Thursday, December 31, 2009

San Francisco

What does it feel like when a long-time love changes into something very different right before your eyes?

My friend Bookworm gives us a first hand look at that. And given what's going on in Washington these days, it might hit closer to home than you think:

I was born and grew up in San Francisco. My very earliest memories of the City just predate the advent of the hippies. At that time, the City was a solid amalgam of working class people, middle class people, and a nice handful of the very, very rich. Barring the inevitable slums (and all cities have them), San Francisco was a well-maintained, fairly safe place. Trips downtown (usually triggered by a visit to the doctor in the medical building at 450 Sutter) always ended with a visit to the beautiful City of Paris department store to admire the rotunda (which you can still see in the new Nieman Marcus on the same site), a stop at the marble bathrooms in I. Magnin’s (where Macy’s stands now), and treats at Blum’s Restaurant. Women and men still wore hats in public places, and the women usually wore gloves too. The sidewalks were clean, and there were no beggars.

I remember, too, when the hippies came along. Initially, at least from a child’s point of view, it was kind of fun. During the Summer of Love in 1967, colorfully dressed young people would be dancing in Golden Gate Park, waving banners, blowing bubbles and handing out flowers to all who passed by. Of course, when they left the Park at the end of these pretty love-ins, the grass was torn to shreds, the flower beds were destroyed, and a few overdosed teens always lay scattered in the detritus left behind. Soon, though, the magic (such as it was) vanished, and all that was left behind was the miserable slum that was the Haight Ashbury.{...}

The hippies weren’t just an aberration. They were the beginning of a deep rot that set into the City. Some of them remained as anchors for the homeless who still pepper San Francisco’s streets, making those streets unsafe or just very, very unpleasant for ordinary people. Others reformed their lifestyles, but kept their Leftist, SDS influenced politics. They grew up, got jobs, bought homes, and became people of influence in the City. Their influence wasn’t immediately obvious. During the 1970s, the City just drifted along. Self-realization and self-actualization and general self-involvement hit the middle class with a bang, with the result that everyone was running around seeking his bliss, pausing only periodically to do some navel gazing.

The City’s gays, contrary to the film Milk, weren’t in a perpetual state of political activism during the 1970s. Instead, they were glorying in the hedonism that was part-and-parcel of escaping the dark closet in which they’d lived for so many years. I can’t say that I blame them — it was a giddy feeling to be free to express a long-hidden sexuality — but the results were deleterious. It’s not healthy for a City to have a neighborhood that’s dedicated to sex, a rather obvious principle that is entirely separate from the fact that the Castro and its myriad bathhouses proved to be perfect Petri dishes for a burgeoning fatal disease that would soon sweep the world.{...}

The City had also lost what limited control it once had over the worst neighborhoods in town. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than in the area surrounding the venerable Cow Palace. Admittedly, that area was never a very nice one, but I remember as a child going frequently to events at the Cow Palace, going to gymnastic meets at the neighborhood schools, dining on delicious Middle Eastern food at a family-owned restaurant, and visiting people’s houses in the area. Although I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time, looking back I would characterize the neighborhood as lower working class. By the late 1980s, it was just plain scary, with the housing projects dominating and blighting the area. (The worst of those housing projects, incidentally, became so unsustainable that the City eventually destroyed them in an effort at urban renewal. Those that remain are still appalling.) {..}

As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, I find myself in the City more and more often. I don’t visit the well-maintained spots that still charm tourists, though. Instead, my children’s activities take me to parts of town other than the little Potemkin neighborhoods, neatly preserved for the tourists or the affluent liberals concerned with preserving lovely enclaves for themselves. On these journeys, consistently, I am appalled by what I see. The City has morphed into a crazy combination of anarchy and Leftist totalitarianism, all neatly wrapped into a package called “political correctness.” This matters, not just because we’re witnessing the death of what used to be one of the most beautiful, desirable cities in the world, but because it perfectly represents the American Leftist paradigm. In other words, San Francisco is the future of American Leftism, and it’s a very scary future indeed.

Read the whole thing. It's insightful, to say the least.

My own experience of San Francisco involved frequent visits and actually living there in the early 1980's. I have very pleasant memories of Gomorrah-By-The Bay from visiting and from when I lived there, back in the early '80's. Even then, I guess it was getting sort of obvious the way things were headed if I'd of had my eyes open.It's almost as if the virus of Berkeley metastasized and spread across the Bay like a cancer. I've always felt that the election of ├╝ber-Leftist Art Agnos was the turning point.

It's worth noting that none of the friends I made there that I'm still in touch with still lives in the city, and for the most part their reasons for leaving jibe perfectly with Bookworm's, who now lives in Marin.

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