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Notably Quoted

It’s good for an artist to try things. It’s good for an artist to be ridiculous.
Sheila Heti in How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life (p. 18)

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You Can Observe A Lot Just By Watching

It was exactly two months ago today, July 2, that I arrived here in California to take possession of my apartment in Larkspur. I started packing up my boxes for this latest move the first week of June, and have been basically living from cardboard containers ever since…until last weekend, that is. I have finally unpacked the last of my things, put the artwork up on the walls, and reorganized my rented storage area. And I’ve had the apartment thoroughly cleaned by my new housekeeper for the first time. As of now, I’m officially “moved-in.”

I would like to say that I’m “settled” (as in: “Jim, are you all settled in yet?”), but that’s not really the case. There has been too much stress associated with moving to a different state and taking on a new, high-stress job to (in all honesty) say that I’m settled. But, being unpacked and moved in feels like good progress along that path, I must admit.

To be “settled,” I think I need a little more time to adjust culturally. The change I’m experiencing by moving from an ultra-conservative, economically-depressed community in southern Oregon to a liberal county with the highest per-capita income in the U.S. has been mind-blowing, to say the least.

And that’s not to say I’m not enjoying it here. Because I am. Believe me, living in a place that is on the liberal cutting-edge is quite refreshing. What an incredible relief that I’ve found my way here!

But I experience a good deal of preoccupation, and some degree of angst, about how different this place is, too. For one, I am continually reminded of the high cost of living: everything costs more here, and sometimes it’s way more expensive. Just this morning I went to the nearest car wash, for example, and paid $19.99 for the most basic service they offer. In Eugene, at what I think is the most pricey car wash in the city, the cost is less than half of what I just coughed up today.

And, of course, it’s the first of the month and I just wrote out another rent check. It’s a good thing I finally received a full-month’s pay: my rent is roughly two and a half times of what it was last year. Really, I can’t think of one thing that costs less here.

Additionally, one of the most interesting things that has been on my mind in the last few weeks, as I’ve been looking around trying to pay attention to my surroundings, is my perception that the residents of Marin County are a considerably better-looking lot than I’ve been around in recent times. I started out by noticing the much larger number of people sporting sun tans than are evident in rainy, cloudy, cooler Oregon. And then, as I kept reminding myself that “you can observe a lot just by watching,” I noticed that it wasn’t only the tans, it’s that people seem to look more attractive, more together, and just plain healthier here. For example, it’s my perception that there are significantly fewer obese folks around me now than there have been during the last few years.

So, it was with great interest that last Thursday I came across an MSNBC article that suggests ZIP codes are surprisingly accurate predictors of obesity. As I was able to learn, “in a study published in the September issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, University of Washington researchers found that adults living in ZIP codes with the highest property values were the slimmest, and those living in ZIP codes with the lowest property values were the fattest.” The data presented in this study are entirely consistent with my informal, non-scientific observations of Marin County residents. With property values here that are literally off-the-charts, according to the UW research people here should be slim(mer). And they are.

My one last observation (for today, anyway) about the culture here is that the attitudes of Marin County residents tend toward elitism, entitlement & privilege. My opinion is that these Mariners know they live in an enchanted place among the rich and beautiful…and somehow these conditions give them a rather special place in society. It’s not really anything specific that anybody says…it’s just that the sense of entitlement here is palpable.

I imagine that once I’m more accepting (i.e., less judgmental) of the cultural values I’m discovering, then I’ll consider myself more “settled.”

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