Monday, June 05, 2006

Greetings from La La Land

No, it's not just a state of mind. It's an actual place, and I live there.


In the last 9 years, J and I have filed taxes in 4 different Western states. We were so into the nomad thing that we actually moved for funsies 3 times within the same apartment complex. We've lived in big cities, little cities, hot cities and cold cities.

LLL has been home for 3.5 years now, and it's bliss. It took me a year, but now I am in love, hot monkey love. Why?

A few weeks ago I pull out of a Starbucks drive thru and turn right into a parking lot aisle. I'm going in a straight line, 10mph, and not breaking any traffic laws. The lot is basically deserted BUT I'm not giving the road 100% of my attention. I'm trying to shove change back into my purse and reason with an angry toddler who *thinks* he wanted a designer coffee but didn't get one. Basically, a textbook case of those distracted drivers we all love to hate.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy make a quick U through some empty parking spaces from the next aisle over. We both slam on the breaks and avoid hitting each other by less than a foot. Even at 10mph, the force with which we both overcame the momentum of hunky steel made it pretty dramatic.

What happens? We exchange smiles, wave, wipe our foreheads and say "phew!" and go about our merry day. No horns, no rude gestures, no screaming match.

Ahhh...the serenity!

There is also no rat race in LLL. The Joneses? Yeah, they don't live here. Even though the ethnic mix is pretty diverse you don't hear about a lot of gang wars on the news. I'm not saying that it's utopia, just that we've all managed to learn to peacefully coexist.

Of course, there are a few downsides too.

(News crew knocks at door)


Good day Ma'am. Dan the Man with KLLL news. May we have a few moments of your time?

Sure! (Pats hair.)

We're here about your son, Soandso.

Oh, yes. (Beaming) He's a lovely boy.

(Clears throat) Actually, we're here to get your reaction to the news that he has just been arrested.

Oh? (Unconcerned) What for?

His 17th DUI in 12 months.

Oh. (Gazes lazily at the stars)

Do you have any comment?

(Completely unfazed, she shrugs)

Do you think that perhaps he might benefit from some jail time?

Hmmm... (Actually *thinks* about if for a moment; shakes head.) No, not really. He's got kids, you know.

Our research indicated that his exgirlfriend has a restraining order against him, and that he's never even met two of his children.


We understand that you have two other boys.

Oh yes! And a daughter too!

Your other sons are currently serving sentences for DUI as well.

Hi kids! If you're watching, I love you!

The state has been trying to crack down on DUI. Ignition Interlock (breathalyzer installed in vehicle) for first time offenders, increased sobriety checkpoints, multi million dollar media campaign and tougher jail sentences. What do you think will help?


God, Ma'am?

Yes, it's all God's will.

Another downside to LLL? My dear son, who is now 3 (in case you hadn't caught that one already) is absolutely positively dumbfounded by grass. Every time a neighbor invites us to see a new little patch of sod that they will have to fight like hell to keep alive, my son simply cannot help himself. He drops to his knees, lets out a little oooooh, and then proceeds to roll around in it, manically laughing until I drag him home an hour later kicking and screaming. Poor kid.

J is not nearly as enamored will LLL as I am. It's mostly brown year round, and we constantly fill our trash can with tumbleweed. (Growing up his family, who lived in another state, used to call where we live now BROWN TOWN. I'll get you a picture later.) His biggest gripe? It really bothers him that all the senior citizens at our neighborhood Denny's are packing heat on their walkers. He says that makes Denny's not so family friendly. And that local social etiquette says it's okay to leave your teeth on the table while you eat. Ya just can't please some folk!

In contrast to LLL, I grew up in a little town just outside of San Francisco. Surrounded by redwood forests, the ocean, the bay, the creeks, the perfect Mediterranean climate, I believe it must be one of the greenest, most lush places in the world. Tourism floods the area all year long. There is never a dull much to see and do!

But the downside? Yes, California = expensive. I could sell my 1 year old 1900+ sq foot 4 bedroom house with a big yard on a cul-de-sac go back to work so we'd be a double income family and *might* be able to afford the rent on a studio in the crack district. But that's not what bothers's the people. And so we will call it LE&B, for the Land of Excess and Bitchiness.

Is it really THAT bad? When my parents bought me this car so that J and I would stop risking our lives every day, the neighbors inquired whether or not is was sticking around. They were worried that a 6 year old car with 30K miles, friggin *perfect* brand new condition inside and out would drop their property values. Do you see the headlight washers? (It even had tushie toasters embedded in creamy leather seats, heated side mirrors, dual-climate control and 3 driving modes: economy, sport and winter. I so didn't deserve this.)

"Opal" My 1993 Volvo 850GLT, R.I.P.

Now, what I really wish we'd done is towed MY car back from Colorado to LE&B so that my parents could have turned it into a planter.

"The Hobo" My 1984 Volvo 240GL, R.I.P.

