Mapping the territory

Pretty much any place of any size has neighborhoods, areas (usually named) that are part of a local folk classification of places within the larger place — though the neighborhoods often take on some sort of more official status. Here, for example, is one map of the neighborhoods of San Francisco:

This is drawn with crisp boundaries between the neighborhoods, but in everyday practice, the boundaries are often vague; there are areas that don’t fit entirely comfortably within any of the neighborhoods; there are some areas that are “transitional”, belonging (in some sense) to two or more of the focal neighborhoods; the categorization can be crude or more refined (this map doesn’t show Cow Hollow, between the Marina and Pacific Heights, for example, nor does it distinguish the Upper Haight, or Haight-Ashbury, from the Lower Haight, or Haight-Fillmore); although there is considerable agreement on much of this categorization, there is also some variation from person to person; and the categorization changes over time, as new neighborhoods appear, old ones vanish, boundaries shift, and names change. Similar remarks hold for many other folk categorizations.

Today Lauren Hall-Lew posted (on Facebook) an entertaining, more idiosyncratic variant of the San Francisco neighborhood map, from a posting by Drew Hoolhorst, “The Life of a Bro-ster”:

(Hat tip to Koen Sebregts.)

As Lauren Hall-Lew points out, this map encapsulates “some of the city’s newer place-based ideologies”.

As for Hoolhorst (the bro-ster — “50% bro and 50% hipster”), he starts the story of the map as follows:

If you’ve ever lived in San Francisco, you know that moving to a neighborhood is sort of akin to picking a college: You go where you are most likely to fit in and simply pray to God that you get good housing (or at the very least a roommate or nine who aren’t terrible). It is a city driven largely by its crazy identity and what part of that crazy identity you connect with.

Hipsters move to The Mission.

Bros and sorority girls move to The Marina.

Gay guys move to The Castro.

Young married couples with one foot in the suburbs move to Noe Valley.

Lesbians move to Bernal Heights.

People who don’t like/want to talk to other people move to the Outer Sunset (I kid, I kid.) (Sorta.)

Point being, it’s a pretty fair assessment to say that if you fall under the category of a “person” in general, there’s a place for you in San Francisco.

Which is why I’m so frickin’ confused. I don’t know where I fit in.

An extensive explanation follows.

(Hoolhurst gives a more traditiona, but still jaunty, account of the neighborhoods here.)

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