The California Chronicles

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stan_der_man

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I got this idea for a new thread from a conversation Tania and I were having on another thread and from past conversations where Risible and I (and the other SoCal folks) have "waxed nostalgic" about growing up in California.

http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53427&page=2

Let's have a thread to discuss experiences people have had with living and traveling in California, general conversations and questions about the Golden State whether good or bad (if you dare dis The Bear... ;) ) or differences between the regions of California. Whatever you would like to discuss!
 

stan_der_man

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Yay! HELLA great idea, Stan!

Thanks Tania! Unless you can think of something to get things started, I'll dig up one of my old blog entries I've written about life in CA and post it tonight once I get home from work.
 

Skaster

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Jeez, I lived in California for some time ... back in 1999/2000. It was the only time I ever saw power cuts. But I was cool with it, because the weather was warm :D
 

Tania

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I'm a doof for asking, but...what are power cuts? :D
 

stan_der_man

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Jeez, I lived in California for some time ... back in 1999/2000. It was the only time I ever saw power cuts. But I was cool with it, because the weather was warm :D

By all means tell us about your experiences Skaster! It would be particularly interesting to hear a European perspective on what you experienced.

I'm a doof for asking, but...what are power cuts? :D

I'm pretty sure he means the rolling blackouts (and brownouts) we had in CA during the years there were electricity shortages.

-----------------------------------

Here is one of my blog entries from "The Clubhouse" that is a typical California experience of sorts. To put the following paragraphs into perspective... I was born in San Francisco and adopted at birth. It was only as recently as 2003 that I met my birthmother. Since meeting my birthmother, my wife, daughter and I have been rediscovering my biological roots. These journeys ultimately lead me back to San Francisco and the Berkeley / Richmond area. With my adoptive parents I lived in Richmond, Redwood City and Oroville CA, amongst other places on the west coast of the U.S. I don't remember much of these places as will be further explained in the following paragraphs. My visits to SF and the East Bay are always filled with discovery for me as I hope my descriptions of these places chronicle life in California for you.

-----------------------------------

Almost Berkeley (March 2007)

*snip*

Two weekends ago, I had the chance to visit with my birthmother in Oakland. She lives in the Maritime Canada so a visit like this was hard to pass up. We stayed with one of her ex-husbands, not my biological father, but the man that would have been my first "dad" had I not been adopted. Curiosity drew me to meet this man and musician that I had heard many good things about. We stayed in his house, a typical house by Oakland standards, built at the turn of the century (late 1800s); a neighborhood of small Victorian and classic California bungalow style, single family dwellings and duplexes. Physically, one block shy of the town made famous by hippies and youthful rebellion, the sights, smells, politics and psychedelic embellishments of this house could only be those of Berkeley. My birth mother's ex is the bass player in a local jazz band that makes a living in the area. We’re not talking about a strap to your body electric bass; we are talking a bass guitar of the upright variety. Originally from NYC, he came to UC Berkeley in the mid 1960s, a kid getting away from whatever it was that he wanted to get away from. He ended up coming to the West Coast, as far of a place as one could go without leaving the continental U.S. Little did he know the social upheaval that would take place within the next three years of his life, and change him forever.

My birth mom and her ex’s local acquaintances span the spectrum of Berkeley citizenry. UC instructors, local celebrities who’s ‘60s ideals and financial cunning brought them wealth and stature, and those whose values caused their lives to fizzle like the burnt out residue of a bong. As with the yin and yang, I’ve always found Berkeley and the East Bay to be a balance of light and dark, good and bad, wondrously appalling. My only real childhood memories of this place are those of a house with incredible Christmas displays, and getting carsick because of winding Richmond / Berkeley roads.

Our first day’s excursion started out with my birth mom and I going to our favorite record store on Telegraph Ave., Amoeba Records; the center of my Berkeley world. As usual, I bolted strait towards the $2 bins; I wasn’t disappointed. We ate lunch at a sushi restaurant that was full of real Japanese people; that’s always a good sign. We returned to the ex’s house where I did some computer work for him. I never seem able to leave the skills of my trade behind, repairing computers; I didn’t mind though, he was taking good care of us. We experimented a program called Garage Band on my birth mom’s ex’s Macintosh laptop, we made some recordings of his bass playing and I set up encryption on his wireless network. While working on his WiFi setup, I discovered that a neighbor had a wireless network named “IheartFatties”; it very well could be somebody who is on the Dimensions Boards… sometimes, I’m amazed how small of a world it is… After finishing the computer work, we rested up briefly and prepared ourselves for a visit to “The City”, the place of my birth.

