I was late for work on Wednesday. I remember because it was only a week ago and I was tired and I slid my phone alarm to OFF rather than SNOOZE. Catching a few extra minutes of sleep is my favorite new habit in California, something I never practiced before moving. I woke up Wednesday in a panic, discovering the time and a pile of work-related texts in my inbox. I should have been somewhere along the 710, but instead was falling out of bed.
I was late for work last year on the same day, November 18. But that was under different circumstances. I remember it clearly because it was my FIRST day in this grand place. I figured I had allowed plenty of time for the 15-mile commute, knowing some Southern California traffic horror stories. I studied the route the night before, then loaded the coordinates on my phone for the morning drive. The transition from one freeway to another got kinda confusing and I bailed and exited and re-entered, then navigated surface streets. I turned too early, turned myself around, turned my stomach over. I made it to work eventually and made my office my own. I was not able to get from Point A to Point B without navigational assistance. I needed GPS to get me to work and back home and everywhere else in between.
My first year in California was a good one with plenty of highlights and memories made. There were mistakes and misadventures. There was a week of sleeping on the floor before my furniture arrived. There were mornings sans hot water and frustratingly cold showers. I’ve mostly lived without a functioning oven. My building remains without television access and I’ve had plenty of nights walking somewhere for food and drink and entertainment and company. I played over forty rounds of golf in 2015 and enjoyed local outdoor adventures. I’ve accomplished a lot during my first year in Long Beach, but now that I have surpassed 365 days in a new locale, I feel like there is plenty else to cross off my list.
- LOCAL TREASURES: Within walking distance from my apartment is the world-renowned Aquarium of the Pacific. I hear their advertisements on loop between Pandora songs but haven’t yet visited to see my penguin buddies. I also need to keep a closer eye on the calendar for the Long Beach Convention Center to know what show is passing through town. The Queen Mary is docked within sight of my apartment building but I have yet to step aboard. And I know the Long Beach Museum of Art has plenty to offer if I’m craving culture and brunch along Ocean Ave.
- ENLIGHTENING EXPERIENCES: My Welcome to the Jungle moment was previously mentioned in this space after walking through the Los Angeles streets en route to a cold pint of beer. There are so many different neighborhoods I need to explore; Koreatown is top of my to-do list. I’ve gradually learned that I enjoy LA County rather than Orange County because of the culture and geography and people. Most locals prefer to stay inside of their small geographic bubble. Others complain that Long Beach is SO FAR AWAY and question why I am willing to fight traffic to meet the crew. I saw The Getty, but haven’t yet been to LACMA or gotten close to the Hollywood Sign or visited the Venice Canals or walked the Sunset Strip or shopped on Rodeo Drive. Maybe I’ll make time for celebrity sightings on Black Friday.
- SPORTING GOODS: Playing golf is an activity I can enjoy on my own. I’ll walk singularly for 18 holes or be paired as a part of a foursome. From February through October, it occupied most weekends. I have also been fortunate and willing to attend many sporting events including home games for the Dodgers, Clippers, Ducks, and Padres, among others. I have yet to attend a Lakers or Kings game at Staples Center, nor have I seen “my” local college team Long Beach State play hoops inside The Walter Pyramid. I’ve put in many miles walking the sidewalks and boardwalks of downtown LB but there are other trails and parks to achieve my steps… Abalone Cove, Cahuenga Park, and Santa Anita Canyon should provide worthy challenge and distracting scenery.
- CHEERS ME: Beer and sports mix well together. And beer is an appropriate reward after
scaling up the side of a mountaingoing for a walk. Beachwood and BBC are close to home and have been discussed here many times. I’ve been multiple times to Angel City and El Segundo Brewery. On a recent UBER ride from Carson, I learned about the tasting rooms for Smog City and Monkish, while Golden Road is also within reasonable distance. Craft breweries are popping up on every corner and are impossible to keep sorted, so I now only have two criteria for ordering a beer: Is it local and does it have a clever name? Cans of Tecate or Pabst will always hit the spot, but its best to support these local suppliers experimenting with amazing flavors and innovative processes.
