Everyone Wants to Get to San Francisco: A ‘Travel Guide’

“I wanted to get to San Francisco, everyone wants to get to San Francisco and what for? In God’s name under the stars what for? For joy, for kicks, for something burning in the night.”

-Jack Kerouac, On the Road

It’s Aug. 31, and I’ve yet to concoct a “pay the cable bill” plan, let alone a definite plan to get the hell outta New York for good. But when I do, I’m going to San Francisco. For a while, moving to San Francisco/Berkeley was a “plan” involving approximately 10 people I work with at Autostraddle.com. We have new ‘plans’ now that still aim to bring us closer together, geographically, but not cohesively. Things are changing so fast. We’ve started like three new Tumblrs since Berkeleystraddle.

Crystal, our Music Editor from Australia who I met ‘on the internet’ via my blog in 2007 and hadn’t seen since she came to the states in 2008, knows about the West of our Future and the East of Our Past. This past June, she arranged to meet Design/Dance Director Alex and I in San Francisco for a few days before making her way to New York for Pride/Rodeo Disco from Sydney, Australia.

This is the story of that trip.

Day One: Flying & Bieberblock

On the plane from New York, Alex sleeps and I pay for Internet to discover that Autostraddle.com, the website I conduct approximately a billion hours a week, has crashed for unknown reasons. I take my last Xanax. I finish reading Chely Wright’s Like Me and almost cry a few times, like when she comes out to her Dad. I hate airplanes. I eat cheese from a tiny expensive box.

We touch down in a perfect 60-something-degrees San Francisco. Due to flight delays, we’re already late to meet up with queer-web-friends — Fit for a Femme, M. & Kate — at the Rickshaw Stop, which is where the weekly lesbian party Cockblock is hosting a Justin Bieber lookalike contest! I KNOW WHAT LUCK.

We shuttle to the hotel on Market & 4th Street, where Crystal is waiting with Tim-Tams, the Tegan & Sara Book, Crocodile Dundee hats and heaps of magazines. Crystal has eyes/ears and therefore already knew how I’d probably feel about the Website Crash of Death and Evil.

We need vodka, we say.

I have vodka, Crystal says.

That’s how Crystal is. That stuff you need? To live your life? She’s got it. Crystal makes me feel calm and like things are gonna be okay. She always wears all black, which is somehow also comforting. Also: vodka in water bottles. Vodka vodka vodka!

First we stop at the wrong bar, but we are already too drunk to know if we’re at a dude bar, or if those dudes look like girls who look like a 16-year-old dude. At last, we arrive at our actual destination: Cockblock on 155 Fell Street.

The bar is big and box-shaped and dark, as bars are, with people smoking upstairs. We’re excited to meet/see each other and catch the tail end of The Contest. The room is all hot energy and carefully constructed deconstructed hairdos. FFAF explains that although my future tomboyfriend …

… really does look like Justin Bieber, the other finalist had really “worked it.” The prize is a trip to New York City, but we JUST CAME FROM THERE.

Then that night I get home and — I believe due to an unsavory cheeseburger — spend the next 24 hours in wretched feverish pain the likes of which I cannot possibly begin to describe.


Day Two: The Yellow Wallpaper

Day One bleeds into Day Two, just like my intestines and, eventually, Autostraddle. It’s a coincidence!

I stay in the dark room. Details: imagine how I felt when Autostraddle broke; now imagine that my primary organs & digestive system are our web server, and I’ve got a bad case of hostgatoritis. If Autostraddle is down, then I at least should be enjoying the respite.

Crystal & Alex tend to me, like the perfect people they are, and then eventually head out to see Fisherman’s Wharf. I lie in bed, thinking about when my Mom took me to Fisherman’s Wharf when I was eight, and we got shrimp cocktail, and I didn’t know shrimp cocktail was cold and it tasted slippery. We’d just been to Alcatraz and I’d had lots of ideas about things I could escape from, already. It was just me and my Mom, and it was really perfect and fun. Maybe people have kids so they can have perfect vacations like that.

I crawl up to the laptop, thinking “I’m a sad animal in a room by myself, crawling towards the bright machine.”

I bury my eyes in a pillow while my hands type. I think, “I’m a fast typer, even under diress.”

Sunshine hits the corner of my eye through the blinds. I drink some coffee and moan like a performance artist in a cage. Then I fall asleep.

Alex ate this, I think it’s a crab cake:

Crystal and Alex return, and I wake up thinking of all the hours I’ve spent in hotel rooms alone while friends are out seeking fun. I wonder if people still expect me for things? I’ve stopped letting myself WANT to have fun ’cause THERE’S NO TIME but enough! Let’s pick it up! It’s time to go see Julie Goldman, star of stage, screen, and our webseries Julie & Brandy in Your Box Office, at Mary’s Futon Shop, which, relative to the distance between Australia and San Francisco, is sort of close to our hotel.

Where the hell is San Rafael? Crystal thinks Ohio is in Michigan.