San Francisco is a place that I completely don’t remember as a child other than it being a frightful yet wonderful trek over never ending bridges... and an island of a place across the bay. I have only vague memories of a driveway emblem in Redwood City and stories of ambushing my sister with rocks, an act, which in clear conscience I also don’t recall doing. But somehow San Francisco has a different feel to it; more history perhaps, maybe it’s the urban grid superimposed on an exotic hilly landscape surrounded by water on three sides. The City is unique by American standards with it’s 19th century cable cars, Victorian row houses, the world famous Golden Gate bridge to name a few; but also very average. There are small single story motels, convenience stores and gas stations that could be from anywhere U.S.A. Power lines zigzag overhead in many of the neighborhoods, and homeless people wander the streets in places where the tourists seldom venture.

That evening, my birthmother and I squashed into the left half of the back seat of her ex-husband’s Toyota. His upright bass took its place of honor in the front passenger seat, fully reclined; a $22,000 musical instrument understandably needs VIP treatment. We were headed to a jazz club named Savanna Jazz on Mission St. in San Francisco. My birth mom’s ex-husband not only plays in a local band, he is also an instructor at a music school not far from this club. His fellow instructors have a jam session once a month, along with selected students. We arrived at Savanna Jazz, an open parking space sat reserved for us, we were greeted by a friendly bearded bohemian of a man who wore a black trench coat, and a wool cylindrical hat that resembled that of a Shriner’s but lacking a tassel. I later discovered that he was the director of the music school. We followed the director through the club’s front door past two friendly yet stern bouncers who gave a nod of approval. It felt like a big city jazz scene, with small town friendliness, classic San Francisco. Definitely a different vibe from Berkeley; somehow less angst, less politics although still very liberal in many ways; less flower power, more urban smarts.

People started to trickle into the club. Many knew each other, exchanged handshakes and reminisced about past gigs, or just about old times in general. The crowd was mostly other jazz musicians or family and friends, telling by their mutual familiarity. My birth mom ordered a wine and I ordered my usual Anchor Steam beer. The music school director got up on stage, welcomed everyone to the club, introduced the instructors, told a few jokes with the charisma of a natural showman, sat down in front of his piano and got the music going. We listened to the jazz music, drank and ate until we were slosh full and happy, occasionally engaging in casual chitchat with people around our table. The students took their turns belting out riffs with practiced skill, or improvised fancy, some better than others. Those of greater skill were given the opportunity to do a solo now and then, when the mood and timing allowed. The crowd grew, and then ebbed, eventually dwindling as the evening turned to midnight. The instructors and last of the students packed up and said their good byes, knowing that they’d be seeing each other back in school, or a month later, at the next jam session. We wedged ourselves back into the car, bass reclining in the front seat and all, and headed back to Oakland driving over roads, bridges and through underpasses that confuse me but are vaguely familiar at the same time.

