You’re Not From Around Here, Right?
As lifelong residents of Southern California, my wife and I have had our share of out-of-town guests who come to visit, see the sights, warm themselves in our year-round sunshine and immerse themselves in the renowned “Southern California experience,” whatever that is. Like most people, I would think, who have lived in the same community seemingly forever, we love experiencing all-too-familiar sights through the eyes of another.
While it’s always a kick to show these guests around and visit the usual destinations like Disneyland, Sea World, Knott’s and other must-see-but-only-visit-when-company-is-in-town spots, I had a realization this past week that most, if not all, of our guests over the years have been So Cal transplants who once lived here but eventually escaped to someplace with more seasons and less traffic. In other words, most of our guests are already quite familiar with all of our usual attractions, crowds, shirt-sleeve weather, etc. Their biggest “surprises” during a visit typically involve what buildings or businesses are gone, or – impossible as it seems – how our roads have become even more congested and how much longer it takes to get from point Azusa to point Burbank and beyond.
A couple of weeks ago, however, our Montana-transplanted son returned briefly for a delayed holiday visit home. He brought along “Kris” (who arrived as his girlfriend and left as his fiancé, but that’s another column for another time). Having been born and raised amidst the soggy but beautifully green environs of the Pacific Northwest, Kris had somehow managed to live to young adulthood without ever visiting any part of California farther south than San Francisco. No Disneyland. No Hollywood and Vine. No Venice Beach. Talk about your underprivileged childhood, right?
Kris arrived in Southern California with firm expectations of what she’d see – gleaned from watching countless movies and television shows supposedly set here.
During their visit, our son was eager to show off his home-town “highlights.” Over the course of nearly a week, by car and Metro line (again, another column for another time!) they managed to explore downtown Los Angeles, Union Station, Olvera Street, the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade route, the Griffith Observatory, Old Town Pasadena, the Santa Monica Pier, Hollyweird and the Hollywood sign (yawn!) along with various other points of interest, spectacle, shock, awe and enlightenment.
Kris’ first and overwhelming reaction to seeing our immense county up close and personal was to marvel at how far apart everything is here. Upon returning to our home after yet another day of sightseeing and traffic dodging, she commented repeatedly that the media “lie” about everything being nearby. She had no idea that “the beach” is nowhere near a majority of local Southern California communities. Work your way from Knott’s in Buena Park to Six Flags in Valencia? Sure, if you’ve got a few extra days to kill. “TV makes it look like you leave downtown L.A., go a couple of blocks and you’re in the middle of Hollywood!” she exclaimed. “It’s not true at all!”
Not surprisingly, Kris wasn’t often impressed upon seeing many landmarks with her own eyes that she had previously only seen through the skilled (and skewed) editing of the various media. On her last night in Southern California, in fact, we watched the first episode of the new season of American Idol, during which the contestants who make it past the judging panel are told with great fanfare and feigned enthusiasm, “You’re going to Hollywood!” When the first talented contestant of the show that evening was given the good news, I heard Kris comment under her breath, “Don’t get all excited. It’s not that big a deal!”
On the other hand, while she visited our dear Southland, we did manage to treat her to not one, but two of our infamous hours-long freeway police chases and one SWAT hostage/standoff.
Now I just have to figure out how to arrange a minor earthquake for her next visit.
I’ll see you ‘round town.