Monday, September 04, 2006

52 Random Things I Learned in California

1. SUVs suck.
2. No, they really do. Some of the worst, most aggressive and insane driving I saw were from SUV owners. They drive fast and they "bully" smaller vehicles. I can't conceive of how much gas they burn when one of them passed me on an interstate like I was standing still and I was doing close to 80 mph.
3. There is a staggering amount of farmland in California. With everything else going on in the state, you can forget about agriculture. But as a guy from Newfoundland, I was just floored by how much farmland there was. It's easily comparable to what I saw in Alberta two years ago.
4. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible Mustang doesn't suck.
5. When they say winding road ahead on the Pacific Coast Highway, they are not fucking around.
6. Cathy would like to mention that the whole "chick with a funky scarf holding her hair back while riding in a convertible" look that you see on TV doesn't really work. A baseball cap, while unfashionable, is much better.
7. The Pacific Coast Highway is fun, but it's a tricky bastard to follow the closer you get to LA. That we didn't get lost was a mark of Cathy's excellent navigation and a healthy dollop of dumb luck.
8. After one day of lamenting how "old" the Tilley Hat looked on my head, I quickly changed my mind after getting quite a nice burn. Tilley Hats now rule once again.
9. San Francisco is quite hilly, but I think St. John's is worse.
10. On two of the corners of Haight and Ashbury, the very epicenter of 60s counter-culture, there is a Gap along with a Ben and Jerry's. Ooops.
11. Comic Relief in Berkley is one of the best comic book stories I've ever been to. I could have lost a day there instead of two hours.
12. If you have to do a paid bus tour of the San Francisco, I highly recommend having a sarcastic, bitter gay man be your guide. It's the way to go.

13. There's so much beach in California that they almost don't know what to do with it. We passed stunning beaches on a gorgeous day and there was no one there.
14. Next to Disney, Malibu was the freakiest place we visited. There's that much wealth crammed into a relatively small area that it can take your breath away.
15. The way to console yourself when looking at that much wealth is to realize that they're probably all mortgaged to the hilt.
16. They say L.A. is big. Until you drive through it, you don't realize exactly how goddamn big. The drive from San Diego to Half Moon Bay (just south of San Francisco) was about 10 hours. Close to three of them was spent getting across L.A.
17. I've yet to understand how I can go from 70 MPH on a freeway to 0 in less a minute, then start back up again and see no sign of construction or an accident. The traffic on LA freeways just stops for no apparent reason.
18. Apparently LA is the homeland for all the freakishly enormous RVs I saw in PEI a few years ago. I saw at least three huge RV dealerships just on the side of the freeway when going through the city.
19. San Diego Zoo is the best zoo I've ever been to. I no longer feel the need to go to any other zoo. They will pale in comparison.
20. San Diego was the big surprise of the trip. We knew San Francisco was going to be cool and interesting and L.A. would suck. But San Diego is surprisingly nice. A very laid back, friendly air about the place. We'd actually go back and visit again.
21. The best Italian food I've had in my life came from a restaurant across the street from our hotel in the Little Italy in San Diego. My God it was good.
22. Perhaps the one hotel we picked that didn't have air conditioning shouldn't be the in the furthest south city visited.
23. Our guide said San Francisco doesn't have malls. He lied. They do, but you get the feeling they're very embarrassed about them which is why they make them quite hard to find.
24. The guide books are right - Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist trap. But it's an awfully fun tourist trap.
25. Hearst Castle is a must if going down the Pacific Coast Highway. The amount of money that went into that place is staggering. The only thing that saved my sanity going through Malibu was that the money spent there still paled in comparison to what Hearst must have spent on his place.
26. The tour of the Castle is fascinating, but they do give you the impression that he was a nice, wonderful man as opposed to the total son of a bitch everyone else thinks he was.
27. One more Disney thing - Tinkerbell is now a slut. I did not realize this, but after seeing enough merchandise with Tinkerbell giving "come hither" looks, Disney has apparently made her into a slut. Who knew?
28. It is entirely possible that I'm reading too much into the "Tinkerbell=slut" thing and that it's saying something potentially disturbing about my personality.
29. Riding the cable cars in San Francisco is fun, but really, it's not worth the hour long wait that some people put up with just to do it.
30. Golden Gate Bridge - not golden. Ah well...
31. Superman Returns is a so-so movie. Superman Returns seen in 3-D IMAX is pretty fucking cool.
32. San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies is a potentially boring baseball game. Barry Bonds hitting his 723 homerun is exciting. Bond getting tossed in the 9th inning in the middle of a rally with the Giants trailing and the usually sedate fans pelting the field with garbage to express their displeasure, thereby stopping the game for 15 minutes, is priceless.
33. Beware the Garlic fries at the stadium. They're good, but I've learned there actually is such a thing as too much garlic.
34. Having said that, there is a place in San Francisco called The Stinking Rose in which everything served is garlic flavoured. I really wanted to try the ice cream.
35. When they say don't try to drive in San Francisco, they mean it. Getting around is slow and parking is as bad as they say. The public transit system is very good and quite cheap.
36. Cathy's great disappointment with the trip is that she didn't get to an IHOP.
37. Craig's great disappointment was that despite hitting a half dozen comic book stores, he still couldn't find Usagi Yojimbo, Volume 18. Well, he found it, but didn't feel like paying $60 for a signed hardcover of the book.
38. As best I can figure, there is no state sales tax in California. Instead, it varies from community to community. Which can be a pain in the ass. The average is around 8%.
39. Half Moon Bay is known for its pumpkins. I think it would be fun a lot of fun there around Halloween.
40. The cost of living in San Francisco is as retarded as advertised. One modest three-storey townhouse in the Twin Peaks section of San Francisco started at $950,000. The closing price will likely be more than $1 million.
41. But the view from there is really nice.
42. There is something to be said about short commutes. Cathy can now walk to work in less than 5 minutes. It'll take me about the same amount of time to drive and I could probably walk it in 15. Jaap and Charlotte spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour each way getting to work.
43. Which is more dangerous for blowing the weight limit on your luggage – a friend who works at a very good mystery book store, or a friend who is senior management with Electronic Arts?
44. You can use nickels in parking meters in SF. It will get you exactly two minutes. A quarter gets you 10.
45. Ever wonder what happened to the pay toilets that used to be at the Avalon Mall and Atlantic Place ? They moved to California.
46. If you try to pay for gas at the pump using a credit card, it asks for your zip code as an anti-theft measure. Which is nice and all, but a pain in the ass if you're from Canada.
47. People actually ask to see photo ID if you use a credit card.
48. More than one person thought my Nunavut driver's licence was not a real ID, which says something about the quality of the licence.
49. Boudin's sourdough bread really is as good as the hype and is worth hunting down.
50. Customer service is not a strength in California.
51. Aerogold Visa cards are apparently freaky and fascination to many retailers.
52. Never try to order a Caesar at a bar or restaurant. Most have never heard of it.


