It sounds strange, but at least a few people at this school, upon learning that I am from Sacramento, have cocked their heads and frowned, asking where that is (our state capitol is around eight hours north of here, depending on what kind of traffic you face). One person ruined my hope for humanity and any worldwide intelligence when they said, “Oh, that’s in Oregon right?”
Others have suggested that people from Northern California are rednecks, say “hella” every other word in even the most formal conversations, and in general spend their time scratching their heads in eternal confusion at even the simplest ideas.
These are the most ludicrous assumptions I have ever heard.
Most people in Los Angeles seem immune to the type of clich?s that people from other areas project upon them, and some people I’ve talked to seem shocked that Northern Californians should judge them – even as they’re judging their neighbors from the north.
To put things into perspective, before I left Sacramento, I was asked by friends when I would have a variety of surgical procedures (breasts, Botox, nightmarish permanent makeup) done after arriving in Northridge; it was requested that I call them IMMEDIATELY if I were to spot any celebrity, D-list or no; and that I never, ever convert to the “dark side” (which is to say, consider myself a Southern Californian and become one of them, and conceivably lose my soul).
When I reminded my friends in Sacramento that I am a native Southern Californian (born and raised at least in part in Long Beach), I would get a look that amounted to, “Why must you be so difficult? WHY?” They then tried to reassure me that as long as I tried hard and stayed true to Sacramento in my heart and mind, I just might make it through this experience OK, and return to Northern California at the end of the two years the same person – of course, with the exception of the fake breasts they were sure I would acquire during my time down here.
It was a bit like I was going off to a war – both sides uneasily recognize the slightest similarity between their interests and location, but neither is convinced that the other side is anything less than a hell that must be endured.
So here’s the truth about the areas, from someone who has observed both cities and can live to tell the tale.
Sacramento is actually rich with art and culture – if you live in the wonderful downtown area. Most people down here seem very surprised when I tell them that Sacramento has an amazing independent music scene – and no, it’s not made up of people who were rejected from better venues in San Francisco. With this music scene and several art galleries on nearly every street in downtown Sacramento, I never want to leave the area permanently. Most of us are not rednecks, and the only time I have ever said “hella” I had been drinking heavily.
Likewise, I try to eliminate clich?s of Los Angeles that my friends in Sacramento hold dear. I tell them that I actually do not see many instances of Botox (though breast implants are seemingly everywhere), the Valley is not exactly overflowing with celebrities (they’re all very sad to hear this, and some might have reconsidered visiting me now), and that while there does seem to be a dark side (one defined by Valley girl-ish stupidity and an unparalleled self-absorption), I try to stay clear of it.
No one on either end of the state wants to admit it, but we all have more in common than differences, which might not be so good, but oh well.
Lauren Robeson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.