You Know You're in Southern California When...
You Know You're in Southern California When...
by Jeffree Wyn Itrich, May 11, 2008
Anyone who has ever visited Southern California knows it's a place unlike the rest of the country. But have you ever wondered why?
What exactly makes Southern California the distinct place that it is? The people of course.
Here in Southern California we know we're a bit different from the rest of the nation. Okay, admittedly a lot different. For those of you who don't know us let me clarify for you the many intricacies of the true Southern Californian. We're really not as wacky as we are made out to be. We have our fair share of wack jobs, but they don't constitute the majority.
First, and most importantly before I say anything else I will go on record stating that not everyone here is a celebrity or star struck. To the contrary we really wish the celebrities would stop creating the impression that everyone in Southern California is like them. In fact, many of us really wouldn't mind if Hollywood moved to some place like Iowa.
Secondly, our weather drives our lifestyle and our decisions. And yes, we do take our weather for granted, thank you very much. We expect it to be gorgeous outside every day. That's why we live here and pay some of the highest friggin' prices in the country for real estate and gasoline! Many of us may not be rich but we figure if we have to be poor we prefer to suffer in paradise. So how does this influence us to be who we are?
* Because of our perpetually great weather we're pretty easy going. Come on, wouldn't you be if you lived in weather like this? But don't mess with us; we're not oblivious. In fact, when I asked a Chicago friend who lived here for 18 months what he thought personified a Southern Californian he said "Southern Californians, while very laid back, have a deep streak of assertive personal confidence that is not readily apparent on the outside." In other words, we are really cool.
* Along with being laid-back, we're genuinely very nice and friendly and we expect other people, particularly visitors, to be too. We don't take kindly to rude Easterners. We don't dislike Easterners. Far from it. We have a lot of friends and family who live east of here. We welcome everyone, just not people with attitude. It messes with our easy-goingness. My advice if you are going to visit us, or even think of moving here, is to leave your attitude back where you came from.
We Have Our Own Unique Way of Expressing Ourselves
* We speak in a vernacular particular to our area. We call everyone "dude". We also use words not commonly heard in other parts of the country such as rad, gnarly, awesome, totally and cool. Their use either started here or gravitated here and never left. In SoCal pretty much everything is "cool". Even though it's a bad habit we use the word "like" a lot. People in SoCal say "like" at least three times more in a sentence as people from the "other" coast. For example, we would say "like that was so cool, dude." A friend would respond, "Totally."
* Besides our funny speech we use a fair amount of Spanglish because we live next to Mexico. Not everyone here speaks Spanish but we all know how to say something in Spanglish. We learn it on the playgrounds in school. It's not unusual to hear someone in a bar ask, "Dude, can I have a really cold cerveza?" The bartender responds, "No problemo, dude. You want any snackolas with that?"
Head to the Beach, Surf's Up
* We swim in the ocean even when it's freezing cold. Why? Because we can.
* People think we never get stressed out. We do! When it happens we head to the beach. Oh heck, we head to the beach even if we're not stressed out.
* We surf or we know someone who surfs. It's part of our culture. The diehards get up at 4:00 a.m., grab their boards and head out to the beach to catch some "awesome" early morning waves. In winter the surfers wear wet suits. It's really cool to drive or walk along the beach at daybreak and see them sitting on their boards out in the water waiting for a big one. From a distance they look like a flock of skinny baby seals bobbing on top of the water.
The SoCal Look
* If you've ever visited Southern California you've seen that our clothing and shoe choices are fairly simple. The basic wardrobe for many, regardless of gender, is two t-shirts and two pairs of shorts. One set for summer and one set for winter. More extravagant people own several t-shirts and pairs of shorts. When men dress up they put on a Hawaiian shirt. They don't own a suit or sports coat. Women don a sleeveless, skinny-strap dress and matching flip-flops, or a mini-skirt, tank top and Uggs. To successfully wear this look it helps to be tan and fairly thin. Big girls and big women really don't look good in these skimpy outfits. But of course that does not stop many of them from wearing them. To top off the look, women use sunglasses to push back their long hair, never a headband.
* Speaking of hair length, the surfer chick look is very popular here. It embodies the above wardrobe along with long, preferably straight hair and a large beach bag type purse. Many women carry most of what they own in these bags, including their dogs. Lest you think the Hollywood starlets started this trend, uh-uh. They borrowed the look from the surfer chicks.
* We wear flip-flops year-round. Women often own a pair in every color.
