California dreaming. Or something…

The funny thing is that after almost thirteen years away, I still feel a very strong connection to California and the Bay Area, though Los Angeles (where I never lived) is the place I miss most. But after all those years, my affection and nostalgia for San Francisco (where I actually did live) has never really returned. The connection I feel to California — and in some ways, it still feels like home — does not extend to the place that actually was home. I don’t fully understand this, and sometimes it makes me a little sad.

When I lived in San Francisco. It was very common for my fellow residents not to think of themselves as Californians. They identified almost exclusively as San Franciscans, whether they’d lived there more than six weeks or not. While the earlier version of me was pretty obsessive about the place is well, I always saw myself as a resident of California first and of San Francisco second. I didn’t fall into the trap of believing that all civilization ended when you left the sacred 49 square miles, and I grew to love the state as a whole.

And I still love it. I’m generally ready to visit on a moment’s notice. If economics were not a factor, there are places I would still consider living in California. It’s still very much a part of me, and I think in a lot of ways I became so fluent in the culture that I still often think in “Californian.”

I know I have this annoying tendency to think of cities in much the same way most people think of lovers, and I’m self-aware enough to realize that part of the problem I have with San Francisco is the same problem one has with just about any ex. It’s hard to think about San Francisco without remembering how much I really despised it by the time I left. I dwell on the bad ending without thinking so much about the good times that preceded it. But I still regularly consume material about the history of the city, and I still have memories of good times there, but they don’t leave me with a particularly warm and squishy feeling.

The last time I was in SF, for a conference in Oakland in 2015, I found my visit to the city to be so off-putting that I’m still not sure I’ll ever return for even a quick visit. That was sort of hard for me to cope with; when I wrote about the rest of the trip, I never got around to finishing that last section where I would have talked about being in San Francisco. I couldn’t quite express my feelings, and I still can’t. I don’t believe, though, that all my antipathy toward the city was based on past experience . I really do think it is a very different place now, and it’s not a place that I particularly like. In fact, I don’t think I’d particularly like it now even if I had no history or background and were visiting for the first time.

Part of this is probably also related to the fact that I’m much more inclined to live in the present and the future these days, which is a good and healthy thing. I’m glad that I’m not “pining away” for my old life in San Francisco, but it would be nice to be able to muster up at least a little nostalgia for something other than an imagined historical past I never really experienced in person anyway.

I guess the tl;dr here is that I have a complicated relationship with San Francisco, but I still feel very connected to California, and that I don’t really know how to write about all of this…and probably should no longer even try. But a Twitter conversation this evening about this article reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do it anyway, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I don’t think I succeeded, but it killed a few minutes before bedtime.

What a difference 4624 days make

According to the Date Duration Calculator, today marks the point where I’ve lived back in North Carolina for as long as I lived in California. That works out to twelve years, eight months, and change.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I thought this was it going to be deeper and more wordy. Maybe later…

A fifth of October

Today is my alma mater’s 125th birthday.

It’s also the 25th anniversary of the day I took up residence in San Francisco. In another couple of months, I will also hit the point where I’ve been back on the East Coast as long as I was in California.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

And sometimes even when you’re not.

Fortunately there’s been much more of the former than the latter over the years.

I know I left something…

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Since a friend recently made a joke about it, here are ten things I left in San Francisco that were not my heart:

  1. My cardiologist: He was a great guy who wore little plastic animals on his lab coat. More importantly, he was very generous and treated me at bargain rates when I found myself uninsured and facing a thyroid-generated emergency.
  2. My ex: He was a native Californian and I actually did take him with me when I moved back east, but I returned him after a few years. Unfortunately, I did not take him to an authorized redemption center so I never collected my CRV.
  3. My car: Someone set it on fire in an alley off Harrison Street twenty years ago. It ended its days in the old impound lot off Third Street.
  4. My “essence”: OK, this is just a polite way of saying I got laid a lot in San Francisco.
  5. My (ahem) career with Kinko’s: Leaving SF was how I finally cut the cord. Great move, that.
  6. My nicotine addiction: Left it out on the deck one night in 2003 and haven’t missed it.
  7. My account with Wells Fargo: Hated them. Loved saying goodbye. And now, as fate would have it, I am POA over my mom’s account with them. So I once again have an ATM card with a fucking stagecoach on it and a message that reads “customer since 1992” as if I’d never left.
  8. My long (and sometimes big) hair: Chopped it all off just before I turned 30, which is, I think, a wise move for just about anyone.
  9. My twenties and my thirties: Not much more I can say about that.
  10. My willingness to be in San Francisco: Even for a visit. Which makes me a little sad.

 

Otherstream at 20: 2015

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It’s kind of hard to curate posts that are less than a year old, but I tried. This is the final year to be covered in my “twenty years” retrospective. I may talk about the actual anniversary tomorrow and try to draw some broad conclusions. Or I may not. You’ll have to check back by to see which it is.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2011

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I thought this one was going to be harder to put together than it actually was. which says, I guess, that I’m finally over the worst year of my life. Or that I’ve gotten better at ignoring it. Or something.

In 2011, I lost two of the most important people in my life. Neither of them actually went away; they both just changed in ways that drastically altered our relationships. My ex and I split up after almost ten years, and my mom developed dementia. I’m not sure the website ever quite reflected how devastating this was to me. I actually wrote more about the latter than the former, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the proportionate effect of each. Sharing specific details about the breakup didn’t really seem fair or appropriate, although it is possible to read between the lines de temps en temps.

Despite everything, I was very successful at establishing my new career during 2011, and my October trip to Canada (the start of a new tradition) resulted in a lot of positive changes for me, not the least of which was the fact that i started listening to lots of new music again.

For the record, some of these posts were made public after the fact and did not originally appear in this same order (basically I “sneaked” them in retrospectively) so regular readers may have missed them.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2009

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In 2009, I got my master’s, got my first professional library job, thought a lot about cities, and bought a house in Pittsburgh. It was perhaps a more interesting year than I gave it credit for at the time. Anniversary in six days. Highlights from 2009 below.

January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:

Otherstream at 20: 2008

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There was better reading in 2008 than in 2007, maybe because I was tying (at least for a little while) to generate content for four different websites, all of which eventually landed here. I’d call this year “reflective” and “hectic” with grad school and all. I also worked a very odd part-time job, continued with my freelancing, and migrated the site from static HTML to WordPress. I’d sort of forgotten what a busy year it was.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Otherstream at 20: 2006

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Ten years ago I was celebrating ten years of the site. 2006 also brought homeownership, a slight case of cancer, and more travel. Highlights and favorite posts below.

January:

February:

  • That word
  • Triangle weekend (the “something that was bothering me” was the early-stage cancer I’d just been diagnosed with)

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December: