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Into the light

February 20, 2010

I enjoy winter in the OC. I grew up in the Sacramento area and I hated the cold, the fog, the fact that no matter how much time or hairspray I would use on my hair it would still frizz, having cold hands and toes all the time, and that it’s just pretty darn ugly up there. Now, my folks still live up there and some wonderful friends, so I’m happy to go visit once or twice a year–but you couldn’t pay me to live there again.

In the early 90s, I decided to go for a job promotion with my soul-sucking pharmaceutical company and move to their headquarters in Summit, New Jersey (that’s a promotion?) to work in the sales training department. I wanted OUT of Sacto and as a single young woman, this was a great opportunity. The money was amazing, the relo package outstanding, and even the fact that I was moving in the dead of winter (January) did not deter me one bit. I will never forget the feeling of entering Newark airport, in the winter of 1992, cigarette smoke swirling around me so thickly I can hardly see OR breathe, snow falling heavily outside, nobody waiting for me except a driver with a sign–and I thought wow, this is going to be a very different life for me–and thank God. I was ready for a complete and total change and moving from one coast to another was about as different as one could get while still speaking the same language (or so I thought: “Excuse me, do you speak Jersey?”*).

So, it was interesting living back there and definitely an adjustment. I really had NO idea how to drive in snow and ice…one doesn’t learn that growing up in Sacramento proper. Don’t get me wrong: living in snow was beautiful when I could stay in my cozy house and just look at it. But my only experience driving in it, prior to my move, was one fraught stormy afternoon as I set out for Reno to see my then-boyfriend whom I hadn’t seen for a month (forever in that infatuation stage). Four hours, chains, ragged nerves and one completely freaked out boyfriend (this was pre-cell phones) later, I got there and it was sooo worth it at the time. (Of course we broke up but ah, young love. But that’s a whole other story.) Driving in east coast weather like that was very scary…mostly I carpooled, like the chickenshit that I was, with other members of my department who had lived there most (or all) of their lives and knew what to do as the car skidded and careened on ice. That’s some scary shit right there.
Point is, living on the east coast is like being a soldier–always on the defense. You have to wear all these crazy layers of clothing just to go outside to get your mail or buy milk at the corner drugstore because if you don’t, you will get frostbite. Oy, the layers! Never have I felt like the Michelin tire guy or Pillsbury dough boy before until I moved there. The problem is that you put on all these layers to brave the cold just to go the five feet into a store or your work where the HEAT IS BLASTING so much that if you don’t get all those layers off quickly, you will melt like Wicked Witch of the West. And of course, my hair would still frizz.

Also, you have to drive so carefully because Jersey drivers are clearly fucking nuts. If you switch on your turn indicator to signal that you want to move over one lane, in JERSEY that does not mean what it means everywhere else in the universe. In Jersey, switching on your turn indicator means to the car behind you, HURRY UP and CUT ME OFF (if you are from Jersey, you are laughing knowingly at this because you totally know this is true). They will also flip you off as they pass you for daring to enter their lane. (Note: L.A. drivers suck too, but I don’t find them quite as aggressive. Californians will let you in for the most part AND even give you a little wave- one that can, though usually does not, involve their middle finger.)

I did love getting to know NYC. I had been a few times prior to moving there but really got to know it after my move. Interestingly, I met my husband-to-be just three weeks after moving there, another California transplant (he’s from Pasadena) who was living on the West side, right by Central Park. JP had been living there for eight years, so he knew the city extremely well and I felt much less intimidated by that sprawling concrete island. I will never forget our first date, where, though terrified, I took the train into Penn station where he met with a rose and a smile; took me to a fabulously romantic little Italian place in the village; a Broadway show; and the now-shuttered Tavern on the Green where we made out like a ship going down. Good times. He proposed three months later and we married five months after that. No, I wasn’t pregnant.
For a few years, we commuted between my townhouse in Bedminster & his NYC apartment on W. 64th St. It was tiny but amazing. Madonna lived in our building (saw her once in the street with her limo and bodyguards–she was very quiet but she looked tiny and fierce). So did Carol Kane (from “The Princess Bride” an all-time fave movie of mine) and Harry Smith (from CBS News, nice, TALL). Ate at Shun Lee West (unbelievable food, GO THERE!) a lot; in fact, actor John Goodman opened the door there for us once (he was very polite and very BIG); saw supermodel Linda Evangelista sans makeup–tall stick that my husband still calls ‘the nose’ though I think she’s beautiful–with Robin Leach–who was VERY LOUD–at a great Japanese place called Fujiama Mama (no idea if it’s still around but it was a great people watching joint).
I finally tired of the icy winters after ’95s horrendous storms; more people died that winter along the east coast than had in like, the previous twenty or two hundred years or something. You could say goodbye to your sidewalk in December; you wouldn’t see it again until March or April. I remember the Northridge quake had hit L.A. around the same time and scared the bejesus out of my younger sister, who was attending college at the time. Luckily she and her roommates where unharmed but her school, a small Jewish college called Lee College at the time (which I referred to as “jew school” because that’s just me–hey, we’re Jewish, s’cool) suffered major damage. So, that’s when I decided I wanted to move to Southern California. Hey, I weighed my options: death by ice or death by earthquakes…if I have to go, I want to be warm.
And that’s how we ended up in the OC. I took a transfer (back out as a rep to the Newport Beach territory–not where I live, where I worked, but still…I know) out of the cold and back into the light. I really don’t miss much about the east coast, I must say. I do miss having Broadway at my feet (shocking fact: most of the Jerseyites I worked with had NEVER been to a Broadway show and some had never even been into the city! “The crime! The dirt!” OMFG. Unbelievable.) and fabulous museums, restaurants and bars at my beck and call and all within walking distance. However, I now live within walking distance (1/4 mile) of the ocean and a multitude of great beaches and awesome Mexican food any time of the day or night now so really, I’m quite happy with the trade off. Plus, we now have two children so there’s room for them to run and jump and play, and sand and ocean and…well, let’s just say that winter in the OC is fabulous. True, Southern Californians have NO IDEA how to drive in the rain so that pretty much sucks but I DO, so that helps. My February now looks like the pic you see above.

We recently sold our house and are renting a much smaller home closer to the beach. Like everyone else we know, finances are tight. But it’s all cool. It’s totally worth it to stay where we are. I feel blessed to live here–the ocean air is good for my skin and hair, even if it does cost me extra money to have a keratin conditioning treatment applied to my hair…but it’s totally worth it because my hair FINALLY does not frizz any more.

And I can wear flip flops and a tank to pick my kids up from school in the winter…unless of course it’s raining. Then I add a hoodie.

To follow me on Twitter, come to @rachelintheoc. You can also follow me here or subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog.

*Jersey talk: draw=drawer; pocketbook=handbag or purse; purse=wallet; wallet=what men carry; sneakers=tennis shoes; pop=soda; you can’t get there from here=our roads are so fucked up we don’t have u-turns or left turn lanes or overpasses so there’s no place to turn around–so if you miss a turn off YOU ARE FUCKED.

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