Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Okay, I’m a bit closer to calling CA home…

Posted by shannonclark on November 30, 2007

I moved to CA in January of 2006, though I spent much of the Fall of 2005 in the Bay Area looking at places to live and deciding about the move. When I first moved here I rented an apartment in Berkeley, but still had a condo back in Chicago which I was selling. As a result of that and the rigors of moving across the country, I moved here with very little furniture, some 1300+ books, boxes of my business papers, and a few clothes but not much else. Most of my kitchen wares, in fact, were my then girlfriend’s.

A few months after moving here, we broke up and that spring we moved her belongings into storage in Berkeley, and I moved across the bay to San Francisco. When I moved into my new apartment I still had nearly no furniture, now over 1400+ books, a few more clothes (mostly t-shirts from tech events I’ll confess) and a bed. For the first month in my new place I didn’t even have silverware (what we had had was my ex’s).

My grandmother gave me a very great set of dishes, serving plates, glasses and more. I bought other items off Craigslist. I ordered a new desk and dining room table (custom made for me from redwood which had been air dried in Berkeley for a year after having been environmentally harvested – naturally felled trees or trees condemned for safety reasons). Over the next few months I also bought a few other pieces of furniture – a few chairs here, a loveseat there. Just a few months ago I finally got some furniture for my downstairs – three great floating sofas from Room & Board, along with a chest from my landlord to use as a side table.

I still have much more to pick up for my apartment – for the past nearly 2 years I have been living without a chest of drawers or a nighstand (doing the college dorm room thing of using a milk crate), I still only have a rug in my rather too large apartment. Downstairs I have tons of room with little other than random boxes filling it – need storage (files, bookcases and ideally an old armoire) . Upstairs I need a full length mirror, some more storage for my bathroom (tricky, may need to custom build something) and probably a few tweaks to my kitchen to make it more functional.

My landlord has promised sometime (but apparently not all that quickly) to upgrade my appliances in my kitchen – I somewhat desperately could use a better fridge – one that doesn’t make random noises, fits the space better and functions better. And my stove though functional is rather quirky at times – with gas burners that have trouble lighting and an oven that I think runs a tad bit cold.

But all that aside, my apartment is slowing becoming home. My bedroom though still somewhat unfinished is comfortably me, my upstairs home office/entertainment space is cozy and I use it daily, my dining room accommodates large dinner parties with ease (albeit my wine is still stored in a cardboard case and I could use the space better). And I have been able to host entire families of friends as my guests – which for me is the true value of having a place – being able to share it with friends when they are in town.

In my neighborhood my butchers greet me by name (I also get my business mail and packages sent there, so am in multiple times each week). The dry cleaners/laundry place across the street don’t have to ask for my name when I drop something off to be cleaned. And at the other stores and shops nearby I am recognized as a regular customer.  I purchase the vast majority of all of the food I cook from shops in close walking distance of my home (both independent, family run, mostly local and organic stores) or at the weekly farmers markets. Occasionally I get something from Safeway, but more and more I am managing to avoid even that (some paper goods are the exception).

Even more so than in Chicago, there are cafes in San Francisco which I am a regular at – Ritual Roasters on Valencia which I visit probably three or four times a week (if not more), Philz (multiple locations) which I stop by perhaps once a week, Blue Bottle whose kiosk at the farmer’s market I almost always stop by and whose main location I get to frequently as well.

Just tonight, as I was walking to Ritual Roasters (which is where I am writing this post), I found myself stopping by one of my two favorite bookstores in San Francisco – Borderlands Books.  Though I have probably well over 100 (possibly now closer to 200) books at home waiting to be read, I still found myself buying two books this evening as I stopped by. One, Lyra’s Oxford a short continuation to Phillip Pullman’s trilogy which started with The Golden Compass and the other The Sky Coyote the second volume in Kage Baker’s The Company series which I had been waiting to be reprinted earlier this month.

Borderlands is where I bought my copy of the last Harry Potter – and is a store where I have probably spent well over $200 (probably well over) buying new and used books just this year alone.

