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My report for the 7th grade

by Joel Pomerantz

June 17th, 2010

Here’s my report about San Francisco. I wrote it for my niece, Marina, who asked me to correct her report. Nerd that I am, I corrected it but required she read my report, too. Mind you, this is a challenge, since she lives in Germany and is just learning English.

As I explained to her: Everything in this report is true. Some is strange. Maybe you’ll be surprised.

For 4,500 years, the land that is today called San Francisco was home to a few small Ohlone Indian families. There were probably never more than 2,000 people in those village families, and usually a lot less than that. In all those years, the only big change we know about in their culture was when the bow-and-arrow replaced spears. There is almost no other place in the world with such a long time period having one stable culture.

The first Europeans in San Francisco came to set up a military fort and Catholic mission. San Francisco Mission was founded by fanatical Spanish priests in 1776. They were fanatical because the boss priest, Junipero Serra, was from a family that had been force-converted to Christianity by the Spanish Inquisition. His parents were born Jewish. He wanted to show that he was not like his parents and so he became a fanatic and whipped himself often to show how spiritual (and Catholic) he was.

The Mission was founded at the same time as the United States was being founded on the other side of the American continent. The mission was mostly a failure, and the Ohlone Indians were mostly destroyed by the Spanish through slavery and disease.

A town called San Francisco did not exist until 1847, when the Mexican town of Yerba Buena was renamed. Why was it renamed? Because California had just been taken from Mexico to become part of the United States. The American mayor wanted it to become the famous city on the west coast of America. There were no western American cities at all yet! The population was only 500 at that time. Gold was discovered in the mountains and the city grew quickly. In ten years the population was more than 50,000. Now, in 2010, San Francisco has about 800,000 people in the small-sized city of only 125 square kilometers and 7,400,000 people in the urban area.

The Golden Gate bridge is one informal symbol of San Francisco. When it was built in 1937, it connected the city with the redwood forests.The bridge encourages people to go north and cut giant redwood trees, pretty much the largest living things in the world, then make them into houses in the city. Before the bridge, the small gap in the mountains where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean was also called the Golden Gate.

The other informal symbol is the cable car. All the cable cars around the city are pulled by three long cables that move under the street at exactly 15 kilometers per hour. To move up a hill or stay slow on a downhill track, the driver uses a grabbing clamp to hold the cable. To stop on a flat place, the driver releases the cable.

Pier 39 is the new tourist location that replaced the active fishing community at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a tourist nightmare where people can buy Amischeissdreck* [*slang word for ‘American crap’]. It was all made in China and Indonesia and…very little of it is made in the USA but it’s all the very same stuff that’s sold in every tourist city of America.

There is one good thing about Pier 39. Luckily, some very large wild animals, sea lions, decided in 1988 to begin relaxing there. They broke the docks. People chased them away. But then the people realized the sea lions would attract more tourists to buy more dreck, so they built a strong dock for the sea lions to rest in the sun. Now the sea lions rest there for many days before swimming back to the ocean to eat 20 kilograms (about 50 pounds) of squid every day (urp: bad breath!) and then they go make babies on island beaches.

The sea lions still come rest at Pier 39, and they’re still wild animals with no cages and no food from humans. It’s a rare chance to see large wild animals in a city.

When you visit, bring warm clothing, especially in summer. The weather is windy and cold in summer, because of fog from the cold ocean. The ocean is too cold to swim in. The water temperature is 12 degrees (54 Fahrenheit) all year, and the air is often that temperature in summer. In winter, it’s sometimes colder than that, but usually not. In summer some neighborhoods are warm and some are cold. If you go behind a hill, the wind stops and the temperature rises. If you go behind the tall Berkeley Hills, only ten kilometers (six miles) from the city, the temperature goes up 15 degrees (about 30 degrees Fehrenheit).

The city of San Francisco has many neighborhoods that are more interesting than the tourist areas. Each neighborhood has a different personality. The people in San Francisco are very friendly and everyone smiles at each other, except some of the European visitors forget to smile. There is typical American corruption in local politics, but most people don’t care because people in San Francisco are rich. Only rich people can buy a house in San Francisco today. Poor people are too busy finding a way to live.

People from all over the world live in San Francisco and many languages are spoken on the street, even far away from the tourist areas.

San Francisco became a city because of one early boom (the Gold Rush). It stays a boom town because of fast-growing money-making industries like the internet boom, a world-wide boom that began in San Francisco. San Francisco attracts many young people who want to be involved in the famously creative culture or to chase dreams of fast money. Most people in San Francisco have only lived in the city for a few years. Finding anyone who has lived here for more than a decade is rare. This is the irony of the place that was once the most stable culture that humans have ever known.

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One Comment to “My report for the 7th grade”

  1. Chris Dichtel says:

    When I worked, years ago, as a tour guide out of Fisherman’s Wharf, I used to vent my frustration at having to waste half an hour of the city narrative on the Wharf (simply because it took that long to get out of there!) by playing a joke on the tourists.

    After giving a little historical background on why it was called “Fisherman’s Wharf” (so little evidence is there now of that), I’d add, “–and nowadays we have these cute stores like the ones along your left, where you can buy things that you can’t find anywhere else in the world…” (small pause) “…like those little ashtrays that say ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ on them, for example.”

    The worst of it was that you could tell they were taking you seriously for several moments before the joke set in.

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