Six years ago I visited San Francisco for the first time. Six years ago, almost exactly. I remember it vividly, the drive back to Marin from Oakland airport and the traffic we hit, I even remember the smell of the air after leaving the airport. I remember these things because it was the first time I was visiting Alex. We weren’t dating at the time, those months felt so tumultuous, I was twenty and falling hard for this guy, whom I had liked since the day I met him 18 months prior. Everything during that time felt particularly heightened and raw, and I remember it in surprising detail. Much like this year, we had spent the winter months waiting for the sun to make an appearance and help us forget the long, dark days of a rainy climate, then, the Pacific Northwest. California represented sunshine, and a chance to spend time with someone special. And so, from the moment I stepped off the plane, San Francisco etched itself a permanent place in composition of my life. And there it would remain, six years later; I am always giddy to return. When I visit New York, and see that skyline for the first time in months, I feel a great surge of excitement, New York is a place I associate with a time of constant flux, or fast movement, of discovery. But not San Francisco, no matter how many times I catch the glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, I never feel that surge of energy, instead I feel a deep sense of calm.
We hadn’t been back in seven months, and the strangest thing was that nothing felt that different, at least at first. Driving back across the bridge, 24 hours after departing our Dublin apartment we were back. And it was as if we have never left. It’s just like the best of friendships, where, no matter how long its been the moment you’re reunited its like nothing had ever changed. I had, of course experienced this before. The first time coming back from traveling it was a strange shock, feeling I had changed hugely, but the places I left hadn’t. But, I didn’t feel I had changed all that much in Dublin, perhaps I was wrong. The first day in the city, wandering around the Mission, I found it strange I no longer felt quite as at ease as I used to. My tolerance for what our generation deems hipster culture-a terribly undefined term, but it’s all we have, so I’ll use it-had grown thin. I found myself oddly irritated by the slightly smug attitude of the barista prepping my cappuccino at Blue Bottle, or by the tattooed, bowler-hat wearing twenty-something on his single speed blocking the turn-lane. How had this happened? I mean, I lived in Brooklyn and North East LA-these were my people at one point! I wrote a post about how disengaged I had become at one point from “main-stream” New York that I was actually confused and slightly on edge when I found myself surrounded by them at a beer festival. Had Dublin re-calibrated my “what is normal” social meter? I couldn’t quite pin it down, it was a strange sense of culture shock that came out of nowhere. Of course, by the end of the week I had gotten over it, Kinfolk magazine, single-origin espresso, and artisan caramels in hand. I didn’t expect to feel this way, to feel any different. After all, Dublin really isn’t all that different from San Francisco, at least not enough to warrant culture shock in any form. It was strange indeed.
The upside, was a feeling of newness, of distinction. Experiencing the US as newly minted expats we got the best of both worlds. It felt very much like we were visiting the US, from Europe, so it felt in some regards foreign. Of course, nothing was foreign. But it was novel. In the airport, a vending machine from Best Buy caught our eye, seeing familiar brands felt strange. So did going to Target. Like, I know this, but it’s not what I’m used to anymore, and therefore mildly exciting. Everything felt like that. Shopping at Barney’s, having ample opportunities for delicious food, seeing prices in US dollars, and then converting them into Euro, and realizing just how expensive Dublin really is. It was so much different from coming home from Asia, or Africa, because those places were never home, of course everything was different. This time, we had adapted to new things, that varied just slightly enough to make them novel upon our return. And the food! We ate so much, and so well. We went to Russian River for beer, and marveled again, at how a pint cost under $4 (instead of €6-€8). The days were longer, and warmer. We spent our ten days in a haze of warmth, food, and family. Pretty much my ideal way to spend a vacation. Plus, we spent ample time with this special guy:
This cat. Someone needs to clone him. Because I’m pretty sure he’s one of the greatest feline creations, ever.
It was a good, and much-needed, time. It was hard to come back to Dublin, mostly, because the weather, which at least shows hope for improvement. Of course, we only have seven weeks until we return for the summer, and much to do in that time. Until we return, with weather permitting, I hope we’ll be able to explore more of Ireland, I’ve been aching to go hiking for months!