11 June 2013

Don't Be a Fucking Douchebag Part Three

This is part three in a three part series on not being a fucking douchebag. You should obviously start with Part One (Choose Your Role Models).

Part Three - Douchebags Like You are Ruining San Francisco

My Mea Culpa: I know that it’s people like me that started this shit show in SF. I moved to The Mission back in the early 90s. I was part of the gentrification that started the whole trend of startups being centered in this neighborhood. I sold a company at the height of the dot-com boom and I did my part to turn SF into the playground for the rich and educated that it’s become. I accept my portion of the blame - and am now trying to do what I can to stop things from getting worse and perhaps even get just a little bit better.

I moved to San Francisco in 1992. I was looking for a job - but I was also looking for a new life and a place that had hope and excitement and which provided a bigger, wider and more diverse world to play in. I found a city made up of wildly different people - of all types - spread across a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. It was a massive melting pot of values, ethnicities, world views, ages and economic classes.

I fell in love with the city immediately. It was a place for experimentation and reinvention.

During the dot-com boom, the city started to lose some of its soul. Greed started to rule, and the city started to become more and more expensive. The weird craziness started to slip away. Experimentation and reinvention began to vanish as the cost of living in the city became prohibitive for artists and dreamers and anyone who didn’t work in tech.

After the crash, the city recovered a little. We started seeing diversity return. People began to experiment again. Maybe there was no more Red Man, but at least we had Bum Jovi.

And it wasn’t just about the money - for a while.

But now... Now it’s worse than it was in 2000. Now it’s only about the money. Now the only diversity we have left is ethnic diversity. Everyone is rich and privileged and entitled or hustling as hard as they can to become rich and privileged and entitled. A city once defined by people wanting to change the world is now defined by people who just want to be among the world’s richest. A culture that once understood history and tried to create it now has a memory that’s about 2 fiscal quarters long - and a vision that goes as far out as their funding allows.

San Francisco used to be weird. And we were proud of that. Now it's shockingly vanilla and suburban and conformist. It once felt like a city. Now it feels like a suburb.
And that's sad.

Some examples of what it’s like here now:
  • if you make $70k a year you’re likely spending half your income on rent.
  • you walk down the street and overhear someone saying, “my father had some tax thing so he bought a unit in the top of the Millenium Tower. It’s super cool because this way I don’t need to get a job and can focus on my Google Glass app.”
  • you see a standard 2 bedroom, 2nd floor Edwardian flat in the Mission listed for $7500 a month - and then find out that some entrepreneur offered the landlord $8000 a month sight unseen.
  • you’re on MUNI and watch a 20 something guy reluctantly give up his seat to an elderly woman and then say loudly to his friends, “I don’t know why old people ride MUNI. If I were old I’d just take Uber.”
  • at least 10 times a day you want to murder random people in public because of the fucking stupid shit they say or the horrible ways they act.
And you know... I really wouldn’t mind so much if this was happening in NYC. There is a cultural norm in NYC that supports this kind of douchebaggery. But this is San Francisco. And San Francisco is a special place.

And you’re fucking ruining it.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in The Mission.

When I moved to this neighborhood 20 years ago, I chose it because it was cheap, convenient for someone without a car, and because it wasn’t one of the three neighborhoods I knew I didn’t want to live in. I’d looked around the city and realized that I didn’t want to live in North Beach (drunken frat boys), or the Marina (drunken frat boys and drunken sorority girls) or Noe Valley (stroller brigade). I couldn’t afford to live up in Pacific Heights (and couldn’t cope with the snobbery).

So in the end, The Mission was the answer.

And I found I loved it!

It was an entirely different culture for me - and one that was strong, vibrant and had a deep history and set of values. It was fun and funky and foreign and incredibly cool.

I learned about the history. I learned about the different ethnicities and nationalities that had made up the waves of immigration to the neighborhood. I learned passable menu spanish. I discovered the hidden history of streets like Bartlett and Capp and Shotwell.

I didn’t want to live anywhere else in the city and thought I’d live here as long as I stayed in San Francisco.

But now? Now I’m moving out.

