Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - California

I'm in the Bay Area of California this weekend. I am thrilled to be meeting the fine team at HopeLab on Monday morning. Since I haven't been to Northern California in a while I figured I would make a weekend of it. I wish I could explain my fascination with California. I've nearly moved here 4 times in my life. Every time I land at SFO I get this strange feeling that I've arrived home, even though I have no idea what it's like to live here.

It's a testament to the design of this area that I have yet to make one wrong turn, or get completely lost. My sense of direction is awful - for the 18 months I lived in Central Florida I was lost almost every day. The state of New Jersey still has me completely confused and I've spent many an hour going around in circle in D.C., trapped in or out of the city by that Beltway. Here in California, I always know where to like, just like I do in New York.

The grass is green here, there are flowers and rolling hills. I drove through Stanford, stunned by Palm Drive, the architecture of the Main Quad, and the vastness of the campus. There's something about the golden color of all the buildings matched with the open green space that had me smiling wider and wider with every turn. I felt perfectly in my element.

Downtown Palo Alto is covered with coffee shops, pizza joints, a smattering of Thai and Indian food. Wi-fi everywhere. I've missed being in a college town. Hope is alive and well on the streets here. I went past the HP headquarters, the Wall Street Journal, and the Ning office. The ideas and creativity are buzzing around in the air here and if you linger long enough, I'm sure you're bound to pick up a stroke of brilliance or two. It's infectious.

The kindness and ease of people here is enough to make you wonder why you ever decided to live anywhere else. I sat next to a man on the plane today. He slept for most of the time and we didn't exchange more than 10 words. As I got up out of my seat, he said, "By the way, you seem like a very nice lady. I wish you well. Good luck to you." I was a bit shocked. I didn't tell him why I was in San Francisco. I actually didn't tell him anything about me. All I could think to mutter back was "you, too."

There's something to be said for stepping off of the island of Manhattan and finding out how life is lived in other places. It informs us, helps us to think differently about one another and our experience in the world. I love New York and it's my home though I am grateful to be able to go to places like California where life is a little bit slower, people are a little less suspicious, and the spirit is a little bit lighter. Let's hope I can figure out how to bottle it and bring some back East with me.

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