I don’t know what it was that I was expecting on my first visit to the West Coast but it’s hard to describe what makes it so unique. Perhaps it’s the weatherboard houses, the somehow desert-influenced surrounds and colours, and the sense of things being sun-bleached and weather-worn, but its vibe was foreign in a completely different way to Europe.
I spent several days based down in Menlo Park and Palo Alto and found it somewhat strange to consider how Silicon Valley is surrounded by quiet suburbia streets and edged by the highways leading into the city. Further into the ‘inner city’ suburbs as the train moved closer to San Francisco (a surprisingly long, expensive affair), the houses in the outer edges of the city loomed large and intriguing, each one designed and painted differently to the last.
There is - by nature - not much more to say about ‘suburbia’; it’s less about what it is as a concept (living spaces, parks, obligatory retail strip) and about what happens within it and its houses. But if there was anything that characterised San Francisco for me, it was the rather Sydney-reminiscent sense that it was somehow multiple city styles rolled into one, not always blending seamlessly. When I close my eyes, I picture the weatherboard houses, the right angles, the hints of rust and peeling paint and not-quite-retro-ness of it all, the sense of a city and living spaces pieced together and worn-in across time and space, piece by eclectic piece.