Tattoos, $4.19 unleaded, Speed Humps and Dudes
By Mark S. McDonald
LIVERMORE, Calif. — You know you’re a Texas bumpkin lost in California when …
You still can’t get enough of San Francisco. Couldn’t live there. No way. Don’t have the tolerance for joggers bumping into me on the city sidewalk, government over-reach and everybody-is-a-victim culture. But beyond that, for seafood, the “Bay effect,” regattas, sea lions, rapid transit, jackets in August and sourdough bread, this town gots game.
- You drive over a speed hump, not a bump. No need for confusion. It’s the same man-made rise in the pavement, installed specifically to piss off the locals.
Everybody calls you Dude. Huh? I thought the Left Coast was New York West, the capital of kool. What next, groovy? Or far out! At UTEP, we had a defensive back from Washington, D.C., the late Eric Washington. We called him “Blade,” for his skinny, bowed legs and because the team leader always needs a nickname. Blade reported for two-a-days calling everybody Dude. Here, the local priest is Dude. So Californians think Dude is edgy and hip? The year Blade first called me “Dude” was 1970. Nearly half a century ago.
All teenage girls wear size 2 shorts. All teenage boys wear the same vacant stare. Under-developed males, aged 12-30, come standard-equipped with a blank expression.
- Tattoo contests … first one to cover the last inch of his epidermis wins?
- On local highways, you see a few miniature, electric cars. In Texas, we call them golf carts. Apparently, our neighbors drive these little rigs from the back seat. Oh, wait. They don’t have one.
Unleaded gas is $4.19. A week earlier, in Levelland, Texas, it was $2.99. Blame George Bush for that, too?
- At the Oakland airport renting a mini-van for a week costs north of $2,000. “Look, honey, we just bought a used car!”
- Coffee bars are places people go with their laptops and cell phones to ignore each other. Reminds me of citified yankees crowding into so-called a so-called “sports bar” to watch a game on TV — with total strangers. Swel-l-l-l-l. No, wait. Bitchin’, Dude.
- Where people wade through a crowded airport, head down, blindly texting in full stride. Just once, I’d like to see somebody square up on a guy, take the texter on his chest, like a basketball defender taking a charge. I’d pay to watch.
“‘Sup.” Not “good morning,” not “howdy.” No greetings or salutations. Local hipsters greet each with ‘sup, short for what’s up. Kids greet their school principal with ‘sup. As in should we sup together?
- Here in Cali, 30 is not too old for skateboarding. I hear there’s public support for Cali colleges to offer an advanced degree in skateboarding.
First adult male in Cali to tuck in his shirt must move to Arizona. It is the law.
- It’s 63 degrees on San Francisco Bay and a hoodie feels good. Forty miles east, in Livermore, it’s 101. Shade feels good. I’m confused, Dude.
- Crepe myrtle trees here have better training than Navy SEALs. In a riot of vermillion, the trees grow more than 20 feet tall, saluting the heavens from a single trunk. I look at my own scruffy crepe myrtle at home and search for a green thumb.
Our intrepid editor just survived his seventh trip to California, this time following a 13-and-under Little League team while researching his next book: “They Gave Us Baseball — Now Look What We’ve Done,” to be released in 2015. Dude says he’s looking for his tie-dyed T-shirt and baggies.