Usually the first thing people want to know when they find out I live in southern-Southern California (So-So Cal) is how good the weather is. They've all been told that the sun shines all the time, there is a constant seabreeze, and it never rains. As much as I had to admit it, there's a bit of truth to that. The sun shines a lot. The seabreeze...well, the seabreeze is righteous, particularly in the summer and fall. And it rains rarely enough that we leave all sorts of things on the porch, because we know they won't get wet. (Of course, this winter was simply terrible - what with about 10 days of rain, temperatures down into the 40s, and fog every night for a few weeks - sigh.)
I don't generally like to lie, so I admit that the weather is pretty nice, and yes, the beaches are very cool, the mountains are nice, the deserts are lovely, and so on. The problem comes when people quit listening; they believe they have heard everything there is to know about this part of the country. They have jumped the gun; there is much more to know.
There's a certain brain-dead nature here, a bit of vacuousness that permeates...yeah, okay. I've got to use smaller words, or most of these troglodytes wouldn't be able to understand. Yogurt has more culture than this place. People assume that coming here would make everything all right. Culturally speaking, I think of it as more of a soul-numbing, mind-draining, body-churning squat over the outhouse of Hell.
My girlfriend (who shall remain nameless - no point dragging her through the mud) and I live in the area called South Bay, which is the area between San Diego proper and Tijuana. There's nothing here, but here. You want a bookstore? You have to drive - and drive and drive. The nearest one to us is a tiny Border's which cares more about its attached coffee shop. They sell more music than books. They don't update their magazines when they're supposed to be updated, and when I asked if they knew when the knew Terry Pratchett book was coming in, it took three of those chimps to scratch themselves and admit they didn't know who I was talking about. Worse yet, none of them knew how to operate a computer and find out.
Last Halloween, I went to the nearest Blockbuster to find a classic horror movie, and by classic, I meant a Hitchcock film, people. I'd have settled for a good Hammer film, but I was looking for the master. I am certain you can see where this is going.
The first dolt I spoke to scratched his soul patch and started to point at the shelf when I asked if they had any 'classic horror movies.' I then said I'd be very angry if he pointed out that the first Saw was still available to rent. As God is my witness, he stopped, blinked, and said, "Well, it is available. It's a classic." I left him (not bleeding - I showed restraint) and went to the desk. I found the geekiest-looking fellow I could and asked the same question. He asked what I meant. I said I was looking for a Hitchcock movie. He was quiet, and then said (and I swear to Christ this is true), "That's not out yet."
I cocked an eyebrow. He said, "That Will Smith movie's not out yet." I responded, "That would be Hancock. I am looking for a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest directors of all time."
Neither he nor the manager, who was standing next to him, knew who Hitchcock was. (I always thought that Jay Leno heavily edited the "Jaywalking" portion of his show, but now it's clear to me that he doesn't have to. It's no mean feat to hunt stupidity on these streets.)
Suddenly, the geek asked, "Wasn't Alfred Hitchcock that fat guy on TV, back in the black and white days?" He did look up Hitchcock and found that they actually had one movie, Strangers on a Train, but it had been rented and not yet returned. The manager then told me that they didn't carry any older movies, because the customers didn't rent them; she said her area manager said they had to get rid of any movie older than 10 years old. I blinked at that a moment and then asked her: "Who rented Strangers on a Train?" She had no answer for that, which seems to be the usual mental state around here. (When she checked me out, I made a snarky comment that I was used to video stores that had sections for foreign films and film noir - even chain stores. She looked at me and said, "What's film noir?")
What we're missing in any sort of culture, we do make up for in nail salons. I mention those, because around here I'm fairly certain that the nail salons lead directly to the area's Number 1 hobby - getting pregnant. Since the Catholic influence is pervasive, and since there are no other real hobbies (based on the lack of bookstores, music stores, art and framing stores, museums, galleries, craft shops, decent video stores...), it seems like it must happen. The sad thing is that there really seems to be some pride at being young and pregnant here. And when I say young, I mean exactly that. I watched three girls walking home from high school together, all with their Trapper Keepers held over their baby bumps. All of them looked happy and no one glanced askance at them. In Mississippi, at least one housewife would have shouted "Whore!" in their direction.
Last night, I made a late-evening run to Staples for office supplies and came across an odd batch - not only of babies-having-babies, but those little twerps pretending to be dads. The Staples is next to a Babies-R-Us. While I was coming across the lot, I watched a truck pull into a spot and two kids get out. Of course, he looked maybe 18. She looked about 16.
Apparently, there was some kind of sale going on. I watched this young couple waddle (she waddled - he shuffled alongside) as quickly as they could toward the store. It was clear she was hurrying as quickly as she could, but her cantilevered belly was keeping it from happening. As I watched, I saw about six or seven other couples all doing the same thing: shuffling and waddling together in the direction of the front door of the store. It looked like a cross between Mi Familia and Night of the Living Dead.
As I watched these couples slouch toward the only store in the South Bay that interested them, I realized I was beginning to have an understanding of the problem: a loss of culture in an area is a generational problem, and when the generations are hurrying themselves along, the loss becomes even more noticeable.
So, how's the weather here? The weather's fine. The mountains are pretty. The beaches are lovely. Pretty much everything else is messed up.