Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Republic of the West

Yes, I'll have something to say about the Wisconsin protests -- as soon as I can think of some original "value added" material. Right now, here's a bit of weekend frivolity.

A video editor who happens to be an old friend of mine -- here called "H" -- got into an email chat with me about west coast/east coast differences. This segued into a discussion of secession. If you have any thoughts on the topic of carving out a new "peaceable kingdom," please share with the rest of the class.

* * *
How's it over there? You doing okay? You feel like an easterner yet?
-- H

* * *
Well, when holed up in my attic surfing the net -- which is how I spend much of my days -- life seems unchanged.

You get used to the cold on the east coast. What bothers me is the general attitude. People simply are not nice here. They say "please" and "thanks" and "How can I help you?" only because their jobs require it, and when they do, it comes out sounding like "Fuck you."

Also, there are racial tensions. It's not at all pleasant to mention the topic, but you can't escape the reality. Get on the bus and there will be at least one young black guy who will give you the "DIE DIE DIE" glare. I haven't seen that glare in L.A. since 1995 or so, and I've ridden a lot of buses through all sorts of neighborhoods.

I was attacked by a small gang of young hoodlums. It was nothing serious -- a slight tolchock to the gulliver, as it were. It was simply a gesture to humiliate the older, chubbier white guy and then run off laughing at him. This was in a "nice" touristy part of town, near the National Aquarium.

I think that in Southern California black and white people came to the mutual understanding that Latinos are now the predominant culture. That realization dampened the resentment factor, because blacks and whites speak the same language and listen to very much the same music. The commonalities are more prominent.

And yet I miss the Latino influence. It feels very strange not to see them -- or the Spanish-language signs or the great supermarkets. I miss real Mexican cooking. Our last meal in L.A. proper was street tacos and Mexican Coca-Cola in East L.A., and OH MY GOD was that stuff good. And the young lady who translated for us was super nice. You just don't run into people like that out here.

Food is expensive. Total sticker shock. You may not notice it, being a While Foods shopper and all that, but on the lower end of the scale, things are grim. Even the reputedly "cheap" grocery stores in Balmer charge at least 25% more for basic items. And the high-priced produce! Living in California, you don't realize the benefits of living so close to that central valley.

We do have a Whole Foods out here, in Canton. That's yuppieville. Not many years back, people were spending $750,000 to buy three-story red-brick homes in Canton that were only 10.5 feet wide -- not an exaggeration! -- with two shared walls. That nonsense has stopped.

On the other hand, we still have used bookstores out here. We even have a hard-left-wing bookstore and lecture space called Red Emma's. There were places like that in L.A. when we were growing up -- and weirdly enough, I miss them, even though I didn't really go in for that type of doctrinaire politics.

There's also an actual porn theater out here! I haven't partaken. But it kind of warms my heart to see another '70s mainstay still in operation.
-- C

* * *
Sorry about your assault. Glad you are okay.

As to how Spanish we are -- yes we are. I think I first realized that in fancy film school, where most of my fellows were from the East Coast. I think I was the only one from SoCal, and I grew to resent their general disdain for our culture. It was probably when I first began to think of myself as a Westerner in general, and a Californian in particular.

Not to worry; I'm not a states-righter, but if Ron Paul or any other of those wing nuts get their way, I will happily wrap myself in the bear flag. In the entertainment business I am regularly one of the only Californians in the room, even though the people who I'm surrounded by may have been here for a few years. The immigration debate has been interesting for me, since my preference would probably be to have an open border with Mexico, and to require anyone east of New Mexico/Colorado to apply for a visa.

As to food -- tortillas, burritos, tacos, and salsa have always been so much a part of my daily diet that I think of them simply as food, not "Mexican Food," whatever that means. Pot roast seems to me far more exotic. And me? A Whole Foods shopper? I suppose I shop there, on occasion, but not at all to my taste. I do like their hot food bar from time to time, but over all both the cost and the vibe put me off. If you want to accuse me of something, accuse me of being a Gelson's shopper. That's my idea of shopper paradise. The only thing that keeps me out of there on a regular basis is the cost.

Well, we miss you out here. Remember, son; yer a Californian. Do us proud.

* * *
Well, wherever we draw the line for the New Republic of the West, we must include New Mexico. The green chili enchiladas I had there were the best thing encountered on our cross-country trip.

Appleturkey brims with friendliness. Why can't Baltimore be more like that? Is it the Poe connection? Is THAT why so many people here are dreary, weak and weary?

The tricky part would be to include NM in our new democracy while excluding Arizona. Long before the Loughner atrocity, I had pretty much concluded that AZ was Maniacland. On the other hand, Flagstaff is scenic and the Grand Canyon is, well, grand. Maybe we can annex AZ from the I-40 and above. The rest can be part of the Dungeon of Texas. That would work, dontcha think?

Okay, here's the tough question: Separation of Northern CA from Southern CA. Yea or Nay? A lot of people favor separation because, let's face it, the cultures are rather different.

But some of my favorite parts of California are up North: Mt. Shasta, the Trinity River, the Muir Woods, the Avenue of the Giants...and of course, my former home-away-from-home, Big Sur and Monterey.

