Going to two baseball games, a week apart, in San Francisco and Boston, invites comparisons between the two cities, and random thoughts how, in recent years, each has moved beyond its postcard personas.
San Franciscans for years fought efforts large and small to improve both driving and public transportation. They have yet to have their Big Dig, and driving in the city is a mess. Most of the day is “rush hour.” Thank goodness it’s still a great walking city, like Boston, albeit one more challenging to legs and lungs.
When it comes to being green, S.F. may be a little more environmentally sensitive. Instead of hotels just having waste baskets in each room, hotels have waste baskets plus recycling bins in every room. And, in tourist areas like the Ferry Building’s farmers’ market, there are waste baskets, recycling bins and containers for organic waste. Bicycling is very big, and the last Friday of each month, cyclists overflow the bike lanes and virtually take over the main thoroughfares. And a few of them, as a protest against fossil fuels, do it buck naked. It’s a bit much, I must say.
I do feel that, while I can’t prove it, there seem to be fewer fat people in San Francisco. And I’m not referring to the naked cyclists. I do know that there seem to be a lot of options for healthy food. And, oh yes, there are, happily, many, many more Peet’s Coffee shops, along with the usual Starbucks dishwater to drink. Boston has come a long way as a dining city, but it still is no match for San Francisco. Where in Greater Boston can you get really great Greek food, like at Kokkari’s? Here lovers of authentic Greek cuisine have to rely on Greek Orthodox Church suppers and invitations to private homes.
As they’ve moved into the 21st century, the cities have become similar in many ways and have lost certain distinguishing characteristics. Just the way our North End is far less an Italian enclave today, so too would S. F.’s North Beach area be unrecognizable to the late Joe DiMaggio, who grew up there. While the two cities are noted for their cultural activities, sense of history, tourist appeal, and progressive politics, I am relieved that the Hub has never – and, I hope, will never, put a referendum on the ballot to outlaw circumcision (It was overturned in court.)
A generation or two ago, San Francisco had a distinct magic, which could make a Bostonian envious of its cosmopolitanism and self-conscious about our parochialism. I don’t feel that way any more.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Photos by Jim Barron