After a blistering, snowy winter on the East Coast and a year in which San Francisco has captured a lot of the national spotlight for its booming economy, Instagram-filtered gay people, and enduring beauty, New York Magazine has just produced an 11-part series of articles taglined, "Dispatches from a city that doesn't quite know what to do with its wealth." They're joking, right?
The lead piece by Kevin Roose notes that "[i]n many ways, San Francisco is the nation’s new success theater," discussing how New York has lost some glamor since the financial crash and they just elected "a tax-the-rich progressive" as mayor while San Francisco is experiencing its third gold rush attracting former finance bros in droves. But, he concludes, we're never going to "become New York" as it's presumed we always want to be, in part because we're not a city that's comfortable with flaunting wealth. "San Francisco is too earnest, too eager to be liked, to truly wallow in its wealth like Bloomberg’s New York. (If Martin Scorsese had made The Wolf of Silicon Valley, it would have been two hours of Leonardo DiCaprio apologizing for spilling the Dom Pérignon.)"
Cue the mentions of the Google bus protests, $4 toast, and that moron getting her Google glass slapped off her because she's "killing the city." There's also the imagined story of how Mark Zuckerberg went knocking on doors on Liberty Hill and paid someone $10 million for their house that wasn't even on the market. There's a portrait of the Marina dubbed "Murray Hill West," depicting San Francisco's brand of frat bro jackassery; a discussion of restaurant reservation bots. And an ugly story about getting evicted from an apartment by a callous young woman who worked at Google and had recently bought the building for $1 million. She coerced the tenants into signing away their rights just in time for her to leave for Burning Man.
There's also a pointless piece by an anonymous Google engineer about the hook-up culture of the tech world, and how easy it is to score an attractive female "founder hounder." And one about the recent meet-up of Tech Workers Against Displacement at Virgil's Sea Room at which one self-described techie read a self-flagellating poem.
But things get downright petty in this little war of words with a column titled "The Stubborn Uncoolness of San Francisco Style," which suggests that every male who lives here wears formal sweatpants, "wind-resistant cycling shells and antimicrobial stink-resistant pants from Levi's Commuter Collection."
Having gone through all these pieces, I'm still not clear on the part about how we "don't quite know what to do with [our] wealth," apart from the digs about how SF men don't dress up very much. We clearly spend all of our money on rent, food, and booze, and many of us do buy nice clothes and cars and things, and those with lots of money go buy houses in Napa or in Tahoe. But it's true, we are less inclined to embrace asshole behavior, unapologetic displays, and the giddy capitalist fervor that has made Manhattan a bohemia-free retail Disneyland where no one ever thought twice about bulldozing a building to build something newer and bigger.
It's hard if you've lived in both cities not to compare them, but I would argue that while most San Franciscans might long for the nightlife of certain eras of New York's past, they've never wanted the city to become New York. And while many a trapped New Yorker who has visited or lived here dreams of an easier life in the west, they usually resign themselves to the fact that economically, and career-wise, there isn't enough happening here. If that changes permanently, and there are more and more opportunities here, what excuses will they have left for staying in New York?
At least they'll have New York Magazine to join them in looking down their noses. While they freeze. And eat inferior vegetables.