Jul 292004

The trip to San Fran was great; I’ve rarely had a better vacation, especially one where I get proposed to. 🙂
Jamie was the sweetest, most generous, and patient host you could ever ask for, and we can’t wait to have him come to Detroit so we can show him the (very limited in comparison to SF) sights.
I’ve realized I really need a laptop or a pocket PC with a keyboard when I travel. I had all kinds of observations and insights during our trip that I wanted to write up, but now that I’m back I can’t really remember most of them. Plus I’m still bleary right now so I couldn’t remember them anyway.

Like evanrudemi said, coming back to Detroit is very unpretty. It’s flat, it’s ugly, it’s boring, and the air smells bad; the same as just about any other part of the United States of Generica. We were constantly amazed at how the air smelled. Even driving down the highway at 80 mph you could clearly smell sage, pine, cypress, even mustard plants. There were hills all around, a lot of wildlife, and even the strip malls were attractively designed. I’m sure there must have been some bleak, ugly stretches in the Bay area, but you have to look for them. Here, they’re right under your nose at every turn. All this applied to both San Fran and Santa Rosa, where we stayed at Jamie’s and is about 50 miles north of the city.

What was even more fascinating (and frustrating for Aaron) was the weather. In Michigan we say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour.” In San Fran it goes more like, “If you don’t like the weather, drive a mile.” It changes that drastically from place to place and minute to minute. Bright and sunny to cool and foggy, and from perfectly calm to really windy. It got a lot more stable as you got away from the water and in Santa Rosa it was very Mediterranean: warm and dry (although it did get kind of chilly for the end of July).

Aaron mentioned that there was a certain “spark” to San Fran that was missing in Michigan, and I had been thinking pretty much the same thing. There’s a sense of energy and purpose; an “aliveness” to the whole place that Detroit and it’s environs lack except in rare, isolated pockets. The energy around here is more harried and stressed. Granted, this is only from 5 days of observation as a tourist, but the differences are that glaring. I wonder how much of it is influenced by the unstable dynamics of the earth and weather in the Bay area. When everything could be wiped away in minutes, I imagine it would make living much more intense.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been down on California for years. I knew this wasn’t fair; that I’d been stationed in a complete backwater (40 miles from Fresno in the middle of nowhere) and my experiences in the rest of CA were very limited, but knowing it and feeling it were very different. This trip certainly changed my views a lot, and I could be happy living in the city, if we could afford it. I would like to be an urban dweller in a cool city at least once in my life.

While I was there I kept thinking of a line from the song “Sunscreen”, which was a graduation speech given by Kurt Vonnegut set to music. The line went, “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”
Living in the Detroit area for so long has made me hard; I think I’m way overdue for a change.

 Posted by at 11:30 am

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