Essay: Why I Hate This Town (But Love It More) - 2010
By Mat Honan
Photograph by Julie Michelle
I hate this place. It stinks and it's dirty and there is piss and needles and garbage everywhere, and last year 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, 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 freak show of a city. I love moving among its various scenes, from hipsters to hippies, political activists, futurists, artists, scientists, students, burners, 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. I love the hills and the way the fog comes tumbling across the sides of Sutro Heights, gliding through 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. 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 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 my eccentricities. It was in this landscape where we first looked deeply into each other's eyes and saw the future spread out 50 years before us. And it was always here. Right here.
I'm never leaving. I just want to make it better. I'll live with that which I hate, because it's worth it all for that I love.
Mat Honan is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Wired and Mother Jones. A longer version of this story originally appeared on ILiveHereSF.com, which, by the way, is a totally awesome site you need to bookmark.
Where is the snow? I just need a few pieces of snowflakes falling from the bay bridge, onto my window, I just need the gentle touches of a few snowflakes
Oh, C, I've spent plenty of time in London, and couldn't wait to get back to San Francisco. And New York smells like piss too, man. Whatever.
Meantime: Julie Michelle is doing some truly awesome projects here in lovely SF!
So... I live here, San Francisco, and Julie with her project and her energy creates a community beyond the trash and the crime scenes, beyond the mess and the evil. She gives a voice and an image, she catches us to the core. And who are you, "C" without a name, to tell that only provincial people love it here? I am Parisian, from Paris, France, not Texas! And if you read my story, you will know why I came here, but most of all why I stayed.It may be in the water, but this city is like an open canvas. Way too expensive, yes, but priceless.http://iliveheresf.com/?p=276
The writer and photographer are two of my favorite people in SF. They are the best of San Francisco. So awesome to see this in SF Weekly.
Man, I'm a transplant from NYC, and I have to say I've noticed that everyone who truly falls in love with SF is from some podunk part of America and thinks SF is the apex of culture and "city life". Go to NYC or London, guys, you will have your little minds blown. SF is actually pretty lame compared to, well, any larger city that has its shit together more.
I'm torn about Gavin Newsom for Governor. On one hand, I don't want the rest of the state to be in the shape that paragraph one shows it's in. On the other hand, maybe getting him out of SF will give us a chance to recover.
Very well written! I've been here for 6 years now, and I think of San Francisco as my home. Sure, it has its bad moments, but don't we all?
Right on. RIGHT ON. My wife and I moved here (from VT) over 10 years ago so that we could get fresh veggies in November. We thought we would stick around a year or two to thaw out and eat well, and then move back.
One year we moved 3 times in 3 monts (double homicide in the building we lived in, followed by eviction from our sneak-aboard, followed by a break-in in our loft on Christmas Eve. Unlike you, we'll leave someday, but we'll be back.