A Eugenean’s view of San Francisco

Elevator door, Monroe Residence Club, 1870 Sacramento Street, San Francisco

The Thursday issue of the local newspaper featured a travel article in which a probably typical longtime Eugene resident (Oregon bestselling author and renowned Hiking Guy Bill Sullivan) appreciates San Francisco by … avoiding most of San Francisco. (I write this with affectionate bemusement, or is that bemused affection?)

He and his wife stayed in an Airbnb with a hot tub outside San Francisco, in a small town he aptly describes as full of wealthy hippies (Mill Valley).

When I visit, I stay in a single-occupancy hotel off busy Van Ness Avenue, built in 1906, with the worlds creakiest, slowest elevator, featuring a heavy and ornate Chinese door that is no doubt original to the building. I eat breakfast and dinner in the dining room with a wide assortment of local characters, from retired bachelors long in residence who fill me in on local politics, to folks from foreign countries attending a nearby school of translation that uses some of the rooms as lodgings.

Not entirely surprisingly, the Hiking Guy frequented parks and hiking trails on the far western edge of the city (as far away from downtown as possible) and the Muir Woods outside it. Among the many treasures in the areas he deliberately avoided (downtown and the entire eastern half of the city), which I found myself returning to again + again on my last visit: the Ferry Building Farmers Market and Book Passage Ferry Building, with its many free readings; the Citys many other bookstores (although he is a prolific and gifted author!); and the neighborhoods where actual people live … lol.

The few buildings he visited were characterized as pompous (the Legion of Honor) or ridiculous (my aunt s and my beloved Palace of Fine Arts, a few blocks from where we both lived … if I hadnt scattered her ashes on San Francisco Bay at her request, she would be turning over in her urn). The haunting and moving prison museum that is Alcatraz today was dismissed as <derelict cell blocks>.

And of course he drove everywhere he went, whereas I have never bothered to get a drivers license and would never choose to navigate the Bay Area in a car, given the tolls on the bridges (which he paid without evident complaint) and the abundant multi-modal transport (ferry, streetcar, light rail, subway [BART], bus, Lyft, Uber, cab, and probably others I dont know about).

A reminder that housing advocates’ attitudes about the delights of urbanism, and the vibrancy that can result from having more people in an area, are not shared by all.

(Again, I hope it is clear that I write this with affection and much respect for Mr. S. But I am reminded that there are at least two distinct lenses with which people look at the world, and of the need to keep that in mind as we go forward.)

Published by Sherri Schultz

Writer & change-maker exploring micro-dwelling in Eugene, Oregon. Founder of Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers: https://www.meetup.com/Micro-dwellers .

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