The next morning, and final day of my visit, we were off to Bonhams & Butterfields Auction House in San Francisco. My birth grandmother in southern Oregon recently passed away and left my birth mother a house full of items that could best be described as a collection of objects from a lifetime of travel and family heirlooms. Most of these items are probably only of sentimental value, as much sentiment as a stern old, full blooded, Swedish woman could confer upon them. Some of these items may actually have historical value. For example, items from one of the brothers to the wife of Clarence Darrow, a lawyer made famous by the scopes trial who headed out by car to Seattle from Chicago in the 1920s. This brother is my biological great grandfather, and apparently an estranged part of Darrow’s wife’s family. My birth grandmother had a small collection of letters, photographs and manuscripts from Clarence Darrow. With these objects in hand, and other miscellaneous, we set out on a mission to discover their possible value. At Bonhams & Butterfields, we joined a throng of others waiting in line out in front of their building. The sky looked as though rain was imminent, but luck had it that we didn’t get wet that morning. It was a sight reminiscent of “Antiques Road Show”, with people clutching paintings, holding lamps, bronze and ceramic objects, pushing carts with books, chattels of all shapes and sizes were being lugged, potential treasures to be discovered. My birth mother handed me two small, framed Persian engravings that appeared to be depictions of a story of some kind. Their value, I would soon ascertain. My birth mother carried the Clarence Darrow drawings and manuscripts, her ex-husband carried in the jewelry. The line started moving at 10 o’clock sharp. We walked up to the front counter where we were handed out slips of paper, I received a slip that directed me to an “Asian Art” specialist, as this was the closest thing to “Persian Art” they had at the moment. My birth mom and her ex went their designated directions. My turn finally came to speak with the appraiser for Asian art. The man I approached had glasses and a scholarly appearance, with the fast talking demeanor of an art salesman. He readily admitted that he knew nothing about Persian art, but took one look at the two engravings that I presented to him and told me that they were contemporary recreations of Persian legend; they would be relegated to the “under $800 category” if they were auctioned. This was most likely Bonhams & Butterfield terminology for not being valuable… I thanked him for his time and he motioned for the next person to step forward. Having some extra time to kill, I sat and watched the people file up to their prospective appraisers; everyone that I saw appeared to walk away from the appraiser’s tables courteously chagrined. The “Register for Auction” table sat idle; apparently no treasures were found that morning. My birth mother and her ex-husband essentially found their items to be of the same caliber. The autographed photo of Clarence Darrow, and a manuscript that he wrote could possibly be of interest to a museum or university they were told; eBay possibly.

We drove around San Francisco a bit, had lunch at a typical American looking café that was run by a Chinese family which served a mixture of American and Chinese food. We stopped by a high school that my birth mother believed might have a yearbook picture of whom she believed to be my biological father. She did get some photocopies of my potential birth father, her memory zeroed in on one guy in particular (as it had on a previous visit to another high school…). That’s another story all together. We returned to Oakland made a bathroom stop and rested a bit.

I had promised my birth mom, and ex-husband that the last dinner of our visit would be my treat. I was told that Chez Panisse in Berkeley was a very good restaurant, but fairly expensive. I felt obliged to help pitch in for gasoline during our many excursions, but my birth mom said that treating for dinner at Chez Panisse would well make up for any gasoline costs. She was right. The first thing that I discovered about Chez Panisse is that there are actually two restaurants, one upstairs and one downstairs. The downstairs portion only serves one meal for everyone and requires at least one month to make reservations. In the upstairs part, we were able to get a table with just 3 days notice. I cannot emphasize this more… Chez Panisse has the best food and service that I have ever seen, and the prices were not unreasonable! Meals were on average about $15, going up as high as $30 for fish specialties, and all of the food is organically grown from farms that specifically grew food to their specifications. Our waiter was a Frenchman, which made it all the more posh of experiences. He had incredible sense of humor; my birth mother really hit it off with him. When it was my time to order, I misread the menu and ordered an h'orderve item instead of an entré. The waiter looked at me and said with his classic French accent “ ah but you are going to be hungry just eating five oysters…” My birth mom looked at me and pointed out my mistake, I nervously said “oh, um… take his order first”, pointing to my birth mom’s ex. The waiter than said to me “do not worry monsieur, I saw the fear in your eyes…” At one point, my birth mom (who designs business cards) gave the waiter one of her business cards, for which she apologized that it was not one of her best. The waiter accepted the business card and commented (about it not being the best of quality…), “that does not matter, as long as it burns.” After the waiter left, my birth mother, her ex, and I looked at each other puzzled. It was one of those “I did not understand what you said, but your accent was superb” moments.


End.
-----------------------------------



Lets hear some of your stories / travels in the big CA! :)
 

The Orange Mage

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Everyone in California seems to feel that it's the best place ever. It's big, and has a lot of varying climates represented, but everyone seems insane, there's earthquakes, fires, and Los Angeles, and it just seems like a self-obsessed, overdramatic state and state of mind.

Being from the Midwest, I wonder...what's the big freakin' deal?
 

stan_der_man

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Everyone in California seems to feel that it's the best place ever. It's big, and has a lot of varying climates represented, but everyone seems insane, there's earthquakes, fires, and Los Angeles, and it just seems like a self-obsessed, overdramatic state and state of mind.

