Thursday, November 4, 2010

California Screaming

I’m playing catch-up, at the moment – trying to get current on the several blogs that I follow. Nancy and I just returned from Southern California where we acquired a new daughter-in-law – my step-son’s wedding and a brief reunion with relatives we usually only seem to connect up with at weddings or funerals.

Our itinerary required us to fly into the southern half of the Los Angeles basin (Orange County) and transverse then north (Ventura County) via automobile. If you ever want your awareness to focus on the reality of funerals, try driving on Southern California freeways. They will make a Believer out of you.

From the moment you step off the plane to when you wrestle that carry-on into the overhead compartment at departure, the pace of the So Cal’s lifestyle is “hectic” to put it mildly. Public transportation is a completely off the radar of Southern Californians here in this part of the world where the automobile is King. Nancy had reserved a full size rental car; I opted instead for a smaller vehicle feeling that being light and fleet-of-foot would give us a greater edge toward our survivability.

In general I would say that southern Californians view their highway system as one large reality-based video game. The goal is to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible. When the freeways are not choked to the point of being long narrow parking lots, they are drag strips. I concede that I can somewhat understand the “need for speed” as traveling on the side streets is a major trial of one’s patience. The traffic lights are excruciatingly long in cycling. More than once I pondered the economy of turning off my engine at the stop lights. The Southern Californians have adapted, however - I saw people glibly thumbing” away on their i-phones while stopped in traffic.

But the freeway is another matter entirely. Here one indulges the need to shrug off the bonds of traffic and hurtle heedlessly into the horizon as fast as humanly possible. My goal was simpler… to attempt to maintain sufficient distance from the other four-wheeled objects while sustaining a decent velocity. But then again I was always a wimp in any sort of video game. Dying was annoying even when I could hit the “replay level” button.

And sure enough, there were wrecks… though far fewer than I had expected. Still the acts of stupidity bravado were astounding to witness. For example: two motorcyclists jetting between cars and lanes traveling easily over 100 mph, by my estimation. I wondered if they knew there was no “replay level” in real life should they be just ever so slightly off of their hand-eye coordination. And if the worst were to happen – there would be no sympathy or pity from their fellow motorists who would more likely curse them for creating a mess and further delaying traffic.

The frenetic mentality was not limited to the roadways. At our motel a guy riding down in the elevator with us decided that the doors were taking excessively long open as we reached our floor – he “knocked” on the stainless steel elevator doors, I guess thinking somehow they would get the hint and open more quickly. Busy guy and precious nano-seconds were being wasted!

One of my blogging buddies, Gutsy Writer, is writing a book about their family abandoning the fast pace of Southern California and moving to Belize. As she explains on her blog: “To Live a simple life. Escape gridlocked freeways and the Orange County, California rat race. Teach our kids gratitude instead of entitlement.”

We all know it’s there, yet I think one cannot truly appreciate the full scope of the societal and emotional desert which is Southern California until one temporarily immerses themselves into it.

My step-son, now living in Orange County (where there are no longer any orange orchards, by the way… NONE) was raised in the beautiful green of the Pacific Northwest. I asked Jesse one day if he ever missed the cool clean air, the forests, and the greenness of his home state. “No, I pretty much stay inside most of the time”, he replied, then returned to checking his i-phone.

But now my step-son is married and with lovely a new bride. And I can’t help but wonder, if children result from this union, if perhaps Oregon will regain some sense of allure to the young parents. I can only hope.

26 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

But the climate is supposed to be pretty good and doesn't Clint Eastwood live there? Clint wouldn't freeze his nuts off in Oregon.

Kay Dennison said...

I told my kids to leave Ohio after college because there are no jobs and none are coming and they're doing better than most of their high school classmates. Yeah. I wish they were closer, but I'd really rather they follow their dreams.

DJan said...

Who knows? The climate is changing, will continue to change, so the PNW may become way more alluring, all by itself...

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Oh noooo, Clint lives in "Central" California (they are very persnickety about that) in Monterey. In fact, Clint owns a restaurant there and at one time was mayor of Monterey. He likes to golf at Pebble Beach and doesn't care for the long commutes as well.

