No, Really: You Can't Go Home Again
A week before I moved to LA in 2010 my laptop got stolen. I was in the middle of writing a screenplay, something I had turned my back in for a couple of years but since I was headed to the land of make believe I had put my nose back to the grindstone. I wasn't good at it, but I was doing the work. Which is apparently what really matters.
When the guy who stole my laptop snatched it--right off the table at which I was working with it--I hadn't backed up in a week. I lost a big chunk. What I rewrote in LA didn't quite have the same punch as what had been stolen.
I finshed the screenplay, but I don't really write them anymore. I trace that back to the theft. To the loss of momentum. Life's about momentum more often than it is not.
This all happend in the Nation's in El Cerrito. I grew up in that Nation's. Grew up and grew out, yes, but it was my Place of Power. The way H Coffee House in Los Feliz is now. When I was there I could make anything. Hell, H Coffee hasn't even gotten to be that way for me. Not yet, anyway.
I haven't been able to set foot in that Nation's since the theft. I've tried to visit a couple of the others, but it's not the same. The scar winces when I do.
About six months after I moved my cafe was changed from being a refuge from the wired world into an ugly tangle of power outlets. No longer was it occupied by UC Bekeley engineering students with piles of books. Now the tables are littered with laptops, each one streaming a different movie or TV show, all while the four flat screen TVs which were installed two World Cups ago blaze ESPN down from above.
The carrot cake is beyond reproach, so I still sneak in for a slice and pray that my table in the back is free. I don't linger, however, not like I used to.
My high school got torn down a few years ago. The bowling alley in San Pablo was converted into an Indian Casino before I even left. The less said about the corruptive influence of tech money on San Francisco the better.
The only part of the old homestead that's seemed to come out ahead in all the changes is Downtown Oakland, and that's such a thunderwhammy ball of cognitive dissonance that it deserves its own essay.
The balance is this: the place I knew doesn't exist anymore. So I wonder what it is I'm doing here at all.