As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in Southern California. It’s always amusing to me, the reactions that you get from people when they find out. I never really thought about it being a big deal until I actually left California in 2009. I lived there for 29 years and now I know that I took it for granted. For people that have never visited California or have only been to Northern California or only to Los Angeles, you mention California and they picture something like what I have posted above. And in many cases, that isn’t far from the truth. Yes. Many parts of California, especially Southern, has lots of palm trees, beaches, beautiful sunsets behind the towering skyscrapers and plenty of mountains surrounding everything. But it’s also not 100% accurate. There are plenty of small towns, plenty of places with no palm trees and no oceans and tons of fog/clouds/smog covering everything so that you can’t see the beautiful sunsets. And then there’s also this:
And this, this is where I grew up. Antelope Valley, California. Right smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by the San Bernardino mountains. Where the temperatures sky rocket to 110, daily, in the summer and it’s not unheard of for snow to fall in the winter. Located about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles proper and at least 45 minutes away from a beach. We moved here when I was 9, to get away from the gangs and the violence and the drugs that were invading the San Fernando Valley where I was born. But regardless, if you live in California for any length of time and leave, you miss it. I’ve been back once since I left in 2009 and in two weeks, I’m going back again. I’m visiting Northern California to see my Uncle and cousin and I’m thrilled because aside from the fact that I miss them like crazy, there are others things I miss. Which brings me to my list:
11 Things That You Will DEFINITELY Miss When You Leave California Behind:
01) GOOD Mexican Food: Growing up in Southern California (and living in San Diego as an adult) you quickly become spoiled by the amazing Mexican food that is literally found on every corner. In fact, my ex-fiance and I made it a habit of trying as many different places as we could find and we discovered that the best Mexican food was found at the hole-in-the-wall type places that you usually think you’d want to avoid. Ugh. I could seriously go for a California burrito right now. Huge flour tortilla smothered with Carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, rice, beans, pico de gallo and topped with FRIES. Yum!
02) Ripe Avocados Everywhere: I LOVE avocados. They are basically a Californian staple. One of the best after school snacks my mom would give me was a slice of multi-grain bread smeared with avocado and a pinch of coarse kosher salt on top. And while you can still find avocados in the PNW or back east, you have to wait for them to ripen. This was unheard of to me. I’m so used to going to the store, picking up some avocados and using them that day. But nope. Not anymore. I know now to plan any dishes at least two days in advance. What can I say? We Californians are spoiled when it comes to produce.
03) Sandy Beaches: Because I lived in a desert, I didn’t exactly have easy access to a beach but my family went every summer and when we went camping, we often chose beach campgrounds. We’d have a blast chasing each other in the water, body surfing and running around the miles and miles of sandy beaches. We often ended the beach days with building sand castles, and boy would we have sand everywhere! Since leaving California I’ve come across maybe two somewhat sandy beaches. And when I asked about them I received incredulous looks. “You have sand on your beaches?!” One Washingtonian asked me. Oh yes. Yes we do. I can’t even imagine playing volleyball on these rocky beaches. OUCH.
04) Alcohol Freedom: I’m not a huge drinker but when I do drink I’ve always enjoyed being able to run across the street to Safeway or up the block to the gas station to pick up my wine coolers, beer, whiskey or champagne. It was just something you did and didn’t think twice about, so you can imagine my surprise when I moved to New Jersey and discovered what a “dry town” was. Ditto Washington, but only when I first moved here. My part of the state now has liquor in grocery stores and the like. But in the beginning, it was a huge shock to me that you actually had to drive 10 miles to the nearest liquor store.
05) Buses, Cabs, Trains, oh my!: In a large state like California, no matter where you are you usually have access to mass transit. Even in my desert town we had buses, cabs and trains and they all ran fairly late (cabs were 24/7) and decently priced. My town in Washington has buses and cabs but the buses stop by 8pm and there is NO Sunday service at all. Cabs exist and are actually decently priced but there are no trains in the area. When I lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania there were no cabs, no trains in the area and the buses stopped at 6pm. It was crazy!
06) Racial Acceptance: Now I’m certainly not saying that California is perfect. It’s not, hell no. But when I lived there, people of all races were pretty much accepted. (Religion is another story. Definitely experienced issues with that one) Which is why I was unprepared for the switch to the East Coast where I heard the “N” word being dropped on an almost daily basis. Children, teens, adults and the elderly, everyone said it and I visibly cringed when I heard it. You just didn’t do that in Southern California, or the majority of the state.
07) The California State of Speech: One important thing I learned after leaving California? We have an accent. It’s subtle but it’s there. The majority of us pronounce words like Canada or California as if they were “Keh-nada” or “Keh-lifornia.” It’s taken me a lot of time to stop doing that because otherwise, EVERYONE comments on it. Also, the amount of looks you get for saying “Dude,” “Awesome,” or “Rad.” I say all three of those and I say them often. Everything is awesome (like me, duh) and everyone is Dude. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female, you’re Dude.
08) Hey There Slugger!: Our nation’s pastime should really just be called California’s pastime. We love Baseball in California. That’s not to say that we don’t love other sports. We do. But we LOVE our baseball. And it makes sense. We have two of the biggest baseball teams in California. The Los Angeles Dodgers (GO DODGERS) and The San Francisco Giants (BOO, HISS). There’s nothing better than spending a day in the sun and cheering on your favorite team with a huge foot-long hotdog and a frosty glass of beer.
09) Palm Trees: They just scream California. Especially Southern California. Enough said.
10) The Rose Bowl: From raging football games to explosive concerts to ginormous flea markets, The Rose Bowl is a must for every Californian and so many of the greatest things happen there.
11) Freeways: Real, winding freeways seem to be a rarity unless you live in California. I mean, there aren’t many places where you see things like, well, THAT ^. But what’s amusing is when you say something like “So you merge onto the 3 and then merge slightly onto the 16.” Apparently it’s not normal to refer to a freeway as THE. Which is something we do everyday in California. “Oh yeah, just take the 405 to the 5 to the 14.” But here, it’s Washington 3, or simply, “the highway.”
One thing you won’t find on my list however, is In-N-Out. I think I’m in the minority with this opinion but I’m not a huge fan of them. I find their patties really small, the food is all terribly greasy and it’s boring to me. Apparently the best way to try them is “Animal Style” but I really dislike thousand island dressing, so I never have. I’ve never seen the appeal and would rather eat anywhere else than In-N-Out.
I guess we do tend to take certain things for granted in California. And it’s not something we mean to do, but it happens. I’ve definitely come to miss things that were “normal” for me and now I appreciate them even more when I experience them, so that’s one good thing. And there’s plenty of horrible things about California too: it’s way overpriced, the taxes are stupid ridiculous, the traffic is a nightmare, and smog is a real problem. And even though I still find myself missing it terribly from time to time, and even though I’m glad I made the move and got to experience different states and coasts, a part of me will forever miss California and will keep it tucked away in my heart. In the end, it’s my home.
What things would you miss the most if you left your home state/country? Or if you have left it, what things do you miss the most now? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!