Atta Ikede

March 13, 2008

The L.A. girls and the inside scoop on San Francisco

Filed under: San Francisco — Tags: — attaikede @ 4:06 am

I joined a soccer team. I just joined up on my own and it appears that most of the other people on my team did as well. Fun! Most of the teammates seem really nice or at least are pretty good at soccer. I assisted in 1 goal. We creamed the opposition, winning 5-2! (:
The interesting surprise about this team is that all the girls other than me are blonde (not naturally) and live in the Marina district! Just visualize the stereotypical California blonde girl in terms of appearance, speech patterns, etc and it’ll be pretty accurate, at least for this crew. 2 of them are from LA and just moved here a couple weeks ago. I think it’s going to be fun being on a team with them, and i’m really curious to see whether we’ll end up being friends or not.

Now the Marina district is like … a way trendier, more expensive and much prettier version of say, Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto. Concentration of young people, shopping, restaurants etc. Pro-Marina people say that the restaurants are great, lots of cute shops and the locals are hot (you know, attractive females and hot guys who drive beemers and probably work in finance). Anti-Marina people say that it’s where the high maintenance clone people live.

There’s truth to both viewpoints. There’s definitely a very strong clone vibe – the point about my teammates being blonde is funny because it seems like all the blondes in San Fran live in the Marina. It’s also the only neighbourhood where I saw guys walking around with their golf shirt collars turned up — a classic sign of a guy that’s just too trendy to be real. Those guys are probably wearing Diesel jeans too, but I couldn’t tell when I was driving by. And those Beemers? Yeah .. those bastards cut me off multiple times when I was driving down there house hunting during the past couple weeks. I took revenge though, so we’re all square. It also appears to be the “whitest” neighbourhood. Nobody specifically told me that (whereas lots of people told me about the clones issue) , but it’s something I noticed — probably because the Haight/Mission area where I am now is so hugely latino dominated and certain subway lines I take sometimes have lots of Chinese poeple.

[Sidebar .. I have no idea where Indian people from India live. There are tons and tons of them in San Fran and all over the valley … I see them downtown during work hours, and near tourist attractions, but I never see them on transit or in neighbourhoods when I’m walking around. I do sometimes see “fake” Indians like me on the subway, but even that is rare. Where are the Indians?]

Anyway, on the pro Marina side, it’s very safe and very cute up there (I say up because it’s at the north end of the city. Other people describe it as down because you have to go downhill to get there. My new apartment will be at the top of a hill AND in the north end of the city … obviously I only want to move up (: ). It’s noticeably less of a bum-magnet then the other areas of the city and it’s just better maintained and less run down.

My nickname for San Francisco is “the City of Intersperced Slums” .. because that’s what it’s like here. I’m using the term “slum” to describe a run down place with peeling paint and bedsheets in the sometimes broken windows. People rave about how great San Francisco is, but really, it’s randomly crappy and strange all over the place with pockets of gentrification here and there. Property prices are so crazy that you’ll get dumps next to palaces in the nicest parts of the city and the worst parts of the city! I guess absentee landlords have no incentive to spruce up homes but new buyers flush with cash from their .com cashouts probably want to turn their pads into paradise-nests. Who knows. Aside from that though, the neighbourhoods definitely have a feel to them. For example, walk down Haight Street and you’ll see hitchhikers with guitars strumming for cash trying to get to BC, some stoned looking people hanging out on the street with their dogs, the smell of incense will be in the air and every third store will be some crazy Indian/Nepali/Yoga/Vintage store. It’s very hippie-ish and vibrant and laid back and mellow. I like it. Mission District on the other hand, personally, I find a bit run down, but there are tons of bars everywhere. If you want to go for a beer you can have a choice of 10 places on ONE block. I live near those two neighbourhoods so I know them a bit better, but each neighbourhood in the city has its own restaurant vibe, nightlife vibe, etc. and for a small city, it’s pleasantly multicultural and interesting. Overall, just imagine this neighbourhoody feel with the intersperced slum overlay .. and that’s San Francisco in a nutshell! Marina has less intersperced slums then other neighbourhoods, but as you can see from the cons listed above I guess there’s a price to pay in terms of less of a vibrant environment

I’m very surprised that large parts of the city are still so unsafe and rundown despite the sky-high property prices. The downtown is especially disappointing. Perhaps it’s because most of the silicon valley action has been in the valley (leaving San Francisco downtown to the finance types) and so the area around downtown isn’t in demand and so hasn’t developed? Or maybe it’s because the west coast attracts homeless people from all over North America and there are some large homeless shelters downtown? I actually saw a lineup of homeless men waiting to get into a shelter one time. Never saw that before in my life!! I shouldn’t be surprised though .. after all, this is the city of intersperced slums! Those neighbourhoods are slowly becoming nicer though, and I bet it’ll be completely different in 5 or 10 years. More and more tech firms are starting to open offices downtown or in San Francisco (like where I work!), and there are lots of condos/lofts going up too, which in turn attract restaurants and stores. The areas are still extremely sketchy, but hey … people who can afford $3K for 1 bedroom condo/loft can probably afford a very nice car as well, in which case the state of the neighbourhood really doesn’t matter so much! haha!

I think the best thing about San Francisco is the landscape. The city itself is ok, nothing to rave about for people moving here from a decent city like Toronto, but mountains, the bay, and the hills are incredible. The views and ambiance change every day with the fog and the clouds. I really love it here. The weather is amazing too — perfectly temperate. Not too hot, not too cold. I see people wearing scarves and winter coats in the subway, but they’re probably coming from the west near the Ocean where it’s much foggier and perhaps colder. I live in a more central area and wearing a sweatshirt / light jacket everywhere has been perfect for me.

Hmm.. that was a long and meandering post. Summary – soccer fun, soccer team mates interesting, San Francisco good :)

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