I recently wrote about how I was torn between two “homes”: SoCal and NYC. Having just spent a bit of time in “the OC,” I have refreshed my memory for comparisons. How do they stack up?
I love being able to walk out my door and hop on a subway. The idea of having a driver any time you want, via the ubiquitous “yellow sharks” is also great. (Last fall, a father pulled his kid on the sidewalk having spotted a taxi speeding toward the intersection and called out “yellow shark! yellow shark!” and this has kind of stuck for me.) Of course, it’s not all roses, but I do like being able to rely on my feet and public transportation to get me where I’m going.
The only good public transport in OC is in Disneyland. As Jeremy notes below, you are judged by your ride in SoCal. Yes, this is very superficial, but if you like cars, it’s hard to be too critical of a car culture. It’s fun–if slightly harrowing–to be able to go out for drinks and pull your rental between one of these and one of these. And driving along PCH with the windows down and the radio up is one of my favorite things to do in the world.
Sorry, SoCal wins hands down here. As spring rolls around, the air there (at least along the coast) is scented with the smell of flowers and sea breezes. As the cold melts away, New York smells less appley than what Dinesen might suggest is the ultimate fate of Shiraz.
Ruined by Buffalo’s cheap housing, New York came as a bit of a shock. We had expected the housing in SoCal to be, at least in comparison, more manageable. It’s true that rents have remained stable (I think the rent at the apartment complex I used to live in has grown only by inflation–if that–over the last two decades), the cost of buying a home has doubled in the last nine years. Great for people who bought houses in either NYC or SoCal–not so good for those of us who hope to someday buy one.
And what about those spaces? Obviously, the housing stock in SoCal tends to be much newer, and that which is older is not usually old enough to be of interest. While San Diego is offering “real” lofts (unlike the ones that are created specifically for residential from the get-go) New York offers loft-living that often comes without the creature comforts. Like walls. A friend was offered a rental that, literally, was missing a couple of exterior walls. Very bohemian, no? Nonetheless, even though it’s impossible to afford anything more than a shoebox, if you care more about the livability than the number of square feet, I think Manhattan has to win out here, if only by a hair. Though the idea of walking out the back door onto the beach in California is appealing, there are very few opportunities to actually do that.
4. Stuff to do
New York is the center of the universe. It really is. There’s plenty to do in SoCal, but you better like the stuff that’s there, because it isn’t changing much, while in New York, all you have to do is wait five minutes. I grew up as a mall rat, and many of the malls in OC really are more commodious and entertaining than their east coast brethren. But, hey, they are still malls. How much shopping can you really do?
Um… duh. Even during earthquake season, this is a no-brainer.
It’s pretty funny: the generally-held opinion in Southern California is that New Yorkers are at best brusque, at worst rude. New Yorkers seem to think Californians are superficial and vapid. And guess what: they’re both right! At least a little.
I have a strange feeling that both of these stereotypes are shaped largely by the culture of table service in both cities. In my experience, servers in OC (perhaps less so up in LA) are either very professional, very friendly, or both. They think of what they do as a service, and they grew up being exposed to this as a service. Is it fake? Well, yes. No doubt, they would rather not be working right now. But unlike in New York, they won’t tell you this.
And I don’t mean just fancy restaurants. Go into a diner in New York, and the person who waits on you will bring you your food, and generally do a pretty good job at it. But don’t expect them to be happy about it, and certainly not obsequious. Go to IHOP in HB, and your waitress will be friendly, and even if it is her job, I think the smile is in some way genuine.
I was startled by people saying hello on the street in California. That’s not to say that people ignore you on the street in Manhattan. Perhaps because we have a big dog, we are used to talking with people on the street. The last time we went to Fairway, on three occasions people gave their unsolicited opinion on my food selections. But especially at night, you pass too many people to bother to acknowledge them. If you are out on foot in California, there is probably something strange going on, so a disarming “Good evening” is in order. On the other hand, if you tell the person next to you at the deli counter that they should get more ham, you will probably be considered rude.
I do think that you are judged by how you look more often in SoCal than in New York, but what is seen as unnecessarily gruff in one place and superficial in the other is really, I suspect, a difference in vocabularies of interaction rather than anything else. Being bi-coastal-lingual can be a real advantage. This may be colored by reading Eastern Standard Tribe on the ride back, but it seems to me that the cultural differences between the coasts are deeper than our language and nationality would make immediately obvious.
Perhaps it is my innate optimism, but I like both places a lot. I like them enough to overlook their flaws.