Monday, June 14, 2010

Massachusetts Is from Mars, California Is from Venus

I just flew back from a weeklong trip to California (and boy, are my arms tired!), and I’ve never been so happy to be back in my own house. It was a difficult trip partly because it was our first long trip away from home with Ryan – complete with 3-hour time change, two six-hour plane flights, a lack of refrigeration for formula, and no set schedule or rarely convenient napping or diaper-changing places – but mostly because California is just a different universe for me.

Honestly, if I didn’t know I had gotten there on an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, standard issue airplane, I’d have been convinced I had just landed on an alien planet. Just walking through the airport made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie. I’ve never seen so many skinny, tanned, attractive blondes (of both genders). I’m not sure where they hide the ugly, fat people in California, but they weren’t much in evidence anywhere I was except for my bathroom mirror. Seriously, I’m not heavy by anyone’s standards and although I’m not cover model material I’m not bad looking, but in California I feel like Quasimodo lumbering through the streets. I do get a bit of a kick out of the irony that a state so dedicated to the green movement (reduce/reuse/recycle, go organic, be natural) is so replete with fake nails, fake boobs, and fake tans.

There is certainly a strong dedication to looks in California, as evidenced by the average strip mall. In Massachusetts, a strip mall is something like: Dunkin Donuts, Dollar Store, Subway, KFC, mom & pop convenience store, ATM. In California, it’s more like: Pilates studio, tanning salon, hair salon, nail salon, tae kwon do studio, waxing salon, flipflop store, Starbucks. And again, the irony is that California is so much more casual than Massachusetts. No-one in California ever wears pantyhose, even to the most formal event. Flipflops are the footwear of the day for all occasions. “Business casual” means you should probably wear shoes and a shirt. "Casual Fridays" are unheard of - you can't get much more casual without getting obscene. The only person I ever saw wearing a tie was my Massachusetts-born husband. Jeans, shorts, and T-shirts are acceptable dress just about everywhere.

And to get back to the “green” thing for a moment, California is the mother lode of green living. You almost never see a trash can without a recycle bin next to (or part of) it. Everyone carries their own reusable shopping bags. There are bike lanes on all the major roads so everyone rides their bikes to run errands or even to commute to work. And as for cars – well, let’s just say our rental was a Prius. We didn’t ask for it, that’s just what they have. It wasn’t a bad car, although it took us about 5 minutes and a look at the user’s manual just to figure out how to start the engine. And we had to make a mental note of the license plate, because everywhere we went there were a bunch of identical gray Priuses (Priusses? Prii?) in the parking lot. I managed to drive it once (about 2 blocks) and lived to tell the tale, although I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis. I find it hard to trust a car that doesn’t need a key in the ignition and whose gearshift doesn’t stay where you put it (you flip it into the desired gear and it bounces back into neutral position).

I guess I’m just a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander - or, as my husband would explain, I just prefer the familiar. I do enjoy the weather and the lovely tropical flowers and shrubs, and even some of the interesting Mexican-influenced architecture, but I’ll admit up front that I’m much more comfortable amidst my own familiar Massachusetts surroundings. Fat, ugly people and all!

Oh, but just for the record – it was totally worth the trip.


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