In an online commentary under the New York Times' Opinionator banner, newly New Yorkified journalist Katie J.M. Baker ticks off why she loathed growing up in Encino and the San Fernando Valley more generally. Her most immediate beef is with the absurd sign that Encino boosters put up calling the community's Ventura Boulevard strip "the Miracle Mile of the Valley."
The sign, I thought, wasn’t actually all that ludicrous. It celebrated Encino’s most treasured commodity: expendable stuff. The most miraculous event that ever occurred at the Encino Commons shopping center was when a fledgling restaurant managed to stay open for more than a year. Even though I had moved away four years earlier, it embarrassed me.
People choose to live in Encino for a variety of reasons — chiefly because they can own more land there for considerably less money than over the hill — but few move there expecting a culturally enriching environment. Why couldn’t we just quietly acknowledge our inferiority, taking solace in our swimming pools and parking spots? Why did we have to pretend Encino was something it wasn’t?
It wasn’t until I went away to college that my Valley apathy blossomed into resentment. I couldn’t wait to get to Berkeley and lose myself in the anonymity of 20,000 undergraduates who had no idea who I was or where I came from. But, as luck would have it, all of the close friends I made at college were from the “real” Los Angeles.
“Encino is not L.A.,” they’d snicker whenever I told someone I lived in Los Angeles, before clarifying that they lived in the “city,” as if I lived in Bakersfield instead of 15 minutes away — in the hills, no less! They didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but their withering disdain for Encino made me think less of myself. It was one thing for me to make fun of my Valley Girl tendencies, but it stung when others teased me for talking so quickly, or twirling my hair when I was nervous. When home for breaks, I’d tell my new friends to bypass the freeway — by far the fastest route — and take one of the twisty, scenic canyon roads instead, in hopes that they wouldn’t notice passing from the legitimate L.A. to the land of strip malls and Frappuccino-slurping, platform-sandal-clomping teenage girls.
She softens a bit in the end — and does admit to becoming recently fascinated by Encino's history. I wonder where she learned about that.
LA Observed photo: Tapia Brothers pumpkin patch in Encino