You're right: The entertainment industry, generally considered a California thing, is really a transplanted New Yorker thing. How did that happen? I mean, that situation was understandable back in the days of Griffith and Ince. But 2011...?
-- C

* * *
Arizona is not so bad; it has just filled up with cranky Easterners that, after moving, are shocked to be surrounded by so many hispanics. Of course, there are also seven tons of Mormons, but them I can take. I wouldn't want to cut Utah loose, either. Very pretty, there. I say we take the whole mess from the Rockies west. We'll keep our crazies, because they are Western crazies. We can talk about repatriating the grimmer Arizona retirees back to the states if that is where they want to go.

If we go for California alone, I say we give the north the opportunity and tell them to really think about it. I mean, REALLY think about it. I bet we could carry SF, Humboldt, and Sacramento. Maybe Fresno. If they don't go along, I say we cut it along the Merced and make Yosemite an International Peace Park. I'm sure you'll be able to get a visa to get up to Shasta.
-- H

* * *
Thus endeth the dialog, so far. A few words of appendage: I'd like to find some way of including Utah's acid-trip geological formations while excluding that state's Glenn Beckified citizenry.

That said, please understand that this exchange is meant to be humorous. On a more serious level, all the recent talk of secession we've been hearing strikes me as horrifying -- and when political figures engage in such talk, they flirt with treason.
Well, wherever we draw the line for the New Republic of the West, we must include New Mexico. The green chili enchiladas I had there were the best thing encountered on our cross-country trip.

Appleturkey brims with friendliness. Why can't Baltimore be like that?

Of course you must include New Mexico--we'd be The Jewel in the Stetson of the NRotW. (& btw it's chile, not chili. Chili is a Texas stew with meat & tomatoes & red chile powder & sometimes beans.)

As for the friendliness of the West as opposed to the gloomy, hostile East, IMO it's our wide open spaces, blue skies and sunshine. There's room to breathe out here, literally as well as figuratively, as well as quiet and PRIVACY.

The longest 18 months of my life were spent in NYC in 1969/70. Had an office on the 5th floor of Black Rock (the CBS building) with full length window facing north. Stood in that window day after day, fantasizing about wielding a giant sword that would lop the tops off the skyscrapers so I could see the sky, and the horizon.

Then I moved to L.A. and thought I'd died and gone to heaven, but after 21 years my beloved L.A. too had got built up and congested, so here I am.

Been in Burque coming on 20 years now, and while it's grown exponentially in that time, it's still decades away from equaling even, say, Glendale or Pasadena in size, let alone L.A. proper.

For that matter, for most of my 20 years in NM the population of the entire state has hovered at just below the 2 million mark, but the 2010 census revealed that it's finally topped that mark by something like 40,000/50,000 people.

The. Entire. State. (5th largest in the USA in terms of land mass) Just over 2 million humans, and half of those are right here in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

And the skies are not cloudy or grey... ;-)
If we are talking succession why not the inverted U of the blue states?

Starting with the Mid-Atlantic states then going West across the Canadian border then South to Cali.

Since most of those states send more revenue into Washington than the receive, think of the tax savings.

Let the Red Staters see what it's like to live without Liberal's wealth to suck out of their wallets.

As to the Eastern Seaboard grimness around you, I think the former Erie Railroad's slogan might explain it.

"Serving the heart of Industrial America"

Well, Wall Street ripped out that heart and transplanted it to China so those inner city kids you ran afoul of have no future and they know it.
New Mexico does work is magic on you. I've been here about five years. Much of the cultural charm comes from the Spanish influence, which is as old as in California, but with much less of an Anglo & Asian overlay. Between the old Spanish and the Puebloan native heritage, there's a deep sense of living history here that's rare in this prefab, fly-by-night nation--especially this far west.
Easterners (and Mid-Westerners, I suppose) are surly because we haven't gotten used to the cold. It is probably the Seasonal Affective Disorder. As soon as the days brighten the people should as well. Actually probably not, they can smell the California on you.
On the topic of Wisconsin - it's ground zero for labor at this point. I'm a WI state employee (at University of Wisconsin-Madison).
I think probably the most important thing needed right now is additional warm bodies.
Facebook page - Madison Protester Housing Available:
Also, if you're willing to crash on a couch (or to use a sleeping bag) some of the Madison Community Coop houses might be an option.
The protests have continued to grow in size (police estimated 40,000 for the 5:00 rally Friday, but having been there, I think that's a substantial underestimate - I would guess at least 60,000). Many protestors are staying in the capital building around the clock (i.e. overnight). Today (Saturday) I would guesstimate the crowd size at approximately 100,000 (that included some Tea Party supporters of the Walker bill - but at most they numbered about 2000).
Analysis of provisions of the bill relating to collective bargaining.
Some union sites with info:
Wisconsineye has some good testimony from a listening session about the bill (though some people have difficulty getting video from this site to play) - under search enter "Budget Repair Bill Listening Session".
Wisconsineye link:
Wisconsin residents oppose the bill - two polls:
Quite a bit of info at this blog:
As an easterner, I had the exact opposite reaction when I lived in California for two years. The people seemed aloof and distant, very impersonal and not particularly nice on the whole. I just couldn't adapt to the culture, and the complete lack of weather got to me after the first year. Two months of green, followed by 10 months of brown, dead, dry, and hot. I missed clouds, snow, the incredible foliage in the fall. But I grew up here in the east, and I live in mostly rural central PA, which has surprisingly open spaces in it (though much more hilly and tree filled than out west, of course). People are usually quite nice, though I find cities anywhere you go are filled with gloomy, unhappy people (especially these days). Have to agree with the inverted "U" if we are talking secession.
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