I’ve always heard that when you find The One, you just know; you feel it deep within your gut.
I’d lived in San Francisco for two weeks when I pulled up to the intersection of Castro and 18th with my best friend, Shane, who’d also recently moved here. As we waited for the light to turn green, we silently watched the flurry of activity happening on each corner: an elderly, shirtless tranny wearing a pink boa and hot pants on one corner, the Cheer for Life cheerleaders building a pyramid on another, a small group carrying protest signs and petitions on another corner, and two hot gay men making out in front of a puppy adoption center on the last corner.
And that’s when I knew. I was in love—with an entire city. San Francisco was The One for me.
Those corner activities might not seem like a big deal to most people. But I grew up in the South, where “gay” is still a dirty word in some places and nice Southern girls are taught to mind their Ps and Qs and just generally not cause a fuss, let alone lead a protest. So that thirty-second vignette of SF life left me breathless with excitement for what was to come … and I wasn’t disappointed.
Seven years and seven San Francisco neighborhoods later, I’m still as in love with the city as I was that day in the Castro. On several occasions, my continued residency here has been uncertain (thank you very much, dot.com layoffs), but I’ve fought Mike Tyson–style for the privilege to pay through the nose—an average rental price of $2261 per month for a one-bedroom—to stay here. With prices like that, most non-SF residents probably wonder why it’s worth it. But those of us lucky enough to live here know exactly why we persevere.
For example, not a single day has passed since living here that I haven’t found something new to admire; a hidden staircase, a quaint alley, an undiscovered view, a beautiful mural, an unexplored street, or a tucked-away park. Track housing is unheard of in San Francisco, making every journey out an adventure because no two buildings look the same, thanks to the varying architecture and intricate paint jobs.
I’m also constantly awed by the amazing ocean and bay views I get daily, just casually making my way around the city. Growing up in Kentucky, the only water I ever saw was the wave pool, or when we hopped on I-64 and crossed the Kentucky River. Now, I have a clear view from my office window of the San Francisco Bay and the mountains of Marin behind it. Most weekends, I walk or run through Golden Gate Park and end up at Ocean Beach, where I sit (sometimes wrapped in fleece and a scarf) watching the wet-suited surfers for hours.
Then there are the sounds. The streetcars buzzing along the rails on Market Street. The earthquake preparedness warning signal at noon on Tuesdays. The foghorn blaring in the distance just as I’m about to drift off to sleep. The steady stream of protestors on the street outside my office building. Even the buses sound graceful (most of them) as they hum quietly along their electric cables.
But perhaps the thing I love most about San Francisco is the diversity. The diversity of people, ideas, cultures, architecture, foods, neighborhoods, styles … you name it. Sure, every major city is diverse, but I challenge you to find a more nurturing and accepting community for virtually every type of niche imaginable. When I was looking for an apartment on Craigslist, for example, I found a posting that requested the future renter be a single, non-television possessing, bisexual Buddhist who worked in a creative job, didn’t eat meat, and didn’t own a car. To further complicate matters, the future renter also needed to be completely “scent-free,” meaning, no perfumes, scented candles, scented laundry detergent, hair products, makeup, etc. At the time, I laughed at the post and thought they’d never find such a person. The very next day, the post had been taken down. The vacancy had been filled.
I’ve lived in other cities—New York, London, Seattle, and Atlanta, to name a few—and I think they’re great places. But I came to San Francisco at a difficult time in my life and found peace, beauty, and friendship without question—from the people, but also somehow from the city itself. Relief and happiness just seemed to roll in every day with the fog, right through my open window. Maybe that’s why I love it so fiercely. Or maybe it has something to do with all the delicious food, wine, and fabulous gay men who’ve befriended me.
Tony Bennett might have left his heart here, but I prefer to keep every part of me inside this seven mile by seven mile foggy dreamland. I’m a lifer.
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