Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bay Area: Heaven On Earth?

In case you can't tell from the title, I had a wonderful trip. I got to see my mom, various relatives, childhood friends, family friends, high school friends, college friends, post-college friends, and blogger friends!

The wedding was beautiful and untraditional. San Francisco was as gorgeous and foggy as always, though I got lucky and it did warm up the afternoon I was there.

It was a great time, though, I admit not particularly relaxing as we seemed to constantly be running from one event to the next. As such, I didn't have a ton of time to just sit back and reflect, but I couldn't help but notice how sustainable the Bay Area seems to be.

See, I grew up in a small town 40 miles south of San Francisco. Now let me tell you, suburbs 40 miles outside of Los Angeles aren't particularly erm ... crunchy or diverse. There are very few non-chain restaurants, and the suburbs are one housing development after another after another after a strip mall. There doesn't tend to be much in the way of public transport, and while there is often one farmers' market nearby, there's usually only the one within 10 miles. So, essentially, they are similar to the suburbs that have been much maligned (unfairly or no) by various environmentalists.

My little home town is entirely different. Because while it's 40 miles south of San Francisco, it's only 10 minutes from San Jose. So there are still plenty of small, independent restaurants, and stores. The city is fairly diverse, there are multiple farmers' markets that operate in a 10 mile radius, and the Cal Train that travels to San Francisco isn't particularly far away. The public transit situation could be better, but altogether, it's fairly sustainable for a suburb.

So while it is technically "the suburbs" its very different in character from what we normally view as the suburbs. And because the Bay Area consists of THREE satellite cities (instead of one) every suburb in the ring between San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose still tends to be fairly diverse, with lots of small shops, restaurants, and somewhat reasonable access to public transit. And the public schools are almost all excellent. In fact, if they ever get BART to San Jose, and find a good way to connect San Jose and Oakland, the Bay Area might be the most perfect place in the world. Did I mention that my mom is there? And that she cooks for me so I don't have to eat the pitiful meals that I otherwise make?

I wasn't in town for very long, but I did manage to see Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, and I got to meet the Breakthrough Generation fellows, who are an awesome group of intelligent, committed college students. And on Tuesday, I had breakfast with the lovely Cindy W, and the great Green Bean. Although none of us had ever met in person, it was funny because all three of us felt we knew each other so well! The conversation was easy, and frankly, I could have gabbed the day away, but alas, we all had various family obligations to attend to. The only bum note was when our waiter informed us that the restaurant had neither syrup nor oatmeal which meant that we were unable to order about half of the menu. But menu selection aside, it was a pretty great breakfast. 

And that's the story of my mini-vacation. How have you all been doing?


Mad Hatter said...

Sounds like a great trip! Welcome back!

hgg said...

what I've been doing? workworkworkworkwork etc.

hmd said...

Welcome back! My hubby is from the Santa Cruz area and I always love going there to visit. It's so easy to get around, so much to do, and everyone seems to be health/environmentally conscious. I feel at home there like I don't feel anywhere else and I've only visited 3 times! If that's heaven, we must be in a level of hell where we live because my area is certainly the anti-Santa Cruz! :)

Glad your back safely and had a nice time!

EcoBurban said...

So, is the Green Bean really a bean? Or a root vegetable? Or an illustrious Vegetannual? What a great opportunity to meet up with everyone, enjoy some real environmentally conscious living and the mass transit. I think we all feel that the bay area is a mecca of sustainable culture! Welcome home, now get back to work! :o)

Unknown said...

Glad you had a great trip. Sounds beautiful, and I'm jealous that all you west coast bloggers get to hang out for real ;-)

Sam said...

Yes, it does sound like you had an exciting (if tiring) trip!

I had a string of bad luck. So far no one I like has it hasn't been too bad.

Green Bean said...

It was so great to meet you, Arduous! It is amazing to have friends that you've never actually met yet, as you said, we could have stayed all day. As it was, I think we talked for 2 1/2 hrs.

Natalie said...

