I went up to San Jose this weekend to see my family. Shra was home, too, since today is Daddo’s birthday. We haven’t been all together since Erik’s and my engagement party in early August, so it was lovely to see everyone again and just be home. It wasn’t the homiest visit ever–Friday night we went to Al’s school tennis team end-of-season dinner, and Saturday Erik and I had plans while the rest of the family went out to one of Al’s tennis tournaments—but still, every time I’m there I realize just what a wonderful family and home life we have, and how much I miss it.
I used to think San Jose was really boring, since there’s nothing to do there and everyone seems so old – I don’t mean it’s a community of geriatrics, but it’s not a young place in the way that West Hollywood or Berkeley often seem. This weekend, though, I looked at it with far greater appreciation. I hadn’t really noticed before just how incredibly beautiful my neighborhood is, bounded with the creek and the trails and lined with trees now reddened with fall. The roads are wide and uncrowded (SIGH) and there are signs of families everywhere, from the kids themselves, to the many schools and playgrounds, to brightly colored outdoor toys left out on the sidewalks. As we made our way to our different destinations, I enjoyed the sense of space on the highways, not just from the weekend lack of cars, but from something in the place itself—fewer tall buildings? wider lanes? lower speed limit, perhaps (don’t know if that’s true)? I don’t know what it is; it might have been just my happiness at being surrounded by family, but it was wonderful to move around within and without the city without that feeling of stress that so often accompanies driving in Los Angeles. (Or maybe I’m just envisioning being on 280, which is a beautiful freeway.) There are a lot of little things that are nice about San Jose (metered parking in Japantown was 30 minutes for a quarter, compared to 8 minutes at UCLA… *sob*), but my overall sense of renewed appreciation came from so much more than just the sum of these parts.
Photos of Vasona Lake Park,
where Erik and I went this weekend and where we’re now thinking
we’d like to have our nonwedding party
(We didn’t take these pictures
–forgot to bring my camera out, aughhhh–
so I’m gratefully borrowing them from a stranger on Flickr.
Hope he doesn’t mind.)
I think my time in LA, both in the sense of living in the city itself, and in the sense of being a graduate student living alone in a small apartment, has made me infinitely more grateful for things I once took for granted: large living quarters, ample outdoor space to walk and run and play, that small-town feel that Almaden has, and, not least, being surrounded by people I love. Comfortable as I’ve become in LA, every time I leave it I’m reminded of just how… non-salutary many of its aspects are. The traffic, the Hollywood mentality, and something I only just realized this weekend: the fact that in my neighborhood and at school, I am unusually insulated from diversity in the form of class or occupation. Erik and I were on BART and I realized with complete shock that I was recoiling internally from the, well, BART-ness of it all: the smell, the grime, and many of the people on the train. I used to pride myself on being comfortable with all kinds of people. Have I, then, in one year, become such a different person myself? And then there’s Los Angeles’s reputed superficiality… we got off the train in San Francisco and started toward Herbst Theatre, and I realized with another shock that in an outfit I considered dowdy, I was better dressed than a great many of the other concertgoers we encountered. Am I becoming an LA dresser? I don’t want that either, and yet I can’t deny how astronomically my wardrobe has expanded since I moved here. It makes me uncomfortable to think that without my even noticing it, I have let many of LA’s negative traits affect me and change the way I view the world. I don’t know that I’m feeling like I’ve got to move away before these traits take over, but I was startled to know they’d even had any effect at all.
Some of my purchases since moving to LA
They’re not very “LA” clothes, but this is only a sampling!
And, also to my surprise, while Erik was driving me to the airport today, I realized that yet another part of my mentality has changed from what it was several years ago: instead of thinking, as I always used to, that I’d never want to live in San Jose (or other parts of the South Bay), I now think that it would be nice to. I don’t think that it’s boring; actually, in an odd way, learning to like Los Angeles has made me even more interested in the Bay Area, because I’ve realized that there must be so much of it that I haven’t yet explored. I’ve been to numerous festivals, places, and events in Los Angeles but never their parallels in the Bay Area, and I’ve driven to communities all over Southern California, but have never bothered to spend much time in, say, the young, trendy areas of Mountain View. I’ve never even really gotten to know downtown San Jose. Mommy and I drove past the new City Hall on our way to lunch on Friday, and I couldn’t believe how grand it was.
The city is—modernizing isn’t the right word, but it almost feels like it—changing every year, and I’ve never sat up and taken notice till now. If I lived here, I’d see my family all the time, and many of my friends, and I don’t feel there would be any lack of things to do. All weekend I kept thinking to myself, each time with surprise, “I really do love it here… I wish I lived here.”
I don’t know whether this makes me happy or sad. I’m here in LA now, aren’t I?
PS. Erik and I were in SF on Saturday night to hear Virgínia Rodrigues, who has the most amazing, strong voice ever. Listen to some of her songs here, here, here, and here. [MP3s no longer available, but videos inserted below]
Going to the concert meant less time with my family, but I’m really glad we went. Virgínia Rodrigues live sounds exactly like how she does on the recordings, only more stunning because she’s standing right in front of you: she gets all the high notes and the low ones without losing any of that purity or power. While we were listening to her I was trying really hard to think what she sounds like. “Voice of an angel” is the usual cliché, but I think of angels as sounding ethereal, while her voice is absolutely rooted in humanity. Voice of humanity? I don’t know, but I am so glad we got the chance to hear her sing.
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]