The other store where I have spent a large amount, though perhaps not quite as much as at Borderlands, is another amazing bookstore, Aardvark Books on Church St. (I have looked for their website but can’t find it – if you know of what their own site is, please leave a comment). While I have bought some science fiction and fantasy books from Aardvark’s small but good selection, what I buy mostly from them are lightly used copies of fairly new books. They seemingly get everything which has been recently reviewed in major publications for sale that same week for 50% off the cover price. I have also been slowly accumulating a collection of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series via buying used copies over time from Aardvark.

In short, I have found a few places which I kinda call home in San Francisco.

But. And there is a but. Until recently I still haven’t fully embraced San Francisco as home. I will, I think, always be to the extent that I am sports fan, a fan of Chicago teams (the Cubs and the Bears  in particular). I don’t see myself rooting for the San Francisco 49ers or either of the local baseball teams.  I still also do not have a CA license or own a car (my IL license is still valid, don’t worry, I do have legal ID).

And until this evening, I took great pride in not really feeling cold on the days which SF called “cold” – and still nothing I have experienced here in the Bay Area compares to a Chicago or NYC winter.

But this evening as I walked along Valencia St I did feel cold. Admittedly though I am wearing a fairly warm jacket, I have a t-shirt and light overshirt on, not nearly as many or as heavy layers as I would be wearing in Chicago this time of year. And I don’t have a hat, scarf or gloves on either. But this was indeed a cold day by SF standards, and I felt it as a cold day.

It is a small step, but one that I recognize as me getting closer to calling CA home.

And though I haven’t yet started pricing cars, I am starting to also think about buying a car – CityCarShare though great doesn’t work for my primary needs for a car (which are to drive long distances with indeterminant schedules). ZipCar might work but I know myself and the nearly $60 charge to have a zipcar for a day would stop me from using it as much as I might want to, even if a more rational part of my mind tells me that it would indeed be cheaper than owning a car.

I have to figure out the car thing – I am finding myself with more and more reasons to get out of San Francisco – but less and less ability to do so.

Though I have now almost lived 2 years in the Bay Area, I have yet to really explore much beyond the major urban areas. I have only been across to Marin a few times – still haven’t gone to Muir Glen. And even though a friend has a home in Sonoma which he has offered me to use sometime when I want to (and he isn’t using it) I still haven’t taken him up on that amazingly kind offer. Though one of my oldest friends was living for the past few months in Oakland, I rarely managed to get all the way over to her place to visit her and her newly born daughter.

And I still haven’t been to San Jose at all (and it looks like I may have a very compelling personal reason to spend more time that way…)

All told, the reasons are starting to pile up for me to get a car – or at the very least to make serious use of a car share service on a far, far more regular basis. I still personally don’t really want to drive a lot – but I do see more and more of a need for me to use a car occasionally.

– for visiting friends far, far more often (and yes, that may mean getting down to San Jose…)

– to finish all the various household furnishing tasks that have been piling up. Visiting a couple of key stores and finally placing orders for pieces I know I want (ceder lined dressers for example). As usefully or perhaps more getting to various used furniture stores as well as lots of Craigslist listings and buying much of the random pieces I really need – used rugs, used armoires, random tables & chairs for my downstairs, perhaps a buffet & wine storage unit plus a small fridge for my downstairs?

– and perhaps the reason which will push me finally to get a car again, I need to spend far more time down the Peninsula talking with potential investors and meeting with prospective partners building up my new business.

But the green in me (not perhaps Green in the political party sense of things) still finds the idea of owning a car again somewhat troubling. And from a practical standpoint it means a lot of little, ongoing annoyances. Starting with parking in my neighborhood on a regular basis (unless my landlord can make room for me in the building’s garage). Parking is not too hard IF you try to park in the late afternoon, but come evening parking can be very hard to find – and since each block around me has a different day when street cleaning means tickets quite early in the morning (8am I think) I would have to wake up and move my car on a frequent basis.

Then there would be the ongoing costs – unless I paid cash for the car (which is an option but ties up capital I’d rather use for other things) I would have a car payment of some form. Then I would have car insurance (which since I have not been insured in CA or indeed anywhere for many years might not be all that cheap – though my history as a driver is quite good). Assuming I was driving the car on a regular basis I would have to assume filling up the tank frequently (a round trip down the Peninsula would easily be 100+ miles, even if I bought a hybrid that means filling a tank fairly frequently – and at current gas prices that round trip likely costs over $10 just in gas – which does make the costs of the train somewhat more bearable I guess).

