Southern California Is For Suckers
Several years ago I was offered a job in Burbank, California. The rate of pay was substantially higher than what I was accustomed to, and I’d be in a prime position for further advancements up the corporate ladder.
Plus, we’d be living in Southern California…
I’d only visited the area a couple of times, for quickie business meetings, and almost my entire impression of it was derived from movies and TV shows. Thinking of Los Angeles conjured visions of guys (who looked a lot like me), driving along streets lined with palm trees, in vintage convertibles, looking down his nose at people and lighting cigars with five dollar bills.
I couldn’t wait! Southern California?? It seemed almost impossible. It was a mythical, magic place inside my head. And we were moving there!!
Yeah, and following is what we actually found.
Brutal cost of living On one of the first days, when we were still living in corporate housing, my wife sent me to the store for breakfast stuff. And I almost deposited a masonry block in my underwear.
Eggs is what I remember. In every other place we’d ever lived, a dozen cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 69 cents. But in SoCal (as they call it), they were $2.49. It’s not like I walked around with a messenger bag full of boiled eggs all the time, but it was an ominous indicator of what was to come.
Everything was higher – everything – and not by just a little bit, either. The house we bought cost $50K more than our previous one, and was worth about $50K less. I’d received a large raise, and our quality of life went swirling down the ol’ poop catcher. Talk about a cruel joke…
Spiders We lived in the middle of a desert, and our garage was teeming with black widow spiders. You know, the kind that can make your heart shrivel and detach from its stem? Our washer and dryer were out there, and every time I reached for a load of towels, I was convinced I was heading for a closed-casket funeral – because of the hideous swelling.
And you can’t kill them, either. There’s nothing you can do, except maybe burn the bitch to the ground. I didn’t care for any of it.
Coyotes At night we could hear them hollering across the desert, like in a cowboy movie. The first few times it’s kind of cool, but then you realize you’re living amongst large wild prowling mountain dogs.
A neighbor got up early one morning, and saw a blood-smeared coyote sitting in the middle of our cul-de-sac, near one of the kids’ Big Wheels. Again: not a fan.
Birds Huge black birds of some kind perched on the rock cliffs near our house, and would sometimes come swooping down across the rooftops. Their wings were so large we could hear them cutting through the air: whoosh whoosh whoosh.
Then they’d land in the top of a tree, and were so heavy the thing would sway from side to side.
I was convinced one of them was going to come in low one day, and carry off a couple of the neighborhood children. They probably looked like rotisserie chickens in Blue’s Clues shirts to those big thunderbird bastards. Holy crap.
Mudslides I was driving home from work one afternoon in the sprinkling rain. And when it sprinkles in SoCal, it’s apparently tradition to run your car up the rear-end of the person in front of you, or straight into the side of a building. I don’t know.
In any case, I was on the 5 freeway, and a whole hillside started moving in my general direction. The hill went over a wall, and sloshed across the three right lanes. I missed it by only a few seconds, and had never seen anything like it before, or since.
Where I come from, the hills just don’t move around on ya.
Wildfires A couple of times per year you could count on a giant wall of fire to descend on you, and threaten to burn up your home and family. Good times!
We lived in an area where private companies wouldn’t even issue fire insurance policies, and we were forced to purchase it from the state of California. For “competitive” prices.
One time we were going into a grocery store (probably to purchase Bentley-brand eggs), and it was snowing ash. I’m not kidding, I think it was the charred remains of silent film stars.
Earthquakes I never experienced any of the big ones, but lived through enough of the smaller ones to know it was always a possibility.
Everything in all the houses was strapped to the walls – like TVs, and hot water tanks, and armoires. All our kitchen cabinets had special latches on them, so the doors wouldn’t come flying open when the giant crack appeared, and swallowed-up the elementary school.
Continuous heat I remember walking to an outdoor café with a couple of coworkers, a few days before Christmas, and sweating like an August ass. One of the other guys, a real SoCal booster, was going on and on about how great it was to be living in “paradise.”
I wanted to scream like Jackie Chan, and cycle-kick him in front of an oncoming salad truck. Hot all the time sounds good in theory, but it ain’t. After a while it starts messing with your head, maaan.
Smog There were mountains in the distance, in every direction, and during certain times of the year some of them were snow-capped. Very pretty. However, most days you couldn’t see them. Big ass mountains: invisible behind a screen of car exhaust.
The local news broadcasts always included an “air quality” report, and it wasn’t unusual to see people walking around wearing surgical masks.
And half the vehicles were hybrids, or ran off liposuction fat. So, who the hell knows? Maybe I’ll come down with a bad case of thigh-lung later in life?
The Wash All around the Los Angeles area are big cement gutter-like things, which the locals call “the wash.” It’s either the aqueduct or the mighty L.A. River (I was never clear on it), both of which are always bone-dry as far as I know.
However, several times every year an inexplicable wave of water would come cascading down that thing, and send skateboarders and X-Game bicyclists ass-over-tits into the Pacific Ocean.
“Never play near the wash,” the local parents warned their kids. Because wave-day can flat-out ruin an afternoon, and might send your detached head through the Panama Canal.
Tree of Bees Behind our house was a towering tree, just loaded with bees. Every spring it would come alive, and make a roaring sound like a locomotive. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever encountered. There must’ve been a billion bees living in that thing.
We sold the place in winter, and the new owners were reportedly (we have spies) out there with their mouths hanging open when the buzzing began. I don’t know how much it cost them to have that loud, enormous tree removed, but it couldn’t have been cheap.
Hell, they probably had to do it with robots.
I could keep going with this list, but I’m sure you get the point. I was fooled by the Hollywood version of Hollywood, and wasn’t prepared for real life in “paradise.”
The place sucked in ways I couldn’t have imagined, even if I’d gone to a quiet place and concentrated on it. I’m convinced a blue ribbon think tank of suck wouldn’t be able to come up with some of the things we encountered out there.
I mean, trees that roar? Creeping pouches of poison living in the garage? An all-you-can-eat natural disaster buffet?
Yes, Southern California is a bizarre Tim Burton-style shithole, and don’t let them tell you any different.
Other items of interest