Here's a nasty little secret: I love Los Angeles—the sprawling city, not its sports teams.
It's a rough admission because I'm a die-hard San Francisco Giant fan and, as such, there is no team on Planet Earth I hate more than the LA Dodgers. Honestly, if you told me a Bum broke his leg, there would be a nanosecond of glee.
Until you told me the player's name, it would simply be a uniform and one upon which I wish much ill.
Of course, then you have to bring an individual into the situation, trigger human empathy, and ruin the whole neat equation. Oh well.
Having said that, one of the few things that rivals my love for the Orange and Black is my love for the State of California. Consequently, the equivalent sentiment must be lavished upon Los Doyers' hometown.
Aside from Hawaii and Alaska, there is no prettier place in the United States of America than its third largest State. While each has its allure, California has them all due to its size, shape, and geographical location.
There is a forlorn beauty in the heat of the southwestern deserts and the flat eternities of the Midwestern Great Plains. Visit the States that sit thirstily atop them and you should be moved by the landscape.
Likewise, the perilous majesty of the Rocky Mountains cannot be appreciated until you approach them with the naked eye—traveling through the Rockies, you see passes that stop the blood in your veins and belie our ancestors' march westward beyond their peaks.
I'm not arrogant enough to claim the Golden State can surpass these offerings or those that make each State in the Union unique (including the entire other half of the country I neglected). I AM arrogant enough to assert you will find decent approximations of them all within Cali's boundaries, which makes it unique.
There are the deserts of SoCal, the acres of unchanging farm land in the Central Valley, heaven-scraping summits in the Sierra Nevadas, suffocating foliage in Muir Woods, the crisp bluffs of the Marin Headlands, and don't forget that Pacific Ocean licking the entirety of our shores.
As with everything in life, California has its warts—there is a definite air of smugness emanating from our politics, the idiots running the show seem more interested in winning petty pissing contests than fixing the totally broken state government, and hypocrisy runs as deeply through our core as it does through yours.
For example, despite all of California's pretensions toward environmentalism, we punt the hot potato as much as anyone.
There is an open sore of a slaughterhouse in Coalinga directly next to Highway 5, which is the main north-south artery connecting the two halves of the State so EVERYONE uses it. I've routinely had to fight off a very strong physical urge to vomit when driving by this thing during the hottest months because of the stench—methane, feces, baking blood, and rotting flesh from hundreds of thousands of cattle packed shoulder-to-shoulder coalesce into a toxicity that is overwhelming.
Driving by it at night, when fluorescent lights illuminate the feed lots, is almost worse. The putrid odor abates a little, but not nearly enough and you can see the foulness in the air due to the glow. There is a literal fog of breathable stank hanging over the entire scene. You really feel as if you're inhaling the atomized soup even with the windows up.
It's beyond brutal and I'm no PETA nutcase.
Whoo boy, there are other embarrassments as well.
Nevertheless, California is my home; it has been almost as formative in my development as my close friends and family. So I can loathe while loving.
Which brings me back to the City of Angels.
If you love California, you must love Los Angeles because it is a perfect microcosm of the greater State. Additionally, La La Land defines it in the south as much as San Francisco does in the north.
There is the balmy weather, the palm tree drives, the nostalgic glamour of Hollywood, and enough superficial appeal to keep eyes scanning and pulses elevated. Even the traffic can be an amusing tourist attraction if you have nowhere to be and no time by which to be there.
And almost everyone gets a kick out of names like Wilshire, Sunset, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo, etc.
These are the best of times.
The worst of times bring out the pervasive arrogance and self-absorption for which the city is notorious. When disaster strikes, LA is almost as intolerable as listening to actors and actresses talk about their work.
Oh really? It's an exquisite work of art that was almost impossible to make? What a shocker...