Being from the Midwest, I wonder...what's the big freakin' deal?

It's classic Yin and Yang... The more sunshine you have, there will be an equal amount of darkness you must deal with as a counter balance... Ask anyone who lives in Malibu... ;)
 

Tania

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Serious, massive duh on my part; I thought it was some sort of technical term for something completely different! My brain is everywhere but blackout mode at the moment, but I do remember being an Edison customer back in 2001 and wondering when/if I'd be hit (I was living in Irvine). The DWP crowd up in LA were so confident and happy, the lucky bastids. :p

What a cool account, Stan (yay, Amoeba!). I like your description of Berkeley/Oakland: wondrously appalling. It's a paradox, but it's so apt. I love the pretty smells, the gorgeous views, and the hopeful energy in the air, but there's delusion, hypocrisy, and decay in that mix, too. For me, Berkeley was a pleasant place to "be," but there was always something missing for me, as I never really fit the typical Berkeleyan mindset. For all the promise I sensed in those diamond-strewn nightscapes unfurling outside my windows (if you've ever seen Berkeley at night, from the hillside perspective, you'll totally get where Berkeley Systems got their "starry night" screensaver idea), I never really found a reason for sticking. I feel comfortable enough when i go back to visit, but it isn't exactly home.

sf1.jpg


Here is something I threw down on LJ a year or so ago. It's about Storybook architecture, and other quaint structures I lived with and loved while in Berkeley...

***

It's no secret that I want to live a storybook lifestyle. I write romances for fun. My vacation destinations usually involve elements of largescale fantasy and illusion. And I want to live in a Storybook style home. Or something like.

(http://storybookers.com/)

So. This morning, I'm looking at websites about Storybook architecture (long story as to why...I was updating the Clueless section of my refurbished Emma Adaptations Pages, and braintangented to the Spadena House, which is in the movie). And, I'm thinking about the structures we had in Berkeley that fit the bill.

From there, my mind bounces to non-Storybooks I have fiercely admired which posess some of the elements I love most about Storybook homes (cottagey, forestlike atmosphere, imaginative architectural details, diminutive scale, &c.)...and I remember...

My favorite house ever (or cottage, whatever...it's not really big enough to call a house) at 4 Mosswood Lane in Berkeley.

Most of you already know of my inordinate fondness for the Orchard Lane Steps off of Panoramic Way. It's less than a block away from Memorial Stadium, just around the southern outside edge of Strawberry Canyon on Panoramic Hill. When I lived in Corner (yes, all the rooms have names) at the Alpha Omicron Pi House on Prospect, I had a full frontal view of the Orchard Lane Steps + the concrete, wood, and green-tiled 1 Orchard Lane (former home of Architect Walter Steilberg).

This photo was taken standing on the sidewalk behind my house, just under Corner's east window: http://www.berkeleypaths.org/PathPix/03-PanoramicHill/pages/Orchard_Lane-004.htm

You can see 1 Orchard Lane on the left. But we're not quite to the magic place yet. Bear with.

Just beyond the top of the steps is a tiny offshoot path called Mosswood Lane (http://www.berkeleypaths.org/PathPix/03-PanoramicHill/pages/Mosswood_Lane-005.htm). Hidden behind some trees and bushes on the left hand side of the path is the tiniest, cutest, strangest little "sino-spanish" (as one Steilberg homeowner describes his style; elements of arts and crafts, mediterranean, art nouveau, moderne, Chinese color palettes and patterns, &c.) cottage you've ever seen.

Or felt. Perhaps it's more effective to describe this building in terms of the feelings of love and rapture and euphoria it inspires rather than concrete architectural features, because it's hard to describe the actual building accurately. Honestly, I couldn't sketch you a basic layout or anything, because I'm not terribly sure what the place looks like with all of the forestal clutter cleared away. The cottage's appearance is so obscured by its hillside surroundings that you can't rightly tell its precise shape or even size. But that's part of the charm; 4 Mosswood is so oddly-carved into the tiny nooks and crannies of Orchard and Mosswood - so shaped and affected by the geography and natural features around it - that it really matters very little where the house ends and nature begins.

