I’ve been on the road the past few days, so haven’t been able to blog or even read until now the raging battle in the comments section of my last post. I’m back in LA, sitting by an open window — an open window! in January! — watching the little savages play under a lemon tree — a lemon tree! an actual citrus tree! — instead of sitting in my hermetically sealed home outside Santa Fe watching them play in the snow and waiting to clean up the melted snow mess soon to follow. I’m in short sleeves instead of fleece, and open-toed shoes instead of Uggs. Maybe I’ve died and gone to heaven. Except the living out of suitcases part. And the driving on LA freeways part.
I have a love-hate relationship with the city of my birth. I lived here for all but two of my first 41 years, and saw it change from a beautiful place with fabulous weather to a somewhat less beautiful and hideously overcrowded place. It still has fabulous weather, but that’s part of why it’s so clogged with excess humanity. Who doesn’t want to live here? Like all the expatriate Iranians, transplanted New Yorkers, and more illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America than you would believe if you don’t live here.
Unlike all those newcomers, I was that rare breed of Angelino: the native. My great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother spent their last years here. My mother, myself, and my three eldest daughters were all born in the same hospital just a few blocks from the sparkling Pacific Ocean. I had what most Angelinos never did. I had roots. And then I moved to Santa Fe.
In Santa Fe, third generation’s nothing. There are people here whose families have been in Santa Fe since the conquistadors. And now I’m the newcomer. And not just any newcomer. I’m the worst kind: a Californian. There’s a joke in New Mexico that says they used to hate Texans — until the Californians got here. Happily, it is just a joke, and in reality most of the people I’ve met in Santa Fe have been wonderfully kind and welcoming to my family and me.
There’s a small town civility to the Santa Feans (or Santa Fesinos, if you prefer the Spanish) that’s lacking in most Angelinos. Drivers in Santa Fe tend not to give the middle finger or shout insults and obscenities to people who drive too slowly or refuse to block intersections. In Santa Fe hardly anyone blocks intersections. Hardly anyone honks their horn while driving either, for that matter. I think I’ve been honked at more in the last two days than I have in the last two years in Santa Fe. It’s axiomatic that people become less courteous behind the wheel, and people in LA spend far more time behind the wheel than can possibly be good for anyone. It’s one of the things that finally pushed us into leaving this glorious land of lemon trees and shorts at Christmas. I’m not sure what was worse, the hours spent sitting in slow-moving traffic or circling like vultures for parking spaces, or the angry rudeness of other people who had also spent too much time sitting in traffic and searching for parking. We didn’t want to be around them anymore, and most of all, we didn’t want to become like them. So we retraced the steps of all those hordes who had clogged the streets of our hometown, and we headed east.
We’re back for a visit now. The weather is even more heart-breakingly perfect than I remembered. It’s a lovely place to visit. But as much as I never thought I’d say this, I really wouldn’t want to live here again.