A place unlike any other place

[I wrote this sort essay as a sort of thank you to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. It’s a difficult thing…how do you maintain public safety at an event with no structure, no leaders, and with everyone in disguise? This year they hit it just right. Visible but not overbearing. A part of the community. Thanks for a great Halloween.]

I arrived in the Bay Area on July 26, 2004 after a month-long, meandering cross-country trip from the East Coast. Once we were here one of the first major tasks was to buy a house. But where?

My agent, based in Burlingame, showed me houses all over the Peninsula. We looked and looked. Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City, South City, Pacifica, on and on. We looked in Half Moon Bay. Nothing was quite right. Looking through the listings on my own one day I saw an ad for a house in a place called Montara. We had never been there but went the next day.

I liked what I saw. At last a place that didn’t look like every other place. At last a place that looked like it had evolved over time rather than being chosen out of a catalogue by some aesthetically challenged developer and then built all in one day. It was near the ocean. I would be able to walk out my door and know immediately that after moving nearly three thousand miles that I wasn’t in Idaho or Maryland, or Ohio.

We didn’t buy that particular house but we bought another soon after. And though we bought near the height of the last housing bubble I quickly came to realize that I would have paid more if I had really understood how wonderful—how magical—Montara really is.

I had anti-buyer’s remorse.

The first thing I noticed wasn’t the dark skies, where on a good night you can see the Milky Way. It wasn’t the hiking on Montara Mountain, which I do almost every night. It wasn’t even having a beach to yourself on most any weekday. The first magical thing I discovered about Montara was the costumes. Oh, and the candy.

You see, we got the keys to the house on October 31st. We had heard, of course, of the “big” Halloween from locals—but we were moving from a more urban area and thought “how big could it possibly be?” Montara is a tiny little dot. Then night came on and we went out. The roads were filled with people, all dressed up. Houses not just elaborately decorated but designations to experience—A Witches House with a hundred intricately carved pumpkins, a sort of circus, a haunted ship, several walk-though haunted houses. Of all the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people out that night my wife and I were the only two adults not wearing a costume.

I love were I live. I love Montara. Every day is special, every night is special, and Halloween may be the most special of them all.

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