Almost Paradise: Musings On Leaving California

I wrote this in October 2016 only to leave it unfinished.  During the last week, I received a notification of a post from Facebook a year ago when we were on a house hunt in Virginia. When I re-read the post, it still rang true for me, so I’ve decided to post it.

Those of us who have had the privilege of living in Northern California for a portion of our lives have at one time or another thought that they could not leave “paradise”. After all, we had sublime weather, the greatest sunsets, and the greenest hills. We were fifteen minutes from wine country and 20 minutes from downtown SF.  I can say with conviction that California has some great things, but while its almost paradise, it’s not the end-game for me.


Now that I’ve moved away, it’s amazing to realize that its the one place I’ve actually spent the most substantial portion of my life outside of NY/NJ.  We had a great run there, learning the city without really knowing anyone. We ate at some of the country’s best restaurants, drank the best wines, saw the greatest landscapes.  Experienced sailing in SF Bay, learned to properly mountain bike in the hills of San Anselmo and discovered the practice of yoga.  We got married, got my first dog, and had two amazing kids. I put my first dog to sleep, lost co-workers to horrible accidents and experienced numerous earthquakes (luckily not the “big one”).

Ultimately, I was ready to go. You know there is something missing when you make a great salary but you’re always feeling like you are scraping by.  We were having annual (if not more frequent) conversations about how many things we missed back east.  Every trip home was a reminder of what we were missing. After all, what good is paradise when you can’t share it with everyone you love.  Paradise is relative.

For a while I thought that if I changed my job, I might be happier. As I started exploring companies, it was clear that there were lots of incredible opportunities abound.

So we moved back east.  It’s been an adventure to say the least.  We’ve had some curveballs thrown at us, but we’ve kept on truckin’.  We see family all of the time, the kids love school, and we’ve become part of a great community.  

Do I miss California? There are definitely some aspects of it that I think about often:

  • Wearing shorts practically year round.  
  • The gardens around my home that I created with my own sweat.  
  • The Plano, the friends we made there, our annual block parties and our large assortment of fruit trees.
  • It’s Its. In and Out. Fish in Sausalito. Central Market in Petaluma. 
  • Living near waterfall hikes.
  • Taking the ferry to work.

Are there things I don’t miss? Absolutely:

  • Horrible public transportation.
  • Bad startup ideas. (I was once approached by a company that failed making a television show recommendation app that they “pivoted” into an email marketing tool.)
  • Endless hoards of hipsters. Ironic beards.  Civilians in cycling gear.
  • The fact that I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood but still would have my car pillaged in the middle of the night.
  • Day care that was three times as expensive as it was in New Jersey where I grew up.
  • Not having seasons. Especially Fall.
  • Being away from family during times of crisis.
  • My kids not getting to grow up near cousins and old family friends.

Was California paradise? Almost, but not quite. 

The bottom line for me is that paradise is a myth.  There are beautiful places all over this country. What’s important is that you have a chance to live in them.  I feel like these days I am enjoying a better life. Next time I go back to the Bay, it will be nice to be a visitor again.

Working In Your Home State Rules

I’m sitting in a conference room surrounded by whiteboards, giant post-its, markers and stickies, lists and pictures and charts oh my. My coworker and I are about 7 days into an assessment of our client’s entire development operation; a fascinating, exciting and daunting task. We also have two team members in Bangalore that are helping look at the client’s operations on that side of the globe, meaning that we have a call or IM chat in the early morning (as they are finishing their day) and then another conference call at night (as they are starting the next one) just to keep each other all on the same page. Coupled with the drive down, there is little other time left to eat dinner and catch up with my gal before doing some reading and hitting the sack.

Last weekend was unbelievably gorgeous (I have the sunburn on my head to prove it), so we spent most of it driving around sonoma and napa and enjoying the wine and scenery. Friday night, we had pizza at the restuarant of the guy who won the Food TV national pizza championship and then saw Sin City (visually awesome, but worst dialogue ever). Saturday, we spent a great afternoon at Cakebread and then cruised up to Healdsburg where we had dinner at a really funky place called Barndiva. Sunday was mostly about regrouping and enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to hop the Airporter at 10:30pm to catch my redeye to Cleveland.

Anywho….back down to Earth in Palo Alto….I have some documents to pull together so I best be going. More details soon….

California Rocks

There is nothing like coming back to warm sunny weather after a week in Cleveland, Ohio. I cannot stress that enough.

