I am writing this at the kitchen table in our new apartment in Oakland. Our new home has a lot of windows. The sun is out. I can see a lake out of the window. It feels like a new day.
Yesterday was moving day, an exhausting time for anyone. It was the culmination of a couple of things we've talked about on this blog before and spurred a few other insights, also.
We have moved to Oakland, in part because of the prohibitive rent prices and surging economic inequality taking hold in San Francisco. Although, I must attest to growing quite fond of Oakland over the last few weeks, making several trips across the Bay Bridge to hang out and house-hunt. A lot of our friends live over here, which is a solid bonus.
Being here, the shift in demographic from San Francisco is noticeable. The high real estate prices in San Francisco have pushed out young people, families and the middle class. Walking around Oakland, LP and I have commented often about how many babies we see. The people seem younger and less cashed up, in a nice way. We're also closer to downtown San Francisco then we just were actually living in San Francisco. It's pretty cool here, a worthwhile Brooklyn to San Francisco's Manhattan.
The good point about all of this is that after more than a few moments of frustration with certain brutal economic realities in San Francisco, it feels more like "we get to live here!" than "we have to live here?"
After moving from Wellington to Boston and then Boston to San Francisco, each a logistical headache that took months to solve, it was nice to relocate somewhere less than 30 kilometres away. Moving house is a good time to assess your kingdom. Having gone through two rounds of selling off most of my worldly goods in Wellington and Boston, I felt proud of the junk I've started to accumulate. When you're transporting things across huge land masses and oceans, everything has a cost. Not so when you're throwing them in the car and running loads.
We have a record player now and records to boot, which for years we had in mind as the ultimate "when we settle down" purchase. I didn't have to throw out 85 per cent of the books I'd bought in the last year. I'm a chronic hoarder, so moving is always a good time for me to whittle back the assorted guff I inevitably accumulate. But now I could keep things like piles of research from old stories that "maybe I'll revisit again" (or more realistically, "let moulder in a corner of our new apartment").
We had trusty Al, our new white Toyota Prius, and a van we commandeered from LP's uncle.
We had to run two trips. Despite how breezy moving 20-something kilometres away was in comparison with former moves, this still took us 10 hours to complete. San Francisco is a small city geographically with a population of 800,000 or so, but it has a greater metropolitan population of almost twice New Zealand. There was some mystery event happening that had driven half of the world out of the woodwork and on to the San Francisco freeways. It was a quagmire of cars that we had to drive through three times.
Auckland at its congested and infuriating worst isn't a patch on American freeway traffic. It's not caused by bottlenecks in as much as it is just an entire system of roads heaving under the strain of too many cars and people. Auckland feels like traffic you can think your way out of. Here it is like being hit by something much, much larger than you. There's no matching this. All you can do is think two things: "I'm going to be in the car for a very, very long time" and "Relax".
Before our third and final journey across town we finally clued to why everyone was out on the street. It was April 20, or "4/20" (Americans go month/date, not date/month), the illustrious global day of marijuana appreciation.
There were cars everywhere. Around Golden Gate Park, Ground Zero for 4/20 commemorations in San Francisco, it was slow going. It took us two hours to make this last trip and over half of that time was spent in about a 15-block stretch around the park.
I usually associate 4/20 with a small group of miscreants in the Aro Valley who cram into Aro Park and smoke a sneaky joint in defiance of the "Man". This was something else.
Marijuana is mainstream in California. It is medicinally legal and could become actually legal at some point not too far in the future. What this day was in awareness of, apart from hedonism (which isn't a terrible thing), escapes me. I've never seen so many shuffling 20-something guys in hoodies filling the footpaths before.
Even more amazing was that the event was wrapping up and the party had moved locations to the cars. We saw people by the dozen smoking pot in traffic, even drivers. Which I'm pretty sure misses whatever point was trying to be made by the event.
Celebrate the counterculture all you'd like but that will always be a point of contention, right?
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