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LIFE'S TOP SEVEN PRIORITIES

ESSAYS on
3) FAMILY and FRIENDS


George Carlin on NEW YORK CITY vs LOS ANGELES


Greg Notes: In spite of this essay contrasting NYC and LA, Carlin takes a few paragraphs to totally trash the US South. I was going to apologize to my many Southern friends, but then realized that they have the best senses of humor in America. Indeed, most Southerner-bashing jokes come from Southerners, themselves. If you remember that Carlin was a native New Yorker (Nuyawka) who was in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Louisiana in the late 50's when he was in his late teens, then you'll hopefully understand the source of his attitude.


WELL, YA GOTTA LIVE SOMEPLACE

I grew up in New York City and lived there until I was thirty.

At that time, I decided I'd had enough of a dynamic, sophisticated city, so I moved to Los Angeles. Actually, I moved there because of the time difference. I was behind in my work, and wanted to pick up the extra three hours. Technically, for the last thirty years I've been living in my own past.

I knew I didn't want to live in the Midwest. I could never live in a place where the outstanding geographic feature is the horizon. The Midwest seems like a nice place to catch up on your sleep.

Another reason I could never live in the Midwest is that it gets really cold there. You've heard of hypothermia and exposure? I could never be comfortable in a place where you can die simply by going out to the mailbox. Living in an area where an open window can cause death seems foolish to me.

Of course, living in the South was never an option - the main problem being they have too much respect for authority; they're soldier-sniffers and cop lovers. I don't respect that, and I could never live with it. There's also too much religion in the South to be consistent with good mental health.

Still, I love traveling down there, especially when I'm in the mood for a quick trip to the thirteenth century. I'm not someone who buys all that "New South" shit you hear; I judge a place by the number of lynchings they've had, overall. Atlanta even found it necessary to come up with an apologetic civic slogan: Atlanta: The City Too Busy To Hate. I think they're trying to tell us something.

There's also the communications problem. I have trouble understanding Southerners. Some of them sound like they're chewing on a dick. And I really have nothing against them individually; one by one they can be quite charming. But when you take them as a whole, there's some really dangerous genetic material floating around down there.

So, I live in Los Angeles, and it's kind of a goofy place. They have an airport named after John Wayne. That ought to explain it. It has a charming kind of superstitious innocence.

But if you really want to understand life in California, forget the grief clinics and yogaholics. Forget biofeedback, Feldenkrais, neurolinguistic programming, and the Alexander technique.

Disregard spirit guides, centering groups, dream workshops, bioenergetics, pyramid energy, and primal therapy.

Ignore centering, fasting, Rolfing, grounding, channeling, rebirthing, nurturing, self-parenting, and colon cleansing.

And don't even think about polarity work, inversion swings, flower essences, guilded synchronicity, harmonic brain wave synergy, and psychocalisthenics.

You also need pay no attention to nude volleyball, spinach therapy, white wine hot tubs, jogging on hot coals, and the people who sing Christmas carols to zoo animals.

Forget all that. The only thing you have to know about California is this: They have traffic school for chocaholics.

Okay?

California is the only place where you might hear someone say, "Jason can't come to the phone, he's taking his wind lesson."

The problem most New Yorkers have with Los Angeles is that it is fragmented and lacks a vital center. The people have no common experience. Instead, they exude a kind of bemused detachment that renders them intensely uninteresting. the West Coast experience is soft and peripheral, New York is hard and concentrated. California is a small woman saying, "Fuck me." New York is a large man saying, "Fuck you!"

Still, I live in California. But I'm not "laid-back," and I'm certainly not "mellow." I associate those qualities with the comatose. The solar system wasn't formed because matter was laid-back; life didn't arise from the oceans and humans descend from the trees because DNA was mellow. It happened because of something called energy.

New York has energy, and all I can say is this: If you can't handle it, stay the fuck out. Living in New York is a character-builder; you must know who you are, what you're doing, where you're going, and how to get there. No bullshit tolerated! New York people are tough and resilient. All the rest of you are varying degrees of soft.

Most outsiders can't handle New York, so they wind up back in Big Loins, Arkansas, badmouthing The City for the rest of their lives. Actually, most of the people who run New York down have never been there. And if they ever went, we would destroy them in nine minutes. People hate New York, because that's where the action is, and they know it's passing them by. Most of the decisions that control people's lives are made in New York City. Not in Washington, not on Pennsylvania Avenue. In New York City! Madison Avenue and Wall Street. People can't handle that. Pisses 'em off. Fuck 'em!

And I'm really glad the Yankees humiliated the Braves in the World Series. I'm glad the gritty, tough, Third-World, streetwise New York culture triumphed over the soft, suburban, wholesome, white-Christian, tacky mall culture of Atlanta. Overgrown small towns like Atlanta have no business in the major leagues in the first place.

Concerning L.A. versus New York: I have now lived half my life in each of America's two most hated, feared, and envied cities, and you want to know something? There's no comparison. New York even has a better class of assholes. Even the lames in New York have a certain appealing, dangerous quality.

As an example of how hopeless California is, when I first got there, a policeman gave me a ticket for jaywalking. You have to understand the kind of people who live in California. They are willing to stand, passive and inert, on a curb, when absolutely no traffic is coming, or maybe just a little traffic that could easily be dodged. They simply stand there obediently and wait for an electric light to give them permisiion to proceed. I couldn't believe this cop. I laughed at him. The ticket cost me twenty dollars in 1966. Since that time, I figure I have jaywalked an additional thousand times or so without being caught. Fuck that lame-ass cop! I've managed to pro-rate that ticket down to about two cents a jaywalk.

One thing I find appealing in California is the emphasis on driving. I like to drive, I'm skillful at it, and I do it aggressively. And I don't mean I scream at people or flash them the finger. I simply go about my passage swiftly and silently, with a certain deliberate, dark efficiency. In the land of the unassertive, the aggressive man is king.

Of course, in Los Angeles, everything is based on driving, even the killings. In New York, most people don't have cars, so if you want to kill a person, you have to take a subway to their house. And sometimes on the way, the train is delayed and you get impatient, so you have to kill someone on the subway. That's why there are so many subway murders; no one has a car. Basically, if more people in New York had cars, the subways would be a lot safer.

I hope you can tell, the Apple is still number one in my heart. I'm so chauvinistic, I even root for New York to raise more money than Los Angeles in the Arthritis Telethon. And we usually do.

California: bordering always on the Pacific and sometimes on the ridiculous. So, why do I live here?

Because the sun goes down a block from my house.

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