Patrick Power


Where I live, there are hills. Lots. I have walked most of them. There are palm trees. Never in my midwestern life did I imagine I'd look out my window to see palm fronds swaying in the breeze. Never in my midwestern life did I expect to live in a place that had but two seasons: sunny and not. Where I live there are classic cars and motorscooters around almost every corner. And skateboards. There are dogs. Many, many dogs. Big dogs, little dogs. Dogs with sweaters. Dogs with raincoats. Mostly well-behaved dogs. Dogs in grocery stores and post offices. And dog parks.

J Balboa Park

There are street cars where I live. Street cars, buses, cable cars, taxis, buses. Overhead electrical wires are everywhere. After a year of living here, they are hardly noticeable. There is light rail and a subway. And ferries. There is history where I live. A history that—to a transplanted resident—seems on the edge of repeating itself any minute now (I felt my first earthquake this year).


There is water where I live. Beaches. And postcards. This is a city of postcards. The bay. The ocean. The hills. The bridge. The other bridge. The pyramid. The ferry building. The tower. Churches. Monuments. Museums. Vistas. Prison islands. Parks. Painted Ladies.


Where I live, there are lots of neighbourhood parks. One really big park. There are neighbourhoods. Some bustle with constant activity: Chinatown, the Mission. Little Italy, the Haight. Some are merely areas of demarcation. On any given day, I can hear Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French and Arabic spoken within the distance of a block. Where I live there are rich. Very rich. Some live in the utter opulence of sprawling estates. Some keep it a bit more under wraps. There are also the very poor. Homeless. Heaps of blankets in the middle of sidewalks or tucked in little-used doorways. Where I live there is fog. It is usually blocked by the nearby hills. Occasionally, it makes its way to our windowpanes. On clear days, I can see a column of fog in the distance making its way through the Golden Gate.


There is art where I live. Many murals and street art. Public treasures and little miracles. There is music. At the clubs. At the train stations. On the corners. Cursing pierces through the relative quiet of the night. As does the rattle of glass bottles in shopping carts on their way to the next trash can. Sirens, too, are commonplace. Fire trucks and EMS vehicles mostly. Our apartment overlooks Market Street, a major artery in town, so traffic, the F Line and flashing, speeding emergency vehicles seem never to subside. The architecture where I live catches my breath daily. So much of it is ruined, however, by the gates that have been installed on them to ward off the homeless.

Church Street

Where I live, cafés and bars abound. The people where I live are plugged in, whether by iPhone or iPod or laptop. It’s a technology town. There are tourists where I live. Tourists that I imagine see very little beyond the Disney'd land of Fisherman’s Wharf. Which really isn’t San Francisco. San Francisco seems best photographed in black and white. While parts of it are indeed beautiful in colour, it seems to have a character best illustrated in monotone. Which is not to say that where I live is monotonous.