February 22, 2008

The SoCal/NorCal Divide

Californians are like ... sooo stereotypical. Or so the average American is inclined to believe. And everyone seems to have their minds made up about those crazy west-coasters. But make no mistake, no single culturally infused image can lay claim to such a vast, diverse state. California is home to a plethora of stereotypes. But is there any truth in these perceptions? After all, one man's survey did find that "63 percent of Californians have actually hugged a tree". I'm not here to argue with such remarkable journalism, but I would like to shed some light on a critical component of Californian pseudo-reality ... the North/South divide.

Count me in.

I live in SOUTHERN California. The SOUTHERN is an important distinction. "SoCal" and "NorCal" are two completely different worlds. It's Los Angeles vs. San Francisco ... palm trees vs. redwoods ... Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. Southern California is the California of movies, valley girls, gang violence, and sunny beaches. Northern California is the land of academics and environmentalists, philosophy and nature. Take a camera and a passport if you travel north from LA, because it's a whole different experience. In fact, most Californian stereotypes can be broken down along geographic divisions and classified as either "NorCal" or "SoCal". For example ... the classic surfer image or the self-absorbed Hollywood star ... clearly "SoCal". And how about the geeky dot-com entrepreneur or the hemp-wearing, pot smoking, living in the trees naturalist ... most definitely, "NorCal".

SoCal Dave

NorCal Dave

Yes, "NorCal" and "SoCal" have there differences ... and the two don't always care much for each other. Google "NorCal vs. SoCal" and you're sure to find some heated online debate. But perhaps the heat is mostly coming from one direction ... in the form of "NorCal Rage." A UC Davis wiki points out that Southern Californians are subjected to much hatred from the North, including "mean-spirited, feverishly-pitched sermons against the practice of using the article 'the' in conjunction with freeway names." The Southerners, however, "are born, live, and die without Northern California's existence ever crossing their minds." Visiting Northerners are "treated with polite bemusement, as emissaries from a distant land that many believed mythical." Regardless of this apathy, many NorCal residents are concerned about a takeover from the south. And if we didn't already have a nice even 50 states, we'd probably be looking at a split.

Side note: In the event of a split, the big question would be what to do with all the rural desert communities and vast subsidized farmlands that lay in between. I'd say give 'em to the north. All those farms soak up the water reserves like Sponge Bob in a rainstorm, so let the "greens" figure that one out. The south has more pressing problems ... like Snoop Dogg's most recent conviction or the latest Britney meltdown.

Where's the love?

But in spite of our differences, there is one thing that unequivocally unites all Californians together ... a deep, heart felt belief that the world drops off into oblivion just beyond our state's border. Californian's LOVE California and, as such, maintain an apathetic disregard for all things non-Californian. Yes, we have our squabbles ... and yes, we are out of touch with the rest of America. But we're not concerned. Long live the Republic of California!

December 14, 2007

Christmas in Cali

For an east-coaster in southern California, the holidays can really sneak up on you. The passing of time is quietly veiled by the drug of moderate temperatures and warm sunshine. Seasonal senses are lulled into a state of blissful ignorance. December seems such a distant notion. Until one day you wake up and realize ... December is half-way in the past and Christmas is less than two weeks away! Yes, we have the lights, the carols, and the rampant materialism here in Cali ... just no Jack Frost reminders. But for those who would object that Christmas isn't Christmas without blistering cold temperatures, just heed the reminder left us from A Moment of Science that "although Jack Frost nipping at your nose can be the subject of happy, winter songs, actual frostbite is nothing to smile about." Indeed. Wishing you a Merry SoCal Christmas!

October 04, 2007

Shake It Up, Burn It Down ... California's Natural Disasters

Nature can be a terrifying force, and each year the U.S. experiences it's fair share of nature's mayhem. Devastating hurricanes slam the southeast ... violent tornados tear through the midwest ... blizzards bury the north ... and southern California watches it all on TV while enjoying moderate temperatures and sunny skies. "Oooh, only 62 today .. better pull out a sweatshirt." But not so fast. California weather may be idyllic, but nature's fury has not left this great state untouched.