Kay Really, we thought the central part of the country was faring better in the recession. The west coast is double-digit unemployment now. But at least you can sleep outside.

DJan Hadn't you heard? The Republicans have taken back the House and so all this global climate change nonsense will be put on "hold" for the next two years.

MartyrMom said...

We use to live in San Jose and the scariest rides were along the coast on 1 going to Big Sur. The multitude of colors on the cement medians were the tell-tale sign that not every one traveled safely.

GutsyWriter said...

I started reading your post to my husband, (whose name is Duke by the way) and said, "I can't believe my blogger friend Robert is saying this. I wonder if they flew into John Wayne airport. So perhaps there is some truth to the gridlocked freeways. I thought it was like this in other cities too. And then, you mentioned my blog and my book, and I thought, "So you do recognize the crazy life we live here in OC." Last Friday I drove to Venice Beach, 50 miles away. it took me two and a half hours to get home. Thanks Robert for understanding why we left, and why now we're hoping to sell our house in OC and move to Naples, FL. Does your stepson need a 3 bedroom, two bath house? Our new neighbors are young with a small baby. Just wondering. It's just south of Irvine.

Robert the Skeptic said...

MartyrMom We lived up the road from San Jose in San Carlos. I remember highway 1 very well, and Big Sur. Though when I last saw the road from the inside of a vehicle it was a 1957 Chevy station wagon. We felt pretty safe in that box of Detroit steel.

Gutsy I noticed Jesse and his friends all describe distances in terms of driving "time" instead of distance. When asked they tell you how long it takes to get there, not how far it is.

When I was a kid we drove down every summer from San Francisco to spend a couple of weeks with my aunt and uncle in Santa Monica. Highway 101 was a two-lane highway back then. We did the trip in two days staying over night in Paso Robles. If we were lucky, the motel had a pool!! Driving times were different back then.

The Mother said...

Having recently returned from NYC, I have decided that Houston traffic conditions really aren't as bad as I had thought.

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, you know I've mentioned many times my growing up on the farm. Now an old man I still long for those simple days in the country, away from the big city. We visit our daughter in Alexandria Virginia and it's all I can take to handle the wall-to-wall humanity and autos. She loves it. Go figure. We live in one of Florida's (in)famous "retirement" communities now. Traffic in the winter months when all the "snowbirds" come down is horrendous. Only difference between California and here is they tend to drive, very S-L-O-W-L-Y, and, at times erratically. Often when we pull up behind someone at a stop sign it gets so frustrating when they won't pull out until they don't see another car for at least a quarter of a mile. Sometimes it gets scary.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dr. Mom I cannot even imagine NYC. I didn't think cars could even get into the city, only cabs... which are dangerous enough anywhere in the world.

Peter George Carlin described your situation when he said: "Why is it always that the guy in front of you is an idiot and the guy behind you is a maniac?"

Mary Witzl said...

I grew up in Southern California, and those freeways always depressed me, even back when they weren't so congested. My father was born in Orange County. His father and grandfather grew oranges there for a while; the story goes that they sold their ranch and later the land it was on became Disneyland.

There is still a lot I love about California, but give me Oregon any day -- especially the climate.

Rain said...

I am not fond at all of driving or being driven on those freeways. It does seem like playing Russian roulette sometimes as they enter and leave on the ramps. Although I live in the country, 25 miles from town, I also face the dumb driver problem.

At least Oregon bucked the national trend and I am proud of us for that. I was worried. It was a close one though on Kitzhaber. I am hoping Republicans in this state will try to work with him now on our serious problems. Is that Pollyannaish?

Incidentally with over 70 this last week in our part of Oregon, global climate change might turn us into California for weather... not sure I like that idea one bit

Robert the Skeptic said...

Mary I remember seeing archival films of Disneyland being built and the orange groves going under the bulldozer. I guess all that land down there became to valuable to have cheap fruit be it's source of income. Sad.

