California Dreamin’?

| Jun 12, 2017

Well folks, it’s been 2 years and 8 months since I set forth on this epic adventure to California. What a long, strange, STRANGE trip it’s been. In October of 2014, I found myself jobless and homeless as I made my way to The Bay Area. That was not the original plan, but that’s how it ended up. Now that I have spent a good bit of time here, I wanted to look back and compare how I thought the Bay Area and California would be, to how it ACTUALLY is.

I have definitely been around. I can’t say that “I’ve been everywhere, man,” but I have been to many, many places, especially in the last 5 years. I spent 41 years in the Pittsburgh, Pa. area. I lived in Hawaii for 2 ½ years as a pre-teen and returned in 2006. I honeymooned in Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater area, driving from Pittsburgh through West Virginia and every state in between. I visited Mom in Bonita Springs, Fla. numerous times. I traveled to Michigan, Ohio, and Wildwood, New Jersey while I was married. In 2011, I flew to Louisiana myself, the first time traveling that far alone. That was the beginning of transition. I flew to see a Sister who is a good friend and, at the time, I was having a relationship with. I made numerous trips to Washington, DC and points between. I ventured to Richmond, Ocean City, Baltimore and almost all the way to NYC.

After I met my partner Jess, things exploded. I ended up falling in love and moving to Baltimore with her. During that time, we visited Sisters and events from Harrisburg to Philadelphia to Atlanta. We traveled to Buffalo for electrolysis a number of times. After we moved in with another trans girl in Florence, South Carolina, we visited Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Columbia, back up to Baltimore and Philly, Pittsburgh and Buffalo again, Charlotte many times, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, Rehoboth Beach, Ashville, Raleigh, Melbourne, The Florida Keys and many others. My latest cross-country trip covered 4000 miles, from Columbia, South Carolina to Denver to Seattle and Tacoma, through Portland, Oregon, and finally to San Francisco. So I think I have some clout when I say that I have been around.

Nothing could prepare me for the weirdness that goes on here in California. It’s Bizzaro Land. Sometimes, I really think it’s the weather. The lack of cold or harsh weather drives people to be extra kooky. I did not get this kind of vibe in Seattle or Portland. People really are wacky here. I have met my share of trans folks from all over the country. By far, the kookiest ones live right here in The Bay Area. In all of my travels, I have not met more kooky trans folks. It’s gotta be something. The air? The water? I suppose I was expecting some weirdness when I came here, but the level I have witnessed is far greater then I expected. I haven’t even been to L.A. yet, but I have seen some pretty messed up stuff on Facebook from down there. They don’t call it La La Land for nothing.

Strange, I always thought I would fit in with the kooks being an artist and a transperson. But, these people take kooky to the next level. Some are so sheltered and trapped inside a hyper-PC, liberal bubble, that it’s actually sad to see. There are so many that just don’t know how to function in society. I swear it seems like everyone is trying to be the kookiest of the kooky. Maybe there is a Top Kook Award given that I am not aware of. You can’t just be trans here, you have to be queer or some sort of gender non-conformist or genderqueer or whatever the kids are calling it these days. I am a square by Bay Area standards. I am the dreaded binary trans woman. How conformist of me.

It’s not only the trans folks who are kooky. There are so, so many people who are just scary-crazy. Pretty much everywhere I go, I see so many homeless, drugged-out, burned-out, tweaked-out, disturbing people. I live with a landlady who is not all there. I work with people who are not all there. I go to the mall, the cinema, the grocery store, my retail store in a rich neighborhood . . . they all have these twitchy, grubby, kooky, messed-up, whacked-out people walking around. It a damn epidemic! And this is in the suburbs some 20 to 40 miles from the kooky cities like SF, Oakland and Berkeley. If you go into the cities, you can’t throw a stone without hitting some mentally disturbed person. It’s a haven for the mentally ill. I never expected this. I have a heart and I feel bad for them, but the sheer quantity of them is very disturbing to me. I have never seen anything like it in all of my travels.

The second thing that nothing could have prepared me for is the sheer apathy, discourtesy and heartless detachment of the people who live here. Sure, I have met some cool, friendly people. But even some of those people have a twinge of in-urbanity. The Bay Area and California have a pervading coldness about them, imperceptible to natives but obvious to outsiders. It’s much like the waters off the coast, a beautiful deep blue that staggers the imagination but cold enough to kill a man of hypothermia.

