As of this past February, I have lived the exact same amount of years in California as I did on the East Coast (New Jersey and Pennsylvania mainly). The twenty-six years I’ve spent in Northern California have perhaps softened my Jersey accent (I still pronounce coffee “cough-fee” though), and I’ve mellowed out somewhat over the years in a manner that is very west coast. However, there are some elements of California that I still really don’t understand or have not acclimated myself
The Weather. I grew up in the tri-state area around New York City and counted my years by the changing of four distinct seasons. Despite my husband’s insistence, that the leaves do “change” in the fall, there really are only two seasons in California–rainy and not rainy. or in some years “mudslide and fire season”. My first few years in California were spent like the transverse of the characters in Ray Bradbury’s short story”Summer in a Day”; I desperately waited out April until the end of October for some sign of rain.
Walking. Since I’ve only had brief forays to Southern California cities, I don’t know if this is a Northern California phenomenon. But people up here do not know how to walk on crowded sidewalks or at crowded events. Perhaps it is a behavioral drug that is slipped into the drinking water, but any person from the New York area knows instinctively that you guide right when walking down a sidewalk and you leave enough room on your left for the opposite traffic. And you let people moving faster behind you pass. Here in the Bay area, people stop and chat in the middle of walkways, blocking egress for anyone, walk four abreast, forcing people to walk around them awkwardly, walk anywhere in any direction at crowded events. Yes, this makes me sound like an uptight efficiency expert, but in crowded areas and streets, it works to guide right and let other pass.
Conversation. I’m not an anti-social curmudgeon. I enjoy meeting new people and talking. But this California habit of check out clerks, sales people and other strangers just randomly bringing up conversation with you still feels extremely odd. While I love it that you have two wonderful kids and you’re studying to be a psychic counselor, I really just want to pass a few pleasantries, pay for my groceries and go. And some of the candid information that’s disclosed by total strangers in a line to pay for goods, I wouldn’t even tell my mother.
Pizza. Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. California pizza is marginal at best, and horrible at its worst. Its as though New York and Chicago pizza went on lost weekend in San Francisco and had a horribly thought out love child. The crust is thick and bread like and the sauce is far too bland. And they slice it into portions that are sized to feed a mouse. And what isn’t bland is “artisan” and just a crime against humanity, with toppings that should never even hit a pizza My daughter though we were we just east coast snobs about pizza until we took her back east when she was 13. We went to a hole in the wall pizza place on 3rd avenue in New York City and she got her first slice of east coast pizza. It was almost as big as a baby’s head and right from the oven. She took one bit and said “Now, I know what you mean. I’ve officially died and went to heaven”. Case closed, California pizza loses.
I’ve accepted the cold Pacific ocean and I love being close to San Francisco and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. But while I may physically live in the Golden State, there is a part of me that will always be longing for Autumn in New York.