This past week I experienced legitimate homesickness for the first time in my life. Granted, before now I have never lived more than 152 miles (door to door) from home. I didn’t feel homesick at sleepovers, sleep away camp, or traveling abroad.
Sometimes life just throws all kinds of bombs in your direction at once. I would like to think I can handle it, I’ve dealt with some pretty epic life bombs, but this week, I had a a few pity parties, I got a little nostalgic, I realized I felt like I wanted to go home because I was feeling…homesick. Check that off the list of life experiences. It made me decide to finish a post I started about the silly things I miss about a place that was my home for, well as many years as I am old, minus almost one.
I grew up in L.A. I never thought I would leave. But I left. I pioneered in the wrong direction. I packed up my car and went east. No one writes songs about going east…
I got to the base of the western slopes of the Rockies and thought, “Seriously, I still have to get through those?!” I made it. I ran out of gas once, but I made it.I have come to really love it here. I have also grown to really miss some absurd (and less absurd) things about Los Angeles. Thankfully I have most of my family and so many friends there, so visits back are a given.
If you aren’t from around those parts you might think it is weird how many things on this list have to do with cars and traffic, its just part of life there. If you are from L.A. and still living there take a moment to appreciate the things on this list. If you are from L.A. and you live somewhere else, join in my nostalgia and longing. And if you are from somewhere else…I ‘m sorry.
1. Real Mexican Food
It is probably slightly unfair that I have this on my list. I haven’t, to date, actually tried any Mexican food out here. I just can’t believe it will be as good. How can it be? This state doesn’t even share a border with another country. I long for tortillas made by hand right there in the tiny little store front when I order. I miss the really good restaurants. And I miss the ones where you are kind of playing Russian Roulette with your digestion, but it is so worth it.
2. Car Chases
A year or two ago on New Years Eve, there were a whole bunch of us getting ready to go out for the night. But then a car chase came on TV. We all watched it and had commentary and reactions and speculations. When the guy finally ditched the car and went on foot we knew it would be over soon and we would be headed out. It was kind of a communal activity. Every since that Bronco tore down the freeway, car chases are just a thing.
3. Flip Flops
When I first made this list there was still snow on the ground. Wearing flip flops wasn’t really a valid outdoor option. Although, I did wear them the day I learned to snowboard, not my best footwear decision, also not my worst. Recently I have been wearing flip-flops almost everyday. I just miss having them as a legitimate year round option. Even when it was raining and cold I wore them, but now freezing temperatures thwart phalange freedom.
4. Traffic (sig alerts)
I get that this is absurd. Everyone who knows what a Sig Alert is probably thinks I need to have my sanity checked out. A world without them?! Sounds miraculous, I know. I even thought so too when I first moved. For those of you that don’t know, a Sig Alert is defined by the California Department of Transportation as:
“Sig-Alerts” are unique to Southern California. They came about in the 1940s when the L.A.P.D. got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter, Loyd Sigmon, of bad car wrecks on city streets. These notifications became known as “Sig-Alerts.” Later Mr. Sigmon developed an electronic device that authorities could use to alert the media of disasters. Caltrans latched on to the term “Sig-Alert” and it has come to be known as any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours.
So why would I miss such a thing?! Two hours or more of traffic?! Yeah, its a thing. You just deal with it. You gripe and complain about it. Sometimes you make friends with neighboring cars. Knowing multiple effective alternative routes is a point of pride for Angelenos. It is a cultural identity in a way.
Again I know people might think I am crazy, but except for the big ones they aren’t that bad. The first time I missed an earthquake, my initial thoughts were to check in with everyone I knew nearish to the epicenter. My text to them went something like this: earthquake status check-in, you good?
