I woke up this morning in San Francisco, stumbled to the coffeemaker and then to my desk…and after turning on the computer, I put on the latest release by GoatWhore, one of New Orleans finest metal bands and leaned back in my chair. Coffee was good, not chicory good, but certainly Peet’s good. I heard shouting from the street, then police sirens and I turned the music up. I hear shouting on the street and police sirens every day, so much so that a lot of the time, they don’t really register and usually, that’s okay…
Today, I love San Francisco and am alright with not living in New Orleans. But yesterday, I was really annoyed with San Francisco and wished I could be in New Orleans.
This is the spectrum I drift across.
Oh, and the GoatWhore CD is called “Blood for the Master,” and it is crazy fucking good and imagine my surprise to hear GoatWhore mentioned in a recent episode of Treme…figures it would be the journalist from the Bay Area who wanted to see their show. But back to my point, what was my point?
Indecisiveness, that and 2001. And Albuquerque, yes, that’s my point…Albuquerque sucks.
But first, 2001 was a pretty big year in my life. I decided to leave Seattle and travel the country, writing. I wound up in Portland, Las Vegas, New York, the Black Hills, Los Angeles, but most important, this is the year I visited both San Francisco and New Orleans for the first time…and now in 2012, I’ve spent time living in both places.
The span I lived in New Orleans was pre-Katrina so rents were cheap. I worked 26 hours a week tending bar and this was enough to pay all my bills and go out, often. I didn’t really leave the Quarter much, where I lived and worked and I had a good time. Met a lot of good people and some not-so-good, but that’s to be expected. I was a bartender and the people who make up the service industry, at least back then were all drama, all the time. Kind of like living in a soap opera of who’s sleeping with who, who’s getting fired from where and who got beat up last night. I remember getting tipped with Saints tickets, with LSD, all kinds of fun stuff. Good times really, I enjoyed it. Funny to me that I had to move away to begin exploring the city more, leaving the Quarter’s comfy confines and heading Uptown, Mid-City or to the Bywater, the Marigny…wherever. But what I remember most about my time living in New Orleans, besides the amazing food and plentiful booze was that I was glad to leave…not because of any real dislike of the city, it was simply because I missed social work. I was unable to find a social work gig while I was in town and bartending, though definitely fun, was feeling overall pretty meaningless to me. I wanted to get back to work helping people and so I left for the Midwest, with plans to stay for a year and build up a nest egg before relocating again to San Francisco, a place where I may not have liked the culture as much as New Orleans, but it had the social work gigs.
And that’s what I did.
Did I mention GoatWhore’s new release?
Really good…and they’re playing One Eyed Jacks on November 19th. Do yourself a favor…go, and make me jealous for going. I won’t hate you…
So I moved out to San Francisco and stayed for about five years. It doesn’t have the culture of New Orleans and which culture is better would purely be a matter of taste, but I find mine more suited to New Orleans ease and friendliness and whatnot. Out here, people are less friendly, more isolated and really don’t appear to be having all that much fun. One of the bigger myths you might encounter is this idea of a progressive, liberal San Francisco and sure, there is an element of that, but it is not predominant. This city is about money. Greed. All the artistic freedoms so championed hides a big lie, being that the city is so expensive to live in the people who do live here as musicians or artists or writers really have two choices: live in a studio with two to three roommates or live in Oakland. Everywhere you look…every retail position, server, all the people who make this city run, they don’t live in this city. They commute in to serve the hipster-techies, the financial types and the oh so professional class. Even myself, with a good job…only way I can afford to live here is to reside in a small studio in one of the worst parts of town (worse being relative..I actually like it). But, the work I love to do is here. I have a job where when I get home at night, I feel satisfied and fulfilled for the most part and I have the time and a few dollars to do partake in that which I do enjoy. In a way, San Francisco is kind of like how New Orleans has become for a lot of people, post Katrina. The rents are so high, people can’t afford it. Property companies in San Francisco are buying up as many of the buildings as they can in my neighborhood, sometimes even sitting on empty apartments while they watch the rental market rate climb, then they hold open houses and charge each person thirty dollars to run credit checks, and a week later they’ll do it again, and again. On average, 20-30 people apply for each of these apartments, each time there’s a viewing. Do the math…
Yes, love/hate it is…the arts out here are something to experience…the art museums, all the concerts within walking distance, the scenery of the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, all the hills with their huge, majestic views of downtown or North Beach. Man, it’s really beautiful, especially if you ignore the police brutality in my neighborhood, all the tax breaks given to all the tech start-ups while the city cuts funding to social programs. That, and the drinks’ll cost you ten bucks, plus if you go to a bar with “Mixologists,” you’ll get some goofy drink with bacon in it for twenty dollars while everyone in the joint, mixologists and clientele alike take themselves really, really seriously.
So yeah…it’s a love/hate kind of thing.
Just ask the guy who lives on the sidewalk in front of my building.
When I come home at night, he’s sleeping on cardboard. When I leave for work in the morning, he smiles and wishes me a good day and I like him, he’s one of the friendliest people in the City, but he’s got no home and I get it. The home he could have is an SRO room filled with crack, bedbugs, roaches, and other assorted predators. This is usually the housing solution for too many low-income people here and I get that it is the same most other places, but when your city lives on a bullshit myth of being “so progressive,” it does make the reality that much more glaring.
I love New Orleans culture, the music, the history, the food…I can picture myself sitting down to a steak at Adolfo’s right now, or maybe lunch at Mandina’s, but there’s few social work jobs in town paying a liveable wage, plus I would more than likely need a car…and I hate cars. Cars suck worse than the San Francisco Police Department, or the NOPD for that matter. Meanwhile…I love San Francisco work, but the culture of this place is so much status, cliques and competition: two worlds of strikingly disparate haves and have nots. Ever see the Hunger Games? Think of all the regular people and the artists being bussed into Capitol City in the Hunger games. Hell, there’s a blog round here which pretty much exists to attack the unfortunate and a particular Chronicle columnist who seems to feel the best way to improve Capitol City would be a Wal-Mart in every neighborhood, built on the ashes of any non-profit and publicly naked person because you know, that’s just common sense.
Really, what an asshole.
Maybe there is a happy medium somewhere, but when I look at a map, that happy medium puts me in New Mexico, somewhere around Albuquerque and I’ve seen Breaking Bad…Albuquerque doesn’t look like fun: blue meth, bleak deserts and the plot lines get real complicated. So yeah, much ongoing in the thought process. Hell, there’s worse things to wonder about. I got a place to sleep, enough to eat and a job I enjoy. I just think a lot, probably too much at times…and I do plan to be up online more often from here on out, get back to the BP Spill…what? That’s still an issue? And more about San Francisco and New Orleans…two best cities in the country, problems or not…and GoatWhore. Much more to come about GoatWhore, spectrums, and the Saints, who won this morning.
Did you know Saints games start here at 10am?
Been a long time since I had a beer in my hand at 10 in the morning and now that I think about it, the last time was when I lived in New Orleans.
Ah, spectrums can be such dilemmas.
Have a nice day.