As you’ve noticed, there has been a long and uncharacteristic hiatus in blogging around here. My Facebook Peeps are also noticing my strange absence — and that’s because formerly, I was the person who live-blogged EVERYTHING from the Westminster Dog Show to Yelping every time I stopped for a cup of coffee. My actual real live friends, who were used to seeing me out of the computer every now and then, are starting to wonder where I am. That’s because, frankly, for the last several weeks, I haven’t known myself where the Hell I am.
Let me explain. Starting back 25 years ago, when Andy realized his career would be down in Silicon Valley, we also made the tactical decision to buy a house 60 miles away in San Francisco. The thought was, work was where work was, but we’d live where the fun was. The years went on and the commute got harder — thanks to Google, Cisco, Apple and Facebook with their giant campuses of thousands of people who all seem to clog up one freeway exit at exactly the same time. Whenever Andy had a particularly hairy commute — or even worse, almost fell asleep at the wheel — we discussed whether he should get a little crash pad in San Jose for those times he just couldn’t make the trek back to San Francisco. Well, blame it on age or an accelerated travel schedule, but Andy is pretty much living in a permanent fog of jet-lag. Shortly before I left for Africa, Andy finally said, “I just can’t do it any more.” Cue a search for an affordable apartment. Our choices were limited. First of all, if we were going to do this, it only made sense to get a place that offered a ten minute commute MAX — even at rush hour. And it needed good access to Highway 280 or Route 101, the two main highways up to San Francisco, so Andy could escape back to the City relatively quickly. (If you don’t know Silicon Valley’s gridlock and maze of expressways and freeways, be advised that you can spend as much time getting to the main northern freeways as you do actually driving to San Francisco.)
Then there was the biggest limiting factor: our recent commitment to trying to spend more time together. It was one of the factors that led me into early retirement — although getting involved with establishing a Sonoma vineyard hasn’t actually been very conducive to that goal. Nonetheless, we decided, if Andy was going to spend three or four days a week in San Jose, I was going to try to spend at least some of those days with him. And where I go, two terriers go. Now try to find an apartment that is ten minutes from Andy’s work and offers easy on-ramp access to Highways 280 and 101 — and is terrier-friendly! The choices are exactly nil. Actually, there was one choice that looked good on paper — the apartments in the high-end shopping mecca of Santana Row. Then we looked more closely. For an astronomical price, Santana Row offered a series of stark white, boring shoe boxes over luxury stores. When I looked at the logistics of trying to stumble into an elevator at 5AM with two terriers desperate for a wee, I nixed that. I could imagine I’d get about to the Hermes store before one or both terriers had bladder failure. I couldn’t see that being sustainable.
Fast forward a few days after that setback and Andy was in accelerated business genius mode. One of his VPs was looking to move out of her San Jose home — a nice little house that we’d both visited. Through a series of business maneuvers too complicated for anyone but Timothy Geithner to understand, Andy strong-armed Bank of America into remortgaging our San Francisco home and doing such a sweet deal on a mortgage for a San Jose house that somehow we are paying a combined monthly mortgage payment on two houses that is less than what we had been paying for one house. Best of all, Andy’s VP is an avid decorator and wanted a fresh start in her new house. So Andy finagled a good deal on her existing couches, dining room set, beds, lamps and even area rugs. I figure, if we just sell the place in a few years for a bit more than we paid for it, we could, essentially have managed this thing for free.
And it’s that “do it on the cheap” commitment that brings me to why I’ve been MIA. I’m determined not to buy a load of stuff for this house — because, Lord knows, I’ve got stuff and stuff and stuff that we’ve amassed after 25 years in our San Francisco house. Remember, a recent kitchen clear out revealed us to be a family that has six fondue sets. I’ve also never stayed at a hotel where I haven’t collected up all the shampoos and conditioners, so I’m set on those. I’m completely determined that I’ll walk two terriers with one leash, as we say around here. I’ll clean out the San Francisco house of all the duplicates and furnish the San Jose place with them. Good in theory, but while I catalog my way through San Francisco and shuttle my way up and down the Bay Area, I seem to always be in one place and my cameras, phone, chargers, laptop and essentials of communication are elsewhere. Oh, I’m sure I have enough duplicates squirreled away in some closet somewhere. But it’s a matter of finding them.
If you’ve moved recently, you know how disorienting it can be. All the basics of urban American life — the grocery store, the gas station, your coffee shop, emergency pet clinic, dry cleaners — have to be rediscovered, re-evaluated and the best routes to them figured out. So I’ve spent most of my time working out the logistics of partial residency in San Jose, which is exponentially more difficult when you factor in terriers. Just for example, Oscar and Lucy are city dogs and Sonoma dogs. They’ve seldom been exposed to green manicured lawns. San Francisco doesn’t have them and Sonoma has scrub and tough native grasses that grow wild and turn brown the minute the rains stop. So the dogs have been wild to christen every beautifully manicured and landscaped lawn that we pass on our walks. From the absence of dogs in the neighborhoods around here and the evil glances I can see from behind curtains as we walk by, I would guess it’s not cool to let dogs poo on lawns. So the big challenge has been to find doggie relief areas that are a doable walk even at 5AM and 11PM and have enough trashcans that I can scoop poop without walking through town carrying full poop bags. We’re still working on it, but we have discovered that a really fast ten minute walk can get us to one of two schools — although the terriers aren’t used to holding it that long and we’re still having emergency stops off various curbs. So far Oscar and Lucy aren’t liking Abraham Lincoln High School’s grounds as much as they do those of Herbert Hoover Middle School. But it may be a respect thing. Hoover is one of our least favorite Presidents, so we don’t mind pooing on his lawn — even if he does have lovely historic Moorish Revival buildings. To get to either, we also walk by the gardens of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Temple and Planetarium. We aren’t quite sure who the Rosicrucians are — some sort of vaguely Masonic secret society — but we are a little awed by their recreation of the Temple of Karnak and all the statues of Egyptian gods they have scattered around the grounds.
Yes, we now have a complete paradigm shift. Andy has gone from clocking up to three hours driving per day to a commute so short his coffee is still hot when he gets to work. And the terriers and I now seem to be constantly on freeways. Even though the vines are dormant right now, there is still plenty to do in Sonoma that requires one or two visits per week. And somehow the times I need to get to Sonoma always seem to coincide with when I’ve been in San Jose. Good thing I drive a Prius because the three of us are burning up the asphalt.
So that’s why I’ve been hard to find lately. But I shouldn’t be difficult to spot now you know where to look. Wherever you are on a Bay Area freeway between Sonoma, San Francisco and San Jose, you’ll probably see me pass by. I’m the one in the red Prius filled with forgotten treasures scavenged from the backs of closets. Just look for the full crew of terriers.