The Mission these days is over-run with the exact same frat boys and sorority girls and mommy bloggers and snobbish rich kids that I moved here to avoid. More than that, however, The Mission is now infested with startup douchebags. You can’t go a fucking block without hearing about someone’s “funding party” or someone else’s “vesting schedule” or overhear a fucking verbal vomit love letter to Pando Daily.

The Mission is now more expensive than Cole Valley.

Last month my new neighbors (4 sorority girls who apparently all work in social media marketing) threw a Cinco de Mayo party complete with straw sombreros, blender margaritas and a lot of shouting of “yo quiero taco bell.” Fucking seriously.

So here is my request to all of you internet, startup, tech folks living in The Mission or thinking of moving to The Mission.

Don’t. Be. Fucking. Douchebags!

It’s really that simple.

Be considerate. That little old hispanic lady at the bus stop? Help her onto the bus instead of loudly bitching about how she’s going to make you late to your meeting at The Creamery.

Be respectful. This neighborhood was here before you and will be here after you leave. It’s not your trashcan, your toilet or your playground. Understand the history and the culture and the people and act in a manner that isn’t stupidly offensive.

Be sensitive. The traditional residents of this neighborhood are not rich and never will be. Flaunting your wealth and your opportunities is a douche move.

Just try to be a decent human being. Is that so much to ask?

As it is, I’ve had to start working hard to dress, look and act like I do not work in tech or startups when I’m out and about in the ‘hood. This way people still smile at me in the bodega, I still get to exchange jokes with folks waiting in line. I get to be treated like a human - not a fucking asshole.

So please... stop ruining it for the rest of us.

Because I love San Francisco. And I love The Mission. And as much as I’m starting to hate you all now - that will be nothing compared to how much I will fucking hate you if you ruin this.

36 Comments:

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Tessa said...

Thank you for this. Any ideas on how to address or actually change this relentless stream of colonizers you so accurately describe?!

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger chris said...

I'm happy that folks still want to move here and don't want that to change!

I would just like their behavior to change.

Of course - this will require either a change to the type of person who moves here and more importantly their reasons for moving OR the removal of their reason for coming.

So, in other words, another crash would help - but it would also hurt. A lot. So I'd love to hope for something else.

What am I hoping for? I'm hoping that folks stop accepting the behavior. I'm hoping employers stop hiring (or at least stop leaving unpunished) the douchebags. I'm hoping VCs stop funding them. I'm hoping society start shunning and shaming them - forcing them to change their behavior. I'd like it to be so uncomfortable for them that the choices are either to change behavior or leave.

That's my idea.

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger Just Some Guy in SB said...

You do realize that every previous generations said the exact same thing about the next generation taking over the Mission... this is just the ever evolving city of San Francisco.

The big difference is now its a money thing more than a race thing. The Irish, the Mexicans, the working poor, the hippies, the techies of the late 90's and now these folks...just another short lived chapter in the ever changing demographic make-up of SF.

funny comments but you need a little perspective on the Mission and the culture of SF. Its never the same and it will always be changing. As a 5th generation SF native, the one thing that is constant is change.

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger chris said...

That's a valid response - and something I worried about a lot when I was drafting this series.

I ended up talking to a bunch of friends who were born and bred here (and in some cases whose families have been here for 100 years or so). They all, universally, said that there is a pattern here, and we've seen this before (obviously, as my post notes, most recently in the 1999-2000 era).

But they also all agreed that, as one of them put it, "this time it feels different."

And I have to say that I agree with them.

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger Jesse Hattabaugh said...

Do you have any pointers for how to "dress, look and act like I do not work in tech"? I DESPERATELY want to be accepted and loved by all the poor artsy worthwhile people who my professional success is driving away!

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger chris said...

Jesse Jesse Jesse.... I have to believe that you are not being honest in your request - that you are, in fact, attempting to be ironic.

Sadly, your comment comes across less as witty, ironic snarkiness and more as just another example of arrogant douchebaggery.

Now... I'm not the most sensitive type so I worried I might be judging you too harshly. Then I went and read your twitter feed. Got it... defending a cyclist who was riding a bike on the sidewalk and killed a pedestrian - wish I could have used THAT as an example in my piece.

