San Francisco with New Eyes

I spent the past week in San Francisco for VMware’s VMworld 2010. I was meeting colleagues and friends, working long hours, and having a lot of fun. But at the week’s end my trip transitioned from work to pleasure and I enjoyed the company of my oldest friends in the area. I have also had time for walks around the city and now see this city in a different light. And not a pleasant one.

By comparison to Singapore this city is absolutely filthy. The sidewalks are caked with gum, the buildings covered in graffiti, the streets littered with refuse. It is unfair to compare any city to Singapore’s cleanliness, but living there has elevated my expectations for civic sanitary standards. Did I not notice the uncleanness of San Francisco before? Or did I just not care?

And the lunatics own some corners. On my walk through the mission I saw a woman slap her husband, he responded with repeated punches. On 6th St I saw a hit an run.  Two minutes later a man ran through the street jumping on moving cars. At 16th St the junkies and tweekers were lying on the sidewalks. One slapping her own head and muttering to herself. Half-retarded after a life of excess. And there is always someone screaming on a distant corner.

Its true that I was walking some of the seedier sections of town. But I still do not understand how such extreme difference in street life can exist between Singapore and San Francisco. Something about the liberal nature of the west coast. Something about Singapore’s famously strict discipline. Certainly the same desperate people exist in Asia but as to where they are housed I may never know.

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