Quality of Life: West Coast or Best Coast?


After a discussion with my editor weighing the pros of writing what I know with the cons of self-revelation, I have decided to try to keep this week’s TMI and over-shares to a minimum, but it will be hard to avoid neuroses, especially since this week I will be comparing the differences in quality of life between the Left Coast and the Best Coast, as my East Coast cheerleader refers to them. To that end, I will make a conscious effort to only directly reveal the following three facts about myself:My favorite color is green.I have over half a dozen pictures of Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy, hanging on my wall.I was embarrassed when a student explained to me that “Boba” is a term for breasts in Chinese.For those of you who find any of those facts intriguing or are curious about the rest of this column, carry on, but for the rest of you I’ll give a capsule summary. It’s too soon for me to say for sure which coast is best, but I won’t hate on the East Coast. Starting with the positive, the East Coast has a much more vibrant sports base. Sometimes that’s hard to see at Harvard, although people tell me the hockey and lacrosse teams are first rate, but people out here suffer for their devotion, not just through sticking with their teams, but by painting their bodies and then going out into sub-freezing weather to cheer them on. Every time I saw that ad during the Olympics with the guy who painted his body red, white, and blue and then froze in a cheering position only to have his drunken buddies lead his frozen corpse into all sorts of mischief, I thought to myself: now, he must be an East Coaster. Still, my favorite color is green and any non-St Patrick’s day excuse to deck myself out and watch some basketball has got to be a plus, even if Paul Pierce, to quote a friend, “has the basketball mentality of a five-year-old.” Of course, I have the maturity of a five-year-old, hence my amusement with the “I PP” signs I saw at Monday’s Celtics v. Lakers game. Comparing the major urban centers of the two coasts, New York and Los Angeles, will prove difficult for me. Even though Boston is so close to New York, a mere four to six hours on the Fung Wah, the only time law students ever seem to go down there is for firm interviews. I’m going to wait and reserve judgment on the city for a time that I’m not basing it mostly on the assessments of Jenny Associate from Wachtell, Cravath & Cromwell. Bay Area residents, unless they came from L.A. originally, don’t have much of a sense of the land down south. We’re told it’s a warm, superficial place with beautiful beaches and people, where scrappy youths can break the shackles of their class if they’re attractive and brooding – wait, that was The O.C. Sorry, common Northern Californian mistake. My sense of the West Coast moves from Monterrey Bay to Vancouver, B.C. If you can’t wear a flannel without it being deemed a fashion faux pas, you’re too far south.The natural beauty of the West Coast and its proximity to urban areas clearly trumps. The rolling hills are a short drive from the city and when the golden poppies bloom, pockets of bright orange delight their discoverer. I have over half a dozen pictures of the California poppy hanging on my wall here in Cambridge, and they cheer up a room considerably. For those who like greenery, however, either coast will do. California’s nickname, “The Golden State,” is less about the starlets down south or any historical Gold Rush from centuries past and more about the “golden” hills in the summertime. Let’s face it: they’re brown. The East Coast, on the other hand, has lovely green hills all summer. And humidity, but there’s air conditioning for that. The skiing, however, is better back West, though I can really only speak to the ski lodges, and the East Coast’s seem as comfortable and warm as any Sierra Neveda or Rocky Mountain retreat. I like Felipes and Boca Grande too, but the Mexican food in the Bay Area has got Boston beat. Ditto for the Asian food. The Thai is a tie, and the Indian is adequate, but the Chinese food out here doesn’t cut it. For both Mexican and Chinese, Boston is lacking in those critical “hole in the wall” establishments that produce the best food. Plus, having a huge population of Asians makes for a better range of Malaysian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and other “ese” cuisines. It also made for some personal embarrassment when a Taiwanese student told me in front of the entire class that “boba” was slang for “breasts” in certain Chinese dialects. There is also a very different ratio of coffee bars versus bar bars (no, not the King of the Elephants). Let’s do a quick run down of drinks by region. Seattle and Portland are noted for their coffee. California is famous for its wine. Boston is home to the Sam Adams brewery. New York makes the most cosmopolitan of cosmos, and other concoctions served in a martini glass.I concede that you can’t beat New York in terms of volume of shopping options, but when comparing Boston and San Francisco, neither city is the obvious winner. Stanford Shopping Center had an impressive range of high-end stores, but Newbury Street and Prudential Center have got it beat. Boutique shopping districts do have more charm than strip malls. There is one store in San Francisco, though, that I have yet to find a replacement: Gumps – think Abodeon meets Porter Exchange meets Barneys. Gumps is a chic home goods store with a Sino-European vibe that carries everything from jade chess sets to cardamom cranberry soap, and funky moving sculptures by local artists.Finally, the topic I have been saving for last: attitude. West Coasters act more laid-back. Some of them really are more laid-back. Some of us are pretending to be laid-back and lock ourselves in our rooms late at night or on weekends getting work done. Work hard, play hard is an East Coast ethic. The West Coast is not nearly as intense. There are those who say that the fake friendliness of Californians drives them crazy, but there are days when a fake smile is more comforting than the clear contempt people display toward others. East Coasters value self-sufficiency. In college, if you emailed the dorm list asking about an assignment, three people would stop by your room to explain it to you. Here, if you email the class list about something you could have figured out for yourself, people might help you out, but they’ll see it as a sign of weakness and laziness that you didn’t find it on your own. Perhaps it’s a matter of space. When people are more concentrated, they worker harder to carve out and preserve individual autonomy, but with wide open spaces you have to work harder to spend time with others. I have a feeling Maine might disprove my theory since its people are known for their austere self-sufficiency and they have plenty of space up there.I’m loathe to use legal clich├ęs, so juries and scales aside, the East Coast is not such a bad place to live. Yes, there’s snow. Many people like snow. On the West Coast we pay hundreds of dollars to visit the snow. Here, it’s free. Yes, the people are intense. Many consider that honesty. If I ever start to miss the Bay Area too much, at least there’s a Chili’s downtown. For anyone who wants to challenge Erin Archerd on the Paul Pierce comment, it’s not worth it, she doesn’t know anything about NBA basketball. She’s also losing to you in her tournament bracket, so go easy on her.

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