It was so nice and comforting to return to the home I was raised in after age 10, and to share Maylin with my parents and brother.
But one day, early in our visit, Maylin and I were home alone, with my parents slaving away at the office and my brother not yet arrived from Oregon. I took Maylin for a walk to a neighborhood park. Immediately, I felt like a sore thumb. First, I was walking. No one walks to get from point A to point B. They'll walk for exercise, but not for travel. Everyone was driving SUVs or suburbans. Huge things! I don't know how people get by with their monster vehicles and the price of gas these days. I'm so used to seeing mini-Cooper-sized cars and Smart cars which are even smaller (two-seater with just enough room in the back for a briefcase) in Paris.
My clothes were out of place, too. My Paris black just didn't cut it. The moms at the park were wearing jogging suits and sneakers. I don't know if I can learn how to dress super-casual again. I'd feel naked. Or, I might as well go out in my pyjamas.
I met a nice woman at the park with her granddaughter. We chatted a bit, and I eventually revealed that we were visiting from Paris. We talked some more, and then the woman realized that Paris wasn't in the States! Nope, it's in Europe...in France to be precise.
Okay, there's Paris, Texas, and there's probably another Paris in the U.S., too, but from our conversation I thought she'd figure out pretty quickly that I was talking about France.
A young man I met at the local Walmart selling a newspaper subscription to my mom thought Paris was in Italy. Geez, I'm afraid these Central Valley people don't get out much.
And some of them are clearly very content to keep it that way. That's fine by me. The happier the better. It just surprises me that some people never want to leave this small town of Walmarts and fast food restaurants. No desire to see beautiful, coastal Monterey? No desire to enjoy the good food and culture of San Francisco? It's too bad, though. There's a much bigger, more interesting world available to explore.
Some people in town leave every moment they can to ski, visit Yosemite, see the Bay Area, etc. The Central Valley is very well situated, actually. 1.5 hours to the Bay Area, over an hour to the coast, about 3 hours to Yosemite. Many San Jose employees have even decided to live here and commute to work. Bay Area real estate is ridiculously expensive, so it's no wonder people make the sacrifice to get their 4-5 bedroom home.
And there are so many new housing developments. Each time I come back, there's more, and more. It's a bit frightening. The homes are HUGE, and the yards are tiny! The houses look like they're just a couple feet apart. That doesn't make any sense to me. In '85, the city population was around 12,000. It's tripled since then.
And still no decent bookstore. No fine arts auditorium. Very limited public library hours. According to some, the biggest thing that happened to the city was when they got a Starbucks. I wept in the late '80s and early '90s when the bowling alley got knocked down and the roller skating rink closed for good. What are kids supposed to do? At least the movie theaters are thriving. But 11 dollars a movie?
If you want a good Mexican meal, which I was craving, the Valley is good for it. I got my fix of refried beans, rice, tacos, and chile rellenos. Please don't come to Paris looking for authentic Mexican food. It doesn't exist.