Well, it has been about a year since I’ve taken my writing (typing) pen out. I am married now, and my last name is officially not Tran anymore, but I think I’ll keep it like that on here for a while longer. Maybe.
The last ten (?) or so months have been quite full–full of love, full of life, full of new and old joys. I’m not sure where I was in the planning of this the last time I wrote, but last September, I decided to move out of my mom’s house and into my first place of my own. I chose downtown Long Beach, somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes walking from my office, upstairs from a coffee shop in a former naval hotel. Not a bad kind of life, I’ll tell you, walking a few minutes to and from home to get everywhere you need to be. It was my way of liberating myself from the stink of suburban Southern California, and though it lasted only six months’ time, I cherished every day of my little European life.
In thinking about a place of my own, I began to think of the meaning of “home.” Yes, it is sweet, and yes, it is where the heart lies. But why is that? What is it exactly about a place that causes us to bestow such affections upon it?
I began this train of thought a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I had just moved into our first apartment after our nuptials and were in the midst of unpacking. Although no longer walking distance from work, I had moved only a couple miles to east Long Beach. He had gone somewhere on that Saturday morning, and as it was the first weekend in months that was devoid of any wedding business, I made some coffee and peeked out upon our new world.
Long Beach, California. What do I love about it?
The people here share.
Share the streets, share the parks, share the public realm. After having lived here for almost a year, I can now easily pick out the Long Beach visitors from the residents. When driving, for example, the visitors feel uncomfortable and especially angry at having to weave around the bus, bike, and pedestrian who are all somehow taking up the right-most lane of traffic. The residents, however, just make their way around the obstacles, even using the center turning lane to make it work. Living gets tight sometimes, but Long Beach residents are space efficient like that. Congestion in this form, “is often a symptom of success” (John Norquist, CNU).
The city has “good bones.”
In a lunch conversation on my very first day of work, I remember asking my colleague why he thought that Long Beach was such a vibrant city. He responded in architectural lingo, saying, “Long Beach just has good bones.” That is, unlike many newly developed cities and towns, Long Beach has a true city street grid, with blocks that are small enough to promote walking and other forms of urban life. This gives future development, and re-development, a much-needed foundation on which to build.
Say that the average person takes twenty minutes to walk one mile or 5,280 feet. If your city block is only 300 feet square, think of how many directions and places a person can go in those twenty minutes. Think of how many types of buildings and uses can have street frontage. But if your city block is 5,280 feet square…it’s pretty likely that for the next twenty minutes, a pedestrian is limited to that single direction in which he or she started. And it’s pretty likely that the buildings and uses are farther and fewer.
“…Summertime, and the livin’s easy”
Sublime isn’t the only one who has said that life in Long Beach is “easy”–my boss, who has lived here since the 1980s, also told me this one day. “I really like Long Beach. It’s just…easy. It’s got everything you need, all in one place…even an airport.”
And so I’ve discovered for myself. There’s more art, music, and food–and life–here than I know what to do with.