10 1 / 2012
Dear reader(s), as I sit here writing this post, grateful that my coworkers don’t realize that I have spent the last three hours reading reviews of organic Asian-fusion restaurants I’ll never be able to afford and wikipediaing 1980s sitcoms (how did I miss out on The Hogan Family), I am coming to the sad realization that New York may not be the city for me. Well, actually, it already isn’t; I live in the freakin’ suburbs. That technicality aside, though, I have discovered a concrete reason why I should not live in NYC. Among the hours spent reading non-work related materials, I saw an alarming article about how giant mutant rats have the potential to infest all five boroughs. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In contrast to the excessive amount of capitalized letters and exclamation points in my previous sentence, no, I am not being an overly dramatic teenage girl. It’s no secret to those who know me that the tiniest of vermin scare the bejeezus out of me. One of those little black rats that run along the subway tracks could mug me and receive far less resistance than an offensive lineman armed with an AK-47. However, I’m not even talking about those little bastards. Remember that enormous weird species of rat they had to kill with a pitchfork in Brooklyn (what, you don’t know? you mean you’re not obsessed with creepy and horrifying stories about rodents)? Well, the same species, the Gambian pouched rat, was recently found in the Bronx. Guess what “true” New Yorkers and all who mock me for living in Westchester? Shit’s ‘bout to get real.
Although my family is currently dealing with a fly infestation and I risk getting sticky trap tape in my hair every time I reach for a box of Waffle Crisp, at least those suckers aren’t as big as a human toddler and spread monkey pox! Decision to live at home validated!
Truth be told, my brother once saw a mole in our basement, which sent me running for the hills…even though I was away at school in Massachusetts. I need to move farther away. I need to find a new city, a new coast free of all species of rodents, vermin, and the like. I must go to CALIFORNIA.
Cue my mental montage! Turn up The Mamas & The Papas “California Dreamin’” and cut to me skipping along a beach, jogging over the Golden Gate Bridge, and surfing in the Pacific… stop the reel! No one would believe I’d have the upper body strength or balance to stand on a surfboard (yup, it requires both of those physical abilities-I speak from experience).
My inability to surf aside, I am not stopping my California dreamin’ for two seconds, even though I have already been informed that there are still mice and rats there. You see, I have returned from a magical vacation in California (or perhaps you have not seen since I haven’t quite figured out how to upload photos from my iPhone). Although the original intent of this trip was to watch the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, I was lucky enough to travel throughout the great golden state. Even better, I conducted my sojourn while mostly avoiding Los Angeles!
Now, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now (and thank you! thank you! thank you! whoever you are; I owe you lots of chocolate and/or beer), might be thinking “Emily, you just get huge crushes on every new city you visit! Get a hold of yourself, geography-floozie!” Okay, maybe I do… just a little bit. However, I must admit that although I was, and still am, completely charmed by Madison, it is difficult to picture myself living there year round, or specifically between mid-November and April. Yet, I felt I could groove to California’s rhythm year-round.
A few problems with that statement. One: “groove”? Why do I keep talking like I am in a Partridge Family episode? Two: I keep referring to California as if it is this homogenous, confined space that I have thoroughly explored; it is pretty much the opposite. As I have already indicated I don’t like LA, which could partially be explained by the fact that a race riot tends to break out whenever my mother or I visits. Three: it is really, really hard to “groove” to California without a car to drive around the ginormous state. Public transportation isn’t so much a thing there thing as much as freeways. Actually, California may be the worst state possible for a 22-year-old girl without a license to live in.
HOWEVER, those issues aside, I am still in a Cali afterglow. It certainly did not hurt that I was picked up at SFO by one of my best friends who had “California Gurls” playing in her car. She says it was by chance-I say the divine was sending a message through the radio. And the trip only got better from there. Here is my highly abbreviated list of delightfully cool and awesome things about California, or specifically the Bay Area, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Pasadena:
-Fantastic frozen yogurt. After a toe-curling drive down Webster Street (the streets in San Fran are terrifyingly steep but also fun in the hands of good drivers aka not me), we had delicious fro-yo. Not only was it delicious, but it was healthy-probiotics and all that other good crap that I assume is totally absent from my beloved Tasti D-Lite. A few days later in Pasadena, my entire family become converts to the cult of frozen yogurt after discovering a chain that would take an entire slice of cheesecake and deliciously mix it into your own frozen yogurt flavor. Needless to say, we were mystified.
