I have been having an affair for years, and my wife knows about it.
The affair started 9½ years ago when I first took the job at the BKBIA. It wasn’t intentional or something I had been looking for, but it just happened immediately. I wasn’t married yet, and the affair didn’t even start out as an elementary school-type infatuation. It was the real-deal love affair when we met face to face, and it has progressed, deepened and gotten more complicated.
I’m not embarrassed or shy about it. In fact, many people already know and just don’t say anything because it’s just a given. There is no tawdry cover-up, no press corps following me about it, no having to look over my shoulder. And what makes it all the more intense is that this all-consuming, overwhelming, impassioned, intense love affair is not with a person, but a place.
Growing up on the east side, I had not spent a whole lot of time in the far-off land of “Bixby Knolls.” When I was finally reunited with this special village as an adult, I was stopped in my tracks. The area seemed to be some type of best kept secret in Long Beach. It wasn’t only the once-glorious-now-a-bit-dusty business corridors bursting with potential, my love affair also began with the surrounding neighborhoods. I explored the streets and was overtaken with the sight of towering Colonial houses, Tudors, mid-century moderns and ranch styles with fastidious gardens. I expected Ozzie and Harriet to walk out any minute. Or maybe the Cleaver Family would invite me in sometime. And oddly enough there was something about the well groomed streets that reminded me of my grandparents. It’s really quite comforting. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is a sense of nostalgia here.
Since working in the Knolls and subsequently migrating up from Belmont Shore, I have spent a significant amount of time scouting all the streets and talking to Bixby folks of all types. I have been child-like in discovering so many wonderful features and subtleties– from the “palms on Pine” to the tree canopy of Olive Avenue in Cal Heights to the LFOM parties in Los Cerritos, the Bixby Knolls block party, and the non-event, non-parade on July 4th.
I love the fact that the neighbors are filled with pride to live here. I mean, how could they not be? The dedication of the Cal Heights Clean Streets team is overwhelming.
Besides the obvious beauty, we have concerts both in the park and parking lots! Many of our business owners live just blocks away from their shops and are working to make this a thriving district. There’s no shortage of passion in these neighborhoods. Just attend a community meeting on any given topic, and you will witness it firsthand.
And how can you not fall in love with the curve of Amelia and a special bread baker that lives on that street? The trees on Andrews, Tehachapi, and Burlinghall. The grandeur of Linden or Pacific. The charm of Chestnut and Cedar Streets. The royalty on Weston. The urban farmers, chickens, fruit trees, expansive lawns, blue swimming pools, tree swings. Names like Wing, Killingsworth, May and Gibbs. Watching the orthodox Jews walking to and from temple (especially on a First Friday). The local bee guy, the dog walker, the farmer, the handyman. The tea room. The Dominguez Gap.And sitting in the natural Greek amphitheater in Los Cerritos Park. It’s a love affair with the mid-century modern influence, the blocks and blocks of unique houses that make me want to invite myself over for dinner, the Petroleum Club’s Red Room and bar, and the haunted house on Country Club Drive. It’s a love affair with the legends, lore, history and all characters that make up the area.
Every Saturday morning for the past 9½ years, the Bixby Knolls Strollers have gathered, rain or shine, to explore our business district and neighborhoods. The diversity and friendships of the group makes me the most proud: the Christian, Muslim and Jew, and the black, the white and all shades in between walk and talk while doing a twisting route to all corners of this alluring and bewitching neighborhood. And the streets provide me a carnival of magnolias, elms, sycamores, olives, myrtles and palms. And summer-night walks bring the sweet smell of jasmine.
Just the strength and collective intelligence of the Literary Society folks has caused my IQ to increase by 10 points just by being in the room with them for 114 sessions.
Alissa and I can drive down the street and recognize folks walking or out on a bike ride. Even stopping at a corner lemonade stand has us waving to neighbors as we go. Trader Joe’s is the unofficial community center where we can do more talking than shopping. One day I happened to run into a neighbor friend right outside of my office and later thought how fortunate I am to feel so comfortable and know so many.
My affair continued to grow even stronger after meeting “the duck lady” and Pat Murphy. (If you don’t know him yet, you really need to. Nicest, most generous man around.) Stumbling upon the Foucault Pendulum at Forest Lawn cemetery gave me one more thing to brag about this area.
I admit to loving Rancho Los Cerritos so much that it just had to be the site of our engagement-party-turned-surprise-wedding.
Steelcraft thrills me when full of hipsters, neighbors, kids and dogs all together eating, drinking and just being together.
The nights at Supper Club and Good Spirits Club are incredibly fulfilling with the community spirit, friendly conversations and the support of the hosting business.
I do love the fact that so many residents and business owners have my cell phone and feel comfortable enough to text me about anything and everything. (Well, that’s both good and bad). And so many of these people have been to my wedding and birthday parties.
There’s just so much to love, and I feel a little sorry for those in other parts of the city who do not have the same connection with their own neighborhood.
Yes, it’s a love affair in the first degree, and I’m happy that my wife knows about it. We live, work, walk, eat and shop here.
How much longer can the affair last? I’ll be here as long as Bixby Knolls will have me.