I’m so excited that you’re coming to visit me in San Francisco for Christmas, that you’re leaving parents and home far behind in Oklahoma and venturing out to the West Coast, a journey our ancestors and great-uncle made and one that it is now your turn to make. Welcome to this state. There are some things you should know to make the most out of your time here.
1. You will always feel like you’re doing something wrong as you ride public transportation. It’s as unavoidable as congealed gravy after a holiday meal.
2. Bring every kind of clothing you have. Because of witchcraft or something similar, the temperature varies wildly from day to night and from shade to sun. I use the handy phrase “sun-hot; shade-cool” to remember which one is which.
3. Bring cash; some places will not accept your plastic. These places will often have tasty pastries.
4. Most born and raised Californians know nothing about Oklahoma aside from either the bombing or the musical. Because of their ignorance, they will lash out and make fun of your native state. Don’t let it get to you.
5. Half shirts are a thing, as are sheer wispy shirts, all manner of hats and anything with a mustache on it.
6. Strangers might talk to you, and it’s not always a bad thing. Feel it out, and respond if it seems appropriate. If someone says “Good morning” to you, they’re probably being friendly. If they say, “Damn girl, you healthy. Them organic goods?” while you’re carrying groceries, you’re probably in Oakland.*
7. Green bins are for compost, black are for trash, and blue are for recycling. Don’t let anyone see you throw away something that can be recycled.
8. Leave your Styrofoam at home and bring a bag to the grocery store.
9. That weird smell is either dog urine or marijuana. It could also be people urine, if we’re downtown.
10. That delicious meaty smell is either coming from Hahn’s Hibachi or Yellow Sub. I’m never sure which one.
11. This city is full of stores selling things no one should ever purchase, like $40 bowls and many whimsical variations on the salt and pepper shaker. That being said, it’s all beautiful and you will want to purchase something. Don’t spend all your money at the first place.
12. No one knows what to do about the homeless people, so mostly we just ignore them. I’d like to find a better way to handle this but I’m not sure what it is.
13. This place is mind-numbingly beautiful and everyone who gets to live here is lucky. Don’t forget that where you come from is also lovely.
14. Avoid the Tenderloin and Upper Market area – no reason for you to dabble in those neighborhoods yet. You can tell you’re in the T-Loin from the missing teeth to broken glass to face tattoo ratio.
15. Don’t waste your time on bad food.
16. Climb every hill you see. You won’t regret it.
17. Buy me a present while I’m working. I’ve earned it.
18. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist. It’s what you are and you don’t have to hide from any one.
19. Everyone does and doesn’t look the same. You’ll see what I mean. Most people are attractive in a “I’m going places” or “I’m unique” or “I took time to dress myself this morning” or “my clothes are expensive” kind of way.
20. Have fun! (and buy me a present)
*This was said to me once in Oakland.