Sunday, December 27, 2009
GrubSteak: So Right, But So Very Wrong
Isn’t it strange how some things feel so right – but so wrong – at the same time? For instance: a new apartment that's bright and sunny but too small; a spanking new manicure that's clean but an unflattering color; a first kiss that leaves you wondering whether it was good or awkward, curious about what he thinks; owning a puppy – man's best friend! – without enough time or money to care for it.
I guess the best way to describe my right-wrong premise is like this: There’s a diner in Nob Hill called GrubSteak, open until 4am. (Grub? Right. Steak? Right. Open ‘til 4am? So right.) It serves its burgers with fried eggs on them. (So wrong.) Minus the eggs, the food is spectacular. See what I mean?
Take San Francisco. It’s a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, stay-up-all-night kind of town. It’s so right, but at the same time it’s completely amiss. It's not home. I’m a Portlander (or a Beaverton-er, if you want to get technical) at heart, but on the outside I’m a cold, hard San Franciscan. Case in point: Every day, I walk by a middle-aged lady in a red vest who kindly offers stacks of Examiner newspapers, and I can't even muster the energy to mumble, “No, thanks.” (It's wrong. Wrong!) I blow past herds of people on the escalator that rises from the Bart station, my over-sized bag bumping and bruising folks along the way. I hardly ever apologize. (Portlanders apologize.) I don’t chit chat with smiley strangers on the sidewalks or at work; in fact, I avoid conversation altogether by whipping out my BlackBerry for a pretend phone call – or, sometimes, just scowling.
Like me, everyone who lives in San Francisco isn't really from San Francisco. I’ve learned that San Franciscans come from various states and distant regions of the world to the City by the Bay for: (a) adventure, (b) love, or (c) work. (For me, it was all three.) I’ve learned that you can tell people you “just moved here” if you’ve been in the city for less than a year. After that – like it or not – you’re a local. Almost everyone I meet says he or she just moved to town.
I wonder if they all think Fog City is as wonderfully wrong as I do. I wonder if they’re as excited to find out which other cities are wrong – but right! – for them, just like I am. For now, San Francisco's entire population is familiarizing itself with the city’s splendor and oddities. But what comes next?