East vs. West, Beast vs. Nest

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The title has nothing to do with the blog today. Well, part of it does; the part about “East vs. West” … but the other part just popped in my head and it seemed catchy, so I decided to use it.

When do you think things will stop “popping,” “banging around,” “knocking around,” etc. in my head? Probably never. It’s why I wake up in the middle of the night singing the “Alleluia” chorus from Sunday’s Mass. On Wednesday night. I know, I just need to let go of some stuff.

On to the subject at hand.

I have now lived in California for 2.5 years. For those of you who don’t know my background, I was born and raised in Queens, NYC and loved the city so much that when I went away to college, I only went as far as the Bronx. I easily could have commuted from home to school on a daily basis but I felt it was time to move on and the parents were probably glad I made that decision. After I got married, we moved to New Jersey (and when I was growing up in “the City” you didn’t even talk about New Jersey no less move there.)  Actually, over the next 35 or so years, I did grow to love the Garden State. I hate Jersey Shore because it is so not like the Jersey Shore. And don’t ever say “Joisey” to me. I go ballistic.

Well,  when I moved clear across the country, it was a huge change in my life. I’ve come to realize that my moving here has also become a huge change in many Californians lives as well.

I have to go back to the cooking thing again. I had twelve for dinner on Labor Day Sunday. I made food for 50. Apparently West Coast residents don’t eat the way East Coast residents do, but I’m working on getting them to adapt. I don’t know why I thought that every person would have one each of a hamburger with crimini mushrooms in a red wine reduction and/or caramelized onions, a chicken breast, a pulled pork sandwich, orzo with roasted vegetables and green salad. Oh, and bread and butter. Dessert? Not one, but two chocolate cream pies, raspberry bars and brownie bites.

All of the women who came combined didn’t weigh 100 pounds. We had fun talking about the weather, decorating, Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and chick flicks. The men spent a great deal of time (even though they are all in their mid-60′s) talking about their exercise regimes and the Glory Days of high school. It’s what I perceive as the West Coast mentality and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Living close to LA, Hollywood is usually the lead story on the news here because it is the biggest industry in the area.   I find that men from California are much more into the physical activities of their lives but that could be because of the weather and the fact that you can do so many more things here than in the east.

Now, if this were a dinner in my old ‘hood, the women’s combined weight would have been closer to 200 pounds, they all would have been swapping recipes, the conversation would have centered around family and what to do about them and the men would have been talking about the Yankees/Mets, Giants/Jets, Knicks/Nets depending on the season. And golf, when and where they could play again. Or why they don’t play golf.

Then there’s the east vs. west weather thing.

 It is almost always perfect here. Really. All year long, it averages in the 60′s and the summer is dry, not humid. I have seen exactly two mosquitos. My geraniums bloom twelve months. This summer wasn’t great, but compared to what was going on in the east, it was spectacular. I find, however, that my new friends don’t know how to deal with rain. Really. I was in CVS one day during the “rainy season” (which consists of one month where it rains for more than three or four days. God forbid it’s in a row; people start building arks.) Well, here I was in CVS standing on line at the check out and the woman behind me was on her cell. Apparently there was some event she was supposed to go to on the weekend that was more than two miles away. (That’s yet another thing. I got Black Beauty at the end of February and it has less than 3000 miles on it. Yet I drive almost everywhere. Can’t figure that out.) Well, Ms. California was all atwitter about the weather. I heard her say (and this is  a direct quote!) “Well, if the weather is like this on Saturday, I’m not driving over that hill!”  Huh? are you taking a covered wagon? Are we talking Pike’s Peak here?

The only other conversation that comes close to the CVS dialogue was one overheard at  one of the outdoor Arts events in Laguna Beach. It had literally spritzed for about ten seconds. Really again. Most of the ground wasn’t even wet. One of the artists said to another. “Were you okay in the rain? Did you have an umbrella?” Well, it was all I could do to not scream “It’s water falling from the sky, people! You will  not melt!!! A comparable conversation on the east coast would have been “How many feet of snow did you get?  Did the snowplow guy show up after a couple of days to dig you out?”

Finally, there’s the traffic thing. I have yet to figure out when rush hour is here and which way it is heading. In the east, you could pretty much know that everyone would be heading east or north in the morning and west or south in the afternoon around 5 or so. Here I have spent countless hours sitting in traffic when I thought I’d missed  the height of volume, only to go a day or two later and wind up sitting in the same kind of traffic that I was in going the other way at the same time of day. My absolute biggest pet peeve, however, is the rubbernecking thing. In the east, unless there is a body lying in the road in front of you, you barely tap the brakes to see what’s going on. I once crawled one mile in bumper to bumper traffic for a period of 25 minutes because someone driving an exterminating truck with a giant bug on top had pulled off onto the emergency lane to take a nap. Californians don’t slow down, they stop to see what’s going on. It. Was. A. Bug. Truck.

When all is said and done, if  I could just learn to cook less or get my friends here to eat more, educate the neighbors on the nuances of water in the atmosphere and teach them how to drive like they are cab drivers in NYC my life would be perfect…but it’s pretty near that right now anyway.

What have you  noticed in your travels about “opposite” lifestyles?

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