-Dogs. Here’s a not so shocking reveal: I’m usually kind of afraid of canines-not the same kind of fear that giant mutant rats inspire, but some visceral reflex causes me to tense up around pooches of all shapes and sizes even when my head is telling me to just hug and cuddle them. Well, dogs are EVERYWHERE in California. There was not one family I visited that did not have a dog, and lucky for me, they were big, gentle dogs that could smell my fear but chose not to exploit it. California gets bonus points in my book not for the sheer amount of dogs, but for making a dog lover out of me. I even held a dog, a white Pekingese, in my arms for the first time! Yes, I am nervously laughing in the photo, but laughing nonetheless with my new friend Peek Peek. Unfortunately, you can’t hear my friend Andrea shouting “Hold it normal! Like a baby!” (She knows that I was raised in a house in which humans fare okay, but we’re frightened of and confused by every other species). My one big regret from my trip is that I did not adopt Peek Peek like the people of the Castro animal rescue shelter encouraged me to… but then I think of my mother’s would-be reaction, and I know it was the right one.
-Alcohol. From any random paragraph of this blog you’re likely to figure out that I loves me some giggle juice! To quote the great San Diegan Ron Burgundy “I love scotch. Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch.” Guess what? In California, you can buy Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch at the supermarket! It is incredible, mind blowing, earth shattering to walk into a regular old supermarket and see aisles and aisles stocked with all of the Kahlua, Smirnoff, and Bacardi your little lush heart could desire. No wonder the people here are so tranquil and happy! Don’t even get me started on BevMo, a supermarket filled entirely with liquor! Genius! In New York, I have to schlep my ass to the Trader Joe’s in Union Square just to get two-buck chuck-and I still have to walk next door if I want to buy some food to line my stomach before a swig.
There’s also a refined side to drinking in California (and a not-so-refined side—-check out The Silver Peso in Larkspur if you want to know that part). The state is famous for its wines, and oh boy, I got to enjoy them. The best day was driving around Sonoma in a Toyota Sienna with five wonderful women, spanning three generations, and getting tipsy on sparkling wine by 11 am. Oh, if only I could spend the rest of my days in such a fashion! Any place that encourages day drinking in beautiful surroundings is a modern day Garden of Eden in my book.
-Even cities that aren’t as awesome as the rest of the state usually have multiple Inn-N-Out Burgers. Ladies and gents, I am hear to preach the gospel of Inn-N-Out, even as someone who can’t actually eat the burgers. I am of the kosher persuasion, and although I had heard of Inn-N-Out’s greatness from far and wide, I was not ready to break ancient rules for it, though perhaps I should have. My 90 minutes in Los Angeles were lovely due to the fact that most of my time was spent in Inn-N-Out. Even the grilled cheese there was highly pleasing because of the Special Sauce. I am starting to think that the Special Sauce has a little something extra in it-like a sprinkling of crack cocaine-because it took an otherwise uninspiring bun with lukewarm American cheese and questionable slices of tomato and onion and made it delicious. So delicious, in fact, that my father insisted on ordering a second even when Ethan and I had a flight to catch. An Inn-N-Out trance could have caused us to miss our red eye, and with hindsight, I can say it might have been worth it.
-The people. I know all the really cool and slightly cheesy commercials for California depict how awesome and talented the residents are… excluding the presence of Kim Kardashian, these commercial are not really lying. Of course, I am biased because I was visiting one of my very best friends and then visiting family friends, the kind of people who would have been understanding when my dad fell asleep and spilled champagne on their couch even if they weren’t from sunny Santa Barbara. Still, even the strangers I encountered were warm and kind. The morning of the Rose Bowl was a low point, mainly because it involved the highest concentration of Shire family alone time. By the time my brothers and I had made it out of the hotel and were looking for breakfast (our father has abandoned us for the Rose Parade), we were at each other’s throat. When we finally settled down enough to pick a restaurant and sit down, our waitress informed us in a very kind and helpful voice that we were so stressed, we were stressing her out. A cloud of shame descended over the New Yorkers. In all honesty, she wasn’t trying to be mean, and she told us what we needed to hear, “You’re on vacation, it’s 80 degrees outside, your team is playing in the Rose Bowl. Dude, be happy.” And we were.
Even considering the many, many things that I have left off my list because I am too lazy and eager to eat the cheesecake waiting in my kitchen, I have to be honest with myself and come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t be able to claim I’m a California Girl any time soon-at least not until I get my license.
So yeah, not any time soon.