There’s a Herb Caen book you haven’t ever read, titled Don’t Call It Frisco. It’s no longer in print, but in it, the longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist argues that people shouldn’t call the city of San Francisco by the nickname “Frisco.”
I know. Weird, right?
His logic was essentially that San Francisco is a fancy place, and calling it Frisco was something only undesirable people and tourists did. Or something like that. It was snotty and elitist, but hey, the guy was from Sacramento.
Anyway. That’s a dumb opinion. And what’s even dumber; even more small-minded and less defensible, is to unquestioningly take up a dead man’s opinion as your own; to adopt and maintain a practice just because it’s the way things have always been. Society changes. Usually for the better.
What’s more, history hasn’t even always been against it. Frisco was a totally reasonable thing to call San Francisco throughout the best parts of its past.
And recently, like a vintage butcher’s claw, it’s been making a comeback.
So here are 17 reasons why you should call it Frisco.
1. It has buy in from these kittens and the City of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, or at least one of them.
According to Scott Wiener, the supervisor for district 11 in San Francisco, “If we can bring back old-timey barber shops and bartenders with waxed mustaches, I’m sure Frisco can make a comeback,” Wiener told BuzzFeed News in an email statement earlier this year. “But we all need to promise to stay far away from San Fran.”
Agreed. “San Fran” is the true enemy. Scott’s a smart guy. He’s running for State Senate.
2. Allen Ginsberg called it Frisco
Have you read Sunflower Sutra? It’s great. We’ll wait here a minute while you go read it. Or, check it out, these are the relevant passages.
The poem opens with these evocative lines:
I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.
Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.
The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.
And closes on this haunting note:
We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.
4. You know who calls it San Fran? Chipotle.
Not content with ripping off our burritos, Chipotle also mistakenly refers to Frisco as San Fran. Not just once, either. Chipotle is a serial offender. This is just gross, and exactly why you should call it Frisco.
5. Jack London called it Frisco - vehemently
That’s from Jack London: A Life, by Alex Kershaw. Are you cooler than Jack London? More original San Francisco than he? (No, you are not.)
And look at Jack London!
No way you could pull that jacket off, because you can’t even say Frisco.
6. Janis Joplin called it Frisco.
I mean, it’s Janis.
7. It’s great for haiku
That Frisco cadence
It’s short form San Francisco
Fog is cold tonight
8. The cover of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s classic album Cheap Thrills.
Lower right-hand corner. Is it cheating to have two Janis items on the list? No. No, it’s not because she was Janis, and people who do not say Frisco are not as cool as Janis.
11. Admit it, you enjoy chanting Frisco when you hear this song
Stop it, you lie. You lie!
12. Jack Kerouac called it Frisco
Like, repeatedly. Constantly. Here’s a passage from On the Road:
I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm palmy air—-air you can kiss—-and palms. Along the storied Sacramento river on a superhighway; into the hills again; up, down; and suddenly the vast expanse of bay—-it was just before dawn—-with the sleepy lights of Frisco festooned across. Crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge I slept for the first time since Denver soundly; so that I was rudely jolted in the bus station at Market and Third into the memory of the fact that I was in San Francisco three thousand two hundred miles from my mother’s house in Ozone Park, Long Island. I wandered out like a haggard ghost, and there she was Frisco, long bleak streets with trolley wires all shrouded in fog and whiteness. I stumbled about a few blocks. Weird bums (it was Mission st.) asked me for dimes in the dawn. I heard music somewhere.
14. Sailors called it Frisco!
And clearly, so too does the National Park Service. Why do you hate America?
15. Herb Caen begged people to call it Frisco
It’s okay, you may call it ‘Frisco’ now. The gray-beards, the ones who objected so strenuously and endlessly to the ‘irreverent’ sailor-spawned nickname for San Francsico, are mostly gone now — and so, it must be added is a large part of the city they loved and helped to build, the city that spawned world legends and legions of worshippers.
Old “Frisco” was the seaman’s and adventurer’s delight, the gaudy, lusty, gusty town that grew up overnight in floods of gold and silver, much of it to be squandered in the infamous deadfalls of the Barbary Coast or among the opium-smokers of Chinatown’s dark corners. That was Frisco, it’s waterfront jammed and noisy and alive with ships from the seven seas, its harbor big enough to embrace all the natives of the world.
Small wonder that a newspaper columnist who once wrote a book titled “Don’t Call It Frisco” was heard to implore one recent day, as he recalled these vanished glories, “PLEASE call us Frisco!”
Doesn’t that make you want to live in Frisco?
16. The Mayor calls it Frisco
Sure, sure, I know. Ed Lee. But, hey, he’s technically mayor of San Francisco for now. That’s a pretty big deal for him.
17. Because we have ~fashion~ for you!
Come meet us at 5 pm January 29 and we can all forget the intolerance and small-minded ways of the recent post-Caen years, hold hands, and call it Frisco together. In matching t-shirts and hats.
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