With 388K, every motor mount broken (for all 4 years that I owned it Jiffy Lube refused to change my oil); both sides of the front end smashed; no working brake lights; "Eat shit" written on the headliner in Sharpie by the previous owner; an automatic transmission that loved turn off the entire car randomly at 75mph on 1-25 in Denver; a sunroof that wouldn't open but would store water until it became a waterfall when you hit a red light. Power steering...gone, which I've been told makes it harder to drive than a car that didn't have it in the first place. Except for the turning off part, it came to us this way. With just over 200K miles, J's dad picked it up for us, and he was took us from A to B for nearly 200K miles. (He didn't even know that I had a Volvo fetish. Imagine the luck!) He felt bad for that we were trekking through snow and waiting for busses just to get groceries we could barely afford. Poor car, even I trashed it a little. You see, dumb bitch from California didn't know that while it was okay to scrape snow off the windshield, you shouldn't do the same ON THE PAINTED PARTS. Yup, first big storm, I scraped the clear coat and then some off the entire car. Luckily, because of the color, you couldn't see it unless you were close-ish.

And can I just tell you that I LOVED that car? I really did. It was my FIRST car, and it had OUR NAMES on the title. It gave us freedom and great memories.* I cried when they finally towed it away, even though I knew Opal was in California, junking up the 'hood, waiting for me to come get her and drive back to college.

Anywho, getting back to the LE&B but staying on the topic of cars, let me tell you how people treat each other when driving there. (Remember that story way back up at the top?)

In LE&B, you not only tailgate, you try to see how close you can come to causing an accident just because you're better than everyone else. The closer you come, the more at fault you are, the louder you yell, the more you cuss and gesture. Forget the horn...but lean on it anyway. Because, apparently, the more you act like a psycho asshole in the LE&B, the less at fault you actually are. If you're evil enough, you can even make it the other person's fault. Great, ain't it?

When visiting the LE&B with Cracker, my mom sends me out each morning around 9am to hang at Starbucks and just relax. What a kick ass mom I have! Except, the Starbucks I go to happens to be the second closest to the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, it's got great freeway access where as the other one doesn't.

This is one high volume shop, even at 9am. But man, can those baristas work magic! Walk in the door and get in line behind 20 other people, order the most complicated bitchy drink you can fathom and still walk back out the door 2 minutes later, drink in hand. (They really are that good.) But because it's the LE&B, all anyone can do is bitch. They stand in line with their shallow friends and complain loudly about the service. They even make threats like "maybe we should call the district office and tell them how horrible the service is here! I'm going to be late for work!" Just because it's a $4 cup of coffee doesn't mean it's made by genies you assholes. They do this even though they just walked in and the line is oh so fast; they do it until the nice person behind the counter smiles and says, "your usual is ready. That will be $4.68." Then, as they just now get the bright idea that maybe it's time to start fishing for their wallet, they bite back "Finally!" I take one look at their elaborate hair, their perfect makeup, the acrylic toenails, their designer clothes and the fact that it's already 9am and I know that when they are 30 minutes late it's not going to be because of the 2 minutes they spent at Starbucks, and I boil over. I cannot tolerate such rudeness when people are working their asses off AND accomplishing the impossible. I say something, because the baristas can't. And honestly, while it's absolutely verbal abuse, they're so used to it that they don't even roll their eyes or exchange questionable glances anmore. They don't even blink.

The LE&B is home to many celebrities, who I must say, know how to act in public even though almost no one else does. (Except for George Lucas, who is an ass. He came into every retail establishment I worked in and I had the displeasure of waiting on at least a dozen times. And the people who he sends to do his errands are asses too. Not only can you pick them out by their attitude, they TELL you who they're running bitch errands for.) Occasionally, there was some fun on my side of the counter. For example, Carlos Santana, who is always out playing chess in the square, came in a week after I started a bookstore job. "Hey, where do you have books on our neighbors?" In a rare moment where I was able to actually get my brain on board for the task at hand, my 16 year old self asked "uh, mean, like Canadians? or, like...Mexicans?" "No man, aliens! UFOs man!" "Sure..." Of course, my hip hop gansta rap self didn't know who he was, but I got filled in later.

The LE&B is also home to well known comedians. Dana Carvey lives in my dinky hometown, and Robin Williams in the next dinky town over. It's where they get their best material.

Dana Carvey was on Leno last week, which is why I'd waited to post this, hoping a transcript would pop up on the web. Still nothing. Instead, let me try to paraphrase, but it's all Dana, and there is no way to do him justice. He mentioned the county by name and described the unique subspecies of woman found there.

In a nutshell, he named those women at Starbucks! Specifically, the older ones. Cougars. You walk behind their perfectly manicured clad selves in skimpy tennis gear...they have no thighs, zero% body fat, big guns and huge perky boobs (that yes, you can see from the rear) and a healthy glow. These women...perfection! Then they turn around, they're 80+ years old, and for no good reason they roar and try to rip your eyes out with their claws.

Dana Carvey's a genius.

*We used to tempt fate by taking it on long road trips in the middle of the night. We even used to do it on the hood at 2am on the side of highway 287 on our way to Southern Colorado. Once a trucker came through on the desolate stretch and honked at us. Fun! (BTW, we were barely nekkid even though we had both had fabulous bodies back then. It's cold in Colorado!)

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