The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘L.A.’

Provincialsm: Full circle

Posted by keithosaunders on May 17, 2011

I stayed for 26 years — long enough for me to feel more like a New Yorker than a Californian.  It got to the point where California barbs no longer phased me.  Sometimes I would even join in. 

Moving to San Fran was a homecoming of sorts.  Though I grew up in Los Angeles, 400 miles to the south, the Bay Area felt inexorably like California.  Every once in a while I would catch a whiff of something — a flower, the air, I’m not sure what — that would take me back to my youth. 

At first everything felt so novel to me that I hardly missed New York at all.  When I began going to clubs and sitting in, the caché of being from New York helped.  People here may not necessarily like New York, but they respect it.  Finally, all of those years of dues-paying had begun to pay off.  I am rarely, if ever intimidated on the bandstand.  My playing is aggressive, and tempos never faze me. 

At first I felt guilty about saying that I was from New York, because after all, I am really from California, and if you want to get technical, I was born in Pennsylvania.  The truth is that I’ve lived in New York longer than California, so why not?  Besides, in the interest of full disclosure, I almost always mention that I grew up in California. 

I have tried very hard not to cop an attitude about being from New York, first of all, because I don’t want to alienate people, and second of all, I remember how much that same attitude pissed me off back in the day.

While I haven’t experienced an anti-New York bias anywhere near the anti-California bias of New Yorker’s, there was a noteworthy incident last week.  I was on a gig up in Sonoma County.  It was one of those nights — I didn’t like the club, the music wasn’t hooking up, and by the fourth hour I found myself in a foul mood.  A friend of the bass player’s resembled Dick Cheney, and possessed a quiet, yet contrarian manner.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it seemed that whatever I said he would find a way to disagree. 

When he made a back-handed comment about New York City I reached my boiling point.    There was something about the matter of fact way he said it, as if to imply that putting down New York is the most natural thing in the world.  I fixed him a steely eyed look and quietly responded, “That’s funny that you say that, because almost everyone in New York hates California.  They consider it lightweight.”

“Really?!”  He stammered.  I could tell immediately that my little retort had hit home.  The thing is, I’ve lived half of my life in both places.  I am perfectly positioned to put any of these motherfuckers in their place, regardless of the coast! 

Now, as my trilogy comes to a close, I will leave you with these parting words:  This provincialism business exists everywhere.  Forget about it.  New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Japan…we’re all a bunch of insecure assholes. 

 And you know what?  The East Bay rules!      

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Provincialism

Posted by keithosaunders on May 11, 2011

I grew up in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley in a town called Van Nuys.  When I lived in L.A. I thought it was a the center of the world.  I thought it was a glamorous place full of hip movie stars, and great musicians. 

As I got into my teen years and was exposed to, and began playing jazz, I began to wonder about the wider world, in particular, New York City.  Both of my parents grew up in New York.  My father had great memories of his childhood there, and he vividly described what it was like to grow up in New York during the pre and post World War II era.

I got into my late teens and began hanging out with the great drummer, Dick Berk.  He had lived in New York in the early ’60s, and he would spend hours regaling me with stories of all the great musicians he had hung out with and played with.    

New York was like a mythical place to me, filled with jazz clubs, great sports teams, colorful characters, jazz musicians, and places to hang out until all hours to the night.  What could be better?

There was one problem.  Almost everyone else I talked to hated New York.  I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was a crime-ridden, rat-infested, over-priced hell-whole, and that I should have my head examined for wanting to live there.  When you recall some of the films of the 1970s — The Out of Towners, Taxi Driver, and Mean Streets — you can see why it had a bad reputation.  Of course, most of the people I knew had never been to New York, but that didn’t stop them from badmouthing it.

Furthermore, they told me, the people were rude, unfriendly, and unwelcoming.  When I responded that I wanted to experience the greatest jazz scene in the world, I was told to grow up — that there was no future in jazz.

To be continued…

Posted in jazz, New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

New York vs San Francisco: Who are the better drivers?

Posted by keithosaunders on May 24, 2010

I spent this past weekend in the Bay Area looking for places to live since I’ll be relocating there late this summer. While I was there I couldn’t help but notice that the driving style was very different from that of New York City. I do a lot of driving — always have, having grown up in L.A. — so I feel very attuned to the road.

In New York we’re usually running late and in a hurry.  We tend to drive a little bit too fast on our small, crowded highways, and we like to weave in and out of traffic.  We liberally (no pun intended) honk our horns, and do not take offense to being honked at as long as the honk is brief and to the point — not a sustained wail.

In the Bay Area the roads are generally congested and people drive close together, but at slower speeds.  I found it very difficult to change lanes as people usually wouldn’t make room. For some reason, New York drivers expect you to change lanes and are usually accommodating.  The Bay Area drivers jealously guarded their lanes and I could tell they considered it an affront when I had to force my way in.  These were the only times I ever heard car horns this weekend.

That’s right, they never honk their horns unless they are mad at you, the catalyst for this anger being the aforementioned lane change.  If you are at a red light and you haven’t noticed that the light has changed, don’t worry.  They will not honk, but wait patiently for you to notice.  This is clearly not a honkable offense out west which is much different from New York.  Here, if you don’t move the split second after the light changes you are reminded immediately.

I’m interested in other impressions.  I admit that this could be all in my head, or perhaps I’m just an impatient driver. 

Posted in New York City, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »