Days after I was born, my parents took me from a San Francisco hospital home to Marin County where I spent my first eight years. When I mention that I'm a Marin native to a Bend friend named Sam, he invariably goes into a rant about that county north of San Francisco being the home to nothing but arrogant yuppies and people with way too much money. It wasn't always so, I protest.
My parents moved to Marin County in 1930 before there was a Golden Gate Bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin and the rest of Northern California. It was a raw countryside marked with a few small towns.
My dad took a train to the Marin ferry terminal every day to catch a ferry to his job in San Francisco.
He claimed that those were the happiest days of his life. He'd read the paper going over and had a drink and played bridge on the way home. The ferry ride served as a pleasant interval leading into and out of the workday.
When we were kids, Marin was bucolic. I spent most of my waking hours when old enough playing in the woods behind our house. Woods that seemed to stretch forever towards and up the flanks of Mount Tamalpias.
These days when I take the current version of the ferry from Marin to San Francisco, I look at Mount Tamalpias and think of simpler times and my dad as a ferryboat commuter.
I go to Marin to see a son who proudly owns the smallest and least ostentatious house on the Marin property tax roles. It's all of 850 square feet.
Around him are all sorts of places that cost seven figures and people who hard charge at law and finance careers.
My son owns a small business where he works with his hands.
When my wife and I visit we come away with the feeling that Marin County has been virtually untouched by the downturn in the economy. Shops and restaurants are crowded, traffic is thick, new cars are all over the roadways. The perceived good life is going on at a feverish pace.
Ah well, I say to myself, at least the county has great bike paths and open spaces.
But just when I begin to think all is well in Marin something happens. Well make that two things happen that made us ready to get back in the car and head home.
The first came after a long and very pleasant bike ride when we went in search of someplace to eat.
Every sidewalk café was crowded but we finally spotted a café specializing in organic food. Whoopie -- wholesome, hearty, hipster food ahead.
It didn't turn out that way. After getting the once over several times from the café's owner (the cafe was located right next to a major yoga and healing center) we ordered soup.
What passed for soup was highly seasoned water and at wallet flattening prices.
As we spooned down the watery concoction we watched a table of five outside. They were showing each other things on their iPhones. But wait, one of the women in the group had not only one iPhone but two of them as well as one of those silly old "normal" cell phones. It is so un-cool to have an old cell phone and we both had one.
The next day, we rode en famille to have lunch. It was Mother's Day but it was also eleven o'clock and who eats at eleven?
The first sidewalk café we rolled up to had about twenty tables unoccupied but would not take us unless we had a reservation.
No problem, we'll try the café down the street. Here my wife asked the hostess if they had a table for five.
"Do you have reservations? the hostess asked.
"No," my wife replied.
"Well in that case, absolutely not."
And with those words barely out a woman in back of my wife started screaming: "I have reservations, I have reservations. Don't give that woman my table."
We rode on and finally found a place that had plenty of outdoor seating and some wonderful Japanese and Vietnamese offerings.
The waiter was nice; the manager was very helpful. The patrons on their way to fancier places walked by looking at us huddled under an umbrella that kept a slight drizzle at bay and must have wondered how we'd come to alight like aliens on Marin.
Thomas Wolfe was right: you can't go home again. "Things", as Duke Ellington noted, "Ain't the way they used to be."