California and Me, a Short Interlude

Posted on July 17, 2004 by psu

I grew up in Massachusetts, and now have lived in Pittsburgh for about the last ten years. Because I work in the computer industry I am forced to travel to California against my will. I have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and even a summer in Pasadena.

All this time in CA has lead to one inevitable conclusion: On balance, I hate the place.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Visiting San Francisco is great fun, and we do it often to escape the relative lack of real Chinese Food in Pittsburgh. But aside from the better food environment, there is almost nothing to recommend this area as a place to live day to day. Let us review.

  1. The weather sucks.

    Sure, it’s warm enough to allow one to bicycle almost year round. But, the oppressive non-changing dry boring blandness of it all just sucks my soul out of my eyeballs. Apologists for the area will always bombard you with some pithy remark like “oh, yeah, you must love freezing your ass off all the time in the winter”, which completely misses the point. The weather, while inducing suffering, is a reminder that time passes, that the world changes, that summer is different from winter in more ways than just being dryer, that there is a cycle to things. I find this to be reassuring. When I’m in CA, it’s like time stands still and has no meaning. I hate it.

  2. The cars suck.

    The entire car oriented culture is poisonous. Everything is sprawled out along thousands of square miles of paved oblivion. You can’t walk anywhere. You can’t park anywhere. Today, just to get to the airport cost $100 in a cab. This is ludicrous.

  3. The traffic sucks.

    I was going to meet my friend at Google for dinner tonight. He calls me at 6:30 (an hour and a half late) saying that he is on the way home. It takes him 45 minutes to get home because of “traffic”. Google is in Mountain View. My friend lives in Mountain View. How can it take 45 minutes to get home because of traffic when the longest possible distance that he just drove is a few miles?

  4. The housing sucks.

    $500,000 buys you a hovel with a tin roof. The only way to buy a decent house is to win the stock options lottery at a place like google and pray you can cash out fast enough.

  5. The attitude sucks.

    If I get that puzzled look from one more CA fan-boy asking me why any rational person would willingly live on the east coast, I’ll punch his teeth out. If you like your little car infested hell hole, then that’s fine. Just don’t expect me to understand it.

  6. The culture sucks.

    California encapsulates all the contradictions of modern life in the U.S. In San Francisco, homeless people sleep outside of Nordstrom. The weather is warm enough to cycle and walk outside all year, so everyone drives everywhere. The place is a hot bed of various progressive civil liberties paranoia and identity politics, but you can’t smoke in bars. The area has some of the best food and cooking in the world, but the paranoia about the latest diet fads and the complete obsession over minutiae like grass fed free range organic vegetables is just exhausting. Finally, the intellectual environment is best described as my friend Corey put it: “the vapid crystal-rubbing health-food and high-colonic culture.”