Coastal Commuter

Homesick coming and going

Having the benefit of two home bases where I’m happy to live and work, I’m always surprised by my random bouts of homesickness. I should be grateful for the variety. I know I’ll be getting back home from either home sooner rather than later. Yet, whenever I’m in one place, I will still occasionally crave the other. And it’s never more likely to happen than during that near-mystical stretch when the autumn harvests my heart.

One of my headquarters is, of course, our sanctuary city, San Francisco — although, recently, those seeking sanctuary here appear to be neither tired, poor, nor yearning to breathe free, but rather wealthy enough that they can actually pay to breathe if necessary. My other HQ is Los Angeles, and I do love spending a lot of my time there. Contrary to the conventional Bay Area wisdom that the City of Angels and Angles must be decried, belittled, and denigrated as a shallow and vile hellhole filled with plastic people, I find it welcoming, energizing, and filled with interesting, clever, and imaginative individuals.

Hankering for San Francisco

It’s fair to say that both cities have their share of greed-mongers, phonies, and lowlifes. And both, as I’ve said on many an occasion, are splendid places to live … with certain caveats. But, as much as I adore the vitality and media buzz that are encoded in Los Angeles’s DNA (as well as the region’s relaxed desert climate), I do begin to hanker for San Francisco as the nights grow longer and October looms.

I can say with some degree of certainty that this particular yearning is partially due to my oft-professed Halloween-mania, fed in large part by San Francisco’s traditional embrace of the holiday in its unapologetic anything-goes attitude. What could be more charming than an expansive field of pumpkins in picturesque Half Moon Bay with families strolling about and seeking the perfect raw material for a jack-o’-lantern carving and a pie? Perhaps a city filled with convivial, costumed party monsters during the weekends on and around Oct. 31 and the Day of the Dead. Frivolity and hotness, thou art a San Francisco Halloween.


The homesick feeling can also be traced to my annual itch to reexperience the scents and sensations of fall in the Northeast, realm of my youth, where the leaves turn color and drop from the trees as the air turns crisp and the fruits of the season are gathered. No denying the pleasure rush I’ve felt while walking the streets of Manhattan in October at dusk and catching that whiff of wood smoke and baked goods when passing a busy restaurant. And what dark mystery I’ve encountered on a late night back East when specters emerge under a cloud-wreathed full moon! In other words, yes, I can be homesick for a third home.

We do get a bit of an Indian summer in San Francisco at this stage of the year, but by the end of the month, things tend to get a little brisker and chillier, unlike the sunny warmth that generally heats up a Los Angeles autumn and can persist into SoCal winter. Missing that snap, I can hightail it up I-5, park, unpack, and truly feel the change in atmosphere on Russian Hill. Then, it’s simply a matter of getting in the spirit of an imminent All Hallows’ Eve, and partaking in seasonal goodies (like pumpkin pie) while basking in front of a fireplace and sipping a Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest lager. Put in that context, there’s no other place I’d rather be. Until the next time it all goes south, and so do I.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's David Feldman Show and Thom Hartmann Show and on Michael Snyder's Culture Blast, available online at and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster