23 June 2011


Taken from the window of the office in the house where I'm writing this.

There was a time when I really hated San Francisco. It wasn't simply the old rivalry thing between L.A. and San Francisco. Well, maybe it was a little of that. But there was something about the place that just plain annoyed me, gave me the creeps, felt wrong and shallow and, in the Texan phrase - all hat and no cattle.

I don't feel that way any longer. I now really like, even love, some things about the place, but as a whole I find it merely okay. These days I think of it as having an over-sized hat for the amount of cattle it does have. But it does indeed have some pretty nice bovines.

City Lights Bookstore is certainly one of them. Every time I'm in San Francisco, even if only for a few hours, I have to go there. It is a shrine, a monument, a place to go and pay homage - and money also, of course. I feel it is my obligation to future generations to help support the place. And it is so filled with books that are difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere that the trick is to narrow down my selections to a semi-affordable lot. My trip there yesterday cost me a bit north of a hundred bucks but I'll be savoring it for weeks to come. (I'm a slow reader.)

The Berkeley Bowl - okay, so it's in Berkeley, not in San Francisco - is one of the very greatest, if not the very greatest supermarkets on the planet. L.A. kicks the Bay Area's ass when it comes to variety and quality of ethnic markets, but we have nothing that can even come close to the Berkeley Bowl for a comprehensive, high-quality, reasonably-priced general supermarket. The best similar market in L.A. is practically a convenience store by comparison. I nearly cried when I was in there the other day. Central Market in Austin, Texas is the closest I've seen to it, but even it is not quite up to Berkeley Bowl's snuff - and it's a lot more expensive.

I have had some excellent meals since I've been here. The two standouts having been in Oakland: Lunch at The Brick Pig's House where the 90 year old family bbq recipe from Arkansas is going very strong. And dinner last night at Commis which was innovative and interesting and fun and very tasty indeed.

Other than seeing some friends, I haven't done much else here. (I've been house-sitting for four days.) Sadly, my favorite bar in the city - Jezebel's Joint - has long since closed down. It was a place that was representative of one of the other things I do like a lot about this place - it's easy, fluid, laissez-faire sexuality. In that sense the Bay Area does seem like a more highly evolved sort of place than most.

Then again, in the spirit of competitiveness between SF and LA (and NYC, too, for that matter) I would like to point out that L.A. (in Silverlake, my neighborhood) had a large gay rights demonstration - following a raid on a gay bar called The Black Cat - a full two years before the more famous Stonewall events in NYC. And in 1911, when California voted in favor of women's suffrage, it narrowly passed only because more people in Los Angeles voted in favor of it than did in San Francisco where it lost.

So, in the days I've been up here I left my heart in Los Angeles, but there are some things I wish I could take back home from here with me when I head back down Interstate 5.


Dianne Emley said...

As a fellow L.A. native, my heart and DNA are tied here, but I do love S.F. If it wasn't for those dang cold damp summers.

A.H. Ream said...

Ditto with an extra shout out to a particular dive-slash-tiki bar in Oakland, an amazing rose-scented custard I ate in the city once and the urban buffalo.