Moments of San Francisco culture shock:

  • Buying a magazine in Borders and - did I hear this right? - the cashier offers to send me my receipt by email. If true, how cool! Receive the email, pull out the book titles, and mark those books as 'already owned' at Amazon to improve the quality of my recommendations. That would be nice. Oh, and the man who was rearranging the magazines was wearing latex gloves. Why I don't know.
  • The credit/debit card swiping machine in 7-Eleven lets you swipe the card yourself and you sign on to the screen.
  • Realising that all the tiny things about America that I've seen in films, comic strips and so on aren't enormous cultural symbols or meaningful things at all. People skateboarding down the street, wearing baggy trousers, Twinkies et al: they're normal, like Hula Hoops (the crisps). This is what cultural imperialism is all about.
  • Coates twigged it: San Francisco is SimCity. The bridges over the water; the tunnels through the steep hills. The high/low density housing, the hills and the way the grid system breaks up over them. The building themselves, the actual designs of the financial and residential ones: they're lifted from the SF skyline! So familiar.
  • Come to that, the entire Bay Area (and I noticed this last time, the first time I was here) was instantly familiar from Kim Stanley Robison's Mars trilogy and his descriptions of harbour towns, shorelines, cities and values. A bizarre feeling of being here before, from books about the colonisation of another planet. (See also: Robinson's Three Californias trilogy.)

America is unarticulably weird|cool.