Deep in the scene of the San Francisco streets

I didn't ride this tram. The line of tourists was way too long. It looked cool though

I didn’t ride this tram. The line of tourists was way too long. It looked cool though

The first district I walked down in San Francisco was the Tenderloin – the most notoriously dangerous district in then entire city. I learned this lesson the hard way – as my expensive camera was eyed off and I was called a cunt a couple of times…Lesson learned.

It wasn’t the greatest start to this enigmatic bayside city – where anything goes. Things were about to get stranger, though.

On the dancefloor, at a hidden-away club in downtown San Francisco, there are several people all dressed in appropriate goth attire (velvet, black leather and purple) doing to what looks like a seductive version of the robot to me. In a cage next to the dance floor is another girl in a painful looking leather corset and some of the tightest leather pants I’ve ever seen, she’s rubbing her hands all over her body and licking her lips as she makes eye contact with people on the other side of the bar. Against the wall to the left are four men in their late 50s – all on their smartphone with appropriately bored expressions … or maybe they were tweeting about what an awesome time they were having.

Welcome to the Cat Club.

It’s an industrial goth dance club. From memory, the selection of music they played was: Florence and the Machine, The Cure, and … actually no those are the only two songs I remember. They were also the only two songs I knew. I started speaking to Hannah, who moved to the United States three years ago from Germany. During the week she is a ‘corporate bitch’ working at a large law firm. She gets payed well, and looks the part. On weekends she puts on her knee-high leather boots, pulls on her vinyl dress, and spends her time at clubs like this.

Although Hannah has only been living in San Francisco for a few years, she told me she loves how many different things are happening in the city and what a strange mix of people it holds. It seems like San Francisco is the place where the hippest of the hip and the weirdest of the weird move. You walk down one street and people beg you for one cent. Down the next street tourists line the corners waiting to take the famous San Francisco trams. The next street is high-end fashion. A block over is where Twitter, Pinterest, and other up-and-coming technology companies have abandoned Silicon Valley to start gentrifying areas in the Bayside city. It’s a melting pot, and many of the areas are a far cry from what you imagine when you hear: “if heading to San Francisco be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. The Haight-Street hippies are long gone, replaced with desperate pan handlers looking for nothing at all, or maybe a penny of your change.

The city still has a great vibe about it and the locals are nice. I visited several dive bars while I was there. How could I not – I’d accidentally timed my visit to coincide with San Francisco beer week (these are the types of accidents I love to have). My interpretation of a dive bar is a really crap place – not the case in San Francisco. Instead, they were mainly filled with hip young San Franciscans. But they were still fun and the locals are nice.

At the 500 Club I met Alex and Sean. Sean is a programmer for the Fox Network who has worked on The Simpsons, Ice Age, and Garfield. Alex is a writer who has recently signed his first book contract. At the Noc Noc Club I met Emily who works for the non-profit environmental group Save the Bay. In Benders Bar & Grill I strike up a conversation with Jack, he’s a lawyer by day but in the evenings he presents an industrial/drone/metal/punk program on community radio. He also drove us home a little later in the evening. These are the types of people we meet everywhere – most have cool and well paying jobs – they have to be well payed with rents starting at around $2000 a week for a one bedroom place. It’s expensive but people are willing to pay these prices so they don’t get stuck ‘living over the bridge’.

San Francisco is an interesting city – with each street holding something completely different to the last. The Castro district is the city’s gay area where protests were underway over the recent banning of nudity in public places. Nudists had previously gathered on the corner of two streets in Castro every Saturday morning to have coffee, breakfast, and enjoy the fresh air. Although the biggest protests had died down, there was still a subtle “fuck you” hanging around the place. Who knows what gave me that impression. Maybe it was the man walking around with nothing on except a sock covering his penis. Or maybe the waiter wearing the assless chaps and belt saying ‘down with the nudity laws’. But it could have just been the vibe.

So that was my San Francisco experience. There were a lot more bars involved and even a couple of touristy things – think Golden Gate Bridge. But these are the people and experiences that really stuck with me and made the city worth remembering.

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