Sitting in the sunny South Park, watching dogs and their humans walk by, I suddenly remembered — it is two decades since I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco. Again, I almost didn’t remember. It took a random text message from an old friend in New York that reminded me of the 20th anniversary.
I came here reluctantly — mostly because I had no choice. I hung on to my storage unit, thinking I would eventually return, so why move everything over? I kept the phone number too. The storage unit and its contents are gone. Only the number remains, and some friendships. Otherwise, New York is now a distant memory, a part of my life that never will be. And neither will be the New York of those days. What remains is a map of memories I like to visit occasionally.
“New York’s streets and corners have a story attached to them and I guess that gives a sense of belonging, and in the process act as a markers on the timeline called life,” I once wrote on my blog.” I don’t feel that same way about San Francisco, even though I have lived here for 10 years. I guess, it will always be a place where I live, just not home.” I still have a tough time considering San Francisco as home, but by my definition, it is closer to home today than it was a decade ago. On the tenth anniversary of my move, I wrote, “It turned out to be a good move, for I got a chance to live my dream and indulge in my passion.” I succeeded as a reporter. I tried my hand at starting a company. I grappled with mortality. I enjoyed my foray into investing.
I moved to San Francisco in a downturn, but even then, you could see that things were about to turn. There was no Twitter. No Facebook. No Digg. No iPhone. Yet, there were a few believers that would eventually become Web 2.0. Eventually, Social Media would arrive. And so will the mobile revolution. There would be a downturn, and then an unprecedented boom. Out of nowhere, San Francisco would become Babylon again. A pandemic, a downturn, and just like that, there is another (AI) spring just around the corner. In his book, Season of the Witch, San Franciscan David Talbot writes:
“San Francisco beckoned to dreamers and losers everywhere. Many of them found the paradise they were seeking, free of the small voices that had hobbled them. Stewart Brand, Chet Helms, Janis Joplin, Jann Wenner, Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Crumb. More and more rebels arrived every day. They found one another, they formed bands, they started underground enterprises, they made history. San Francisco was Radio Free America, beaming its message of liberation around the world and summoning an endless army of outcasts. Crumb”
Who knows, someday someone will remember I lived here as well.
San Francisco has been good to me. Actually, very good — thanks to so many amazing friends. They have helped accrue a lot of interest in the memory bank of life. Incredibly, I don’t want to be somewhere else. Unlike many who came after me, and have left before me, and unlike those who quit the city publicly, I am still here. There must be a reason.
Maybe, I like its beach. Or maybe I like the light, and I like the fog. Or it must be that I like the idea of wearing a cardigan every day. I can wear boots and slip-on loafers, all within a few hours. I like that I can be anywhere in the city, and feel like I am somewhere else. It is a big small town. And there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t get me wrong — it has its faults. It would take a big part of a thick notebook to write out its faults. And that wouldn’t even include its politicians and politics.
As Gary Kamiya so eloquently wrote in my favorite book about San Francisco, Cool Gray City of Love:
“San Francisco, by contrast, is all about the collision between man and the universe. It is on auto-derive. Anarchic, blown-out, naked, it shuffles its own crazy deck.”
San Francisco isn’t perfect — but it’s okay. Neither am I!
March 26, 2023. San Francisco
One thought on “Two Decades Later”
…still trying to understand what home is. I worked, lived and retired within an 8 mile radius for 64+ years. I am familiar with my surroundings, however it feels less like home (and I honestly like where I am). Hopefully it’s just the perspective of age (and not cognitive degeneration)…
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