What I Did On My Holidays

Intermission III

I left my heart in San Francisco (1)


As we leave San Francisco (in narrative time anyway), it's time to make some wild generalizations about this place with a smattering of shallow insights and oddball perspectives to add interest.

For starters, after an amazingly insightful piece of observation, I can say with some certainty that the hills in San Francisco are steep, really steep. So steep in fact that it is a ridiculous place to put a city. To prove this, I will now ridicule the city and it's placement.

Originally, cable cars weren't cable cars, and they probably weren't called cable cars then either. They were horse drawn busses. The powers that be switched to cable power after they found that the hills were so steep that sometimes the horses would lose traction (such as immediately after stepping in a pile of horse tailpipe emissions). Anyway, horses, no traction, steep hill - so horses, bus and screaming passengers slide backwards down the hill. Extreme public transport! A not-so-new idea to add excitement to your morning commute - also saves you from needing that cup of coffee to get going in the morning. (2)

This was a key turning point where city "planners" should not have gone the "pull them up the hill with a string" option. They should have grabbed the original settlers, slapped them about a bit and asked "What were you thinking?" Only a madman would put a city on the side of a cliff!

Of course I can understand why a city ended up here. It probably went something like this:

Originally some guy came across a nice beach on the edge of the bay. He needed a rest since he'd just crossed a bunch of really steep hills, so he sat on the sand and looked around. It was probably a lovely warm sunny day, the bay looked spectacular with thickly wooded hills  on the other side and the hills behind him as well. He admired the view and thought, "This is nice. I might just clear a few trees behind me and put up a house. I could handle waking up to views like this every morning" There was also a little voice inside his head saying that if he didn't decide to live here, he would have to go back across those hills.

So he did. Then when his mates from San Jose  dropped in for a beer they thought, "He's got a good thing here. I might just move in next door. Then I won't have to go so far for a beer as well!" Some of his heavier drinking mates didn't think this at all, they were just too smashed to make it back over those hills again.

This was all fine and well until the next million or so other people had the same idea and the city spread into those ridiculous hills. Here ends a brief and wildly fictional account of the history of San Francisco. I'm just so glad I'm not learning to drive a manual car here.

Question: If L.A. is L.A., why isn't S.F., S.F.?

1) Not really. I don't leave home without it, unlike certain credit cards. (back)

2) This also explains why, in litigation land, people are allowed to hang out the side of moving cable cars. Compared to the previous "horse and bus slide into the bay", the risk of face planting into the back of a parked truck is pretty low. Anyway, it's really only the tourists that would do such a stupid thing and it provides such great entertainment for everyone else. (back)


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© Copyright 2000 Andrew McIver

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