Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Return To California

No, I haven't moved back from Texas. I went back last week to attend my aunt's services. She was a warm hearted woman who led a quiet life. She never married, though she was engaged to a soldier who died as a prisoner of war during the second world war. She kept her engagement ring in a lock box, and his photo was always on her nightstand. So it was decided that these be placed in her casket. That was very touching gesture and one she would have appreciated.

I spent a lot of time with my family still in the Bay Area, my two younger brothers and my youngest brother's wife. They were my aunt's primary caretakers during her last year and a half of life and deserve all the credit possible for sacrificing so much time and effort in doing so.

The services themselves were quiet and dignified. The priest who said the Mass remembered me, even though I was only in high school when we last met. I hoped the remembrance wasn't for something dumb I did as his altar boy some Sunday.

I took an extra day before heading back home and went into San Francisco. That was an odd experience because even though I spent fifty years living in the Bay Area, I did not feel that comfortable being there. This was probably because I no longer had any roots, such as a home, in that region. Plus my last few years there were not very pleasant.

Also some of my favorite stomping grounds no longer existed. I had spent countless hours browsing Stacey's Books on Market Street. They had an amazing collection of just about everything in print. Plus they had guest authors every week. That was how I got to meet my two favorites, Clive Cussler and Scott Adams. But sadly it closed last year. Also closed since I've left is Virgin Records. Again this was a place that had everything, music, videos, books, the works. Two other favorite haunts had closed just before I moved to Texas, Scenario Games in Fremont and San Antonio Hobbies in Mountain View. They were incredible hobby shops where again I spent many hours, (and dollars).

I did take a stroll through Chinatown, and was pleased it had not changed. Back to downtown San Francisco, I also noticed some other things had not changed, starting with the complete lack of manners. I like how in Texas total strangers will acknowledge your existence and say hello when you pass them on the street or in a parking lot. In San Francisco they act like you are an intrusion on their personal space, will rarely greet you, and if walking towards you make little to no effort to move aside so you don't run into them. It was that type of attitude I was glad to leave behind.

I stopped by my old office and that was an interesting experience. A lot of people were genuinely glad to see me and engaged in chitchat about what had happened since I left. Basically, not much had changed. Unfortunately I briefly saw my ex landlady, she greeted me with her usual phony smile and cheerful voice. I just grunted something in reply and kept on walking.

One friend asked if I wanted to come back to work. I think my emphatic, "Hell No!" was an appropriate response. I had a very enjoyable talk with my old supervisor. She said once again she never really did understand exactly what it was I did, but I didn't cause her any problems so I must have been doing a good job. All in all, it was a good visit to the office, though strange as in the feeling that I really didn't belong there.

Driving in the Bay Area again was another experience. I noticed drivers were going much closer to the speed limit instead of the "pedal to the metal look at me I'm an arrogant jerk driving like an idiot" style I was used to. I concluded there were two reasons. First gas prices are significantly higher there than in other parts of the country. Second, the roads had noticeably deteriorated since I left, and going fast would shake your car to pieces... literally.