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Reaction, Retraction, and Satisfaction

I’m back from California and am finally caught up enough to blog. Overall, the trip was great. On Thursday afternoon* we ditched San Francisco and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast to Mendocino. It was lovely…for all of 20 minutes. Seriously, there is nothing to do up there. People from the east coast seem to think of California as this huge populated state…but once you get 45 minutes to an hour north of San Francisco there is virtually nothing straight through to the Oregon border. We visited towns with signs that proclaimed “Population: 61”.


We stayed in a town called Little River. This place was hopping….at 412 people. The only restaurants were part of a few Bed & Breakfasts. The nearest “big” town was Mendocino: population 1,008 and a few miles north. Mendocino looked like New England on a bluff. But less dense. The architecture was similar to Maine or Nantucket/Cape Cod, but the buildings were few and far between – not enough (in my opinion) to warrant a 3.5 hour drive.

Unfortunately, Mendocino was all there really was to see along the coast (aside from the impressive rugged cliff-ridden coastline itself). Inland about 15 miles there were some wineries (we went tasting at four of them). And we did drive through (and explore a bit of) a redwood forest, but other than that, this area lacks everything…well, except for solitude. This area packs that in abundance. We ended up staying in the area for two nights, but I think we could have gotten by with just one (hell, if the drive wasn’t so long, I’d have prefered a day trip).

We did venture up the coast a bit further to Fort Bragg…the coast’s metropolis, boasting over 5,000 residents. But all that town offered was gas stations, a supermarket, and a fast food restaurant or two. Imagine Route 1 in Saugus (MA) but without the class and charm.

Fort Bragg’s biggest attraction appeared to be Glass Beach, apparently called “glass” because the area was previously a dump site and the broken pieces of glass had been smoothed out of the years by the crashing waves.

On Saturday morning we began the drive through the redwood forest back to San Francisco. We stopped in charming Healdsburg (where they filmed Scream) along the way for some wine tasting with Roy and Evan. A few hours later we were driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and back to the City.

And here comes my retraction: I like San Francisco. I still don’t find the city itself pretty. There still aren’t enough trees (though they’ve planted more). The architecture (aside from the Victorians) is pretty horrible – particularly in the Richmond, Sunset, Tenderloin, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc…

However, the distant vistas are still as beautiful as ever, as I recalled during my solo explorations of Land’s End and Twin Peaks. And one of the things I’d completely forgotten about was the vitality and energy of this city. The downtown was hopping and filled with life. And even the neighborhoods (such as Hayes Valley, where we stayed) had corner stores and restaurants that maintained a fairly steady flow of business throughout the day and night. But their downtown felt much more bustling, much more Manhattan-ish than Boston’s downtown.

I liked that energy. I missed that energy. I was especially reminded of this back in Boston on Monday when I went to my post office in downtown Boston (Government Center) to pick up my mail which was being held. There was just so little happening on the street: few people, few active shops or restaurants or cafes, even few cars…and this was in the downtown of the city!

I’ve been thinking about this over the past few days and I think I just allowed circumstances unrelated to me to cloud my views on this city. I mean, the main reasons Matt and I moved back to Boston were that HE hated his job and HIS father had died. I actually would have stayed. I’m not blaiming him for our return. I was also swayed to move back to Boston after my parents visited and I realized how much older they seemed after not seeing them for 5 months. And not knowing how much longer I’d have them in my life, I wanted to be closer to them geographically. In the end, that was MY main factor for returning.

And perhaps to justify moving back, I came up with excuses as to why I didn’t like the city (too dirty, not enough trees, too liberal, I prefer 4 seasons, too sex and drug based, I didn’t fit in…the list goes on and on). I still don’t think it’s the most beautiful city (as most people do)….but I do realize I didn’t give it a fair chance the last time around. Randy will be thrilled to hear this, but I could actually see myself living there again someday.

*I’m so pissed. The ONE full day (Friday) that we weren’t in San Francisco was the ONE day they had their first noticeable earthquake in nearly a decade (4.2 on the Richter Scale). We missed the quake by only 12 hours!!!!!


  1. Comment by Mark on July 24, 2007 10:31 am

    I felt as you did, poodle, about SF. The lack of trees and the weird weather made me not want to live there. It felt weirdly unattractive to me.

  2. Comment by Randy on July 24, 2007 10:45 am

    I dont get it Snarl why you disliked Mendocino so much? Yes it was quiet, yes its out there but thats what I expected. Maybe you didnt realize it was so out there?
    Besides we had some lovely time just the two of us, exploring the coast, taking some pics of some pretty hills, coasts, redwoods. Staying at the lovely Seafoam and playing cards and making me sit through Xanadu! What about that didnt you like?
    I guess this means no drive across the country and take lots of photo trips with you, just cities cities cities?

  3. Comment by Randy on July 24, 2007 10:48 am

    OH yea alas, Karl does like San Francisco. I love the city and do think its quite pretty too. My ex always said the worst problem about SF is that it doesnt rain enough to wash away the pee smell from all the homeless. Its so true. I could see myself living there one day. I dont know where or how the heck to afford it but its a great city.

  4. Comment by Brad on July 24, 2007 12:45 pm

    So it looks like we’ll be losing you to SF soon, eh? We’ll miss you. 😉

  5. Comment by Zach on July 25, 2007 9:11 am

    Hi Karl,

    I appreciate your complicated view of SF. I want to see it even more now.

    I thought it was funny that you wrote “too sex and drug based.” LOL.


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