by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
I'm a native Houstonian who recently moved to San Francisco for work (in the process, changing my Congressional representative from Ron Paul to Nancy Pelosi.) I grew up around NASA, went to school at Rice, and worked in downtown Houston, so I was looking forward to the new environment. Northern California! The hotbed of debate, and open-mindedness, and live-and-let-live mindsets!
Having spent about year here -- in my experience, San Francisco is a gorgeous, historic, exciting city. But it is not an open-minded one.
For all the yuppie/hippie tension, there's really only one mindset, and you wear it like a uniform. Lighting up a cigarette at a party is frowned up. Suggesting that hey, maybe the free market can do things better than the federal government is heresy. And the insularity is shocking: New Yorkers love their city because they think it's the greatest in the world; people in San Francisco seem to love their city because they think everywhere else sucks.
This is not to rag on San Francisco -- I really enjoy it overall -- but I think I'd undervalued how flexible Houstonians can be with their values. It wasn't that unusual that two of my best friends were a staunch Republican oil-baby and a gay hipster. Not that everyone in Houston agrees on everything -- God, no -- but paternalism and condescension were rarely part of the conversation the way it is here. Maybe it's a "Middle America" thing, or maybe for some reason living in a smoggy, flat city just teaches you cultural humility. Either way I'll enjoy spending my 20s here, but when it comes time to raise my kids, I'm definitely buying a house back in Houston.