November 25, 2006

Taking on the LBC

The city beckons, and I must respond. After a year in Orange County, it was time to move on. For a variety of reasons, I've crossed the line into Los Angeles County and moved to the city of Long Beach. Land of palm trees and gangsters ... trendy storefronts and urban ghettos ... California sunshine followed by heavy marine-layer fog. Ahhhh Long Beach ... the LBC. What the C means is a mystery to all but the inner circle of the gangster hip-hop culture where the phrase originated. The dispute continues on Perhaps only the Snoop Dogg himself could clear up the matter, but he long since fled his hometown ... so that he could rap about what a great time he had in the LBC.

So much drama in the L.B.C.

So, let me introduce you to my latest hometown. Actually, Wikipedia can probably do it a lot better, so follow the link to learn more about Long Beach:

Long Beach on Wikipedia

But for the lazy reader, here's the gist of it: Long Beach ... approximately half a million residents ... perhaps a quarter million coffee shops ... second busiest seaport in the U.S. ... one of the largest populations of Cambodians outside of Cambodia.

Looking down over Long Beach from Signal Hill.

An interesting side note: contrary to a name that might suggest otherwise, Long Beach is not well known for its beaches. In the 40's, the U.S. government built a large "breakwater" to provide a safe haven for it's Pacific fleet during World War II. Currently, however, the only known Axis invasion is the flood of Japanese students at Cal State Long Beach. The Breakwater, however, no longer serves any useful purpose, other than to kill the waves and create a lifeless squalid oceanfront. It's time to Sink the Breakwater.

November 15, 2006

Surf City and the ghettOC

Hard to believe it's been a year since I moved to California. And yet strangely it seems like it's been so long. Somehow I feel that I've always been here. Year One was spent living and working in Garden Grove ... deep in the bowels of Orange County. And I do mean bowels. Oh, I'm just kidding, Garden Grove ... you know I love the double G. But Garden Grove is certainly not the picture you might have of Orange County from watching poplar television dramas and "reality" series. Contrary to popular media, the OC is NOT just a bunch of rich spoiled kids living it up in extravagant mansions. Oh, they have their neighborhoods, but most of Orange Country is ... well, pretty far from glamorous.

So here's a simple project that will give you a better picture of the real OC. To begin with, find a piece of flat graph paper. Good, now you have a 3-D map of Orange County roads. Sprinkle glitter all over the paper. The shiny spots represent Asian restaurants and Hispanic markets. Next, cover the paper in yellow and blue paint. The resulting "greenness" has nothing to do with plant life, but instead represents the endless mix of residential neighborhoods and small local businesses. Finally, douse the paper in gasoline and light it on fire. The resulting fumes are the smog that drifts down from Los Angeles. Welcome to the real OC.

Watching World Cup action at the Korean market

Perhaps the experiment above failed to highlight one shining feature of Southern California ... the abundant supply of abandoned shopping carts. What says "ghetto" better than the gleam of sunlight reflected off rusty carts ... protruding from bushes, obstructing sidewalks, littering lawns and open spaces, left discarded and overturned in shame and neglect. In case you doubt the urgency of this phenomenon, the city of Garden Grove has set up a special hotline to report abandoned shopping carts. Reports are forwarded on to the city's "contractor for cart retrieval."



Fortunately, Orange County is also well known for its beaches. And with the coast only 12 miles away from home, beach visits were a popular Year One diversion. Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City, was the closest beach destination, and quickly became a favorite spot for biking, surfing, or maybe just taking in the cool breeze and warm sun.