Rain Yes, we have our own "odd" driving annoyances here in the PNW; what Nancy calls "Oregon Turn Signals" (brake lights) and "rolling roadblocks" (three lanes of traffic, three cars abreast going the same exact speed). They'd get run off the road in SoCal.

Orhan Kahn said...

Personally, I hate tail gaters and brake checkers. We have very low speed limits here, but I believe thats due to the narrow and winding roads tha were built long before the car was an absolute necessity. Glad you and Nancy are back home, safe and sound.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Our son went to college in Malibu and then lived in Santa Monica for a time afterward. He came running back to Minnesota after just a short time. He got very tired of the "Southern California attitude". My mom lived in the LA area for 28 years and loved it. She'd go back in a minute if she could. I think our generations are flipped.

Our daughter loves Eugene. We loved Oregon too.

TechnoBabe said...

You pretty much describe southern CA correctly. I grew up there. Moved away, had my last child, moved again to a different state, then another state and then back to CA. Living now in Nebraska is such a joy. Never again to fight traffic and anger and impatience. Unfortunately, both my daughters are still there and my son in Honolulu, all still fighting the traffic and living in the rat race.

secret agent woman said...

People driving recklessly like that tick me off. I don't care if they kill themselves, I just don't want then taking me with them.

GutsyWriter said...

Seriously, I thought everyone in the US described driving distances by time. In Europe it's always kilometres, so I thought this was an American thing.

MartyrMom said...

We were in a 65 Mustang. That was a tank too....but still scarey!
PS I left you an award on my site

Robert the Skeptic said...

Orhan Despite all the new safety enhancements in cars, still 40k people are killed in the US each year in auto accidents. We must have become accustomed to that number as it barely makes a dent in people's consciousness.

BackRow We are just north of Eugene in Corvallis. I love it.. except as a former Californian, I must confess that the rain starts getting a bit oppressive by January. It can be depressing.

TechnoBabe Isn't that amazing, that a place like Honolulu could be snarled in city traffic. Kind of takes the shine off the concept of "paradise".

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent I agree. Unfortunately it is often the case that these idiots take out some completely innocent victim with them.

Gutsy I do hear distance described as time here in Oregon as well, but equally in terms of miles. What cracks me up are the politicians who use the term "light years" as an expression of time instead of distance. Then again, I don't have much faith in the intelligence of politicians.


MartyrMom Wow, 65 Mustang. That is a "classic car". Discovered my award, thanks.. though I am not sure I deserve it.

Madame DeFarge said...

Can't imagine why anyone would want to live in California. Too much like hard work. London is bad enough, but at least we don't have Arnie.

Orhan Kahn said...

FORTY THOUSAND?! That is insanity! When we have triple digit figures here the whole nation goes crazy and the police blitz the hell out of the roads for entire weekends. I'm just...I don't even know. Thats insane. That really is.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

I'm with you. Southern California is a scary place, filled with the shells of humans. My mother grew up there and all of her living family still lives there. She was the black sheep who never fit in and, in her 20's, flew the coop to NYC. I'll always be grateful to her for leaving. I can certainly imagine your uneasiness.

Marylinn Kelly said...

A California native, almost life-long resident, I often feel as much an alien here as any temporary visitor. It wasn't always like this is the best I can say. Our weather had wild mood swings and using Google to find one's way from here to there is hopeless. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather read a map any day. The traffic is beyond discussion.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Madame I heard they charge motorists a "toll" to drive in London, is this true? I can't imagine trying to charge Los Angelinos to drive in their city... it costs an arm and a leg just to PARK the car!!

Orhan Just checked the stats recently, yup... held pretty steady for the past few decades. Pretty dam amazing.

StreetBaby My cousin lives down there in Huntington Beach, he can't imagine living anywhere else. He seems to thrive in the hustle and bustle.

Marylinn I didn't use a GPS either, I still prefer maps myself. I don't drive unless I have to, I don't enjoy being in the car, least of all exposing myself to the potential risk. I am proud of my San Franciscan heritage but don't miss California as a home.