The question keeps popping up.
I hear it from friends, from colleagues and from Sun-Star readers who've noticed my columns in the paper once again. Even Tom Frazier chose to mention it in his Sun Dog column.
What they're all asking is stunningly simple:
Why am I coming back to Merced?
Never miss a local story.
"You're living in a fairy tale village on the Scottish coast," a pal might say. "From your back patio, you can watch dolphins leaping in the sea.
"You're also a soccer nut living in a country where it's a religion, and you can see your beloved team in person.
"You're not going to make a fortune returning to Merced County, that's for sure, so...why?"
What's more, I'm just a few hours from the magnificent Scottish capital of Edinburgh -- one of the world's truly unique cities -- and an easy commuter-jet hop to London.
From there, just about anyplace in Europe is as simple as a Californian visiting Vegas.
And yet ...
I'm coming back to Merced.
There are some family considerations involved. Without going into unhappy details, my sister up in Contra Costa County is not well.
We have no other family besides her husband, so hopefully my presence nearby will give her both a boost -- physically and emotionally.
But believe me, I'm not looking at this return to the Central Valley as some sort of penance.
Just this morning, I fiddled through some boxes and found a copy of the goodbye column I wrote as sports editor of the Sun-Star.
That was almost a year ago, I was saying "adios" without any idea when I'd ever see you again -- and I mentioned that a huge part of my heart would always remain in Merced.
It was true then, and it's true now.
Former Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta brought me aboard as sports editor in June of 2006, and I can honestly say I loved every day in the job.
Yes, even when some people disagreed with my opinions, I felt fine because columnists express their thoughts -- at least in part -- to make sure there is a public discussion, and that folks think matters through whether they happen to share my views or not.
And now I get to have the best of both worlds.
Sun-Star Executive Editor Mike Tharp and Managing Editor/Sports Editor James Burns have agreed to let me write columns about both general news and sports -- how cool is that?
I've done both at different points in my journalism career and consider myself qualified, but I've never worked the two tracks at the same time.
Yet here I have a shot at it in a place I love -- an area I'm thrilled once again to call home.
Will I miss my friends in Scotland, Italy and elsewhere?
But that's why Wilbur and Orville invented airplanes.
I'll still get around, believe me -- and a magazine director phoned just this week to see if I'd like to cover soccer's World Cup 2010 next summer in South Africa.
For now, though, I want to see all the familiar haunts and smiling faces I remember in the Valley.
So ring me, blog me, get in touch.
Let's talk, or grab a latte or play some golf.
Despite what a famous author once suggested, you can go home again.
And it feels wonderful.
Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist for the Sun-Star.