Perspectives from a new Vallejo resident-to-be

 

Confessions of a Macroneurotic

 

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious -- Rumi



By Carol Pearlman

1/26/14       
 

Moving to Vallejo  -- CAN I DO IT?

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I never imagined I’d live in California; then I moved to West Hollywood and thought I’d stay forever. But, after twenty-five years enjoying the best weather and the most beautiful apartment in the hood, a rent-controlled historic landmark haven, I believe it’s time to go.


I need to re-imagine a new life. How many times I’ve done that, I can’t even count, but this will be the last time, so I’d better do it right. I want to be near (but not too near) my grandkids in San Francisco; I need clean air, good climate, and reasonable housing - which doesn’t exist in San Francisco - plus something I always missed in Los Angeles – a sense of community, a feeling of belonging.

 

So, thanks to my friend, a smart, sassy school teacher who moved to Vallejo eight years ago, and told me about this unusual city, I’m camping out in a temporary rental in northern California, bundled up in warm sweaters, scarves, and boots, hunting down an old house, or a new condo, or I-don’t-know-what, and a new way of life in Vallejo, on the banks of the peaceful Napa River. My location is 33 miles by road, or a stunning ferry ride of less than an hour to San Francisco, where my sweet little chickadees reside.


Vallejo’s an historic city on the edge; it’s gone through tough times, hit hard by the housing bubble and major budget problems due to gross political mismanagement, and bankruptcy in recent history. It has nowhere to go but up. Meanwhile, cheap real-estate abounds, an active community struggles to pick itself back up, and a feeling of optimism prevails. I’ve met a lot of local artists, who are connected and like to get together, and welcome me. I’ve met people who care about the city and are working to make it better.


This morning I called a couple I know and suggested we get together for dinner this evening. They said yes, and offered to pick me up. In Hollywood, my friends are always fully booked, or can’t commit, or busy until the last week of next month on Thursday, and invariably will cancel when the time approaches. In Hollywood, one is always holding out for something better. Getting picked up depends on which direction we’re going and usually falls on me. Really! Most of my friends in L.A are too busy for the likes of me.


I think, I hope, I’ve found a place in a community where I belong, where I can enjoy clean air and visits from my grandchildren. I’m dreaming of family Sunday dinners in a place I call home.


WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

I figured I’d get flak from friends who don’t want me to kvetch about them not having time for me. Quite a few, however, acknowledged they share my feelings, my desire to be included, and yearning to belong. All think moving near my kids is right and tell me YES, I can do it; pull up roots and change my life, even at this stage of the game.


I'LL SWAP YOU

What are the chances I’d open Craigslist and find someone wanting to exchange their beautiful Victorian mansion in the heritage district of Vallejo for a home in Los Angeles for a week in the middle of December? The stars guided me north. I packed my feather duvet and cashmere sweaters and took off up the I-5 like a penguin searching for fish.


What are the chances I’d sit down next to a city council member in Java Jax my first day in town, who gave me the name of someone who might have a house to rent, and that person gave me the name of her neighbor who’s selling his house, and that a week later I’d make an offer on that house? And while all this was going on I’d be invited to that neighborhood’s annual potluck Christmas party, where after dinner, folks sat around the fireplace strumming guitars, picking on banjos, and singing in harmony with all their hearts? Could I bear so much love?


My exchangee turned out to be a kind, intelligent, gentleman real-estate investor/contractor who drew big black X’s on the city map over the areas I should not look for a home, and took me on a tour to show me where I should. He introduced me to his realtor, who would help me buy the house I found that first day, with the good neighbors who sing together.


MOSCHETTI SATURDAYS

It seems like everyone in Vallejo shows up at Moschetti’s regular Saturday morning coffee tasting. We see friends, make new ones, and drink our fill of free delicious fresh brewed joe. Local artisans offer samples of homemade chocolates and pastries.


The atmosphere is lively – artists, political activists, mothers and fathers with kids, dowagers, curators, carpenters, chiropractors… live music! The chief coffee maker expounds with authority while offering tastes of the best coffees in the world, in addition to the dozen urns of Moschetti’s many blends. The owner, a congenial Frenchman, chews the fat with one and all as his garage and trailer establishment overflows with conversation, neighborly good-will and discarded paper cups.


I’ve talked to more people on two mornings at Moschetti’s than I do in Los Angeles in a year. They tell me they love Vallejo in spite of its problems, and are glad I’m coming. My unofficial poll reveals most have come for affordable real-estate, to be near family, and enjoy good climate. Me too.


Last night a yellow full moon hung low over the mountains in the east. And just now the ice-cream truck is driving by playing a familiar tune. Is it the Catcher in the Rye?