Special to Valley News
Neil Diamond’s 1971 song, “I Am … I Said,” is about a man between two cities. He wrote, “Well, I’m New York City born and raised, but nowadays, I’m lost between two shores. L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home. New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more. …”
After my move from the District of Columbia, I have listened to that song wondering if I will ever truly claim Southern California as my home. I discovered the answer to that question, while on a trip to Washington in January.
Noting that my trip would begin with a high temperature of 30 degrees, I searched for my regal-looking professional cold weather gear that I wore plenty of times while working in Washington for many years. I soon discovered that I donated every last scarf, leather glove and full-length jacket; the kind that looks good with suits. I was relegated to choosing a puffy ski jacket or a relatively thin, red felt peacoat.
In my transition to working in Southern California, I had also donated my very serious, rather dour looking suits in favor of more sporty, business casual wear. It took me a while to understand that casual Friday work attire here could include, but is not limited to, a sun dress and flip flops for women to Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts for men. In Washington, casual Friday usually means suits with no ties and an open collar, slacks with a collared shirt or spanking new-looking dark blue jeans with a professional shirt. Flip flops of any kind will get you ejected from the premises.
When we touched down at Dulles International Airport, I stepped off the plane into another world, half forgotten. Washingtonians look so dapper, even elegant in their cold weather gear. I navigated the sidewalks, however, square shaped in my peacoat and mismatched layers. Citified Washingtonians multitask everywhere if they can, taking phone calls and sending emails while shopping, eating and walking. They swerve dangerously between cars, other pedestrians and decorative sidewalk trees all while conducting business. Washingtonians are earnest in every way about their jobs, their positions within an organization, their professional aspirations and the ubiquitous politics that threads its way into almost every conversation. Even happy hour in Washington is an extension of work, and the perpetual drive to do more and be better.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this lifestyle, I bring it up to acknowledge that as a budding Californian I have found the counterpoint to the Washington lifestyle. In Southern California, conversations usually revolve around leisure time activities such as, “I surf” or “I’m a dog mom.” People mention their employment secondarily, and is almost a chiller for animated discussions between acquaintances.
On my final day in Washington, I thanked my lucky stars that I would be safely out of town before millions of people travel in for the presidential inauguration. I am happy that I can enjoy the hubbub of our government’s transition safely from my couch in Temecula, wearing flip-flops and sipping a lovely glass of local wine.