Monday, September 24, 2012

Destroying San Francisco (the one that exists, not the one that never did)

There's something about being in the Bay Area that makes me notice things I wouldn't otherwise, and want to express things I usually don't. Maybe that's because it's the first place I went and completely failed to live in.

Anyway, this past weekend I drove twice over the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco (and continued on to 101), something I had never done before. At night it's a disorienting experience. You know by road signs that you're driving into San Francisco, but for whatever reason as a driver you never see the skyline, or really very many other buildings at all, from the elevated structure, only road, cars, signs, advertisements, and more road (always more road). It feels like you could be any anonymous place, and that's not a feeling we're supposed to expect in San Francisco. Especially when the Folsom Street Fair (JFGI) is going on just a few blocks away. Anyway, this isn't just a freeway thing, it's a specific freeway thing, because in most old central cities (and even many edge cities) you at least get a view of some characteristic part of the city as you drive through, even at night.

I've been on the Muni subway a handful of times, and really, you miss out on as much of the city there as you do from the freeway. Maybe if I was from New York I'd be used to this, but the cities I know best are Chicago and Seattle. The trains and buses there mostly only run underground in places I've been many times and am at no risk of forgetting. I found when I went running down Market Street up over Twin Peaks and to the Sunset District from just east of Van Ness that there's a lot of city up there in a corridor I'd otherwise have had no reason to travel at ground-level. You might say that at least on the Muni you see the people, but you definitely don't see all the people.

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