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Friday, August 18, 2000
Rating Places; Compactified Rodents
Despite thinking about it for, oh, as long as I can remember, I still haven't really figured out what makes one place better than another to live in. I have a list of concretes, but I find once I've met those a place can still be lacking in more nebulous ways, which I might group all together as the "feel" of the place.
My concrete list looks something like this:
- Decent grocery store within a few miles (so I don't waste time just feeding myself nor resort to eating out of cans and a deep freezer).
- Basic utilities (power, water, phone, internet)
- Affordable home on at least half an acre. (So I can play the piano at 3am and not piss anyone off.)
- Not so hot I need air conditioning, ever. (Air conditioning invariably makes me feel like crap.)
- Some form of sufficiently entertaining exercise available.
- A good theater within half an hour's drive or so, or at the very least a good video rental place. (Actually, this item is perhaps moot now that you can rent DVDs by mail.)
It seems like a pretty short list, but it's really hard to find. In particular, low-price, land, and proximity to grocery are three things that really don't want to all go together at the same time, and if you throw in good enough weather that you can do outdoor sports most or all of the year... well... I think I did pretty well in my current house 'cause it has all of those things. :)
But then there's the "feel" of a place, which is a little more nebulous...
- The "people". (See below...)
- The restaurants. (I've come to realize a lot of my impression of a place has to do with the quality and ambience of the restaurants... Is it just me?)
- The terrain. (San Diego is hopelessly DRY AND LIFELESS. It's a fucking desert, and that aspect is subtly but persistently grating. It's so... BROWN here.)
- (and so on...)
The "people" shouldn't matter to me, dammit, because frankly I just don't like people in general anyway. But my brain insists upon modelling my surroundings whether I want it to or not, and this includes, to my endless dismay, the people around me. So just going to the grocery store, I get to bathe in the psychology of the local community... In San Jose, I feel the narrow-focused success-stress in the patrons, and the fuck-you indifference of the eternally unhappy store clerks who have to live three to a room just to survive. In Portland, I feel the casual and genuine friendliness, and the complete lack of ambition. In Maui... Maui just makes my head spin. In Boston, it's pretension tension.
Sadly enough, San Diego and Santa Cruz still rank tops on my list. That's sad because San Diego (and Santa Cruz to a lesser extent) is a cultural wasteland. But maybe there's something to that... people are here for their own reasons, pursuing their own hobbies or schooling or sports or whatever but they're definitely not here to have culture spoon fed to them like it would be in San Francisco or New York because it just Aint Here. But maybe that's the beauty of it, this cultural flatline that lets me walk outside and not hear anything at all, or if anything it's just a quiet murmur of a million random directions with no particular unity. It's so much less than someplace you think of as Having No Culture, like some town of five hundred people in the middle of nowhere, because a place like that has culture--it's just the culture of No Culture. San Diego doesn't even have that, since there are dots of random colored culture speckled about. It's notably larger than San Francisco, after all--it just has no focus. So really, here you can pick and choose, run your fingers through the sand and pull out the bits you like, and ignore the rest which will happily ignore you too.
If only I could make it rain here, and push LA a little further away.
Taking out the trash the other night I stepped on something crunchy in the dark that didn't have that squishy-slidey snail follow-through, so I went back out to see what it was the next day. I must have an owl living in my palm tree because there are owl pellets scattered all over the driveway and brush underneath. For the uninitiated: Owls swallow their hapless prey whole, disolve away all the good bits, and caugh the rest up in a fur ball which they gift to whomever happens to be fortunate enough to live beneath. Here's one I half-dissected with a stick:
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