San Francisco has always been the origin and the terminus of a frantic game of mass migration ping-pong with Los Angeles. As the ebb and flow of opportunity, culture, and burrito supremacy shifts its weight from one foot to the other, the disjointed populations of both cities have desperately tried to find their stamping grounds on either end of the West Coast.
Los Angeles promises a lottery of opportunity and mobility. If you've got the looks or cash to double down in the right moment, then maybe you'll find yourself on an inflatable recliner, drifting drunk in an azure pool by your mid 30s. At the other end of the state, San Francisco promises to withhold its judgment, and let you live. It's the smoke curling from the tip of a blunt on a stoop in the Mission in your early 20s, where everybody is either beautiful, young, and healthy, or aged, wise, and understanding.
But here's the thing: Both cities are full of shit. Their ephemeral magic barely covers the subway ride from the airport, and if you're not too naïve to size up your surroundings for a moment, you'll realize that neither city has any interest in contributing to your indecisiveness. They're siblings, rivals, and strangers in one go.
Curiously, if you ask an Angelino what they think of their brothers up north, you'll be hard pressed to find a negative opinion. San Francisco is where you go to chill, check out the skyline, find reliable thrift. It's an escape.
Ask the same of a Friscan, and walk away immediately, because there's about to be some damage done. Across the board, San Franciscans hate Los Angeles. To them, it's the city their most ambitious friends abandoned them for, and the city that brought rotating thousands of slackjawed stoners and simpleminded artists to their overcrowded shores.
Like so many others, I moved up to The Bay from Los Angeles when I was 22 years old. Now I'm 25, and know better than to admit that like many of this city's transplants, I'm a fake piece of shit gentrifier raised on a sense of entitlement. Whenever I talk about my hometown to a local, I realize that San Francisco is like a jealous ex. The complaints aren't real, and if they are, they're selfish. The rest is just nonsensical, immaterial, and hypocritical justification.
"People From LA Are Fake and Mean"
To be fair, Los Angeles is far and away the most sycophantic city in the world. Everybody is connected, and everybody talks. The hyper-social assholes run everything, and you'd better hope they like you. Plus, as a city of bubbles (cars, cubicles, McMansions), the total lack of unplanned face to face contact forces you to give 100 percent at every gathering, because if you don't, nobody will even bother to remember your name. People from LA are faker than the baby in American Sniper.
In turn, San Franciscans like to think of themselves as nicer versions of New Yorkers: honest, but pleasant. Like, your yoga mat is kind of tacky.But what's really going on is grade-A, consummate, record-breaking snobbery. San Franciscans from all walks of life cling to their ideologies instead of talking to anyone they regularly wouldn't. Instead of faking, they flaunt. Suggest you're anything but a leftist foodie social activist with a penchant for marijuana and workers' rights, and you'll be standing alone at the party sipping your flat, bitter, craft beer while everyone saves their eye-rolls for when you leave. I'll take bullshit coddling over judgmental tail-wagging any day.
"There's Too Much Traffic"
This is like if Oscar the Grouch bitched about the Plaza not having nice enough linens. Bro, you live in a fucking trash can. I'll concede that sitting in traffic on the 405 is kind of boring. But San Francisco's alternative is inching through a crowded intersection as bicyclists knock off your side mirrors and pedestrians slide across your hood, Dukes of Hazard style, all while being tailgated as you look for nonexistent parking on a one-way street at a 45-degree incline. Compared to chilling on the highway with one arm hanging out the window for an hour, AC on blast, listening to The Best of The Bee Gees, driving in San Francisco is an unmitigated, incomparable disaster, and the only people who think LA traffic is a problem are people who exclusively take public transit.
On that note, San Franciscans also love to gripe about how there's no public transit in Los Angeles. This, admittedly, is true. LA's transit system seems to operate under the slogan "good luck, and tough titties." Since everybody who can afford it drives a car, the LA metro is a particular cross-section of lone schoolchildren from the inner city, tourists in over their heads, vagrants looking for a place to sleep, and like two regular-ass people per car. It also takes an agonizingly long time to get anywhere, since there's literally no reason to service most of LA's neighborhoods, and you're stuck taking local bus after local bus where it would've taken 20 minutes to drive.
