This isn’t your usual comparison between LA and NYC. We’re not talking movie stars and masters of the universe or beach bunnies and fashionistas or the Yankees and Dodgers. Those comparisons been covered quite well by numerous insightful writers and bloggers. This post targets those under the radar differences in how people live on both coasts. For context, my in-laws are in Temecula, ninety minutes southeast of LA and I visit them every summer. So through my Jersey-bred Guy’s Guy lens, I’ve spent the last week studying the day-to-day nuances of the people and the area. Here are my findings on the nuances between the two coasts.
Oil and Water
In most cases, these two liquids don’t mix. But in SoCal they’re fundamental resources that drive the economy and lives of the vast population of this sprawling state. The highways are jammed with gas guzzling vehicles at all hours across the myriad highways woven through the mountains, plains, cities and beachfronts. For the most part, the vast terrain is stained brown and parched except where developments have been built and landscaped. All the foliage needs constant hydration to counteract the impact of an ever-blazing sun. Without oil for transportation and water for hydration, this state is cooked. Back East, we don’t see the importance of these resources in the same way. We have the option of mass transportation. And, the ravages from flooding far outweigh the infrequent dry spells. In SoCal, drought is the norm. There have been rumblings about privatizing the water supply since. If the water supple continues to dwindle, watch these closely.
Old vs. New
In SoCal, you constantly see land being cleared and vast, new developments being built. In New York, it’s all about gentrification and the re-re invention of neighborhoods throughout the boroughs. What was once a ghetto is now a million-dollar listing. In New York, old becomes new. In SoCal, everything is new except those off the beaten path, barren and forgotten small towns in the valleys that look like they were built in the seventies.
The Ubiquitous Taco
In Manhattan, if an establishment serves decent tacos, it gets a write up in the coolest city-centric blogs and publications, lauding its creativity and authenticity. In SoCal, there is a Mom and Pop taco shop or chain store situated on every other street corner. And most of them still beat the pants off any Mexican food you can find in the Big Apple. The inverse is true for pizza and bagels. They’re great in NYC and for the most part still fall short in SoCal. Go figure.
Advantage SoCal. Chains like Sprouts and Roots are light years ahead of Whole Foods and the small health food stores permeating the city. The produce is fresher, bigger, tastier and far less expensive. I bought a gluten-free tuna wrap the other day for three dollars. I did a double take on my way to the register, thinking the sandwich dude had messed up. But, no, the cost was one-third of what I pay in NYC or Jersey. In fact, all the food in SoCal is way cheaper than in New York. But with the exception of mahi-mahi, the seafood in SoCal is in no way comparable in quality or taste to what we get on the East Coast. Go figure.
Stores and Service
Let’s face it. Everyone in New York who works in retail hates their job and most of them let you know it. Who hasn’t dealt with the grumbling, grunting retail employee whose idea of friendliness is a curt “no problem” when you ask for a bag to carry your groceries? In SoCal the vibe is looser, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Yesterday the check out guy at Ralph’s in Temecula looked at my San Diego Padres baseball cap and exclaimed, “Cool hat!” I wondered if he was talking to me. After all, the Padres are the local team. Does anyone say this when you wear your Yankees cap in New York? The other night I ran into Albertsons to buy ice. The check out guy looked at my paper coffee cup and said, “Ah, having a late night cup of Joe?” People just don’t say things like that to you in New York. As innocuous as this comment is, it would feel intrusive.
Another example of the differences—my wife and stopped by a local Coffee Grind at 9:15pm for a decaf lattes. The Place closes at 9:30. We’d had not been there in a year. However, the owner told us we looked familiar. Then he gave us one half dozen doughnuts that he was planning on tossing. And they were really good. A bonus example: I called Sports Authority to find out the stores hours. The place was closed. Yet, someone answered the phone. “Sports Authority. Hi, this is Eric.” Never happen in a New York minute. I chalk all of this up to the fact that unlike in the hectic grind of New York City, people in SoCal have more time to be friendly. Another cool thing. The supermarkets sell wine and booze and most have banks under the same roof. And for some crazy reason, despite the non-stop, scorching sun and baking heat, the tanning salons do quiet well out here. Go figure.
In New York, pedestrians usually seek out the sunny side of the street. In SoCal, drivers keep their eyes peeled to find a spot in the shade. What the heck do you call those silver and black mats drivers prop up against their windshield to block out the sun? Go figure.
In SoCal you can hop in the car and be in the mountains, the beach, golf or gambling within an hour. Technically you can also do this in New York, but the Catskills are not six thousand feet high, as far as I know. And my beloved Jersey Shore is not Malibu. And the number of accessible and affordable golf courses in SoCal dwarfs New York. And all the Indian Reservations in SoCal are less seedy than Atlantic City or the dumps in Queens.
Sounds like your Guy’s Guy is contemplating a move west. Maybe. But despite all of its crabbiness and dirt, there really is no place like New York. There is a passion that permeates the air, the energy and everyone you meet in the five boroughs. Hell, even the guy flipping pizza on Carmine Street dough has attitude, gravitas and a few stories to tell. I’m an East Coast guy through and through, but I do love the So Cal lifestyle and with each trip out west I find more to enjoy about it, despite things that seem weird to a New Yorker. Go figure.
Is your vibe East Coast or West Coast?
This week’s Guys’ Guys of the Week are all the people who love New York and SoCal and find the joy wherever they’re at.