My intuition seems to be accurate.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Jesse Hattabaugh said...

Don't forget to follow! @arkanciscan I'm a veritable treasure trove of douchebaggery. Just wait till I get drunk!

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger chris said...

You mean you're not drunk right now?!?!

That's one douchebag point deducted right there!

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger Cheiro said...

"This time feels different"? How many of your friends were alive during some of the other shifts, like SF becoming a gay center or the hippie invasion? I'm 6th Generation and grew up listening to my Great Grandmother complain about how it "ruined this city". I, however, loved growing up in a city with that reputation, and love working in one with a reputation for innovation and hard work.

This time, its exactly the same as all those other times. People who can't adapt, like Grandmommie, will turn into crotchety assholes.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger chris said...

Understood - and obviously they were not alive (or if alive were too young to glean any knowledge) from the late 60s, or before that from the early 50s - and so on.

But, in common with you, their parents (and parents' parents etc) WERE alive - so they have the same sort of oral history that has been passed down.

So - of course - they base their belief that "this time is different" upon what they were told about the past -- just, in fact, like you do.

Who is right?
Only time will answer that one.

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Shew said...

Loved this piece - I've been here since 2000 and this articulates everything I feel about SF and the Mission.

I live in the Western Addition and am stunned at the number of (leased) 3 Series parked on the streets these days.

I'm hopeful the boom and bust cycle that SF is known for takes care of these people.

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger ghosts of post-punk past said...

This is why I created Dispatches from Entitlementistan. Please feel free to contribute.

http://www.facebook.com/entitlementistan

Short Description: I overhear the most asinine snippets of conversation from outside of our window in San Francisco. Here is a handcrafted, artisanal, seasonal, locally-sourced, curated selection of comments from the heart of the Mission.

 
At 12:02 AM, Blogger Josephine said...

I love this! Absolutely love this!

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger chris said...

OMG - Dispatches from Entitlementistan is freaking hysterical (and horrifying all at once). Thank you!

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger chris said...

I simply cannot bring myself to hope for another tech collapse. Yes... it would drive out a lot of the people I'm not happy with. But I remember 2001-2004. And I don't want to see my friends suffer like that again.

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger Michael Twing said...

Chris,
"bodega"? What were you thinking?
It's corner store. Just like it's been since I moved to The City in 84.
Spot on with that one exception...

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger FunnyBits said...

Chris! I'm so glad I stumbled upon (literally) your blog. I was forced out of The City (my city for many years) after the first Boom. Everything you wrote is so accurate and explained to perfection.

I miss my city so much. But, I know it's not the same city anymore. I weep.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger chris said...

d'oh!
busted for my east coast roots!!!

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger bunnybea said...

Thank you for this post!!!

As a Bay Area native, I see this sort of thing every day. Im not in tech and apparently people can tell. So even when I go grocery shopping I see these techies look down at me because I'm not in the "club". It's pathetic really. That SF attitude is already moving its way to the south bay. (Doesn't help that I live down the street from Google...)

 
At 11:23 AM, Blogger Adriano said...

I have mixed feelings about this article, since I want to move there in a couple of years, but I'm not involved at all in the tech sector.

Honestly this kind of sounds like the complaints I hear from my fellow Romans, who today are so upset that the historical center has lost its humble and simple traditions, becoming a playground for drunken tourists and kids studying here for a semester. These same people for years got rich (well, nothing compared to what landlords in SF apparently make) renting out their 1 bedroom apartments to foreigners at ridiculous prices and opened hundreds of bars, tourist trap restaurants and stores that no local would ever go to.

You're basically complaining about how expensive a place is, but without a huge amount of success stories like yours that city wouldn't have become like that in the first place.