Refusing to live in Los Angeles because you need a car is like refusing to go skiing because sweaters are itchy. Do without, I don't care, but shut the fuck up about it.
"Everyone Gets Plastic Surgery"
There is no question that Los Angeles is a shallow, appearance-driven city. All major metropolises are, so this is pretty much a moot point. In fact, while the market for plastic surgery in Los Angeles is sizable, it's smaller than it is in New York, Miami, San Diego, and—you guessed it—San Francisco. One study, which measured the page views on a popular plastic surgery forum in different cities, found 64 page views per 1,000 residents in San Francisco compared to 56 page views in Los Angeles. According to another study, there are 5.4 plastic surgeons per 100,000 residents in San Francisco, while only 4.1 per 100,000 in Los Angeles.
At the same time, it is absolutely true that San Francisco will judge you less on appearance. You can show up anywhere in a company picnic T-shirt, relaxed fit chinos, and Timbs, and nobody will bat an eye. If you're not rich, then it's the place you move when you're not attractive enough to be noticed on the street, so you fuck up your fashion and hobbies in the name of public attention. (This is a sweeping generalization and doesn't apply to neighborhoods like the Marina, which is effectively an ongoing USC fraternity party.)
"The City Itself Is So Ugly"
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring cities in the world—on par with Paris or Bombay. The skyline bursts through a thick, heavy layer of fog; the long, thin, stacked homes on overlapping lush hills match glass on concrete and Victorian in an unforgettable, unparalleled, and unmistakable way. Even the dingy, run down city centers, the Tenderloin and SOMA, can't help but force nostalgia for a time you've only heard about. And outside the city, nearly every possible natural environment is within a 20-minute drive.
Here, I can understand why San Franciscans insist that things are better up north: LA is pretty, but SF is a bombshell.
"We're More Tolerant"
Los Angeles prides itself on not really giving too much a shit what you do because they'll never see you do it, shielded by the aforementioned "bubbles" (car, cubicle, McMansion). San Francisco prides itself as a tolerant paradise. Be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, live, love, laugh.
That's nice and all, except that San Francisco suffers from Tumblr syndrome, where real social issues are side skirted for the bliss of communal animosity against a strawman in the wrong. As long as you fit into the San Francisco aesthetic from 1993, you're welcomed with open arms. The term "Real San Franciscan" is bandied about a lot. Anyone else—techies, gentrifiers, hipsters, tourists, hobos, conservatives, meatheads, or pretty much anybody who isn't born, raised, and poised to die in the city—is a dirty outcast who doesn't deserve to live here.
There is no such thing as a "Real Angeleno," because most people who live in LA moved there from somewhere else—whether it's from a small town in the Midwest, to pursue dreams of fame and fortune, or from across the border in Mexico, to pursue a better life.
And while the same is true of San Francisco (most of its population is transplanted, too) SF is totally different. I've never met a group more entitled about birthright. People frequently complain that they've lived here their entire lives, and now they can't afford it so they have to move. So? Who promised you things would stay the same? This isn't 1621, the Pilgrims aren't running around murdering the natives in the name of the church. Cities change, and the more you resist it, the more you turn into a crotchety Republican pining for the "good old days." SF nativism breeds a hilarious, depressing, and misguided xenophobia. Tolerant? San Franciscans aren't even tolerant of the weather.
"It's Too Hot"
Last week, San Francisco put out a heat advisory warning because the temperature was going to hit 85 degrees. Not a forecast, but a fucking warning. I guess the old saying is true: if you can't handle the heat, get your infantile ass to San Francisco, where it is always windy and uncomfortably chilly.
All told, I still love both cities. San Francisco is where you can do whatever the hell you want to do. Wanna get high every day and listen to Rick Astley? Go for it! Wanna design an app that gives prostate massages? Great! San Francisco never makes you feel like you've failed, and as long as you're not failing, that's a good thing.
But San Francisco isn't hungry. Los Angeles is where you go to feel like a worthless disappointment. Everybody is quick to remind that they're doing better and you're falling behind. And nothing lights a fire under your ass and makes you crave success like some asshole who doesn't deserve it waving it in your face. Alone, the two cities deserve to collapse to the ground in a "wrath of God" tornado. But taken together, they might just be the most complimentary cities in the world.
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