August 2, 2005

        Today was a day to enjoy the city. There were a couple of friends I wanted to visit with, as well as spend some time walking and exploring.

        San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities, and one of two places I would consider moving to. New York City would be the other.

        What those two places have in common is the continuous energy they provide. There is always something going on and when you are there, anything is possible.

        The other reason I like San Francisco so much is the people. They are not like any I have ever encountered. You could classify them as strange, I think different is more applicable.

        That is what makes the city so appealing. It is different. It’s not people walking as one, moving from the train to Starbucks to the office to McDonald’s for lunch to the train to take them back to homes that all look the same.

        Something I don’t see very often when I am walking around Southern California is people saying hello.

        For two hours, I took the bus around San Francisco. No itinerary, just hopping from bus to bus whenever I felt like it. In that time I would make eye contact with people to see what their reaction would be.

        More often than not, people smiled and said hello. That is something you don’t see in Southern California.

        The Southland has such a reputation of being a friendly place, but I have never seen it. Where I live in Sunset Beach, it is different, but it is an anomaly, which is why I live there.

        When I lived in the suburbs, I didn’t get that. My neighbors would occasionally say hello, or nod, but many were to busy to make the effort. These are people I saw most everyday and I couldn’t get any friendly recognition. In two hours as a stranger, I felt more warmth.

        I wondered why that was. Are suburbs by the nature of their construction, adversarial? Fences divide neighbors, front porches don’t exist, and cars are usually parked in the garage, so contact with others is limited.

        Walking the dog, getting the mail or watering the front yard only provide momentary glimpses of those around you. In big cities, like San Francisco and New York, people are forced to coexist in the same smaller space and most have chosen to be friendly.

        Does that mean we as people are generally pleasant? I would like to think so. I believe people want to smile, want to say hello and when given the opportunity will gladly take it.

        Now how I am going to explain the guy in the chicken suit in Haight Asbury, I don’t know.

        I was sitting in a café, drinking hot chocolate and people watching when I was rewarded with a kid in his 20s with long blonde dreadlocks, buying some lunch with his girlfriend wearing a headless chicken suit.

        It wasn’t a work uniform, it was his apparel of choice and he didn’t seem bothered by it. Neither did anyone else in the café. It seemed like I was the only one who noticed and then it was I who became self conscious. If he didn’t mind wearing the outfit, why should I stare at it judgmentally.

        My last stop of the day was Fisherman’s Wharf. Getting a little bread bowl with clam chowder and watching the boats pass through as Alcatraz Island is in the background is a great way to spend an afternoon.

        Tourists make up most of the population there and you can always tell who is from out of town. They have shorts on and then have freshly bought San Francisco sweatshirts.

        Those who haven’t been here or have never read the Mark Twain quote, don’t understand while it is 85 degrees five miles away, it is 60 degrees and windy for their vacation.

        That usually makes the smiles go away. This minor inconvenience seems to become catastrophic to some. One family I saw was openly bickering with each other. The father was yelling at the kids to stay close, the mom was yelling at her husband not to yell at the kids and the kids were all complaining they wanted to go back to the hotel and swim in the pool.

        It seemed like such a waste of energy. Maybe it was only temporary, but it appeared to be a familiar routine and that would be a waste. I finished my soup, picked apart the bread and fed it to the waiting seagulls. When they were done, I walked back to a bus that would take me to a part of the city where the tourists were few.