Welcome to California

It was twenty years ago — on the Saturday of a Labor Day weekend very much like today — when I came to California.  The ex-man met me by the gate at SFO — you could still do that back in those days — and — ever the frugal romantic — gifted to me a handful of maps.  Such optimism, to think I would ever learn to read a map!

He’d been trying to improve my sense of direction ever since we met.  But alas, his efforts were to no avail.  He’d installed a compass in my car and lately taken to saying “go toward New York” or “go toward California” since the concepts of “east” and “west” and “left” and “right” remained as foreign to me then — and now — as they were on the day of my birth.

From the airport, we went directly to our new home in Old Palo Alto.  Actually, we would be staying at a corporate apartment in Mountain View for the next month until the house was ready for occupancy.  Nevertheless, and despite the torn-up condition, it was thrilling to be together, to admire our cottage and garden and to discuss potential positioning of the furniture and the flora.

We strolled the short distance to the heart of downtown, enjoying the beautiful neighborhood — the designer homes with their beautiful landscaping looked like something from the pages of Architectural Digest.  The many and various dogs interrupted their walking and sniffing to come over and jump on me.  They still do.  Must be my animal magnetism.

Although we were familiar with University Ave. and its surrounds from previous visits, we viewed the shops and restaurants with a brand new sense of discovery.  This is where we’ll get our hair cut (Yosh)!  This is where we’ll go to the movies (Stanford Theatre)!  This is where we’ll get our groceries (Whole Foods)!

And indeed, we did stop by the Whole Foods to pick up a snack.  We wanted something completely different, something very California.  Vegetative smoothies with wheat grass.  They looked and smelled like freshly mowed lawn.  One sip and I was regurgitating like a cow in a polluted pasture.  Welcome to California!

The afternoon passed quickly and soon it was time to head to our temporary lodgings.  For dinner, the ex-man recommended a kitschy, faux New York-themed restaurant where he thought I would like the singing waiters.  Somehow, he got confused, and we ended up at Babbo’s, a very mediocre Italian place instead of the intended Max’s Opera Café.  It didn’t matter.  I was aglow.

It’s funny how I remember so many little details about that day so long ago.  But what I remember most is the unbound excitement, the sense of surety and complete confidence.  It was the very beginning; we were on the precipice of an intoxicating new life and all things were possible.  I was with the best man and we were in the best town.

What could possibly go wrong?

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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