The cheapest way to get there is by rental car. It’s $30 or so. We pass the Golden Gate Bridge and I remember eating donuts on a rock with my boyfriend and his three-year-old half-sister over Thanksgiving break of 1998. It was breezy, and we were happy. Crystal, Alex and I talk about how ridiculous the BMI scale is until we realize we are LOST.

I am nauseous, I am starving, I AM WOMAN. We arrive only ~30 to 40 minutes late, which isn’t bad, ’cause we still get to see Julie.

Turns out Julie is probs my spirit animal, because just like me, she spent the whole night prior being sick. But both of us asked ourselves What Would Tyra Do and the answer is ROCK THE FUTON SHOP! There’s also cake, but I’m afraid of everything that isn’t a saltine.

We sit in the back because we’re hardcore and then Julie’s up and she makes us laugh so hard we pee our pants and change our pants ten times before it’s over.

Afterwards Julie is famous and signs autographs, but I get to keep the Burger King crown.

I feel I have been cured by the power of lesbian folk-rock music, surrounded by the kind women of the Bay Area and their tropically-printed t-shirts.



Day Three: Where’s Michelle/Tea

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and for about an hour, Autostraddle actually works!

In the morning, Alex returns the rental car and takes the opportunity to hit up the Blue Bottle Coffee Company:

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.Alex: I’ve heard good things about the coffee in San Francisco and specifically about the Blue Bottle Coffee Company, so I made it a point to seek out this elusive place. It is a little difficult to find, but that’s all in the adventure right? Right! So you walk into this place, and it’s like a goddamn science experiment. There are like beakers, pipes, glass, steam, etc. Look I found a photo of it! (Right)

There are many different kinds of coffees/coffee processes to choose from. I went with the drip coffee because I was bringing them back for Riese and Crystal and wasn’t sure if they fancied espresso like I do. But even the drip coffee isn’t conventional — atop each cup sits it’s own coffee filter and they pour hot water over the grinds and it sits until the water filters through. There you go. Drip coffee.

They had some awesome foods, too, but since I wasn’t staying, I grabbed an arborio rice cake for myself. IT WAS AWESOME. I crave it to this day. So anyway, that’s my San Francisco coffee story. Go to Blue Bottle when you’re there, it’ll be an enjoyable coffee experience.

We take the trolley to The Castro to visit Harvey Milk. Unfortunately he’s dead now, but they have some nice pictures up in his store instead:

Here we are, sitting where James Franco sat once!

We go to a bunch of bookstores so I can buy books that ensure our luggage exceeds the weight limit for our return flight. I’ll go to any bookstore anywhere, that’s the truth. Except New Age. Too much waterfall.

I pick up Women, Money & Power, Warring & Whoring: Memoir Poems and an anthology of gay & lesbian short fiction called Indivisible for reasons which fail me now.

Then we head over to The Mission District, the home of Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia, the New College San Francisco (Jack Spicer, one of my favorite poets, taught there) and lots of other landmarks of Great Importance.

On recommendation from one of the kindly bookstore queers, we have lunch at a magical place called The Samovar Tea Lounge. The teas cost a billion dollars each and require complicated preparations and exist to cure all things that are evil or sad in the world, except not Autostraddle.com, which is still crashed. But the food is perfect, and I feel instantly healthier and positive about life!

This is the Women’s Building, where women get built:

One of the women who was built there has a haircut like my hair:

At a vintage clothing shop on Valencia I dig through racks of mesh tank tops and ten-dollar designer jeans. We’re at our third thrift shop when Tess BBMs to let me know that hostgator has no f*cking idea when the website will be back up, and the cost of eventually getting it back up is like an arm + two legs = $600.

This renders me unable to speak for approximately an hour, which is most of the way back to the hotel where I talk to a nice man at Hostgator about the difference between Ohio and Texas. In the meantime, Alex & Crystal enjoy some adult beverages and when they return, Alex clearly wants to go to the strip club!

I’d read about The Lusty Lady in Whores & Other Feminists and also seen the documentary film Live Nude Girls Unite! and then accidentally mentioned it and now, I guess, we’re going to it. They lead you to a tiny black box where you sit and put money in a slot and a curtain raises and on the other side of a plexiglass wall, a girl puts her vadge in your face. You have to keep putting more money in to see more vadge. It was super weird and so we left and ended up getting roped into something even weirder: a totally hetero non-feminist strip club called The Condor Gentleman’s Club, where I was able to get us in for free, though I cannot recall specifics. We were not drunk enough for that place.

Autostraddle, eventually, is restored. All is well in the world, and I don’t want to leave San Francisco.


Day Four: Let’s Get Literal

When we awaken on Day Four, we are babies. Much later, when we eventually sleep, we will have become much smarter babies because of all the smart literary things we did.

Firstly, however, we have to do a stupid thing, which is go to Alcatraz without tickets. JK you can’t go to Alcatraz without tickets! You have to buy tickets like 50 years ahead of time, before we got born.

Crystal refers to Alcatraz twice as “San Quentin.”

But look you can see it!

We walk along the wharf and make Crystal eat a corn dog. Corn dogs these days are always cold in the middle, have you noticed that? Nobody knows how to cook a corn dog anymore.