In my mind, The Bay Area was supposed to be a place of peace, love and friendly people with flowers in their hair. I’m not sure if it was ever that. From afar, the Bay looks so calm. The vast water stretches as far as the eye can see, filling the panoramic view with a soft, misty serenity. That view belies the reality of things. If I squint my eyes, I can imagine the grand Bay and the sleepy peninsula before man invaded and sullied it with start-ups, spin classes and Starbucks.

The third thing that I never expected is the amount of crime that is rampant, especially theft. Theft is another epidemic here. I have personally witnessed numerous brazen thefts at my store. There is so much theft that most of it isn’t even prosecuted. Hell, even my landlady’s husband stole. He got a ticket in the mail for it. He wasn’t even concerned. It’s just another day at the office. Cars are broken into, bikes are stripped, people are robbed in broad daylight. The police attempt to stop it and what do they get for their efforts? They get protests from ungrateful people claiming police brutality.

The fourth thing . . . foreigners. It’s like I moved to Istanbul, Turkey with all of the jibber-jabber of foreign tongues being spoken. I never thought I would hear so much Spanish. If I never, ever hear Spanish spoken again, it will be too soon. Some people loooooove diversity and foreign peoples. I can take them in small doses and it’s nice when I can understand them. I know this is a sore subject and it’s not very PC of me. All I can say is this is how I feel. I don’t feel like I am in the United States when I hear so many foreign languages being spoken. It’s jarring to me.

The last thing I was not prepared for was the utter lack of patriotism displayed here. Yeah, they have fireworks and they sell flags at the stores. But it all feels half-hearted. It’s not PC to be patriotic. Being patriotic is for all of those simpletons and rednecks in the South to celebrate. If you show a smidge of patriotism here, you may get branded a fascist. It’s not cool to wave the flag here in Liberal Land. I felt very little care around here on Memorial Day, D-Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Patriot’s Day(9/11) etc. And speaking of 9/11, I have a feeling, although I can’t confirm it, that California and possibly the West Coast don’t really feel the same pain from that day. They were removed from it. They probably felt that it was somehow our fault. I was not too aware of what the feeling was in this area during that time, but I get a vibe that they don’t grasp the full tragedy of it. I know I feel it. I will NEVER forget. I won’t forget who did it either and what religion they killed in the name of. Flight 93 flew nearly over my workplace and crashed in the next county. It was a really scary day. I didn’t know if it was going to rain planes all day or not. I watched live as the buildings in New York came down. I will never forget.

Those are the things that I was unprepared for when I moved here. Those are the things that still bother me and still surprise me. The problem is the people. Like I said, I have met good people. I have friends at work. But the kookiness, the coldness, the crime, the foreigners and the lack of patriotism really affect the overall society in this area. I remain here, for now. Someone needs to keep these people in check. I will just squint my eyes and pretend it’s just me, a few friends and the beautiful land.

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Category: Body & Soul, Opinion

Amanda F. Steele

About Amanda F. Steele: I am a transwoman originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I have been living full time for 4 years. I work in retail but am an artist/Graphic Designer and aspiring writer. I tend to address the controversial in my writing. I would love to change the world one article at a time. I moved here to The San Francisco Bay Area to start over, again. The adventure continues...

Comments (4)

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  1. lesleyanne says:

    I’m amazed that got printed!

    Amanda, be prepared to be taken to the PC woodshed by the resident scolds.

    Alas, if only Mistress Samantha was in charge of your coming disciplinary session(s). 😉

    • Amanda F. Steele Amanda F. Steele says:

      Hmm. Is it really that bad? Maybe I was too harsh. It’s kids the truth though.

      • lesleyanne says:

        Amanda, not ‘too bad’ from my perspective but let’s face it, this is a very PC site.

        Btw, I lived in Oakland for 38 years (my house would be off the screen to the left in your East Bay photo up there) before returning post-retirement to my great small southern Arizona town. World of difference!

        Also, I grew up in the Midwest, not so different values-wise from your Pittsburgh heritage.

        Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed your articles and hope you continue writing. 🙂

    • Amanda F. Steele Amanda F. Steele says:

      38 years in Oakland…you poor soul. LOL. Maybe it was better back then when it was younger. Thanks for reading. I never know who likes what. I just write my personal column and my TMAC Trans Media Arts Column and hope for the best. I definitely have strong opinions. I like to stir things up.