Heart of the City Archives

Re: Refinance your memories with this pill
by Hank Donat

Some folks love email. I have friends who thrive on it. They survived the dot com bust and rose, recalcitrant, like the Terminator with a cell phone and palm pilot.

In the interest of equal time, I should mention Gray Davis, since I did say “Terminator.” Send Gray Davis an email. Tell him he’s leaving on a Cruz.

I find it difficult to truly express a feeling in an email, but many people are very good at it. For example, ex-pat San Franciscans can graphically describe their remorse in email after they’ve left the City.

Kimble J. McSweeney writes, “I am presently a displaced San Franciscan, serving time in the Hell Mound of the U.S. - Dallas, Texas.”

You might be surprised to know how many hell holes, arm pits, and backwaters there are outside the Bay Area. None has a Palace of the Legion of Honor, but they all have email.

Kimble remembers the exact day and date he left San Francisco. “I envy your rising with each new sun and seeing the City anew for another day,” he writes.

“My nightly walks along Ocean Beach are now little more than fond memories,” he laments, “How very much I miss the theatre and concerts. What I wouldn't give to be among the concrete canyons of the Financial District again, to hear the clang of the trolleys, to wait for what seemed an eternity for the M-Oceanview line to take me back home after a long day at work.”

Kimble is expressing something every San Franciscan needs to hear once in a while, lest they ever think the grass is greener in Dallas.

It’s not unusual for non-native San Franciscans to leave and come back. Perhaps they thought the entire country had coincidentally evolved around the same time they moved here in the first place.

Native San Franciscans knew it was the best place all along. That’s what gives them their unique oblige in a city that possesses hearts, often turning tourists into locals in a matter of minutes.

From Los Angeles, Barbara Shaurette writes, “I’m a San Franciscan-in-exile, since my company decided to close its SF satellite office. It was either move to the corporate office in L.A., or remain in San Francisco as a jobless artist, competing with thousands of others for the handful of remaining jobs. I'm wishing that I'd held out.”

Someone tell the Convention and Visitors Bureau we have a new campaign: “The city so nice you don’t mind being jobless among thousands.”

Cory Peeke gets right to point, “I'm a former San Franciscan currently living in Seattle and I regret that I ever left.”

Some people sign their emails with the dates they lived here under their names, like on tombstones: Ann Patane, “Bernal Heights Resident 1972 – 1986.” Ann didn’t say where she lives now, but I’m sure it’s not Florence, Italy.

You’ll be happy to know San Francisco still compares favorably with great cities like London and Paris. People consistently email from those places to express approval.

Abby Sims is a Briton who left her heart in San Francisco but visits often. In the city, Abby says she wakes with a "here-I-am, where-I-ought-to-be feeling.”

Also among the money lenders, penis enlargers, and prescription drug suppliers who email me daily are locals from all corners of the city.

Katie Broder writes from the Mission District suggesting that I arrange a “Queer Eye on the Straight Candidate” makeover of Matt Gonzalez for a column in my interview series.

Matt Lynch is a fifth generation San Franciscan who says what he likes best about his city are “the residential/urban mix, St. Ignatius Church, the 49ers, submarine sandwiches in West Portal, wacky politics, taking girlfriends to Coit Tower, and the North Beach Restaurant.”

San Francisco is brimming with things to write home about. The Wave Organ at the end of the jetty near the yacht club in the Marina is a frequent subject of emails from locals.

I recently sent a visitor from Canada to see and hear the Wave Organ. Gail MacTaggart of Montreal was convinced she was supposed to hear Bach coming from the bay. Canadians are so literal.

Gail later wrote me that what she found at the Wave Organ was more sublime than anything she could have imagined.

An email from a prominent San Franciscan included a story about the time her ob/gyn announced he was moving his office to Daly City shortly before the birth of Ms. San Francisco’s daughter. Our heroine told the doctor, “it’s been nice knowing you but I’ll squat in Golden Gate Park before I have ‘Daly City’ on my daughter’s birth certificate.”

Some email is angry, but fortunately those are a small minority. I once referred to Grant Avenue as Grant Street on my web site. That’s the written equivalent of pronouncing Kearny, “Kier-knee” and is worthy of a virtual flogging.

A San Franciscan wrote me after Leah Garchik and Bruce Bellingham each had a different reference to how old Herb Caen would have been on his most recent birthday. One said 87, the other 86. “So which is it?” the reader inexplicably demanded of me.

For the record, it’s 87, and their email addresses are lgarchik@sfchronicle.com and bbellingham@examiner.com respectively.

All of these people have succeeded in capturing a feeling in an email. If I could do the same I would answer each one by saying that your love for this beautiful, elusive city is clearly reflected in your memories.

Voicemail is another thing entirely.

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