Saturday, March 22, 2008

A New Yorker in California

So it looks official. Daniel and I are moving to California. It remains to be determined whether we will be in Palo Alto for convenience or San Francisco for fun and ease of transition, but regardless of the specifics, that behemoth state on that other coast seems to be in our future.

I'm excited. Really. It's just that in thinking about this move, I've been focusing on moving TO California and not as much on moving FROM New York. It's the leaving that's starting to get to me. And as is often the case for me, a good part of the emotional experience is linked to food. (not that I won't also miss my brother, friends, the theater, museums, bustle, Eloise, Prospect Park, easy access to South Carolina, New Haven, Massachusetts, and really everything else I've ever known.) But food is a good metaphor, and the purpose of this blog, so I'll stick to that.

Anyway, we spent our week staying with the hospitable, lovely Ariel and Eric in their home in Berkeley. I've really grown quite fond of Berkeley and all its quirks, so Sunday morning, I went out for a walk to explore a bit on my own. Although we were having a barbecue later in the afternoon, I was starving so I wandered into a New York style deli called Saul's near their house on Shattuck. And it was here that I realized California and New York are just really very different. The realization came in two waves.

1) California deli just ain't the same. I'd heard this before, but really, why should California not be able to create a reasonable simulacrum of a NY deli? It's not that the food was bad. Honestly, I only had a turkey sandwich on rye, so I certainly didn't sample everything. It just felt very theme parky, with checkered floors and New York memorabilia around. The big disappointment, however, was that it didn't live up to what one often needs from a deli, which is a reasonable selection of parve side dishes and desserts. I don't care so much if the option exists to have cheese with pastrami for those who don't know any better, but there should at least be some good dairy free cole slaw and babka. That's all I'm saying.

2) There is guilt associated with getting take out. While this is probably good, it is certainly different from New York, where we subsist on delivery and take out and could probably, once a year, fill our tiny apartments from floor to ceiling with all of the take-out containers we accrue annually. Bad. Clearly very bad. But last Sunday, I wanted to get my turkey sandwich to go and to go sit somewhere in the California sun and read my out of town edition of the NY Times and enjoy the best of both coasts. But once I'd asked for my food to go, suddenly, an enormous sense of shame washed over me. I just knew that everyone at the counter was thinking that I was single-handedly destroying 25 100-year old Red Woods and creating mounds of trash that my children would someday be forced to ship to Pluto in solar powered Green rockets. So, while I had planned on eating my food at the little tables just outside of Saul's, I realized that this wasn't going to be an option. After all, it was only a few feet away, and I should have just carried the sandwich in my shirt, thereby avoiding paper trash AND using water to clean any standard dishes or plates. So instead I took my devilish plastic bag filled with two cardboard containers and went to find a spot where I could hide from the castigating eyes of the superior Berkleyites (as penance I didn't take any napkins or a fork with which to eat my side salad).

I found a nice sunny spot far away from the Saulites. In a bank parking lot. There was an old woman there too, drinking coffee in a paper cup. Guilt loves company. On the plus side in California, being outside is almost always pleasant, even beside an ATM. And the pickle from Saul's wasn't half bad.

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