California has earthquakes. And moving to California, I was constantly reminded that at any moment "the big one" could hit and rock the state back to the Stone Ages, leveling cities and swallowing up whole cultures. "How could you possibly want to move to a place with earthquakes?" Friends, friends ... nothing is going to get swallowed up. If you do your reading, you will find in the "Putting down roots in earthquake country" brochure that large gaping crevices inhaling the helpless masses during an earthquake is a complete Hollywood myth. If you ever experience such a phenomenon, you can sit back and chuckle, because this is definitely not an earthquake. Then you can pull out your trumpet and play along with the heavenly angels because the end of the world is probably upon you.

Cracks everywhere!
SoCal faultlines

But how about all that shaking. Well, as the Southern California Earthquake Data Center can attest, there are over 40 earthquakes a day in California!!! You can hardly stand up straight here! Actually, despite the fact that I have experienced an estimated 30,000 quakes since moving to California, I have yet to feel the rumblings. But that day may come unexpectedly, and I need to be prepared.
California residents are frequently reminded of the importance of being prepared. We are given such timely advice as protect your head and neck, don't run toward downed electrical wires, tie your belongings to the walls, and be ready to "stop, drop, and roll" at a moments notice. Wait ... maybe that last one was in case of California's second most famous natural disaster, the wild fire.
Wild fires are no laughing matter. Every year, thousands of acres of dry tinder burn to the ground in California, threatening countless rich white folks with houses in the hills. To avoid property damage due to wild fires, there is a simple solution ... don't buy houses in the hills! Come join us in the streets of Long Beach! Barring an outbreak of riots or illegal fireworks displays, it is highly unlikely you will ever be affected by "wild" fires in Long Beach. But if you do, however, find yourself out in the trees on a sunny autumn day with the dry "Santa Ana wind" blowing through your hair, causing your lips to crack and nose to bleed ... do be careful and control your inner pyro.


SoCal Eats - Part 1: the Chains

Food is such an integral part of every society. EVERYONE EATS ... and most of us enjoy it. So one of the first tasks of moving to any new location is scoping out the meal selections. And in southern California, there are many options. After almost two years of residing in this vast expanse of culinary choices, I am only just beginning to scrape the top of the iceberg of restaurant selection. My taste-buds still have much to experience, but I feel the need to share some of my initial findings. I begin with a discussion of some of the famous SoCal chain restaurants that I've discovered, and later I will add an entry on some of my favorite local flavors ...

In'n Out: Without a doubt, the king of southern California chains is In'n Out, the state's favorite drive through burger joint. Californians hold In'n Out with great affection and reverence. On the rare occasion that anyone actually leaves California, you're sure to find them reminiscing about a "double-double, animal style" or some other In'n Out memory. The chain of restaurants is owed by a family who decided not to franchise, but instead maintain control of all branches with strict quality standards and subtle Bible references. They are known for their simple menu and insistence on fresh ingredients. And also the "secret" menu ... which happens to be posted in its entirety on Wikipedia. But probably the biggest reason for the mass adoration is that they are almost exclusively in California ... a classic case of Californian exceptionalism.

Classic California

Wahoo's Fish Taco: One of my favorite discoveries in southern California was the "fish taco." Back on the east coast, I never would have guessed that this combo was so right on. But that all changed with a visit to Wahoo's. Great food, great price, and great atmosphere. Wahoo's was founded by surfers in Hawaii, and the surf culture is still infused into every restaurant. Kick back over a filling meal while watching videos of top-notch wave-riders. You'll soon be inspired to rush out, grab a board, hit the beach, ... and seriously injure yourself. Wait at least half an hour before getting in the water.

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles: Wow. Just the name of this restaurant brings saliva to my lips and tears of joy to my eyes. The first mention of Roscoe's left me dreaming of the day I would experience the savory fried chicken and tasty waffles combined together in mysterious culinary harmony. This, my friend, is urban "soul food" Los Angeles style. I'm speechless. Consult a doctor if you have high-blood pressure or a weak heart, but by no means pass up a visit to Roscoe's.

Tasty ... very tasty