Two Worlds: Lancaster PA and the SF Bay Area
Two Worlds: Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the San Francisco Bay Area
“San Francisco is future time – 2040, New York City is current time – 2013, but Lancaster County will always be the 1950’s.” These words came from a world-wise, sage friend philosophizing that the worlds of Lancaster, PA and the San Francisco Bay Area are such vastly different in cultures, that it is as if one is traveling in time. In the span of a lifetime people gravitate towards people, places and things which define, reflect and nurture who they are and what they value. Having lived in Lancaster, NYC and San Francisco in my adult life, I have accumulated 25 years’ worth of living observations and reflections, resulting in realization that Lancaster and San Francisco have very distinct identities and personalities of their own. They are like two siblings with very few similar genes within the same family that is the United States of America. It must be said, however, that in comparing the two regions, it is not that one is necessarily better than the other, the truth is about who a person is, and to be able to choose a location to live in which resonates with how a person identifies themselves, as well as what nourishes and inspires a person.
Food is a way humans not only survive, but also thrive within a culture. Foods give a sense of identity to a region and is a way for people to bond with each other and with the place where they are living. Traditionally and currently, Lancaster County is the home of the Yellow Food group: mashed potatoes, potato salads, pasta salads, French fries, overcooked vegetables (hue of yellow), pork chops, white bread, butter, American cheese, salt, soft pretzels and pies made with lard or butter, and mayonnaise. Yellow Foods are form of comfort food in this region that is strongly connected to heritage, and for many there is no reason to change these ingredients ~ food as comfort is perfectly acceptable. Garlic is often considered a challenging offense to the taste buds and not rewarding; and gourmet foods, or foods from different ethnic groups are difficult to find, and restaurants of different ethnic group often struggle to stay open. The cultural center of Lancaster County is the City of Lancaster, and within this small City there is a growing population of Foodies who delight in gourmet foods, fresh and local food markets, and ethnically diverse restaurants. However, the old-world tradition towards the Yellow Foods is difficult to steer away from in day-to-day life in Lancaster County.
By comparison, the Foodie culture of the San Francisco Bay Area has left behind these traditional Middle American ways cooking, and progressed in the direction of foods which trend towards healthy and flavorful, as well as embracing foods and flavors from countries all over the world. The San Francisco Bay Area explodes with the art of creative and experimental California and global cuisines, which are to be discovered in restaurants, cafes, fresh-food open markets and grocery stores, which stock global ingredients of a wide variety of ethnic groups. One observation of life in San Francisco is that San Francisco has so many restaurants that the entire city could eat out at the same time and still be seated (Jasonevanish.com). Whereas Lancaster County has no shortage of greasy-food diners, restaurants in San Francisco are “one of the main attractions of San Francisco, drawing people not only from around the Bay Area, but from around the world” (Bauer). However, both food cultures – Lancaster and San Francisco - feed their populations in ways that fulfill the body, mind and spirit, with interpretations of significance that are defined by each region.
The value of balanced Wellness is another difference between Lancaster County and the San Francisco Bay Area. Encouraging people to flourish in body, mind and spirit, not just have the stiff upper lip and get through the day, is a significant contrast between Lancaster County and the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco Bay Area envelops its sense of healthy progressiveness in the nurture, respect and protection of mental wellness and physical health. Culturally there is a value of all the arts and sciences of mental wellness in examples such as massage therapy, acupuncture, psychotherapy, and Rosen Therapy, to list a few. In valuing the body, mind and spirit as a whole, it is acknowledged that isolating and focusing on one of these three is not a effective or balanced solution. Interestingly, Yelp, the website of U.S. businesses, lists under 25 entries for massage therapy or therapists in Lancaster, PA, and lists 625 for the city of San Francisco, not including the greater Bay Area. Physical wellness, which contributes to mental wellness, in includes the ability to walk and bike more than driving a car. In the San Francisco Bay Area, many forms of public transportation and car rental options are accessible, providing a fluid base towards more mobility and health. The critical and amusing adage that Americans will drive to mail a letter to a post box that is 2 blocks away from their house, is reflective of Middle America and includes Lancaster County, where public transportation, car rental options and bike ways are seriously lacking. While having a car in San Francisco enhances ones’ accessibility to places in farther distances, owning a car is not critical to accessing a full and rich life. The exception in Lancaster Country to the American attachment to cars, is the people who live, work and play in the small center of Lancaster City. Similar to the San Francisco Bay Area, if a person of Lancaster can situate their lives to have home, work and play be in Lancaster City, they have almost no need of a car.
