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May 4th, 2024

Return Of The Non-Native

I joke that I’m a Californian exile, but it’s not all that bad. I’ve lived in Maryland nearly all my life and Maryland has been good to me. Much Much better than anywhere else mom was likely to resettle after the divorce. Either Pasadena where I was born, or Oceano where my dad’s side lives, would have been nicer for a gay kid growing up, but had she been able to go back to her former home in Pennsylvania I might have been driven to suicide once the hormones started percolating. 

And now I’m back in my little Baltimore rowhouse after another extended vacation in Oceano, and if it’s taught me anything it’s that trying to split my time between Maryland and California just won’t work. Either I move out there, which I can’t afford now because both renting and owning there on the coast are way beyond my means, or I stay here in Baltimore in my little Baltimore rowhouse with an easy mortgage payment, where I can walk to everything I might need on a daily basis, and just visit California for a few weeks at a time, but not for months at a time.

The pro of staying in California…somehow…is I get to spend time in the land of my birth, a place I’ve always felt deep down inside is my true home. It calls to me in a way nowhere else does. But I’ve lived for so much of my life in Maryland can I really say I’m a native Californian anymore? Technically yes, I was born there. Culturally it’s another thing. I notice the difference in mindsets and attitudes all the time while I’m there. I feel comfortable among them, at least the coastal Californians. I would be happy to spend the rest of my life among them. But in a way it’s like living here in Baltimore after having grown up in the DC suburbs. I’m comfortable living among the people here too. I enjoy their company. And the local food here is delicious. But I know deep down inside I am not one of them.

That might be that perpetual feeling of otherness that comes with being a barely post Stonewall gay kid in the late 60s/early 70s. Plus the constant static I got from my bitter Baptist grandmother for being my father’s son. But there is a truth there too. Baltimore has its own culture, as does coastal California versus central Maryland, and I am more Maryland than California.

Maryland has been good to me. It was one of only two states that gave same sex couples the right to marry by popular vote. Even California couldn’t work itself up to that. I blame the central valley. I got a very good public school education here in Montgomery county. I made many lifelong friends. I had good jobs once I got into micro computer programming, managed to buy a nice house within walking distance to everything I need including my office at Space Telescope. I have my dream come true car. I can spend my retirement here comfortably. I could wish it were different, but given how good Maryland has been to me it seems ungracious. 

So I think the die is cast. I can’t afford to move to California, I can’t afford to stay there months at a time and maintain my home in Baltimore too, and I’ve got it so easy here in Maryland now, both financially and situationally, it would be foolish to throw that advantage away. I can go visit California from time to time and be immersed in the land of my birth. But Maryland gave me a home.

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