I don't think lack of education and manners are the problem, but money and how easy it is to make in a certain context. If the SF environment allows success so "easily" (I'm not underestimating how smart you techies are at all) for those who have certain skills, they are inevitably going to feel entitled and everyone else will eventually be cut out. Probably back in your days success wasn't so concentrated and common in one specific sector, so you couldn't really afford to be a douche to others. It's really not fair to blame people for trying to have your same kind of success, just cause they were born 20 years later. And realistically, one of the reasons you (meaning early 2000 boomers) made money is because of all the "douchebags" that need to tweet their thoughts or post their location twice a day. I guess now they want their part of the share, cause when you think about it, if a simple concept like Twitter can make you a billionaire in this economy, then probably a bunch of other similar ideas can as well.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger chris said...

Adriano,
Thanks for the response.
Have you read Parts 1 and 2 in the series? Because this actually isn't a rant just about the costs of SF. And it's not in any way a rant against tech people.

Manners are, in fact, the problem. Or more accurately - behaviors are the problem that I'm complaining about.

Finally... success in SF is far from easy. There is mythology that says just that ("come to SF, go to parties, get funded, go to parties, become a gazilionaire") but that's what it this is - mythology. And saying that Twitter is a "simple concept" is both untrue and unfair. Coming up with a concept or idea is easy. Building a business is fucking hard.

-c

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger freddie said...

I'm glad your series has gained some traction. It's very tough to watch people ignore the plain fact of their good luck and then further exploit it obnoxiously. Shaming them comes off as petty to some but it's become one of few dwindling options - they were seriously failed by their parents and social circles. They live as if they're in a perpetual Miller Lite commercial and it's toxic to legitimate human striving.

Anyways, thanks for using your talent for expression for good. Cheers!

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger chris said...

Freddie,

You're welcome.
I can only cross my fingers and hope that others might also start using their powers for good.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Daen said...

Well said, sir. It happens all around the world, unfortunately. I used to live in a small fishing village in England near the University of Essex, and it was brilliant: lecturers and students, artists and musicians, boat builders, bricklayers, office workers, shipwrights, and longshoremen. An incredible mix of people. Then, London got too expensive to live in, the port shut down, and a lot of new houses attracted a lot of new people who, for the most part, didn't give a fuck about the 1,000 years of history -- it was a place with a view to park their SUVs and sleep before fucking off to the city every weekday morning. House prices went through the roof, my friends who didn't work in London couldn't afford to live there any more, and it is now a pale shadow of the vibrant community it once was. Fuck'em.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Jericho said...

I'm a native San Franciscan (May, 1989 Mt Zion on Divis. Graduated 07 from John O'Connell) I liked your article. But please don't move. I hear what you're saying, and I know how annoying this transplants can be. But please do not move. Too many people move here to take from SF, be that money, culture, what have you, but you love San Francisco. You learned our history. If you leave another douche will take your place. Stand you ground, defend the place you love because we need as many people as possible to love this City, to care about this City's denizens and obstacles, and most of all to give back to San Francisco.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger chris said...

Jericho

Thank you! You are too kind.
I'm moving out of the Mission but not SF (moving to the Castro).
I don't want to leave SF. I love SF.
My hope is that I won't have to leave SF.

And thank you for being a part of creating this place. It truly is special.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger just another one of you said...

If the problem is with behaviors and not the type of person then why did you wrap your argument around the introduction of a 'type' of a person? Seems like you want to hate the sinner but come off as only hating the sin. There are plenty of rich kids ruining the world without spending a single hour thinking about starting or working at a tech company. The vast majority of the people you complain about are just 21st century yuppies, likely to work in a whole other lucrative industry if history turned out different. I'm not sure how you expect to solve a problem, or claim to be driving to a solution, when you can't separate the criminals from the crime. I understand your complaints, and what I fear is you're supporting a different type of douchebag, the one that feels productive shitting on other people. If you were authentic to your complaints you're only advice would be "move out I was here first" but you're smarter than that so it's cloaked in an 8 paragraph finishing school.

Hopefully you can advance this argument to some real action as you've done a great job striking a chord across the city. There's shitty people everywhere, and entitled perma-adolescents are distinctly annoying bunch, and pointing to the past a goal or an industry as the source of the problems doesn't move any closer to a solution.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger chris said...

Have you read parts 1 and 2? if not - you might want to.

