I found myself standing on the corner of 22nd and Valencia early on Saturday morning. It was 7:30am and I was staring at the bright blue sky wondering what I ever did to deserve the torture of being up that early. Suddenly, a hideously light blue BMW convertible [not pictured] pulled up next to me, breaking my meditative self-loathing.
A short, skinny bald man wearing a bluetooth emerged from behind the vehicle's tinted windows. He was not bald in a menacing, skin-head way, but bald in the “I have nothing to show for my life other than my money” sort of way. He leaned out the window and yelled in my general direction, “Excuse me, is there a Starbucks or any good coffee around here?”
Startled by the question, I figured I was being trolled by a friend and, in my head, quickly ran through everyone I knew and tried to recall if any of them recently aged 10 years and came into a lot of money. Nope, this man was actually asking if there was any good coffee around the Mission. I let out a quick laugh, suggesting he was a fucking moron, pointed towards 16th and replied, “You should be able to find something in your price range along Valencia.” With that, he thanked me and drove off.
For the following hour, I kept going over this troubling interaction in my head, which was a subject much more enjoyable to ponder than my insomnia. In the four years I have spent in this town, I have been asked all sorts of things: “Where are the great murals around here?” “Where would you recommend I go for a burrito?” “What's the cheapest beer around?” But never once “is there a Starbucks or any good coffee around here?” He didn't even ask “where's good coffee around here?” he specifically said “is there [..] any good coffee around here?,” suggesting the neighborhood might not even have a decent cup of joe for him to waste his money on.
I consulted my friend from Seattle on the matter and he blurted out one of his favorite sayings: “When it comes to coffee, San Francisco will always be Seattle's little retarded brother.” Typically I'd tell someone denigrating the great city of San Francisco to eat a big bag of dicks, but maybe he has a point. San Franciscans love to rep the city's coffee culture, but we don't even register on other people's radar.
[photo by Nick Kallen]