ocean waves at Point Lobos

ATL & SFO: A Study in Contrasts

Piedmont Park
Piedmont Park

I lived in and around Atlanta, Georgia, for over 20 years. I have many friends and colleagues there.

I’ve now lived in California for almost 5 years.

I can not tell you how different these two areas of the country are. A former colleague’s comment to a previous post earlier today reminded me of the differences.

The Atlanta area is pervasively conservative. Some areas are stiflingly so. Now, I don’t have an issue with a person being conservative as long as they aren’t trying to force that on others. But, from a religious standpoint at least, that’s what evangelicals seem to do— the “work of evangelism.” (I’ve grown more to think of it as making other people as miserable as they are.)

I have found the people in California, much to my surprise actually, to be far more friendly than the people in the Atlanta area. I’ve blogged about that before.

Here’s a story from my recent experience with jury duty that demonstrates some of the differences.

A fellow was sharing that he is often humbled by the people he runs into around the north bay area. They are all just your typical, ordinary people, but the overwhelming majority of them have PhDs, MDs, engineering degrees, masters degrees, etc. (This became abundantly clear during the jury selection process when each person in our random pool of 250 people had to publicly state his/her education level, fields of study, and job titles.) They are often CEOs (of major corporations). Many are millionaires. Some are even billionaires.

In other words, the general population here is overwhelmingly affluent, well educated, and extremely liberal.

You never know who you are talking to, but you can take for granted the fact that the conversation will be witty and engaging.

The easy going electrician that installed the uplink for our solar system is a classic example. He was dressed in a weird, frumpy hat, ripped up shorts and a ratty t-shirt. We could have chatted forever. He started building electric motorcycles 30 years ago as a kid, just for fun. On and on his interesting stories of growing up in the bay area…

The kid that installed the WiFi network here in the house is another local-grown example. A young business owner, he builds large area WiFi networks spanning miles and miles in the vineyards of the wine country. Monitors are tamped into the soil at specific locations to monitor soil moisture and nutrient levels. Each monitor is WiFi enabled and reports data, in real time, over vast distances to the central computer system that then controls the watering plan for the irrigation system and the fertilization plans for very specific areas.

The people in this area are actively engaged with reality, well-informed, think critically and creatively, are open to new ideas, are willing to challenge the status quo to make a better tomorrow, are open and tolerant, are physically fit beyond belief (biking up never ending, intensely sloped mountain sides—I’ve never felt so fat in all my life!), have a passionate love for the outdoors, are liberal and quite proud of it. People seem to know that they’re very fortunate to have what they have, and they seem to share an overall desire to give something back.

I guess you could boil it down by saying that this place is just good karma.

I just never found Atlanta to be that way. People were very, very religious. Not so here. People were not risk takers. Not so here. People (including myself) were in a huge rush and not that friendly. Not so here. People focused on conforming to specific, highly defined social norms and worried a good bit about what others thought of them. Not so here.

While I continue to miss my friends and colleagues from the Southeast, I just can’t imagine ever leaving this area, even though living here is absurdly expensive. The whole country needs to be more like California—as the bumper sticker says: less bark; more wag!

You know, perhaps that’s it. In Atlanta many people seemed to live under the dark pernicious affect of living without [you can fill in the blank]. In California people generally seem to live with a broader sense of cherished abundance.

And, on top of everything else, California’s weather and coastal vistas are simply stunning beyond belief.

aggressive fog
Aggressive Fog Approaching
ocean waves at Point Lobos
Ocean waves at Point Lobos