Post written by Leo Babauta.
So we’re off on our great adventure. My wife Eva and I sold and gave away all our stuff over the last couple of months, packed our bags and took our kids and left Guam.
We’re now in San Francisco and looking for a home.
We arrived in the Bay Area last week Tuesday, to a chilly, foggy, windy city. Pretty much what we’d expected, but the cold was a bit of a shocker to a bunch of islanders from Guam. The first day we went into the city, we were freezing, with our jeans and T-shirts and hoodies. We immediately bought slightly warmer clothes, but it wasn’t enough.
Still, we were thrilled to be in the city, and ready to start house hunting. We saw seven houses the first day, all in the Haight/Cole Valley area, and fell in love with the neighborhood. Since then we’ve looked at five other great neighborhoods (Nob Hill, Mission, Castro, Duboce Triangle, Marina), but none compare to the first.
We want something really walkable, not too spread out and residential, as we’ve given up our cars (for good, we hope). We want to be within a couple blocks of transit — preferably a train — and restaurants, parks, coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, shops and more.
Anyway, we’ve found a few places and are applying. We’ll see how it turns out — cross your fingers for us!
I thought I’d share a few notes on our visit here so far:
- We watched the Gay Pride Parade (officially the San Francisco Pride Parade) and it was a blast. I lived in San Francisco as a teenager, so I’d seen it before, but it was new and very interesting to Eva and the kids. We got a bit bored when there was a long string of politicians, and left early to explore other parts of the city.
- There are an amazing number of good little restaurants with charm. We’ve enjoyed a bunch, from Herbivore to Squat & Gobble to Crepes on Cole and more I can’t remember. There seem to be hundreds I still want to try out.
- We’re staying with my cousin Dominic and his wife Adeline and their beautiful daughter Cordelia in Alameda, which I’ve found to be a great little town. We’re right across the street from the beach, and it’s just lovely.
- I also stayed for a couple days in Walnut Creek with my Aunt Erin, Uncle Randy and two “kids”, who are actually grown human beings. Last time I saw them, they were kids. We had fun playing basketball, ping pong, foosball, Risk, and watching Giants baseball (lost to the Dodgers!) and World Cup soccer. They’re great people.
- The last few days have given us just gorgeous weather. Absolutely fantastic. In Walnut Creek, it was over 100 degrees, which apparently is unusual, but in San Francisco it’s been great.
- We’ve walked or taken transit everywhere. From BART to AC Transit to Muni, everything is clean, fast and on time. I don’t think we’ll have any problems going car-free. We’re learning the systems, and when we need routes or schedules, it’s all on my new Android phone.
- I got the phone mostly for calls and maps, and don’t tweet or email or Facebook or text very often at all while we’re out on the town. While everyone else seems to like being always connected, I like being disconnected.
- We’ll adjust to the cold days. I actually love the fog, and have since I was a teenager. It’s magical and gives the city a mystical feeling. It’s a welcome change for me from the sweltering humidity where running in the midday heat was out of the question.
- Still, I miss Guam. Especially our family members. There was a heartbreaking scene at 2 a.m. in the Guam airport when we left, as dozens of family members came to see us off. I believe they were mostly there because of our kids, but they said goodbye to me too because I happened to be there. There were enough tears to grow crops. I have to admit I cried on the plane, thinking about not seeing my family every day.
- We did the tourist thing and walked through Chinatown — down the main drag on Grant. It’s fun being a tourist, as much as locals all over the planet sneer at tourists. We haven’t done the Fisherman’s wharf bit yet, but you can be sure we will.
- My Uncle Randy got us all Giants caps, so we’ll start to blend in with the locals. I used to wear a Giants cap every day as a teenager, imagining myself as Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell or Jose Uribe or Robby Thompson. I hated the A’s back then (especially after they beat the Giants in the ’89 World Series), but I love them now. I can’t wait to go to ballgames for both teams.
- We’ve found so many little shops we love. Swankety Swank, near Haight Street, is perfect. We met Yabette, who takes well-made used furniture made of good wood, and paint beautiful things on them. She turns what some might consider junk into art. There are 20-plus other local artists and artisans represented there, from comic book art to T-shirts to hand-made furniture by a collective of craftsmen.
- The Mission seems so alive. Bursting with colors from murals on nearly every street, it’s filled with energy, with great food, a little grittiness. While the Marina is pristine, the Mission has an edge. I prefer the edge, Eva prefers safety (at least for living — she wants the kids safe, for some reason).
Lots more I could write, but I’ll fill you in later. For now, I’m headed back out on the streets of San Francisco. If you see me, say hi.