Life Is Art, and Cheap

I recently returned from a trip to the Bay Area, which I always find invigorating from absorbing the tech atmosphere (even though, as someone who grew up in the early PC days, I find Silicon Valley overall a disappointment, more Wall Street 2.0 than Whole Earth Catalog).

Also part of that renewed motivation to get back to work – the high cost of living in California. I fueled up in Vegas at a Terrible Herbst Chevron for under $4/gallon and refueled over the border at a Terrible Herbst Chevron in Barstow at nearly $5/gallon. And that's Barstow, not Beverly Hills. Food was also seemed about 50% higher.

But not everything is expensive. After meandering around in rush hour traffic, I remembered a relatively inexpensive hotel (really motel) in sleepy San Carlos, the Lia Hotel, which sports an artsy facade and $70/night ("life is cheap" wouldn't make such a good motto, but that's the primary attraction here).

San Carlos also is one of those burbs that has set up plenty of outdoor seating in their cozy little downtowns, even converting some stretches of Main St to foot traffic only. I can see why California has better Covid numbers than Nevada – crossing the border into Barstow was like crossing into Southern Utah, everyone was acting like there's no pandemic, but as I got closer to San Francisco, the masking increased, full indoor masking in Salinas, even mostly outdoor masking in San Mateo county. That's hard core.

My favorite downtown is San Mateo, also with expanded outdoor seating, and, this being Silicon Valley, coffeeshop wifi that extends accordingly. My AAA guidebook has nothing to say about San Mateo, but if you spend some time there, check out their Japanese Garden and their three-story public library, best selection of tech books I've seen in a library, or any still-existing bookstore (I miss you, Computer Literacy Bookshop).

Also, San Mateo downtown parking is dirt cheap. $.75/hr in the garages, or, if you're a big spender $1.50/hr curbside.

My final suggestion is learn Chinese. I see a growing number of Hong Kong-style cafes (cha chaan teng), and even the big banquet and dim sum restaurants are serving cha chaan teng set meals, which typically include refillable coffee or tea and some Chinese comfort food, by definition inexpensive, like a diner (but with dim sum).

Or just move to Vegas. I can go to the new Ramen Show in Chinatown Plaza and get a chashu bowl for $6.50!

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