I knew better, it was a tiny little 4 on the richter scale. The next time there was an earthquake, people texted me (it was the next day). The third one? I just felt left out. Name an earthquake that happened during my lifetime and I can tell you where I was. My two favorite were the Sierra Madre quake, I was home from school sleeping in my parents waterbed, that was exciting. Northridge? We had just gotten our hardwood floors redone and there was nothing under the wheels of my bed to stop the rolling, talk about an adventure. Really folks, I would take earthquake over most of the rest of the countries disasters, they come, they end, that is it. A few seconds of adrenaline and then on with life.
6. Predictable Weather (read: Weather that I understand)
My entire life, up until moving out east, I would look outside and know how to dress. I listened to the weather while getting ready for work more for company than actually information. I knew that in June I should wear a sweatshirt in the morning for camp, but by the time I had finished my coffee I would be glad to be in a tank top and shorts. Sun means shorts, wind means something warmer, gloomy means layers. And it usually cooled down enough at night to have an extra light layer. One day this past spring, I looked outside, saw sunshine and clear blue skies. I got dressed for such weather, walked outside, and promptly returned inside to dress significantly warmer. Oh and did you know that it can be 80 during the day and then suddenly it will rain?! The sun doesn’t mean warm, nor dry, nor predicable. I guess I am not just learning how to winter, I am learning how to weather outside of Southern California.
7. The Dodgers
My boys in blue. My brother made one of those crystal radios when we were kids. He would listen to the Dodger game in bed, and sometimes if I was lucky he would let me come in his room and listen with him. It was the only TV during the week I remember being allowed to watch. My earliest memory in life is Kirk Gibson’s home run, well actually it is Mom crying happy tears after he hit the home run. If you don’t know about this moment in baseball history please stop reading and go find it, immediately.
I have an audio clip on my ipod of Vin Scully announcing this moment, it brings tears to my eyes every darn time. Loving the Dodgers means having a great start to the season, only to have them break your heart after the All Star Break. But don’t worry, next year will be our year. It means getting stuck in Sig Alert levels of traffic to and from the stadium. It means the whole family takes the day off work and Mom and Dad take Brother and me out of school for Opening Day. It means Kirk Gibson, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully, Nancy Bea, The Ravine, it means home.
No one here seems to cares about my boys of summer, they have some other team they think is good, some of them don’t even know what Vinny’s voice sounds like. I cried once in college when I realized my future children will not fall asleep listening to him announce a game (this is why I have downloaded sound bites, my future children need to know the voice of this amazing man). I haven’t been to a Dodger game all season, this is perhaps a first in my lifetime. Thank goodness for satellite radio in my car and internet radio, because even 1,000 miles away, I can drive around, or fall asleep to the sound of my boys in blue.
8. The Worst Best Drivers
I don’t know what to say about us, other then, perhaps, sorry everyone else. We are the best drivers and the worst drivers at the same time. We possess a zen like patience for long drives stuck in traffic, there is no alternative, it is part of life. And at the same time roadrage is just a given. I learned to curse in multiple languages within a year of becoming a licensed driver. The other day, I had to fight every urge in my body to not brake check the jerk riding my tail, and when he zipped passed me, I sensed the California wave coming, and again fought the urge. Sometimes I let my inner driver out, but I have local plates now, and I feel marginally guilty (well, not really) about driving the way I want to. I would like to make one request though folks, do you think you could pull all the way out into the intersection while you are waiting to make a left turn, do you realize more of us could go if you did that? It is just the decent thing to do.
9. The Beach
I would never call myself a beach girl. In fact, I think most people who know me well will read this and say, “But Aimee, you hate sand.” I do. It gets on everything. I also hate beach parking, which really should be called lack of beach parking. But ever since moving to a land locked state, I miss the ocean. When I went back for a visit during Mother’s Day, I wanted to go surfing, I hadn’t done that since college. I wanted to sit on the sand and just drink in the beauty of the Pacific. When I had regular access to it, when traffic was a part of my daily life, and when my summer trips to the beach included the entire summer camp for which I was responsible, I did not like the beach. But now I am happy to go and visit, to get sand on everything, to look around for good parking, to people watch, and best of all to take in the vastness of the Pacific.
