My dearest phantom hitchhikers:
Happy Spring! It’s March, the sun is coming out here in California, and things seem to be improving as we slide into the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.
I’ve been thinking about ghost towns lately – metaphorical, emotional and real. At the start of the pandemic there was so much talk about how the world felt like a ghost town. There was no one on the streets! No traffic! We’d go to get takeout from any neighborhood in town and park right the fuck in front to get it! I remember riding my bike through the Financial District in the middle of the street – I had it all to myself. I’d never seen such emptiness. It felt like the zombie apocalypse.
Things have changed a year later. We’ve adapted and now that we’re out of the winter lockdown, city life is coming back. Streets are crowded, traffic is annoying, people are out and about, but that hasn’t stopped the hand-wringing among the headline seekers about a different kind of apocalypse — mass exodus from the city. Headlines and online chatter have been gleefully predicting the fall of San Francisco practically since the lockdown started. To take us back to our theme – they’re calling the city A GHOST TOWN.
As a mid-achieving C+ student of history here, I have to tell you all that this is not the first time OR the last time that San Francisco has been written off. Every twenty years there’s a new panic about the state of affairs here, headlines will announce that all the good people have left – THIS CITY FINALLY DID IT! IT FINALLY DROVE EVERYONE AWAY – and you all know how that goes. We’re a boom and bust town, this is nothing new. We survived the Gold Rush, the Tech Rush, massive labor strikes, serial killers, AIDS, earthquakes, fires, poop on the streets – you name it. We’re a cockroach – you can’t kill us! With rents going down and tech workers leaving, we might even get some cool people back, so miss me with the ghost town rhetoric.
But look, even if San Francisco isn’t DEAD, getting back to normal feels weird in its own way. Like the pins and needles of a limb waking up again, it kind of hurts. Shaking off the fear, the loneliness, and the grief is harder than I imagined it would be. That shit is heavy, and dropping it just leaves a different kind of pain for a minute. Coping with all of the change is exhausting, and feeling hopeful is scary. Not to mention we’re still living with the ghosts of the pandemic: half a million people lost, many millions more suffering, friends moved away, relationships lost, kids missing school and friends, jobs lost, businesses closed.
Which brings us to real ghost towns, which are way more fun to talk about about, and maybe full of ACTUAL GHOSTS. I spent part of last summer driving around rural Nevada with my kids checking out old Wild West towns. There was no one in them, so they were the safest tourist spots! Irony! But in a fun escapist way! I’ve been dreaming about going back on the road to see more, so I collected some fun stories for you guys. Read on about old towns full of mass graves, arsonist ghosts, curses, and now TikTok influencers. I hope you enjoy this spooky Wild West break.
Till next time!
My dearest phantom hitchhikers: