I travel to the East Bay slice of San Francisco-Oakland several times a year to visit our son and assorted family – albeit a number that still falls short of the swarm of Democrat faces running for president. It’s always rewarding to put considerable distance between me and DC, but I find it’s always nice to return home. Until the love-hate monster reappears.
This last visit, however, had a decidedly dialed-down ring to it. In my heart of hearts, I knew this day of reckoning was on its way, like the advent of a full-on grocery store – and a few more coffee shops – in Marina Bay. Like a steaming pot of Dungeness crabs, which, of course, can’t hold a well-worn mallet to the legendary Maryland blue crustacean.*
“Dad, is it really always nice to go back home?” asked our son, rhetorically. “You go home because, well, it’s home. You don’t know anywhere else to go. You’re a creature of habit. I also know you’re close to retirement and Medicare. The images may go kicking and screaming through your brain, but you’re subconsciously snooping around for a new landscape, a new aesthetic to indulge your senses. This is it.”
“That’s preposterous!” I roared, admiring the lemon tree in his front yard and secretly wishing we had the climate to grow them.
He: “No, it’s not.”
Me: “daVinci’s only work on view in the Americas is there. My roots are there.”
He: “Pick up a garden shovel. Roots are transportable.”
Me: “But if I want to see Congress in action, I can ride the subway down.”
He: “You have C-Span. Plus, why waste your money on a subway ticket for a soap opera cascading with soliloquies and self-aggrandizement?”
Me: “Who will buy my Redskins season tickets?”
He: “Try the Dollar Tree. That team’s will keep on losing until they change their name.”
This is a young man who, the day after Christmas, loaded his earthly possessions into a Honda Fit, making good on a promise to unshackle himself from the dome of heat and humidity he was raised in. In a flash, his cross-country odyssey was underway; its terminus was El Cerrito and a cozy rented house. Giovanni’s, the beloved neighborhood market, was a short stroll.
I decided to pull all the stops and give my defense mechanism a final workout:
“We have a nascent culture of great restaurants in Washington,” I declared. “Maybe not as eclectic as what’s along San Pablo or Telegraph, but it’s not bad. My father, who, you recall, was in the restaurant business, would grumble that once government offices closed for the day, they rolled up the sidewalks. The capital of the free world! Reduced to a ghost town!”
Waving goodbye that day amounted to a gut punch for me, unquestionably the saddest day of my life. (The geology course I took in summer school to avoid academic probation was a close runner up.)
In his impromptu sales pitch, hewing faithfully to his script, my son relentlessly volleys one pearl of wisdom after another.
“Dad, you and Mom know in your hearts this has become your home away from home. Your longtime love, Ocean City, Md., only exists on that I-80 sign west of Sacramento.”
On that note, overbuilt, overrated Ocean City, the insufferable DC Beltway, and the even more insufferable monsoon season back east assumed metaphysical-like qualities.
The arm-twisting worked. We’re scouring East Bay for a condo, in a peculiar slice of life where sun has yet to rise over the Pacific. To this easterner, that’s plain counterintuitive.
*Um, if you want to know the truth, a lot of Maryland crabs are harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. That’s our little secret, okay?