This weekend was pretty much gravy all around. Friday night, we hit one of our favorite spots, the Iron Springs Brewpub for some eats and drinks when I rolled in. Saturday, we jumped on the ferry and hit the city early on, and proceeded to walk through a number of different neighborhoods on a little walking tour of our own. We started downtown, had lunch in an incredible dim-sum place in Chinatown, stocked up on oils and spices in some Chinese grocery, wandered through Russian Hill, Nob Hill, and finally over to Union Street where we hit the cool-kid stores and I got a haircut from this barber who has been there for most of the century (he butchered my hair but he was a nice guy so whatever). All in all, fun times. Some random pics are here. When we got home, we made dinner and headed over to the newly restored Lark Theater in town to finally check out the Oscar winning blockbuster, The Aviator, and we loved every minute of it. How that did not win best picture, I do not know, so I will have to go see Million $ Baby.

Today we just did errands, chilled out and hit this cool bookstore down the road where I was able to find two amazing reads that I had been searching for. Life rules.

Our First Visitors

I’ve been getting some nagging that I have neglected the site again for a bit, which is a good thing because it means people are reading it again. Truth be told, it’s pretty busy when you live in one state and work almost 3000 miles away and do about 20 hours of travelling a week. It can be fun too, I must say.

This past weekend we had our first visitors, Beth and Jay, all the way from El Paso, Illinois. They cruised out mid-week and did a day or two of sight-seeing around the city and hung with Jen in the evenings. When I got back, we all took a trip to Muir Woods for a day amongst the Redwoods. It was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. Pictures are here.

That evening, we all went into the city to some crazy Swiss Fondue place and then walked around the Russian Hill neighborhood. That was definitely an area that I could get used to. Some really cool bars and restaurants around there.

The next day, we all hopped into the car and did a mini-wine-country tour. First we hit a few places in the Russian River Valley and then swung up into the town of Healdsburg and walked around. After that we headed back down through Napa, stopping at the Markham winery, which I’ve always wanted to hit, and although I will always love their wines, I have to say that their winery was a bit average. More pics here.

We finished up that evening with dinner at the Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley, which just plain Rocked. This restaurant is always packed, and now we know why. The food and atmosphere is just great.

Sunday was just gorgeous (mid 70’s – sunny shorts and t-shirt weather), and Jen and I spent it hitting farmers markets, cleaning the crib and making dinner. All in all…good times.

It was back to work today on the red-eye, and I was hurting from lack of sleep. A run after work set me straight though. I have to get back into doing that regularly again. Anywho…just three more weeks in Cleveland, and then something new. I’m looking forward to some variety.

Sailing in San Francisco Bay

Yesterday, Tracy invited Jen and I to come Sailing on her friend Mark’s boat in San Francisco Bay. It was a 37 foot sailboat, which seems pretty cool to me. It was my first time and the first time Jen went since she was a kid so it was a real treat. Mark was a very cool guy and we also met Tracy’s friend John who was also a pretty cool cat as well. In any event, the day was fairly cool and blustery, but they say that is good for sailing. Jen and I even got a chance to drive!!! You can see the pictures here.

Edge of the Continent

Crazy, crazy, crazy. We finally made it after a month of hectic packing, planning and last minute visits with friends. The last time I wrote it was still 2004 and we had just pretty much figured out that we were going to make the move. Since then, everything has happened. Happy new year, by the way.

First of all, I did manage to get the pictures of Jay and Jen’s wedding up, which I had promised like two months ago but never managed to do.

The holidays were alot of fun, if not extremely busy. As with the last couple years, we had to pull off three families within a day and a half period, which was pretty brutal, but extremely fun. I made out really well this year, with a portable speaker system for my iPod, a ton of great movies and books, some cool gear and some gift certificates to equip us in the new house.

New Years was spent at Killer Dave’s pad in Hoboken, where we consumed ridiculous amounts and danced around like idiots. It is pretty crazy to think that I will not see Dave for a while, but it’s even more reason to convince him to come out to California. Pictures are here.

The next weekend, Bill and Lori threw Jen and I a fantastic going away party at their new house down near the shore. They let us invite a ton of friends and had lots of great food and wine. As you can see from the pictures, we ended the night with a fanfare of singing, air-guitar madness. What you can’t see was the obligatory greasy diner breakfast that followed the next morning. Again, this was another weekend that tugged at the heartstrings, as we were able to play with a ton of good friends that we won’t see for a little while.

