One must pity the poor lit­tle rich city of San Fran­cisco

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY JOE MATHEWS The craze for plea­sure Steadily grows; Cock­tails and laugh­ter, But what comes after? No­body knows! And noth­ing is more fright­en­ing than un­cer­tainty, at least when you’re wealthy. Poor lit­tle rich city! It must be tor­ture to think that this

Dear San Fran­cisco,

My heart breaks for you. Please ac­cept my thoughts and prayers. De­pend­ing on which me­dia you read, you are now in col­lapse, hav­ing be­come ei­ther a “hell­hole” or a “Third World” city. The Wash­ing­ton Post de­clared you dead (head­line: “San Fran­cisco Broke Amer­ica’s Heart”), and even the Chron­i­cle says you’re a “mess. ” The sum­mer’s best movie in­volves the de­par­ture of your “last black man.”

And here’s what may be worst about the cri­sis: other Cal­i­for­ni­ans look at you — and your beauty and suc­cess — and can’t un­der­stand what’s so wrong. Your hell is so new and dif­fer­ent that we can’t sym­pa­thize with it.

Take your wealth. You

are among the rich­est cities on the planet, which res­i­dents of Coalinga or Comp­ton might see as a good thing. But they don’t un­der­stand how much that costs you. You can never build enough houses for all the wealthy peo­ple who want to live there. And you fail to build enough hous­ing for those who clean up after the wealthy.

As your poorer res­i­dents leave, you must look with great envy upon Bak­ers­field and Fresno, and wish you could be as real as they are. I don’t mean to di­min­ish those poor cities’ strug­gles, but San Fran­cis­cans must en­dure the far greater dif­fi­culty of liv­ing among 42 bil­lion­aires, who use you as a petri dish for their save-the­world plans — ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, eter­nal life, dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies.

These are hardly your only mal­adies. Your sta­tus as one of this coun­try’s health­i­est cities — with all those vegetables, ex­er­cise op­por­tu­ni­ties, and univer­sal health care — cre­ates ex­pec­ta­tions for im­pos­si­ble per­fec­tion. I can’t imag­ine the pres­sure of know­ing that you have no ex­cuse for turn­ing into a fat slob. And when you travel to other parts of this bloated coun­try in your stringy, kom­bucha-fu­eled bod­ies, you must feel so des­per­ately out-of-touch.

Yet that feel­ing is noth­ing com­pared to the head­pound­ing suf­fer­ing you ex­pe­ri­ence when you must choose from the myr­iad op­tions for recre­ation, spir­i­tual sustenance, and cul­ture. I mean, say you want to go to the park, and your choices are Golden Gate, Dolores, and Pre­sidio — who wouldn’t suf­fer a men­tal break­down if forced pick just one of those glo­ri­ous pub­lic spa­ces?

It’s only nat­u­ral that, con­fronting choices and pres­sures in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to other Amer­i­cans, you seek so­lace in nos­tal­gic cel­e­bra­tion. You’re pos­i­tively ob­sessed with of­fi­cial and me­dia re­mem­brances of your good old days — you know, when City Hall hosted dra­matic as­sas­si­na­tions, when you birthed strange se­rial killers and ter­ri­ble cults and the AIDS plague, and when Dirty Harry rep­re­sented a San Fran­cisco of 100-plus homi­cides a year. These days, a mere 50 peo­ple are mur­dered each year — leav­ing you more peo­ple to house while con­tribut­ing to your deficit of ur­ban au­then­tic­ity.

De­spite all the strains of your cur­rent crises, you keep tak­ing on more pow­ers and more re­spon­si­bil­ity. Your ever-grow­ing tech com­pa­nies now hold sway over bil­lions of lives that bear lit­tle re­sem­blance to your own. And in an era when pol­i­tics is poi­son, you are in­gest­ing far too much — con­sum­ing the House speak­er­ship, the gov­er­nor­ship, and soon, judg­ing by Ka­mala Har­ris’ per­for­mance in the Demo­cratic de­bate, the pres­i­dency. Un­der the weight of all that in­flu­ence, you may have to con­front your in­con­sis­ten­cies, not in the pri­vacy of your 49-square-mile penin­sula but in front of the whole world.

If you com­plain about all the headaches of power, no one cares. You just sound like those movie stars who tell glossy mag­a­zines how hard it is to be a movie star.

Just as you stand atop the world, you’ve de­vel­oped a case of ver­tigo worse than the one Jimmy Ste­wart had in that Hitch­cock movie!

Some­times when I think of you, I re­mem­ber the song “Poor Lit­tle Rich Girl,” as recorded by Tony Ben­nett, whose heart keeps a rent-con­trolled apart­ment in San Fran­cisco.

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