The Walkable Proximity of Groceries
"Mama, if that's movin' up then I'm / Movin' out." Billy Joel
Today my daughter Geneva is moving into her first post-collegiate apartment. Now that she has a job as a paraeducator at Patwin Elementary, the school her brother attended and for which I have hosted a number of fundraisers over the years, she and her girlfriend can afford the outrageous rents that students pay to be relatively close to the corner of Sycamore and Russell here in the university town of Davis.
They chose that location because of its walkable proximity to Patwin, but also because their new home is across the street from Trader Joe’s. My wife Kate and I lived across the street from a small grocery store in London, so we remember how convenient it is to stroll a mere 20 yards from one’s front door to pick up ingredients for the evening meal. Some Davisites might remember how overjoyed we felt when Trader Joe’s came to town, thus precluding trips to Sacramento to stock up on favorite signature products, such as their seasonal butternut squash macaroni and cheese. Geneva and Amanda will have all those inexpensive food and wine options a 90-second walk from their home, allowing them to save money that they will instead hand over to their new landlord.
So late last night I drove over a vanload of boxes and small furnishings, including furniture donated by local friends, double-parking with the hazards lights on as groups of UC Davis students strolled by in the dark, laughing, some of them in party dresses. I almost asked a group of six young men if they would like to help my daughter move into her new digs by carrying the contents of the van to her first-floor apartment all at once, rather than my having to make 30 trips, but then I remembered that I was behind on my steps for the day (I ended up with 15,678), and I needed the invigorating workout.
I enjoy physical activity and labor (Kate and I even got married on Labor Day). In my head, I’ve always mistranslated the Biblical phrase “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” as “labor is its own reward.” I feel this way about physical labor, for I know that I sleep better after a day that included lifting weights or lifting boxes, though I should quickly add that I expect to be compensated fairly for my scholarly labor. After all, UC Davis is not UCLA, which recently posted an assistant adjunct position in Chemistry, with an expectation that the successful applicant would not be paid: “Applicants must understand there will be no compensation for this position.” Ouch!
While the new opportunity for Geneva is exciting for her, we will miss having her at home. I enjoy our walks along the greenbelt, and hearing her stories about the spirited children she gets to support at Patwin. Geneva knows I also appreciate hearing about her (often online) interactions with her far-flung friends from Davis Senior High School and Beloit College. She runs Dungeons and Dragons games for two or three groups of friends, so she is always creating encounters, challenges, and adventures in her head and in her notebooks. We love hearing the laughter coming out of her room, and the muffled voices of her friends on Zoom and Discord.
Sometimes during one of these marathon sessions I find myself delivering to Geneva’s room (the room where she has lived since 2004) a burrito or one of her mom’s famous omelets. That’s when I hear the phrase “Hold on: There’s a knock at the door.” Her online friends inevitably grow anxiously quiet when she says this, knowing that the knock might come from an ogre or a displacer beast in the world she has created. Instead, it’s just her dad, hand-delivering a meal, communicating in one of many small ways how much we appreciate having all five members of the family under one roof.
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P.S. Here are four questions from last week’s Pub Quiz:
California Culture. What notable (now late) Californian said, "If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you"?
Books and Authors. The first musician (and first non-European) to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1913) was Rabindranath Tagore. Who is the most recent lyricist and musician to win the same prize?
Sports. The AUDL is the top professional ultimate league in the world. What does the D in AUDL stand for?
Shakespeare. To what does Shakespeare refer with the phrase “the green-eyed monster”?