Unfortunately, I was in Dodger Country for the wedding of my oldest buddy in the world and it was a very formal affair—tuxedos, long dresses, exclusive country clubs, the whole nine. In other words, I had the kind of agenda that makes Los Angeles PURE TORTURE.
A hell I was thrilled to endure since it was but a small price to pay to see my lone childhood friend marry the love of his life in an elegant ceremony (which I think she planned and organized almost single-handedly, a tremendous undertaking and accomplishment).
At various times on various days, I had to get from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica to Downtown to Brentwood. On Labor Day Weekend. Suffice it to say the traffic was no longer amusing, the weather no longer balmy, and I wanted the flames from the hills to engulf every damn palm tree in sight.
That's the rub with the City of Lost Angels—there is as much to abhor as there is to love.
Even during those good times, you cannot help but be inundated by the egocentricity of the place. From the drivers carelessly attending to personal maintenance while traffic bogs down around them to the disregard for Mother Nature required to plop a wet city in the middle of a dry desert, conceit can be found under every rock if you care to look.
I mean, if you're not a local, the place is inconceivably difficult to navigate because the city planners seemed to be planning only for their citizens. How about some warning before six-lane dives are necessary? Or before you pass the last chance to get off a thoroughfare for 15 miles?
Having gotten my first glimpse of Dodger Stadium while visiting with a friend from law school, I now know an objective examination of the Bums' organization reveals it is a parable for the city. A city that is a parable for the State.
Chavez Ravine is [through gritted teeth] gorgeous—there is no other word. It's easy to see why Walter O'Malley was so excited about moving his Brooklyn club out to the location.
The stadium sits on an expanse of land almost too large to comprehend, dotted all the while by the ubiquitous palms and draped in the begrudgingly beautiful deep blue that the Bums have hijacked. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say you could hold sincere distance races from the front gate to some of the more remote parking spots.
But, dear Lord, is the panorama worth the potential walk.
We entered from behind home plate (the main entrance as far as I could tell, but who the hell knows) and, since the Bums were on the road, the stadium was basically empty. The resultant calm gave me an excellent chance to form a thorough and indelible impression.
The stadium appears to be backed up into the land mass so we actually entered in the nosebleeds and then looked down into the bowl of the park.
Without bodies to ease the vista's descent, it felt like the ground dropped almost vertically down to the diamond. From where we stood, hundreds of feet above, the white twinkle of home plate first caught my eye and then the foul lines opened up the rest of the field.
Although I can imagine the view of the action would be pretty miserable, the entire outfield backdrop (save for the hitter's eye and scoreboard) is nowhere to be seen. Instead, you're treated to another dose of God and man's creation as the sprawl stretches out to give the game true context.
AT&T Park is better, but you cannot claim a Dodger fan is delusional for preferring his or her home digs. There is no doubt the place is special in both physical location and ethereal feel—seeing a game in Dodger Stadium is now right up there with Fenway Park in Boston on the to-do list.
But don't you think for a moment the Bums shed the internal infatuation and palpable disregard for anything "other."
No team splashing a gigantic Manny Ramirez all over its walls can claim differently (granted, even Cory Wade got that treatment). Furthermore, I'm not sure there are enough automobile-owning baseball fans in the entirety of LA County to fill that parking lot even if carpooling were a capital offense.
Considering how valuable that yawning territory has to be amongst the clutter, it takes some cojones to let it wallow in empty pavement and painted lines for so many months of the year.
Then there is the tiny matter of adding insult to mortal injury by hawking Brooklyn Dodger gear in Chavez Ravine stores. That's gotta sting.
Profound beauty and an arrogance of equal measure—these are the foremost calling cards of Los Angeles and its Dodgers.
In many ways, they can be described as the same belonging to California. If you love the Golden State as I do, you must revel in the former while being repulsed by the latter as they are as much apart of our State as the Golden Gate Bridge and kitten's-feet fog.
So I say embrace it all.
Then come home to San Francisco, where life is perfect (if the Giants win).