The Hardship Myth

Michael Schreiber writes:

I am scared of New York and Chicago. Both are next to large bodies of water and quite a bit more sophisticated than California in a number of ways; but these two pulsating bodies tower over me like Olympian Gods. The names alone sound of cosmopolitan, excitement. sex-appeal and dynamic tones. Of course, I have never lived in these two places, nor for that matter have I lived anywhere else in the country. I am a California kid, too afraid to be bordered by anything other than the blue body of water crashing within ear shot of my house.

To which I can only say "huh"? It's sad -- he's bought into the mythology of Chicago and New York too. So far as I can tell, from a fair number of visits and a large number of friends, the Chi-town/NY mystique is entirely an invention of hardship. Unable to compete with the massively enjoyable lifestyle offered by California, they've fallen back on some ephemeral claim to sophistication and worldliness (though, so far as I know, Chicago isn't very sophisticated, and nor is Brooklyn). But Manhattan, which is what everyone thinks of when they call New York to mind, could fit in LA's back pocket. We could set it between Sunset's club strip and the Hollywood Bowl, a little to the left of the Disney Center, and let it hang out there. Would anyone even notice?

Actually, people would. New York, on this beautiful Spring day, is at 50 degrees and cloudy. I believe they call that "nice", there. Chicago is at 61, my buddy Grant, who goes to U of C, is probably sporting flip-flops. Los Angeles is at 71. And we consider that shitty weather.

So Illinois and NY can keep their worldliness, their faux-sophistication. Whatever keeps them warm at night -- they deserve it. But it breaks my heart to see full-blooded Californians buying into it. You can hear the beach, Michael -- stand proud. You can swim in it too, stand prouder. You've got two world class cities in SF and LA, and SD probably merits an honorable mention. You can read outside all year round, exult in it. And if you like New York and Chicago, have at it, they're great places. But not in any way that should make a Californian pale with envy.

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