Fifteen years ago, I remember the city smelling of sweet oysters and freshly cracked crab. The sidewalks were regularly swept and the streets, apart from a few specific areas, were relatively pothole free. North Beach was always bustling with Italian grandmothers packing hand-pressed raviolis into green felt tote bags. The Mission had this unmistakable aura, no doubt fueled by toasted masa and crackling stacks of pork. The neighborhoods were unique and individualized, but strangely ubiquitous.
Today, the power hungry, IPO-craving, start-up bragging, MIT-graduating vultures have descended on the city with blood-thirsty intents. The streets are clogged with traffic and construction, everyone stuck in a perpetual state of idle. Curbsides are riddled by hot garbage, sweating in the sun and stifling the nostrils. The city is transformed into an amalgam of narcissism and desperation, a stinky cologne in any capacity, but set against the backdrop of a stale, bland series of buildings slowly singing into the bay, it’s downright awful.
Two bedroom homes have been converted into crude, indistinguishable six-plexes, doing their damndest to house 19-year old programmers who slam Red Bull waiting for their balls to drop, and only visit the Mission to gawk at poverty as they suck down $15 cocktails composed of 58 ingredients all from some organic farm up the coast that nobody has ever heard of.
I move through the streets uneasily now, shiftily moving my gaze from person to person as if I’m to be stabbed at any moment. And I see that familiar look in all the other faces, paranoid and stressed. We easily pass by the homeless mother breastfeeding her malnourished daughter with milk that is tainted by heroin. A little farther up the road, we ignore the clean-cut 20-something wearing the SendGrid t-shirt and Bose headphones—his only imperfection is the needle sticking out of his arm and the fact that his eyes have rolled back in his head. We ignore the blood stains on the once-clean sidewalk, stained by some poor sap who stepped off the Wells Fargo building after he lost his pension in PayCoin. We ignore all this while pretending the city was what it was: a clean, beautiful, melting-pot of cultures and ideas, hell-bent on destroying hate and upholding equality; instead, we choose to hide behind these ideas as we destroy the city we still believe is great.