Another sign of Wellness is that within the professional world of the San Francisco Bay Area, Paid Time Off can include “Mental Health Days” so that employees can call in and owe no official explanation, or have to fib about being sick. By comparison, Lancaster County has no such definition within work culture and Lancaster County generally lives by the old beliefs that “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”, and that suffering creates good character. Furthermore, popular opinion is often that depression can be controlled by willpower, and massage therapy requires the unwelcome idea of a stranger touching you. Acupuncture is viewed with skepticism since it does not originate in Lancaster County, or even the United States; and is commonly perceived as a new idea without substance, when in fact Asians cultures have been practicing acupuncture towards general wellness for least 2,000 years (Lewith).
Art is good for the body, mind, and soul, both for the artist who is creating, and the people who are receiving the art. Indeed, beauty is everywhere, but not in equal proportion; and Lancaster and the San Francisco Bay Area illustrate this inequality well. Visually, Lancaster County has its beautiful views, farmland, hiking trails, waterways, beautiful houses, and neighborhoods, but one cannot get around the County without seeing beyond the visual icon which is the Middle American town: parking lots, malls and commercial billboards. By comparison, the San Francisco Bay Area has intentionally designed its cities and towns to emphasize public art, not commercialism; to build modern art museums and to balance the presence of nature with urban settings. San Francisco artists are encouraged to create public artworks, murals, and sculptures throughout the city. While Lancaster City is working on including murals within its’ center City, the sheer number of murals does compare to San Francisco murals, and art in Lancaster is often a theme of looking to the past.
An excellent example of balancing cement and Mother Nature is the vast concrete structure that is the San Francisco airport. The San Francisco based company Deeproot was involved with the planting of bushes, olive trees, fir trees to offset the otherwise massive cement airport. Although the intentions of Deeproot were primarily driven towards environmental sustainability, one blogger on the Deeproot website is clearly enthusiastic by the unexpected visual delight of seeing nature planted into an urban structure. The attached photo by the blogger with an explanation point (!) and arrows indicating excitement, is a wonderful illustration of this sentiment.
(Fig. 1. Leda Marritz, The Trees & Plants of San Francisco International Airport, Deeproot, Web 19 Oct. 2013.)
Interestingly, the DeYoung Museum, a San Francisco commercial museum venture, has a similar idea of intentionally creating spaces within and without the museum that join nature, art and the building.
On the subject of Art being good for general health, Alice Park wrote an article for Time Magazine about a research fellow in the department of public health and general practices at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, following the concept that the consumption of art has significant positive health impact (Park). While the statistics came out differently between the genders, the numbers generally indicate that the Arts are good for body, mind, spirit (Park). Honing in again on the visual realities of Lancaster and the San Francisco Bay Area, while Lancaster County has its specific pockets of beauty, the overriding visual difference is that former shows the clutter of a commercial world without balancing nature and art with urban settings; and the San Francisco Bay Area intentionally creates a balance among art, nature and urban settings; and places cheap commercialism as far away from the eye as possible.
This commentary is not a competition of which location is better place to live. These reflections are to encourage readers to use the short time there is on earth to embrace how and where to live. These words are for citizens to use the luck of living in a free Country, to raise awareness and intentionally find place to live which is most in-unison with who we are, what delights and inspires us. After the inner search is resolved, to land at a point of contentedness, spread the inspiration, and have no regrets at the end of life.
Bauer, Michael. “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants”. SFGate. April 2012. Web 17 Oct. 2013.
Evanish, Jason. “25 Things I wish I knew before moving to San Francisco.” Jasonevanish. 7 Jan. 2013. Web 13 Oct. 2013.
“Food San Francisco” Yelp. Web 19 Oct. 2013.
Lewith, George T. “The History of Acupuncture in China.” Acupuncture-Its Place In Western Medical Science. By Thorsons Publishing Group. HEALTHY. Web 17 Oct. 2013.
Marritz, Leda. “The Trees & Plants of San Francisco International Airport.” Deeproot. 6 July. 2012. Web 13 Oct. 2013.
Park, Alice. "For Men, Good Health May Be Found at the Museum." TIME Health & Family. 24 May. 2011. Web 19 Oct. 2013.