July 24, 2011

Becoming Californian

I can't help it.

I'm a suburban girl.

I didn't even really grow up in the suburbs, having been raised in a relatively white middle class residential neighborhood of a small city, but having attended decidedly city schools and having ridden the city bus to work in the city's decidedly rundown downtown.

But I also worked at the mall in the 'burbs, ate special occasion meals at fast food joints and other casual dining chain restaurants, and stole lawn ornaments for summer entertainment.

Living in London, New York, and now LA has not taken the suburban girl out of me.

Fortunately, LA is the perfect combination of cosmopolitan city life and suburban sprawl.

I find myself drawn out here to strip malls - not just because that's where you can find the best Thai and sushi restaurants - and the nether reaches of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, those towns whose zip codes technically place them outside of the city of Los Angeles (though technically even my neighborhoods, straddling the West Hollywood / Beverly Hills border, aren't even in LA either).

This weekend, I returned to Glendale.

I returned to Glendale to do what you cannot do in the nearest suburbs of my hometown of Syracuse: I returned to Glendale to climb a mountain.

A small mountain, but a mountain nevertheless.

The trailhead to the Beaudry fire road in the Verdugo Mountains is in a nice residential neighborhood of Glendale, near the country club.

It's not well-marked, until you get up a bit further and reach a juncture of the North and South motorways.

I went north.

There weren't many wildflowers left, and most of the lush green of the rainy spring has begun to turn its annual summery brown.

Hiking up the wide, dirt fire road, I realized that this six mile hike would not be easy, as one might expect in the suburbs. I was not in the San Gabriel Mountains. I was practically in Burbank. How hard could it be?

But the climb was unrelenting, and although the North motorway provided much more shade than the South motorway (which I took on my way down the loop), and although the breeze was cool when I turned around to face the landscape below, chest heaving, head aching, eyes burning, I almost didn't make it.

I missed the turn to the South motorway, and took myself about a mile out of my way. At nearly six miles, this hike did not need an extra mile tacked onto it.

But I finally made it to the summit, a locked, gated, fenced in area of radio control towers, despite being chased for miles by a bumble bee, and dodging the buzzings of various dragonflies and hummingbirds above.

And gazing on the city below - the much smaller city adjacent to the behemoth city of Los Angeles - I didn't consider the boundaries of where I live and where I do not live, what this place is versus that place. My life is not just about Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, LA, its suburbs... This city girl takes in the suburbs, dwells in the desert, climbs mountains and sinks into valleys. Is LA any more home to me than Joshua Tree? Palm Springs? Warner Springs? Temecula? Julian? Anza-Borrego? San Diego? As much as I am not a New Yorker, nor am I an Angeleno.

Am I not a citizen of Southern California?

Am I not, now, Californian?

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