I never imagined that I would one day live in California at all, much less San Francisco. I remember watching the 1989 earthquake from my dorm lounge in Evanston, Illinois, and remarking, "What kind of idiot would ever want to live in California?" Then of course, just a couple of years later a professor told me about this great graduate program at UC Berkeley...
San Francisco isn't the first major city I've lived in, but it is the biggest. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but raised mostly in the relatively small town of West Liberty, West Virginia. Moved back to Pittsburgh at age 12, and later off to Evanston for college at Northwestern. Evanston was near enough to Chicago to get your fill of big-city life without being around it every day. I had a good four years there, but never considered staying in the Chicago area for a moment after graduation.
I moved out here to pursue a Ph.D and JD in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at UC Berkeley. I dropped out very early due to illness, recovered and got a job at UC, and stayed here to this day. I did consider moving back to Pittsburgh after my divorce, but the Bay Area really is better suited to my lifestyle.
The biggest plus for me right now is the commute, which is really the only reason that boyziggy and I moved across the Bay at all. I can get to work in 25 minutes door-to-door, as opposed to an hour from Berkeley. In fact, I can walk all the way home from work in 45 minutes, which I just confirmed for the second time this afternoon.
I love being able to hop on any form of transportation with just my MUNI pass. Even though the price will be going up to $45/month soon ($10 increase), it will still be worth it. I was paying at least $112/month before, although that was somewhat mitigated by the pretax transit program at work.
My Nob Hill neighborhood is different than any I've ever lived in. The buildings are mere inches from each other, the hills are steep, and the many one-way streets are dominated by cable cars and laundromats. Chinatown is just down the hill, and the majority of people I see walking by are of Asian descent.
The crowds do get to me whenever I go downtown; I don't like being around large groups of people for long. But the fact that I can actually walk downtown is a bonus (although getting back uphill is more of a challenge). I am always surprised how crowded the buses and cable cars can get at all times of day and night. The cable cars I can understand because of the summer tourists. But I once boarded a bus downtown at midnight on a weekend, and it was standing-room only by the time I got off.
I still miss Berkeley every day. boyziggy and I lived in an unusually good location there, where we could easily walk to everything. I'm sure I will find more shops and restaurants that I like here though, as long as I keep exploring.
I'll be in Pittsburgh next week (so this may be my last LJ entry for awhile). It will be interesting hanging out there after my experience in the City. It's always a bit of a culture shock seeing smoking in restaurants, fur coats in the winter, and hearing the natives speak "Pittsburghese" (must be heard to be appreciated, or derided as the case may be). But in some ways, I still consider Pittsburgh my true home, and probably always will.