This weekend marked a return journey to the Pacific Coast to see Divya, thus doubling the number of times I've gone to the West. It was a good trip, and Orange County was, predictably, sunny and gay. It's quite a contrast at this time of year, when the cold weather has arrived in Columbus. Columbus is gay at this time of year too, just in a different sense of the word (it doesn't really change with the seasons). Orange County has plenty of that kind of gay as well, but I think Columbus probably "wins the battle." Ha! Take that Orange County. You just got out-gayed.
Indeed, Columbus is known as a fairly "gay" city. We're also known for dining and food, being a sort of testing ground for new dining options. People in Columbus apparently like eating (I sure do), and so not surprisingly it is easy to find fat people in Columbus. If you wanted to play a game with a friend where you went out in public to see who could spot more fat people, it would be a high-scoring affair in Columbus. In Orange County there are very few fat people, unless they're all hiding indoors eating. Walking around outside, there seriously are no fat people. And there are lots of people to see outside, because along the coast everyone spends time outside in the sun, going about their merry business. One of the main reasons why there are no fat people in Orange County is probably the fact that there are no fast food joints at which to get cheap, unhealthy food. No joke - you have to search hard to find a McDonald's. They are simply nowhere to be found. It goes without saying that there are no Burger Kings, Taco Bells, Wendy's, or Arby's either. Why is this? Well, while Columbus is known for food, Orange County is known for absurd wealth. What would a world look like if money was no object? It would look like a world without McDonald's.
In place of fast food restaurants, you have a lot of small eateries all over the place. While there may not be a market for McDonald's in the area, I would say that people in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach definitely like to eat out, because the cafes are abundant and well-frequented. I think that's part of the culture - getting out in the sun, walking around the beach and all the little shops, and eating out at various cafes. This is like the ideal lifestyle, right? In Laguna Beach there's a nice spot along the beach where they have some basketball courts and volleyball courts, and a playground and benches and stuff. Well, on a regular workday you can go there and find a group of 50-something guys, just hanging out in their shorts and flip-flops, shirtless and tanned to the max, shooting hoops and joking around. It's like being in college, but at a point in life where most people get enthused about having a commute that was 10 minutes less than the usual drive, after a day at work that didn't totally suck. After shooting hoops the guys would head off to some sidewalk cafe to have a beer. And at the sidewalk cafe you could likely spot a "housewife" with a lap dog in her lap, tanned to the max, having just come from a nail appointment at the salon, where both the woman and the dog would have gotten their nails done.
It's easy to see why California has energy consumption problems, because driving along the highway at night you see lights for miles and miles around. When you consider the amount of energy being consumed it really is staggering. Not to mention that along the highway there is a constant flow of traffic, day and night. High-speed, high-density traffic. In the movie Heat, Robert DeNiro takes the female character back to his apartment, and they're looking out at Los Angeles from his balcony, and he says something about how there are little glowing algae or something in Fiji that look the same as California at night, all lit up in the dark. Now I know what he's talking about, because it really is like this vast landscape of glowing lights. Flying back over Ohio on the return journey, you didn't get much in the way of lights until you were pretty close to the city.
Whenever I'm flying into a city (or driving past one) I'm always very interested to see the city's skyline. This can be hard to do from a plane because the airport is often not that close to the downtown. The reason I'm so intrigued by skylines is because they are cool to look at, for one thing, but more because I've got something like a Napoleon complex when it comes to Columbus. It irks me greatly that Columbus is listed as "Columbus, OH" on the airport departures listing, and that Columbus, GA is just listed as "Columbus." C'mon! We're a big city! Right?! Columbus really hasn't "caught on" as a big city, but I think this could all change if we got some more skyline cred. A skyline is like the signature of the city, and makes you notable. Unfortunately, I just don't foresee a lot of new skyscrapers going up in Columbus anytime soon. Columbus has a decent skyline, but it only has a "wow" factor from very select angles, and only at night. Since we're not likely to get any new skyscrapers, my suggestion is to just gain instant credibility by constructing a pyramid. And don't tell me Memphis already tried this, because there was no Egyptian slave labor involved.
Despite these insecurities, this trip once again affirmed for me that Columbus is an okay place. People aren't in a rush here, and the university area has some personality rather than just being a collection of office and classroom buildings on a pristine, bland campus. I think all the UC-Irvine students are at the beach, and that's cool, but I don't think they have it quite as good as they might believe, because my impression is that there's no concept of campus life in Irvine. I wouldn't trade my time at Ohio State for time at the beach. In a similar way, there isn't a single house - a single one - with an unkempt lawn in Corona Del Mar, but I'll gladly take Richard's hodgepodge clutter of holiday decorations down the street from us over a manicured front lawn any day.