I Don’t, But I Can See How It Bugs People

The title reference –so we can get that pesky bit of trivia out of the way– comes from Jonathan Coulton's song called "I Hate California".  I have a feeling that if in your song you claim hating California but refuse to blame Los Angeles for your hatred thereof, your problem goes deeper than just plain hatred of the Golden State.

But I digress, as usual.

Hi there, Inties?  How've you all been?

I was in California for a long whirlwind of a weekend that involved tons of Brazilian food coming at you faster than you can say, "zomgbbqwtf!1!!1!11"; a couple of invigorating morning walks which featured some of the reasons people normally do love California; several stints of driving around that boldly highlighted the reasons people normally hate California with the passion of several blinding suns; a tragicomic, delightfully farcical encounter with a security alarm that made Rev. Mom and I have to flee in the night lest we have to explain ourselves to the "overly helpful" folks over at the Monterey County Sheriff's Department (and by "overly helpful" I mean that not much happens in the Monterey Peninsula, so you draw your own conclusions); several amazing places to eat; and a very lovely wedding, which was technically the reason we were there.

But California, really– it's a bewitching place.

Some time ago, I was trying to explain to someone who's never been what it is that makes California so compelling and all kinds of awesome.  To tell the truth, it's hard to do so: there are many obvious things that make the place a polarizing rather than a compelling figure, and some of of those things happen to make it a hard sell when you place California up against an East Coast frame of mind.  Here are a few of those "hard-sell" items off the top of my head.

1. The drivers are as annoying as you think they are

But there is a reason for that.

People love to go on about how California boasts some of the most cutthroat, aggressive, balls-deep-in-a-river-of-blood competitive driving they've ever seen.  Toes curl and gums sneer as people recount stories of when they were passed on the right by a little old lady driving 85 and flipping them off or some such tall tales.  They also like to go into length about the day they got stuck in a three-hour traffic jam where they only moved four miles in half an hour because they made the mistake of getting on the (insert fabled highway of doom here, such as the 405 in Southern California or 880 in the Bay Area) [also note that it's "the 405" but it's never "the 880" because California is a schizophrenic state] at rush hour/the day before Christmas/two days before Thanksgiving/during an earthquake/throughout the month of July and they are still suffering from traffic-induced PTSD because when they tried to get out of the highway, a little old lady blocked the way while flipping them off.

Let's face it, people: the reason traffic sucks and drivers are so competitive is quite simple.  California drivers get far more practice than any other drivers in the nation because you have to drive fucking everywhere.  When I use the word "fucking" all neatly typed out, it is because I strongly believe in emphasizing that point while increasing the odds that someone will find my blog because I used a curse word.  There is no such thing as "really good public transit" in California, except for maybe the Bay Area –but between you and me and the millions of people who may eventually click on this blog looking for things such as "sexy rubber handschoenen" (hello, Belgium!), the BART kinda sucks.

So yes, if you pit someone who's driving EVERYWHERE (I mean six miles for your kid's school and forty miles easy every day) and by now is cranky and impatient by default because this person is like a cartaur, with someone who's gleefully driving around to enjoy the vistas and the scenery because the mountains are so tall!  and the valleys!  and the sequoias! and look honey, the ocean!!! or with someone who just doesn't seem to get that the leftmost lane in any California highway is for people who are willing to go 20-25 miles over the speed limit AT ALL TIMES, there will be road rage.

2.  California likes your money.

I'm talking an average sales tax of 7% in most areas of California.  Quick: what's YOUR sales tax?  People in DC like to whine that the restaurant tax is really high (10%!?!), but let's face it: you don't need to eat at a restaurant every day.  Your groceries are still being taxed at 5 or 5.5% DCists, so stop your whining.  California is expensive and it likes your money, and there is no way around that because it's run by a bunch of hippies who somehow still allowed the people to elect the Governator into office.  Twice.

Of course, California –land of the original smoking-everywhere-but-500-ft-from-a-building-ban– can't leave well enough alone, so it also wants to tell you exactly how all of your money will or should be spent, but that's a more complex post, for which I can't fortify myself enough to write while pregnant.

3. The sun sets in the wrong place.

One of the lyrics off "I Hate California", it's a funny thing to mention and yet it is a good point.  Not only is the ocean west of the landmass but it's the wrong ocean –not the user-friendly, usually-warmer Atlantic that separates us from civilized places such as Europe, but the cold, vast, daunting Pacific that seems to keep going until it just pours off the edge of the earth.  California is far from most things; separated from the main continental shelf (along with Oregon and Washington state) by a very high mountain range; and inconvenient for many kinds of international travel (read: getting to Europe is slow going).

Regarding the oceans, anyone can argue about the superiority of one ocean over the other, since beauty tends to be a subjective matter of opinion.  However, the Pacific has higher surf and is deeper –better for surfing, if you're into that– and is also richer in flora and fauna by the sheer scope of its size and deep ocean trenches, deeper than anywhere else in the world.  Also, I suspect it might be a little cleaner than the Atlantic ocean, but it is also the proud bearer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Mmm!

But if beauty is a subjective matter, then how come so many car commercials are set on Highway 1?  Just a thought  (yes, Hollywood proximity is probably at least part of the answer).

