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When Bruce Springsteen included the below song on his post-9/11 album The Rising, most figured it was obviously a reference to New York City. Bruce kept fairly quiet on the matter, but unlike most tracks on the record, this song was actually written before that fateful day. It could obviously apply to many a city or neighborhood, but the song was written for the small shore town of Asbury Park, New Jersey; the town that put Bruce on the map. Asbury Park was dying and Bruce, through his words (and his wallet) helped to restore the city that gave him so much.
I've never really known where to call home. Despite spending the first 18 years of my life in New Jersey (with the exception of an early-life jaunt to LA for a few years), aside from visiting friends and family, I've never really been drawn back to Northern New Jersey since leaving. Having witnessed divorce and a lot of the confusion that comes along with such a separation, it just never felt like "home." A few years in Boston in college certainly didn't do the trick. I went on to live in Brooklyn from 1999-2005 and this is the first place that actually felt like home. When I moved from Prospect Park West to 11th Avenue, after a few months living there, my mother came to the realization that I was residing just two blocks from where she grew up. And then I got to know the business owners, neighbors, the local dogs and suddenly, I started to feel at home. My girlfriend at the time and I would spend every Sunday reading the New York Times in Prospect Park. We'd watch kids play baseball, joggers gump around the park and folks of all different backgrounds enjoy the beautiful park. I knew the bars (and what was on every jukebox) and restaurants. It was becoming my town. But as 2004 came to a close, I started to feel the pull.
January 1st marked my five-year anniversary in the Bay Area. I spent a year down in Sunnyvale (blast!) before moving up to the city at the turn of 05-06. Man it's taken a long time for this city to hit me. For the first year or two I spent far too much time in the Mission, an area that simply drove me insane. I couldn't stop thinking (and saying to people) "this isn't Brooklyn! Where's the diversity? These fools all look the same. I am NOT getting tight jeans!" Then I'd go out for drinks after work and be surrounded by fellas wearing designer jeans and neatly pressed blouses. I couldn't find a comfort zone. Anywhere. I was living in Alamo Square (where I still live), and I had my spots, but I just couldn't find the right fit. But then I stopped thinking about it. And I stopped going to places that, well, I didn't like. Tonight I was in the Marina for the first time in what must be two years. I only go to the Mission to buy records and eat chicken, and I usually only do so during the week when the sucks are at their tedious soon-to-fail start-ups. And suddenly things started to happen. I go to my local coffee shop daily. I made the owner five CDs and its ALL they play. As I walked in today, the song playing was "Come Back From San Francisco" by The Magnetic Fields. "I'm starting to feel like I'm walking into my apartment when I walk in here," I said to Greta, the new girl behind the counter. "This is actually my CD," she said. Whoa. Next came "Ole Tarantula" by Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3. "Are you serious?" I said to Greta. "My dad loves this record and it grew on me," she said. Our age difference was showing. But man, the spirit of "home" was running through me, just as it does at Rooky's Records on Haight, Duboce Park and as it did at Hanabi (R.I.P.).
Back to the title of this damn post. Right as I've started to really feel at home here in San Francisco, I've started to notice a city falling apart. I seriously can't walk two blocks without seeing a boarded up business, and they're always the local mom and pops. Every area of the city seems impacted. And not on a small scale. The only places that seem mildly immune are the upscale stores and restaurants that draw the city's monetary elites. Ya know, the stale places with the predictable food, staff, ridiculous clothes. Gone are the owners who know you by name. Gone are the stores where they know what kind of shirt you'll want or your favorite sandwich.
This post has been all over the damn map, but this has all been resting, or maybe wrestling, with me all day. I love this city. But it seems to be losing its edge. Like Park Slope did a few years ago and Manhattan did when Giuliani turned parts of it into Disney World. Anyone who lives here knows full well that our mayor sucks arse, so I'm asking that we take it upon ourselves. Hit the local coffee shop instead of damn Starbucks. Visit an independent movie theatre instead of those monstrosities. Go to a used clothing store instead of whatever places sell those ridiculous jeans. Inspired by this Huffington Post piece, I have decided to move my money to a community bank instead of the behemoths that helped destroy our economy. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I plan on moving all of my money ($9.22) out of Bank of America, and provided my visit goes well, into this bank. Man, there are so many things we can do to help salvage the places that provide real service and carry the spirit that this city's starting to lose. Parts of this city are starting to look like nothing but Starbucks after Peete's after Starbucks after Whole Foods. We need more. Try and do a little bit. Maybe I'll make you a mix disc.