I have a giant headache, but we do a little detective work and discover it’s just that my head is too big for my sunglasses, so I switch with Alex and then everything is fine.

Next up is The Beat Museum, staffed by skinny hipster boys and assembled like a really serious school project. I probs could’ve spent the whole day there.

Look it’s the original draft of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl!”

Mostly I keep thinking, “somebody designed these shoes I use to walk around, somebody made this museum and other people work in it.” Mostly I keep thinking: this exists. It’s always like that for book people when we’re up and out in the world, interacting with books in multi-user environments.

Confession: I’m a cliche, I’ve been wanting to live in San Francisco/Berkeley since the spring I worked at The Olive Garden in Times Square and read On the Road for the second time. They had a house in Berkeley in The Dharma Bums. I was supposed to live in San Francisco that summer, but it fell through.

I don’t really know why to go anywhere besides what I read in a novel once.

Then we go to City Lights Bookstore, one of my favorite bookstores in the universe.

Crossing the street to get there I remember a photograph I took ten years ago of my friend Magali on this street as we were leaving the City Lights Bookstore. She lived in Berkeley and I was visiting. I remember her hair was longer than it had ever been and she wore sunglasses and a grey tank top and there was traffic behind her and a cigarette in her hand.

This is the actual photo, so I must have made up or remembered the rest:

City Lights stocks not only a shit-ton of zines but even devotes its entire upstairs to poetry! I pick up Eileen Myles’ Not Me & a book called This is a Blog ’cause I think it’s a funny. Secretly it costs way more than I expect and I suffer silent guilt all afternoon thinking about it, which I did not reveal to anyone until THIS VERY MOMENT.

Then we walk through Chinatown, where we stumble upon good friends and girls.

Crystal looks very excited here, doesn’t she? It’s ’cause she’s already thinking ahead to our next journey, which is to The Commonwealth Club to see Bret Easton Ellis “in conversation.” Alex isn’t coming on this particular journey because she can’t read, and we don’t like to rub it in.

The Commonwealth Club is, as far as we can tell, a special club for rich white people with PhDs in the liberal arts who subscribe to newspapers because they like the feeling of print between their hands and use the “Internet” with bizarre, bemused detachment, like it’s something kids made up. Which is true.

Ellis has come to address The Commonwealth in celebration of his new novel Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Ellis’s ’80s novel Less Than Zero, which Crystal loved and which I hated.

[I’ve since re-read Less Than Zero because Crystal got it for me and had Bret Easton Ellis sign it, and I liked it this time. I think at the time I couldn’t relate to how anyone young could feel so empty and detached and jaded about everything already, or how anyone could feel like floating all the time but not change it, but I get it now, and getting it made all the difference. Books aren’t really about books so much as they are about readers.]

A crisply-dressed man with a radio voice asks Bret Easton Ellis questions. Sometimes the interviewer asks Bret Easton Ellis things Bret Easton Ellis has already said in answers to previous questions. Bret Easton Ellis sounds alternately proud and tickled, and his answers intrigue and fascinate me, even though I am disappointed to hear the Literary Brat Pack was created by the press and wasn’t real.

You can read a better description of the event in The San Francisco Weekly!

After The Beat Museum AND the Bret Easton Ellis reading, I feel a deep literary bond with Crystal that I don’t feel can be penetrated by other humans. I eventually even read Imperial Bedrooms for her, and I think it made me crazy.

But we must snap out of our literature trance because it’s time to go meet up with our new BFFs for dinner at Osha Thai, where we grill FFAF on her life story, talk about Autostraddle crashing and how Alex thinks San Francisco is too cold and wants to live in Los Angeles instead. We progress onwards to The Lexington Club to DEMOLISH OUR OPPONENTS AT PHOTO HUNT!

FitforaFemme, Alex, M., Riese, Crystal, Kate:

At The Lexington Club, the alternative lifestyle haircuts are more alternative than anything I’ve ever seen before or since. There are things happening with hair that I’ve never even conceived of before. So many new ideas everywhere.

Although I’ve roped in many prospective paramours by telling them that I don’t know how to play pool and then letting them ‘teach me’ to play pool, I still don’t really know how to play pool. So I was talking to Kate about, I believe, Health Care, while the rest of the kids apparently had a life-scarring experience involving a desire to play pool.

Here is Crystal’s account:

Alex and I wanted to meet some of the locals, so we decided to challenge them to a friendly game of pool. Howevs upon approach we realised that the filthy looks the girls had been throwing us ever since we walked through the door weren’t figments of our imaginations, the girls seemed genuinely offended by our presence. When we asked how we could sign up for a game, a girl summoned us over to the waiting list on the wall and in the place where our names should have gone, she wrote “NO!”. She told us that she was going to make sure her friends took a super long time playing pool so that we wouldn’t get a game before the bar closed. I wasn’t in the mood to cut a bitch and so I was relieved when she didn’t follow through.

We were confused by the hostility, but also challenged — we wanted to show this fancy-haired girl and her fancy-haired friends that we were good company. But every time Alex tried to make peace, she’d shut her down by calling her “No!” She called me “Austria.” I still don’t really understand what went wrong. Have you met Alex? It’s impossible not to like her.

