What is the big deal about Sutro Tower? I don't understand why everyone likes it. I don't understand why there's souvenirs and merch of the tower you can buy. When I see someone with a bag that has the tower on it, I get this confused look on my face. I think it's ugly and plain makes no sense.
I'm going to admit something that is likely not that shocking to most people who have been reading this column consistently, and it is this: I'm pretty old. In fact, I'm older than Sutro Tower! But, while there was actually a time when I was in San Francisco and the Sutro Tower wasn't, I can't say I have any real memories of the westward skyline view that do not include the tower. Growing up, the two apartments we lived in had a clear view of it, and it's a view I still see every time I visit my parents.
So, as a kid, Sutro Tower was something that was always just there, and in all honesty, once I learned what it actually did, I didn't pay much more attention to it: It helped the television channels come in better, and that was all I needed to know. It had a job I readily approved of, so I didn't care how it looked.
As I got older, I started to notice friends actually had an opinion about it — sometimes negative, but usually favorable — I began to give it some actual thought, and the conclusion I came to was, it looked cool. Herb Caen famously said, "I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge." I'm sure he thought that was in insult, but to me, it just proves its inherent awesomeness. I could also easily picture it attacking the city, War of the Worlds -style, and really, who wouldn't want something that looks like a metal alien monster on a t-shirt?
I love that it's striped, and that its red paint seems to match the Golden Gate Bridge, bringing some color cohesion to the city's monuments. I love that it's constantly looming over the city, and when the fog rolls in, the top of it reaches out of the clouds like a claw. I love that at night, it seems to be winking at us all. I love that, thanks to the mountain it sits on, it's higher in the sky than that damn Salesforce tower. And I love that it's still helping me get TV channels, albeit now they're in HD. (Seriously people, stop paying for cable. Sutro Tower will provide!)
In reality, I imagine a lot of the Sutro Tower love, and the merchandising centered around it, is actually an ironic, hipster sort of love. Like, let's pretend this ugly, giant tower of metal is actually as cool and beautiful as San Francisco's other landmarks! Isn't that clever?
But that's not the kind of love I have. My Sutro Tower love is genuine. It's there, it serves a function, and I, for one, will always welcome our historic metal overlord.
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!