Culture shock
People look at us funny when we say that we experienced culture shock as we moved from Boston to Stanford. And that when this year was over, as it turned out, we couldn’t wait to get back to Cambridge. Weren’t we Californians, after all? Shouldn’t we by rights have found the beautiful Bay Area of the Left Coast more congenial than the beautiful Bay Area of the Right? Yet it was so.
Part of the story is that Boston is a really great place to be poor, especially temporarily and in a good cause. So much happens there, and it’s so easy to get to the happening. I’ve already remarked that half of the wonderful concerts we attended in our Beacon Street year entailed no admission charge. The MTA bus cost a dime, and the subway twenty cents, and you could cover a lot of ground with very little money.1 And if you brought your lunch and consumed it on a park bench, nobody would look askance at you. Nobody, moreover, cared much how you dressed. Nor, frankly, about you in any respect. And, at least in the circles we frequented, it was uncool to flaunt your wealth,2 if you had any.

In Palo Alto, and even on the vast, 8800-acre Stanford campus, one felt (at least we did) strong pressure to consume at a socially-acceptable level—that is, one well beyond our reach. The Stanford Second Ward, a bunch of married students who should have known better, seemed to me to partake distressingly of this attitude. Although, in fairness, I must observe that I never got really integrated into that congregation, inasmuch as my calling in the Church was as Seminary teacher in a Menlo Park ward, where I felt rather more at home. Valerie taught the little Primary kids in our own ward, and she says she felt more a part of things there.
Boring weather: Valerie relished this; I complained about it, remembering how refreshingly Boston had kept us guessing. We’d sit at breakfast and recite along with the morning weather report: “Night-and-early-morning-low-clouds-along-the-coast-highs-in-the-low-seventies…”
Escondido Village bore, to my knowledge, no such tongue-in-cheek nickname as “East Compost.” People, places, and things seemed to take themselves more seriously here, and to bristle if anybody didn’t. We had to take care not to mention any connection with Cambridge, lest our interlocutor start spewing defensive clichés in a manner that we would later associate with ’droids: “Stanford-is-the-Harvard-of-the-West-we’re-just-as-good-as-you…” And to go anywhere interesting, you had to drive and park—costly behaviors of which we’d escaped the habits without regret.

1It’s also a fine place for bicycling, although that isn’t a point of contrast between the two neighborhoods.
2I remember a young du Pont (Dupont??) who lived in East Compost when I did. Yes, one of those. But you’d never have known…
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