Obviously Crystal has no choice but to tag the bathroom wall:

Day 5: Return to New York City

FitforaFemme takes us to the airport in the morning and tells me she’ll help me find an apartment when I’m ready to move. She’s so nice I can hardly believe she’s a real person.

Anyhow, I am ready to move. I’ve been in my room all day. I need some air.

At the airport, I somehow ensconce myself in five different g-chats on my blackberry at the same time while waiting for a Panini to be properly microwaved and think, “is this life?”

On the plane I sleep a bit and start re-reading Less Than Zero.

I’ve been asking around: anyone know of a place that isn’t life but isn’t death either, a place where a person can hang out for free before moving on to the next stage of life?

If I had more time to think I might think about how I’ve got nothing besides an abstract sense that ‘things will work out’ and ‘I’ll get to San Francisco.’ It’s just that this city has become too much. I got to New York in 2004 with cash and ambition, and I spent it. I love New York, but we need a break.

I think I left NYC in 2007, but I didn’t take my body with me. No. I came back. I’ve been coming and going but my body’s been right here all this time at this desk. There’s a postcard of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs super-glued to my desk. I know it’s not a big deal but it kinda is.

In 2000, when I went to Berkeley to see Magali, I wrote this  in my diary:

“Here I am in Berkeley. Magali is parking the car, we’re seeing the Indigo Girls tonight. Berkeley is so beautiful. I wish I lived here. I will someday.”

That’s how I decide what I want: one part ‘novel’ and one part ‘memories from my past of liking this place,’ because I’m convinced that we get less and less authentic the more we know. I’m thinking here of unwrapping squares of chocolate with my Mom and looking at the ocean, of being stoned/eating burritos with Magali and her brother in a hot, crowded taqueria, of driving from Reno to San Francisco in the rain, taking turns with my then-boyfriend reading Franny & Zooey out loud to each other. I’m thinking here of being calm.

So what I’m telling you is, I don’t care if it’s nothing like the books I read or the things I remembered, it’s where I’m going. They have like ten wax museums. I like the weather.



Cockblock — “PUMPING UP DANCE FLOORS NON-STOP SINCE early 2006 and featured as ‘The Best Place for Chicks (Who Like Chicks)’ by the SF Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay in 2009, COCKBLOCK is SF’s Hottest Dance Party for lezzies, lovers and friends.”

Lexington Club — “Just your friendly neighborhood dyke bar” – 3464 19th Street @ Valencia

The Lusty Lady — 1033 Kearny Street.

The Condor Gentleman’s Club — 560 Broadway @ Columbus.

Osha Thai — 819 Valencia.
Samovar Tea Lounge — 498 Sanchez Street (@ 18th Street).

The Blue Bottle Coffee Company — 66 Mint St (between Jessie St & Mission St). San Francisco, CA 94103

The Beat Museum — 540 Broadway. San Francisco, CA 94133-4507. (415) 399-9626

Bret Easton Ellis reading at The Commonwealth Club — 595 Market Street

Fisherman’s Wharf — home of Musée Mécanique Antique Penny Arcade. Encompasses roughly the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street.

The CastroMarket St. to 19th Street. “Widely considered America’s first, currently largest, and best-known gay neighborhood. Having transformed from a working-class neighborhood through the 1960s and 1970s, the Castro remains a symbol and source of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) activism and events.”

The Mission District Mission Street is the principal thoroughfare of the Mission District, bordered by U.S Route 101 to the East and Noe Valley to the west. Valencia Street to Dolores Street is known as “Mission Dolores.” Home of The Women’s Building (and MaestraPeace Mural) and the Adobe Book Shop (3166 16th; No. 3) and lots of vintage clothing stores like Mission Thrift.


A Different Light Bookstore — Serving the gay community since 1979 at 489 Castro St.
City Lights Bookstore — 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway (North Beach) “City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.”
Mary’s Futons — 4100 Redwood Hwy, San Rafael, CA 94903. Bay Area’s biggest futon store, lesbian owned and operated.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3213 articles for us.


  1. I can’t believe you accidently ended up at the Condor. That’s hilarious. Also, the couple times I’ve gone to The Lex I’ve had that same experience. It’s not the friendliest place around… especially if you don’t have a fauxhawk and a tie. I don’t think I was butch enough for them. But in conclusion, you should totally move to SF or Berkeley. Even if you don’t end up here forever. It’s one of those places you should live in for a while if you can.

  2. This genuinely made me feel sad. But I love SF, that ONE time I went there, and I also liked the weather and didn’t realize they had wax museums so I get it. What a year for losing friends to the west coast! :(

  3. …!!! I’ve just spent the last few days crazily researching how I could spend 3 months in San Francisco amongst my creative inspirations (since they all seem to center there, apparently) and then this post pops up.


  4. There are only two places in the USofA I’d ever want to go, it just doesn’t appeal to me like, let’s say, Greenland.
    San Francisco

    That’s it. ;) You made me wanna go even more so.

