I love California. I do. Or maybe I should say, I love what I’ve seen of it. Though I grew up in the Golden State, most of my homeland adventures have taken place in the sunny south, in good old Southern California. Maybe that’s short-sighted, but I have everything I need or want right here. Amusement parks (Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags, Universal Studios, Legoland), endless miles of semi-to-mostly-clean beaches (don’t feed the seagulls!), a varied climate (where else can you be in a desert, mountain, and beach, all in the same day?), and enough shopping experiences to sustain me for life. Where else can you see a C-list celebrity chased down by photographers while sipping a Frappuccino at the mall? Nowhere, I tell you!
(Universal City Walk)
(Big Bear Mountain)
(This old cabin in the mountains is where they shot some of the old Frankenstein movies. It's very creepy at night, especially when you're 5 and the adults are trying to scare the crap out of you.)
In all seriousness though, that’s one of the best aspects about living here. Not the fame mongers, but the diversity within our people. Outsiders joke all the time about “those crazy Californians,” but I tell you, those crazy dreamers are what makes living here so damn cool. People come here because they want to be here, because they want their part of the California dream. We are made up of an amalgamation of people, from all countries and all walks of life, from the movie producers, to the snake charmers and body builders down at Venice Beach. We’re like the embodiment of the Island of Misfit Toys, but we revel in that fact, and embrace being the polka-dotted elephant in the room (I don’t know why I’m referencing a Christmas special, but just go along with it, or Rudolph will be sad. You do have that movie in the UK, right? Otherwise, I’m making myself look crazier by the second…).
(Culver Studios, one of the filming sites for "Gone With The Wind")
Anyway, I figured I’d tell you a bit about what it was like to grow up in my hometown of Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach is located in the northern part of Orange County (please, I beg of you, never listen to anyone that puts the “The” in OC), and has the honor of being called Surf City, USA. I’m serious-surfing is king here. Growing up, everyone and their brother owned a surfboard.
We have a surfing museum, a surfing walk of fame, and even surfing teams at the high school. Seriously, surfing and academics. It’s just a major part of life in Huntington Beach. Even if you don’t surf, you are always surrounded by the culture. You may take a walk down Main Street, have some grindy breakfast at The Sugar Shack, buy some new flip flops at Jack’s Surfboards, then continue on to the beach to take in the scenery (by this I mean both the waves and the hot surfer boys).
(Surfing Walk of Fame)
The beach is the focal point of life in HB. Nothing beats staking out a fire pit and hanging out with your friends and family in the evening, roasting your weenies on clothes hangers and eating chips coated with sand. Really, it’s awesome.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the pier. The pier! We have an awesome pier. Okay, it has been washed out to sea several times, twice just within the 1980s, but still, it seems pretty secure now. Or so I tell myself. If you’ve even been into a Hollister store (don’t get me started on Hollister), you’ll be familiar with our pier/beach cams, which are projected in Hollister stores across the country. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll see some dolphins or a shark while you’re at the end of the pier, and if you don’t, it’s just a really lovely walk, with a ‘40s diner at the end (get a peanut butter malt, trust me).
On a clear day, you can see Catalina Island, and the skylines of Long Beach and Newport.
(Mission San Luis Ray, one of the 21 original Spanish missions)
As much as I love my home state, I'm glad I got the chance to live in other places. As great as it is, it can be like living in a bubble (especially if you are living in LA or OC), and you don't realize how different things are until you go elsewhere. When I was in elementary school, if kids would get upset with each other, they would yell, "I'm going to sue you!" I didn't think anything of it at the time, but that's probably because I didn't know what that really meant. Now that I'm older, and have had long periods of distance, I realize how crazy that sounds! You're inundated with all of these images and ideas all of your life, but you often don't realize it while you're here. I ended up moving to Michigan for my high school and college years, and it made me aware of how strange California can seem to people everywhere else. When I was in the Midwest, my sister bought me a subscription to Orange Coast magazine, one of the OC lifestyle periodicals. Thumbing through it, I counted literally dozens of plastic surgery ads, sometimes three or four to a page! I had to think to myself, was that what it was like when I grew up there? Living out of state really made me think about how image-obsessed Southern California is, and while all of the images may be sleek and enticing, they also set such an impossibly high standard for people to live up to. I guess you've got to take the good with the bad, but it's easier to get some perspective once you've stood on the outside.
(Hotel del Coronado, San Diego (where they filmed "Some Like It Hot"))
Okay, that sounds like a downer, but California is actually pretty amazing, in spite of its flaws. I love how there is always something to do, no matter where you are. You can hang out at the beach, head to the mountains to so sledding, check out nature preserves in the desert, go to outdoor movies, have your choice of concert venues, shopping, you name it. Everything is pretty much a day trip-you can go to San Diego for lunch, head down to Mexico for a margarita, head up to L.A. for a convention, of check out the U.S. Open of Surfing (if you aren't stuck in traffic). The weather is almost always beautiful, but if you love a good thunderstorm, you're in the wrong place.
(Twilight Convention in L.A.)
So, please come check out California. We welcome accents. Hopefully, you'll totally love it. After all, we are the home of the Happiest Place On Earth :)
(On a side note, all of my British friends seem to want to go to Florida. No! Don't go there. It's full of mosquitos and senior citizens. And yeah, it has Disney and Universal, but so do we. Plus, our beaches and movie scene are better, not that I'm biased or anything. *whispers* Come to California). ;D
Thank you Krystal for an amazing post!