Friday, January 3, 2014

True Californian

Years ago, I drove an airport shuttle at the Los Angeles airport while putting myself through college.  I met interesting people from all over the country.  One of my passengers was from Ohio.  He had long, wavy, bleach blond hair.  He had a Hawaiian shirt on, baggy shorts and flip flops.  I seem to remember a guitar swung over his shoulder, but I think he was just carrying a guitar case.  He was so excited to be in Southern California.

He took a look at me and asked where I was from.  I was wearing long pants and a dark blue polo shirt with the "Super Shuttle" logo.  My hair was cut short in a conservative style and I wore glasses.  I said I was from California.  He had a look of shock on his face.  I was an enigma in his California fantasy.  His reply "No way!".

I was born in Redondo Beach, the same place the Beach Boys sang about in the song "Surfin' U.S.A."  I grew up 1.5 miles from the beach.  My mother was born in Southern California.  "Yes way! I'm Californian".

So let's address a couple of myths:

1. Surfing.  Not all Californians surf.  I like the beach, swimming in the waves, body surfing.  I didn't even try to surf until I was 40 years old.  I'm no good at it and don't have a desire to spend the time learning.

2. Partying.  I'm talking about drinking-until-you're-stupid partying.  I enjoy hanging out, having fun, socializing.  I've never had a drink in my life.  I know a lot of people (other Californians) in the same boat.

3. Hollywood.  I always rolled my eyes when the naive tourist would get in my van and say "Take me to Hollywood!".  You don't want to stay in Hollywood.  It's not very nice.  All the images of Southern California are usually, Santa Monica, Venice, or Malibu.

4. Liberals. Yes there are liberals in California.  My history teacher when I was a freshman in high school wouldn't say the pledge of allegiance.  But, there are also many conservatives.  There are a lot of great, conservative families with good fathers (absent in most of all TV shows and movies), loving mothers, and normal kids.

5. California is about to suffer a financial collapse.  A couple years ago I met a guy on vacation from Louisiana.  He was shocked to see so many expensive cars and homes.  All he heard on the news was how messed up California was.  The truth is that there is A LOT OF WEALTH in California.  There is also a lot of successful companies.

6. Everyone is rich.  On the other end of the spectrum, is the assumption that everyone is wealthy.  That's not true either.  I've known many people who have been out of work for over a year at one time or another.  There are a lot of people struggling to get by in California.

Conclusion: There's more to California than meets the eye.

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