I was chatting with a friend from California the other day and he said it seems like I’ve adjusted to east coast living. It got me thinking about the differences between the two places, and how moving away from LA has given me a new appreciation for both coasts.

 

10 things I’ve learned since moving to the east coast, and DC more specifically:

 

10. How to parallel park for real, on both sides. LA has so many lots and valets that you can really get away with not being so good at parallel parking. Also, the streets are wide enough that you can be a long way from the curb and not think twice about it. Here, not so much. So I’ve learned to parallel park. Judging from my back bumper, it’s still difficult for some of us.

 

9. The angle of the light in LA is really special. It’s right up there with Tuscany, and something I miss terribly.

 

8. It’s easier to be middle class in LA. Reasonable rental places cover a wider range of prices. Utilities are cheaper. There is less permit parking. Less illegal parking and speeding fines. More free parking lots. Cheaper food. No mandatory toll roads. More part time arts work. Small luxuries like massages and manicures are way cheaper. Perhaps this is personal experience, but health insurance was more robust and also cost less.

 

7. As it turns out, I am not fat. Not only that, but I have come to see the obsession with ascribing to one very narrow definition of beauty as unattractive in itself. It hurts my ears when I hear friends talk about losing those last few pounds or having some guy insult them (the way I was insulted, like, infinity times)  because they are not thin enough. I have learned that I am not a bad or undisciplined person because I am not below 10% body fat. A little roundness can be nice.

 

6. If there’s good sushi out here, I haven’t found it. I have rhapsodic dreams about Katsu-Ya, Kazu, and Yuzu. I shed a tear when I found out Nozawa closed his sushi-nazi doors. Seriously, DC: if you have to add mayo and cream cheese and fried bits to every roll and your fish is so weak you don’t even offer nigiri, there’s something wrong. Most strip mall sushi joints in LA beat the hell out of the allegedly upscale places here.

 

5. This place is tiny! Drive north in a straight line and you hit Manhattan! In 5 hours! Drive north from LA for 5 hours and you get to hang out with the Santa Cruz hippies. Drive 5 more hours north and you’re in still in CA, checking out the redwoods. Drive east and although you get into Nevada within about 2 hours, if you’re heading to New Mexico or Texas like I did, Arizona is a giant fatty of a state. It took around 12 hours to get through it to Las Cruces. Drive 12 hours from here and I’m trying to remember my Québécois colloquialisms or find the Waffle House outside of Indianapolis. Lâche pas la patate, mon chum!

 

4. You have to walk here. Parking is impossible, especially on weekends, so you have to walk. This means that you might not look red-carpet fresh when you reach your destination. And that’s actually fine, because everyone else at your destination, you know, walked. This was very hard for me to get used to. I’m still working on it. If I find out a place has a valet, I’m in my car in about 4 seconds.

 

3. There are bright, loud birds. I feel so happy when I see a cardinal, all pointy and red. They are truly exotic to me. Sometimes around dawn, it sounds like a rainforest. One kind of bird will start burbling and chirping in the low-lying bushes and then more screamy ones take over for an hour. Then cardinals (who I think sound a little like an old dial-up modem) get going, followed by some bird that says “Cleveland, Cleveland: JeterJeterJeterJeterbeeeeeee, Cleveland, Cleveland.”  Who knows? Maybe it’s Peyton Manning just trying to confuse the defense.

 

2. “The” 5. The 101. The 405. Out here, take 395 to wherever. In LA, take the 101 to your destination. I get why we say it, too. Those arteries have a real presence, a personality. 101 is a starlet: on her way to an audition starting in Calabasas, working as a waitress through the Valley, hitting the big time through Cahuenga and Universal City, feeling her age and fading away as she dissolves somewhere near Boyle Heights. The 101 knows where canyons lead and where movies are shot. The 405 is a harlot, trying to hide behind the urbane attraction of the west side, but really it just gets you to LAX and I prefer taking Sepulveda anyway.

 

1. Perhaps it’s anticlimactic, but I was most surprised to see that people here drink tap water. And it tastes fine, unless there are weird pipes in your building. To clarify, the water in LA is safe to drink, but only because of the insane amount of chlorine in it. How much chlorine? Remember when you were a kid and you jumped into a pool and got some water up your nose and you spent 5 minutes kind of gasping and snotting in the shade before you were able to compose yourself? That’s what LA water tastes like. Gasping and snotting while your friends are having fun on the diving board. The tea I’m drinking as I write this was made with water straight out of the tap. And it’s lovely. I still smell it when I fill the kettle, just in case.

 

If it did smell like LA water, I might not drink it. But I would probably sniff it for a while, just to be reminded of where I come from.