Over ten years ago I lived in California. Northern California, mind you. As you may very well know, northern versus Southern California are completely different. The vibe, the dress, the people are all different. I think I might, as a New Yorker, fit in slightly better into Southern California. Plus, it is sunnier and even warmer there than here in San Francisco. I was struck by how northern Californians referred to Los Angeles as the south. Since I am from the east coast when I hear “I am from the south” I think Alabama or Georgia not Los Angeles. It is amazing how geography is as relative as well as everything else. We already know that zipcodes are part of our social determinants of health but geography is all in the mind as well. We often designate areas as the south side or the other side of the tracks. Geography can be used to divide us physically, mentally and even spiritually. But I digress. I am not here to discuss geography at length.
Ten years ago, I was considered an odd duck in California. My sense of humor may be a bit too warped and pointed. I am, despite being a community organizer, not that crunchy. That very well may be because I am a scientist-advocate. I believe that science and data can help us progress forward. Anyway, despite that feeling of being an odd duck, I have returned to California and am trying to settle into this very high cost-of-living place. It can be hard being an odd duck but that seems to be my lot in life. But I digress. I am not here to discuss my odd-duck nature at length. I do that in most of my other posts.
I just returned from a very brief trip to New York and upon landing I was hit with the numerous ways that San Francisco and New York differ. I should state from the outset, I am a die-hard New Yorker and believe that New York is one of the best places on earth. I just fit in and that makes me feel good. We are all searching for that place that fits us like a glove. As I continue on that search here are some things I have found to be different between San Francisco and New York that are more relevant to my sense of being.
- In San Francisco people do not look down so much while they are walking. In New York, people are working all the time even while walking. Thus, we are constantly looking down. We even eat while walking. You do not see that as much in San Francisco. I continue to look at my electronic devices while walking but not so much to do work. Instead I do so to avoid all the angry raving people walking about in San Francisco.
- Speaking of work, I have not noticed as many people working on the train (BART). I have seen more people reading or actually talking on the phone while on the train. That I find weird.
- One thing that is awesome about the transportation underground in San Francisco: there is WiFi and telecommunication networks down under. I stay connected even through the Tunnels.
- Women in San Francisco tend to wear more sensible shoes than in New York. This could be partly because of the hills and partly due to the fact that women in San Francisco tend to look more “sporty.” New York, on the other hand, is all one big fashion runway.
- Something that drives me crazy about apartments in San Francisco: there are carpets everywhere. I hate carpets. Give me New York hardwood floors any day. My allergies are killing me out in my new office in the west coast.
- Sadly, and I have noted this previously, there are many homeless individuals in San Francisco and many are quite aggressive. Much more aggressive than in New York. It is a sad reminder of the vast income and wealth disparities out in the San Francisco bay area. It appears way starker to me out here than in New York. Most post-apocalyptic movies and shows note what would happen in NY. I think these movie producers should be looking at the Bay Area.
- Liquor stores are everywhere in San Francisco but you can barely find any real supermarkets here. In New York City-yes even in Manhattan- there are real supermarkets. I found a Whole Foods near the Castro area in San Francisco. I went to Target in Union Square and there were so many people there doing their grocery shopping. I miss supermarkets dearly!
- Furthermore, there are no graveyards (cemeteries) in San Francisco. They are all apparently in Colma where there are more dead people than there are the living. There are small cemeteries in NY. I have no idea why I find that important to note but it has struck me deeply. I suppose I am an odd duck.
- Every morning, the local news in the Bay Area focuses on “microclimates.” You truly do need to wear layers out here. At least in NY it is either super hot or super cold. Well, I can forgo the cold. I suppose I will take the weather out in San Francisco.
- I go for an extended walk in the morning out here in San Francisco and hardly anyone is around. I used to walk around NYC at 6am and there were already people up and about. I never felt alone on the city street of New York. Out here there just are not as many people out at 7:00am or even 7:40am. Where is everyone?
Speaking of which it is time for me to go roam the city streets of San Francisco as the odd duck that I am.