Dog Bites

And Now, It's Time for Another Round of More San Franciscan Than You

Somewhere along the line, when we were new at the paper and afraid to object when given work, we got stuck writing this column. Of course, then we needed material for it, so we started following city issues and politics more and more closely. We developed interests, fascinations with certain ongoing stories. One thing led to another, and we actually began to have opinions.

However, we must now apologize to our readership: It has recently come to our attention that we are not now and have never been entitled to these opinions. If you have paid attention to any of them you should be aware that they are not valid intellectual currency, and that if you repeat anything you read here, you may be subject to local prosecution.

Our illegal possession of what we had thought were our personal beliefs came to light last week, when we received more than our usual number of voice mail messages beginning, "I don't know how long you've lived in San Francisco, but I've lived here for 20 years/ for 16 years/ since 1982, and ...." Suddenly, we realized that the reason these callers were so angry with us was that we had violated what is for many in this city a fundamental article of faith: San Francisco is so very, very, very special that only those who have met a minimum residency requirement may be recognized as having any insight into the place whatsoever.

It's reader art time! Ken comes after Dog Bites.
It's reader art time! Ken comes after Dog Bites.



Dog Bites
"You're Slipping, Warren"
As Told to Laurel Wellman,
October 8, 1997

"Vanishing Acts"
By John Mecklin,
April 8, 1999


Pick the Chron/Ex
columnist you think
will be the first
to receive the
Golden Handshake:

He or she will get
canned on:

My e-mail address is:

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Once we understood this, Dog Bites was aghast that we had ever presumed to move here, and vowed, despite the good weather, to stay indoors all weekend, so as not to run the risk of offending those more San Franciscan than us by taking up space on the sidewalk. But then ... well, then post-relevant Independent columnist Warren Hinckle began his Saturday column with a paragraph so perfectly illustrative of the same sanctimonious provincialism demonstrated by our callers that we must quote it here:

Once upon a time in San Francisco, when there was more than one newspaper in town, neighborhood kids delivered the papers. They would pick up the papers after school, fold them in the old tomahawk wrap, and deliver them to the doorsteps in the neighborhood. It was a very San Francisco, neighborhood thing, and the daily newspapers were a real part of the community.

Good grief, thought Dog Bites, lacing up our sneakers in a near-fury: Here in San Francisco, holy of holies among cities, kids had paper routes. Oh, sure, it's hard for you newcomers even to imagine something so special, so wonderful, so ... unique to this shining city by the bay, this citadel of righteousness, as the sight of a schoolchild tossing a newspaper onto a front mat, which is why you can't ever really understand -- it was, after all, a very San Francisco thing -- but then, that's why you probably shouldn't even be here, anyway. And we marched right down to the market and bought a box of gingersnaps and a copy of the ChronEx, just because we could.

The illumination provided by this moment (not, needless to say, by the contents of the ChronEx) allowed us to see that we have spent whole hours of our life unwittingly playing the popular local game More San Franciscan Than You, whose sole rule is that anyone who has lived here even one year longer than his or her unfortunate interlocutors at, say, a party is entitled to put on great airs of superiority. (If you think you have never played this game, you haven't lived here long enough, OK?)

We think it's time that someone just came right out and publicly said how long it takes to become a bona fide, opinion-toting San Franciscan. Of course, there are undoubtedly many, many people who feel themselves qualified to answer this question, but as they never seem to leave call-back phone numbers, Dog Bites will have to do some averaging, round off the numbers, and hazard a guess: 10 years.

Remember, if you have lived here for less time than that, it's only too possible that you have all kinds of loopy ideas that the right-thinking San Franciscan will find deeply, deeply offensive. You may, for instance, have some odd notion that the death of afternoon newspapers is actually a lamentable but countrywide trend; or that the inflated real estate prices that force the middle class into distant suburbs are an issue in many major cities; or that Pottery Barn and Banana Republic are homogenizing the entire nation, not just this particular precious corner of it; or even that the proliferation of loft-style condominium developments is, incredibly, a problem not unique to the Bay Area.

But quite frankly, no one who's really from here should have to listen to you pretend like you know anything about anything. Everything about San Francisco is totally unlike anything about any other place on the planet, and the sooner you realize that, and learn to keep your head down and your mouth shut for the duration of your 10-year probationary period, the better off everyone will be.

Well, Dog Bites Is a Girl, But ...
Apart from the above-mentioned phone calls, it's been a busy week for mail. Our letter of the week is reproduced below:

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