The movers arrived on the 10th and luckily the whole move-out session only took about 3 hours since we had done a really nice job packing. After that, it would be about 14 days until we would see our stuff again. Before that, there would be a few twists and turns.

I would arrive in San Francisco on the 21st after a couple weeks in transit, carting my valuables with me to Cleveland and finally to San Francisco. Within moments of beginning the walkthrough of our new apartment, I learned that our bedroom was completely overtaken by mold. Yes…mold. I told the management office what I saw, and was a bit afraid that they would not be cooperative at first, but luckily, the responded properly. They said that they could not allow us to live there and gave us a bigger apartment for the same rent; we also managed to get a month’s rent back. As luck would have it, our movers also called to say they would not make it until two days later, which made things convenient. I would spend the next two nights sleeping on an aerobed, changing addresses for the second time and stocking up on supplies. I also managed to get together with Stacys’s sister Tracy to check out the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach. By the end of the weekend, we were completely moved in and left with the task of unpacking. The only thing that would be left was Jen’s car which would take a whole additional week to arrive because of the stupidity of the company that we used (no names mentioned here, but just ask and I will tell you).

This past weekend, we finished unpacking the majority of the stuff and checked out an amazing brewery called Iron Springs in Fairfax on Saturday night. On Sunday, we got together with Tracy and had an awesome brunch followed by a stroll through a bunch of the more touristy areas of the city like Twin Peaks and Fisherman’s Wharf. Some random pics of the day are here. I pulled off another red-eye flight back to work this week, and I can say that these things are just not fun. I think I will be exploring some different travel options soon. In other news, Jen had her first day at work today and all reports indicate that things are great.

Overall…I want everyone to know that I miss them very much, even though the whole thing really hasn’t sunken in yet. I am hoping that the distance makes me work three times as hard to stay in touch with people (which is not much, since I am terrible at it now). The plus is that we are now living in one of the greatest cities in America and have an extra room for all of our friends to come and visit. You know who you are. Just let us know when you are coming.

And now…it’s bedtime, since it’s a schoolnight and the wine from tonight’s team dinner has taken it’s toll. Ciao for now.

Making Big Moves

This past weekend, Jen and I met out in San Francisco for the big apartment hunt. Between Friday and Saturday night we checked out almost 30 different apartments and ultimately decided on one just across the bay, a short ferry ride away from downtown. This is by far the most adventurous and exciting thing I think that I have ever taken on…moving 3000 miles away from family and friends to experience life in a city that is breathtakingly beautiful and mysterious.

Over the next month, we’ll have lots to do; packing and making arrangements to move, saying goodbye to friends (or at least “see you later”) and thinking of all the things we want to do and places we want to see in our new home.

I just realized that I have not posted anything in nearly a month, but that’s only because there has been so much going on. I will be sure to have details as things progress over the next month, though!

If you’ve ever been to the Bay Area and have any cool recommendations of things to do and places to see…..send them our way….

Crazy Developments

Lots of stuff going on.

I am about a month into this engagement in Cleveland. So far, so good. Luckily, my teammates are great, as are the rest of the client folks and my TW comrades. Like any other new project, it takes a little while to get adjusted to all of the new quirks, but in a way, that can be fun as well.

Jen and I just got back from Jay and Jen’s wedding in Nassau, Bahamas, and we had an awesome time. About 45 people came down to be there for the wedding and a little vacation. We actually headed down last Wednesday and then just got back late Monday night. I’ve been dragging my ass for the past two days, but its ok, since having a tan in Cleveland in November is cool. I actually downloaded all of my pictures when we walked in Monday night, but, since I had to basically get packed and then hit the hay for three hours of sleep, I never had time to upload them, so I will be sure to get that done this weekend.

In other news, Jen got her offer for her job in California today, so it looks like we will be moving cross country in a couple of months. There…I said it. Now I just have to figure out how to logistically make this happen. It’s a little scary, but fun to think about as well. I will be sure to keep everyone posted as this develops. We will also need to have some sort of party or something before we go.

Yassir Arafat, the only mass murderer to ever win the nobel peace prize died this evening. Now we can get down to the business of peace in the middle east.

Just saw the trailer for Star Wars Episode III. Two words: Volcano….Vader.

My mind is going a million miles an hour right now and I need to go to bed. More later.