Yesterday, Heron and I put the finishing touches on our old place in Long Beach. We vacuumed the floors, windexed the windows, and cleaned the bathrooms. Place is spotless. But as I was leaving, I noticed the liquor store across the street. I used to walk over there at night and talk to the Cambodian owners as they watched Chinese sitcoms on a miniature television. I noticed the homeless man walk by who slept on a bench at the doctor’s office in front of our apartment. I saw this crazy lady who just never stopped her dogs from yapping when Hendrix walked by. I said goodbye to my manager — who couldn’t have been better — and I realized I probably wouldn’t be spending much time there anymore. I have had this sensation in many cities, and saying goodbye is always hard. So, here are five reasons why I will miss Long Beach.
5. Portfolio Coffeehouse
When I was freelancing full-time over the last six months, I was, honestly, pretty lonely at certain points in the week. Heron was working, and I was at home, staring into a computer, writing pitches, hoping that the speed of email and responses would speed up. Sometimes, I just couldn’t talk to my dog without thinking I was insane. So I would drive down to Portfolio Coffeehouse on 4th Street. Honestly, I know it’s cliché to write and work in coffee shops, but I’ve always loved it. I guess it’s only cliché and strange if you’re not working and just pretending, but I would head down there, grab a table by a window and an outlet, and bust my freaking ass. But they had awesome lattes, and they make all these little designs with the foam. And they had some characters, too. A group of old men, probably retired, would show up every day, early, and talk in a corner about cultural events. There was this one fat guy who was the loudest. He could get annoying, but for some reason, seeing him there every time I went provided some consistency I was desperately seeking.
4. Running along the bluffs on Ocean Blvd.
Whether I was working at the rehab center or freelancing, running became a part of my routine that I could not live without. It takes me out of my head; it eases stress; and it provides consistency to an often chaotic and frazzled world. We didn’t live on the beach or anything, but we lived five or so blocks away; so I would grab Hendrix or go on my own and run along the bluffs, staring out over the Pacific Ocean and the lights from Downtown and the Port. It almost seemed to look like an ancient Egypt. The weird thing about Long Beach is that they have a jetty for the port, and it breaks the waves. The ocean is flat, and no one swims there (probably because the ocean is seriously polluted). But there was something about running along the bluffs, staring out of the water, wondering about the mysterious islands with water falls, and overlooking the oil tankers that just made me at peace, calm, comfortable with everything that was out of my control.
3. The Food
As you can see from the above picture, you might be wondering why there is a shot of a random guy in a food category. Well, there is no real reason; the guy in the above photo is going to be my co-best man at my wedding, and it’s just kind of funny. So now back to the list. I thoroughly enjoyed eating in Long Beach. I wish I had more money to spend, because I would spend it all on food. There are so many different places to eat, and, being a kid from Massachusetts who wouldn’t know pho from a Korean BBQ, the LBC opened up my taste buds to some incredible flavors and spices. Number 9 in Long Beach had great pho; Tavern on Two had some awesome burgers on second street; Sushi on Fire treated us so well; Coco Renos had some bomb-ass Mexican food (plus, you can could take your food into the World Famous Reno Room).
But out of all the places to eat in Long Beach — there are honestly too many to name — the best part about the LBC for food was breakfast. The competition was fierce; there was Coffee Mug, Eggs Etc., and Starlings — and that was just by our house. My favorite place by far, however, was the Coffee Mug. You’ve got to be careful when you go there. Get there before 10. The line is crazy. I used to always get their honey-sausage scramble and drench my eggs in their verde chili. Holy shit! It tasted like a spicy version of heaven — which is Long Beach.
2. The culture and diversity
My buddy, Dan Stroud, used to say that Long Beach was the most diverse city in the country. Well, I found that hard to believe, and I’m still skeptical that it’s more diverse than New York or Los Angeles (Sarah Bennett, Long Beach expert and editor of The Post, would probably know), but there honestly is no city like the LBC, because there are so many different types of people. Did you know that Long Beach has the largest population of Cambodians in the country? A great article at the OC Weekly came out profiling Cambodia Town. There is no city like Long Beach. So many people, so many cultures.
1. The Port of Long Beach
When I first moved to Los Angeles County, what I saw didn’t really match my expectations. I had this grand image in my mind that California was all palm trees and gorgeous beaches and beautiful people. Of course, this is true, but there are sides of California that aren’t really advertised. Yeah, I heard about poverty and violence, but what I never saw coming was how industrial it could be. Driving down the 405 towards Long Beach and coming into the cloud factories stretching for miles surprised the hell out of me. And when I saw all those factories that led to the ports, I knew I wanted to write about it. So, I did. I wrote about port truckers, union strikes, and blue-collar institutions. I got to know those men and women who worked at the ports; I saw their hard work and desires for a better life by lifting themselves up by their bootstraps; and I saw the beauty the harmonious machine that is the Port of Long Beach.