Cut California a break

My wife, her two best girlfriends, and I just returned from a week in sunny California. It was the first time we had ever been to the Golden State, and we had a blast. We played the typical tourist game, seeing many of the stars homes in Beverly Hills and making our pilgrimage to the San Diego Zoo. As a movie buff and a student of film history, I particularly enjoyed our tour of Paramount Studios – the only studio still left in Hollywood itself. (The rest have moved north to Burbank.) And if you ever visit California, you absolutely must watch the sun set at La Jolla Cove, north of San Diego. The sea lions come up on shore and provide a nightly chorus of barking that would make every dog in our neighborhood jealous. Plus the sunset is beautiful, the waves are soothing, and it’s fun to watch the surfers and predict their success with each large wave. The only problem is that the water is too cold for swimming. Remember, on the West Coast, the current flows from north to south, from Alaska. On the East Coast, the current flows from south to north, from the Caribbean.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m bothering to write about our vacation. “Good Lord, Andy. Do you want the entire city of Carmel to come over and watch your vacation slides?” No, I’m writing about California because we Midwesterners have the wrong impression about the Great American West, and in particular, California. Every time we mention San Diego as a potential retirement destination, our Republican friends (yes, we do have some) will advise us against it. “The cost of living is too high, property taxes are too high, the state government is broke, they take your money and give it to the poor, there’s too much government regulation” they’ll complain.

But you know what? They’re wrong. Certain necessities do cost more. Gasoline has always been expensive in California, but it’s not because of taxes. It’s because California is further away from any natural gas lines than any other place in America, save for Hawaii. Groceries cost about the same as they do here. Property taxes are about the same as they are here – and without a constitutionally mandated property tax cap too, I might add. Utilities are far less expensive in California. We met with one of my dad’s best friends, who lives in a retirement community near Long Beach. What he pays in gas and electricity is less than what we pay for water and sewage. Why? Because of the temperate climate, he barely uses his furnace, and he runs the air-conditioner a grand total of about a week every year.

And what about government regulation? We did notice all motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. And most of them also wear the full riding gear. But you know what? Proportionally, California has far more motorcyclists than Indiana. Imagine that. The helmet law did not deter anyone from riding. Truth be known, it’s a fast way to beat the Los Angeles traffic, as cyclists are allowed to drive between lanes on the freeways. And the traffic? Bad, yes, but no worse than Chicago’s.

Truth be known, we’re the over-regulated state. In California, nobody cares if adults want to smoke a little pot on their porch on a cool summer evening. What harm does that do to anyone else? In California, nobody cares if an inner-city teen gets knocked up and decides to discontinue her pregnancy. Again, it doesn’t affect anyone else. It’s her life and her body. In California, nobody cares if the lesbian couple down the street gets married. Again, what possible harm does that cause me? Does it somehow endanger my marriage? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Just ask our governor. No wait! On second thought, those lesbians aren’t equal, in his mind.

Now before you call California an ungodly collection of fruits and nuts, we saw more churches there than we do here. And we see a darn lot of churches in Indiana. The bottom line is that these pseudo-religious hang-ups we have in the Midwest and South simply aren’t important to most people. In the West, people are more accepting of others and their various lifestyles. We should give this philosophy a whirl here in Indiana. Then our state government could focus on more important issues, like regulating how we sing the national anthem.