A Love Letter to San Francisco
Dear San Francisco,
Is it possible for a city to be your valentine? I think so, because I’ve been in love with several cities but none have quite captured my heart like you. To be fair, I was born here so I’ll admit my bias, but after just one visit most non-natives fall just as hard, I’ve heard it a thousand times over. That’s the effect you have on people, San Francisco.
I could write about the obvious attractions that tourists visit, and believe me, they are certainly worthwhile: The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Cable Cars, the Sea Lions at Pier 39, the list goes on, all of which can all be experienced on our Small Group SF Highlights Tour by the way (we are a tour company after all)! But that is not the purpose of this letter, instead I want to feature the San Francisco that I fell in love with, both when I was growing up and now as an adult. San Francisco, you are so much more than a physical location, you’re an attitude, a mindset, the literal and figurative creator of #mood – and I will do my best to do you justice in telling your story.
Let’s start with Emperor Norton, one of SF’s most famous street people. In 1859 a failed gold rush-era businessman donned a full napoleonic costume and proclaimed himself to be the Emperor of the United States. For 21 years he roamed the streets as the Emperor, it got to the point where he had standing reservations at the theater and the best restaurants in town. The city even upgraded his shabby second-hand uniform and all police officers were required to salute him. He’s depicted in a couple early Hollywood movies, Mark Twain novels, he was even in an episode of Bonanza! Most locals consider him the first character to really set the stage for the city to become one that admires, attracts and produces colorful oddballs. You can’t be too crazy, we’ll take you to heart, if you say you’re the Emperor, who are we to say you aren’t?! And after you’ve let the self proclaimed Emperor reign for 21 years what’s a few homeless, hippies or gay people? It’s not really a big deal. He’s the one that set a tone of acceptance and just a little bit of craziness that makes you, SF, one of the most unique cities in the world.
Beach Blanket Babylon is distinctly San Franciscan and quite iconic! It’s a hilarious political and pop culture musical that is constantly being updated with current events. It’s also the longest running musical revue in live theater history, debuting in 1974. The spectacular costumes and outrageous hats will have you squealing in delight as you follow the story of Snow White in search of her Prince Charming. Along the way she encounters a star-studded, ever-changing line-up of pop culture characters that will leave you in stitches! I’ve seen this show several times now and always enjoy their contemporary flare on a simple looking for love story. It’s especially appropriate to see on a day like today! Check it out at Club Fugazi in North Beach.
BATKID. This one hits me in the feels. I was living in Los Angeles at the time this happened and oh man, did it make me long to be back in your arms! Miles Scott, a 5 year old cancer patient at the time was asked what his biggest wish was by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and like most 5 year old boys he wanted to be a superhero, more specifically, batkid! What transpired was one of the largest and most elaborate Make-A-Wish projects ever staged thanks to you, San Francisco. On November 15th, 2013 thousands of volunteers, city officials, businesses and supporters rallied to turn SF into Gotham City. Alongside his mentor, Batman, the two took part in numerous staged events including crime scenarios and receiving the key to the city from the actual mayor of San Francisco at the time, Ed Lee. Even the city’s main newspaper published a “Gotham City Chronicle” edition in honor of Batkid with the headline “Batkid Saves City: Hooded Hero Nabs Riddler, Rescues Damsel in Distress.” I mean, if that doesn’t make you love a city then I don’t know what will. I seriously still tear up when I watch the documentary. I’m happy to report that Batkid also beat his number one enemy, cancer. Long live Batkid!
(Photo Credit: https://wjla.com/news/offbeat/batkid-miles-scott-cancer-free-healthy)
Nothing is quite as magical as a sing-along at the Castro Theater! The Wizard of Oz is especially over the top in this gayborhood and you need to get your tickets far in advance. The locals come out in impressive numbers, with colorful costumes – or nothing at all , and I swear you can almost feel the earth quake (lol) when the crowd sings in unison, “There’s no place like home”!
It’s with that sentiment, there’s no place like home, that brings me to my next topic, PIZZA! Specifically my favorite pizza shop in the whole wide world, Escape From New York. I grew up in the upper Haight-Ashbury area and regularly frequented this pizza shop, always ordering 2 pesto slices, and sitting in same small table, admiring the NYC subway map on its wall. I fantasized about moving to New York back then and eventually I did. The irony being that I didn’t really like living in New York City all that much, or its pizza (don’t hate me), and so I did “escape from New York” … right back to the pesto pizza spot that prompted my desire to move to New York in the first place. That’s irony right? Or is it a paradox? Whatever, the pizza’s good, you should try it if only to experience the San Franciscans take on the classic slice.
I feel that this letter could be endless. I could write about how the sun kisses your cheeks and makes the hills a shimmery gold. Or the way the fog envelopes you at odd hours of the day. And don’t even get me started on the various viewpoints you have to offer. Lands End, Ina Coolbrith Park, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps to Grandview Park are just a few of several locations in the city each worth a visit on their own. The photo opportunities here are an instagram utopia!
I know that I will never own your heart San Francisco, but when I walk your streets I am overcome with gratitude for making me who I am today and for that I can’t thank you enough. And as you continue to change and evolve, I will still love you, unconditionally. Happy Valentine’s Day San Francisco.
Dara @ SF Tour1