McSweeney's just published a new column by Vinson Cunningham, who's been writing an ongoing series called "Field Notes From Gentrified Places." Because, yes, there are other cities with this gentrification problem besides ours. The new column is devoted to a recent visit he made to SF, his second ever (he lives in New York), and it's a fairly sunny portrayal of a city that he'd been hearing so many terrible things about lately.
A few choice pullquotes, before you should probably just go read it yourself.
It’s probably a simple matter of having gone to all the wrong places — or all the right ones, I guess is the better way to say it — that I didn’t meet a single techno-utopianist, or socially horrible start-up kid, or semi-sociopathic software engineer, during my recent trip...
Indeed, if I perceived a threat in San Francisco — or maybe the better way to say it is: a threat to San Francisco — it was the natural world itself, and I mean this in the most positive way possible. We walked from the school to the house my friend shares with roommates, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that nature wanted the city back. The place is sort of untrustworthily beautiful.
Me, I don’t know San Francisco, so who am I to say. I did walk past Dolores once, on a long walk... and what I saw were frisbees, kites, little circles of cross-legged friends.
He also writes of an extended, earnest monologue delivered to him by a panhandling kid near Civic Center, a monologue that you or I would probably never have stood long enough to hear. And even though he ought to be a New Yorker who's jaded enough to ignore and walk on, he listened to the whole thing, and transcribed it all. Maybe because even our panhandlers are better here.