Bicoastal PerplexityJune 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Tags: american baptist seminary of the west, Berkeley, CA, Claremont, Graduate Theological Union, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area
So I’ve been away again. June 8 to June 19 I went to California. I could have told you before, since my heroic companion was holding down the fort here in West Flatbush. Truth is, though, I was run ragged the whole time, visiting with many friends. And therein lies a tale.
Keith (said companion) and I moved to northern California in 1997, and we lived there for eleven years. It all seemed like a fairy tale at the time. Keith got invited to interview for the presidency of the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley. He didn’t even apply for the job. They flew us out and interviewed us. Two days after we got home, they called up and offered Keith the presidency. They wanted him so much, they hired me, too. (I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit that, but mostly, I’m grateful.) We flew back out, made an offer on a house and bought it. It cost almost five times as much as the row house we owned in Philadelphia while I was doing my Ph.D. there; after the closing, we went home and I threw up.
But mostly, we were just plain thrilled.
We had been to California on vacation once and thought it unbelievably beautiful. The thing is, going someplace on vacation is really different from living there, especially if the place is as far away as Europe but in the opposite direction. The seminary paid to ship our stuff, but we drove our car out because we were going to need it in the Bay Area. My first inkling that the distance might be a problem came when we got to Wyoming, after endless driving, with still more to come. In addition, people in the town where we stopped were dressed exactly like the cowboys on the t.v. shows I watched as a kid. “Keith,” I said, “I think we’ve made a terrible mistake.”
And how far Northern California was from what we considered the actually existing world in 1997 had nothing on how far it became after September 11, 2001. Because then, as you know, we not only had to fly six hours to get home but also stand in line at security for two hours to demonstrate that we weren’t terrorists. In addition to which, Keith’s sons, who were not long out of college when we went West, gradually got married and had kids. The weddings and Christenings started to pile up.
Now let me be clear. There were many things about Berkeley that I simply adored–and still do. The teaching I did at the Graduate Theological Union was the most meaningful work of my entire life. And the seminary presidency was a very good position for Keith as he approached the end of his career, though he never took to Berkeley the way I did. And the weather!! The locals considered it cold if the temperature dropped below fifty.
But the distance from Berkeley to New York was an endless problem, no pun intended. When Keith stepped down from the seminary presidency, we decided to move back home. All of both our families were (and are) on the East Coast. And many of our friends.
“No one ever goes back to the East,” an acquaintance said.
“We are,” we replied.
And we are pretty happy at having done so. Except…
Except eleven years is a long time to live someplace. We, and I in particular, made a lot of friends in eleven years, without even taking into account the scores of seminary students I taught, and the dozen or so Grail friends (some from the East) who moved to a retirement community in Claremont, CA, just as Keith and I were moving back to NYC.
So while we are glad to be home, now there’s a new problem–or a reversal of the old one. It’s way too far from New York to California, but I am still flying across the country, now to visit the dear friends I made even as I was coming to realize that California is way too far away.