Growing Up Valley

I like the Valley.

And I say it knowing full well–summer is too hot.

I know we move slower and close earlier than they do “over the hill.” And that the “big premiere” in Westwood, for us, is a “Taste of Studio City Food Walk.”

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    People
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    Robbie Fox

I like the Valley.

And I say it knowing full well–summer is too hot.

I know we move slower and close earlier than they do “over the hill.” And that the “big premiere” in Westwood, for us, is a “Taste of Studio City Food Walk.”

It’s true—there’s rarely a Brad Pitt sighting on Ventura Boulevard, but in its place, respectfully, we have the original “soccer Mom.” And to be honest, what has Brad Pitt ever done for me anyway? The soccer Mom, on the other hand – easy on the eyes and takes the kids to soccer. That works for me.

Truth is, I don’t even know if they play soccer in the city any more. They’re so progressive. I’ve heard from reliable sources that city kids now play lacrosse. That’s the new thing. We don’t get the new thing here until it’s the old thing there. God knows, sushi, yogurt, Pilates—all started a good 15 years before they found their way over the hill. On the positive side, long after those delicacies have been eliminated from Beverly Hills and Brentwood, Sherman Oaks will still be knee deep in carob chips and California rolls. My family moved to the Valley in 1970. Gas was 36 cents a gallon, the freeways were empty even at rush hour, and a small suburb called Encino was fast becoming the spot for young families seeking a quieter life, good schools and affordable homes. My siblings and I went to our neighborhood Lanai Road School with a student body consisting of pretty much 300 Jews and the Jackson Five.

I learned to play tennis at Balboa Park, baseball at Encino Little League and rode my bike thousands of miles along Ventura Boulevard. I got to six feet tall on a steady diet of Mike’s Pizza (now Maria’s), Saul’s Deli (now Delmonico’s) and Sunday night family dinners at El Torito (now “Mermaids Bikini Bar”—wait, what? Really?!)

It was a nice place to grow up, and though I know nowadays people change cell phone plans to avoid the “818” area code, I never got the knock against it. Maybe we need a better press agent. A mascot. A slogan. Beverly Hills has their famous zip code. Hollywood has a song (Hooray for …). The closest thing we’ve ever gotten to that was a teenage girl with big hair and long nails saying “Whatever.”
I graduated Birmingham High School in 1981 and spent the next years dabbling at various colleges in Chicago and New York. Then I returned to the west coast, to Malibu and West Hollywood, as I pursued a career writing stage and screenplays.

But when I got married and started thinking about “what’s next?” just as my parents had decades earlier, I found myself driving around the hills of Encino, imagining another generation of kids—my kids—learning baseball on the same exact little fields and riding the same exact sidewalks of the Boulevard. I know there are people in the city who’d think that was the problem, but for me, that’s what makes it home.
Robbie Fox lives with his wife and two kids in Encino—just down the road from his childhood home. His latest screenplay Playing the Field, starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel, is currently in production.

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