August 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
The west coast. It’s represents a lot of things to a lot of people. To southerners it represent everything that’s wrong with modern American culture. Lazy, liberal, damned by the spirit in the sky, and (if there is a god) will eventually fall off into the Pacific. For a lot of the same reasons the west coast is held on a pedestal by many Northerners. Much of the west coast is seen as the place to go if you’re a hip, misunderstood douchebag from the Midwest or the Northeast. And there’s no doubt about it, they’ve come in droves. Donned with Ironic facial hair and shitty indie records tucked under their arm, America’s youth have been flocking to places like Portland for years.
What I found might sound unceremonious or underwhelming, but the truth is that the west coast as a whole isn’t the liberal bastion that its enemies condemn it to be and it isn’t the hipster mecca many twenty something Ohioans come searching for. Granted, the west coast is a big place. So rather than continue to lump the coastline of an entire continent into one giant group I’ll break down what’s to love about the west coast and what’s to hate. The answers weren’t what I was expecting.
- The Bay Area Isn’t Worth It (For most of us, anyway)
San Francisco is a world class city. No, seriously. San Francisco can hold its own against any of the greatest cities in the world in just about every category. World class food, world class entertainment, top notch bars of just about every variety. Unmatched architecture and topographical features. The lights, the hills, the water. It’s the kind of place that demands your attention. If you visit San Francisco (and I mean actually visit, not just parking your fat ass at some tourist trap at Fisherman’s wharf with the rest of the Minnesota fannie pack crowd) and you leave unimpressed, you have no soul. There is something about San Francisco that transcends American culture. There are a number of great cities in the U.S. that feel like great American cities. San Francisco feels like something more than that. It’s natural features, architectural beauty, and cultural richness make for a city that swings way above its weight class. San Francisco is an international city on par with New York in every aspect except size.So that’s the good news. The bad news is that San Francisco as a home for bohemians, artists, and counter culture in general is dead.The city has become overrun with what my host in Trinidad, CA (a native San Franciscan who turned to redwood country to escape San Francisco) described disparagingly as “go getters”. This is nothing new to anyone who has even been remotely paying attention. The bay area is incredibly expensive. People are paying a fortune to live in shoeboxes in hip parts of Oakland and Berkeley. I stayed in a home in Berkeley that couldn’t have been more than 700 square feet. A man lived there with his 7 year old daughter. Just to get there you have to weave up a treacherous hill on a road that was a few feet in width from effectively being a one lane road. As you swung around each sharp turn you had to pray no one else was revving their way down the same winding road. I only made the drive a few times and it felt like I narrowly dodged an early death at least a handful of times.I’m not sure how much that house is worth, but I can almost guarantee its not worth the pain in the ass it takes to get there. And you can just forget the city. Unless you’re single with no animals making six figures, good luck finding an apartment without roommates.
San Francisco is the poster child for American cities that have been ruined by their own success. The city became so vibrant that it attracted so many outsiders and the authentic locals were pushed out to the fringes(or out of the area completely). What once made the bay area interesting eventually led to it’s demise. That, and the silicon valley boom.
- Northern California Is The Shit
No, seriously. Northern California kicks so much ass. Whatever San Francisco could’ve been if it wasn’t yuppified by tech nerds and trust fund babies can be found scattered throughout the redwood forests of Northern California. And no, the bay area is not northern California. There’s a solid 6 hours of driving on the 101 between San Francisco and Oregon. And tucked away in the lush green forests you’ll find that piece of California you were led to believe existed. If the stereotypical west coast mecca exists anywhere, it’s here.
The woman we stayed with left the city years ago when silicon valley began to boom. A 6th generation San Franciscan, you could hear the frustration in her voice as she spoke about what the bay area had become and people who now called it home. She moved to the small town of Trinidad, a place beautifully sandwiched between the rocky Pacific coast and the dense Redwood forest. She moved when her son was born (he’s now in his 20’s) in order to escape what she considered to be a toxic environment. Faced with the choice of either living in a less desirable part of the bay or leaving, she left. Fortunately, when all of the natives left the bay area for the woods, they managed to bring their spirit with them. At least, if towns like Arcata are any indication. Arcata is that stereo-typically west coast setting that most expect. We took the suggestion of our host and visited the local natural/organic grocery store to grab some food for the night. I can’t say this with certainty, but Arcata probably has more tall white guys with dreadlocks per capita than anywhere else in the world. If hippies are not your thing, avoid Arcata at all costs.If you’re interested in putting your finger on the pulse of the real California, and by proxy the version of the west coast that we’ve all come to expect, please go to Arcata. Please spend time the redwood forest. Even if you hate hippies, it’s a beautiful corner of the globe.
- Portland Is Not What You Expect
Portland was cool.But that’s it. It isn’t much different from the rest of the western U.S. In fact, unlike Northern Cali, most of rural and suburban Oregon is just as heavily Christian and whitebread as the most isolated Iowa farm town. I’m not saying Portland sucks, because it surely does not. But it is extremely over hyped and in my opinion has become the angsty, relocating 20 something’s flavor of the month. However, I was told that due to the high cost of living in the bay area many artists and creative minds have moved and set up shop in the parts of Portland that still remain reasonably priced. How long before Portland becomes another San Francisco? How long until the hipsters ruin what they came for? Where will the poor artists turn to next?
tl:dr: Portland is oversold, Northern California is the shit, and the bay area sucks ass unless you’re filthy rich.
I love the west coast.