San Francisco is changing, and it is not weird or freaky as it once was. People in the artsy environment can feel this immediately, and rather than being able to just go out and be weird, today there’s more a sort of lamentation that fills the air in the City.
Burlesque troupes are now singing songs with titles like ‘Not My City Anymore’ and punk-inflected bag designers are nowadays starting campaigns like ‘SF – Please Stay Strange’. These are all signs of some inescapable loss, and we should fear that some intrinsic San Francisco elements are vanishing.
One of the obvious culprits is the phenomenon of money. There are quite a few individuals that are worth tens of millions of dollars who still think they are some sort of revolutionary or counter-cultural renegades, but they’re in too good standing.
Sure, we may bash the software generation as much as we want as they’re the cause of a lot of bad going on, but the fact of the matter is that internet nerds form a crucial element to the phenomenon of ‘weirdness.‘
Just about anyone who has a blog called Chart Idiocy or a Tumblr about Weird Fantastic Scheisse, or runs an Etsy store selling intestines-shapes necklaces is truly weird and can be considered some sort of nerd. Let’s face it, the weirdness of the City should meanwhile be at the point of entering a fresh new golden era, but I’m afraid it is not, and sure, when whatever you want can be gotten from wherever over the internet, it’s pretty hard to develop underground movements.
Keep Portland Weird, and Keep Austin Weird (the spiritual twin cities), the non-official motto’s of these cities, are basically small-business alliances’ tools to keep the big chains out of their cities, but ‘Keep Austin Weird’ includes actually a great festival, and is endorsed by many celebrities, and has proven to be crucial for maintaining Austin’s specific character, though at the same time the city doubled in population, developed a huge skyline and saw tons of money being invested.
But to be honest, the city of Austin wasn’t ever really that weird, unless your baseline is something like Plano. Austin’s weirdness is symbolized by the Alamo Drafthouse, simultaneously actually a San Francisco sign of gentrification. Fact is that San Francisco is basically really weird.
San Francisco should by now be entering a brand new golden era, but unfortunately it is not heading that way. It seems like Oakland is the place where all weirdness is heading. The blog The Snitch (SF Weekly) received a video of a guy in a wig who was shirtless playing the song ‘Careless Whisper’ on a saxophone while he stood in an East Bay Trader Joe’s shopping cart (see image).
This actually was to honor Sexy Sax Man, who is selling ringtones, T-shirts, and an app. Oakland’s problem is gentrification too, and most of the city’s residents need to devote increasingly more of their time and energy to make money just to survive, though they are not suffering in the same way from existential crises as the residents of San Francisco.
It seems that today, people that move to San Francisco aren’t coming here to find other queers or weirdos, they generally move this way to build up their careers and make money. Sure, there’s basically nothing wrong with doing that, but often these people aren’t participating in the city’s social life and won’t break out of their employment circles.
The phenomenon of being weird or queer doesn’t necessarily need to be in the way that bees, whales, or anarchist bookstores can be weird, but if people in San Francisco need to start some sort of campaign to raise awareness, we may have a serious problem and it may be too late.
Self-awareness in an excessive way is the worst enemy of bottom-up, organic, folk culture, and one of the main risks of trying to save this culture too hard may well be that you end up with some sort of ‘Museum of Weirdness’. Through the decades, San Francisco has always been full of weirdness, though now it seems it will be not be weird in the way it used to be.