Miss you SanFrancisco !
Author Raja Krishnamoorthy / Kitty - Nov 03, 2013
It was difficult to say bye to this lovely city. We had almost become “close friends” with this city over the last 4 weeks.
What is it that makes a city “friendly”?
I guess there is a different reason that influences different people. For me it was that sense of comfort, ease, liveliness and acceptance.
Comfort was largely the contribution from Arvind our son, and Sri Devi our Daughter-in-law. They had handed over their apartment literally, to us, and hence we were at total liberty of choosing what to do, when to do & how to do things in the city. The basics of very comfortable stay, a very good home, plus logistics that were quite easy to manage…all these came along to make it such a comfortable stay.
The weather was awesome. The setting in of the fall season was evident. With highest temp around 25*c and low around 11*c, it was an air-conditioned city- most of the time. No sweat, no grime, and no dust: Quite a combo, for giving that “I am never tired” feeling during the day!
So physically and emotionally it was enjoyable, most comfortable.
Ease? Unlike many other places, SFO is a walk-able, movable and easy to explore city. You do not depend on relatives or friends to drive you around. The public transportation is excellent and easy to understand and make use of. It is simple in its’ operation and has a coverage that is really big help-thru day & Night.
We could walk to the Golden gate park in 3 minutes flat! So close was the luxury of natural bounty. The grocery was next door. The bus stop was 2 minutes walk. The connectivity to the downtown & other parts of the city was soooo easy. I guess I averaged around 10kms per day for the 4 weeks and 13 kms average for the last 2 weeks (thanks to the added motivation from Arvind: he gifted me a Fit-bit wrist band!)
Liveliness? I guess that is the way one experiences the city. Its people, its structures, its’ culture & ethos…its’ inclusivity and its accommodating strangers. SFO was again awesome in this aspect
We were in the midst of people, all the time, when we were outside home. In the streets, in the buses, in the parks, in the shops, in the restaurants. It felt like a very clean, well laid out and decently managed Mumbai. Most people smiled, were friendly and helpful. I quite enjoy new surroundings, but Meena who is a little apprehensive about new situations too enjoyed a lot. That is something of a city to do!
Part of that came from the inclusivity of the city. It embraces all people, it seems.
The manager in the next door grocery shop and Ray the deputy, represented the culture of most people especially in the services sector: Stores, buses, shopping malls, museums…forthcoming, smiling and wanting to be helpful.
The other strength of the city is the inclusivity and diversity. SFO accommodates the world. The Rich, the average, the street people, the global population; with the china town, Japanese area, the farmers market, Tram riding tourists… etc! It had the new age technology establishments along with some of the best museums and art scenes; Walking along the 19th street from Valencia on a Saturday evening would open up possibilities of multiple artistic sojourns: Book reading in a shop like Dog ear, the new generation artists presenting their work of paintings in another studio, multiple “live bands” in the different clubs, along with the special concerts at the golden gate park…the list can be un ending.
SFO is also a foodies’ dream. The Mexican grills vying with every other type of cuisine- be it Burmese, Thai, Chinese, sushi-Japanese, Lebanese, Punjabi, the Udipi (vegetarian) palace – for the best palate-ial experiences. The workers owned Arizmendi bakery where you see a queue flowing outside in to the street even on a Tuesday morning offerings; The relaxed atmosphere in the street cafes …It was gastronomic bonanza for a foodie.
There is, in the midst of all these the hard work: The civic administration–road repairs, garbage clearing staff, plumbing, street lighting, tree pruning-all work with dedication and largely with a smile. Doing their own bit of repairs, maintenance, traffic management, ambulances rushing, park up-keep & such stuff. The bus drivers- the Bart & Muni services staff- are caring and extremely courteous to physically challenged people, senior citizens and strangers too.
Every city, for me, has a human face and feel. I remember my feel for Kolkata: Many years back, as I was taxying to the air-port for a very early morning flight, at 4.30 am, noticing a lonely street cleaning person, completely focused and happily working away when the whole world was asleep. Kolkata has, forever felt like the “working class “city from that time. Mumbai, my Bombay, is the city of accommodation to every dreamer. There is this feel of an ever busy yet smiling metro: I get this “Arey Yaar” feel in that Bollywood city.
I experienced the energy & bubbliness of SFO in similar ways. The SFO culture is progressive, permissive and highly accommodative. For a slightly radical & rebellious creature like me, SFO is heaven! I guess SFO is like me in many ways: Friendly, open, radical and full of love & warmth… easy to relate to and also taken for granted, at times. But it seems to have similar response: “So what, life has so much to give. I do not mind”.
I joyously walked around the city, for all those 4 weeks, quite aimlessly -like a teenager, just wanting to hang around with his girl friend – not wanting that nice feeling to ever end, even if there was no great agenda or very little “really” getting done.
I miss you SFO!
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