Forget about sunflower in your hair or Kerouac… But get a joint and bring your hiking shoes along – as well as your “own big wheel”.
I mean, yes, it is a cool city to see… and the architecture is amazing, especially the “painted ladies”, Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings repainted, starting in the 1960s, in three or more colours that embellish or enhance their architectural details.
There are cool writings on the sidewalks that somebody must have put down when the concrete was still in its partially liquid state, and some street art is pretty good too (though there is surprisingly not that much of it). I imagined SF would still have that kind of bohemian Kerouac-like atmosphere, but not really… mostly snobbish and somehow giving a slightly hypocrite and pretentious impression, the vibes did not really speak to my heart…
Consumerism is way too tangible, wealth discrepancy too noticeable and homelessness almost shocking. Local and organic produce are way too expensive and it is rare to see people recycle – what a basic thing, right?
Everybody uses Ubers and Lyfts (apparently there were some issues with Uber drivers and their behaviour, some issues of sexual harassment and such, so Lyft – slightly more expensive – came to be the primer choice of many locals) as nobody truly understands the system of the local transportation. Even the locals would follow Google Maps online on their phones to see where the buses go and where they need to get off. So, without data, you are in trouble.
I was offline most of the time, so using the buses a few times always turned out to be a real high-adrenaline experience! San Fran is infamous for several streets right in the city centre (such as the Civic Street) where it is really dangerous, as there is a bunch of homeless people who mug whoever they can. And of course, at one point, I got off the bus near one such streets. Seriously, at no time in South America, be it Lima or Rio, have I felt that much in danger!
Many things in SF surprised me. I did expect some level of consumerism and overpriced everything (you can’t get under 20 dollars with lunch, so I only ate out once and otherwise did my own cooking in my Couchsurfing place, and the cheapest hostel near downtown will probably cost you around 35 USD per night in a shared dorm), but too much is too much sometimes… I was quite bothered by the fact that in the relatively complicated disciplinary system there is a tremendous non-system, starting with the local transportation, ending with the confusion and yanking at the airport (e.g. for teenagers and over 75-year-olds it is OK to keep their shoes on, but everyone else has to take them off – as I was told).
Cannabis, Federal Law and Pot Festival
Yes, it is legal to smoke cannabis for recreational use in the state of California. In SF, you can buy it in various places. Yet, there is a catch: you must be 21 or older to have, purchase or use recreational cannabis, you may possess only 28.5 grams of cannabis plant material and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, you may not drive under the influence of cannabis, you may not consume or smoke in public (!) and it is even illegal to open a package containing cannabis in public!
On top of it all: Even though it is legal under California law, you cannot consume or possess cannabis on federal lands such as national parks, even if the park is in California! When it comes to federal law, cannabis is illegal all over the States!
Among the areas that are federal lands in the San Francisco Bay Area are the Presidio, Alcatraz Island, the Marin Headlands and Ocean Beach.
And three more things you need to know about cannabis if you travel to San Fran and intend to hype up your trip:
- You can consume cannabis on private property, but property owners and landlords may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties.
- It is illegal to take your cannabis across state lines, even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal.
- Only state licensed establishments may sell retail cannabis products.
I came to San Francisco at a time when the annual “420 at Hippie Hill” pot festival was taking place in the Golden Gate Park (yes, the one which is normally known for the Botanical Gardens).
Each year, allegedly tens of thousands of people arrive from all over the world to celebrate the Cannabis plant. The festival is apparently a San Francisco tradition said to date back to the 1970’s.
Many of the cannabis restrictions named above are broken at this festival as smokers publically pass their cone-shaped joints here and cradle their glass and wooden pipes.
The San Francisco tradition has been an unofficial celebration of weed since the 1970s, but this was the second year of the official festival since California legalized recreational cannabis use in 2018.
Thousands of people gathered on Robin Williams Meadow and friends as well as strangers shared hits from thick blunts and rapped along to ’90s hip-hop, Santana, Rick James and others in the eclectic mix that was playing out loud from the DJ´s area.
Vendors located on the sidewalk were selling a variety of homemade baked goods, pre-rolled joints, blunts as well as cannabis-infused lollipops.
Indeed, the festival is quite a thing to see, especially if you come from a country or a state where marihuana is not legal…
Bring Your Muscles – Or Your Own Big Wheel
There are two interesting events happening in SF at Easter time. One of them is the Hunky Jesus contest – as the name suggests, politically incorrect, yet visited by many – even heterosexuals (as the whole thing is organized by a gay association called The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence).
This year´s Easter Sunday, it was the fortieth anniversary of this event which is very popular among locals, who come to enjoy a picnic and the show in Dolores Park. Most of them dress up or even wear masks and costumes, and also huge elaborate hats since a part of the special day of fun and contests also includes Easter Bonnet Contest (and an egg hunt) – for the last five years always won by the same man!
This year´s winner of $100,000 was Forest Gump Jesus, who was chosen by the spectators over Historically Accurate or Smoky Hot Jesus.
The event was definitely something extraordinary to see though some could claim that it overshot the mark, especially when one of the musicians tore the Bible (a real one, not a fake one) apart when singing Highway to Hell…
Bring Your Own Big Wheel is yet another SF Easter tradition. Adults bring child tricycles and sometimes even masks and sneak down winding and steep Vermont Street. It’s dangerous kind of fun, but allegedly no one died during the race yet.
If you are interested in some truly amazing views and love hiking or cycling, give a go to the following article on SF trails which offer some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as spectacular natural sceneries.