You know what is awesome about running in a new place? Never knowing what is around the next corner. Maybe it’s a really cute and retro coffee-shop that is populated with hipsters who claim they aren’t hipsters and dogs wearing bandanas tied to parking meters, or maybe, it’s a person sitting on what appears to be a cello case, wrapped in a sleeping bag and smoking a slightly less than legal substance at 7:30 in the morning. Long Beach was an interesting place to run, that’s for sure.
I just spent a week in Long Beach, actually, and managed never to actually see a beach from anywhere other than my hotel room way up on the 14th (really the 13th) floor of a downtown hotel. And every time I ran, I forgot that I might want to run on the beach, and instead just poked around the city streets, often ending up on bike paths and cement trails by sights like the Queen Mary (no ghosts sighted) and the ever popular Pine Avenue.
Long Beach is the Oakland of southern California, without a doubt. Besides being diverse in every color, shape, and economic class, it is also home to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (yum!), and lots of cranes at the port. Running in the LB is quite pleasant – fall had really settled in nicely, so morning runs were just a touch chilly and the air moved crisply around me and was easy to inhale. No sign of that LA smog.*
The problem with being like Oakland is the neighborhoods in Long Beach can go from charming to scary-beyond-all-reason is the course of half a block. Seriously, one half of a block can be flowers and sausages, and the next half can be shattered glass and dirty looks. In an area I’m familiar with, this is fine. I just avoid dangerous places like they are moldy tuna fish sandwiches. But in a new place, sometimes you don’t necessarily realize you have walked into trouble until it is too late. Or close enough to too late that your hair stands on end despite the massive amounts of sweat pouring down your face.
People always joke that I shouldn’t be worried about literally running into trouble. “You can outrun anyone!” they say with a twinkle in their eye that lets me know informing them that this is a running joke I have heard numerous times would ruin their day faster than running out of gas on the highway. So I’m telling one of my co-workers about this not particularly great neighborhood I found myself in, and he looks at me and says, “Wow, I bet anyone who wanted to try and steal your iPod could sprint faster than you. You should be careful.” And he is totally right.
Sure, I could outrun anyone if they wanted to chase me for six miles. But someone who wants to take my iPod (which I would very kindly give them, honestly, though I think I’d be judged for how much Ashlee Simpson and Nickel Creek is on there, and I doubt they’d really enjoy Mates of State and Bright Eyes) or harm me only wants to chase me for six seconds, and they’re probably going to win. Sprinting, as demonstrated in soccer, is not my strong suit.
Luckily, I never had to put my skiddadling-pace to the test, nor did I have to break out my hand-held mace that more than one concerned person in my life has presented me with in the last few years. I just calmly ran the streets on Long Beach, admiring their graffiti, their Victorian-styled neighborhoods, the extreme amount of Orange County inspired commerce, and the really really nice air.
Oh Long Beach, I won’t forget the runs we had together.
*When I was little, I had a T-shirt that read “UCLA…when it’s not smoggy!” and I remember thinking it was the cleverest wordage I had ever heard. I wonder if that T-shirt is where I got my love of words?