Fish Out of Water

Being back in San Jose reminded me of how much of a big-city Northeasterner I have become. I headed east at age 18 so have now lived more of my life away from "home" than at "home." Of course, "home" for me is now Philadelphia, especially now that I have a wife and kids. But San Jose becomes even less and less "home" each time I am back; no matter how much I enjoy being there and seeing dear people, it is further and further away from my comfort zone.

Which is a bit jarring for me, since one could almost equally deduce that it is Philadelphia that is outside my comfort zone. Where I live in San Jose is a representation of my roots. When I return there, I am reminded of what those roots are:

* The Asian population has exploded around here; living in a diverse urban neighborhood on the East Coast, I can't begin to tell you how dissonant it is to go to entire shopping malls in which all stores and all patrons are Asian.

* The Silicon Valley ethos is one of intellectual excellence and commercial achievement. You don't have to interact with poor people if you don't want to, getting your kids into the very best schools has ultimate primacy in parents' minds, and the cars are nicer and newer than the ones I'm used to seeing on the streets of Philadelphia.

* Speaking of cars, everyone drives everywhere here. Between the segregation of uses and the pedestrian-inhospitable environs that greet you when you arrive, it is near impossible to do normal errands, like drop off dry cleaning or pick up a thing of milk, without a car.

This is what I come from. There is good and bad about such a lifestyle. There is a lot to like, a lot that is easier, a lot that is better for you, materially and emotionally and even spiritually. And there are downsides, as well. I'll reserve judgment for today; my broader point is that these two worlds, one of my past and one of my present, are vastly different, and my perception of those differences grows sharper with each trip. And, for better and for worse, San Jose, though a delightful place to visit and filled with very special memories and places and people in my life, is no longer water for this fish.

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