I have a strange lens I view San Francisco through whenever I think about it. I visualize a skyline from the late 90s and I see the world in sepia tones. I see establishing shots of the Transamerica Pyramid from "Charmed" and Alamo Square and the Golden Gate Bridge from "Full House."
Obviously, I don't literally have a kaleidoscope of 90s entertainment set in San Francisco on my face whenever I visit the city. But, I have a set expectation with which I regard the city that I consider to be a distant, but significant part of my hometown experiences.
When I graduated from high school, my personal statement for colleges included a creative nonfiction piece personifying the city. Some of the first poetry I wrote in college centered around the city's effect on my growth and learning.
I'm from a suburb 45 minutes outside of San Francisco. It's my true home "town." However, San Francisco was the first source of history lessons from my parents, where I learned to co-exist in a city, and where I later escaped to with my friends.
What changed? San Francisco dramatically morphed into SF. There is a distinction, I promise you. San Francisco is the romanticized playground the Beats generation and has winding, mysterious streets. SF is an altered corporate landscape with airport traffic and overpriced parking.
I understand this sounds wholly dramatic, but I recognize my own bias in the matter. I've not been the only one to think about this city with magic and sensationalism. San Francisco has a history of being mysticized in the media and movies. From Chinatown to Telegraph Hill, it is no stranger to storytelling for generations.
So, when I felt my city changed, especially after I came back from college, it took and is still taking some adjusting to. I've accounted for the majority of my disillusionment. As I said before, I romanticized San Francisco like nothing else. What I faced, after years of learning to live in a different city and falling in love with it for other reasons, I was simply disappointed when San Francisco didn't hold the same level of magic in my eyes as before.
I am fortunate that the kind of change that I am facing is not as involved as others, but it is a change nevertheless. The fact of the matter is that San Francisco is growing as a city, building, and rebuilding, and it is difficult to handle a metropolitan level of change. Although there are parts of the advancing city that I will find hard to accept, I just have to go back to some of my favorite city spots to remember the essence of the city that I will always hold first in my heart.