Over the Christmas holiday we visited California to spend some time with family. It was my first time setting foot in the state since we lived there. We rode out in late 2007 after a two-year bid yelling expletives out of the car window, flipping off the strip malls and subdivisions. Getting back to Chicago could not have come quickly enough.
I was bitter when we left. Angry at the boorish, snotty people we encountered, frustrated with trying to maintain a status quo that wasn’t in my DNA, sick and tired of defending my choice of work when I was “just so bright!” And the driving? Oh, the driving!
All of California fell under my wrath after our move back to the Midwest. My eyes flared when speaking about our time there. I told anyone who would listen that the state should fall into the ocean (saving my mother-in-law and dear friends who still lived there). I spoke about the Bay as if the metro area itself had personally stolen my dog and sold him to canine-eating miscreants.
Most of our issues were centered on where we lived: a small, very rich city on The Peninsula. Bet it won’t take you long to figure out which one. While we both had great jobs and lived in a beautiful apartment, we had difficulty making friends (minus Javiera mi amorcita linda, I know you’re reading this) and the emotional expense of being away from our Chicago family and folks wore on us. Combine that with the loutish people who inhabited our little town and the dollars the California lifestyle requires and it was a recipe for Get-Megan-Outta-
Dodge-The-Bay-Area by the end of our first month living there. OK, maybe that’s extreme. The fifth week. Summer in December was nice, after all.
When I touched down at LAX the day before Christmas Eve I looked around at my surroundings and sent a quick text to a girlfriend: “I remember why we left.” I don’t even know what prompted me to send that text. I mean, airport people are airport people, let’s face it: no gate in any terminal in any airport in any city in the good old U S of A highlights our best and brightest, least of all Chicago’s own O’Hare. Why was I being so snotty? Because I just am?
By day two in SoCal I was sending a very different text to the same friend: “I love it here! Why did I leave again? Its seventy-fiiiiiiiiive degreeesssss!!!!!”
$40 per round cocktails at a rooftop lounge in Venice had undone my disdain in minutes.
I remembered that I liked LA. I spent six weeks there for work in 07 and didn’t want to go back north: a total shocker for a lefty-somewhat-granola-boho-ish-type-girl who had been force fed the idea that the Bay was the epicenter of the liberal universe and LA a hotbed of plasticity. I found the inhabitants of SoCal kind and smiley, people who actually speak when you pass them on a sidewalk. I fell in love with the weather. The thrifting goodness didn’t hurt either. Had The Mister’s job not required him to stay up north, I would have lobbied for us to move down to Los Angeles immediately.
It was, like, twenty degrees in Chicago. I didn’t hate California, I just really, really, really disliked that small Northern town. It wasn’t really fair for me to direct my aggression at the whole state. I was drinking a beer on a rooftop in DECEMBER. How can anyone be mad at that?
Walks in the mountains, a day trip to San Diego to visit one of our favorite couples, lunch in Beverly Hills, a tour of the gorgeous grounds of the college my mother-in-law teaches at… it was a really good few days. I won’t be so long in going back this time. As long as I’m not made to go up north.
Until we meet again. Oh, California.