A new chapter, and feeling good about it
The flight was smooth, the dogs were adorable, and the sunset looked triumphant. I met the new guy, to whom I am the New Guy, and ate tacos. Eight hours of sleep on a sofa saturated with canine, and then today started. And with it, presumably, a new episode of my life.
Because today I take up residence in a fixed place. That alone surprises me, but that it’s in America? Shocking. As of today, I am a resident, more or less, of Oakland, California, just across the cold bay waters and whitecaps from San Francisco.
Oakland has a rough reputation, but I’m in one of the nicer areas (by quite a bit), where paint jobs are perfect, ornate windows reveal custom made furniture, and the yards are filled with organic heirloom tomato plants…in custom made planter boxes with perfect paint jobs.
When I came to look at the house a week ago, I stood in the nearest intersection and could see at least two Prius hybrid cars in every direction. In front of the house right now, four of eight vehicles are that model. This is one of the few renter houses on the block, and apparently the neighbors maintain a certain suspicion about us.
That’s kind of awesome.
I don’t mean to judge any of this, hybrids are great and lord knows I have nothing against tomatoes, but it’s a helluva change from…everywhere else.
That’s going to be true in a lot of ways. I’ll do laundry whenever I want. My showering schedule will be regular and reliable. I’ll get mail here. I can drink the tap water.
I went for a walk last night to explore the area. I wondered if the battered state of my clothes would gain me hipster street cred, but I suspect I still don’t speak their language. Perhaps I should grow a handlebar mustache?
When I was ready to turn around I found a burger place, where I bought lemonade from a girl not wearing a bra, then sat to drink it while others came in and ordered “the vegetarian burger, with onions if they’re organic and extra tahini” and “a cheeseburger with cheese.”
I passed restaurants where Young Urban Professionals sat their giant wine glasses on spotless white tablecloths, and thought “I will never eat there.” A dozen more steps and I passed in the door of a simple taqueria, spare tables and bright lights, where smiling women with rosy cheeks tended a clean grill.
That’s when tacos happened.
I crossed under the BART tracks (think subway) and found the closest grocery store (where I went this morning to buy bread, hummus, cherry tomatoes and an avocado. Still on the list: a real towel, breakfast cereal, and laundry soap that works in machines).
As my walk was winding down, I noticed I was slipping towards…what was this feeling? My god, it’s moping. Gloomy unhappiness. What the hell?
My body remembered innumerable similar walks in my last US hometown, where I would pace the four sad blocks of the downtown drag, gradually growing less and less optimistic that something interesting would happen. But then I remembered, I’m not there anymore.
I’m in a new town. A new house. A new phase of life. And it’s looking good.
I bought an ice cream to celebrate. It was delicious.