Frantic Fred's Travel Tips: SoCal

by Miles O'Neal, Jetlag, Ltd.

Southern California : 1st Impressions


I was surprised by how small the Long Beach airport was - at least the concourse where we landed. It was larger than the rest rooms at the Atlanta airport - but not by much.

Dear Old Budget wouldn't rent me a car. Why? Because the Sears card, which we always use with Budget, was in my wife's name. Always has been. Never been a problem anywhere else. Fine - they've lost my business.

The hotel shuttle was gone for a couple of hours. Why? Nobody knew - it just was. But they assured me that a taxi from the airport would only be $6 or $7. Turned out to be $21. Things are not off to a good start.

The hotel room, at least, was huge, with a nice balcony and excellent view of the beach. It was winter, technically, so despite the temperature in the mid to high 70s, the hotel kept a fire in the fireplace near the reception desk.

That evening, the phone works fine. Next morning, no such luck. Call the desk. A what? A phone deposit? Yet another bit of financial strangeness I've never encountered before.

The people here are very friendly, very talkative, but all those jokes about this being a different country suddenly aren't very joke-like.

I had lunch at a place called Pasquini. They don't have regular coffee. They do, however, have a sign warning of the dangers of alcoholic beverages. (I don't drink, but presumably anyone old enough to imbibe is reasonably aware of the dangers. Score one for the Litigation Society.) But they do provide a spoon with the linguini, something many ``Italian'' restaurants don't do. Fortunately I wore a tie-dye shirt.

Thoughts on Culture

I have a friend (let's call her Deb) in Austin, originally from Boston. The culture shock of that move was bad enough, having people actually speak to each other, even strangers. But here, people constantly make eye contact, and smile and speak-- on the streets, in restaurants, everywhere. Deb would be here 1, maybe 2 days at the outside, and she'd say, ``I just want to smack them all and knock those smiles off their faces!''

For me, the ``friendly south'' was always a bit of a myth. Some of the people were truly friendly, but for a lot of folks its just a different mask than, say, the one New Yorkers wear. Especially if you're ``different'', and if you aren't meeting people in a ``safe'' environment, such as a church social. Atlanta, being sort of international, was better than, say, Augusta, but far too many people even in Atlanta are suspicious of strangers. (Yes, I know we live in an unsafe world, but I'm talking about prejudice against strangers, not just being careful.)

Austin was better, but California still amazes me. For all the hassles of doing business here with the car rentals and unions, the people are mind-bending. If it weren't for the pollution and cost of living, I could live here quite easily (a fact I've long suspected).

I don't see how [a friend from rural Tennessee] lasted a week here, much less a year. The different flavors of the human race are all pretty well represented here, and in general seem to get along (having been here 24 hours as I write this, I am of course imminently qualified to judge! 8^) .

So far good coffee seems to be common. Smoking doesn't. That's a nice switch!

North vs South

How does Long Beach compare to San Jose & San Francisco? SoCal seems to have a lot more straight (sexually speaking) people. Less book stores. Less leftover hippies and yippies. The people seem to (overall) be more conservatively dressed, but (a) it's Sunday, (b) it could just be this part of town, and (c) it could be the CIA. (It could always be the CIA.)


The weather here is wonderful... mid 60s at night, mid to high 70s in the afternoon. The weather guy says it's unseasonably warm, which could explain the fireplace at the hotel and the people actually sitting in front of it-- they think it's practically winter here. Kind of a bizarre mix of clothes today - about half the people are in shorts and tees and the other half are bundled up in coats.

I think this is where they send old VW vans to die; upon arrival they get buried in a Pet Sematery, from whence they spring forth in the middle of the night, their freshly painted soft colors glowing, to roam the streets. Most of them are painted off-white, tan, sky blue or orange, but I did see a lone forest green.

It seems to be chic here to set your car alarm off for 2 to 3 seconds before you deactivate it. Or maybe it's just all the drugs in the water. At least they yield to pedestrians (and courteously, at that). Of course, this could be a setup. As soon as I take it for granted and relax, BLAM! I get hit by a grill set to ``puree''.

I have to admit, this is predominantly the land of beautiful people. I've no way of knowing how much of this is due to (a) selective breeding, (b) something in the air, (c) drugs in the water, (d) natural selection, or (e) the CIA. Whichever, the avocados are wonderful.

On the other hand (but not mine, thank you very much!) as I await a bus, there's this stud skating around in just his bikini underwear and WalkMan TM. No way to know if he's trying to get my attention, or that of the cute Mexican girl having her car looked at by a mechanic. Or maybe he likes the mechanic. He's acting cool towards everyone, but keeps hanging around, showing off for one or more of us, all over the service station parking lot. Maybe I should just pull a Deb and smack him. (In the interest of fairness, Austin has Leslie.)

This occurred right after MR. Bronzed health Dude in his neon green trunks came striding testosteronally down 2nd Avenue munching a macho carrot. The world is his oyster, which he probably won't swallow, because oysters might be people, too. You know?

I have seen more uniforms (hotel, maids, etc.) than I expected. Somehow I must have thought even the service personnel would all dress hip and individualistically. Like the girl at Pasquini (the Italian restaurant) with the nice print skirt, light jacket, and gold chain belt over her Redondo Beach tee shirt.

Oh, yeah. CJ would love it. The signs, one above the other, said, "Diaper Changing Area" and "Men".

Last updated: 30 October 2007

Copyright 1993, 1997, 2007 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514