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The Smell of My Youth

15 Aug 2003

I grew up in the vast, faceless suburban spread of Los Angeles — but at the edge of it. When I was young, the city of Chino was still largely populated by dairy farms, mostly owned by Dutch immigrants or their children. They had been pushed eastward from areas closer in to the city, such as Bellflower and Artesia. Where my family lived, it was a world of strip malls, big box retail, and tract homes. But just a mile away, the homes gave way abruptly to thousands and thousands of acres filled with cows. To this day, whenever I drive through dairyland, the pungent, earthy aroma of cow shit fills me with feelings of childhood nostalgia.

But that carries beyond my old neighborhood, of course. When the wind is just right, you can Chino as far away as Pasadena and Irvine. It’s always been a running joke that the town stinks. In fact, the new Fox show “The O.C.” has picked up on just that. A teenage boy moves from Chino to the beaches of Orange County for some typically dramatic reason, and when he tells his new friends where he is from, they respond “Chino — Ewww!”

The city of Chino, as might be expected, is not too happy about this, and they’ve started a little public campaign to convince the world (or, more accurately, the world’s white-collar job seekers) that Chino is a fine place to call home. This article from the local paper does a good job of defending my home town.

And here’s a crazy “small world” connection: The city council member quoted in the piece, Tom Haughey, is the uncle of none other than Matt Haughey — creator of MetaFilter, designer of the Creative Commons site, and a good friend of mine. When will the craziness stop? ​