T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Home is where one starts from.”
Last week, I ventured out to the West Coast to visit my first home in sunny California: South Orange County. I had been away from OC for nearly three years, so it was past due to pay my hometown area a visit.
Southern California will always be my first home. Having spent the bulk of my childhood in Orange County, one summer in Santa Barbara, and three years in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, I had a well-rounded SoCal experience spanning 21 years. But like every wide-eyed, ambitious young American out there, I realized I had to leave OC behind to realize my full potential. Now I call the Washington, D.C., metro area my home.
“Back Home” by Andy Grammer is largely the inspiration behind this blog post about my trip back to Orange County, CA.
These lyrics resonate with me the most:
See, we won’t forget where we came from
The city won’t change us
We beat to the same drum
And no matter where we go
We always find our way back home
I found my way back home, but only for a brief visit. Nevertheless, I’m still proud to hail from Southern California.
First and foremost, no trip back home is complete without a visit to In-N-Out Burger.
Thought I’ve eaten Five Guys on numerous occasions, it will never compare to an In-N-Out Cheeseburger and Animal-Style French fries. It was great to bask in this deliciousness with my childhood friends. Proud to be friends with future dentists, chemical scientists, and academics!
I also paid a visit to Wahoo’s Fish Taco in Laguna Beach with some friends to eat some quality Mexican-Asian-Brazilian cuisine. (If you haven’t eaten at Wahoo’s, go!)
Afterwards, I paid a visit to Pearl Street Beach and snapped this view. Gorgeous, right?
We also met up with some of our relatives in Dana Point. We walked around the harbor and reminisced about good times.
Admittedly, this visit to my first home was surreal. Perhaps I’ve been aware for too long or have successfully acclimated to East Coast living. SoCal felt slightly different since my departure in September 2012. The political climate and social scene are still the same–now more assuredly Democrat and superficial, respectively. Barren, dry landscapes were more readily apparent thanks to the Sacramento-created drought. The same whiff of snobbery I loathed was still omnipresent. And yet, the tranquility that emanated from the Pacific Ocean (ironic, I know) temporarily washed my qualms about California away. It was a perfect week-long getaway!
California was once touted as the Promise Land. Alas, the Golden State is slowly but surely losing its golden hue. Full Democrat-rule in Sacramento, big government policies, Hollywood, among many things, have adversely impacted my home state–causing her natives to seek refuge elsewhere. It pains me to see California fall from greatness.
As a native Californian happily displaced in the Washington, D.C., metro area for three years now, I felt like an outsider from the inside. Everything was simultaneously familiar and distant. (I bet many of you have had ambiguous thoughts about returning to your hometowns.) While I enjoyed my time back home, it made me appreciate applying my California roots to a higher purpose here in DC today.
Yes, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about my home state, especially SoCal. Rich, privileged, spoiled, affluent — all adjectives come to mind about SoCal. However, it had many redeeming qualities. Thanks for expanding my food palate, molding me into a beach bum, and making be a rebel with a cause, California!
For those of you who haven’t trekked out West before, listen to these songs to get a feel for California:
“California” by Kenny Chesney
“California Gurls” by Katy Perry
We don’t wear Daisy Dukes with bikinis on top, but we California girls are pretty unique. The Beach Boys did a great job of drawing everyone’s attention to that.
“Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
RHCP is arguably one of the best bands to hail from California, and this song is reflective of SoCal in so many ways.
“Hella Good” by No Doubt
No Doubt was formed in Anaheim, CA. It’s one of the best bands to hail from SoCal–especially from Orange County. For those of us from California, hella is slang for “good,” “hell of a lot,” or “very.” Though its origins are from Northern California, many of us from SoCal have adopted the term into our vernacular too.
“Holiday From Real” by Jack’s Mannequin
Andrew McMahon, lead singer of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate, spent a great deal of time in Orange County. His music is quintessentially Californian.
“California” by Phantom Planet
This song was popularized by the hit TV show, The OC. Though I never watched the show – I didn’t need a show to remind me about my hometown – the song stood out to me.
“Hotel California” by The Eagles
How can you be from California and not like this song? It’s a classic!
In Travels With Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck wrote: “The Pacific is my home ocean; I knew it first, grew up on its shore, collected marine animals along the coast. I know its moods, its color, its nature.”