Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State—the Intro


As a Texan, my take on California is based, in part, on movies, music and murders—Dirty Harry, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Beach Boys, the Manson family and O.J. Simpson.

It’s a perception of palm trees, glitz, glamour, surf spray, blood red sandy sunsets, optimism, money and movie stars. All of which is funny because the little Sierra Nevada town to which I came and settled has none of these elements.


All kinds of crazy

What it does have are chilly lakes, river and creeks, colossal ponderosa pines, boulder-strewn mountains, a rustic Old West main street, cabins, cottages, trailer homes, covert marijuana operations, county fairs and farmers’ markets, meth mouths and a ubiquitous hippy vibe.

Its denizens are a curious mixture of gun-toters, hunters and fishers, mellowed radicals, old-guardians and libertarians, cowboys and wine connoisseurs, big-city expatriates and small-town burn-outs. One can find equal numbers of 2nd Amendment activists and gun control enthusiasts, good ‘ol boy beer guzzlers and potheads. It’s a place where everyone can fit in—as long as they fit in within their own groups.


And along comes the Texan, who talks like a Midwesterner and thinks like a Texan and laughs at the funny stuff going on all around him as he encounters big-government, big-idea California head-on and realizes he’s all the way in when he gets his driver’s license and marries a mountain girl. This new California life means higher taxes, better weather, more expensive gas, more personal freedom and less social responsibility.

My Cali now

This California is now my California. But I can still look at it my way: through the eyes and prejudices of a Texan. Big, bold, beautiful, bloated and kinda nutty—in good and bad ways. Cali Crazy is my take on California; and I’m sticking with it. Yeehaw, baby—let’s ride.

For more Cali Crazy Texan takes on the Golden State, here’s part one: Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State—part 1—Suspicious minds

Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State—part 1—Suspicious minds


If you want to make a Californian uncomfortable, look him right in the eye, smile and say hello. Works every time … well, nearly every time. Every now and then, he smiles and says hello right back. If this happens, he must be a recently arrived, newly made Californian.

If he seems refreshingly direct and friendly, he must be a transplanted Texan.

Suspicious minds

I asked my Californian wife why friendliness makes locals uncomfortable. She says Californians are suspicious of friendly, direct people because they’re unsure of their angle. They see a friendly face and wonder: What does this person want from me? People don’t just smile and say hello to be neighborly. It’s a little weird.


I’ve also noticed that once Californians get to know and trust you, they can be as friendly as Texans. It’s about trust. It’s also about boundaries. Which may be another reason for suspicion toward friendliness—perhaps the friendly person is merely feigning friendliness—one can never be sure, which is why it’s prudent to meet friendliness with suspicion until angles can be figured and filtered for possible offensive properties. Around here, friendliness can offend.

Get it? I know, it’s confusing; I’ve been working this stuff out since I got here.

Credit: Peter Yang for Texas Monthly

Simple minds

I imagine sharing this analysis with another Texan—say, a cowboy from Odessa. He’d likely say something like, “I dunno whatcha mean. I’m friendly because I wanna be. Life’s too short to be suspicious. Besides—it’s the right way to be. No sense in overanalyzing it—ain’t got time to worry about offending anyone anyhow.

The way I see it, if they’re offended so easy, somethin’s wrong with ’em.”

For more Cali Crazy Texan takes on the Golden State, here’s part two: Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State—part 2—Flunking Cultural Appreciation 101