OR Dude in CA

Back home in Southern California this weekend visiting family.   I left the area in the early 90’s to move up to the greener pasture of Portland.  Not a native, me, but I’ve been in the Northwest long enough to know what’s what.  Coming back to CA, I’m always immediately reminded of the things that I love and hate about my native state.  First off, there’s something about the Orange County air.   Down here near San Diego, it’s pretty pure.  But up in Orange County, it has a smell and taste that is an odd mixture of sea breeze with a slight tinge of pollution.  Disgusting, maybe, but it reminds me of my childhood and makes me nostalgic.

What’s not so great about this place is its deep-seated addiction to sprawl.  If you need to go anywhere, you’re looking at at least a ten minute drive – probably longer.  There are sidewalks here, but nobody uses them.  You can’t, because chances are you need to get from Irvine to Orange or Lake Forest, and it’s not your feet that are gonna get you there.  There’s also no real public transportation to speak of.  It’s about 90 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego, and the entire stretch is developed (with the exception of some natural areas set aside for a military base).  That’s 90 miles of nothing but houses, gas stations, and strip malls.  When I was a kid, there were lots of orange and avacado groves dotting the landscape.  They’ve all been paved over.

I used to live near a town called Brea.  There was an awesome old downtown area.  The buildings were all from the late 19th/early 20th century, and gave the area a much-needed connection to the past.  Unfortunately, the Brea city council decided to tear down that section of town and build a mega-mall.  It’s that kind of thinking that makes me realize I don’t belong here anymore.  Looking to the future is great (but really, what kind of future is a town chock full of the latest and greatest chain megastores?), but there should also be a connection to the past, and Orange County seems all to willing to forgo the latter in favor of the former.

That said, there are positives.  The people are much nicer (and generally more intelligent) than Oregonians make them out to be.  The weather is fantastic.  There are some great places tucked away, if you know how to find them (Newport Beach’s Goat Hill Tavern and Captain Jack’s in Huntington Beach are but two examples that come to mind), and people here know how to drive on a freeway (I love you, my Oregon brethren, but the left lane is simply not where you want to be if you’re driving under 60 MPH), you can pump your own gas, and buy a bottle of booze without an over-imposing state regulatory agency screwing up the price and selection.

Still and all, though, I’m happier in Portland.  There’s a sense of community there that you just don’t get down here.  And the beer is much better in Portland.  By leaps and bounds.

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