I was prepared to move to Los Angeles. It is, after all, just another city. I have lived in cities up and down the East Coast. I have lived in London. In many ways, Los Angeles is simply another major metropolis, with wealthy people eating in the hot new restaurant, homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks, and a whole lot of people in between shopping at Target.
What I was not prepared for was moving to California. I never really thought about it until we got here. I would become a West Coaster, three hours behind my friends in Washington, D.C. and twenty degrees warmer than my friends in Massachusetts. My frame of reference would change, and there would be no more talk about the 95 corridor or jokes about exits off the Jersey Turnpike.
This weekend, we drove to Fresno for the first night of Passover. It is about a four hour drive, although with J driving it does go a little faster. J’s cousin and aunt live up there, in a part of California referred to as the Central Valley. Angelinos tend to scoff at it, but Fresno is a quiet city with people just like any other. I have come to find that most cities are that way, with the most important variation being the noise level.
Not so with states. Regions of the country, parts of the world, I have found, have widely varying rhythms, landscapes, and economies. These last are what most fascinate us. We love to ponder major industries and how areas sustain themselves. Not that there was any mystery at all on the way up to Fresno.
California is a farming state. Not a farming state like other places I have lived. Virginia and North Carolina will call themselves farming states, and I have driven past my fair share of cows in those places. But, there is a difference between spending twenty minutes passing small farms with grazing cattle and spending three hours driving past factory farms of cows packed into giant pens and eating hay through the bars of a gate. There is a difference between hills of tobacco fields taking up space between Richmond and Charlottesville and the flat, endless fields of grapes, awaiting their moment to become raisins.
The landscape is different. The economy is different. The air is different. I go about my day to day business, but I feel like I am making a wrong turn at every corner.