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As the only member of my family living in California – specifically, Los Angeles – I have to deal with the common misconceptions of the state: No, one does not go up to celebrities and start talking to them, even just to say how much one likes their work. No, locals generally don’t go to Hollywood; it’s an overpriced, touristy hellscape of traffic with no parking. And no, even if one does go to the beach (many don’t – that hellscape of traffic with no parking thing again), people only swim on the hottest days because the ocean here is icy cold.
But what I find myself having to correct most often is no, those dramatic wildfires on the news are nowhere near me. I live a mile outside of Downtown LA in a dense, urbanized area, and there are no sections of hills and brushlands near me to go up in flames. What they are seeing is always either in the hills where the wealthy have homes or the suburbs so far from me that I won’t see the smoke until and unless it burns so long that it dissipates into a choking, carbon-scented haze that drifts over the Santa Monica Mountains and hangs over the Los Angeles Basin.