Weekend Assignment #234: It’s a good thing

This week, Karen poses a pretty simple question – perhaps deceptively simple:

Weekend Assignment #234: Tell me one good thing about the area where you live (city, town, or whatever). It doesn’t have to be the best thing, just something that’s in the plus column for you.

Extra Credit: How could that good thing be even better?

It’s easiest to tell people I live in “Southern California” or “the LA area” without being overly specific. It’s amazing how many small niches make up this metropolis; drive a few miles down one street, and you can pass through four different little cities (in many cases, actually glorified oversized neighborhoods), and each of them has its own character, architecture, and even geography. (Oh, and you’re still on the same street, by the way.)

One funny thing about living here is that places you’ve never been before can seem instantly familiar. That’s because you’ve probably seen them in movies or on TV. I didn’t realize until I’d been here for some time just how LA-centric popular entertainment really is; unless there’s a story-related reason for a show to be set somewhere else, it will probably take place in Los Angeles. I guess that helps the writers to “write what they know,” and makes location shooting much more convenient, but as a non-native, I really feel that it overstates the city’s importance. It feeds that California-dream image that makes people want to come here (and complain about it once they’ve been here awhile – oh, wait, maybe that’s just me), but an image is just what it is, and it gets manipulated in lots of ways. It can be fun, if a bit distracting, trying to identify where something was filmed, especially when it claims to be somewhere else. For example, Tall Paul and I enjoy watching 24, but its depiction of LA cracks us up sometimes – Jack Bauer zooms from one area of the city to another in fifteen minutes, when in real life those places are 25 miles apart. On top of that, there’s never any traffic and he always finds a place to park the car right away – story considerations aside, those two details alone make it obvious that this show is total fiction.

I’ve gone totally off on a tangent here, but I’ve actually been wanting to talk about that for awhile. Besides, I’m stalling while trying to come up with something less obvious than “the weather” or “the beach.”

Another reason I say “the LA area” is that I live outside of LA proper; I don’t even live in LA County. (I think the LA Moms Blog is stretching their boundaries by letting me play with them – lucky me!) But that’s one of the best things about my Ventura County suburb – location, location, location. The attractions of the city are within reasonable driving distance, and so are the beaches, the mountains, and the desert, should you want a change of scenery. At the same time, we have those suburban perks, like big supermarkets and ample free parking.

What could make it better? Less traffic, or at least better roads and traffic management. (Oh, and better drivers.) I was actually serious when I mentioned reasonable driving distances; what makes driving in these parts so exasperating is the time it involves, which is usually longer than it needs to be because the roads are just too darn crowded.

What’s one good thing about where you live?

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  1. I think it was my friend Robin who once told me, “Wherever you want to go in L.A., it’s always forty minutes away, regardless of the distance.” It does sound like loving in your outlying small city has definite advantages to being in town.

    My mom lived in San Bernardino in the mid 1970s, and that was a little too far out for convenience. She made me promise to stay off the freeways when I borrowed her car to drive to L.A., and it took two hours of hairy, frustrating driving. I called an told her that surface streets were no safer, and got permission to take I-10 back – in half the time!

    Thanks for starting things rolling on the Weekend Assignment!

  2. Don’t forget, you can brag about the celebrities that you see. “I had lunch with Harrison Ford. Well, not with, but he was there.”. That type of thing.

    Don’t forget about the weather or the beach. 🙂

    It would be near to see where scenes were filmed. I can also see how the traffic would get to you. I hate traffic.

  3. Karen H – Thanks for visiting! And that is very true. My husband grew up here, and he’s always trying to identify “real” locations in TV and movies.

    KFB – I know several surface-street alternatives to my normal freeway commute route, but I agree they’re no safer. Tall Paul actually thinks they’re worse, since you have traffic going in multiple directions. And half the time, freeway traffic’s not moving at anywhere near the speed limit anyway.

    I’m conflicted about living in the ‘burbs. I’m conflicted about the fact that I don’t WANT to like it, but most the time, I actually do.

    Mike – I almost never manage to have celebrity sightings, but that is a good point. If I DO ever have lunch with Harrison Ford, you’ll hear about it first :-D!

    We stopped at the beach yesterday on the way home from my mother-in-law’s. It definitely IS a perk here, as is the weather – which was nearly perfect this weekend!

  4. I’m fortunate to live in a very beautiful place. I don’t notice it as much as I should, but if I look at Santa Monica through the eyes of a visitor – really looking around and noticing the mountains and ocean and clear skies and all that great stuff – I see that it’s a lovely place. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more aware of the bigger things around me. I know I’m prone to getting lost in my own world of thoughts and ideas and projects, just driving from place to place with my eyes on the traffic lights and not much else, but every now and then I’ll be at a stop light and I’ll notice a snow-dusted mountain in the distance and it will take my breath away. I’m working on having more moments like that when I appreciate the beauty of where I am. Thanks for reminding me of this, Florinda!

  5. Anna – Sometimes I have the same experience, especially driving along some of the more open parts of PCH and seeing the ocean; then I remember why people want to live out here.

    I’d really like to spend more time around Santa Monica, though.

  6. It’s the capital city (of Canada), so it’s got a ton of museums, galleries, theatres, etc. What I like best about it is its size. It’s so manageable, on a human scale. I live in a very quiet residential area, but I can (and frequently do) walk downtown, it being a mere 4 or 5 km, and much of it along a very nice footpath beside the canal. You can walk from one side to the other of the downtown in 45 minutes.

    Some people complain it’s dead at night, but I’ve never been a night owl. The 2 a.m. bar closing is quite late enough for me!

  7. April – Family being here is one of the biggest reasons why I’m here, too.

    Ilona – I would love to live in a city that’s so walkable. Meanwhile, Ottawa is on my list of places I’d like to visit. (I was there for a few days when I was about seven years old – we had some distant cousins living there – but I don’t remember much about it.)

  8. I actually responded to this post the day you posted it but then my computer froze and I couldn’t send it. 🙁 I haven’t given up though!

    I often use L.A. as a location marker for my own city when trying to explain to people where I live. Most people haven’t heard of my city. Just the same, I don’t consider my city as part of the metropolis that L.A. is. Riverside still has a bit of a rural feel to it, I like think. Although you wouldn’t always know it by the traffic on the freeways. 🙂

  9. Literary Feline – You live in the opposite direction, but it’s a similar situation. Simi Valley is definitely the ‘burbs, but there’s still a lot of farmland and undeveloped open space in Ventura County, so it feels a bit removed from LA – yes, till you get on the freeways :-).

  10. I looooove Ventura. If you can’t live in Santa Barbara, Ventura is the next best thing. The mission, the beach, the access to the Channel Islands. I can just wander about all weekend and find something really neat to do.

  11. Kiva – I WISH I lived on that side of Ventura County; I’m just over the hill from the San Fernando Valley. But I love Ventura too, and am always happy to head over that way to spend some time.

  12. What’s one good thing about where you live?

    Didn’t think I would still be here 20 years later…the accessibility to family has kept me here.