    • I always thought NYC + SF too, but my only trip to America was to Boston because my best friend was studying there, and I really loved it. Though it seemed disappointingly contrary to the image of America portrayed via the media, like I did not even hear a single gun-shot.

      Oh, and I’d also go to Baltimore for a bit of John Waters pilgrimage.

      Anyway, I loved this “Travel Guide” which I think told us much more than any soulless list of places to eat/drink.

      Also I laughed out loud when you said Alex can’t read. This is fine as long as she continues to read/write the language of infographics.

      • me too! i’ve always thought NYC & SF in the US, I feel like I’ve thought that all my life. I lived outside of Boston for a year. It was nice, because of history, but also well mostly b/c of history. I feel like it’s such a college town. I also have liked Vancouver and, slightly less so; London. I can see myself living in Oregon or something later on. But the only consistent convictions have been sf and nyc. i guess that’s where i heard there would be other weird people.

        also john waters is always the first thing i think of when i think of baltimore.

    • i like your photos!

      the fact that this tag has been observed & appreciated warms my heart like little else

  5. i’ve been twice. the first time i was going through alcohol withdrawl, and the second time i tried to live there with my ex girlfriend. we’re pretty much hobos so we didn’t pay for anything and it didn’t last long… hoo hoo, and we knew nothing about the city. if only this was posted a few months ago, we would have known where to get coffee.

  6. San Francisco was the place my parents dragged me to as a child. I would spend summers in the sun by the pool and then suddenly i was in the car in three sweatshirts going up and down hills looking at pastel houses. I would drag my feet through museums and shiver on the wharf while wrinkling my nose at the smell of fish. My parents tried to point out all the interesting things “this is where the beatniks hung out. They wore a lot of black too”. I wish I had picked up my feet a little more and embraced the fog because now my parents won’t pay for me to visit bookstores or ride cable cars.

    • cable cars.
      cable. cars.
      duh! now I know why I want to go.

      Are there hills in SF, like a lot of them, as in Rome or Lisbon? (Seven each, btw)

      • Haha SF only has like…a million hills. Don’t even worry. :P

        (Actually, if you drive a manual…Do worry! Scary. That and parking. So definitely stick to the cable cars/buses/your feet)

        • actually, late last night I remembered something and then I googled “san francisco hills”.
          it’d be dangerous for me to go, I got a gut feeling I’d fall in love…

  7. I had the exact same experience as you all did when I went to the bars–not nearly butch enough which really pissed me off, I’m a bigger queer than any of them. Also get ready to freeze all year round.

    I think everyone has ‘alternative’ hairstyles partly because it’s always so damned windy there it’s like having your hair in a blender. Knots for days.

  8. i never comment, but i read all posts avidly. i feel compelled to say this: i’m moving back to SF tomorrow, after a year away, and the reasons you love it are the reasons i love it, too. the beats, when i was fifteen, were magical, and San Francisco is magical, and i miss it like burning. This post has gotten me even more excited to go.

    the one fly in the ointment of all of this magic, is, unfortunately, the Lexington. I’m still sad and ashamed that it’s the only full-time girl bar in the city. It’s a terrible place to feel camaraderie; it’s never felt welcoming. Especially if you’re not white, young, upper-middle class, height-weight proportionate and ‘alternative.’ I’m embarrassed that the city I love so much was unwelcoming to you, particularly when this space you’ve carved out of the internet has been such a welcome refuge. On behalf of queer San Francisco, I sincerely apologize.

    But that aside, you should definitely move to San Francisco! And bring all of autostraddle with you!

    • This explodes my wee native SF heart into a kabillion pieces.

      I feel like Rufus Wainwright in that one song where he’s like “…and I’d better be prominently featured in your next slideshow!” except the part after that, because look! I am! In your slideshow/blog post! Hot sauce.

      Look, the trick about the Lex is not to give two shits about the kinds of girls who mistake Australian accents for Austrian ones, because, well…that’s pretty self-explanatory, no? Otherwise, you might as well rub a shit ton of MAC on the low end of a few broomsticks decorated with feather earrings and call it a day as far as making new friends goes. (That is not a comment on anything other than character, be t-dubs.)

      Alex, I feel like you need to move to Oakland where BC-dubs and Dr. Dyke reside. I swan it’s always 10-20 degrees warmer there – 9/12 mos. of the year it’s mid-60s to mid- and upper 70s! I did for 10 years and I really miss it. Popping in and out of SF as needed is a cinch and think of everything nearby – beaches, redwoods, t-shirt skiing, glorious mountains, lakes and rivers galore, wineries, lesbianslesbianslesbianslesbians for days.

      PS. The ones in Oakland are way less cunty than the ones in SF. Trust. (No offense, super nice SF dykes.)

      • PS. Oops, I accidentally put this in the wrong place.
        PPS. I still have those strip club passes somewhere!

      • how far apart are oakland and san fran in terms of hours? Are they easily accessible?

        /is foreign and can’t visualise distances

        • Less than an hour! Quite accessible :)

          Well, depending on traffic.. But they’re basically right next to each other.

