On the map of Los Angeles, Arcadia is way to the right. Even more. That’s it, keep going, farther right, farther, still farther, now up a bit. There you go. Though some say that Arcadia in French translates to “I don’t think the GPS is working,” actually it is Native Southern Californian for “Dude, I moved how far from the beach?”
Arcadia is Pasadena’s neighbor to the East, and that earned it the enviable distinction of being the suburb of a suburb. That is not easy to do because usually one city wants to be the favorite suburb, then arguments ensue and things get thrown across fences and border streets.
Though Arcadia is just as far away from downtown Los Angeles as the San Fernando Valley, it couldn’t be farther away culturally. Besides lacking enough groovy coffee houses to sustain its population, Arcadia is the land of Outbacks, Macaroni Grills, Orchard Supply super centers, and countless nail salons; a place where chain stores compete against each other in an annual contest to see who is more similar, and where Bloomin’ Onions grow in the center medians of the “downtown” shopping district.
Arcadia is home to the world famous Santa Anita Racetrack, where you can lose your life savings while gazing at the picturesque and occasionally snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains, trying desperately not to see the “inquiry” sign flashing next to your horse’s name on the board. And if losing money isn’t your thing, come by select weekends in the off season and you can get drunk at a microbrew garden while wandering around looking at vintage cars and listening to live rock bands. Cars, live music and booze; some things just go together.
The curious thing about Arcadia is the longer you stay there, the longer you want to stay there. It is a place whose inhabitants wonder, “Why would anyone want to go to Hollywood? Or anywhere for that matter? We’d have to get a hotel, we’d have to pay to park, and then where would we eat? Let’s just stay here and eat at the Claim Jumper – they do such a nice Chinese Chicken Salad.”
Arcadia does have one great accomplishment, however: they produced my wife. And for that, I will always have a soft spot for Bloomin’ Onions.