I lived in an area that was surrounded by sheep and cattle. Gigantic ranches that extended from the 101 corridor to the ocean. In the winter, it was all green and misty, lending itself well to comparisons with the Irish coast. Where I lived, we had huge eucalyptus trees and several types of pine all vying for the limited sunlight. The ocean was a short walk down a steep road, from country to surf in one set of steps.
If I miss anything about California, I miss the ocean. I recently drove to the southern edge of Texas to try and find water, and found an oily mess, waves of tar. The Gulf is a stinking loss, a total writeoff to the petroleum age. If you see Gulf shrimp, best they be from some other Gulf.
The ocean on the east coast is different in more than just name and location. I don't know how to describe it, it's like the tide is calmer. When we lived in Massachusetts, Laurea and I used to drive to Race Point beach, way out on the tip of Cape Cod, and sit and relax listening to the trail of waves that led to the north Atlantic. The waves more serious, started further out, died off before they hit land. It was soothing, calming. I loved it, but it was the polar opposite of a Pacific tide. No big white crested surfing waves, not in the beaches in New England or North Carolina. There's some surf, but you don't hear about people trekking to New Jersey to hit the waves.
You don't hear about people trekking to northern California, either. Sure we had surf reports, these sort of tongue-in-cheek reports of +1 and +.5 tides. I'd see people trying it, the northern edge of San Francisco, or the beaches that line rte 1. In Tomales Bay if you surfed you were likley to become shark food. I'd seen sharks from the beach. I'd seen the ones brought in on fishing boats, purposeful things, sleek killing tubes with teeth on one end and sharp fins spiked out from the center. A reminder that the ocean was way more dangerous than the earthquake-prone landscape.
Those beaches, the views were all postcards. Even the ugliest hazy summer days were beautiful. You'd have to drive inland, up through Petaluma and north to Santa Rosa to be reminded that ugly was also available in eye-searing heat and parking lots that passed for highways. There's good and bad anywhere. You learn to deal with it.
But when it was good, it was amazing. Beautiful. The solitude you pick up driving along the coast at 3am? The way the full moon would rise up over the bay, so goddamn cliche and done to death but so fucking earnest, honestly wonderful. The coast was an amazing place to live, and it was a brief drive in to the City. I'm a big fan of Boston and most of Texas, but I miss San Francisco in a very different way. I could never imagine living there; to me it would be like taking up residence in a museum. The whole place is one big piece of eye candy, and though plagued by homelessness and crowds from Peoria and Poughkeepsie, it's a city that defies the country by being more iconic than the land that owns it.
Even Oakland can be pretty. Hell, I worked in a gigantic warehouse in Pt. Richmond, a few miles past San Quentin, for a couple of months, and even that was great.
Southern California, that's a whole different thing. A dry, impersonal, artifice for the sake of status, soul-less place. Fuck southern California. San Diego is about the only good thing down there, makes up for the ills of LA and the central valley.
Stupid foggy mornings. The drive in to work this morning was clouded, and all I could think of was my previous lives, all those days and hours spent in solitude on the coast, waiting for the world to turn.
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