        • oakland / san francisco is like brooklyn / manhattan – they’re joined by a bridge. it’s just a longer bridge, and you can’t bike on it. it takes about 15 minutes by car or 20-30 minutes by train. oakland is cheaper rents and more lesbians, and like FFAF said, warmer temperatures.

    • I feel like I should point out that there were some really nice people at the Lexington as well, Alex and I played pool with them. In my head we won, but I don’t know if that was a real outcome or one i made up.

      • Yes, there often are very nice people there. I often make friends at the jukebox and I wish we hadn’t lost the email address of one very sweet girl who did rodeo that we met a year or two ago!

        • im agreeing with you here – my girlfriend and i go to the lex all the time, and to be honest, we usually stick out like sore thumbs. that being said, we love it!! the bartenders are sweeties and honestly, who cares if it’s a butch crowd or a femme crowd or whatever – it’s the one place in the city (besides orsons) where it’s all lezzies, all the time. plus, the jukebox plays way better music than qbar has been on most recent tuesday nights. oh, and the gay rodeo chick? i know exactly who youre talking about! i randomly interviewed to live with her 3 yrs ago when i first moved to the city. i didnt get the room, but randomly ran into her at the lex a few months ago and she gave my girlfriend and i free drink tickets and is always super friendly!

          oh and riese – i was totally at cockblock that night for my girlfriend’s birthday. we brought some straight girls and they loved it – it;s the best dance party in the city!

          • We love the Lex, too! I can’t believe nobody is more enthused about Erotic Spot the Difference. That game is super boss when you are wasted.

            Tell the gay rodeo chick we want to gay rodeo! We are busy with fencing lessons for the next few months, but yeah. GAY RODEO!

          • haha apparently there’s gay line dancing somewhere in daly city once a month… to beyonce. no idea how that works, but i believe it. coincidentally, my boss told me today that in between “super macho buff” phase and his current buddhist one, his gay uncle was very much a gay cowboy and very into the rodeo and line dancing circuit! amazing, right?

            swear i saw you last weekend at mango!

    • i feel better now, ks and fitforafemme. the next time i go to the lexington i will wear my paris hilton wig

  9. ‘She called me “Austria”?’ – Do you mean to say “She called me “Switzerland”‘? WTF?!

  10. san francisco is my home and it can make my heart feel great and expand to three times bigger with love, and it can also make it hurt and maybe feel sort of stepped on.
    sometimes i get that feeling like i’m not cool enough to live here, i’m not part of the club. but then, i think maybe a lot of people feel that where they live.
    the fact is that even if i don’t think i’m cool enough, i am technically part of the club. and it’s a wonderful club to be in. san francisco has been my salvation from so much, and for that alone it has a special place in my heart area. also there are so many cute dogs here and a lot of them wear little dog outfits which has always been one of my embarrassing weaknesses.

    • also i didn’t think that my macbook would automatically type in my full name…i guess now if you really want to live in san francisco, you now have the ability to track me down and steal my apartment.

      • that happened to me too. i sent a panicked email to sarah and it was taken care of lickety split. you all have a better response time than my college does, fucking assholes.

  11. This is gorgeously autowin-ish. I’m also in a state of transition. I never thought I would leave New York let alone for LA, but I have somehow become entrapped in the idea of palm trees and an easier life. When did New York become so HARD? New Yorkers hate LA. That makes me sad to hear but I need to give it a shot. I like the weather.

    • After being born back in NY/Boston- moving to SF/Oakland/ and Berk – I absolutely NEVER thought I would say these words, but they are so very, very true: I LOVE LA. I love Hollywood, Silver Lake -the neighborhood not the quotes around it place, Los Feliz, I love the coast down there… would die to live in Laurel Canyon…

      You have to find your groove, but the majority of the people down there have always been so gracious and kind- of course no one believes me (their loss)- and while I sadly no longer live there? ALWAYS a concert, always an Art Happening… it’s so alive down there. The shallow crap, just look away and don’t feed them a second of energy. Nothing to it- just look away.

      I also miss NYC but fear returning as I’ve heard that (as much as I love Varvatos) CBGB’s to John’s gorgeous yet out of reach shop is emblematic of what I left and what is there and the ‘Clean Up that Went Too Far’ … heck, I’ll shut up now. Never be ashamed to fall in love with LA; just get air-conditioning/a solar panel just for your AC!

  12. The best place in the world to fall in lust or love. Next time you are in town, check out Baker Beach, The Legion of Honor and the view at the end of Geary overlooking the Old Sutro Baths. SF is full of magical sights. Thank you for writing about its unique vibe. . .

  13. COULD YOU PLEASE JUST GET HERE ALREADY. i need friends like i need vitamins which is like woah.

    i’ve definitely had the weirdest year of my life, having moved to Brooklyn 10 months ago from Canada, and then now having moved to San Francisco 2 months ago. one thing i can say for sure is that both cities are awesome, but san francisco is FUCKING FREEZING. wtf! it’s supposed to be california! i basically grew up with this mythological image of california as a place of non-stop sun and beach boys songs, and this is not so. BUT. i really can’t overstate how many lesbians there are here. like i can see four right now just from where i’m sitting. YOU GUYS IT’S MAGICAL. get here.