You love it because it offers cozy, civilized sanctuary, yet it also sates that summery, naturegirl desire to live outside amongst the flowers and the squishy green of young spring grass, under the explosive leaf canopy of the enchanted forest. Live like an ant! Live like Tinkerbell!

Seriously. I'll never forget the first time I saw it. Over ten years ago, I was walking up the Orchard Lane Steps with my friend Alicia. We hooked a left onto Mosswood and its sun-dappled gradients of shade and stopped. It was like the tree canopy parted for a few moments, to let the angel choir wail down on us with sparkly beams of divine light.

I have no idea who owns the place now. At first, we thought it was part of Steilberg's 1 Orchard complex, being that it's so tiny, so similarly adorned (Steilberg built it, too), and located right behind. Students were renting the place at the time, which was another indication of "back building" status. But that may not be the case. I hope it's not, because the lady who owned 1 Orchard last I knew wasn't all that cool.

Some Romance Languages professor apparently owned the place in the mid-twentieth century (I found it listed as his address in some old Stanford alum directory). More, the house has an actual address and a mailbox, aaaaaaaaaaannnnnnd...there are quite a few small, standalone cottage properties on Panoramic Hill. So, here's to hoping.

I'd love to live there someday. Own it, rent it, I don't care. I don't particularly love the idea of moving back to Berkeley, but circumstances are funny that way; they have minds and plans of their own. And to be honest, I have a strong sense of "home destiny." When I pop out with something like, "I want to live here someday," I usually do. It happened that way with the Highlands (which was, and probably still is, impossible to get into...and I got a unit with the best view, no less), and with my apartment at Parkwood.

So I dunno. I've often mentioned how my years in Berkeley seemed so full of possibilities that more or less went unfulfilled. I did well in school. I had fun. I accomplished what I sought to accomplish. But it wasn't exactly the fairytale I've always so naively craved. But maybe there's a storybook tale still waiting for me up on Panoramic Hill.
 

Tania

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It's classic Yin and Yang... The more sunshine you have, there will be an equal amount of darkness you must deal with as a counter balance... Ask anyone who lives in Malibu... ;)

This is true. It reminds me of one of Frank Kennedy's thoughts in GWTW; something about how tropical birds are amazing to behold, yet make for much tougher nesting than plain, brown wrens. ;)
 

stan_der_man

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It's no secret that I want to live a storybook lifestyle. I write romances for fun. My vacation destinations usually involve elements of largescale fantasy and illusion. And I want to live in a Storybook style home. Or something like.

(http://storybookers.com/)

So. This morning, I'm looking at websites about Storybook architecture (long story as to why...

...

So I dunno. I've often mentioned how my years in Berkeley seemed so full of possibilities that more or less went unfulfilled.

...

Beautiful writing Tania! Also, I completely know the views you are talking about. The house we lived in for a couple of years in Richmond was also on the hillside as is that entire part of town (and Berkeley to the south...) We lived "up The Arlington", as I would always hear... my wife knows the area better than I do. She grew up in that area until she graduated high school. In the area where I lived everybody had a "Bay View" window, whether it was in the front of their house or in the back, depending which side of the street they lived on. As you said Tania, living in the EastBay can be a storybook lifestyle in many ways, but also a storybook nightmare. Remembering to turn the wheels on your cars the right direction for parking on a steep street... the occasional earthquakes. People throwing blows over limited parking spaces at the grocery market in Berkeley that I read about in the local paper many a time. There is beauty and creativity in the Bay Area, but there is also anger and stagnation. The reason we left Richmond in the late 1960s is because crime was starting to go through the roof (and my dad wanted a bigger house, the house and yard in Richmond was very small...) We then moved to Redwood City, I don't remember that much other than the driveway emblem I mentioned. and that the foundation of our house was sinking so my dad decided to sell the house while it was worth something and transfer his work to Oroville CA to get us out into "the country". Oroville is a whole other story... again good and bad.

