Daily Archives: June 5, 2011

San Francisco and the West Coast Spirit

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

This is a fairly NY-centric way to begin-

With its concentration and depth of soul and history, San Francisco strikes me as something of a New York of the West. In many ways, SF is what NY once was; and in many ways, SF is what NY has always wanted to be-
It’s a port town and the port spirit here survives- whereas NY’s has passed on-  perhaps this is because San Francisco was still on the free-wheeling frontier long after New York had become dominated by finance and status.

This metropolis on the edge of a wild continent was still a tabula rasa long after the East had become staid.   Like the Europeans seeking all sorts of freedom in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, California was settled by American Easterners, seeking freedoms of their own- whether in  the form of the  ’49ers coming for Sutter Mill gold or the counter-culture which gathered in the 1960’s or the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl.
A beginning anew that permeates California ..

…The reward here for having the courage to strike out across this wild continent according to one’s own instincts and nature is a forgiving climate, a wealth of stunning landscape, a generous generous sky, the bounty of earth and ocean, and most of all, the understanding amongst everyone that all is reasonably possible and acceptable.

… But –   the price for having this understanding is an unstable geology, a precarious dependence on water, unforgiving flames, rolling blackouts, millions bent on distraction, and the general bloating of the american dream.

Presenting the Golden Gate

If one walks west from Fisherman’s Wharf along the hilly bike path, one is greeted with a curving vista of the city, bay and the unfathomably clean and rich sky.  The air, ocean, mountains, and city all co-mingle here in a such a way that you can never be sure which is the most dominantly striking feature.

At one moment the steely blue shine of the water catches the eye, and then the very next moment, it’s the clouds.  And then you notice the mountains in the distance, and suddenly realize that the clouds are actually squeezing through the mountains.   And just when you settle into thinking about the natural wonders, the Bridge comes into view, half-enshrouded by the fog, its towers ethereal, its red arc a rainbow of steel vaulting across the Golden Gate.  Finally, turning around, you catch the city, with its houses perched on impossible hills and its universe of humanity.
This is a very rich place.

Russian Hill from St. Peter and Paul Church

Russian Hill from St. Peter and Paul Church