On my seemingly neverending wait for the subway late Saturday night, the overcrowded platform fell silent as a conversation between two women had escalated into a screaming fight.
Well, only one person was yelling, and she appeared to be either homeless or mentally unstable. Meanwhile, the other woman was laughing uncontrollably alongside her boyfriend, seeming to love riling up one of New York City’s many crazies. How original and funny, right? I doubt she would have been cackling and snorting had she been alone, sober, or not in the company of her significant other. If there’s anything I have learned growing up around hobos, it’s that engaging with them is the worst thing you could ever possibly find yourself doing in that scenario. The rabid, deranged woman continued shouting at the giggling female, who had an awful pageboy haircut and set of jet black bangs, until the train arrived. Upon hopping into the car, the short-haired woman began talking about why crazy people like that make New York a hilarious place to live. On one hand, the weirdos here are amusing (i.e. the crazy naked man who ranted on the subway). They can also be destructive and harmful, and using them for entertainment value to draw attention to oneself is not only cruel but unwise. The girl seemed to think it was hysterical that she laughed in the face of a lunatic. It’s all light-hearted fun until you get stabbed or worse.
Anyway, this same girl regaled several people on the train about her unusual altercation, adding that she has always felt like a true New Yorker at heart.
“I was born and raised in L.A., but both my parents are from New York, and I fit in better here,” she said. “As for the place of my birth, there was a cosmic misunderstanding.”
Having been born in Los Angeles as well, I know the feeling of displacement all too well. I’d like to think there’s nothing about me that indicates I spent the first nine years of my life in Tinseltown. Perhaps I have too high an opinion of myself, but I never identified with the city at all. Even as a child, I disliked my surroundings. I always believed that the smog, the traffic, the superficiality, the graffiti, and the lack of community robbed me of the childhood upbringing I deserved — that of my east coast cousins, all of whom I’d visit every summer. During trips to Boston, New York state, and northern Virginia, where I’d marvel at the size of my cousins’ homes and green backyards, I’d ask my parents, “Why can’t we live somewhere like this?” I wasn’t referring to the high quality houses, either, but the charm, tradition, kindness, and safety of their towns. My cousins rode yellow school buses to school while I was always strapped into the backseat of my dad’s Ford Explorer, stuck in traffic and late for class. Some of them could even walk to school. The vastness of California landscape made that impossible for me. Besides, even if I could trot 10 miles to my private school, the journey would have been unsafe. While my cousins had sports matches afterschool, I had to go to daycare because both my parents worked. Thankfully, my weekly ballet class gave me some variety, but daycare seemed to fill up the majority of my afternoons and evenings. As my cousins hung out with their neighbors, many of who happened to be classmates as well, I sat in my house and watched TV because my neighborhood was too dangerous for me to roam solo. It also wasn’t kid friendly, so there was little for me to do.
Thankfully, my family and I relocated to the bay area a little before middle school, and I believe I fit in best with northern California culture. As much as I love heat and eternal sunshine, I find few redeeming qualities in southern California. Practically everyone I’ve met there has serious psychological problems or entitlement issues. Just look at the douche-tastic characters on “Entourage.” I’d love to get into screen and sitcom writing someday, so I’m going to have to move on from my aversion to Los Angeles eventually.
Besides, as much as I don’t like southern California, it taught me more about life than nor Cal ever did. All the bullying and closed-mindedness I ever faced growing up took place in the bay area. I attended a diverse school system in L.A. and felt far more accepted and comfortable there than my mostly Caucasian schools in Scotts Valley, which isn’t exactly known for its diversity (the 2010 Census reported Scotts Valley’s population as 86.0 percent white). Upon seeing Scotts Valley for the first time in 1997, I turned to my mom and dad and asked, “Where is all the graffiti?” I actually convinced my parents to drive through the entire town twice in search of street art, which was completely absent in my new home. Floored, I said we had to move there, as I associated graffiti with gangs and was happy to be away from such roughness. While Scotts Valley was free of serious crime, it was as far away from the real world as you could get. Bored housemoms gossiped about everybody, teachers antagonized children and ganged up on the bullied, and wealthy kids harassed those outside their circle. I’d seen none of that in Los Angeles, where people had bigger problems than mean girls and over-privileged, disengaged students. A lot of the folks in L.A. were just trying to get home without being attacked, whether by family members, friends, or randoms.
Aside from some of the nastiness and small town ignorance I observed up north, I’d rather say I was born and raised in the bay than simply brought up there for the second half of my childhood. Even so, I know I made my world debut as an L.A. girl for a reason, so as much as I’d love to have been born in San Francisco or Santa Cruz, I’ll always be tied to smoggy Los Angeles, and there was no cosmic misunderstanding about that.