- AWE-INSPIRING ADVENTURES: There is much to offer in California. I did well in my first year here seeing much of the coastline from Los Angeles to San Diego. I have driven to Palm Springs and Las Vegas. But I haven’t yet experienced San Francisco. A long weekend in The Golden Gate City would offer enough material for at least two blog entries. And Catalina Island remains high on my 2016 Wish List; I see the express ferries pulling in and out of the harbor knowing my day will soon come sailing the high seas.
I cannot quite fathom how a year has passed since I left home and will certainly miss Gramma’s home cooking again at Thanksgiving. I’ll miss sitting around the table with family. I’ll miss gorging myself on turkey and stuffing and pie. I won’t get to watch the Bears or renew the holiday tradition of bowling after supper. I am making for all sorts of new fantastic memories and traditions. Before Thanksgiving, I’ll aim to manufacture a hot dish to pass. I will enjoy being the 9th wheel with a group cordial enough to invite me along to celebrate. I’ll continue to countdown the days until I return home for Christmas. I am looking forward to everything another year in California has to offer.
In the meantime, Gobble Gobble.
The Pike was an amusement zone in Long Beach, California. The Pike was founded in 1902 along the shoreline south of Ocean Boulevard with several independent arcades, food stands, gift shops, a variety of rides and a grand bath house. It was most noted for the Cyclone Racer (1930–1968), a large wooden dual-track roller coaster, built out on pilings over the water.
The Pike operated under several names. The amusement zone surrounding the Pike, “Silver Spray Pier”, was included along with additional parking in the post World War II expansion; it was all renamed Nu-Pike via a contest winner’s submission in the late 1950s, then renamed Queen’s Park in the late 1960s in homage to the arrival of the Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach. 1979 was the year Long Beach city council refused to renew the land leases and demolished all of the structures and attractions it could that weren’t trucked away. The Pike museum is located in Looff’s Lite-A-Line at 2500 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90806.
The first major attraction to the seashore at Long Beach was recreational bathing, long before trains and cars, when the only roads were dusty rutted paths littered with horse manure. Residents of Southern California escaped the summer heat by crowding the shore and beaches to enjoy the cool ocean breeze and the Pacific Ocean chilled by the Aleutian current. With the surge of health-conscious new residents and the ease of access to a beach near the services of local merchants, Willmore City became a destination. In 1888, Long Beach Land and Water Company bought William E. Willmore’s failed platt of Bixby’s Rancho Los Cerritos and changed the name to Long Beach in 1892. The amusement zone began in 1902, as a beach and grand bath house resort at the Long Beach terminus of the Red Car interurban commuter electric railroad system Pacific Electric Railway southern expansion from Los Angeles. A grand bath house was constructed at the shore, scheduled to open Independence Day, 1902. The grand opening of the bath house, known later as The Plunge, coincided with the inaugural run of the first “Red Car” from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach on the morning of July 4, 1902 – which established service connecting communities along the line to offices and shopping in Downtown Los Angeles as well as bringing bathers and families south to Pacific Ocean shoreline recreation.
Stretching Pine Avenue south from Ocean Avenue into the Pacific Ocean, the Long Beach Municipal Pier had an upper and lower deck to a service building on the end. Sheltered at the mouth of the Los Angeles River, the public pier served a range of purposes, primarily for trade and commerce, servicing freight and passenger shipping, but also served anglers fishing as well as pedestrian strolling. A simple wooden boardwalk was laid directly atop the sand west along the shoreline connecting the pier to the new bathhouse.
“Pike” was the name of the wooden boardwalk connecting the Pine St. incline of the Long Beach Pier west along the shoreline to The Plunge bath house. It gradually grew in length, was widened again and again and was later poured in concrete and illuminated with strings of electric bulbs as “The Walk of a Thousand Lights”, the midway anchoring the widely dispersed attractions and “The Pike” changed context from the original wooden boardwalk to the entire amusement zone. As it grew from a simple beach access made of planks to a midway of concessions, it included The Plunge bathhouse, Sea Side Studio souvenir photography, the Looff carousel, McGruder salt water taffy, pitch and skill games, pony rides, goat carts, fortune teller, weight guesser and a variety of dark and thrill rides, amusements and attractions large and small.