Issue #14: is SF over?

where do we go from here, but like literally, where?

Dear Tech Support,

In the Before Times, I was planning on moving to San Francisco after a decade in New York and a short stint in LA, because it seemed like the “right thing to do” professionally and for long-term relationship prospects. But now everyone I know seems to be abandoning their Bay life for Sacramento (!!) or the Central Coast or the Pacific Northwest and moving there now just feels wrong. Between tech companies making work-from-home permanent + fires + cost of living, I can’t help but wonder….is the Bay Area OVER?

Signed,

Living in Limbo

Hi Limb,

Last night I dreamt about driving around a vast, gorgeous, open-air Costco. I got lost, then found myself standing at the top of a hill, taking in the view in a cluster of masked randos (“this is BORING!” my son forked in as I recounted it to him this morning, before launching into HIS dream, the centerpiece of which was a jellyfish’s eyeball spraying brain water onto a school of fish who, so stunned by what was happening, just sat there, opening and closing their mouths). The point is—insofar as there is one in this opening anecdote!—where we really live is in our minds (and those are deteriorating by the day?). Moving on…

My mantra/refrain recently has been “Possibilities!” after a book of David Graeber essays I’ve been thumbing through. Graeber would probably cringe at how I’m neutering the message to shopworn inspirational/motivational stuff (the book is about rethinking how society is arranged altogether, challenging systems of power, and embracing an anarcho-feminist utopian future which…c’mon gals, let’s do it???), but nonetheless it resonates that way. Possibilities! The reward—or maybe silver lining is more “it”—for living through a time of chaos, uncertainty, and change is the permission to rethink and arrange your life however you want. I live in Brooklyn, and as a city-remainer, I’ve gleefully joined in on my fair share of snarking of those who’ve fled to the burbs or upstate or LA, but frankly, who can blame them? The permanent remote-work thing is a liberation of sorts; without the chokehold of a daily commute, people SHOULD relocate to a place that they more personally, voluntarily align with. Good luck and God bless, I say!

While we’re rethinking where to live, why not also rethink what we DO? A couple of weekends ago (the Saturday our clinically obese president was hospitalized with Covid….memories, light the corner of my mind….), multiple people brought to my attention a minor social media snafu YouTube found itself in: a tweet, a delete, a mortifying apology. The whole thing reeked of urgency that’s really hard to grok if you haven’t lived it: a five-alarm behind-the-scenes firedrill, higher-ups assuring even-higher-ups “WE’RE TAKING ACTION TO REPAIR WITH COMMUNITY” while dozens of people and email threads spin and spiral underneath them. This is the bullshittization of work par excellence: helping no one, changing nothing, generating nothing but stress and anxiety. And to think these workers don’t even have the numbing solace/snacks of Google HQ anymore (does gallows humor work over Zoom??)! It’d be funny if the falseness and purposelessness at the core of these tech jobs wasn’t a form of spiritual violence. To invoke David Graeber again, live like you’re already free and there’s obviously nothing that makes us feel less free than a Bullshit Job—libérez les sardines!!

Cities have possibilities, too. I’m a dyed in the wool Bay Arean (Oakland native) with a dumb, abiding love of San Francisco, though I have to acknowledge that much of that is nostalgia, both real and imagined (I’m open to past life regression analysis re: the intense wistfulness I feel about places like Hippie Hill which let’s just say that as a Polk Street-dwelling, Google shuttle-riding yuppie, I was not exactly ~*authentically frequenting*~). If we’re honest, the pandemic can’t be SF’s livability tipping-point; it’s been serving up some sharp dystopian looks for a loooong time! The intense inequality, the poop and trash and people bleeding and sleeping on the streets everywhere…these problems aren’t unique to SF, they’re America’s problems, but they feel more extreme and intense there, a place responsible for so much ostensible “progress” and opportunity. I have literally no idea how to solve these intractable systemic issues but assume it will take ordinary people with a shared belief in humanity coming together to rethink the whole damn thing / fight for a better city for everyone. If you’re not picturing the Youngbloods playing live in Golden Gate Park in 1971, a sea of hippies swaying in the crabgrass to “Come on people now, smile on your brother” by this point, I frankly cannot help you!!!

Does that answer your question at all? I will toss in here for good measure and a bit more “value add” because I’m desperate for your approval and not sure I’ve clinched it, that I once saw in a Ted Talk that living near friends and family is worth like $135,000 a year. So there’s also that. Live where you want, Limb! Your possibilities, like the dreamscape Costco city-on-a-hill, are infinite.

Some more reading:

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