Heading back to East Coast a long, strange trip for columnist

YOU'RE NEVER coming back from there.

That's what everyone told me nine years ago. Family, friends, colleagues, they all presumed what everyone presumes when one moves from the cold, dirty, crusty East Coast to the sun-drenched, easygoing, mild-mannered West Coast.

"San Francisco?" I was told. "Yeah, right. You'll miss the snow in the winter. You'll miss the humidity in the summer. You'll see the Golden Gate Bridge, and it'll make you nostalgic for the Harbor Tunnel. You'll hate the Pacific Coast Highway because it can't hold a candle to I-95 on a holiday weekend. Man, you're out there to stay. You're never coming back."

I have to admit, it was a convincing argument. I left in the summer of 1995 to write for the San Francisco Chronicle, and, at the time, the idea that I would ever come back to this time zone - much less to The Sun, within snarling distance of where I grew up in D.C. - seemed preposterous.

At the last get-together with my friends (most of them classmates at Maryland back in the days of Lefty and Boomer) nine years ago, the idea got more preposterous as the night went on. The sense that my move was permanent was growing with every emptied bottle, glass and plate of Buffalo wings.

"Let's see, you're going to see the 49ers every week," one friend pointed out. "You'll be watching Young and Rice and Deion, going 14-2, playing until January, 70-degree playoff games at Candlestick Park. But all the while, you'll be dying to come back and check out the Redskins. Guess you'll just get tired of covering Super Bowl parades, huh?"

"Uh-huh," another chimed in. "We'll see a Super Bowl parade in Baltimore before we see you out here again." That brought roars of laughter.

"Yeah, the big rally in the brand-new, state-of-the-art downtown stadium."

"'Cause, you know, teams are running over each other trying to move there. The NFL can't wait ... " He couldn't even finish; he was almost choking.

"But you might luck out," someone else blurted out. "By then, there might be a ticket available for an Orioles game."

"Yeah, a ticket. For the last-place Orioles. Sometime in the 21st century, one single ticket available at Camden Yards. Let us know a year in advance so we can get it for you."

More loud guffaws. Heads at other tables began turning our way. The restaurant manager shot us a dirty look.

"How 'bout this?" another friend said, ignoring the dirty look. "Steele comes back to town just in time for us all to go see Maryland in the Orange Bowl." The whole table hollered. My sides were actually starting to hurt.

"That's right. ACC football champion Maryland Terrapins."

"Ahead of Florida State."

"Top-10 team."

"OK, OK, OK." Another friend was trying to keep a straight face. "Then, then, we go - then we go see - the basketball championship trophy."

I briefly lost consciousness on that one.

"Yeah, we'll all go to Cole Field House - "





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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