March 7, 2022

MEHLER | Some New Yorkers in California

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An incredibly unbiased take of the state furthest from my own.

For February Break, I was fortunate enough to accept an opportunity to visit Los Angeles. I had not been since I was around ten-years-old, having spent time with extended family in Long Beach. I’ve seen photos of myself in Disneyland and Legoland (with much longer hair and questionable fashionable choices) but have very vague memories of the Golden State.

My girlfriend, Julia, and I weighed our costs and benefits of missing three more days of school following the break and ultimately elected to take a true vacation (with a little business at the end…). After flying coast-to-coast Saturday night, we took a Lyft for about an hour from the Los Angeles International Airport to Universal City. As folks who grew up entirely in New York, the first thing we noticed was how flat Los Angeles was. Skyscrapers are staples of our eastern cities: looking up in New York we see our Empire State Building, our Freedom Tower and hundreds of storied buildings. 

In Los Angeles, you look up and become blinded by the sun (I also forgot to bring sunglasses and was forced to buy some overpriced ones at the hotel, so maybe that one is on me). I might also have made a wisecrack joke at 1 a.m. (still mentally 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) about how those earthquakes must really be something if the Californians are so afraid to climb to the heavens.  Our driver countered with the story of watching the floor shake after their 2019 quake. I backed off from the natural disaster gags from then on.

We spent our first day at the Griffith Observatory, hiking, learning about space and waiting for the fabled sunset over the Hollywood Sign. If Ithaca is gorges, then Los Angeles is hilly. We walked for miles across the dusted paths to different peaks and valleys, looking at lovely vistas across the city. Julia tolerated my obsession with Space for the hours we spent in the observatory, and eventually, we watched the Griffith sunset. 

After reminiscing on our Slope sunsets, we ended the day with the most iconic meal for $10 in California: In-n-Out Burger. I watched Julia order like a pro with all the animal-style, protein-style type of gibberish before I ordered my shake, and we debated the age-old question: In-n-Out vs. Shake Shack. I must admit upfront, I order my burgers and shakes very plainly; I enjoy a plain burger with salty fries to dip in my chocolate shake. Julia contended that when ordering the “proper way,” In-n-Out beats Shake Shack. On the plain battleground, however, Shake Shack won out. I still hold that Shake Shack remains the king of the high-end fast-food clash. Lyfting home, we finished our first day with a nice tan, full stomachs and a nice hotel room overlooking the smokestacks of the building.

For day two, we walked to Universal Studios and bought the fast passes with aims to complete the whole park in the singular day we allocated. From the “Kung Fu Panda” attraction to the “Jurassic Park” one, we rode each ride and had enough time to go on the Studio Tour as well. Between fried chicken in The Simpsons’ Springfield and butterbeer in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we indulged in the specialties offered before settling down for a nice dinner on Universal’s City Walk. We went to bed again with more burns than tan, still full stomachs, and our glorious smokestack view.

On our last day before the business portion of the trip, we journeyed out to Santa Monica to visit the pier. Julia and I both come from Italian grandmothers who are insistent on the proper way to cook calamari, chicken parm, etc. But that calamari on the pier? Absolutely delicious. We then looked at the Pacific Ocean from a hot and shifty beach to which my East Coast preferences started to make their return. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed cold snow hitting my skin until I  laid in hot, blistering sand for a long period of time. We concluded our beach trip with ice-cold custards from the famous PierBurger and headed back to the new hotel with the usual: burns and tans, a full stomach but a new view of a parking lot.

While I’m certain everyone will be reading about the business portion of our trip in the next couple of weeks, I truly enjoyed my time in Los Angeles for the past week. This piece may have felt more like a blog post than an opinion piece, but I have three firm opinions combined with  one free piece of advice. Firstly, California is worth the trip. East Coast bias most certainly remains in my veins, but visiting the sunnier side of our great nation is worth the seven-hour flight. Secondly, New York (plain) burgers, fries and shakes beat out California ones — I’m ready to die on that hill. Thirdly — and also my free piece of advice —you should take a trip with your best friend, that special someone if you can. Traveling across the country and living school-free for even a week with Julia has been one of the best times of my life. I encourage all of you to take a vacation with that amazing person, if you can, before the real world starts post-Cornell. 

Patrick J. Mehler ‘23 (he/him) is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Tuesday this semester.