I can also relate to your reference about possibilities unfulfilled. I think this is something that happens all over California as it does elsewhere, particularly in the high priced areas. Those who stayed put do OK, but they are often locked into wherever it is they happen to be. And we are talking about those who were lucky to purchase a house at the right time, or inherited the childhood homes their parents purchased many years ago. They can sell their house and move to another equivalent place, but that means loosing their Prop. 13 tax savings. They can also sell their house and move out of state and purchase a much bigger house, but that is usually a one way ticket out. I know of many people who have tried to return only to find out that the housing prices appreciated more here in CA then they did in the state they moved to. These people either have to return to a smaller house, or can't return at all unless they are willing to rent something. Speaking of houses, it always boggles my mind that my parents purchased that house I mentioned in Richmond for $8000 (no typo... eight THOUSAND!) and now it's (even in this bad economy) at least a $400,000 - $500,000 house.

Anyway, I'll write more about this later... It always fascinates me how California is the proverbial "end of the rainbow" many people seem to be drawn to and how fantasy and reality ultimately end up dulling some of the shine off of their dreams. I've seen many people move out here to CA only to return back to their original home with a much better appreciation of what they had in the place where they came from.


This is true. It reminds me of one of Frank Kennedy's thoughts in GWTW; something about how tropical birds are amazing to behold, yet make for much tougher nesting than plain, brown wrens. ;)

... and tropical birds usually make the most ungodly of squawking sounds! :doh:
 

fatgirlflyin

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I got this idea for a new thread from a conversation Tania and I were having on another thread and from past conversations where Risible and I (and the other SoCal folks) have "waxed nostalgic" about growing up in California.

http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53427&page=2

Let's have a thread to discuss experiences people have had with living and traveling in California, general conversations and questions about the Golden State whether good or bad (if you dare dis The Bear... ;) ) or differences between the regions of California. Whatever you would like to discuss!

This thread could be really neat. I grew up in Fresno, which is Central CA, and lived for 5 years in both San Diego and the Bay Area so I've spent time up and down the state. I will have to take some time to post stories here later on tonight!

Good idea Stan!
 

Tania

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Awesome, Ella! I'm from Stockton, originally, and actually live there now! So not too far north from where you were in Fresno. Where did you live in the Bay Area? I was in Berkeley for 7 years.

And everything you say is true, Stan. If I weren't FROM California, I probably wouldn't have stuck around. When times get tough, you tend to flock to your support system. And since my job is here, my chances of moving back to OC (my locale of choice) are not very great at the moment. Lack of lateral mobility pisses me off, but it could be a lot worse.
 

stan_der_man

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This thread could be really neat. I grew up in Fresno, which is Central CA, and lived for 5 years in both San Diego and the Bay Area so I've spent time up and down the state. I will have to take some time to post stories here later on tonight!

Good idea Stan!

Thanks Ella, I look forward to hearing your experiences! I will be fun to see if this thread becomes a patchwork of stories and experiences from all over the state.

Awesome, Ella! I'm from Stockton, originally, and actually live there now! So not too far north from where you were in Fresno. Where did you live in the Bay Area? I was in Berkeley for 7 years.

And everything you say is true, Stan. If I weren't FROM California, I probably wouldn't have stuck around. When times get tough, you tend to flock to your support system. And since my job is here, my chances of moving back to OC (my locale of choice) are not very great at the moment. Lack of lateral mobility pisses me off, but it could be a lot worse.

Ooh... stories from "behind the Orange curtain"... yesss! ;) The university I attended was Cal State Fullerton, so I know north county, HB and Newport very well. I'll write more about it also.
 

Tania

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Ooh... stories from "behind the Orange curtain"... yesss! ;) The university I attended was Cal State Fullerton, so I know north county, HB and Newport very well. I'll write more about it also.

Oh that's cool! I lived in Irvine and for a time worked at Disneyland. Do you think Disneyland memories would be good in the thread?
 

stan_der_man

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Oh that's cool! I lived in Irvine and for a time worked at Disneyland. Do you think Disneyland memories would be good in the thread?

Oh by all means, Disney is certainly CA! I know some other folks here on these boards that will gladly contribute to that... they know who they are! ;)
 

Tania

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Alrighty then. You understand this means that I may never. ever. shut. up. ;D
 

Skaster

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By all means tell us about your experiences Skaster! It would be particularly interesting to hear a European perspective on what you experienced.

Thank you for the invitation to contribute. Before I actually begin I need to explain something. My time in CA was not a very happy time. In fact, it was the worst year of my adult life. However, I wish to point out very clearly that this was not the fault of the place or its people. Looking back, I see it as a blatant mismatch – professionally and sociologically – between my job/surroundings and my personality/expectations/professional skills.

