Monday, November 9, 2009


William De Avila Elementary School
Wednesday morning


I hate this place. It stinks and it's dirty and there's piss everywhere and needles and garbage and yesterday when I went for a run in the park I had to traverse a trail that had been completely covered in used toilet paper. I've been robbed at gunpoint here, just down the street from my apartment. San Francisco is expensive, and I'll never be able to afford to buy a home. The city government is corrupt, there's nowhere to park, the people are all fucking crazy, and don't even get me started about MUNI.

I'm never leaving, motherfuckers.

I moved here about a dozen years ago. My plan was to stick around for a year and then head for the brighter lights of New York, and a glamorous career in publishing. Instead I've been here ever since. Because as much as I hate this place--and I do, I really, really do--I love it even more. I'm originally from Alabama. I spent my late teens and early 20s in Georgia. I've also lived in Colorado, Virginia, South Carolina, Iran and Kuwait. But if you ask, I'll tell you I'm a San Franciscan.

I adore this never-ending freakshow of a city. It's a place that taught me to be comfortable and confident with who I am. I love moving between its various scenes, from hipsters to hippies to house kids to old school punk rockers, political activists, futurists, artists, scientists, students, burners, bohemians, surfers, cyclists, and tech-addled transplants who dream of changing the world. (Or at least: making a lot of money.) I love its Victorian charm, the grit of its industrial zones, the beauty of its Bay and ocean. The hills and the way the fog comes tumbling across the sides of Sutro, gliding across the valleys into the heart of the city.

I love going to parties and striking up conversations with people who've come from other places--Arizona and Nebraska and Oklahoma and Mississippi and Massachusetts and Paris and Peru and Senegal and points beyond--to make a new life here next to the ocean, on the farthest edge of the American experiment. And I love that experimentation. I love the gay boys and the butch dykes and those with many myriad variations of self-defined gender roles that illustrate so well why it's a plane, and not a polar construct. We're not afraid of something new. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. We'll take it, we'll try it, we'll embrace that which you fear and show you that it's not so bad. That it's good. That it's better, even.

I love running through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, and across coastal trails that look down on the crashing Pacific. Riding my bike across the brilliant red bridge into sunny Marin county, and looking back on the city hidden below fog, like cake beneath a layer of perfect white frosting. I love watching the sun crash into the Pacific to die another day, and the moon rise big and yellow over the hills of the East Bay, floating softly above our low slung skyline.

And I love that it's the city where I fell in love. Where I met my beautiful, kind, and caring wife, whose heart is as big as California itself. Who took me in not despite but because of eccentricities. It was in this landscape where we first looked deeply into each others eyes and saw the future spread out fifty years before us. And it was always here. Right here.

I'm never leaving. I just want to make it better. My dear friend and sometimes mentor Patrick Hughes, the Baron of Haight Street, told me that this is a city that rewards those who give to it. "Give to San Francisco, and San Francisco will give back to you." And I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change it. I'll live with that I hate, because it's worth it all for that I love.


Jeff D said...

Mat, i love hating that you wrote this before i did!

lisey said...

Mat, sums it up nice. And Julie, you are a fantastic photographer.

Kourosh said...

Lovely piece. My sentiments exactly.

And you lived in Iran?!

Jeremy Brooks said...

That's well written. I often wish I lived in the city proper, rather than just working here.

I hate San Francisco as well (the entire Bay area, really), for all the reasons you listed. Living in the East Bay and just working in San Francisco, I have never had the chance to fall in love with the city, though I always felt that I could.

mat said...

Kourosh: Have we not had this discussion? Yeah, I lived in Tehran when I was a kid, from the time I was two until right around when I turned six. My mom and I moved back to the States in '78. My dad in '79.

Richard Ault said...

I hate this town too, though the more I love it, but more it loves me. Nice summation of place.

Matt Shepherd said...

Thank you for fucking nailing it.

Rusty H said...