SenSat | Dreamland: A surreal state of mind in San Francisco



Dreamland: A surreal state of mind in San Francisco 


I’ve always found San Francisco surreal. Not in a fictional way like Los Angeles often is, or an all-encompassing way that inundates the senses like New York. San Francisco basks in a post-modern frontier mindset where opportunity and risk pay off in equal measures.

James Dean

12.03.2019 // 4 minute read


San Francisco is like a strange dream - the quirkiness of the people, the rust of the city, the fog rolling across the hills all combine into a semi-conscious state of half-real half-not. Nowhere more do you get this feeling than staring out from Bakers beach into the mighty swell of the North Pacific Ocean, the ghostly silhouettes of the Farallon Islands and Mile Rock occasionally piercing the horizon. Occasionally a giant emerges from the deep - some of the world’s largest shipping containers completing their trek across one of the loneliest expanses of planet separating two global superpowers.

For tech companies, San Francisco is still the centre of the universe. My first pilgrimage last year was on behalf of the U.K. Government as part of an official delegation of Artificial Intelligence technology CEOs. U.S. immigration, a stubbornly unfriendly bunch, seemed to warm to the fact I was on an ‘official visit’ and abated from their normal lines of enquiry. Our mission was to meet with and discuss AI with the valleys top tech companies and investors. It was an impressively packed schedule.

First time visitors to San Francisco probably don’t know what to expect; don’t worry, you’ll quickly find out. My Uber driver collected me and proceeded to tell me it was fate that had brought us together - for me to be in her car specifically at that hour on that day. Fate or an app, the lines are quickly becoming blurred these days.

 For me it’s taken a few visits to warm to the city. I love the food, the peculiar little neighbourhoods, the friendliness of the people. I love making new friends and seeing their version of San Francisco. I love the apparent sense of jeopardy around every corner, not physical but of financial and social destruction from seemingly one false move. My rental car once got towed - the final bill? $4,873 and a missed meeting with Google.

This is a city of risk takers, of all in people. They’re willing to sacrifice everything they have for little more than hope, willing to give up every distraction for the chance of building the one thing that will change the(ir) world. I respect that. I also think it’s sensational and fictitious as much as a Hollywood blockbuster, but hey if everyone’s participating it must be real right? And that, in short, is the magic of San Francisco. A mass participation dream that has by virtue become a reality. 

4 things to love about the city

1. Take a stroll from the SenSat office on Townsend Street past the AT&T park stadium to the waterfront

The south park area is a lovely New York style collection of gentrified industrial buildings. At sunset the light catches the area in a purple/pink haze. I often walk or cycle back to Marina along the Embarcadero waterfront, encircling the whole city which gives phenomenal views both ways.

2. Drink daiquiris in the sunshine at Dolores Park


Dolores Park in mission is one of the few places you can legally (?) drink in public and attracts crowds of people enjoying the warm weather, city views and good times. My first every daiquiri came from a guy dressed as a sailor with a sign that read ‘free daiquiris’. I said sure and asked why, “because it’s national daiquiri day and I felt like the profile of daiquiris needed raising”. I’m happy that out of all the worlds issues this was the once he decided to boost awareness of, cheers!

3. Work!


The work culture in San Francisco is different to other places I’ve worked around the world. London is work hard during the week. Sydney is work hard play hard (50/50) and San Francisco just feels laid back. People are doing things - I’m sure of it - but there’s a weird sense of accomplishment to getting your head down here and rattling through your to do list. However, the best part about working in San Francisco is the meetings. Imagine a city where everybody speaks your language, shares your interests, is battling some version of your daily problems, has an understanding of your work and is excited about what you do. There’s so much to talk about!

4. Go whale watching


Who knew? After drinking daiquiris in Dolores Park a friend invited me to go whale watching with her. Catch the boat from famous Pier 39 and take a warm jumper and some binoculars. As you pull out of the harbour you really get to see what an incredibly hilly city San Francisco is (which is hard to objectively do whilst in it). Sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge is an amazing sight as is the grey whales and humpbacks that travel thousands of miles here, a safe haven en-route between mating and feeding grounds.


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