Prior to my stay in CA in 2000/1 I had worked with a small networking company outside Stuttgart, which delivered various programming services for HP-Germany. I had been on the job for a year or so as junior network consultant (coding monkey for UNIX/SQL) when the HP-peole asked my boss in summer 2000 could he send an engineer to HP in California as a senior database consultant. Since I was the best English speaker on the team, my boss adapted my skill profile to meet the requirements and got the deal.

The only other time I had been to the US was a vacation to NYC in spring the same year. It was a mucho mucho cool experience. Although I grew up in a small town in the country, I have come to appreciate city life very much. I don‘t have a car – I don‘t need one – everywhere I need or want to go, I can go on foot or by bus, which is very handy - for the drinking doesn‘t interfere with the driving. And it‘s such a commodity to have a newsstand and a grocery on the next street corner. Anyway, I remember distinctly a feeling when the plane touched down at JFK that things would be surprisingly similar to my home city, just the cars seem bigger. (And in fact, outside the terminal I saw stretch-limos for the first time in my life.) Later I extended this list of differences to „black people and bigger cars“. I stayed with an internet friend at the time - in a black/west-indian neighbourhood, where I was the only white guy around, but there was no problem blending in. The curried goat wasn't exactly my taste, but I has a swell time.

So when my boss later talked to me about a job in California, I thought this would be a great opportunity to return to the US. And of course, the destination evoked the usual clichees: sunshine, beaches, surfing, Sex & Drugs & Rock n‘ Roll, Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge. And especially for me as an FA the prospect of meeting real-life BBWs (note: the is not quite something like a BBW-scene yet here, and if it‘s rather about ressources for weight-loss, and FAs are totally not welcome). End of September 2000 I flew into San Francisco with a crappy Alitalia flight (worst service ever), got a car at Hertz and drove up I 80 to my destination: ROSEVILLE, a couple of miles east of Sacramento.

Thank God I was used to driving a car with automatic gearbox. After the German reunification in 1989 all the East Germans came to the west and bought almost any used car available. All stick-shifts were sold out. As I needed one at the time urgently, I had to put up with a 1974 Mercedes 240/8 „automatic“. (Which served me tremeduously well during my stay in Ireland, but that‘s another story). Driving up I 80 I noticed mainly two things – apart from the jet-lag: first, a very annoying writing in the mirror, which lectured me that things seen in the mirror may be actually less distant than than they seem – or words to that effect. I F***ING KNOW THIS! Don‘t tell me every time I look in that f***ing mirror. And second: the settlements which were passing by didn‘t look very „planned“ to me. I had studied Geography at university – in vain – before I took up computer networking, but the structure of settlements in the American West was not on the curriculum. I had heard of the word „sprawl“ - probably this was its manifestation. Finally Sacramento, then Roseville. The company had conveniently picked an appartment not too far from the HP premises.

I had never seen or heard of a „gated community“ before. I looked like ... sort of a .... umm .... camp. I mean, not bad in theory: there was a big screen TV-lounge, a pool, a tiny pool with hot bubbly water, and a room with all sorts of weight-lifting equipment. The odd thing was: there were no people. I mean people did live on these premises. My appartment was close to the gate and I saw them coming and going – driving by in their vans. But all these neat common facilities were used only by the odd couple of bronzed old timers or kids, if at all. And by me, of course :D
 

stan_der_man

The Teflon Frog
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Thank you for the invitation to contribute. Before I actually begin I need to explain something. My time in CA was not a very happy time. In fact, it was the worst year of my adult life. However, I wish to point out very clearly that this was not the fault of the place or its people. Looking back, I see it as a blatant mismatch – professionally and sociologically – between my job/surroundings and my personality/expectations/professional skills....

You are very welcome Skaster, thanks for your contribution although I'm sorry your time spent here wasn't the best... It's very interesting to hear your experiences!

I personally myself have never lived in a gated community, I've seen plenty of them and entered into them for one reason or another... they are something of an oddity to me to be honest. I haven't figured out whether or not I would want to live in one, there are definitely benefits and disadvantages I suppose.
 

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