My first visit to San Francisco was in 1995. A friend of mine from Chicago had moved to SF several months earlier, and he wanted to show me his new home. At the time, I was living in Chicago for about five years, having grown up in New York. I loved living in NYC and had grown to love Chicago, as well. While NY will always be home, Chicago, for me, always felt like a stop on the way to somewhere else.
We took in Fisherman’s Warf, hiked around the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Mason, rented a car and toured Napa, and headed south to the redwoods. It was magical, but so is a trip to Paris. It is easy to fall in love with a city when you are on vacation with friends.
Over the next few years, I visited San Francisco and grew to love it. One evening, while staying at my friend’s SOMA loft, it rained through the night. The loft was in an old, converted factory, and there were giant skylights through, and the rained pelted the glass. That rainy night sealed the deal. I wanted to live in the Bay Area.
The actual move itself took a few more years. I changed jobs and joined a startup. As we were growing, the startup was looking to expand its Chicago footprint. The west coast seemed like an obvious place to grow. In October 2000, I moved to San Francisco with a cat named Scudder.
Finding an Apartment
Anyone looking for an apartment in SF knows this is no easy task. Rents compared to Chicago were probably double, the actual apartments were shabby at best, and 30 others were trying to land the same place. Welcome to SF!
I tried another approach. A friend knew a couple leaving SF for Austin, and their apartment might be available soon. I had a way in, sort of. The problem was while they were considering their move to Texas, they had yet to commit to a timeline. I was ready to move in, but they weren’t quite prepared to leave the Bay Area. I waited 3-4 months before the apartment finally became available.
The apartment was a flat in old Victorian up on Potrero Hill. The kitchen windows faced west overlooking the Mission and Twin Peaks. I could not have been happier. While I clearly would miss my Chicago friends, I never hesitated to move to SF. Not since NYC had I felt I was finally home.
Shortly after the move, I adopted a pit-lab rescue and became a true resident. Before adopting Puck, I didn’t know my neighbors and much about the area that did not exist between my home and an office I had opened in Soma – but having a dog changed all that. Puck was about a year old with all the energy of a lab. Thus, there were lots of walks and trips to dog-friendly areas around the City.
Those walks introduced me to neighbors who I would now see twice daily. Our regular hangout was the rec center in Potrero, and now I had dog friends. Most mornings, we would spend an hour or two with a community of local dog owners. We drank coffee, gossiped, and communed over our mutual dog-walking duties.
With Puck in tow, weekends were for more extended dog outings – the beach at Fort Funston, Bernal Hill, Glen Canyon, McClaren Park, Stern Grove, and trips over the bridge to Muir Woods. I took him everywhere. He became a regular at Thinker’s Café in Potrero as I drank coffee, and he enjoyed a treat from the barrister. SF life was good.
A few years later, I was walking Puck on Bernal Hill and met a fellow dog owner with a lab. We chatted, the dogs got along (an absolute requirement in any romantic prospect), and we agree to meet for dinner the next day. This February, we will have been together for 16 years. SF became home between dog walks, community gardens, and trips to Half Moon Bay for clam chowder and heading north to the Russian River and Tahoe.
Fast forward to today, and clearly, life has changed, but not my love for the City by the Bay. Amistad Maupin’s “Tales of the City” captured the magic of all the City has to offer. Over the years, we have had our own version with visits to the Castro, Frameline Film Festival, brunches in on the water in Dogpatch, outdoor movies at Dolores Park, Dim Sum in Chinatown, and so much more.
Over the years, the City has changed. Mission Bay has exploded, the skyline has changed with sinking or is it tilting skyscrapers, areas have gentrified, but underneath it all, SF is still SF.
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We Will Rebuild
The latest news is filled with stories of folks abandoning the Bay Area, corporations moving to more price-friendly cities, and much hand-wringing over San Francisco’s future. Businesses are closing due to extended COVID lockdowns, rents are plummeting, and home prices are skyrocketing. For many, it is not worth it.
For the rest of us, this is our home through thick and thin. Sure, it’s not easy right now, but then again, that can be said for any city impacted by COVID. But, this too shall pass, and San Francisco may be a better place to live as a result. We still have our community gardens, dog parks, the ocean, the fog, and our citizens. Film Festivals will return, restaurants will emerge, we will run (or walk) Bay to Breakers, and we will rollerblade in Golden Gate Park.
As small business owners, we have faced many of the challenges of surviving during this difficult time. But we are committed to this city and the local businesses that support it. These local businesses create jobs and support the community, unlike the corporations choosing to pick up and relocate because it is economically advantageous to do so. They are our farmers’ markets, our local merchants, service providers, and so much more.
We want to be part of the solution.
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