I was a recent tourist in San Luis Obispo County, and it breaks my heart to have to call myself a "tourist."
I came to SLO Town from L.A. in 1980 to go to school at Cal Poly. Since that moment in time, San Luis Obispo has been home to me. I left my SLO for family considerations in 1996. I can only visit when finances allow, hence the "tourist" label stamped on my forehead.
I brought my new wife to SLO to show her why I still whine and get maudlin when discussing home and friends so far away.
I live in Pennsylvania, a state with a long involvement in our country's history. Philadelphia is a great active city with many cultural attributes--but it's not home. It's almost like living in a separate country. The language is close, but not quite the same. The food is edible, but missing the subtle flavors and freshness of a tri-tip sandwich on Thursday night. Pieces of produce are called by the same names there as they are here, but what they call an artichoke is not to be compared.
There is a focus and a toughness in Philadelphia that is absent from home, but it tends to harden people and stop them from smiling at the first blossom in spring. The history and culture on this side of the country brings with it a drive and passion to excel and to keep pushing despite obstacles.
Many of my friends from home cannot understand how I deal with the cold, snow, and ice. I try and explain that those are just things to deal with. You wear proper clothes and drive like you should--not like an idiot--and avoid ice at all costs.
It's the subtle things I miss: being in construction but allowing myself to discuss my artistic endeavors, without comment from the other males on the jobsite having women as friends, without the comments or perception (from other males) that I am trying to score going about my business without having someone stick their neighborly nose in it watching a sunset over the Pacific Ocean going drinking or dancing without smelling like smoke at the end of the night not taking my life in my hands by going to an Eagles game and rooting for the other team having a gay friend and having it be a non-issue, not positive or negative, just non--just the subtle things in life, too many to mention.
My wife now understands, and it only took her two short days, but it was enough.
I can now pine freely for a day or two (she is an absolute sweetheart, but not a saint) without retribution.
I miss you SLO Town, and I hope to get back soon--and this time bring my kids so they can understand, too.
Scott Pickford, as you might have noticed, lives in Pennsylvania now. Send comments to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.