For the record, I had the damnedest time getting the irrational part of my brain to understand that when you see signs for eastbound places, they are actually moving AWAY from the ocean.  Simple concept, hard to let go.

4. Big deal– the lack of seasons alone makes this place rank high in the list of SUCK.

Seasons are lovely, I agree. 

While DC's seasons are not the most dramatic, for instance –our fall foliage doesn't turn as much as kind of rolls over like a fat dog and our snowfall is rather laughable most years– there are few things that can truly rival the beauty and excitement that seeing spring unfurling in our nation's capital brings.  There is a powerful reason people venture the icy winds, the crowds, and the bovine pilgrimage to the Tidal Basin, after all. 

But really, seasons c
an also be a hassle if you're practical of mind.  The whole bit about not being able to wear flip flops on Valentine's day if that is your heart's desire is arbitrary at best.  Snowstorms and children do not mix.  Old people and temperature extremes are often fatal, and as you get older you tend to lose your taste for being cold (see Florida).  And let's face it:  far more varieties of things people eat and like to grow (i.e. fruits, ornamental plants, exotic plants) actually grow when the temperature stays mostly above freezing.  And if you want to go play in the snow or ski or whatever, there's always the mountains.  You just have to, um, drive there.  Good luck with that, and don't forget the chains.

5. Whatever.  It's fake/those damned hippies/don't they have hillbillies?/the people suck.

People suck everywhere.  There is no helping that.

__________

Hmm…. I am tempted to turn this over to you, Internets, so you can tell me what it is that people hate about California.  In the meantime, I am leaving you with a picture I took a few days ago.  Enjoy!

Sunrise Over Municipal Wharf
Sunrise over the Municipal Wharf– Monterey.
Note how the sun also rises in the wrong place.

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This entry was published on October 1, 2008 at 5:37 pm and is filed under California, man. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “I Don’t, But I Can See How It Bugs People

  1. There is NOTHING to hate about California. It’s a wonderful place 🙂

  2. Hmm. Interesting question. I’m actually a California native who has happily settled in on the East Coast. I still love California (at least Northern California), but don’t want to move back for reasons related to those you list: 1) it’s too damn expensive 2) there are too many people there (and too much traffic) 3) I like seasons. (New England, where I live now, has the sort of seasons they base calendar photos on.)
    I also had to get used to the idea that the sun was setting in the wrong direction, and the ocean was in the wrong direction…
    As far as hating California, I think there is also a certain amount of grating smugness/arrogance that Californians have about the state. I mean, California is a cool place, and Californians seem to expect that others will acknowledge that coolness.
    Can I also just say that as a kid in Northern California in the 70s, the drivers used to actually be courteous? If you wanted to cross the street, you could just stand facing the street, and cars would stop to let you cross. Nowadays (damn, I sound like an old fart), you could easily get run down while crossing in a crosswalk.
    Hoowee, did I ever ramble. Must be my Californian arrogance.

  3. This is a great post, and it’s all true. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder that anyone loves California, when there seem to be so many reasons to hate it.

  4. Laurie on said:

    On the whole, when I think of California I’m not completely intriqued and yet, each time I’ve been there I’ve enjoyed myself completely.
    Perhaps it’s the places I’ve visited? For instance San Francisco (3x – a rival for my NYC affections and the home of one of my closest friends); Monterey (could a coastline be more inspiring?) and Napa/Sonoma (spas, vineyards, fine dining – a foodies dream come true!).
    I do agree there is some vague oddness there on many accounts. Can’t quite put my finger on what it is although the driving situation ranks right up there as one of the worst. Oh and the fact that the weather is warm enough to have lots of very unusual people ALWAYS out on the street bothering you.
    I just know I couldn’t make a life there. Nice place to visit occassionally but once an East Coast girl….well you know.

  5. Ah, I grew up in Seattle, so I have always thought the ocean was in the wrong direction on the East Coast. I need water and/or mountains to navigate; I would be utterly lost in Kansas.
    And as a Seattle native, I was raised to hate Californians. I lived for a year and a half in Berkeley, which is its own kind of annoying, but it comes down to two things:
    1. People there think it’s the best place on earth, but for the cost of living, it’s not THAT great.
    2. Everyone was liberal–which is fine–but they were liberal and unhappy. Which, what did I expect, I moved there right before the 2004 election. Except they were STILL unhappy when I moved at the end of 2005. I’ve only ever lived in college towns, most of them fairly liberal, but no matter how unhappy people are with politics, in general they go on with the lives, enjoy their families and work, and don’t let politics get them down. I was happy at home (I was newly married) but there was like this constant cloud of anger whenever I ventured out. (Or maybe that was the fog. That kind of sucked too. At least Seattle, for all its rain, has a proper summer!)

  6. california is perfect. eh, maybe i’m arrogant. but i miss home and where i live now just doesn’t compare.
    but that’s just my opinion.

  7. i am dying here…this was so funny~ mind you, not because of any feelings i have toward CA, but because it was just plain funny (& just a bit too applicable to some other places too)

  8. from_pa on said:

    So far, having lived in CA for about four months, I’ve noticed 2 distinct reasons to want to leave:
    1. People don’t pick up on sarcasm; social interaction here is bland, at best. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if I thought of myself as being the center of the universe.
    2. There’s something up with the grocery store lines. I don’t know what it’s all about, but, trust me, something is a miss.

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