Our Wheels and Roads
* We refer to the distance between two places as the amount of time it takes to get there. It's never "10 miles', it's "20 minutes" or "that'll take you 45 minutes during rush hour."
* We tend to travel on freeways to everything even if traveling the side streets is more direct. What can I say? We're taxed to the hilt for our freeways and we want our money's worth.
* Most cars in the beach areas sport a surfboard rack.
* Some would say we are obsessed with our cars. It's probably because it takes forever to get anywhere but it could also be because our cars stay in better shape than other parts of the country where winter beats the b'jesus out of vehicles. We don't have that problem.
* We don't fear earthquakes but a little rain will cause considerable damage on the roads. We can't drive in the rain. Ask anyone from Seattle or Portland who has ever been here when it happens to be raining and seen us trying to drive on wet roads. They laugh hysterically and liken it to watching people drive bumper cars. Except for those years when El Nino hits and it rains like a mother causing homes to slide off the hills, what we call rain other parts of the country refer to as drizzle. But for us it's an onslaught. We huddle inside, grumble like the world is ending and pray for the sun to return.
Chips, Salsa and Margies
* Because of our proximity to Mexico we eat a lot of Mexican food. Many of us need a daily infusion of Mexican food. We become anemic if we go a day without salsa. We eat fish tacos, carne asada fries, burritos, chips and salsa and guacamole like other parts of the country eat pot roast, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and chicken and dumplings, whatever the heck they are. SoCal babies are born with a predilection for Mexican food. Their moms eat Mexican food throughout their pregnancies so the babies are conditioned right out of the womb to crave taquitos.
* Walk into a SoCal kitchen and you are likely to see avocadoes (for guacamole of course), fresh tomatoes and chiles (for making salsa) and artichokes. In other parts of the country people have no idea what to do with an artichoke. And we're happy about that because it means more artichokes for us.
* In other parts of the country they hold summer barbecue cookoffs. We hold salsa cookoffs.
* We also eat a lot of fresh citrus because citrus trees grow in our backyards the way grass grows elsewhere. We pity the poor soul who doesn't have an orange or lemon tree in the yard. Not sure how those folks get through January without freshly squeezed orange juice. In my yard we grow pixie tangerines and limes. We have to; we need them for margaritas, which brings up another topic.
* Our alcoholic beverage of choice is the margarita. I don't know if there are any statistics but I'll bet we consume more tequila per capita than anywhere in the continental United States. Seriously. You'd agree if you ever drove through Pacific Beach on a Saturday night. You think all those drunk 20-somethings are quaffing scotch? You can find margaritas here of every flavor and concoction, but a true Southern Californian likes em the traditional way made with fresh lime juice or mix and a really really good tequila. Okay, the younger set that's out to get drunk isn't particular about their tequila and would just as soon drink Jose Cuervo Gold ("totally" cheap stuff made gold with caramel coloring.) The rest of us go for the premium stuff: silver, resposado (rested) or anejo (old). We do have standards, ya know.
We Have Our Faults
* If you've never been here and you're under the impression that Southern California is without fault, well, think again. We do have faults. Really big ones in fact that cause earthquakes. Indeed that can be a problem if they are big enough but generally they are not. It just freaks out the tourists who ask us how on earth we tolerate living here. Gee, I don't know. An occasional earthquake that shakes the dust off the window sills versus living in the path of killer hurricanes or tornadoes or putting up with winter so bad our patoosies would fall off? Hmm, not a hard choice.
* Our traffic is another thing we're not proud of but it's not like we're the only part of the country with traffic. We don't let it upset us; instead we go to the beach.
* Finally there is one last blemish and it concerns our weather. No, I'm not going to brag again about our perfect weather (but did I mention we have great weather here?) In fact for two months a year our weather is pretty rotten by our standards. You might think I'm talking about the middle of winter but it's the late spring/early summer. We refer to these months as May Gray and June Gloom. For eight weeks the coastline is socked in with overcast gray skies and fog. Sometimes it's so thick it comes down like rain. And I tell you it is downright depressing! I often feel sorry for the tourists who scamper out here right after their offspring get out of school for summer break. They emerge from the airport wondering what happened to the sun. Sometimes it will peak out after the noon hour but often not. They spend a week at the beach wondering what all the talk was about Southern California being so great. They go home shaking their heads. I consider it a blessing. One more family that WON'T move here. Of course we never tell those folks that the sun comes out in July.