Whilst dining with Heidi yesterday, she asked me about Walnut Creek, where I live now. I said, “Well, it’s bland (aka, mostly white), and if you want to live in the suburbs, you have to choose between the yuppies and the rednecks…so we chose the yuppies.” Driving home afterward, I started thinking that maybe I wasn’t being quite fair.
I don’t think of Walnut Creek as my home town, because I came here as an adult, when I was 30. But I moved a lot as a child, and really, I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. I lived in Fairbanks for 5 years. I lived in Stockton for 11 years. I lived in San Francisco (my favorite city) for 7 years. I lived in Philly for 2 years. I lived here and there in the Bay Area for my first year. So I’ve lived here the longest I’ve lived anywhere else. It’s my hometown, whether I realize it or not.
Is it bland? Sort of. The people who live here are fairly monochromatic, or at least they seem so when I walk around downtown. There aren’t Chinese faces, like in SF, or Black faces, like in Philly. But when I look at Maya’s friends, they seem more multicultural, so maybe I’m only seeing one side of it all. Maybe there’s more. Let me think a bit about what I like about Walnut Creek, and give it a fair shake…I like that the grocery stores are decent and have good food and wide aisles and helpful people. (unlike San Francisco and Philadelphia, both of which BLOW in this dept, or did when I lived there). I like that there are Farmers’ Markets almost every day of the week somewhere close, and I can get farm fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, and honey. I like that we live close to a lot of family, mostly Ted’s family, but also my Grandma, my Great Aunt, my Uncle and Aunt. I like that we have good friends that we’ve made during our time here. I like the open space and the bike trails. I like the pools where I can go swim, and all of the places Ted can go and ride his bike. I like that there are decent restaurants (though I’m actually not too fond of the Walnut Creek restaurants (except for Cypress), but there are good places in our neighboring towns). I like a lot.
I don’t really like the overall suburban vibe. I’ve always thought that I’d rather live in the country or the city, not in a place that has none of the benefits of either. Here, one town runs into another, strip mall after strip mall, chain store after chain store, and not a lot of culture. But it’s getting better… Walnut Creek has a pretty awesome Symphony, a Theatre, good shopping, plenty of parking (vs. the cities), and some hills and open space to give it character. No ocean or bay, sadly, but we do benefit sometimes from the fog in San Francisco, which sometimes comes inland far enough to cool us down. Not right now, when it’s stupid hot, but at least sometimes.
So I’ve come to terms with my town. I know the people at my favorite grocery stores, I know where to find the things I need. I have good friends and know where to go to see a movie or eat a nice meal. I don’t LOVE Walnut Creek, but I’m not in a hurry to leave, either. I feel like I’d want to make sure the move I was making was worth the sacrifices I was making…because in life, it seems like every choice you make comes with gains and sacrifices. I don’t love it here. But I like it more than almost everywhere else I’ve ever lived. That’s what I should have said.