Initial Observations about California Living

I’ve created a new category for this blog, “California Living.” This is the analogue to my “Life in Wisconsin” category, which I haven’t officially retired but isn’t likely to see a lot of posts.

To kick off the new category, some observations about my first two weeks as a repatriated Caliifornian:

* California is more “all-American” than Wisconsin. Let me provide 2 data points in support:

- We expected that Wisconsin would epitomize the stereotype of friendly people who welcome new neighbors with tuna casseroles or baked goods. Instead, when we relocated to Wisconsin, most of our neighbors ignored us. This isn’t a criticism, but it surprised us a little. In contrast, in our new home in Mountain View, we’ve had 3 different neighbors ply us with baked treats, and at least a half-dozen neighbors have dropped by our home unannounced just to welcome us to the neighborhood.

- On Independence Day, we went to my sister/brother-in-law’s neighborhood in Palo Alto. There, the neighborhood organized a “parade” of sorts. The parade’s theme was “Fun with Food,” so everyone in the neighborhood came out with various costumes festooned with food items (like the person wearing a box of Cheerios on her head). A fire truck (with lights flashing) led the parade and was followed by a marching band made up of neighborhood volunteers, which was followed by a volunteer flag team. Then, there were homemade floats, kids on bikes/skateboards/scooters, pets in costumes and people just marching. There were people on stilts, people walking while juggling, kids being pulled in wagons, and lots of red, white and blue. Very few people actually watched the parade from the sidewalks; just about everyone (including us) marched along. The parade then ended in the local park, where the BBQs were smoking and serving up a lunch of burgers, chips and watermelon. Then, it was time for the games–sack race, three-legged race, water balloon toss, etc. What could be more all-American than this? But, in the heart of the Silicon Valley!

(Speaking of which, my son ate like an all-American yesterday. He plowed through popcorn, potato chips, 2 big slices of watermelon (with juice dribbling down his chin onto his shirt), and 2 juicy plums (ditto). Then, he complained of a tummyache. You would think he would have known better because he’s read the Very Hungry Caterpillar many times!)

* On the subject of neighborhoods, I think of Silicon Valley as filled with lots of people in transition who are constantly moving in and out. So imagine my surprise when I learned that at least 3 of my immediate neighbors are the original owners of their homes (42 years!), another neighbor inherited the home from his parents, and we bought the home from the estate of a person who was an original owner. And the neighbors across the street have been there 25 years. So instead of being a revolving-door community, we’ve moved into a community that is way more stable than I could have ever imagined (and with even less turnover than our neighborhood in Wisconsin).

* In California, the newspaper headline reads: Technologists figure out how to bypass China’s Internet firewall. In Wisconsin, the typical Internet-related headline was: more predators found online! (there were at least a half-dozen front-page articles on that topic in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel during my 4 years there).

* Google/Earthlink are building the infrastructure to offer free wireless service throughout Mountain View. In practice, this means that every 4th or 5th street light has a little box with 2 antennae on it. Unfortunately, the network isn’t live yet, but I can’t wait to get some free wireless Internet access! (yes, I am aware of the privacy concerns, but hey–AT&T is providing our DSL service. Need I say more?)

* Our local park has beautiful trees–Palm trees, Oak trees and (my favorite) Redwoods. The amazing thing is–all of these trees are right next to each other. It’s like having 3 ecosystems, ranging from desert to chaparral to rain forest, within the span of 50 feet.

* In the past two weeks, we’ve eaten at a vegan Chinese restaurant (Garden Fresh, about 2 miles from our house), an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant (Udupi Palace, which is absolutely terrific), and an Ethiopian restaurant (Zeni in San Jose). Interestingly, the latter 2 restaurants cater to strong ethnic communities; my wife and I were conspicuous minorities when we went.

* Not a single Calfornian has yet commented on my standard attire of Tevas with white socks.