at two different times I saw people peeing against a building. Why does this seem to happen so much? There are very few public restrooms in the city, and some restaurants don’t have public bathrooms. I’m still a little shocked when I see it, but I’m not going to judge them. We could all be in that same position just because we drank that extra glass of tea at lunch. As I said, there are very few public restrooms in this city.
I’m not saying that it is always easy living or visiting here. Parking is an Olympic event, cabs can be non-existent when you need them, wait time to get into a restaurant can be exhausting, and it may feel like there are people everywhere. Sometimes this city can kick your butt and make you want to throw up your hands and run back to the Midwest with your tale between your leg. It’s true. It happens. But it is at this point that you go to a cool play or join a quirky new group. You experience a great evening with friends eating a phenomenal meal at one of the incredible restaurants in town. You walk on the beach or stroll through Golden Gate Park. You take a hike to Twin Peaks and look over the city toward the bay and turn around and look over the city to the beach. You just take a deep breath and count your blessings.
This is a great city, and there is no place quite like it in America. It is a liberal city where people can be themselves and do what they want to do without apologies to society as a whole. It is a place of fun, frolic, imagination, and knowledge.
It is ok to be a little shocked by us. Sometimes I’m still a little shocked too. But don’t judge us harshly, instead just relax and enjoy this quirky little city that so many call home.