A Palm Tree With Christmas Lights is Not a Christmas Tree


Almost from the moment I got here, I didn’t like it.

Alright, that’s an over-dramatic overstatement, but you’ve been here reading for the last 8 weeks so you know California just hasn’t sat quite right with me.  It’s not that I dislike the place for a vacation or a short life-stint, in fact I plan to come back to San Diego again in the future, it’s just that I can say with certainty that I could never really belong in this state.  It’s beautiful to be sure – the scenery is diverse and as beautiful as any you’ll find anywhere, and as long as you’re not near Los Angeles, most of the people are fairly friendly (not like the Midwest, but frankly nowhere is as nice as the Midwest so it’s not fair to compare).  That said, San Francisco was a bit like a GAP commercial, San Diego is unfortunately near LA, and Northern (really Northern) California is more hippie than I could even begin to fake in my new tye-dye sweatshirt; I kept pointing my finger to each of those reasons for why I didn’t like it here.  I even got so far as to be able to identify the differences in vanity between what I am used to (playing dress up when you leave the house) and what they are used to (collagen, surgery, and a lot of sun), which I mentioned to my old friend the other night at a bar.

She, a woman with a thousand and one stories, and a transplant from Michigan like myself, has lived here for a year or so now, and it has done wonders for her.  Unlike me, she belongs here.  But she knew what I meant, and she stewed on it for a minute, watching out the window at the people passing down the busy street outside.

You know what it is, she said as I watched a man out the window, handsome, chiseled, tan, and at least 60, it’s the snow! She exclaimed These people out here have never had to deal with Snow.

I took another sip of my drink and pondered, never having considered snow something that defines me (I mean I’ve never even been skiing for heaven sakes!) But she went on and I began to see what she meant.  It isn’t so much the existence of white power that their life is missing (2 hours from LA, remember?  They’ve got an abundance of that shit), but it’s the entire concept of winter.

In the East and all of us middle states, even the richest, prissiest, fake-tanest, most vain person has no power over the inevitable 3-5 months of misery we know as “Winter.” No matter many silver spoons were in your mouth at birth, you can’t avoid the fact that it may snow 2 feet in a day, and if you are outside for 4 hours ill prepared, you will die.  Your body will freeze like a pretentious Popsicle, and you will be a victim of the elements – that’s just a fact.  And the rest of us have to go about our business when it’s gloomy and slushy outside, consciously deciding not to sacrifice ourselves to the elements just because we haven’t seen the sun in 6 weeks.  Winter sucks.  And we have spent our whole lives learning to live in conditions that suck.

Californians don’t have to do that.  The closest they get is Tahoe, and let me tell you (because I’ve been there and it’s BEAUTIFUL!) that doesn’t cut it.  When you go looking for snow, it doesn’t count.  A 3-day weekend on the slopes and tucked away in your 4star resort sipping a hot toddy before you and your bronzed beauty slip off to bed is not experiencing snow.  Real Snow, Real Winter is inescapable, inconvenient, unpredictable, and completely inevitable.  Zip up you parka, put on your boots, and deal with it.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t days that suck in California.  There are.  Sometimes it rains, sometimes there are earthquakes, and people still get shot, get cancer, get divorced, die and watch people they love die, but it all happens when the sun is shining. The sun here is just a constant – a given. Things will happen, your life will happen, and the sun will always be shining.

And that, friends, is what I don’t like about California.  I don’t like things easy. I don’t want to be happy all the time, because if you are (first, you’ll never produce any writing worth reading, and secondly…) you can’t appreciate how happy you are.  There is no feeling in the world so great as the first warm day of an Eastern spring, when the sun comes out and little streams begin to trickle down the piles of snow and the streets and everyone feels like this day was never going to come but it did and it’s the most amazing euphoria there is — a feeling that good isn’t possible in California because it comes only by contrast.   The weather here is just too perfect.  Recently I’ve learned I would rather be happy than strong, but the lesson I learned before that is that I’d rather be strong than perfect.  Perfect is a palm tree with Christmas lights – it’s pretty, but it’s just not the real thing. In the East and in Middle-America, we’ve had to learn to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps even when the very world we live in is chaotic and miserable.  But in California they don’t even have boots.

Courage is not the towering oak that sees the storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.” – Alice M. Swaim



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