Welcome honored Rose Bowl guests.
Especially those from Michigan State. But first a word of caution.
No unsuspecting Midwesterner should be dropped willy-nilly into Southern California, a place so defined by clichés that reality becomes blurred.
To hear tell, we are a massive community of surfers who sprinkle our conversation with the word “dude,” drive convertibles on gridlocked streets, spend a lot of time poolside, are surgically attached to our cell phones, wear sunglasses indoors and are mostly air kissing bores who end each conversation with “let’s do lunch.”
Some of that is true. Some isn’t. So as a public service, this column is a primer on the Southern California lifestyle and how to deal with the natives here.
Lesson one: There are damn few natives here. While there are undoubtedly a lot of folks from your home state who are residing in L.A. now, you have a better chance of bumping into people from Thailand or Tokyo, Uruguay or Uganda. We are truly the Ellis Island of the 21st Century. The good news: We mostly all get along just fine. And if you’re an adventuresome foodie, you’ll find a restaurant representing every nook and cranny in the world here.
Some other truths:
Yes, there is a sizable group of surfers here. But most people are content to surf the menu board at In-N-Out Burgers. The real surfers I know are indistinguishable from other human beings. They speak actual English and are not known to show up for a dinner in a wet suit. Everyone needs a hobby. Theirs is jumping into the ocean at dawn to ride the waves. Yours is ice fishing. Judge not.
If someone calls you “dude,” don’t be offended. After all, it was originally a new word for “dandy,” an extremely well-dressed male who paid particular importance to how he appeared. According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, the best known of this type is probably Evander Berry Wall, who was dubbed “King of the Dudes” in 1880s New York and maintained a reputation for sartorial splendor all his life. Nowadays, it’s an informal way of addressing someone (“Dude, the house is on fire.”).
Yes, we are devoted cell phone users. Be careful in approaching a native. He or she may be startled by an attempt to initiate a conversation that does not emerge from a hand-held device. Confusion may ensue and it may take a few minutes to establish eye contact.
There was a time when it was common to spot a celebrity or two while driving around Hollywood. Those days are gone. Most celebrities these days spend their days hiding from the paparazzi behind the walls of their mansions, only emerging at night to attend a Lakers game. Or to punch the aforementioned paparazzi.
We’re not all weirdos. After all, there are some 38 million people living in California so the chances of encountering some goofball are greater than in, say, North Dakota. Besides, if we’re smart enough to live here, we can’t be all bad.
Whatever you do, do not watch the local news on TV. If you do, you’ll be convinced that the streets are awash in blood. That’s because TV is devoted to the “if it bleeds, it leads” school of reporting. The fact is that crime figures for 2012 show that the overall crime rate in Los Angeles fell 1.4 percent. Notching a decline for the 10th year in a row, Los Angeles now has the lowest crime rate in the country for cities with a population over 2 million people. Does that mean you should loudly poke fun at a biker gang in a dark alley? Only if you want to skew the statistics.
Contrary to popular opinion, we do not all live on the beach. In fact, most of us don’t. If you want to sample beach living, drive out to Malibu where an ocean-front lot costs more than the entire city of Detroit. While you’re there, stop at an eatery and try the free-range sushi at $25 a pop.
Traffic? It’s bad. Depending on what source you choose to use, the worst cities for traffic are either L.A. or Washington, D.C. or San Francisco or Honolulu. Why split hairs? It’s like determining whether you’d like to be stabbed by a Philips head screwdriver or shot with a crossbow. Either way, it’s going to be painful. Finding a cab in this town is like looking for an albino rhinoceros. Buses usually display a destination that most residents would have trouble identifying. Best advice: walk or take the lite rail.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for Stanford fans, they’ll be the group down at the end of the bar dressed in white lab coats and horned rim glasses discussing Higgs boson. If you don’t know what that is, don’t bother speaking to them.