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