Lauryn McCarthy is leaving San Francisco. Normally, someone moving out of our unfair and beautiful city wouldn’t be cause for a shoutout in my column, but Lauryn is one of those strange, wonderful mavericks that makes The City vibrate. And I’m not just writing this because she’s one of my best friends — we’ve all had too many people we love flee or get chased from San Francisco in the past few years. I’m bringing it up because it’s a major loss to The City; there will be one less brilliant freak in a city that’s almost been bled dry.
You could see the proof of this by who was in attendance at her going away party on Monday evening. It was the first night the new Bar Fluxus in the Hotel des Arts was open, and a fine slice of San Francisco’s heart and soul was there to say goodbye. There were DJs, artists, bar owners, carpenters, creative directors, restaurateurs, brewery workers, skeeball champions, DIY class instructors, concert promoters, shop owners and pot dealers. There were representatives from venerable San Francisco institutions, like Anchor Steam, SF Weekly, Noise Pop, FunCheapSF and Workshop SF. It was a bar full of people who moved to San Francisco for a particular type of freedom that didn’t seem to exist anywhere else, and who had somehow figured out a way to stay here while that freedom managed to become less and less attainable.
The sad joke of the night was the absurdity of how it took Lauryn moving away to get all of us in the same room. Between getting older and more responsible and living in a city that’s become increasingly harder to survive in, somewhere along the way being professional weirdos morphed into just being professionals. We’d all had countless long, bizarre nights together, often with Lauryn acting as our wild-haired pied piper. But lately, it was only monumental events that brought us together. Weddings and funerals, right?
Well in San Francisco, more often than not, it’s going-away parties.
A few drinks in, I got up on a barstool to give a speech. I wanted to talk about how it was a shame to lose yet another San Francisco misfit to New York City and that I no longer had someone to eat ice cream with in bed when one of us was going through a breakup. I wanted to talk about how good it was to be in the same room with everyone and how hard the past year has been and that we needed to love each other and look after one another. There was so much I wanted to say, really, but the irony is that for someone who talks as much as I do, I’m not always great at giving speeches. So I made some jokes about all the weird nights we’d spent with Lauryn and then let her take it from there.
For so many people, San Francisco was the place they’d been looking for their entire lives — even if they didn’t quite know it. It was a city of oddly shaped pegs, tired of trying to fit into square holes. For some, moving to San Francisco allowed them to become who they truly were. For others, moving to San Francisco literally saved their lives.
Many of the conversations on Monday night were about the struggle and the hustle and the absurdity we endure just to be able to stay here. And we put up with these things because we’re not ready to let go of the dream of San Francisco. Some of us endure it all just because, after all these years, we’re afraid to go anywhere else.
And then there’s folks like Lauryn, who’ve learned as much as they can from the San Francisco experiment and are brave enough to move on and take the best parts of it with her. Bon voyage, Lauryn. San Francisco already misses you.
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.