Hunting the Whumpus
I don't know exactly what a Whumpus is and I don't feel like Googling, but let's just say that the Whumpus in this context is an apartment. Out there in the Bay Area there's an apartment that's large, cheap, sunny, with a cute yard, within walking distance of great parks and shops, will give Ana a great feel for America, fill my son's days with joy and is available now.
So now that the car and job things are under control, I've been actively hunting the whumpus since Monday. What a pain in the ass. First, I'm not really sure where I want to live, so that means I've been sorta focusing *everywhere*. If you haven't been here, the Bay Area is huge. San Jose to San Francisco is over an hour's drive (unless you're a lead foot or driving at 4 a.m. I guess) and crossing bridges or going over mountains is even longer. To go from Concord in the far Northeast to say, Cupertino, in the SouthWest would take a good couple of hours.
That's been my radius of apartment search.
Okay, so after driving around for 6 hours last night exploring the North a bit, I'm now in a coffee shop on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Having decided that we can't live way the hell out in Concord (which is culturally devoid, but is 20 degrees warmer than The City) I'm now trying to zero in on a zone where I want to live. So Last night I drove around Berkeley on the recommendation of my East Bay coworkers, then I headed to the North of San Francisco to explore San Rafael, Mill Valley, Tiburon and Sausalito. The last few really aren't for me, but I really liked San Rafael's town center. There's this one really long street (F Street? K? E?) with a ton of really neat restaurants and shops and the neighborhoods looked nice. Take into account that I'm doing this in the dark, but still, I liked it. The other places were either too turisty, upscale or both.
So then I went back into San Francisco. I crossed the Golden Gate bridge for the first time in over 3 years... It was amazing - a classic evening where the fog was rolling in from the Pacific and the towers of the bridge faded off into the murky darkness. It wasn't like crossing a bridge, but entering a gateway. :-) I was completely entranced by the crossing until I got to the other side and found out they've bumped up the toll to $5!!! Wow... welcome home.
There I explored all the neighborhoods that have been just on the verge of fading from memory. I've been away for a long time and so it was nice to explore some of the places I remember and look at some of the changes, etc. Of course, now I've got the critical eye of someone who's looking to find The Perfect District, so I spent a long time wandering the dark streets. Every few blocks I would pull over and check apartment listings on my laptop using alternately the various open WiFi connections from happy neighborhood techies, and when that failed, via GRPS through the Bluetooth connection to my Nokia 3650. I used GPRS to check out where I was in San Rafael as well. There's nothing cooler than being on a random tree-lined street in some far off place browsing the web wirelessly to make you feel like you're definitley living in the 21st century. Dear Entrepeneurs: Telematics is going to be *huge* in the U.S. Please get off your asses.
Okay, so back to the search. In the city I decided that I *really* liked my old neighborhood in The Marina (of course - having lived there for 4 years) and though it's Yuppie Hell, it's still got so many advantages: Shops, parks, great access, etc. It's also $600 a month more expensive there for any apartment and is Earthquake Central, soooo... I'm still looking. I headed out to the Richmond to see an area I've always liked out there that I remembered. It turns out that it's not an area, but a street: Lake Street. It's a great, wide, tree lined street with really awesome houses that borders the Presidio all the way out to Seacliff. One street over and it's boring old Richmond, but on Lake it's really, really nice. I also checked out the Baker Beach apartments in The Presidio while I was out there. It's a nice concept, living out in a forest in the middle of an incredibly densly populated city, but the apartments are fugly and nowhere near anything else. Might as well be out in the burbs.
From there, before I headed back over the Bay Bridge to my hotel in Emeryville (across from where I'm working) I checked out Portrero Hill. Oh My. I don't think I could live out there between the freeways. I guess you get more sun out there (I wouldn't know having arrived around midnight) but the hills are massive. One apartment I drove by was on end of 20th and Rhode Island. I swear the incline must have been 45 degrees. From what I understand Filbert is the steepest street in the city over on Russian hill, but this *has* to be second. And in the dead center there was a house for rent!! Insane.
So tonight, after I picked up my laundry from the Wash and Fold - I checked out Berkeley again (after complaining about it today and learning that last night I hadn't seen the *good* parts) and did indeed find a neighborhood near College and Ashby which is *really* nice! I saw a family putting out their pumpkins for halloween and there's a bunch of streets that have Bike Boulevards and there was a nice park, etc. It seemed super-liveable. But I wandered a bit too far and drove by a Frat House which made me wonder how much overflow there is from the college - in a bad way. There was also a *ton* of traffic. But that goes for everywhere in the Bay Area, so ignore that comment.
Afterwards I wanted to check out Silicon Valley. So here I am in Palo Alto. I came here first because I've been here before. This time instead of pulling over and finding random WiFi spots, I decided to hit a T-Mobile hotspot instead, sit down with an OJ and Banana Bread and check out Craig's List. Realizing that I haven't posted yet today lead me to this and there you are.
In summary. If you happen to have any idea where the Whumpus is, please email or leave a comment here. I would greatly appreciate it.