Erika D. Smith is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times writing about the diversity of people and places across California. Before taking part in “How Can Our Communities Escape Polarizing Conflict,” a Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation event co-presented with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Smith chatted in our green room at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum about the pain of being an Ohio sports fan, her favorite trails in SoCal, and her most unpopular opinion.
What's the first conflict you ever remember mediating?
Gosh, probably between a couple of friends on the playground as a kid. I mean, I'm the peacemaker in my group.
You’re from Ohio. What is your favorite thing about Ohio?
Probably my friends and family. And as messy as the sports teams are—and they're always, you know, ulcer-inducing—it's still fun to watch. Whatever season it is, I’m always still rooting for them, knowing they’re gonna lose. It’s tradition.
What's your favorite simple pleasure?
I’d say Skinny Pop probably right now. But beyond that, I would say sunsets.
Where's your favorite place to go in Los Angeles?
Probably the beach. I mean, I guess that tracks, right, with the sunsets? But probably the beach. And then anywhere high, where you can get a view, on a clear day, of the Valley and seeing what's out there. I mean the topography here is just so interesting and varied and in Cleveland, it’s like, you get what you get. I appreciate the beauty of this place. And so any place I can climb up and go see something beautiful.
Do you have a favorite trail?
I always end up on the ones in South Bay because I live on the Westside and it takes too much effort to come over on this side of town. And by the time I get home, I’m tired and you know angry because the traffic, so I usually end up somewhere down south. And sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll go up to Ventura County.
What was the best book that you've read recently?
Amanda [Ripley]’s, really. I think it hit at the right time and was really kind of enlightening in a way that I didn't expect.
What’s one of your favorite unpopular opinions?
Probably that California is not as liberal as it likes to think it is. I don’t know if it’s unpopular but I think people kind of gasp a little bit sometimes when I say that.
How do you spend your idle time?
Sitting on my porch and just kind of watching the traffic. It sounds insane, but there are so many nice cars in my neighborhood, and I actually really like cars. Because the sun has come out, everybody's bringing their classic cars out, despite the fact that gas is like, what, $6 a gallon now? So I've been doing a lot of car-watching lately.
If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you travel and why?
Someplace out of the country, just because I feel like I've been trapped in the U.S. for some time. Some friends of mine were just telling me that they’re going to the Dalmatian Islands. You get on and off a boat and bike them. That sounds amazing.