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I'd describe it as a lack of humility. Building a successful business is a crapload of hard work, but there's also a bit of luck in it, too. You need to have a good idea, find good people, find capital and also have the idea come to fruition at the right time.

Honestly, I'm more impressed by the VTA light rail driver who remembered me last week (after a year of not running into each other) and gave me a hug than by someone's clothing or fancy car.

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger mariva said...

Chris -- I can't image that you'd remember me after all these years, but we crossed paths back in 1995-96 during the course of a couple of IDG-funded startups. (Remember that era? We hung out at small get-togethers with Craig Newmark and other true nerds, and everything was fun and exciting. For a little while.)

Like most other commenters here, I absolutely loved this series and breathed a sigh of relief upon reading it. I'm not alone! San Francisco has been, bar none, one of best things in my life (besides my now-husband) -- and it's breaking my heart. It's not just the tech industry and its 2.0 influx of doucheoisie. It's the real estate industry (landlords, developers, investors, speculators) that bankrolls the elected representatives who are supposed to be protecting the fragile economic diversity of our beloved city -- so that it can remain a viable and sustainable community. Call me a Pinko Commie Socialist or a "Libtard," but there you have it.

Best wishes. Keep up the great writing.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger chris said...

Humility definitely would be a valuable goal to strive for. Given that luck is almost ALWAYS the determiner in success in this market (with "good team" and "hard work" and "great idea" being prerequisites of course). This luck is sometimes coded as "timing" but at the end of the day - it's just luck.

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger Bird said...

" I accept my portion of the blame - and am now trying to do what I can to stop things from getting worse and perhaps even get just a little bit better."

As a long-time lover of SF, long-time Bay Area resident and admittedly, short-term city dweller (seven years now after living on the outskirts of SF for 35+), I just wonder .... what exactly are you doing to stop things from getting worse or to make things better besides harping on people who are only doing what you once did?

 
At 6:14 PM, Blogger chris said...

1 - doing what i can to see that the issue remains in discussion.
2 - trying to convince companies to no longer hire or tolerate douchebags.
3 - trying to convince investors to no longer invest in companies run by intolerable assholes.
4 - no longer ignoring douchebaggery when i encounter it.

If you are doing things that you think would be helpful - please let me know.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Dude. Nailed it. I lived in the Tenderloin in 96-97, so I remember the pre-boom days, when poor people lived there.

BTW? Don't ever come to Vegas. They're doing the same shit here, only it's so much cheaper than Cali (you can get a 1950s mod-con style ranch house near downtown for $1000/month if you look not very hard) that we're suddenly the hot spot. Douchebaggery abounds. And downtown Vegas is like the 'Loin -- it's always been where the poorest people ended up. No more. They're being literally driven out.

The night one of the hip new bars opened, I watched a bunch of social media guru yuppie shitbags standing on the rooftop balcony, pointing and laughing at the homeless people who went by. I felt like Ice-T with his gun on Wesley Snipes in New Jack City: "I wanna shoot you so bad, my dick's hard."

Keep up the good fight. Not that they'll stop, but do not go gently into that goodnight, etc.

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger Stephen Gatto said...

Chris,
I saw read in a comment that you are moving to the Castro.
Castro is rapidly losing its's uniqueness because Mission residents are disillusioned with the loss of Mission "coolness" and are moving to the Castro.
Castro really has become a shadow of it's former self, now over run with bridge and tunnel and gawking tourists snapping photos of the gays in their natural habitat.
I can only hope that if you do move here, you follow your own advice and be respectful of the history and culture the gay community built here. We too are over run with "douchebags", more and more every day.

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger chris said...

It's been somewhat shocking to watch the Castro change over the last 20 years as well. And while many of the changes seem to be positive, I agree that recently a lot of the character of the neighborhood has been bleached out. No more Halloween. No more naked guy. The tourists. The loss of Ma Tante Sumi. Etc.

But compared to the rest of SF, the Castro still feel like the kernel of identity is strong and healthy. It still feels like a neighborhood.

And as long as folks who move to the Castro respect that identity and respect the history and perhaps most of all live in a manner where they take less than they give - perhaps this time it will be different.

 

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