Keeping Time in San Francisco

Published on Oct 21, 2023

I moved to San Francisco at the end of a cycle. The first few months I lived here, someone told me that you have to be careful with seasons in here. They’re blurry and blend in to each other too easily, and time feels slippery because of it.

I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. But, the longer I’ve been here, I’ve come to realize how very easy it is to spend a lot of time in San Francisco without realizing you’ve done so.

There are multiple layers of time here. On the surface is the incredibly quiet, sleepy layer of time where most people go to bed early and get up to go on a hike in the misty Marin mountains.

Friday nights when Karl the Fog rolls in low over the rooftops of the Victorians, the lights flickering in the fog and you can just barely make out the outline of Tank Hill from your apartment window.

Quiet Saturday mornings, like the one in which I am writing this, where you can hear the birds chirping. My cat attentively listens for if they get close on the edge of my bed.

There’s a man in my neighborhood who regularly practices his opera singing during the week. I can hear him as he walks down the slow street I live next to, his baritone ringing off the walls of the rows of houses.

My neighborhood is friendly; I’m always running into a friend or acquaintance just when going on a quick walk or getting breakfast at the cafe down the street from me.

Underneath this slow, sleepy train of time is a blisteringly fast pace train of endlessly new things.

We joke about how you can’t get a nice meal in SF unless you’re willing to chat about AI in some capacity. There’s always an AI dinner, or a hackathon, or a demo night, or something else. Or you end up working with friends into the night out of a shared office so you all feel less alone while you try to move yourself and the world forward a little bit; ideally, with grace.

Everyone jokes about building God or the Tower of Babel right now. So much is changing so fast. You can’t try to read every paper or try every demo or talk to every brilliant person. You never will. The best thing to do is to try to build the future you want to see.

Anything is possible. If you have an idea, and know what you want, you can pretty easily get help with achieving it.

You have to learn to commit to things though; there’s a cornucopia of opportunity once you’ve been here long enough. You have to make sure you don’t let it distract you, though.

It’s almost the end of October now, and it doesn’t quite feel like fall yet. The air isn’t crisp enough, the days not yet short enough. The trees don’t change colors in quite the same way that they do back in the Midwest.

Yet, time does move forward. Slowly on the surface, and like a barrelling freight train underneath the rows of Victorians.

You have to mark the time and the seasons in whatever way you know how.