John Mutford said...

Re: 1 & 2-So it's the SUV owners that suck, not the vehicles, right?

6- How does a baseball cap stay on in the wind?

27-28- It's not you. Tinkerbell has been slutified. I saw a poster of her recently and I think Disney's trying to have her compete with the Bratz tramps. That skirt is a good 5 inches higher I'm sure.

48- There's more wrong with the ignorant folks who haven't heard of Nunavut than with the driver's licenses.

Mireille Sampson said...

If you think about the hair that went with the scarf-in-convertible thing, the women usually had fluffy bangs as a wind-break - you know, keeping the scarf from blowing off. Oh for the days of Cathy's Mount Pearl Curl, eh?

Kara and Matt said...

Well after that, I almost want to venture into the states. Well, almost! That was a very entertaining list! Thanks for making my uneventful day a little entertaining!

John said...

Tilley Hats have always ruled, Craig. A guy I know wore it sides snapped down for sun, up for wind, left side up for beer-drinking and right side up for shots. When he was really loaded he'd wear it sideways with the sides snapped up and do an insane Napoleon impression.

towniebastard said...

John, I dislike both SUVs and most of their owners. The vehicles of their purpose, I'm sure. It just seems 95% of the time they are misused.

As for why the hat stays on, a couple of theories. You can jam it on your head pretty solidly. That, plus slouching a bit, will generall protect your from the wind.

And Mireille, Cathy laughed when she read that comment and said she could only aspire to that level of bitchiness. Trust me, it was meant as a compliment.

senatorhung said...

RE: #11: wow, someone else in iqaluit actually reads comics ? do you have them sent up to you ? i get a monthly order from previews sent up from calgary. saw the gaiman, stephenson and bendis links, so wouldn't mind chatting about what else you're reading these days.

senatorhung said...

hmm, it didn't keep my web address. anyway, you can email my username at or visit my blog at