Yesterday, as I dragged my groceries up my driveway, a man in my neighbor’s driveway pulled luggage out of his Missouri license plated van. Before I could hustle my way into my house, the man hollered at me.
Him: Hey! What’s for dinner?
Me: That would be leftover spaghetti.
We both chuckled in that…and now what do we say? sort of way. And then, feeling kind of friendly, I went and did it…I continued with the small talk, rather than do the smart thing and head inside.
Me: Visiting from out of town, huh?
Him: Yup...and wow! You folks in Los Angeles have a lot of traffic.
Ah… no, no…please don't go on about the traffic, I thought. Then he continued on about how he could never live in California. He’d miss his seasons: snow, colorful leaves, blah…blah (I zoned out about then, thinking to myself… Ha! We have seasons. They’re just more subtle. And! I can - and have - sunbathed on the beach in January! Now, those are my kind of seasons)
Of course, every now and then, I complain, too, about Los Angeles. It's just another thing to do here...like ogling mansions in Beverly Hills and surfing. I whine about the traffic, the mini-malls, the Valley heat…but you know what? They're my city and state, so I can complain if I want to…but how dare Mr. Missouri come to my home and whine to me about it. And I would have said that, too, but I was too busy smiling and nodding my head.
I don't doubt that Missouri's a wonderful place and that the seasons are as exquisite as the California-maligning man said. Yes, it wasn’t just Los Angeles he complained about. He also said that he just came from San Francisco - where I grew up, where I skated in the parks, where I rode the muni, where I swam in the frigid Ocean Beach waters, and where my father taught me to drive a stick-shift on hills so steep I leaned back staring at the sky sure that I'd slide backward. Yep, Mr. Missouri just came back from San Francisco, and, well, as you can imagine, he could never live there. The reasons are too, too many. Though he did go on about the real estate prices, which I agree are ridiculous.
Him: Do you know what kind of spread you can buy in Missouri for $750,000?
Me: Oh, I can imagine. (But inside I was thinking…Yeah, great! A big house no where near the Pacific Ocean…no way!!!)
There I was, standing on my own little patch of California in my driveway, feeling defensive of the city I grew up in and the one I live in now. I felt like I did when I first moved to L.A.and a surfer I just met at the beach said, when I mentioned I was from San Francisco, “Oh, you’re from the land of fruits and nuts.” I felt kind of like I did when some kid yelled “your momma wears combat boots!” to me in elementary school. Don't you dare talk about my momma, my cities or my state…or…or…I'll...I don’t know, I guess I’ll write about you on my blog.
I don't know...I can’t imagine living anywhere but California. I've only threatened to leave at times, like after big earthquakes and the '92 riots, but when it comes to reality...I just don't think I could do it. Even my mother, who lives on a peniche (a barge) in the canals of Paris, sometimes wonders if someday we might consider living in France. All I can say is…”And leave the Pacific Ocean?” Even if I can't see it from my window...I know it's only a short trip away.