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CALIFORNIA WARS

There are two Californians, the Bay Area Californian and the Southern Californian. Actually, there's probably a third, the rural Californian, but they are not competitive, so they don't count. As a second generation native of Los Angeles, I'm supposed to identify as a Southern Californian.

For some unknown reason, the Northern California people have given themselves the title of Big Brother, viewing us lesser natives at the bottom half of the state as a lower species. In the Bay Area, there are those who view themselves as near royalty, because theirs is a more established aristocracy. We poor southerners can never expect our elite to be any better than nouveau riche. A former pig farmer from Nebraska can suddenly make it big in Silicone Valley or the San Francisco stock exchange and suddenly he is upper crust with season tickets to the opera, the ballet, and the symphony, and wears a tux to the dive bars in North Beach. He prides himself with being one of the boys by riding on the outside of the cable cars, holding the safety bar in one hand and leaning out toward the street with his body, just like the tourists. There may be more money in Southern California, but it is tainted by where it comes from, movies and television, real estate, and construction. There are more yachts in the harbors of Newport, San Diego, Long Beach, and Marina Del Rey than in all of Northern California, but who owns them? Certainly not the gentleman sailor who braves the waves with one hand on the wheel and the other with a freshly shaken martini.

Our northern brethren look down on us. We have opera companies, symphonies, museums, and concert halls where world class artists perform, but we are fledgling attendees who have no idea what we are witnessing. They think we'll applaud a pigeon who inadvertently flits into the auditorium. A bay area resident enters a concert hall or a museum already indoctrinated, because he or she was born cultured, even if Dad was a crab fisherman or a dishwasher at Tadich Grill.

Basically, Northerners think of themselves as old California and we are the newbies. The facts are, the Spanish introduced European culture to San Diego first, then proceeded northward until they ended at the northern missions. The first capital was neither in the south or north, but squarely in the middle at Monterey. One thing Northern Californians won't acknowledge is the fact that the mass migration of European intellectuals, composers like Schoenberg and Korngold, writers like Mann and Brecht, a slew of actors and directors escaping the Nazis, chose to settle in Los Angeles of all places. It became the cultural center of the state and second only to New York.

If you really want a great laugh, it is from what annoys Bay Area residents most about we Socals, as we like to call ourselves. It is the fact that we put the word THE in front of our freeways. That really sets them off and it shouldn't. After all, we invented the freeway, so we can call it anything we damn well please. Every time I'm accosted about the word THE, I explain. Once upon a time there was one freeway, the Pasadena Freeway. "How are you getting to L.A?" "On the freeway." You wouldn't say I'm going freeway, that sounds like baby talk. You say, "On the Pasadena Freeway, the Hollywood Freeway." So, when the freeways no longer had names, but numbers, we still used "THE 405" and if you've ever been on the 405 you know it needs a THE, because it is THE BIGGEST disaster ever created by man. Now, in deference to my northern brethren, the moment I reach Santa Barbara, I am no longer on THE 101, I'm on 101 or 1 or 5 or whatever number the highway has.

If the Bay Area really wants to complain about us, how about we're stealing their water, because we have to to survive. Or, how about we don't walk about with our noses in the air or the fact that cocktail hour in So Cal begins at 5 p.m. instead of the moment the bars open.

Of course, my rant is half in jest. We in Southern California revere our northern neighbors, especially those San Franciscans. Those Golden Gaters really do have bragging rights. They can boast about one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its diversity, and above all that food. If there is a foodie capital on earth, it's got to be Frisco (which we sometimes say in the south, but a Bay Area native would never utter such an abomination). There's a wonderful restaurant every few feet, more per capita than in city in the country. I, as a lowly southerner, try to make a pilgrimage to that wonderful city at least once a year. I adore it, as do most of my peers. The Bay Area has everything, beauty, some of the world's greatest wines, shopping, and fascinating people. In truth, I consider myself a Californian and refuse to label myself by region. Perhaps that's why I've chosen to live smack dab in the middle of the state, half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


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