Hmmm. I, too, grew up 40 miles south of SF! I left in the late-90's. I was taking a chance on Hubby (then known as Brand New Boyfriend) and moved from SF to Atlanta, GA. Talk about the least sustainable city ever! We now happily reside in Portland,OR - which I think actually trumps the Bay Area in almost every category except weather. ;-)

I'm glad you're back. And I'm glad you had a nice, if busy, trip!

Anonymous said...

It was definitely awesome to meet you and Greenbean in person! Thanks for the book by the way. Can I just tell you the downside of it? I now have to endure the faux English accent my husband assumes when reading to the kids. It happened last night, and we have 18 more chapters to go. Oy.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Love, love, love San Francisco. I've been 3 times now and would be happy to go back again and again. It's one of the few US cities I've been to that I think I could live in. Strangely enough, Washington DC would be second choice... don't know why, maybe because everyone told me how terrible it was going to be and I actually liked it a lot!

Joyce said...

Glad you had fun, Arduous! I'm also glad you're back to blogging, because I was having withdrawal. I almost had to go get chocolate to survive!

ruchi said...

MH, it was a great trip. Thanks! I see I have lots of good reading to catch up on!!

HGG, yeah, sorry about that. That's something I haven't been doing the past few days. ;) If it's any consolation, I am back at work today!

Heather, I LOVE Santa Cruz. So beautiful. Didn't make it down there this trip though.

EBB, funny but Green Bean seemed more like a WOMAN than a vegetable. Weird right? I feel like she's been deceiving us this whole time!

SDG, you Texas bloggers have to arrange a get together!!

Beany, sorry you've been having bad luck. Hopefully your luck is changing!

GB, we did chat for a long time. And yet we didn't run out of things to say!

Natalie, AND Portland has Powells Bookstore, the greatest bookstore in the world! Every time I've visited Portland, I've ended up buying at least five books from there!!

Cindy, yeah, sorry about that. That is the downside to British books. ;)

CAE, yeah San Francisco is a beautiful city. In my opinion it's only second to Chicago in the US. Have you ever been to Chicago? I bet you would love it.

Joyce, sorry, I'll get right back to blogging!! But chocolate sounds like a pretty adequate replacement.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- I *three* grew up 40 miles south of SF! I was technically inside the San Jose line but only 9 houses from the border. I bet one of the towns on the other side of the line was yours!

Of course, I'm *old*, and I moved away in 1980 (or as I like to say, "just before it became Silicon Valley"). But I bet we have some memories in common. How cool!

I'll be there next month to visit my parents, I think -- too bad I didn't time my trip better, could have met you too.

Glad you had a good time!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I've never been to Chicago (well, not properly, although I have spent a lot of time at O'Hare), but I've heard great things. My cousin lives in Ohio and loves the place - maybe I can meet her there some time.

ruchi said...

Sue, that's so crazy! Yes, I grew up right next to San Jose (in two different cities actually.) Yes, it was very different back before the Santa Clara Valley became the Silicon Valley. Although I think the shift happened more in the early nineties than in the 80s. When I grew up in the 80s there were still a ton of people around who didn't work tech jobs. And when I would tell friends that my dad was an engineer, they assumed he drove a train!

CAE, do! It's such a wonderful city. But do yourself a favor and go in the summer. Or the early fall.

Allison said...

Wow. It is so nice to hear someone speak so highly of the Bay Area. And all of it true. I am originally from Los Angeles (Harbor Area) and got out of there as fast as I could to San Diego. Married and moved to Brentwood, CA (Far Eat County) via San Jose and Fremont. It is a toss up between San Diego and Bay Area for me.
As for my summer. Brentwood is known for peaches and corn and I am getting my fill! But if you come in the summer bring a tank top, we are at 100 degrees today!

ruchi said...

Nice to meet you Allison!

amy.leblanc said...

oh! i've been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now, and i am an intern at the Breakthrough Institute...(not one of the fellows). Too bad I wasn't there the day you came - I would have loved to meet you!

ruchi said...

Amy, bummer I missed you. Maybe next time.