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!