A waft of smoke and spicy grease fills the air. The sizzling sounds of jalapenos, pork products, and onions are accompanied by car horns, live street music, and the burp of outdated bus engines. Signs above restaurants are written in another language and throngs of grungy homeless are curled up like kittens. Where in the world am I? Venezuela? Spain? Mexico?
Not quite. Lost in what feels like another country – even another continent – I am standing on one of San Francisco’s most beloved street corners. For those who have traveled to Latin America, 24th and Mission somehow feels familiar. For the reader who lists Canada as an exotic escape this probably should be the first place you venture before waving goodbye to Old Glory. Baby steps.
Standing at the street corner, you’re eyes pan slowly around. A bar with no name is easily half-full at 11am, a few homeless people are sitting “crisscross applesauce” in front of the subway entrance, and the McDonalds across the road is always packed. On this street you get the inexplicable feeling that at any store you could successfully offer a lower price or barter a bit. Stores here are selling everything – luggage, banking services, pipes, fruits and vegetables, and of course the colossal wrap that is the Mission burrito.
The best thing about the area is that it feels different. An escape from the wealth of tourist traps, big buildings and financial advertisements found downtown. No I won’t call you Chuck. This area is a great addition to one of the finest cities in the U.S, boasting some of the best San Fran has to offer.
The only problem is, it may not look like this for long. Like a squeaky clean New York City and almost everywhere else it seems, the continued gentrification – the influx of newcomers with more money to spend – is moving the people who actually work in these stores and restaurants farther and farther out. Falling under siege, it appears that the hipsters have taken over. A block or so over and upscale cafes, bars, and lounges line the sidewalks. Worse than yuppie East coasters, worse even than a swarm of Hezbollah-mad vegans, the hipster is truly evil. Like no group before them, they can touch almost anything and spoil it. Flannel. Malt Liquor. Facial hair.
A similar phenomenon is taking place all across the globe – sometimes in you’re backyard and sometimes in places you would never even dream of going. And unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about it.
This may just be a place you want to visit sooner rather than later.