Stranger in an unstrange land

One thing about trying to post every day is that I definitely feel the pressure to dig a little deeper--for meaning, or theme, or something...--in my daily experiences in order to come up with something more scintillating than, say, the weather, to write about. Sometimes, it doesn't work out. But other times, the muse is on my shoulder. Ah, but I flatter, and get ahead of, myself.

Today, the H and I (and the Babe) took a drive across Massachusetts to visit our nearest Trader Joe's. Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time (or who knows me from my old life) knows how I feel about TJ's. In L.A., I pretty much only shopped there, and the Hollywood Farmer's Market. Here, given that my closest outpost is an hour and fifteen minutes away, it's a little harder to stay so loyal (or stubborn.) But with a bare cupboard and an attempt at strike-induced economy, the trip made sense. (Let's just say that the flour tortillas my kids live on are half the price--half!--there than at our closest market; pasta is a quarter of the price. In the Prius, the trip makes sense, at least economically.)

After our mega-shop to stock up for winter (the most money I have ever spent at TJ's, and that's saying something) we headed a little further east, to Amherst, to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant that Gourmet magazine highlighted as one of the country's best farm-to-table dining experiences. Amherst Chinese was good, if not fantastic; certainly the best Chinese food we've had since we moved here, but we're spoiled, coming from L.A., which is probably the best place outside of Asia to eat Chinese. Nevertheless, we had good scallion pancakes, which made us both sigh with contentment, and the sauces on the other dishes didn't taste like corn syrup, unlike the faux-nese we've eaten here. We were happy.

Neither the H nor I had ever been to Amherst before, and the town is charming, centered on a long rectangle of a village green, with restaurants, bookstores, inns and so on all around. A pretty picture-perfect New England small town, and we were both sorry we didn't have more time to explore (we had to book back to Lenox to pick Dido up at school.) As we were heading out, the H made a comment (as he often has, since our move) about me feeling at home, feeling that here, I'm among "my people" (his words.) I've been thinking about this lately, about whether or not I am truly at home in the northeast, if I really identify more strongly with the culture here than in California, which I still (somewhat secretly) think of as home.

What I realized, pondering this during our drive back, and tonight as I was putting the kids to bed, is that during our months of slow extrication from Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time justifying our decision (to move) to myself (as well as, no doubt, everyone else.) That justification took the shape of a critical view of what I posited as the predominant culture in L.A.--celeb & money centric, possibly shallow, narcissistic. Not my friends, mind you, none of whom deserve a molecule of those labels, but the world around them and us. And, to a large extent, I think that's true. But having been away now for six months, I can also see (highlighted, standing out in relief against the new culture in which I am immersed) the positive elements of Los Angeles that I ignored (or, perhaps, truly could not see) in my desire to leave. Parents in L.A. are rabid about educating their kids. They immerse themselves in their children's school communities and donate unbelievable amounts of time and money to improve those communities. People are open and welcoming.

[to be continued...and none of the positives about L.A. should be construed as absent here in my brave new world...just different; I'll elaborate when I finish...]

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