The Golden Gate Bridge

I used to belong in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve gone to college here, given birth to three children, rented, bought and sold houses in a large swath of the East Bay: Berkeley, Oakland, Kensington and Alameda. And now, after 21 years in New England, returned to where I once belonged.

New England in 1996 was a culture shock. In our small Connecticut town, I learned that many families had occupied the same land for more than one hundred years and that a five-minute wait at a traffic light was a traffic jam. Children addressed adults as “Mrs.” or “Mr.” No one referred to men as “dudes.” When someone said “Let’s get together,” they meant it and “reserved” doesn’t mean “unfriendly.”  I really love New England, a place where I came to belong.

Now we are back in the Bay Area for most of the time. There have been a lot of changes. The traffic is dreadful; the housing prices are ridiculous. I’m not used to constant ambient noise. On the other hand, I love the friendliness. People talk to you in line at the grocery store! Everywhere you turn there is diversity of all sorts. Our Asian letter carrier has a southern accent. The project manager for our new house was born in Afghanistan. I can’t get over how people dress. It was 75 degrees last week and people were walking around in sweaters. Looking out the window while drinking coffee at a local spot, I was startled when a rather large woman in a wheel chair cruised by in a Santa Claus suit, complete with fur-edged hat.

It is going to take a while to get used to this new environment, though obviously there is no need to worry about dressing appropriately. I’ll take you along on this adventure as I learn to belong in an old new place.

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Photo by Gaetan Pautler via



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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