You never think you’re going to find yourself in a town called “Valencia.” You also never expect that the word “Valencia” is going to inspire an immediate, Pavlovian-level response of, “Oh, you mean, like, oranges?” from a good 90% of the people you tell you are going there. Valencia = oranges? I mean, I guess I knew that there was such a thing as “Valencia Oranges,” but I never knew they were such a cultural touchstone. I wouldn’t be that surprised that so many of my friends knew this, but only if a) we all worked full-time in the produce industry or b) we all grew up in Valencia, California. Like, if I said I were going to “Sunkist” and they were like, “Oh, you mean, like, oranges,” I would get it. Or if I were like, “Hey, you guys, we’ve gotta leave, because we have a long ride up to Town-Nothing Rhymes-With-Ville, California,” then…well, you get the picture. But, fine, Valencia is where “Valencia Oranges” come from. Me, I thought Valencia sounded less like a town and more like an epicenter in the making, where future generations of fault-line-conscious southern Californians would be like, “All of the wine in our Hollywood apartment fell off the shelves and shattered the day of the Valencia quake.” Sad day.
But drive to Valencia I did, with my friend Steph, for a concert another friend of ours was performing at Cal Arts. I don’t know much about that school, and all I’ve really learned about it was from later episodes of Six Feet Under, when a very thinly-veiled version of it depicted all artists (and, indeed, all students) an as aggressively cruel strain of aggravating dilettantes who spent their parents’ money on recreational drug use when they weren’t being faux-politically-countercultural as a result of their anarchic ability to cut photographs of eyes out of glossy magazines. My friend’s excellent concert was nothing like that, but Cal Arts itself did have a certain “Kids from Fame” individualist vibe that crept up slowly and revealed itself only after we walked around for a bit: two chairs in the middle of a linoleum floor that Steph decided was an art installation. A giant arrow made up of computer printouts of many smaller arrows, all pointing at…the dead end of a hallway. Oh, and some kind of spontaneous world music dance party in the middle of a hallway that blocked our exit from the building. To which I said out loud, “See, this is why I was secretly glad when Claire got that real job where she had to wear stockings.”And it was at that moment that I realized I don’t give a crap about how badly art gets commodified in this town (L.A., not Valencia). Los Angeles hasn’t made me this way entirely; I may have gone to Vassar, but I could never tolerate the daily exhibitions of interpretive dancing girls on the quad, twirling to the same three chords on an acoustic guitar. I like art (and also whatever it is that I do) that pays. And also, art that pays has allowed me to make a life I like in a town with sunshine. It’s bought two of my best friends a cute house on a hill. It puts family down the block and a ton of friends practically on my corner. So what if I lose a full day of work every once in a while looking for footage of reality show contestants eating breakfast so that we can put what is tantamount to a commercial for cereal into the middle of an episode? To say that I say: blame your TiVos, folks, don’t blame me.Also, Valencia looks like one of those nondescript suburbs in Arizona that’s only really a series of generic chain stores surrounding a megachurch. Also, the freeway that took us to Valencia was closed six miles north of our exit because it was COVERED IN SNOW. So, really, I’m not going anywhere.