Urban Guilt:
Are You Making The Most Of Your City?

This past weekend, San Francisco and Oakland played host to the Folsom Street Fair, a Superhero Street Fair, the EatReal Festival, Chinatown's Autumn Moon Festival, the Pacific Pinball Expo, the Steamroller Printing Festival, a Latino Film Festival, and so much more. And what did I do?

Let's see… I hit my favorite thrift stores, went to the pool, went to the grocery store, went to the Japanese grocery store and the Japanese dollar store, read the Noma cookbook, watched Mean Girls (still so good), went to the pool, walked by the Folsom Street Fair, took the dogs I was dogsitting to the park, and overall, had a damn good time. But certainly not a fabulous, high-falutin', big city time. Nothing I did really required a city, except maybe my visit to Japantown, though I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of small towns and suburbs that have amazing international stores. Still, through it all, during all my mundane but pleasant errands, I was in my city, walking a million miles and soaking it in.

But when we get into discussions about the high cost and questionable sustainability of living in a big city, what use we make of our cities starts to matter. Do we pay such high rents so we can go see an awesome band or a movie at the Castro or a drag show every night of the week, or do we pay those high rents because it's nice knowing we could do those things, if we were in the mood? Or does paying that rent mean we can't actually afford to do any of those citified things? (That one is certainly a factor for me.) And if part of what makes cities vibrant and alive is all those street festivals and art shows, do we have an obligation to get out there and support them, be a part of them? Are you one of those people who are out there all the time, attending lectures, art openings, film festivals, and book signings? How do you do it?

This seems like a good opportunity for a quote from Bridget Jones, yes?

"Realize, as the long hot days freakishly repeat themselves, one after the other, that whatever I am doing I really think I ought to be doing something else. It comes from the same feeling family as the one which periodically makes you think that just because you live in central London you should be out at the RSC/Albert Hall/Tower of London/Royal Academy/Madame Tussauds, instead of hanging around in bars enjoying yourself."
-Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, 1996

I love that: instead of enjoying yourself. I don't mean to say for a second that you can't enjoy yourself at the Conservatory of Flowers or Omnivore Books — both of those places are lovely — but that pursuing activities out of guilt rarely turns out well. However, if you have a hankering to see the new exhibit at the DeYoung and you have a similarly-minded friend, I highly encourage you two to take the plunge, get out there, and go for it! And then you can discuss everything you saw, back at the bar. The best of both worlds.

(Image: Sarah Coffey)

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