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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Column: EAT LA

As a Los Angeles native, my trips back and forth from Davis to home are a bit of a jaunt. The brief Thanksgiving break required far more driving than vacationing last weekend – and a whole new round of traveling is coming up next week.

But to say I’m from Los Angeles is a bit of a stretch. My hometown, Simi Valley, is a suburban northwest neighbor of LA County – close enough to see the smog but far enough to still be boring. To put it simply, I’m from LA when people ask, and I’m not when people care.

Almost everyone who left Simi Valley for college (which was probably a third of my graduating high school class) still loves to whine and gripe about the town when they return. I hardly do anything in Simi Valley when I go back home, save buy more jeans, get gas for my parents and play “Settlers of Catan” (the board game) with whoever else wants to play. It’s a fun set of activities, but it’s quaint and pretty quiet.

This is where Los Angeles, the deeper, busier neighbor, fills the void. I drive to Los Angeles almost every day I’m back at home, which technically makes me as much of an Angelino as anyone else from the city (almost). Living next to a major city gives me the opportunity to miss out on everything nostalgic about my hometown, and I’m thoroughly happy about it.

My family made a point to bring me to LA almost every other night as a kid – we’d often drive through hours of traffic just to get Chinese food in Monterey Park or Korean barbecue in Koreatown, and drive through more hours of traffic to get home. And we still do it, too – I reeked of stinky tofu and shabu shabu last weekend because I literally had it every day, except the day my dad bought a Chinese turkey for Thanksgiving.

Los Angeles also lets me feel like I’m somewhat cultured and relevant. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to see a dress rehearsal of The Barber of Seville at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Since it was a dress rehearsal, the 3,197-seat hall sat a sparse 500 or so, most of whom got comfortable in a usually stuffy setting. Two of those 500 were Gustavo Dudamel – the new rockstar-director of the LA Philharmonic – and Plácido Domingo, the world famous tenor. Dudamel and Domingo are reminders of LA’s approachable culture, which is arguably as humble as it is high brow.

That’s the thing – the two were more than approachable the entire night. After all, these people aren’t solely worshipped by an esoteric crowd of classical snobs – Dudamel, a 28 year-old Venezuelan who is probably just as famous as Hugo Chavez, couldn’t have been more unimposing. I’m no expert, but it’s safe to say you don’t find such attitudes all that often.

I don’t care about the whole Northern-Southern California debate, which is really only cool if you’re twelve. Sure, you can find most of Los Angeles’ better side in the Northern California, but the Bay Area is simply nowhere near as massive and widespread as LA in general.

But at the same time, living in Davis is close enough to San Francisco that there’s still easy relief available any weekend for better sights and better food. Though it’s smaller, San Francisco food still rivals the LA legacy, and I wouldn’t be at all comfortable with Davis if it wasn’t for the nearby city.

So, for the holidays, food and “culture” is my target. If it wasn’t for LA’s restaurants, places like the Sunset Arclight and Monterey Park, I’d easily stay in Davis for winter break. I’m not at all serious about the cultured and elitist feeling in LA, but honestly, living next to a city is a relief. Even with all the traveling.

JUSTIN T. HO is dreading the god-awful Christmas parties my family attends every Christmas break. Every year, parochial conservatism and neighbor vs. neighbor gossip culminate in a night of white elephant gift exchanges and really dry pork roast. E-mail your sympathies to arts@theaggie.org.


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