The Hype Deflation Tour
Southern California sure doesn’t live up to the hype
|Okay, for a guy who grew up in Florida & lives in Washington DC, I’ve heard way too much about California. In Florida, everything was measured against LA or San Diego & always came up short. In DC, all is measured against San Fran, and again, the East comes up short.
I’m now tired of all the hype and I’ve gone West for two weeks to see what all the hoopla is about. So far my first destination, Southern California (SoCal), is starting to take on a surreal & depressing tone, making this trip become the Hype Deflation Tour.
Saturday morning I awoke in Huntington Beach, part of the LA metro region, and spent what felt like the whole day in my friend Deans’ car while we drove to Hollywood Blvd, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and finally San Diego, where I am now.
Hollywood Blvd was the biggest let down. For all the hype about Hollywood, and the counter hype that it was so seedy, the bland tacky-tourist feel of it all under whelmed me. Like anywhere around Disney in Orlando, tour groups & touts terrorized Hollywood Blvd more than movie stars or prostitutes, even with a Scooby Doo premiere going on at Mann’s Movie Theater.
Santa Monica was cool, especially the pedestrian-only street filled with locals enjoying the sunshine and sidewalk shows. Deans and I befriended two English lads on a six-hour layover between Tahiti & London, dragging them to Venice Beach. Venice was a longer & more interesting version of Ocean Drive in Miami Beach or Las Ramblas in Barcelona. We saw the required rollerbladers, street musicians, freaks & touts. Deans was disappointed with the three weenies that populated Muscle Beach, while I was quite content to watch all the bikinis walking by.
After enough eyestrain, we drove down here to San Diego, and I’m relieved. L.A. is way to car-centric & sprawled for my tastes. While it was cool and light traffic during our drive down, I could see how a hot & dry summer day going bumper to bumper would get people to shoot at each other on the freeway.
Actually, San Diego is a worthy city. Deans lives in Hillcrest, the gay neighborhood, which while not as good as Dupont, is filled with little cafes, shops, and the required four palm trees on every block. I can see downtown & the Navy yard from here, which, with two aircraft carriers in port, is quite impressive.
For a new view, Deans recommended that I head farther south, to Rosarito, the next town south of the border after Tijuana (or TJ as the locals call it), for a great place for beach fun followed by lobster & beer, so I convinced Misty, another friend from my college daze, to drive down there with me.
At first, we zipped past the border so quickly as not to notice that we were in a new country. Then we went around a curve in the road and the poverty hit us. We were definitely not in Kansas any more…. Still the drive was scenic & swift, with TJ passing fast & the countryside opening up.
Rosarito came up a little too quickly, as Misty and I were still wondering where all the good beaches were by the time we’d passed through town. Back we went & finally found the sand. This time, as we walked out onto the scene, we really did look at each other and say, “This is it?!?”
Rosarito, while I’m sure is quite entertaining for the college spring break set, on a calm Saturday in August, was just not doing a damn thing on a windy Monday afternoon in June. Not a Daytona, though the beach was as wide and not a Koh Pha Ngan even though there were enough bars on the beach. In a funk, we walked into Papas & Beer (yes that actual name of a bar there) and drank the afternoon away. It wasn’t until the solar eclipse darkened the sky that we headed to a taco stand for over-fried fish.
In the midst of the solar show I did manage to impress the staff with a pinhole camera made from two paper plates, doing my part for US- Mexican relations. And then, with boredom & indigestion, we did the only thing we could think of: we left.
So now I’m back in San Diego & disappointed. I knew that SoCal was a lot of hype & that it was going to be a bit of let down, but I’m really under whelmed. No, I’m scared. With all the hype about San Francisco too, if does as poorly as SoCal, I may just do the unthinkable and cut my vacation short. Oh, and slap anyone who dares to measure California with the East Coast again.