In Defense of California

I shuddered upon reading this WSJ opinion piece on the sorry state of California, denouncing the Golden State as the “Lindsay Lohan of states”.

First of all, why is everyone always picking on our once-beloved Lindsay Lohan? She has a terrible disease she’s forced to fight in public. Cut her some slack.

It’s like picking on politicians for having bad hair. It’s too easy, so just don’t do it lest you appear lazy to the “reading” populace. Of course, if you’re really in a pinch for material, make fun of patsy targets like Orange County, Randy Moss, and Goldman Sachs. Then shamelessly link back to these stories to help mask your recent dearth of valuable creative social commentary. Ahem.

California’s allure is terminally unique. As a young boy in the sticks of Ohio, I was annoyingly boastful just to have an aunt who lived in California. When I was 12, we flew out to see her and went to Disneyland, and I was king of Coldwater, Ohio, for about a week.

California: Wild beach parties, trend-setting facial hair, torrid questionable relationships, deadly ham sandwiches...what's not to like?

After that glorious vacation, I always wanted to go back, and I was attracted to more than mouse ears and supposed unabashedly liberal deviancy. I loved the snaking highway ramps, the miles of illogically laid-out city avenues, neighborhoods that popped out of nowhere, the languages and diversity and colors of Los Angeles as interpreted through my impressionable, cloistered pre-teen eyes.

I knew I had to live in California, someday. In college, I consistently threatened a transfer to UCLA, and I even spent my post-junior-year summer in Westwood to test the waters.

Upon commencement, I threw my Midwestern ephemera into a U-Haul as fast as possible and headed West. Not including a little one-year break, I’ve been a San Franciscan for 12 years, and despite my fair town’s liberal cooing,  I’ve managed to keep my talons’ firm grip on the Middle of the sociopolitical road.

As I’ve grown wiser and balder, I have developed a deeper interest in economics and politics, two things that engender national derision for California. We take silly things like pot and gay marriage seriously and give the people a voice on these pressing social issues. We elect bizarre personalities to high public office. We bestow upon pedestrians and bicyclists unquestionable power in our deteriorating streets.

I really have no reason to stay here. I like my job, but my parents are aging, as parents do, in Ohio, and could use my help. My long-term relationship is in its death throes (it doesn’t involve a legal marriage, which is very California). I have no kids. I pay incredibly high taxes at the state and local level and receive very little in return.

That last sentence is a lie. Ineffectual leadership and broken infrastructure aside, California is simply a magical place, and it earns that reputation day in and day out. I don’t have enough superficial adjectives on the tip of my tongue or the energy to Google synonyms for “majestic” at the moment, so you will be spared the ranting endorsement of California’s natural beauty and multicultural magnetism.

My relationship with this state is like any other long-term relationship. I can’t explain why I love the place, or what I’m doing there, or why I let it treat me the way it does. I just love it. So I stay, and I deflect daily questions like, “What the hell are you still doing there?”

I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere. I live in California, and it’s a dream.

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3 thoughts on “In Defense of California

  1. So I stay, and I deflect daily questions like, “What the hell are you still doing there?”

    That’s the same daily question we deflect in Ohio (which, by the way, is the Rock Capital of the World)! At least your weather is better.

  2. Love the part about your week-long popularity for having been to the Golden State of Dreams.

    I lived in Monterey for 6 six years. I still go back. I get my ass kicked as a routine exercise by her Majesty CA. You can not usually earn a living in Monterey to sustain your housing costs. But on the upside, you don’t need to go on vacation, because YOU ARE ALWAYS ON VACATION!

    And San Fran is another favored spot- a friend lives just outside Oakland. I’ve never entered a restaurant- no matter how small and indestinct- that I didn’t enjoy. There are no Holes-In-The-Wall in this part of the country. Every place has character and usually, a magnificent chef who just wants to work there, vs. say, Patterson New Jersey, Or Eerie, Pa.

    My eyes are focused on a return to Big Sur country this year, with hopes of smacking some paint around on canvas and calling the whole thing a business expense/loss. Whatever.


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