California Impressions

As a lifelong film buff, California has, to my mind, a rather mythical air. Not because that’s where films are made, but because, by and large, that’s where they’re set. Walking around California, therefore, feels rather like walking around in a movie, if you know what I mean. Arriving amid the palm trees, Spanish-style buildings, and mountains, I feel like John McClaine; “****ing California…”


Thus, though I go in with a prejudiced opinion of blue states (overtaxed and undercivilized), I also went in with a keen interest to actually see the place, or at least as much as a three day trip with no car would allow. My impressions thus far are:

-It’s very beautiful. The weather is more overcast than I expected, but the landscapes are lovely, and it’s nice to see real (though modest) mountains. I am also rather partial to Spanish-style construction. I should definitely like to come back to visit more thoroughly.

-It’s expensive. I checked out some apartment listings; the cheapest one was $900/month, and I’m told that’s very cheap for this part of the country. Plastic bags cost an extra ten cents. Again, “****ing California…”

-There seems to be a lot more effort put into the design of the place, which I appreciate. For instance, on the way out of San Diego, there are just these kind of towers on the off-ramps. Pretty cool.

-The San Diego train/bus station is a converted Church, which is a little sad, though certainly preferable to just having a bland box of building. The ‘SAN DIEGO’ sign on the roof is kinda tacky, though.

-There’s definitely a sense of “We’re CALIFORNIA!” A self-conscious desire on the part of the location to live up to its image. California could not be any more California, if you know what I mean, and it’s well aware of the fact. There’s a whole style and tone to the place that is definitely its own, though in something of the self-conscious manner of a theme park (though nowhere near to the extent of, say, Las Vegas). In any case, the sensation is much more of being in a different country than in just being in a different part of the same country.

My overall impression is that Southern California is basically a giant movie set, complete with hyper-leftist directors and stars. Certainly a cool place to visit, but I doubt I’d care to live there.

One thought on “California Impressions

  1. Welcome to the Left Coast. The real challenge is that California is at least 3-4 states. SoCal, which really runs from Santa Barbara to San Diego, and includes only a little bit of desert and mountain, is its own unique thing – actually, 3 or 4 unique things, as LA County, Orange County, San Diego County and Santa Barbara County each have a pretty different vibe. Then, there’s the Bay Area, which, again, is not like SoCal (as anyone here will tell you) – and it includes the thugs and anarchists of Berkeley, the young, stupid moguls of Silicon Valley, and a bunch of aging hippies and other lunatic infants. The northern half of the state (San Francisco being almost right in the middle, north/south) is all mountains and rugged shoreline, punctuated by a few valleys and rivers. Then, about 1/3 of the state is desert, from a few miles inland form San Diego to Arizona and up to Death Valley – that’s another vibe entirely.

    Then there’s the Sierra, the Central Valley, and the coast between Santa Barbara and Pacifica – different worlds entirely.

    I’ve been here for about 52 of my 59 years, and I’m still surprised once in awhile when I travel in this state. Clear Lake, for example, is another oddity, an ancient lake with half the residents fairly well off and half utterly impoverished – in an insanely beautiful mountain setting. I would never have guessed.


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