Most San Franciscans are from someplace else. Why do they come here and what makes them stay? We walked into three separate bars and bought drinks for three random strangers, in exchange for their tales of how they ended up in SF. Their stories may surprise you.
We'll publish one story a week for the next three weeks, starting with this one, which was told to us at The Latin American Club.
Who: Julie Carranza, 29
Where: The Latin American Club, The Mission
"I grew up in the Central Valley, in a small town called Atwater. My dad was a farm labor contractor, and my mother is a banker. Ever since I was in high school, my friends and I would come up to the city to hang out for the weekend, and go to raves.
I like to think my life wouldn't have turned out how it does for most people there, but basically you get pregnant and get married, or you're a single mother, and then you have two kids and you're pregnant again by the time you're my age. There was nothing appealing about that for me. I always felt like I didn't want to hang out there forever.
I got my associate's degree in junior college in Merced, then transferred to SF State at 23, my junior year. I was super psyched. I always wanted to live here. I lived in an armpit of California and I wanted to go to the belly button or whatever. I wanted to go to the place I always thought was cool. I moved here without knowing anyone, without any friends. I moved into a house in the Lower Haight full of Craigslist strangers.
I was having a great time. I didn't have to pay for anything except food, fun and fashion. Rent, school, phone bill, all that stuff—my dad paid it. I had a job at Crossroads, I was going out a lot—a lot of house parties, a lot of nights at the Hush Hush, and Pop's. It was really fun: school and a lot of partying.
Then one day, when I was 25, I was driving to Merced to visit my family for the weekend. I was 20 minutes away and I got a phone call from my younger brother. He said my stepbrother had just called him. "Our dad is dead," he said. He'd gotten in a car accident. He was drinking and driving, it was a one-person accident. "It's fucked up, right?" That's what I remember my brother saying. "It's fucked up, right?" And I was like, "Yeah. It's fucked up."
I drove to my mom's house and stayed there for a few months. I left all my stuff in the city. I started popping a lot of pills, drinking a lot of Ancient Age whiskey, doing a lot of self-medicating. Finally my good friend called and said, "What are you doing down there? You need to come back."
I moved back into my old place. I'd stopped going to school, and I started working full time—I had to support myself now. For a while I had two jobs. I was a little crazy for a while. Fits of rage, starting arguments. My life had been so easy. I didn't worry about anything. I didn't have to pay for anything—I just had to make a phone call if I needed more money. And then, all of a sudden, I'm in charge of everything.
But over time I started to calm down, and move on. My dad dying definitely changed me. Obviously it wasn't for the best—but in some ways, good things did come of it. It let me become a more mature and responsible adult. To figure things, to make my own personal choices without having someone there to pick up the pieces for me. It empowered me. Life is scarier, but I feel empowered for the first time.
I still go down to Merced every month to see my family, but I'm so glad I ended up in San Francisco. I love riding my bike around the city, and walking around the city. I work as a sales rep now, for a hat company. I don't party like I used to. I have two dogs: I walk them, I go to Mission Pie or Philz for coffee and that's about it. Life is a little more ... dull now. In a nice way."