North-South Divide

Written by William Chadwick. Posted in Culture, Opinion

Published on June 10, 2009 with No Comments


Will Chadwick

By Will Chadwick

June 10, 2009

First impressions are important, they say, when you meet someone. But what about when you experience a city for the first time? I came to San Francisco thinking that it would have a little of many of the cities I already loved in it: Cape Town, Sydney, London, Brighton.

And it does resemble each of those cities in its own way, whilst still retaining its own unique character, made up of so many different cultures squashed into a relatively small landmass and kept at a low oven heat for several hundred years. Yes, if San Francisco were a cheese fondue, it would have just about every kind of cheese in it by now. The important part is, though, that you can still taste each individual cheese. I happen to like that in a place: when there is an overall feel to a city, town or area, but there are still recognizable pockets of other places; echoes of other cultures that are neither subsumed nor dominant.

Los Angeles is a different animal all together. Having spent last weekend there, I now fully understand just how much driving is involved. It is a much more disparate place: people need more time to get everywhere, and there isn’t really a true focal point to it all. Yes, there are many things one can do in LA that are impossible in any other city in the world. It is the epicenter of the entertainment world, and if you want to reach the top, you are probably going to end up in LA. But you wouldn’t catch me living there; not yet, anyway.

To stretch out the fondue metaphor slightly, perhaps distorting or even denaturing it in the process, if you let the fondue cool slightly, picked it up in one handful and threw it at a wall very hard: that’s LA. It’s like someone took the normal idea for planning a city, and turned it inside out. I mean no disrespect to the good people of LA or their fine city, but the mind boggles in trying to make head or tail of it. Fortunately, however, the public transit system was a lot better than the locals led me to believe, so don’t be scared of going to LA without a car – you can still get around.

San Francisco has a rather pleasant community, slightly Old World feel to it, but LA seems like a collection of smaller, almost unrelated towns that have grown together because there wasn’t enough room to grow apart. And while San Francisco is looking you in the eye and grinning (sometimes ambiguously), LA manages to look down at you from a great height with not even so much as a benevolent smile or a ruffling of the hair.

William Chadwick

William Chadwick

William Chadwick is a young English writer who has recently moved to San Francisco from London. He has worked on-and-off in journalism for almost ten years. He is passionate about the theater, and has directed and written several plays. He is currently trying his hand at teaching English.

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