10 Apr 2014

Lamenting the Decline of San Francisco


Since the death of George Sterling, San Francisco’s genius loci poet in his room at the Bohemian Club in 1926, people have complained that the days of that city’s wild, romanticism are over and contended that Sterling’s “cool grey city of love” has been going to hell in a handbasket.

Way back in 1964 (before the hippies had even arrived at Haight-Ashberry), John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee reflected sadly on the city’s decline in The Quick Red Fox:

San Francisco is the most depressing city in America. The come-latelys might not think so. They may be enchanted by the steep streets up Nob and Russian and Telegraph, by the sea mystery of the Bridge over to redwood country on a foggy night, by the urban compartmentalization of Chinese, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, by the smartness of the women and the city’s iron clutch on culture. It might look just fine to the new ones.

But there are too many of us who used to love her. She was like a wild classy kook of a gal, one of those rain-walkers, laughing gray eyes, tousle of dark hair—sea misty, a lithe and lively lady, who could laugh at you or with you, and at herself when needs be. A sayer of strange and lovely things. A girl to be in love with, with love like a heady magic.

But she had lost it, boy. She used to give it away, and now she sells it to the tourists. She imitates herself. Her figure has thickened. The things she says now are mechanical and memorized. She overcharges for cynical services.

Maybe if you are from Dayton or Amarillo or Wheeling or Scranton or Camden she can look like magic to you because you have not had a chance to see what a city can be. This one had her chance to go straight and she lost it somehow, and it has been downhill for her ever since. That’s why she is so depressing to those of us who knew her when. We all know what she could have been, and we all know the lousy choice she made. She has driven away the ones who loved her best. A few keep trying. Herb Caen. A few others. But the love words have a hollow tone these days.”


Well, folks, things have gotten a lot worse since the 1960s.

Dave Schilling and Jules Suzdaltsev have a terrific rant at Vice.com explaing why “everyone worth a damn is moving to Oakland.” And they don’t even mention the political pathologies!

2014 is slowly turning into the “Year of San Francisco.” The East Coast media in America has anointed SF as the new hub for innovation, conspicuous consumption, and comically absurd rents. New York Magazine parachuted a bunch of reporters into the Bay Area to figure out how to steal their douchebags back. The article asked “Is San Francisco New York?” No, it’s much worse. The existential crisis around San Francisco’s ascension to the heights of assholery stands in stark contrast to the fact that it is damn near unlivable for most normal people.

Read the whole thing.

2 Feedbacks on "Lamenting the Decline of San Francisco"


Maybe there will be a shake up there.
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