To Orange County

We moved to the L.A. version of the suburbs this month. I lived the previous decade walking distance to a cluster of bro-so-hard bars and the Pacific Ocean. Nine of those years were in Hermosa Beach, safely tucked away from the oppressive swell of humanity on the Westside but still in Los Angeles County.

Snobby city folks think of Orange County as the land where homely people go to die. I won’t object to that viewpoint, but keep in mind you won’t be beautiful forever and you’re dying wherever you live.

I prefer to die in comfort. With wide, smooth roads and modern buildings. A strong public school system and less homeless people to make you feel bad for them, but not bad enough to give them money, which subsequently makes you feel bad about yourself.

My wife is one of those pretty rare snobby city folks who actually grew up in L.A. She likes places to be “dirty” (her word) and have “character” (her word), as opposed to the cookie-cutter neighborhoods of my suburban Plano, Texas upbringing.

I’m not so quick to equate physical space with character. Put five of my bros in an Applebee’s, and I think we can run up a bar tab with more personality than some 24-year-old associate nondescripts at The Bungalow trying to get laid with their button-down shirts.

To be clear, I love The Bungalow. The confluence of douchey energy and Hollywood looks is pure gold. But the fact that the lounge is decorated like a house is immaterial. No one is going there to look at furniture.

My previous employer went all Johnny Depp for its holiday party and rented out SHOREbar, a Rihanna favorite. Again, the nautical-themed interior was nowhere near my mind while inhaling whiskey and loving on my old coworkers. Most open-bar events converge to similar outcomes with each passing hour, regardless of the venue.

The character or fun of a place is all about you, what you bring, how you interact with circumstances. People who overemphasize ambience and decor probably don’t have anything interesting to say. People who can’t imagine being happy in a place as big as Orange County probably don’t have big imaginations.

That’s not to say I didn’t feel acute separation anxiety when we shut the door of Apt. 2 for the last time and left the keys on the counter like in the final episode of Friends. And then moved into a cavernous townhouse that gets so cold downstairs I wear fuzzy red slippers.

But it’s a good deal for a Newport Beach zip code at $2600 a month. The same place could easily cost double in popular parts of L.A.

My 37-mile commute from Hermosa to the new job was stretching to 90 minutes one way during peak traffic, while my wife had to drive an hour-plus the opposite direction. Now it takes me six minutes to get to the office, and she works from home four days a week.

Between the time and money savings, there would have to be some seriously compelling reasons to stay in L.A. Yet the reality is we got married and succumbed to the lull of lazy comfort. Very few people get married and then decide they need to put more effort into being fun.

We are suburban. The mere thought of going out on any night except maybe Saturday makes me anxious and exhausted. It is an ironic reversal of the days when I would throw a tantrum anytime my ex tried to make me leave the bar early. I literally stomped my feet like a child at Toys “R” Us. Now anytime my wife commits me to a social event requiring unnatural energy, I go through a full progression of denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance.

A big-box grocery store with the scale to pass on lower prices to consumers sounds more appealing at this point than a comedy club or hipster bar. My wife doesn’t even pretend to like those character-laden coffee shops on those dirty streets of L.A. She goes to Starbucks. Don’t kid yourself — you were born for the O.C. baby.

It’s an area with the infrastructure and open space to support easy living and kid-raising. I didn’t realize in-unit laundry was such an amenity until we moved into the townhouse. I left my clothes in the dryer and just went to bed. It felt so forbidden in a good way, like discovering my first porn.

There will be much more to discover as we settle in behind the “Orange Curtain” and find our favorite strip malls. It will be an adjustment and new chapter for sure, but we’re still the ones writing our book no matter how the buildings look.



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