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Christmas in The City can be surreal

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It can be kind of eerie walking around in San Francisco on Christmas with so many people away from The City. (Jeff Chiu/2011 AP)

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By the time you read this, I will already be gone. I’ll probably be puttering around my parents’ place in San Diego, fantasizing about the Lobster in Special Sauce that I’ll be having at Phuong Trang later tonight. We’re California Jews, so we’ve long since eschewed our peoples’ traditional Christmas Eve cuisine (Chinese food) and instead opted for Vietnamese. We like to challenge the status quo like that.

While I’m not originally from San Francisco, I made this place my home more than 13 years ago. And being Jewish means it’s not nearly as big a deal for me to visit my family for Christmas as it is for other people. So I’ve spent a number of Christmases here in town. Over the years, I’ve found myself doing a variety of things on Dec. 24 and 25, from volunteering at St. Anthony’s to hosting a Jewish Christmas Party at The Make-Out Room. The thing I’ve come to love about San Francisco on Christmas is how empty it is.

It’s eerie walking around The City when it’s so vacant. S.F. normally teems with people walking, biking, driving, skating, dancing in the streets. But on Christmas, it’s haunting.

Desolation reverberates off the buildings and down the thoroughfares as you meander through town by yourself. It’s like you’re in one of those movies where the protagonist wakes up and everyone on Earth is gone. Then, suddenly, a car rolls by, off to someplace filled with family, friends and food, and you remember you’re in San Francisco, and tomorrow will be back to normal — whatever that is.
This is the first time in awhile it’s felt like winter (well, a San Francisco winter, anyways). It’s been warm and dry for a few years now, and finally, fingers crossed, it seems like we’re getting the weather we so desperately need. Although I don’t know if it’s the weather we necessarily deserve.

We’ve seen a whole lot of ugliness in the few years since our last real winter. In that time, The City has been torn apart by rampant greed and corruption, and so much of what has always made S.F. great is rapidly dying of thirst. In large part, we can thank Mayor Lee, Ron Conway and all their rich cronies for that. If Santa really existed, all they’d get in their stockings would be coal.

But here we are, on the precipice of a New Year. I always find myself humming the Counting Crows song “Long December” at this point in the season. Right now, I can’t seem to shake the line, “Maybe this year will be better than the last.” I hope that, if anything, this rain is a sign that it will be.

A city that’s always been a haven for misfits and mavericks tends to have a lot people with no home to go to for the holidays. People who’ve left where they were from in order to get to be who they are often aren’t invited back. So San Francisco has always been a place where people created their own tribes and families, often making an S.F. “Orphans Christmas” something just shy of beatific.

In 2015, many of these tribes have been scattered due to things like evictions and the housing crisis. Maybe because of this, The City’s emptiness will be extra deafening this year on Christmas. I guess you’ll just have to let me know. It’s just about time I head out to Phuong Trang.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

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