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No, I Don’t Tan, Eat Tofu or Schmooze With Selleck

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES, <i> Most is a Los Angeles lawyer. </i>

It is, at last, the Yuletide. Jack Frost, mistletoe, pushy shoppers. The season to be merry--the “no payments till March” come later.

And, alas, it is time to trek home.

Live in Southern California long enough and you know that no one is from here. Sure, some people came over on the Mayflower and immediately settled Pasadena, but Los Angeles is overwhelmingly not a place people traditionally come to for the holidays. It’s a place people leave, for places like Asheville, N.C., and Terre Haute, Ind. For me, it’s usually New Canaan, Conn.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I love visiting my family for the holidays. I spent Thanksgiving with 28 relatives. It’s just that because I live in Los Angeles, my relatives from the East have never known exactly how to, well, relate to me. One could drive a truck through their misconceptions of life in Los Angeles, though I suspect they would think a Porsche would be more apropos. Which is my point exactly.

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Let’s face it: More than 11% of the nation lives in California, yet we remain a puzzle to the other 89%. The rest of the nation thinks we don’t wear socks with evening attire. They think we converse in Valley Girl-speak. And they think we name our children Moon Unit or Dweezil. In their minds, Jerry Brown is forever our governor and Rose Bird our chief justice.

I’m not so much annoyed as amazed that the questions and comments remain the same after all these years. They just don’t get it. I know what they would say if I went home because they have all said it before. And I know I would cringe, again, as I have time and again.

What’s Tom Selleck really like?

I don’t know Tom Selleck. I’ve never even seen the man. For that matter, I’ve never met any movie stars, beyond the occasional restaurant encounters I’ve had with Geena Davis and Dean Martin, which does not constitute “meeting.” Truth be told, I don’t have any friends who are friends of movie stars. No, I haven’t been invited to Michael Jackson’s zoo. I understand Malibu Colony is very nice, but I haven’t been over to Johnny’s house. I’ve never even met one of Johnny’s ex-wives.

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The proportion of movie stars to Angelenos has got to be less than alligators to South Floridians or Mafioso to New Yorkers. But you don’t hear Floridians being asked about their gator attacks and you don’t hear New Yorkers being asked whether they hang with John Gotti.

Outsiders cannot comprehend that not everyone here is in The Industry.

“Well, then, why do you live there?” my relatives ask.

We’ve made tofu just for you.

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What is it? Do they think red meat cannot survive the trip across the Rockies?

There is a general fallacy that everything Californians eat is good for us and tastes something like chicken--free-range, hand-fed, of course.

How many more times will I have to hear at Christmas dinner, “Oh, everyone, just a reminder, there are bean sprouts in the salad for Peter”?

Sure, we eat bean sprouts and perhaps a little sushi. But Easterners act as if our diets are radically different. Yes, we have more vegetarian restaurants per capita than most non-Buddhist nations, but they tend to be sandwiched between McDonald’s and Taco Bell.

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Why aren’t you tan?

And why, I counter, aren’t your muscles toned from shoveling snow?

Why is it that no Anglo Californian can get away with traveling across the Continental Divide without a proper hue? There is this notion that all my time is spent at the beach. I suppose this may be my fault, because I do tend to emphasize that I live within walking distance of the beach.

I’m wrong, of course, to think that living near the beach should impress my relatives--they think we all live within walking distance of the beach. They think we never leave the beach. All business, all the time, on the beach. If only it were true.

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Have you ever been shot while driving on the freeway?

Have you ever been mugged while walking through Central Park?

I’ve never been shot at in my car--at least, there are no holes to prove it. It’s been years since the freeway shootings, and my relatives continue to think people are speeding along shooting at each other. Ha! What a laugh. There are only two hours a day when we are not stuck in traffic, and then we’re so exhilarated to be moving that gunning down the guy in the next lane is the last thing on your mind.

Do you know any gang members?

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About as well as I know Tom Selleck.

Even with all these annoying questions, I still enjoy visiting.

Let’s see, I received my last earthquake preparedness kit a couple of years ago after the big San Francisco quake, so I’m due for another about now.

And there’s always that perennial: the white shoes, white pants and white sweater combo under the tree.

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And let’s not forget the stocking-stuffer favorite: the no-sun tanning gel for those days when I just can’t make it to the beach.

And knowing my family, I suspect they are getting together to buy me a car phone, so I won’t be the only person in California without one.

And they wonder why I don’t visit more often.


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