OCTOBER 31st, 2017

3 learning points I took home from a recent #SF visit 


Though I rarely partake in leaving my hair long (it just doesn't grow like it once did), I found this old profile photo quite appropriate as a kick-off selfie for my first blog post. I am high now, as I was back in Australia when this picture was taken (and barefoot most likely)...


San Francisco is a city with its own kind of behavior and decorum. While here, I have asked friends about things like tipping amounts and restaurant dress-codes (everything is to a certain degree allowed in this city, and people tend to not wear their wealth on them as they might in Miami or NYC). Is vaping tolerated in public spaces? Peet's vs Philz? Apparently they're not even in the same league. I guess SF is a place whose significance commands a notion of respect and awe to those of us who visit from abroad.

I prepared well for my trip: watched 5 episodes of Silicon Valley on the plane and slept. From the minute we deplaned, I was already cracking jokes about blood transfusions for the rich and famous and ridiculous corporate expenses.

A group of friends took me to walk through Santana Row. We hopped in and out of pop-up shops, electric car showrooms (guess which brand), and fancy comfort-oriented products we do not need yet relish in having. My favorite place, by far, was entering Jeff Bezos' very amusing and ironic AmazonBooks.

As soon as you enter the store, you're greeted and reassured by a prominent sign that pricing here vs online are the same to the hour. I'm already in the middle of a local classic--pictured above, a book that makes me feel like I'm reading Shantaram while sipping an almond milk capucchino or lager in Mumbai's Leopold coffeeshop. I ended up purchasing an Echo Dot (very excited to join the NSA's contribution base). 

The first of three facts I want to comment on is "sensitivity". San Francisco permeates tolerance of all sorts: sexual orientation, gender preference, drug use, fashion abuse, race, homelessness, and so on. On my first day back in Oakland, I witnessed a large African-American man be subdued by multiple police officers while screaming to the world, "cops wanna shoot me... don't shoot... I don't wanna die... I don't wanna die out here". Our local companions' instant reaction was to videotape the entire scene (I've included an excerpt of it on my Instagram profile: #theonyxsolution). This new #blacklivesmatter reality has really become embedded into modern-day American life. It is a sad notion to think how estranged this country's population has become from its police force. Walking down San Mateo's downtown later that day I jaywalked across the street to avoid walking under an industrial ladder. "Should I be worried about getting a citation?" I thought. Could I get away with a warning if I instead were to turn on the police department and attack them for "superstition-shaming" my fear of ladders? Such a ludicrous excuse suddenly seems quite normal in this town now, and it's like political correctness has lathered this society's collective consciousness with a thick coat of nonsense.  

Second on the list is: not everyone is an entrepreneur, but there is a market for both the professionally dependent and independent. Cost of living here is high! I never thought it would be so common to meet thirty-something year-old roommates. I came to this town with the notion I could hop atop any hill, spread my arms and figers widely, and wait... wait for dollar bills to catch hold of my fingers as they fly through the air! You don't need to fly to SF to learn it's actually one of the nation's most expensive places, but the idea of entrepreneurship and making it big while still in your 3rd and 4th decade comes at a discouragingly lofty price.

Can you imagine how many dogs this man must walk in order to afford his rooftop Vinyasa yoga? if you want to build your company up from the romanticized Steve Jobs garage, you better be ready to shell out a million from your parents' trust fund in order to purchase any home in the area! 

I've thus far registered 3 companies with partners in Hong Kong, Guatemala City, and most recently Bogotá. Though I love this town and my wife did too, I can't say I'm too inclined to pour so much liquidity into living in the place where magic happens. We love the ocean and can definitely see our home in a place like the Bay Area, but at this point in my burgeoining career places like Austin, Phoenix, and Nashville make a lot more sense. Young talent, affordable prices, and why shouldn't you invest in land while your crazy brain shoots for the stars? It's much nicer to dream while sleeping under a roof that belongs to you. 

3. I'll take SF's cocky entitlement over NY's status ladder any day. I'll likely take  flak for this comment. Citizens of both these citizens tend to feel superior to citizens of pretty much anywhere else in the world. I'd like to say I'm a fairly interesting fellow, having traveled to 50 or more countries and speaking 6 of their languages. I often commute via the US, and I must say my friends in SF have always been far more accommodating to impromptu dinner or coffee appointments (on short notice) than their New Yorker counterparts. NY breathes meetings, gym time, and business appointments like ineffable pillars that can never be bent. Californians in general exude a more relaxed feel (despite similar work loads) and overall maintain a much more open mind to haphazard meet-ups that may contribute to their professional goals or ideals, or simply be fun. For this I'm much happier to transit through the Bay Area, and literally dread having to make appointments with friends who are otherwise too busy with their routines in the big city to actually bump into a friend from years back for kicks.

Overall, I would love the chance to live in both of these cities during some point in my life. As far as cultural melting pots or salad bowls go, culturally experiencing life cannot get better than NY or SF. I've definitely met exceptions to all three of the takeaways above, and would in general throw mad props out there to the brave souls that have made, are making it, or someday plan to make it out in two of our planet's most sough after cities. Time will tell if Yulez and I ever decide to move out to one of these "multi-kulti" centers, but for the time being we'll surely be visiting SF in the coming years.