A few years ago there was this trend called Flavor Tripping. You’d eat this thing called miracle fruit and all of a sudden your taste buds would get all weird on you for a short amount of time. Among other things, lemons would taste like lemonade, vinegar would taste like apple juice, and cheese would taste like frosting. It was like Willy Wonka had an Oompa Loompa orgy in your mouth.
Sounds hard to imagine right…no not the Oompa Loompa orgy, I know you’ve thought about that before you kinky bastard, I mean having your taste buds go all topsy-turvy on you. “Vinegar taste sweet like apple juice? That’s not possible.”
Well friends that’s what it’s like describing San Francisco in the summertime to someone who’s never experienced it. “The fuck you mean it’s foggy and cold in July?” They literally can’t wrap their minds around the concept. It undermines everything they thought they knew about the world, like finding out there is no Santa Claus or that dad left mom for a guy named Larry.
Because of this cognitive dissonance, the folks who sell those SF fleece jackets must make a killing each summer. How many times have you walked through Union Square, Chinatown, or North Beach and seen some sorry looking tourists wearing one of those things? It’s like they did the research before traveling and when their friends said, “Oh yeah it’s cold in San Francisco” or the guidebook told them to pack a jacket they said to themselves, “Fuck that noise. I’m going to California dammit! I’m gonna be surfing inside a cable car while motorboating blondes in bikinis.”
Yes, San Francisco is cold in the summer time. But that’s part of its charm. For those of us who’ve lived here for a long time it’s like a badge of honor. If you can’t love San Francisco when she’s cold and foggy, you don’t deserve her when she’s warm and sunny.
My first San Francisco summer was 2002. I had just moved here and was sleeping on an air mattress, and sharing a doorless room at Haight and Central with my buddy Mani. In our free time we’d ride the bus till it stopped, just to see what was at the end of the line. And we’d spend our evenings traipsing down Haight Street drunk off malt liquor and so fucking high off the feeling of being 21 years old. Life was an adventure, the city was brand new to us, and above all else, we were always surrounded by fog.
It’s hard not to fall in love with a place with that much built in romanticism. The cold and the fog and the way the wind rips right through whatever you’re wearing, well it’s like you’re in a book or a movie. The whole rest of the Northern Hemisphere is sweating and whimpering in the heat, and here in this little snow globe (or rather fog globe) of a town, we have our very own climate. For those few months, we are all Dashiell Hammett characters with our coat collars turned up, and our live lights turned on.
And then come September, our Indian Summer starts, and suddenly for two months San Francisco becomes its best self. We ditch our scarves and hoodies and trade them in for shorts and sunburns. We frolic at Baker Beach, groove at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and do filthy, dirty things at Folsom Street Fair.
Think about how lucky we are, we get two distinctly different and equally wonderful summers back to back. Being a San Franciscan is a very special thing, and we don’t even need one those ugly SF fleece jackets to prove it.