I am conflicted and I almost do not know where to begin.
I came to Vallejo in 2002 and moved into the house that had been owned by my great aunt since 1946. It is a modest home and I am a man of modest means. I left the East Bay because I could afford to own a home here. Living here allowed me the legacy of a blue collar existence. I love Vallejo. At first I did not. At first I mocked her and blamed her for who I am. Now I do not, either mock or blame.
I am a painful introvert. I would rather read or putter in my garage than venture out. The only problem is . . . I tend to get hungry 2 – 3 times a day. If I had a love for computers and perhaps, knew enough about humanity I might have made a killing on the internet by staying at home in my parent’s basement. But I do not, and I do not and I have a terrible poker face. This last fact is especially sad because I love Vegas. I have always been attracted to the shiny and bright, things and people in life. A moth to the flame as it were. Only to be burned, or in truth, to reach out and burn myself.
At home alone I feel safe, hungry, but safe. My pets bring me great joy and conditional affection. Conditional? If I feed them, take them for an occasional walk and throw the ball every odd day, they return the affection. After a few weeks, or perhaps months, I begin to feel whole again and take my big toe out of the sand and dip it in the public waters . . . to test the temperature. Let me explain.
From 2002 until 2018, I commuted from Vallejo to Oakland and back again. 5 days a week, an hour down, and an hour plus back. For the last 10 years I made the trip in my steady Ford F350 Super Duty long bed with a V-8 engine and a manual transmission. The stop and go traffic, the pedal and pause, the constancy of it all has not only worn out my left hip but my spirit too. I sit here typing today a broken man, literally. Both body and mind bruised from the repeated lashing of I-80. This last year something changed. I stopped commuting for a bit. The reason being, I needed surgery for another broken part, my shoulder. My left shoulder to be precise, had fallen victim to my trade. Too many hammer swings, too many birthdays, the winning combination. To be honest it felt great to stop. To stop working, to stop commuting, to just stop.
I started sleeping in, until 5. I know, a blatant luxury for a working man, such as myself, but there you have it. Tom the sloth. With my arm in a sling there was not much I could do except, browse Facebook. (Go ahead judge me.) It was there that I saw something about something that had to do with a cement factory or something. Actually, that is not true. I knew about Orcem the year prior but I became intrigued by the ground swell that eventually brought the giant to its knees, and it heartened me. Perhaps Vallejo is more than just parolees retired Mare Islanders, I thought to myself. With a broken wing and way too much time on my hands I began to feel as if I might be able to finally find a public place for myself. That is when I started writing to you.
A writer should write what they know, somebody once said. What did I know? Food, a little. Okay I will write about food. I started out small and stayed that way. Only places in town and never anything derogatory. I wanted to show that Vallejo had so much to offer, in the way of good food. And so we do. In my travels I have come to meet and know many of you personally. All of you, everyone, a bright light in my life and I am drawn to you. When we meet we share stories and thoughts, fears and aspirations. We speak of our lives, but mostly we speak about Vallejo.
Nicole does not understand me, or maybe she does. Nicole prefers to read books, and watch movies that have, let us say, an edge to them. She likes to know about the harder, rougher things in life. The inequities. She likes to be informed and is not afraid of her outrage. I am, afraid of mine. I am afraid but I am a man of simple means. I also consider myself a man of integrity. I mentioned that I do not have a poker face. I also wear my heart on my sleeve. If I am happy, it shows. If I am distraught, that shows as well. Because of this I have made a life choice to tell the truth. Sometimes awkwardly. Okay maybe more than sometimes. But still the truth as I believe it to be. I choose not to watch or read as Nicole does because . . . I would then be responsible for that information. I would feel it a lie to know about some horror, any horror, no matter how small, and not speak up about it. So I choose to keep my head where my big toe is often found, in the sand. I work, feed my dogs and write about the good food of Vallejo.
Oops, I got curious. I love our town so much that I wanted to be a bigger part of it. To be a part of the solution and not a silent ally of the status quo. I applied, and interviewed twice, for a seat on the Planning Commission. I possess pertinent knowledge and am an avid researcher. I feel competent to sit on the dais and to lend my opinion on Vallejo’s growth. A funny, yet predictable thing has happened. My curiosity, combined with being an avid researcher, has provided me with knowledge that I am now responsible for.
I must hold our conversation here because, well, I am hungry and must make my way out into the world to earn my own keep. Please look for me tomorrow. These thoughts I wish to finish I find to be very important not only to me but I suspect to you as well.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often