10. Oak Trees
I didn’t know I had a favorite tree. I love all the trees here. There are trees I had never seen before. I still can’t name most of them, but I am working on it. What I don’t see much of are those beautiful live oak trees that are just everywhere in Southern California, well all of California really. They just kinda speak to my soul I guess.
11. Food Trucks
They just don’t seem to be as much of a thing here. No random taco truck to stop at and get AMAZING tacos at 1 am. Oh, and there was a time when we lost power for like a week and a dozen the food trucks converged on one empty lot. There was music and such good food and it didn’t matter that I was getting dressed by lantern light and sleeping under every blanket I owned, and all the food in our fridges had gone bad. That ice cream, the one that had an entire breakfast of coffee, waffles, maple syrup, and bacon in it! Oh I could just die…
12. People saying “the” in front of a freeway names
Okay, here is the thing: it linguistically makes perfect sense that we place an article in front of the freeway number. Los Angeles, THE Angels. Spanish is kind of an influential part of the culture and identity, and articles are kind of a big part of Spanish (says the girl who speaks French). So I am going to tell you to, “take the 210, to the 605, to the 405.” And now that I live here, I am going to tell you something along the lines of, “take the 70, to the 270, to the 36.” I am not going to change, so learn to find it endearing and accept that it is culturally and linguistically appropriate considering my roots. Also, maybe Southern Californians will stop saying the when people from Northern California stop saying “hella”.
13. The Rose Parade Flyover
A stealth bomber flips a U-turn directly overhead my parents house twice in one day every New Year’s day. Enough said.
How am I supposed to know what kind of neighborhood I am in? What language is the dominant first language in this community?! Which sports team do they most support? Am I close to the brewery? Where the heck is the nearest In-n-Out?! When is the Ren Faire? What is the newest attraction and Disneyland/ Universal/ the Zoo/ the Science Center? Cross town rivals? Seriously Colorado, I am getting very little information on my drive…
15. Booze in the Grocery Store
Okay, I am learning to get over this one a bit. For a long while I thought it was incredibly annoying and stupid that I couldn’t pick up a bottle of wine with my groceries. Now, however, I am actually finding liquor stores to be a somewhat fun experience. I have also discovered that having to go to a liquor store is not an uncommon experience. I just kinda miss the convenience of getting everything in one place.
16. The Mountains are North
My ENTIRE life I have oriented myself to the mountains being to the north. There are hills in every direction, but the mountains, North. It makes for easy navigating (side note, I often give directions based on an assumption that everyone else knows what I mean when I say, “head north…” which is apparently not the case…Briana…). Sure, the ocean is always west(ish), but sometimes it is smoggy, or you aren’t near the coast, so the mountains make a good reference. Now, I live in this beautiful place, with the most beauteous mountain view right outside my bedroom window…my western facing bedroom window. Did I mention that to the east the land out here is flat, as in plains and prairie flat? It is a breathtaking, obvious landmark looking at the Rocky Mountains, but I often have to quietly remind myself that in this crazy place those mountains mean west.
17. The 605/10 split
Joan Didion wrote about this. The first time I had to drive it I considered getting off the freeway and taking side streets. I have often wondered who the heck engineered it. I can’t decide if they were clearly not a local, or such a local they knew it was the kind of thing that would become a rite of passage for other locals. Either way, twelve years after I started driving, I still get an adrenaline rush and feel a sense of accomplishment when I smoothly make the transition from one freeway to the other, especially if I don’t even have to tap my breaks. The two lane things they call freeways here (I know, right?!) just don’t provide the same experience.
18. My people
So more seriously, I love my life here, but I miss my people. Maybe y’all could move out here? Bring the Dodgers, and the food trucks, and a few live oaks, and some of the traffic out with you….