Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Letter from California: Are We All Crazy?

I grew up in the serenity and ease of Sumter, South Carolina, where the news is something that happens in other places and the pace of life is good for the soul. Now, I live in California, on the edge of Los Angeles, a town where if you’re not making news, you’re probably not doing your job. It’s show business that makes this place go, and show business needs an audience.

These days, though, the Golden State is getting even more attention than usual because a million people signed a piece of paper that said they wanted a chance to toss out the Governor of the State. Now we get to choose from more than 100 potential replacements, including a child star, a porn star, an aging Austrian bodybuilder, a used car dealer, a railroad worker and even a couple of politicians who’ve held public office.

This has a lot of people wondering what’s going on here. Have the 35 million people of the State of California gone one cappuccino over the line? In short, Are We All Crazy?

I’m here to answer the question for you, and you can trust me because even though I’m embedded in the L.A. scene, I’m a Sumter kid. I’m your inside source, so when I tell you the answer, you can rest assured that it’s the truth.

Yes. The answer is ‘yes’. We are all crazy here.

Now, you might be asking yourself why you should continue to read a letter from a person who just included himself in a group of crazy people. Here’s why: because there’s good crazy and there’s bad crazy, and here in California, we’ve got plenty of both.

Let’s talk about good crazy first. Californians are inventors. Here in LA alone, we’ve invented things as broad ranging as the Internet (without any help from Al Gore), fortune cookies, and the Space Shuttle. Then of course, there’s Menlo Park up north, where Edison basically invented the 20th century from his campus just south of San Francisco. Add to that Star Wars, All in the Family, barbeque chicken pizza, , Disneyland, The Godfather trilogy, MASH The Magnificent Seven, and eBay. All of these are the kind of crazy that make peoples’ hearts beat faster and make it fun to live here.

Then there’s the bad crazy. L.A. street gangs invented the modern crack trade and franchised it around the country in the 80’s, creating a death machine with reach into even the most remote towns. And for every Schindler’s List there are 10 times as many Police Academy 4’s. Then there are the people you might bump into at the farmer’s market: Heidi Fleiss, Robert Blake, George Michael, Hugh Grant, or even O.J.. And if you do manage to avoid them while you pick up some sushi for your trip to the beach, you’ll probably still have to pay $10 to park and take a shuttle bus down to the water.

And what’s worse is that I find lots of people that come to LA chasing the kind of lifestyle that seems natural, almost unavoidable in South Carolina: a life of comfort and calm with your surroundings, your home, and your place in the world. For many, those things look like golden prizes just out of reach rather than things that can’t really be bought. That’s bad crazy, too, but it’s part of life for some people here.

Still, I’m here, and I love it. I’m raising my family here, and have found a place, literally and figuratively, where the people that are in my life balance down-to-earth with reach-for-the-stars in a way that makes for interesting adventures. I’m in a good spot to see a lot, and, if you’re interested, I’ll tell you about it.

After all, being crazy makes us fun to watch. If it weren’t this recall, it would be something else because entertaining people isn’t just what we do at work, it’s who we are. As they say in Hollywood, ‘call me crazy, but call me!’

I’m also going to include a web site address of something quintessentially Californian that I think you’ll find interesting. To begin, here’s where you can find an archive of this column as well as a way to contact me by email.



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