We compare cities on the space they occupy, we rave about how exotic the food is, we lament the outlandishness of the public transportation, and take joy in the activities the city makes possible. All of which remain artefacts of trade and politics. For me, a city is defined by the dream it inspires.
Visiting New York for the first time is inspiring, for in that moment you are surrounded by a million dreams. Dreams of people who believe they can go higher, do better, and go further than all those who have come before them. Every building is a testament to the outsized ambitions of those who wanted to leave a mark. Every jostling square feet of the city is alive with potential waiting to burst onto stage. Perhaps, its because the opulence of the rich is so intimately on display, perhaps its a last stand against our own larger than life dreams, but in New York impossible only feels like a matter of time.
San Francisco carries the dream of the valley. A defiant finger to authority and a belief that there is no problem so big, that a solution can’t be built for it. It is a city founded on pursuits worth abandoning the very ships you came on. Everyone is at least a part time entrepreneur, limited only by how big they can think and the smarts they bring to the table. San Francisco is raw, its relation with its surroundings far more personal. It skips pretension for action, and takes a beta over perfection to stay ahead of the curve. There are no demagogues to hold on to, no one so high as to not be brought down. In San Francisco, you come to believe that you can take on empires and come out ahead.