5th: If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud, but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.
I LEFT MY HEART...
28 August 2004
I received an e-mail from a high school classmate yesterday. I hear from her at Christmas each year, and she passes along a few goodies she finds on the Internet now and then. Sometimes they are things Ive already received from other people, but this one was unique. This one talks about what it means to be a "real" San Franciscan. It says "no book tells you how to act like a native San Franciscan, because it is widely assumed that the breed, if it ever existed, is extinct."
Well, I'm here to tell ya that native San Franciscans do exist and I'm one of them. I'm a bit of a phony, though (you won't tell anybody, will you?) I have always claimed to be a third generation San Franciscan and technically that's not quite true. My grandparents were born in San Francisco, but they happened to be in San Diego when my father was born. They returned when he was a few weeks old and he lived in the City for most of his life, so I just kind of omit that little ill-timed glitch when I think about my history with the City.
The piece my friend sent says that native San Franciscans have become strangers in their own city and that their whole culture is being swallowed up by foreigners from other states and other countries.
It's true. I love San Francisco and will always consider it home, but the San Francisco I love no longer exists....or if it does, you have to look long and hard to find it.
There are ways you can tell a native San Franciscan. The #1 biggie is that they never call it 'Frisco. That is like nails on a blackboard. I'm not sure why, except that it was such a big deal with columnist Herb Caen (who, oddly enough, grew up in Sacramento!) that nobody would DARE call it 'Frisco.
My own personal litmus test for length of time in San Francisco is to ask someone to name the area which is located on the south side of Market Street. If they call it SoMa, the upscale name for the newly gentrified area which used to be a slum and which now houses the Mosconi Center and the Museum of Modern Art, they are brand new to the city. If they call it "South of Market"--three distinct words--they have lived there longer, but still aren't native. If they call it "South of Market" and pronounce it like one word--"southomarket," those are my people.
When you ask a San Franciscan where s/he went to school, you may hear S.I. or S.H., Bal, Prez, or even "The Madams." It's funny but I never even thought that strange until it cropped up in this thing I got yesterday. S.I. is Saint Ignatius; S.H. is Sacred Heart. Prez is Presentation, and Bal is Balboa. And of course everyone knew "The Madams" was a ritzy school for rich girls run by the religious order, The Madams of the Sacred Heart.
San Franciscans name their buses and streetcars. You don't take the "J" or the "L" or the "41" or the "30," you take the J Church, or the L Taraval, or the 41 Union or the 30 Stockton.
Native San Franciscans remember when Ghirardelli was where they made chocolate and you could smell it all over North Beach in the morning. They remember when the primary industry of Fisherman's Wharf was seafood, not junky souvenirs. You could get a crab cocktail for 75¢ that contained more crab than what you pay $5 for today.
They remember when you could ride the cable car for 15¢ and women were not permitted to stand on the outside. You also didn't have to queue and the sport was to rush the car as it was pushed onto the turntable to turn it around for its ride back from whence it came. You could also get a seat if you caught the cable car anywhere along the route--it wasn't packed like sardines with tourists.
Native San Franciscans remember Laughing Sal and Playland at the Beach--and the kiddie cars that used to run along a track near the merry-go-round in Golden Gate Park.
San Franciscans know there are 30 numbered streets and 48 avenues; they know Arguello is First Avenue and Funston is 13th Avenue. They know that First Street is not the first street, and that Main is not the main street. They also call Park Presidio "19th Avenue" even though it is between 14th and 15th, because when Park Presidio ends, it will end at 19th Avenue. (got that?)
The Richmond district is always called "The Richmond," and the Sunset District is always called "The Sunset," but Noe Valley has no article in front of its name; neither does downtown or North Beach. No one knows why.
But natives do know it is always 24th (pronounced twennyfourth) and Mission, not Mission and 24th. It's Second and Clement, not Clement and Second. The street is not pronounced "CLEment" but "CleMENT." There is no need to make a distinction between Second Street and Second Avenue in this case, since San Franciscans know that Second Street and Clement do not intersect.
My friend Char, another native San Franciscan, reminded me that we dying breed can tell you where the Doggie Diner used to be.
We also remember Seal Stadium and Kezar Stadium long before the City had Giants and 49ers, Candlestick Park or SBC Park.
The native San Franciscan woman would never be seen downtown without her sensible cloth coat, gloves and a hat. Occasionally you still see a woman that you just know grew up in the City. The gloves and the hat may be gone, but you simply can't miss that cloth coat and that certain "look" about them.
We do not acknowledge "The Sheraton Palace Hotel." It will always be "The Palace."
Most of us grew up under the delusion that everybody was a native San Franciscan. It was the largest small town in the world, and we thought it the only city that counted. Occasional tourists complimented us on the city, but we never dreamed they'd move in and take over.
Today's Web Site
http://www.justgiving.com/pfp/pages/default.asp?pid=3443 . Ellen and Shelly, whose marriage was recently invalidated by the California Supreme Court, are joining with 40-50 other people to make a bus tour across the U.S., stopping in in 10 cities to hold rallies in support of marriage for same sex couples. If you feel generous and would be willing to help them with expenses, check out their page and give them a donation.