I've had a great weekend, going out to dinner Friday night with K and B, and Saturday getting up early and doing the full tour of the Paramount Theatre, finding the There in Oakland, discovering the wonder of consumerism that is Target and getting less clueless-newbie about using the BART, all thanks to G, a friend of former housemate Karinski. G also took me to Club Trans Am (which needed more dancing, and a few more people) and then Playboy at The Stud (which needed better music, and lots more people). Don't worry, I'll find the best nightlife in town eventually... I have years to try.
Sunday I decided to just walk around and get a feel for my new neighbourhood, so I did a lot of exploring of The Mission and took lots of photos, now uploaded for your edification, along with much droll commentary.
There's so much I can say about SF, and I'm only just getting started. Random things that pop into my head, before I forget them:
- Jack Bauer jokes are funny.
- Americans are absurdly generous of their time
- Portions are HUGE. I know everyone says this, but occasionally someone will place a plate of food in front of me the size of my torso. I am gaining weight rapidly: next week's project is to join a gym. Food is just everywhere, always of high quality and low price, temptingly displayed, cheerfully served... no wonder these people are fat. I also understand veganism now: in a city of so much food, even an ultra-strict filter like veganism only cuts out about 90% of the food available. It's certainly a choice based on health, but I suspect the health benefits come more from the way it acts as a brake on what is otherwise an unending supply of delicious food everywhere.
- I've missed hills and views. Seeing things that are far away is pleasing at some deep, instinctive monkey level.
- I love being able to walk around antique furniture stores as a bona fide customer, both in need of furniture and able to afford the pieces on display*. I also love the availability of art deco furniture everywhere. Having taken care of the bare essentials, I have decided I'm going to spend the next 6 months slowly furnishing the rest of the apartment with lovely deco pieces. Not only are they intrinsically pleasing, but I love the idea of owning furniture that gets more valuable the longer I hang on to it.
- The Castro is extremely gay. It's not gay like Soho, with its concentration of gay-specific stores, it's like Main Street, Gaytown: there are all the same things you get everywhere else, they're just all gay. Gay banks, gay hardware stores, gay groceries, gay tacquerias, gay thai restaurants, gay real estate agents, gay clothing, gay convenience stores, gay record shops, gay dvd stores. And now I think about it, Soho has lots of these: it's just these are all concentrated into one long street, so it's more obviously GayTown.
- The gays! They're everywhere! Not content with the occasional lesbian couple strolling hand in hand down Valencia, there are just gay couples everywhere. In the supermarket. Walking their stereotypical little dog. Bitching at each other in the hardware store over paint colours. Picking out books at the second-hand book store on the basis of the shape of the book, rather than the content ("is it square enough to look good on that shelf?"). All the stafff in the stores are gay too: unnecesarily butch lesbians stacking shelves in the book store; a flirty, lisping asian guy at the (over-priced) designer store; a sincerely friendly hispanic guy at the (much cheaper, much more interesting) t-shirt shop. It's like this weird alternate universe where every other person is gay or lesbian.
- I love cheap taxis. They're wonderful. You can find them, you can afford them, and it takes no time to get to your destination once you're in them. It's like magic. No wonder nobody uses buses over here.
- The BART has much bigger, prettier stations than London Underground. But obviously it hardly goes anywhere relative to the tube.
- I almost forgot the most obvious thing: it's early February, and the sun rose at 7am, shone all day in a cloudless sky, warmed the city to a delightful 19 degrees celsius, and then set at a quite respectable 5.30pm.
...in short, I'm in love, guys. This city is wonderful. It's not London, it's something else: complementary rather than competitive, a totally different way of viewing the world, a different lifestyle, a different attitude. It's exciting and amazing and alternately ugly and beautiful and chaotic and young. And every day something new and strange will happen and I'll remember: wow. I live here now.
I have a shiny new toy, and years to learn how to make it work.
* Antiques are for some reason plentiful around here, and furniture in general is a lot cheaper here, so for a little more than you'd pay in the UK for an IKEA table, you can get an actual, antique table.