The disappearance of Hitchcock's San Francisco
Former San Francisco resident Takuan Seiyo talks about the San Francisco of the late 50's and early sixties, when Hitchcock made movies there. He compares it then to what it has become now, and how and why it got there:
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I used to live in San Francisco. The San Francisco that despite having been roiled by hippies, beatniks, anti-this-and-that, still had the feel of the charming, civilized town that it had been when Alfred Hitchcock was shooting his masterpieces there.
Observe the setting of Davidson’s Pet Shop in The Birds. It’s a staged scene, but this is San Francisco’s Union Square in 1962-3 and that is the way middle class people looked and dressed in San Francisco. Tippi Hedren is an upper class society girl in this movie, so perhaps her suit has a finer cut and her clutch purse a higher price tag – but watch the other people milling about (and don’t miss Hitch himself).
Union Square was where middle class San Franciscans, dressed in suits, white shirts and ties for men, and high heels, ankle-length dresses, gloves and often hats for women, shopped.
Union Square now reeks of urine and reverberates with the shrieks of lunatics who use its sidewalks and benches as their bedroom, kitchen and toilet. It’s no longer politically acceptable to call them crazy or to put them in institutions. Besides, California doesn’t have the money. It has given the bounty robbed from its taxpayers to Mexican and other “Hispanic” legal and illegal immigrants (now 37% of California’s residents), and to public employees’ unions who thrive from dispensing the ransom to the colonizing aliens.
Put Tippi Hedren, dressed so that only her calves are exposed, next to a 2009 spoiled rich girl, say Paris Hilton, whose body hundreds of millions of people know virtually in its entirety, save for a crevice or two. Which figure is charged with more female sexuality, not to use such no-longer-comprehensible terms as class and elegance?
San Francisco had its upper crust, mainly of the demographic known as WASP, but it was also a town of immigrants and ethnics: primarily Irish and Italian, some White Russians, some Jews, some Chinese, some Californios harking back to the 19th century, and some blacks whom the currents of the U.S. military effort in World War 2 had deposited in Northern California. Its people had manners, and its working class had a touch of the contentment that comes from being able to support a large family decently on one blue-collar salary.
It was a town of peaceful ethnic neighborhoods and eateries, and exotic, for America, churches like the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral. It was charming, beautiful and diverse. But not “diverse.”
San Francisco is “diverse” now. And this is what it means: [...]
He goes on to describe the disappearance of the city he knew, and what it's been replaced by, and the how and why of it. I've seen a lot of what he talks about; I lived there for 24 years, and left for many of the reasons of which he speaks.
I enjoy reading Seiyo's writing because of his sharp wit and politically incorrect bluntness, even if I don't always agree with all of his conclusions. He's great at identifying causes of problems, but the solutions, if there are any, are much harder to come by. There's fragments, suggestions, but no whole answers.
The entire world is changing in ways I don't care for. It's a lament that every generation goes through as they age. In the end, one does one's best to save what is best of the past and to bring it into the future. I don't know that we CAN do anything more. The older you get, the less future you have, and the more you see that the future belongs to you less and less. For the sake of peace of mind, a certain amount of acceptance of that fact is required. And yet, we don't just let go of what we value. Like so much of life, it's a continuous balancing act.