Things I Learned Out West

Here we are, back in Brooklyn— “Where New York City Begins!” according to the official party line (what does that even mean??)—after five weeks out west. What do I have to show for it? What did we learn on this little sojourn?

Optimism
Colleen noticed it first. A spirit of optimism blows across San Francisco like the clean foggy air coming in from the coast. A strained metaphor, perhaps, but listen: the people out there, especially a lot of the techies and artists we met, are fresh, invigorating and in motion (Like the wind! Yeah? Yeah??) They’re doin’ it, without reservation and the stereotypical East-Coasty tendency to look on the dark side, and it makes you feel good just being around them. Their attitude is youthful (regardless of actual age) and productive and upbeat and open. It was life-affirming being there! Being among these optimistic San Franciscans who ride out the fog and the chill and the underlying daily threat of the San Andreas opening up and all going pa-loop into the sea… and they look at the best around them as they constantly put their best out to the world. And it comes back to them, too. Oh, we saw that plenty. Which brings us to…

Giving and Receiving
Well, if you know your Deepak, you know about this one from Chopra 101. But it’s true and real and it bears repeating. When you give, you get. When you give openly, people will give openly to you. But here’s the thing: you also have to receive their generosity openly and immediately, with no reservations. Seems a lot of times people don’t want to “be indebted” to someone when they want to give something. Pick up a lunch tab, say, or lavish you with sincere praise. Seriously, how many times is your first reaction to generosity to say “No, no, no. No. Thank you. Not necessary! Heh heh.” Or to downplay a compliment, or even reject one? That’s SELFISH, man. (gettin’ my hippie on, here) You’ve just denied someone the opportunity to give. And when they give, they will receive. Maybe not from you, and maybe not that day, but it will come around. Loosen up. Go with it. Smile and say thank you. Be all West-Coasty about it, and receive openly. Then give some, just as openly, even if it’s only conversation or a smile. It’ll make your day.

Creative Discipline
We lived with a bunch of tech guys in The Haight and those guys work. Hard. They’re starting businesses and inventing software. They’re clever and driven and productive, and they don’t dink around when something needs to happen. They’ll code late, till 4 or 5 a.m. if they have to, and they get the job done. And the artists I met out there? Some of the most dedicated, motivated and focused among all the people I know. They have businesses to run, by Jove! Deadlines to meet! Clients who are counting on them! That was good for me to see. Creative discipline. Oxymoronic? Nope. Practical.

Mission Burritos: They RULE
Aw, yeah, give it up for these suckas from SF’s sunniest neighborhood! They put NYC to shame. SHAME.

SF (non-Chinatown) Dim Sum: It, Too, RULES
Same here. Three for a dollar! Four for a dollar! FIVE for a dollar! You gotta be kidding me. Ridiculous (and delicious) meal for two out in western SF, with soft drinks: $13. Sweet mother of….

Jim Carrey, ladies and gentlemen! Mr. JIM CARREY!

Openness
This is one that Colleen helped me learn. When you’re open to possibilities and situations (even ones you might be inclined to decline), and you’re flexible and not ready to say “no” like a moody two-year-old, good things happen. Lucky people say “yes.” Lucky people are open. Like when the dumpling delivery guy we didn’t know offered to take us in his SUV to the best dumpling house in the world (best in the world, I tell you), or when the couple asked us to come all the way out to San Jose for dinner (which was a blast and featured an embarrassment of excellent wine, no less), or when we randomly bumped into the guy we knew from Ann Arbor, and even though it was mighty late we stayed up to hang with him and had a great time, sleep be damned. All that happened because we said yes.

“Right-on!” and “Rad.”
Two sayings that the kids out there just love. “Right-on” is said with a slight emphasis on “right” and a little up-speak in “on.” Hard to describe, but specifically Californian. Rad is just “rad.” And it’s back. Everything’s rad, baby. Everything.

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