Reason: the antispawn. Special bonus: San Francisco: the antilife.

1. Thanks evolution for giving me the power to defy you and resist the urge to pop out babies! (H/T) Needs to be quoted at length:

And here’s where I think the problem really lies. It’s not that I think family life is so awful no one in their right mind would want it; it’s that child-free life can be so good that I’m annoyed it is almost always presented as second-best, cold and empty. “Who will be there for you when you’re old?” people say. (Contradicting themselves, these same people will often chide the childless for being selfish.) Have they not noticed that hardly any elderly parent lives with their children these days? If I am to end up in a home, I think I’d rather do so without the pain of realising that my family don’t want to look after me. But it is part of the hopeless optimism of everyone who starts a family that their children won’t allow this to happen.

Of course I can see that parenthood has unique rewards that the childless miss out on. But a child-free life also has unique rewards that you miss when you start a family. For instance, the freedom to read a book or to have an adult conversation uninterrupted is not trivial, and any hands-on parent seriously compromises their ability to express this important capacity. The only way to combine parenthood with anything like the full pursuit of adult interests is to farm out the majority of childcare, which is of course precisely what so many “great men” of the past did, and which many men and women do today. That is not wrong, but it illustrates the key point that parenthood requires trade-offs: it does not trump all other goods.

The goods of the childless life reflect something very important about the good life for everyone. Humans have the capacity to rise above the biological imperative to reproduce. That we do not place the highest value on passing on our genes is part of what makes us different and, yes, in some sense superior to our fellow animals. Yet society does not celebrate our freedom to do this. Reproducing is still seen as the healthy norm, “failing” to do as an aberration. If many more of us do not have grandchildren, then perhaps we will make it clearer that sexual reproduction may be the meaning of animal life, but it sure ain’t the best or only reason for humans to get up in the morning: refreshed, after a night uninterrupted by the cries of little angels.

2. Against San Francisco. Except for the whining about the dirt (wuss), I agree completely, especially with the following:

* An obscenely high cost of living for comparatively poor real estate and social services.
* Unreliable and inadequate public transit, paling in comparison to most any other major city in the world.
* Lots of traffic and very little parking – factors that would be less of an issue if the public transit was [sic] adequate.
* Generally poor urban/civic planning.
* Limited and mediocre cultural institutions. It’s easy to exhaust museums, theater, and other forms of the arts in SF. Most of what you’ll find outside the mainstream is dim, amateurish, and – as above – obsessed with being different rather than simply being better. (The ballet is the major exception. It’s quite good.)
* Entirely a matter of personal preference, but I dislike much of the architecture in San Francisco. Some find the endless peeling Victorians quaint. I prefer buildings that are truly historic or aggressively modern.
* Vast dead spaces between and within neighborhoods. For a city of relatively small size, you’ll find that most of it isn’t worth repeated visits. Areas worth spending time in are usually just several blocks, scarcely enough to occupy an hour or two with window shopping and a stroll.
* Enormous competition for limited resources. You will wait for everything. The better a thing is (food, coffee, a nice place to sit), the longer you’ll wait for it. When you finally get what you want, you’ll be crammed in with others trying to enjoy the same place/thing, diminishing everyone’s enjoyment.

There is, I’ve found, precious little to do here, particularly if you’re not inclined towards sports or the outdoors. I recall asking several locals what exactly people did on a Saturday afternoon, at a loss after having gone to the scant few museums and walked around the few worthwhile neighborhoods. “Hang out in the park or sleep, I guess” was the common answer. And indeed, that’s what many people do: the Mission’s Dolores Park is filled with idling throngs weekend after weekend, soaking up the sun, chatting, drinking, smoking, existing. Nothing wrong with the simple pleasures of friends and good weather, but there’s more to life than living from one hangout to the next.

There are some things about the city that are harder to put a finger on, too. While people in San Francisco are endearingly open-minded, all too often they’re self-centered, passive aggressive, and cold. As above, it’s easy to meet people through work or a common interest, but harder to meet random friendly strangers. Rarely in San Francisco has a kindness been done to me by a stranger – offering directions when I look lost, for example. When traveling, I’m again shocked at how much better people are to one another in other places, even in reputedly hard and unfriendly cities like New York.

(Although I do wish people would learn to use the subjunctive.)

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11 Responses to “Reason: the antispawn. Special bonus: San Francisco: the antilife.”

  1. ben wolfson Says:

    There’s plenty of great music in the bay area. This person is, in that respect, on crack.

  2. Mike Says:

    That Alex guy is a douche. He has a stupid boy-band “beard,” stud below his lower lip, and “cool” glasses. No wonder no one wants to hang with him.

    He lives in SoMa and works at Twitter…We’re probably neighbors. Come say hi to me, Alex. I’ll give you a make over so you don’t look like a fucking hipster poster board – maybe even teach you how to not be such a cliche.

    There is so much ass in SF…I can’t even comprehend it. If I were gay…I’d have an old sugar daddy in addition to young dudes. I’m an attached hetero, but I’d be killing it if single. A guy who is NOT a douche in SF couldn’t have more sex if he grew his own pussy on a farm.