Plus regular oil changes and the anticipated time and money costs of various repairs – which are to be expected with a used car (which is by far the most likely type of car I would buy).

If I do buy a car I would certainly look at Honda and Acura cars (which all of my past three cars I have owned have been) and I would be very tempted by a Mini (though the price even of a used one might be a sticking point – plus the fact that it would be limited utility for buying furniture etc). I have driven a Prius in the past and really, really, really hate driving them – the sight lines and other features just irritate me. For similar reasons I would not consider a Scion (I really, really don’t like how they have their dashboard set up). In fact most of the newer cars I have driven (via City Car Share) have had sight lines and other quirks that for the most part just annoy me, I think perhaps one reason I find myself almost never using City Car Share – the physical act of driving many of the cars is not comfortable).

Unfortunately to get a car which I would like and enjoy driving (and most importantly feel safe driving) might not be very cost effective.

Plus I am not sure I feel up to the time and energy it would take to research car options and then to start shopping for a car – online and offline.

But there is San Jose… so I may compromise on switching from City Car Share to another service like ZipCar (or to using a regular car rental service) and will, I hope, now have more of a reason (and company) to get out of town…

And yes, I plan on getting my CA license very soon – have to get myself over to take the written test and fill out some paperwork…


2 Responses to “Okay, I’m a bit closer to calling CA home…”

  1. Raines said

    I had a long-distance relationship with someone who moved to near downtown San Jose for a while, while I lived in the East Bay and worked in downtown SF, and didn’t have a car.

    What I found made it work logistically was (a) trains (b) a laptop and headphones (c) cellphone (d) wide-area wireless, at the time Metricom’s Ricochet, analogous to EVDO or various cell data networks, with all-you-can-eat unmetered service, (e) a bicycle (f) flexibility, tolerance for discomfort, and youth (aren’t those synonymous?)

    Since I was launching a magazine (working as Editor, relatively autonomously), I would be working long hours and evening events in SF. Late CalTrains would get me to San Jose, working as I went, and then it was a short bike to my sweetie’s. In the morning I could get up between 5 and 6, bike to the station without working up a sweat, hop Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor to Oakland’s Jack London Square, and BART or Ferry from there to SF if I was going directly.

    I found (and still do) that I get more work done on trains than anywhere else. The motion outside, the power outlets onboard, the smooth roll, the lack of distractions: it all helps me focus. Sometimes even more when there’s no net connection (although that would be harder now)

    Before you give up on CityCarShare, check out the new Night Owl savings, Extended Freedom trips (10 cents a mile instead of 40), and the new Share Plus Plan, which, for a $20/month baseline (vs. $10) and a 1-year commitment, gets you:

    * 10 Extended Freedom trips/yr. (vs. 4) included, option to buy more.
    * Night Owl free midnight-8 am instead of $1/hr
    * No $2/hr extra fee for Mini Coopers and Honda Elements

    With a bike to facilitate connections between buses and trains and BART, and BART running to Millbrae for CalTrain connections, and RFID cards available for BART and other systems (temporarily not CalTrain), it can really be quite painless and productive to make the connections.

  2. crookedcountycrooks said

    Do yourself a favor and “forget the way” to San Jose

    But, if you have to go, maybe the train would be better.

    However if it’s possible, Los Gato’s would be a more advisable place to spend some time.

    Also, driving in the city of San Francisco is pretty risky! The Taxi drivers are brutal,(they will cuss at you) if you are driver not familiar with every little street.

    San Francisco is my favorite city. LOVE the “Tea Gardens” at Golden Gate Park!

    If you drive down LOMBARD Street…watch out for “water on the bricks” it will cause you to slide into the wall. I know from experience… hee hee

    I dream of San Francisco a lot. I love SF!

    There is a little Italian Deli there that is a little bit of heaven on earth, oh…if only I could spend more time in “the” city.

    “China Town” I can never get enough of it, but Fisherman’s Wharf is one of my fondest memories. I could eat there every night.

    Don’t forget how lucky you are “every day!”

    I love to wear sweaters in JULY down by the dock of the bay.

    Romance is in the air whenever I’m there, just remembering how it used to be when I was so young!

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