This is probably going to make me sound like a jerk.
I'm not from California and I never will be. I've lived there for four years, and now that I've left I realize that I would actually like to go back and stay even after I finish my PhD: the factors that drew me there for grad school are still in force, and also, California is in many ways a really easy place to live. I heard myself say out loud earlier this year that "if the rest of the country would adopt municipal composting, I could live anywhere" and that was when I realized there was no going back.
But seriously. I feel so much better about my wasteful capitalist existence being able to compost food waste and recycle #5 plastic (NB: I have no idea whether these things even hold true in the rest of the state. I was in the Inland Empire this summer and found myself thinking that plastic bags still being available in stores was a sign of backwardness). And you know, people complain about transit in the Bay Area--particularly the buses!--and I'm just like, clearly you never had to ride SEPTA or NJ Transit, people. You don't know how good you have it. Yes, even with goddamn Muni. And you can bike just about everywhere, and I do. It's really nice actually; I would bike all the time and never own a car for my whole life if I could. Or if I did have a car, I would only drive it for extraordinary trips. In the Bay Area they have car insurance that lowers your premiums the less you drive.
The food's pretty good too, and hot damn, is the produce cheap. Meat is stupidly expensive, but it's bad for you and the planet in excess anyway, so I mostly eat vegetarian at home and eat tasty meat in restaurants. The restaurants are so good. I went back to a restaurant I used to like a lot in Philly for my birthday this summer and realized that they were charging Bay Area prices for a quality level lower than the Bay Area and I was very sad.
The other thing is, the Bay Area is totally fucking ridiculous and I find it hilarious, when it's not enraging (or even when it's both). I don't even know if it's possible to convey what I mean--I think the easiest thing is to tell you to check out bayareatng. If you find it hilarious and don't need the jokes explained to you, that's basically what I'm talking about. People who don't live in the Bay Area are liable to think that SFist is like The Onion, but of course it's actually completely serious.
Now, part of what makes the Bay Area ridiculous is also what makes it pernicious. The real estate prices and gentrification are getting so out of hand I'll probably be living in goddamn Walnut Creek when I do come back, which is basically the suburban hell I swore I'd leave forever and which makes me very unhappy. Also, I have to say, most (white) Californians drive me up the wall. In my experience they are all convinced they are special snowflakes and soooo indirect, it's so annoying. There's a joke that goes "How do you say 'fuck you' in New York? 'Fuck you.' How do you say 'fuck you' in California? 'Thank you for sharing.'" Much as I am the least Minnesota person I know, I'm also really not California--also none of them know how to drive, or rather, no one obeys the goddamn courtesy of the road, forcing people who do know how to drive to behave like maniacs.I couldn't stay forever by any means, if only because of the property prices, to say nothing of my deep-seated need to flee back to Minneapolis or the East Coast (not Jersey anymore, unless I lived in Hoboken; sigh) but I would like to stay for at least a few more years. The other thing is, it's beautiful, and all of us who live there are totally privileged to live there. Of course, who knows what it'll look like after the earthquake, but I suppose I should pretend to be Californian and pretend that's not going to happen ever, right?