Guest Column: The rest of the country may be seeing red

Visitors from around the country who came to this area for the holidays are now back home, wrapped up in blankets and wondering if it is better to clear the driveway now while the power is out or hold off until tomorrow and risk being embalmed for days.

As always when I meet tourists, my surprise is their surprise on discovering that, despite what Woody Allen said, California's contribution to culture is not limited to a right turn at a red light.

Of course, their strongest impressions are those that confirm the views they brought with them — a psychological fact of life — in this case, most notably, stretches of immobile freeways during the rush hour (or rather the rush hours and hours).

Cousin Charlie, here from Brisbane, Australia, was quite shocked when, though leaving home at 6 p.m. for his 10 p.m. flight home, I swung illegally into the Fast Track lane on the 110 because it looked as though we would not be at the airport in time for his three-hour (!) check-in time. (I was photographed, of course, and paid the fine but counted it a justifiable penalty for living here).

Sometimes the pre-existing vision is more charitable than the real thing. When the words "Sunset and Vine" come to mind, does any visitor expect that soulless gridiron of gray streets and tacky shops stretching to the horizon?

Mainly, however, to judge by the ones I talk to, visitors are enamored of our corner of Southern California, surprised at finding themselves at the foot of a jumble of mountains that rise, more steeply than any most of them have ever seen before, to 10,000 feet — including one that often has snow on it.

Even nearer to downtown, I chatted yesterday with an Australian in Griffith Park who, like almost every newcomer — as I well remember in my own case — was amazed that something so close to nature could exist though surrounded on every side by the bustle of a metropolitan city.

As for culture, right at hand is the Norton Simon museum, the lovely old houses in Pasadena, the Jet Propulsion Lab and, in Glendale, a better-stocked municipal library than any other I have been in. If that is not enough, the Yard House in Pasadena with "the world's largest selection of draft beer" offers a camaraderie no narrowly defined culture can equal.

Add in — need I say? — weather brewed in some heavenly kitchen and can you wonder that this column is so irritatingly smug?


REG GREEN lives in La Cañada. His website is

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