My friend Buzz posted an interesting question and answer on his blog back in February:
Jim Ray asks:
Honest question: have you found New York, center of the soul-less finance careerists and “new media” wankfest, to be different?
New York can certainly be a soulless place (just ask me about the time I ate at a sushi place in Midtown East and overheard a finance guy ask his date if she wanted to be with “the guy who has the villa on top of the hill or the guy who has the villa on the bottom of the hill”), and of course the irony isn’t lost on me that I subtly shifted Choire Sicha’s very New York media-centric diatribe to apply my experience with SF. But I think there are a couple of key saving graces to New York that prevent it from being the source of annoyance that SF has become to me personally: it’s too big of a city to be dominated by any one industry, culture, or peer group; and it’s historically a place that resists ever allowing you to feel like you’re special.
I realized that one of both the virtues and the problems with SF is that, basically since the Gold Rush times, it has always been a welcoming haven for people seeking to escape something, to reinvent themselves, to be their own person, to make a fortune on the frontier.
This is wonderful in many ways, but in my experience, there is also dark side to this admirably gentle, indulgent, enthusiastic culture: if you are a person who harbors any tendencies toward ridiculousness and narcissism, San Francisco has a way of bringing those traits to the fore in a major way. There are plenty of terrible people in New York, of course, but their narcissistic leanings tend to be kept in check by the natural hardships of life in the city, the size of the place, the variety of cultural and professional influences, and, frankly, the willingness (some might say eagerness) of New Yorkers to censure bad behavior.
Go check out the whole post. It's well worth reading and the continuation of an interesting series of things Buzz has been writing about the character of San Francisco Bay Area. He followed up with another post, also worth your time.
I think he's got very valid points—though he clearly lived in a bubble more than a little bit—but even if I agreed completely with him, I'd still choose San Francisco.
As Warren Zevon said, "So I think I'll hurl myself against the wall, because I'd rather feel bad than feel nothing at all"… but in this case the wall will be replaced by a self-indulgent, smug crowd of foodie hipsters eating ice cream, gourmet chocolate, $7 coffees, and heritage sausages on Hayes Valley's Patricia's Green.
Most importantly, I will keep getting myself out of the well-Foursquare-checked-in parts of the city, to connect with life in the avenues, alleys, and "boring" neighborhoods.
Nicole Lee (who is always worth listening to) gave her musings on the topic of New York and San Francisco and they mesh well with mine.
Like Anthony Bourdain said: “It’s a two-fisted drinking town, a carnivorous meat-eating town, it’s dirty and nasty and wonderful…” Bourdain has his own issues with the crunchy granola self-righteous parts of the Bay, which I do agree with, but the San Francisco I choose to live in is the one in that quote.