    • Alright, now I’m really curious what part of Canada you’re from that rends San Francisco freezing.

      • i’m from ottawa/montreal, where it gets mighty hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. i just mean cold RELATIVE to my expectations of california as a hot/sunny place, which i guess is more true of southern california than the north. and it’s also funny because on the other hand, people here are super soft because they don’t have a winter, so you see people walking around in puffy coats and tuques when it’s like 16C.

        • Ahhh. I’m from Winnipeg, which means I’m pretty much a winter warrior. I went to SF about six years ago in February and I remember being all, “I’m in fucking California! I’m gonna go in the ocean!” And because I don’t back down from shit like that I found a beach, stuck my toe in the water, pulled it out and put my socks and shoes right back on. I think I was just really happy not to be wearing two pairs of long underwear.

  14. don’t go!
    there’s a blue bottle coffee in williamsburg!
    this reminds me of autowin and it’s wonderful. thanks riese!

      • i am here in lovely new york city (forevs!) and i’m off work til the 27th– blue bottle date or some other kind of playdate PLZ before you disappear into that foggy ether?

        I actually think if I could live anywhere outside of ny/la for work (which is hard) I’d love san francisco. when I was a wee lass i begged my parents to let me go to the haight but they told me it was too dangerous. which is probably true because i was like, 12.

  15. confession time: I had to read Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis and it made me hate him. I have not read any of his other books. I was repulsed. I hope this does not make me a bad queer!

    This makes me want to go to San Francisco, and also I think it would be super awesome if there were “Travel Guides” for other gayborhoods, such as Northampton or Dupont Circle. I’m sure that I’m not the only college student who will have to pick somewhere to live when she gets out of school and wants it to be the best, gayest place in the country.

    • Lunar Park was a really strange book. I am a huge BEE fan and I didn’t even want to finish it, reading it made me feel weird & confused & on edge.


    kelsey and i are trying to move and we were supposed to leave today, but we’re staying at the beach in NC and THERE’S ABOUT TO BE A GODDAMN HURRICANE IN THE WAY.


  17. I’m going to SF in the spring and this made me so so so exited.

    If you’re still in NYC in October, though, I’ll look for you. If you see someone smiling at you, it might very possibly be me.

  18. i don’t think i’ve ever thought any thoughts about san fransisco, but this made it look like a nice place to go. i just sold my yellow hoodie because it looks bad on me but then i saw it on you and i had instant regret but then i remembered that it looks bad on me.

  19. I got so excited when I saw you guys had written about San Francisco because I happen to live in that wonderful city!

    I too recently had my first SF strip club experience, I didn’t go to the Condor (no old enough) but I went to Roaring 20’s. It was so weird!!

    I’ve never been to Alcatraz, but it’s on my to do list. And, I don’t know why the ladies at the Lexington did appreciate your presence. I hope they read this and feel like ASSHOLES!

  20. Yes, yes, yes — move here! As a native midwesterner, the beautirific loveliness craziness that is the Bay Area was a bit jolting at first, but it is so worth it.

    And, FYI — the dykes/lezzies/and super-cool queers actually live in Oakland, not Berkeley. No offense, but Berkeley isn’t the friendliest unless you’re under 21 at Cal or a 40+ something queer with babies and cash. (SF is nice too but it’s even more nice to save $1000+ in rent in Oakland — more cash for cocktails later). :-) Plus, there’s an up and coming queer dance scene in Oakland, like Hella Gay Oakland, the monthly Hey Girl Hey near Lake Merritt, etc…can’t wait for Oakland pride this wknd!

  21. Riese, this was beautiful.

    I live my life like this too, ‘if I just get out of this city and travel to these places I’ve read about and dreamed about and built altars to in my mind, somehow my life will fall together’.

    I have no money and people terrify me, but somehow when me and these things exist in another geographical location, everything will just be fine.

  22. “Anyone know of a place that isn’t life but isn’t death either, a place where a person can hang out for free before moving on to the next stage of life?”

    Mom and Dad’s? That’s where I found a place between life and death and am currently living. Just be careful or you may never want to leave.

  23. This is f*cking fantastic. Like, exactly what I needed to read. I took a leap of faith a few weeks ago by accepting a job offer in San Fran over returning to Asheville. This post makes me less nervous/apprehensive about my decision and the west coast, amid packing and moving in 2 weeks. Imma hit up that coffee shop, mos def. It sounds amazing!

    Also – if I may make a recommendation – some friends took me to DJ Purple in the Mission while I was there for interviews. It was a B-L-A-S-T, however, I wish I could remember more of it. I DO know that there were many laid-back queers there and that beers were insanely cheap. Me 1, Brownout 0.

    I also can’t wait to make sourdough on the west coast! Kitchen experiments!

  24. I’m born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and I’m doing everything in my power not to leave. While all my friends have migrated south or east, I’ve stayed right here. I’ve never been able to put it into words why I love this place so much. It’s more than just being a gay mecca. San Francisco (and to some extent Berkeley and Oakland) are queer in a way that other places try to force themselves to be. It’s not something you can create by starting up more gay bars or having a gay pride event.

