Christopher Caen: Proud to be the city that some people just can’t resist hating

OK, that qualifies as the mother of all double whammies. First we got the delayed Tax Filing Day on Monday followed by the Anniversary of the Quake on Tuesday. And by Wednesday everyone is shaken every which way. As far as the former is concerned, Sterling Bank's Steve Adams checks in with the following idea for the IRS: “Enclosed is my 2005 tax return showing that I owe $3,429.00 in taxes. Please note the attached article from USA Today, wherein you will see the Pentagon is paying $171.50 for hammers and NASA has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat. I am enclosing four toilet seats and six hammers, bringing my total remitted to $3429.00.”

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think they are going to go for it. However, I do want to see Steve try to get four toilet seats into that little IRS return envelope. However, as much as that IRS check may have hurt this week, nothing hurts as much as the following. After reading about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' new baby, Strange de Jim quickly shot off an e-mail simply stating “Who's Suri now?” Ouch.

And Grace Cathedral's Director of Operations Larry Bisagni has kicked off another rollicking round of our favorite game, “You know you are a San Franciscan when …” His entries include the following: You know you are becoming a San Franciscan when: you know which 24-Hour Fitness locations aren't open 24 hours. You know which Trader Joe's carries a specific item that the other locations don't always have. Even if you aren't Catholic, you refer to St. Mary's as the washing machine or our Lady of Maytag. You have made out your fourth check to the DPT for a parking violation. This month. And finally, you become suspicious of any property listed for less than $1 million.

Yes, yes, I know I get all those e-mails stating no one cares about what makes a San Franciscan and why do you people think so highly of yourselves anyway? And yet we do seem to be under attack on almost a daily basis. How we became the bastion of all that is nefarious given what is happening on the other coast I still can't figure out. You can't listen to the television or read magazines or newspapers without finding someone going O'Reilly all over us.

This week a Vanity Fair article appeared in front of me. It was from the April issue and was a profile of Steve Jobs. So far, so good. However, within this article was the following quote from writer Michael Wolff: “Arguably, it's not just Jobs that remains so stuck in time, but the whole Bay Area culture that's stuck with him: quaint and solipsistic, stubborn and irritating.”

Grrrrrr. You just knew that would get me all grumpy and ornery. First off, exactly what time are we stuck in? The time when our politicians actually represented the people? Horrible. When we cared about the person down the street as much as the person across the globe? Horrific. When the cost of our actions on this planet was measured on the impacts to people, creatures and the environment? Hideous. Personally, standing for these things seems like a fairly good idea in this time, but apparently not for Mr. Wolff.

And that word, solipsistic. Don't know about you, but I had to run to the dictionary for that one. Turns out solipsism is the philosophical theory that the self is the only thing that can be truly known and verified. Sounds like an extension to “thine own self be true.” Because that is all you can really control. But this I have to agree sounds like something that has stepped out of time. Why be responsible for yourself when you can make it someone else's problem? It's the government's fault, McDonald's made me overweight, the schools aren't policing our children enough and we need to sue those oil companies for jacking up gas prices. Or we could try getting out of our cars, but then that would infer making a personal choice. Can't have that. Which bring us to …

“Stubborn and irritating.” You know, that one we will cop to. We are indeed that and proud of it. Heck, we even irritate ourselves half the time, but that is what living in a democracy is all about. In these parts you get to hear every opinion whether you want to or not. Unlike other parts of the country, where speaking out is speaking up and speaking up is acting up. Better stop that son, we don't gofor that sorta thing in these parts.

But in these parts we do. That must be what that other adjective, “quaint,” must be referring to. We still think that democracy is about the empowering of voices, not the silencing of them. That sometimes all it really does take is one person to make a difference. That realizing we are all in it together regardless of race, religion or any other demographic slice of life. Quaint thoughts all, but if you don't mind Mr. Wolff, we are going to keep them all the same.

Christopher Caen’s column appears Fridays in The Examiner. E-mail him at

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