San Francisco (and Los Angeles)Posted: July 15, 2020 Filed under: America Since 1945, California, San Francisco, the California Condition Leave a comment
Earlier this year, you moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco. How is the transition going?
It felt like the opening minute of Randy Newman’s song “I Love L.A.” Looking back on the twentieth century, I recall it was Los Angeles that was always the city of the future, and the city of craft and guilds. Every movie was essentially a six-month startup that brought together know-how and expertise from so many different areas: art, set design, costume, carpentry—and all the weirdly named professions like grips, gaffers, and boom operators. That ethos still lives on in the spirit of the place. With SpaceX and other aerospace companies making headway, I wouldn’t discount Southern California in the race to become the next big creative cluster. Of course, Sacramento may ruin the entire state before that happens. But that’s another story.
Michael Gibson (had never heard of) in City Journal. Gibson wrote a piece for City Journal where he called San Francisco “America’s Havana.” He pointed out inarguable problems with San Francisco, which is a shocking mess.
But, like Havana, San Francisco is also magical. There’s just something about it. Maybe it’s the drastic geography, set on hillsides over a bay that’s both perfect and hidden. The sea air is part of it, for sure, and the lushness of the flora. In both Havana and San Francisco, the very air is magical.
When you read the history of San Francisco, a certain tolerance of criminality always seems to have been part of the mix. Stepping over a druggie passed out on the street wouldn’t’ve been unfamiliar to a resident of Gold Rush-era San Francisco or Barbary Coast San Francisco, or the 1940s San Francisco that inspired all the noir movies.
I’ve had in my files this bit by Lillian Symes from a 1932 Harper’s, reprinted from the archive:
The city of cheap yet superb living:
When I got to LA in 2004, I found the living superb. It was cheaper than New York City, but I’m not sure it could really be called cheap. And it’s gotten less cheap. Readers, where would you say, these days, the living is cheap yet superb?
San Francisco scenes: