When I came to Colorado ten years ago and immediately started railing against the typical Coloradan's lack of driving skill ("It's snowing/raining -- we'd better slow down to half the speed limit!"), I was informed that Coloradans (or whatever you call yourselves) weren't at fault; it was all the damn Californians. Since then, I've seen Californians -- and, increasingly, Texans and anyone else who dares move to the land of Coors Antifungal and Light "Beer" -- labeled the culprits behind not just bad driving, but the drought, global warming, hairy legs and armpits, sex scandals, boy bands, traffic and cancer. I think we should round up the offending immigrants and publicly humiliate them by parading them around LoDo in Bermuda shorts, sandals and dark socks.
To be honest, though, I considered this blame game part of the new American pastime of avoiding responsibility and accountability, as shown by those who claim no culpability for morally and criminally questionable activities carried out in expensive hotels outside of Boulder. But after a recent trip to Los Angeles, I'm now convinced that you native Coloradans are right in your assessment of Californians, who are probably also to blame for the new pay-parking kiosks in Cherry Creek North that will result in my car getting booted (that diabolical Denver invention) before I pay for parking there. Don't thank me for my peaceful protest; I'm just a patriot.
Anyway, upon debarking from my plane, I quickly noted that not all of L.A. is Hollywood. The LAX terminal has got to be one of the nastiest places on the face of the earth. I was afraid that if I sat down and tried to clear my lungs of that brownish air, I might permanently meld to the chair and its layers of God-knows-what until I was surgically removed.
Sometimes you can count on your cabbie to provide a useful introduction to his city. My L.A. cabbie was a nice enough guy who sounded a lot like Latka on Taxi but drove more like Reverend Jim. At one point, he told me that he couldn't believe he'd become a professional driver after almost killing himself in a rollover accident. And he made my hair stand on end when he confessed that the reason he was talking so much was because if he didn't, he would surely fall asleep at the wheel.
The sights along the way to Beverly Hills somehow distracted me from my impending death. Apparently, Los Angeles does not believe in zoning. Next to dilapidated buildings suitable for slaughtering cattle, you find palatial homes with swimming pools, and servants who no doubt live in the slaughterhouses. Skin clubs sit across from churches and schools. I spotted the "Church of the Master" right next to a spot offering high colonics. Then again, maybe this isn't such an odd juxtaposition, since the latter is a prominent tenet of the ultimate religion practiced by disciples of L. Ron Hubbard and Kabbalah.
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My first night in town, I had no choice but to go out for drinks with a buddy who could help me deal with the sensory overload. We went to what all Midwestern guys see as the real California: the beach. Nestled on a block of near-slums in Venice Beach was the Baja Cantina, which, even at that hour, featured women who had bodies that would make the Pope consider picking up a copy of Dianetics. Perhaps if more of these women migrated here, Colorado natives wouldn't complain about the Californicating of this state. Trust me, you'd park at an expired meter just to get a ticket from a meter maid who looked like this. Thanks to these women and a couple of fantastic 24-ounce margaritas, California suddenly didn't seem all that inhospitable.
But then we made the mistake of moving on to another bar -- a karaoke bar. No woman, no matter how hot, can sing a Flock of Seagulls tune and remain hot.
Not having punished ourselves enough, we decided to head to the Sunset Strip. I'm a firm believer in the fact that guy friends who haven't seen each other in over six months haven't fully bonded until they've had a few drinks while staring at a naked woman. We found one skin club with plenty of women but no alcohol, so we moved on to a trendy-looking bar down the street. It seemed like a cool place with a nice patio, good music and a good crowd. But then I discovered that I'd have to pay over five bucks for bottled Guinness.
Needless to say, I was relieved to return to the city I now call home. Sure, Denver has its faults -- but at least there's parking (even if you have to pay for it). And while the bars may not be quite as trendy, but you can still get draft Guinness almost anywhere -- even at strip clubs.