Rip van Winkle moment

There’s a story in the NY Times this weekend about the rise and fall of a California cul-de-sac, a victim of the economy. It’s an interesting read but what jumped out at me was the following:

But as always in California, boom times came again. During the 1990s, Moreno Valley became one of the fastest-growing cities in America, and it now has 190,000 residents.

I have never even heard of this place, and it’s about 50,000 people bigger than Syracuse. It’s just another one of those Rip van Winkle moments where you get a comprehension of how full the West has become while you were sleeping. In decades past, the West was a place where nearly everyone had a past residence or ties (within a few generations) to the East. But now we have entire generations of Americans who live in the West who know nothing else, their parents know nothing else, they don’t know anything besides low-density suburban development and “cities” that have no center.

We’re not all living in the same America.

4 thoughts on “Rip van Winkle moment

  1. Patti

    I am 3rd generation Californian stuck in Syracuse. We call Moreno Valley, MoVal. I can assure you California and Upstate New York are completely different Americas. They might as well be different planets.

  2. Phil

    what struck me was all the talk of the ‘original’ owners on the block and how things used to be–and realize they were talking about 1997!

  3. kate

    I lived in Southern California for a short time in the early 90’s (prior to the existence of the above-described cul de sac). What struck me then was the sprawl of suburb after suburb each centered around a shopping mall and plazas, no actual flavor of a people seemed to occupy them– they were developments– suburbs– surrounding national chain stores. It was quite disconcerting. I really missed upstate NY for it’s quirky towns with the historical buildings, its small city centers and ethnic neighborhoods. When I visited San Francisco, I literally cried as it was the most East Coast of any place I had been throughout the state.

    The other thing that I found incongruous is that the weather was just about perfect every day. I would walk in wonder at how great the day was and people would look at me like I was soft in the head– “It’s like this every day” they would say. Being the weather guy there is a real light weight job. Winter was two weeks of rain in February. It served to make the personality of the region very bland. Consequently, one should not be offended or surprised at any “wackiness” or outrageousness of some West Coast individuals. You would be too if everything was so unrelentingly same around you.

  4. Ellen

    I haven’t been to California for almost 20 years, although I went there quite a few times as a kid. Never got to visit San Francisco proper, would love to. I was more familiar with San Diego, which I understand has changed a great deal, but I liked it back then. The thing that amused/horrified me about California were the little suburban developments with tiny “yards” and I couldn’t figure out how anyone thought that was the good life worth paying extra for (home prices were high out there even then). I think the sameness of weather would bug me too.

    And Phil, the comment about “used to be” got me too. There have been some people living on my block since the houses were built 50 years ago; still friends and neighbors, or at least you know their names even if you never associate. I’m told that very, very little has changed around here for decades. Old-growth suburbia can be a nice place to be.

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