Many people have told me that this may be America’s most beautiful city, and I tend to agree. Spectacular views, and even the parts that are frequented by the homeless and by drug addicts are cleaner than most cities. On a similar note it is not advised to walk on the beaches barefoot because of the risk of stepping on used needles.
The people here are extremely conscious of their language and of how the choice of language implicitly shapes the framework of even minor discussions. Cannabis consumption is common and ubiquitous and you are likely to see people smoking cannabis outside the downtown bars, in the middle of the city. It is a far cry from the shrill prohibitionists back East.
There are incredible restaurants here that are for the most part reasonably priced. Recommended are the ethnic spots of course, and there is a Buddhist temple that serves an excellent Sunday brunch in Berkeley that was a highlight of my visit.
Society seems to function well around a quasi-libertarian set of ideas, particularly the notion that no one should criminalize consensual behavior, or behavior that does not implicate anyone’s rights. Nudists, though not a quite-every-day phenomenon, may be seen fairly frequently, and participate in large social bike rambles.
There does seem to be an incoherence in discussions involving the prospect of federal action. There is anger here, great anger, that the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice refuse to respect state laws regulating the cannabis industry here, but introduce the discussion on education, for instance, and the discussion turns almost automatically to the question of “Well what can the federal government do about these problems?”
There is the sense here that California is really too big and incoherent to be governed as one state, and that perhaps two states may be better for governance.
I was perhaps most disturbed by the sight of the city hall in San Francisco, which looks more like a palace than any other American building I have ever seen.
I also had the best Reuben I’ve ever had at at Morty’s Deli around the corner from UC Hastings Law School. The Reuben is one of my culinary benchmarks; every deli and sandwich shop in the country has one on the menu, and most are passable at best.