Annabel is 21 years old. When she tells me about living in San Francisco, she glows. Then again, she glows when she tells me anything. She has the energy of a young woman who is still amazed with the world. She is idealism walking. She describes everything enthusiastically, even things that you might not expect someone to be excited about. Her favorite thing in San Francisco is when it rains.
"The next day after it rains, the city just smells so fresh. It smells so much better and so clean! The rain washes away the pee!"
"I moved here with an ex-boyfriend. He always told me that I was so much bigger than Santa Cruz, so we moved here together. We eventually broke up, and I was in school, so I stayed here. I never thought I could live on my own and support myself, but after that, I loved it. I didn't want to leave."
"Living here is really expensive. I originally lived on Haight street in a little room under the stairs. I think I paid 875 a month for it. My door didn't have a turn handle on it, it was a pull handle. I think it used to be the cleaning lady's room. I would sit on my toilet to wash my dishes in the bathroom sink. I shared a room once for 521 dollars. It was by SF state. Now, my living room is my roommate's bedroom and our dining room is our living room. That's one reason our rent's cheaper. I have an awesome room and I am only paying 500 dollars for it!"
As we walk around Golden Gate Park, I am awed by the size and the scope of it. Lawn bowling, golf, museums, a lake, even a carousel. Annabel is originally from Santa Cruz, a "beach town", she tells me. She says living next to the park gives her an opportunity to get away from the craziness of the city.
Annabel and I walk around the park for a couple of hours, and she describes city life in San Francisco. She tells me about car theft, being kicked off buses, and finding dead people on the street. As she talks, it starts to dawn on me that most of the places that people are planning to take me in this city are "escapes". Like Annabel, it seems the people who live here need a dependable and quick escape from the craziness and the mayhem and the stink of this city.
I think back to my friend Dan's description of San Francisco; laid-back and friendly. I am wondering now if this isn't an observation that is possible because he lives in Walnut Creek. It seems lately that I am meeting a lot of people who need an escape from the city that they love. Most of the people who I have spoken with have a love for this city that approximates religious fervor, but what does it say about a place when its inhabitants' favorite places are places which exist for the sole purpose of getting away from the city they love?