Monday, September 8, 2008

Why I really like my neighborhood.

I've mentioned that I'm a New York girl, and well, that's sort of true. I was raised in a large midwest city and then transferred to another large midwest city. In the meantime, I spent a year living in New York, and most of my close friends were bright enough to go there for college, so I spent a considerable amount of time there. It's my major experience with no-car, major city living. 

I lived at 143rd St. and Broadway, a location two blocks from either the 1 or the A/C trains. For any of you that have ever casually visited New York, let me assure you - you probably never went there. You got to Columbia and you stopped. There is no reason to go to 143rd & Broadway, unless you're going to the 200's to catch The Cloisters. (You should.) My neighborhood had very little for me - but I had a 3-bedroom apartment in Manhattan for $1450 that I split with two roommates. It was gorgeous and I can't believe we ever let that lease go. But, life happens, and you lose your freakishly cheap, close-to-a-train rent. Then you're living in San Francisco and crying out for $1600 studios... I digress.

I was close to the train, and I never minded the commute. I guess because I never knew otherwise. My midwest cities were all car-based, my New York life involved a train. (And the occasional 4 a.m. taxi.) Everything was a short train ride away, and hey, I paid $74 a month for that damned MTA pass. You better believe I was using it as hard as I possibly could. 

I actually had it pretty easy with midwest life too. I always chose to stay toward the downtown core areas, so I was a 2-3 mile jaunt to everything I wanted to do, and most definitely walking distance from a few bars and restaurants that became my usual haunts. 

But here? Oh, god. Can we talk about my neighborhood? It's fallen under fire in the past couple of days, literally, due to a couple of violent incidents that I'd rather not talk about. They are tragic and awful, and they could happen anywhere, so I'm not so worried that they're happening close to me - just worried for the neighborhood in general. It would be really easy to harp on them, but The Roommate and I love this neighborhood, and so I'm just going to focus on why it's currently the best thing in my life. 

Midwest city #1 had a very large hispanic population, so I grew up with Mexican food. None of this Taco Bell/Chili's nonsense - real Mexican food. You can't throw a rock from my apartment without hitting some fabulous Mexican restaurant. (Well, I can, but I'm not very strong. I'm sure you can't.) The Roommate and I were craving donuts on Saturday, so we googled bakeries and found a donut shop a block away. (95 cent cake donut, yes, please.) We walk to fabulous Indian restaurants, I walk to the bike shop (when I got a flat... not because I make a policy to walk to bike shops), I walk to the nine thousand bars that are the proverbial stone's throw away from me. 

I haven't explored much of San Francisco because... well... I haven't had to. All the things I love and need in my life have been in this very area. That's not to say that I haven't gotten out a little bit, but I most definitely haven't found a single reason to leave my neighborhood. This is the aspect of "big city living" that I was missing in my New York days. The Roommate and I very badly need a new place to stay as of October 1st, and we're both so spoiled with our neighborhood that we're a little unwilling to look in other areas. We're happy to trade off square feet in favor of being able to go wherever we want in just a couple minutes.

The best thing about moving to cities where you literally know nothing, however, is finding all of these things. Where can I buy a New York Times? Where can I get a gallon of milk? Thankfully the internet is alive and well to help me with some major issues (the donuts), and I can piece the rest of it together by just exploring on my own. I've already got a favorite bodega. I've got a favorite donut shop. I'm like those people that order the same thing every time they go to a restaurant - I tend to fixate. 

I know I've got a lot of passers-by thanks to the Mission Mission blog reference, so speak up while you're here! What are your favorite places around here? Where should a girl who's not too-hipster (yeah, I know, who isn't?), doesn't particularly care for super crowded, over-priced bars be spending her time? I'm a pool player and a darts thrower, so those things are major bonuses. The only bars I've attached myself to so far are Kilowatt and Doc's Clock. And while we're on the topic, where the hell would a girl go around here to do actual grocery shopping?


troymccluresf said...

I haven't explored much of San Francisco because... well... I haven't had to.

Heh. I grew up here, in the Richmond District, and moved to Church & Market two years ago. This past year, I've noticed my penchant for exploring shrinking away. Within a ten minute walk I have El Castillito, Lucky 13, Safeway, Lower Haight, 16th St, and something like 17 Muni lines.

Tim said...

For grocery shopping, the classic Mission establishments are Bi-Rite and Rainbow grocery. If you walk up to Church and Market, Golden Produce has some of the best produce in the city outside of farmer's markets (and there's a boring old Safeway, but that's no fun).

Welcome to the hood and good luck finding a place, I know it's no fun... Your best bet is definitely finding a friend of a friend who knows of a place; craigslist certainly works but most of the really good deals are only found via, well, networking.