    Food everywhere. What kind of *good* food do you want? It’s here. Best donut anyway – a fresh apple fritter from Happy’s Donuts. Chicken and waffles down the street. Philz Coffee. There’s also a Blue Bottle outlet – Centro. Great thai and Italian places. All of that’s just in SoMa.

    Really cool fucking buildings everywhere to marvel at. I walk down Second Street towards Market at least thrice weekly. Hit up around Union Square…become astonished by the concrete jungle.

    Take a walk around rush hour in the a.m., and see the beautiful women fashioned out in preparation for their jobs in the financial district.

    Um…The Gold Club! Free entry and $5 buffet lunch on Fridays. Buy a beer, sit at the tip stage. Eat, drink, see some tits and ass. Not sure what the problem is.

    Alex is dead inside if he can’t just walk around and become awed at San Francisco. I walk my dog an hour every day. I wish I had three hours to just walk, think, and reflect on how fucking awesome San Francisco is.

  3. Mike Says:

    There’s plenty of great music in the bay area. This person is, in that respect, on crack.

    Yep. Huge scene for whatever you want to listen to.

    The guy Paul quoted is dead inside. He’s an angry hipster who hates life. No doubt he fancies himself to “get” it. LOL.

    Wow, Alex! You are so fucking cool I can’t even comprehend your awesomeness:
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3597/3601812697_928925ea71.jpg

  4. homais Says:

    You know I’m fond of SF, but portions of what he said really did resonate. An embarrassingly large proportion of what I love about that city is aesthetic: the topography, the architecture, the spectacle of walking from one ethnic neighborhood to another, the flora, the sea, and the quality of the light. If I weren’t impressed by that, I’d probably be a lot more exasperated by the things this guy points out. Especially the civic planning stuff – for a place with such a high concentration of wealth, SF is really amazingly dysfunctional. What he said about how the city just doesn’t work probably resonated more than anything. I live in a city that doesn’t quite work, but at least it’s cheap to live here and nobody’s foolish enough to call it paradise.

    That said, the “vast dead spaces between and within neighborhoods” point is what clued me in to how different this guy’s mindset is from mine. He talks about how most places aren’t worth spending a lot of time in, but I think he’s coming from this mindset in which ’spending time’ has to be a really active activity. If I can stereotype a little, he really comes off as someone whose life has been really heavily programmed and scheduled, and rather than rebelling he’s completely internalized that mindset. The same thing comes out in his comment about Mission Dolores park, where people are just sort of existing.

    Meaning, where he sees dead space where there isn’t a lot of stuff to do (with that really loaded, active, self-actualized, could-put-it-on-your-resume-or-your-day-planner connotation of ‘do’), I see really pretty places to, you know, live. My own neighborhood is like this. There aren’t that many impressive things. It’s just a nice place. There are pretty buildings, a good collection of shops and restaurants. It’s nice for taking walks during the 7 or so months of nice weather we have here. There’s a subtle but real sense of community that you can only pick up on from actually living in it. But none of it is that terribly impressive. This guy would probably read most of it as dead space, I think.

  5. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    I’m a father who loves fatherhood, and #1 seems exactly right to me. I also find SF to be seriously overhyped. It’s fine, I guess, but don’t get the crazy love. The cost-of-living just wouldn’t come close to being worth it for me.

  6. Mike Says:

    homais is my new spiritual advisor.

  7. ben wolfson Says:

    A guy who is NOT a douche in SF couldn’t have more sex if he grew his own pussy on a farm.

    This implies that I’m a douche, which is unacceptable.

    Anyway, it’s an odd contention, since the gender ratio is so out of whack here and everyone seems to be spoken for.

  8. Mike Says:

    This implies that I’m a douche, which is unacceptable.

    You are not a douche; but you are disagreeable.

    Yes, the ratio is out of whack, but there aren’t a lot of interesting guys. Most SF guys are hipster losers or tech guys. Unless you’re a potential IPO, chicks aren’t interested in yet another techie.

    You are very interesting – just totally disagreeable.

  9. ben wolfson Says:

    I can accept that I’m disagreeable.

  10. HipHopPoppa Says:

    San Francisco is no longer livable for Black people. They’re redeveloping Bayview Hunter’s-Point and people are getting pushed out. I have family who moved to Antioch, of all places. It use to be the only time a Black person ended up in Antioch is when they fell asleep on the Pitsburg Bay Point line. I find it hard to blame it all on the young white gentifiers too. As far as I can tell they’re victims themselves of all this ovepricing. San Francisco is one of the country’s greatest cities and I think people of all different classes and backgrounds should enjoy the chance to live here. Very sad.

  11. Andrew Says:

    I agree with pretty much everything the article says about SF. Okay, I lived in Oakland – but worked in SF (now I’m in NYC).

    SF felt oddly isolated and unreal, sort of an urban Narnia. And I found the people there to be self-involved and emotionally detached. The fog and hills are charming and the food is great, but I was glad to leave. Very glad.

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