  25. This makes me SO excited to move to SF. One more year, one more year!! I also really enjoy the way you write :)

  26. I moved to San Francisco a few months ago and it was the best decision I ever made in my life. If any of you have the means to do it, you should, you really, really should. It’s super gay here.

    Sidenote: I have looked upon the autostraddle writing on the Lex bathroom wall so many times and have searched out for the MYSTERY WOMAN who wrote it. I have asked people waiting in line if they knew what it was to to help narrow my search. Alas, mystery solved. I have to call 14 people now to let them know. Also, I’m still going to ask people waiting for the bathroom because it turns out it’s kind of a good pickup line – thanks team!

  27. I live like an hour from the city (wait sorry I should say San Francisco, it’s only “the city” for people who live in San Jose it’s stupid little sister), and so every time I get sad I want to take the train up and spend the day there and now I’m not even sad but I’m still want to go!!!

  28. I crawl up to the laptop, thinking “I’m a sad animal in a room by myself, crawling towards the bright machine.”


  29. I loved this recap, Riese. Also, this:

    “I don’t really know why to go anywhere besides what I read in a novel once.”

    This is how I feel about Morton’s steakhouse. Whenever I visit the USA I go to Morton’s because that’s where the kids in “Less Than Zero” always go to eat. And I only realised how crazy that is, to go to Morton’s again and again, no questions, because a book once taught me that Morton’s is where people can go to eat. I’ll probably keep going back though.

  30. I did go to SF two years ago and it was pretty impressive for a girl who lives in Hong Kong. Even went to the bookstore mentioned above and bought a big load of books. How did you find the Blue Bottle Coffee Company? I was uable to find this shop, even with the help of the locals. So the compromise is….Starbucks! Well, I ended up with getting a drink from a lcoal shop. Anyway, I would love to spend some time there if some relatives are nice enough to donate some money for this poor girl.

  31. This was well enjoyable to read :)

    “I’m convinced that we get less and less authentic the more we know”

    This just helped me articulate a feeling i’ve been having lately that as you get older you lose a little bit of the original ‘you’ and now i’m scared that I’m a totally different version of me that is ok and everything but I have a sneaking feeling that the original (authentic) version was way better.

    wah :(

  32. I don’t know but I want to go to San Fran. It is like Vegas but only for the gay homos. But I am Canadian, so I would have to go to our Vegas equivalent which is Montreal. Which is the equivalent to pretty much every city in the world except for New York. Our New York equivalent is Toronto. *disclaimer This is all in my head, no majority has agreed upon this.
    I feel like I am the equivalent to a news reporter, I say too much.
    So uh, yeah…I like this website plenty.

  33. This is very TGCAW and I love it. I love visiting NY but I don’t feel cool enough to stay there longer than a week, and I’d like to visit California at least once, but I don’t feel good looking enough to live there.

  34. Tartine! No one has mentioned Tartine! It’s an amazing pastry place in the mission. I got a hot cocoa there once, and the barista asked me if I wanted it with a scoop of creme fraiche. WHY YES, yes I did!
    There’s usually at least a little queer-looking eye candy on display, and the food is fantastic.

  35. are you serious??? coulda used this last week!!! san francisco and the bay area is absolutely gorgeous though!!

  36. san fran is wonderful.
    I really want to move up there however my gf does not love sf the way i do. its also really expensive.

    i think i’ll be happy enough if we at least just move to Culver City if we plan on staying in elay.

    happy moving! & welcome to west coast.

  37. I left my heart in san francisco. Every time I leave there it is like breaking up with the city. My sister used to live in the city and now has moved out to the ‘burbs in Marin. While her house is awesome and has a pool and is much better suited to raising to small children. I will miss taking the muni home from the bar late at night, getting a donut from happy donut then stumbling around the corner home.

    I will always want to live there.

    Also try Peets coffee.

    this comment is really late but whatever.

  38. Cool. You had nearly the same experience at the Lex as I did. Chicks are all “gayer than thou” there. I guess I need a more alternative haircut. = )

  39. just went to san fran for the first time and hit up the lex. “gayer than thou” was def the atmosphere. oh shit. they seemed genuinely annoyed i wasn’t hipster cali butch. sorry. didn’t get the memo.

    LAME-O. why do lesbians hate so?

  40. Right everyone.

    Hello. London here.

    Im coming to California for 2.5 weeks in June with my girlfriend. We are very excited indeed as its the first time we’ve been to the west coast. We’re flying into LA and flying out of San Fran and want some proper californian recommendations. Incidentally, pride in on in LA during our visit which is great but would definitely welcome some other suggestions for fun things to do!


  41. This makes me so glad to be near enough to San Fran to visit relatively often :) I have some great memories there, of course they don’t include bars or anything cause I can’t really go to those places yet but there’s the warf, cable cars, my friend’s crazy dad gunning us down a steep hill…
    And I don’t get why there has to be some unofficial dress code at the Lexington, I thought gayelles liked femmes anyways :/

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