There is so much I don’t know about Southern California, yet continue to learn on a daily basis. Like the fact that San Dimas is an actual city and not a fictional locale for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. That the San Gabriel mountains are gigantic, much closer than I thought, and snow-capped during the winter. That the middle class is still very much alive, able to work in a retail environment and afford to buy a house nearby. I spent the back part of the week working operations in our warehouse, learning the ins and outs of how our distribution system works, and meeting the incredible team of talent that makes it all possible. As I got to know a number of my new colleagues over the course of the work day, I was both surprised and heartened to learn that many of them owned their homes in the Inland Empire. I knew very few people in the Bay Area who could afford to do that. The guys I worked with previously could barely afford to pay their rent, let alone a down payment and a mortgage.
Spending much of my time thus far east of Los Angeles, I’m continually surprised by what I find. Large cities that I’ve never heard of, like Jurupa Valley with a population of well over 100,000. Huge ethnic communities that are building and contributing to their local neighborhoods, like the folks at one particular store in San Gabriel, perhaps the most jaw-dropping and amazingly-diverse retail experience I’ve ever encountered. There are so many restaurants and stores in West LA, Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Echo Park that I need to discover, but I can’t stop thinking about the expansive territory to the east. I still need to visit a spot in San Bernardino, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in the area and the original inspiration for Taco Bell. I want to go back to Little Swan Bakery in Alhambra and get more delicious cream puffs for fifty cents a piece (they blow Beard Papa away for a fraction of the price).
There are 4,850 square miles out there to discover and over 4 million people to meet in California’s Inland Empire, about the size and population of Connecticut. Yet, it’s generally an afterthought to most folks visiting and living in Los Angeles.