Suzy Strutner is a recent UCLA grad and an editorial fellow with Huffington Post Travel. Born near the ocean in Newport Beach, California, she ventured up the coast for college before making a jump to New York City, where the only sea is made of people.
Dear Newport Beach,
The reason you're my favorite place is that you never change. I leave and change and come back and change and leave and change again, but I know that whenever all this changing leaves me feeling flustered, you'll be there waiting to hang out with me just the same as we always have.
Some people think you're ritzy and opulent, like the swanky seaside city they saw on "The O.C." or "Real Housewives." They think scandal rocks you daily and that big mansions are always being built and rebuilt on zillion-dollar lots. But you don't let that reputation affect your demeanor-- they have no idea who you really are, and you are perfectly ok with that. You just keep on doing you. Little, quaint, casual, sunny, awesome you. You're so darn consistent.
You keep on making monstrous waves at the Wedge, one of the gnarliest bodysurfing spots of all time, snuggled against the rocks at the veeery end of your miles of beach. The waves at the Wedge are always pretty "siiick," but a few times a year they get downright HUGE. When I was little, if the Wedge "was big," my dad would spontaneously re-route our school carpool group to Seaside Donuts. We'd inhale the gray, foggy air on the boardwalk while nibbling the tops off our glazed twists, then walk through the sand to watch those nutty body surfers pretty much risk their lives for a big ride. I still watch the Wedge whenever I come home to you, and the waves are still epic. You just keep making them, no matter how long I've been gone.
You keep turning out the best cheeseburgers I've ever had at Ruby's on the pier. You keep serving up warm whipped butter on French toast at Wilma's Patio, where I rode my bike on Sundays as a five-year-old and still do as a 23-year-old. You keep four ferries running to the Peninsula-- I don't think those steam-blowing boats have been swapped out in decades. The Ferris wheel at the Fun Zone keeps turning, and it's still the longest ride on Earth.
You facilitate friendship, Newport, the real kind that comes from long talks on lazy days. I can't wait to come home for Christmas and snuggle into our back booth at Alta Coffee, where neighborhood friends will drop in to tell about their travels and play the old, raggedy version of Trivial Pursuit that you always keep on the shelf. When I visit in the summer, we'll sprawl out on the sand at 32nd Street and just talk while you slather us in sun. Catch-up chats are the funnest on stand-up paddleboard rides around the bay. I don't need to worry about hopping off and abandoning my board while I explore, because I trust you, Newport.
You've always been gorgeous, even before you had the glitzy gated communities and manicured strip malls they show on TV. Your prettiest wonders are your natural ones: An inky pink sunset over the harbor while cars glitter on PCH. A morning mist on the Back Bay marshland, where little birdies hold secret meetings on tiny, swampy islands before anybody's awake. A perfect, deep-blue barrel at the Wedge that swallows me whole with a crash and then sucks me slowly into the ocean. You keep on producing these wonders, day in and day out.
When I come back to visit, the sun will be setting and the birdies will be meeting and the waves will be crashing. I'll find my mom greeting toddlers in her corner shop on Marine Avenue and my weirdo dad flying his kite at A Street beach. My friends and my sisters and my dog will be huddled in a big pile of love under one roof-- your roof, Newport.
You're the constant in my life that lets me be adventurous, because while I'm adventuring, I know you're there waiting for me. Don't ever change, Newport. I don't think you ever will.
Love to the Wedge and back,