The Reports of San Francisco’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

When a journalist contacted the humorist and author Mark Twain regarding rumors that he had passed away, Twain said to the reporter, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

We were thinking of Twain’s witticism when we visited San Francisco a few weeks ago to see our daughter. Even though Kate, who has been living there for about a year, assured us that the city is perfectly safe, we still were a bit wary, as were others when we told them that we were going there.

News reports have depicted San Francisco as a place that appears to be only slightly-less apocalyptic than one of those Mad Max movies (a new prequel, Furiosa, is now in theaters), with rampant drug use and street crime — and that’s from the mainstream media.

But we are happy to report that San Francisco is thriving, bustling — and safe. The waterfront park near the Golden Gate in the Marina District was filled with runners, folks walking their dogs, and tourists. The famous streetcars were packed, as were the waterfront attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (including the enormous sea lions who have taken up residence there), the huge marketplace at the Ferry Building, and Ghirardelli Square. The farmers markets we visited were both huge and thronged and the ferries to Sausalito and Tiburon (we visited the latter) carried hundreds of passengers to those quaint towns on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Walking up and over the famous, twisty, rose-terraced Lombard St. to the North Beach neighborhood was a delight.

In addition, San Francisco’s airport, similar to Logan, was a breeze, with clear signage for ride-share pickup, and with great food options for the long plane ride home.

There is one other thing about San Francisco that has to be seen to be believed: The city’s famous fog that rolls in from the ocean and across the bay. Most of California was basking in the 80s during our visit, as was Tiburon, but the city itself was shrouded in fog to some degree every day (which actually made for pleasant walking). The constant fog and accompanying chill made us think of another saying often attributed (incorrectly) to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco.”

The reason we mention all of this is because our visit served to remind us that news reports in the national media so often are unreliable. There is no substitute for going to a place to see with your own eyes what’s going on and what the real story is.

Or, to use another axiom, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

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