Forgive my verbosity. I spent my first eighteen years in southern California, specifically in Chula Vista, a city in the county of San Diego, only ten minutes or so from the Mexico border. When I was a toddler we moved from an amusingly small house to a larger condominium, where I spent the majority of my childhood. They were white stucco covered buildings with awkward dark swampy brown wooden trim; our condo was two floors, and I shared a bedroom with my older brother. The interior, at first, was dim with shaggy brown carpet and fake wood paneling on the walls, but my father modernized it, painting the interior a near-white sandy color with corresponding new carpets. When I was about fourteen my parents bought a house a couple miles away, which sat on the top of a hill and overlooked a busy avenue and a strip mall, and the waterfall-like sound of the freeway could always be heard. The backyard has an orange tree and an avocado tree, as well as a dead peach tree and some rose bushes. Here our two cats hunt gnats.
It might be more accurate to say Stanford, as the school is literally its own city. The school is a place of lush greenery, sandstone-built mission style architecture interspersed with modern buildings, and a lot of bicycles straddled by clumsy students. The experience was more memorable than the place so I don’t have much to say about it. Also, down the street in Palo Alto, just a block from the Facebook offices, there is a small plaza in front of the eatery 'Pizza My Heart' where nihilistic, hedonistic, and angsty high-schoolers congregate, and in this plaza there is a five foot tall Egg made of circuit boards. I like to think the kids are there to worship the egg, or are maybe waiting for something to hatch.
I spent about six months total studying at Oxford. The place was more memorable than the experience and I could write extensively about it. To go from the brand-new cement constructed cities of California to the millennia-old shire of Oxford is something else. The alleys and the cobble stones and the people and the meadows are all as quaint as you would expect, and more, as are the libraries and their rules and the cafes and bookshops and pubs. The winter was cold and hard for a Californian and the spring revealed the city to be a different character in the sun, when we would go punting (maneuvering a small boat through the rivers and streams) and sit on the grass and feed the ducks and geese. The dormitory deserves its own passage--- it was a number of old buildings cobbled together and modernized, with tight stairways and halls that led up and down and every which way, like an Escher picture. But the wonder does fade as you become accustomed.
The Mission District has many characters. Some are good and some are not. It’s hard to write about it without distance.