patriots / countrymen

22Sep05

the word countryman or countrymen is not really used here – it’s always “american” (sometimes “fellow american”). we identify ourselves as being unique from others whose only common bond is that they were born in the same land. there’s no american version of paisano. i don’t know if that’s important but today i feel it is.

when i went to paris, i fell in love. not in love with a person but with a way of life. when tony bourdain went to paris on his new show, he started off the show by explaining how different things were there, especially different from new york. today i realized that i love san francisco so much because it’s basically an american paris. of course it struck me as i was eating lunch on the sidewalk in front of a french cafe, but still, the similarities are numerous.

san francisco is a very international city, people from all over the world come here (and often stay here) to live in a culture that accepts them and that offers the opportunity to make something fantastic of themselves. to some degree other american urban centers offer these people the same opportunity, but each city has a different pace, a different way of life, and thus each city is for a different type of person. san francisco is like paris because it is a city of casual go getters.

there are as many people here who do two things (the slash culture – i.e. i’m a lawyer / painter, i’m a designer / dj) as in new york or LA, but here people have a much more casual approach to success in both their first and second occupations. san francisco offers so many wonderful things to do that everyone just wants to appreciate what the city has to offer and will wait for their chance to be successful. that’s not to say that people here don’t care about succeeding – they do. otherwise they couldn’t afford to live here. but while people in nyc or la will do everything to make successful opportunities happen, here they are forged by relationships and good timing. here people cruise by having fun until opportunity falls in their lap from a nearby tree, and then we tend to pounce. we are a city of jungle cats lolling about on the african plains while waiting for prey. we smell other beasts and our muscles tense. we are always ready to jump but until then we look like the most disinterested bastards in the world.

this culture of success by opportunity and casual living creates a certain sort of aesthetic and lifestyle. people tend to look very healthy, because they are afforded plenty of time to be active. people tend to party with a certain sort of excess because it rarely has consequences other than forgetting someone’s name who you really need to know. people don’t consider sitting down in a cafe for a cup of coffee a waste of time. nor do they see having a drink with your meal – even lunch – a bad thing. (we’re in the heart of friggin wine country for petes sake.) we are not the early morning commute dressed up in suits trying to be milliopnaires by 28 crowd.

lately i’ve been getting the urge to leave SF. i’ve been here for 6.5 years – a world record for me. and in many ways i’m ready for a new adventure. but everytime i look around, i can’t imagine any place in the US i’d rather be.

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