Those of you familiar with the Great American Songbook will recognize the headline as a lyric from the tune “California Here I Come,” memorably recorded by Al Jolson and Judy Garland, among others. I am indeed right back where I started, in the most Twilight Zone way imaginable. But first, let’s recap.
Thank you for bearing with me over the past couple of weeks, during which I spent four days and three nights on an Amtrak train from Newport, RI, to Emeryville, CA, near Berkeley. It was certainly an experience. The sleeper car brought to mind Lord Byron and a poem about a crowded seaship: “Jesus, how you squeeze us.” But the view from the observation car was quite spectacular. The main impression the Midwest left on me was one of marvel at the building out of America, the westward expansion one town at a time for 3,000 miles. The sheer epic expanse of it, and the speed at which it was done and the riches and power it created, for good or ill, was fascinating fodder for anyone keen on contemplating the great experiment of America. The Rocky Mountains were indeed spectacular, and the Sierra-Nevada even more so, probably because it was finally starting to look like home.
Ah yes, the return home. The four days on Amtrak were followed by two nights in a hotel, then crashing with a friend of a friend, otherwise known as a stranger. Many acquaintances stepped up to try and find me a suitably quiet cottage or granny unit of some kind anywhere between Petaluma and Healdsburg, to no avail. There was hardly anything online, and what there was cost as much as New York. Sonoma County had already become highly expensive, and the pandemic has only exacerbated it as residents of San Francisco realize they can work from anywhere and flee the city and its problems.
But I’m supposed to have learned patience and trusting the path of awakening in the four years I’ve put into metaphysical studies, as I’ve been sharing on Trad-Man. So as the old bugbear of despondency began to bare its fangs, I felt an inner magnetic pull to a certain spot in my hometown of Santa Rosa. It was the spot where I ran Ivy Style for six months at the very beginning, before setting off for New York. Then, in 2009, wiped out by the recession but inspired by this new project, I stayed in a large and run-down apartment complex inhabited by those your aunt would refer to as Not Our Kind Dear. But while I was away the place had been bought by a property management firm and spruced-up quite nicely, the result of which was that the apartments were now more than double the price. But the manager said she had one unit available, and as I followed her across the compound, with each step I could only say, “Ah, but of course…” If you’ve followed my Level Up writings the past few years, and noted the Twilight Zone reference above, you can probably see where this is going. There were no vacancies anywhere in the county, save for the very same apartment where I’d lived 12 years ago. “You have a spirit about you,” the manager said. “And I believe in fate.”
So here I am: same place, different man. Below is a shot of me from the summer of 2009 on an afternoon down in San Francisco, a naive young pup imagining life on the East Coast with excitement and trepidation. It’s been my honor to have been an unlikely player in the history of the Ivy League Look. Someday decades from now, when future historians are telling the story of the style, they’ll say that in the early part of the century a guy from California launched Ivy Style just as the recession was sending him deep into crisis, and his running of the site during years of internal struggle and spiritual awakening are an integral part of the story of the history of the look. At least that’s how I’d like to be remembered.
Until then, there are still many stories to tell. We’ll get caught up on the news, and then hear from Professor Caplan and our young contributors. I’m easy to find, so reach out anytime. We’re all working from “home” now anyway. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD