At Super Mex (tacos etc.) I ordered a drink from the tap. So I went and grabbed the smallest cup in sight and walked over to the dispenser-machine.
“Uh, ma’am, those are children’s size. For children only.”
Bummer! I had to take the other smallest cup, which would certainly go for a ‘large‘ back home. I do appreciate her letting me know though, before stepping out onto the street where I would have undoubtedly been stared at by the locals who spotted my children’s cup.
Walking out of the clothing store I see two men pull up with their respective huge unnecessary over-the-top 4×4 trucks (I mean, this is L.A. And everything is asphalted).
“Hey I like your truck with all its so-and-so… turbo-charger… V8-engine …bla bla bla.” I was tempted to say ‘I like guys who ride bicycles’ as I went to unlock my own two-wheeler.
We are visiting many friends (old and new) during our stay in L.A./O.C. California. To make conversation last longer than two minutes, I inquire about the TV in the living room. How long have you had this? What is it made of? Which kinds are there? Oh, LED screens are better than LCD or PLASMA? Good to know. I learn quickly that in Los Angeles a lot of what is talked about is stuff.
“Just you, me and the Tee-Vee.”
Throughout the United States Southern California is known for this way of life. In the Netherlands everything is really tiny and old and cute and very expensive. These neighbourhoods we’ve been staying in would be millionaire’s areas but here a regular blue-collar worker can easily own such a home with a pool out back and the newest turbo super charger whatever car. How? That’s not the point. The real question is: why?
These ‘toys’ (new cars, special motorbikes) that everybody seems to own if they can, are completely normal here. You would never see this in such abundance back in Europe. People would start talking, you know? Here, that Shameless Consuming is cheered on..
Fortunately since we’ve been moving northbound from L.A. and Orange County the absurd consumerism has mellowed out a lot. We are now entering Washington State from Oregon and we’ve seen many old and unwashed cars here, in Hood River. Life feels a bit more sane and approachable. We can relate to it better than the ‘Southern California Lifestyle’. I also realize through talking with people around me that California is known for that absurdly glamorous way of life.
Too Much Choice
Frozen meals in the pharmacy and blenders in a clothing store. How far do you want to take branch-fading?
Some people never seem to set a foot out the door except to walk to their cars. The gardens are unused and kept by some Mexican though I wonder why, because the chairs on the patio have not been sat in for years. I can’t imagine the thinking behind this wasteful way of living. The TV is blasting its message 24/7 that you should keep buying shit and fear the out-of-doors and get your teeth whiter than they already are and how the new Dodge 4×4 is much more desirable than the three-year-old version you’ve got sitting on the driveway! The message is so ever-present that there is no room to consider what you actually want, what you stand for, why things are the way they are and you are slowly but surely losing your own will!
To get some character building in, you really need to consciously step away from all of it and create a space where you can reflect and figure out what you want and what you believe in. Otherwise you get hammered into the same lifestyle as these people! Buy this new vehicle and get another loan…
We decide to eat take-out with friends and it comes in paper and cardboard. Bummer, you know, but what can you do? California is famous for its environmental awareness, but that doesn’t go for everyone. After eating the waste is just tossed in with all the other rubbish and on top of that: we ate from paper plates! There’s a dishwasher in the kitchen, so what’s the point of using paper plates if it doesn’t save you any washing? Again, there is no awareness. I would like to live in a house so that I can eat of china and use cups for my water. That’s the whole point of it, isn’t it?
Very few things are re-used and money is spent without consciousness. Wasteful cars are bought without much forethought and gasoline is consumed as if there’s no tomorrow. The Los Angeles man’s awareness of resources stops at the shop where things are bought. And the reason for all this is…. well there is no reason! I can hear the words of Bill Clinton resound in my head; I heard him say this after the Lewinsky thing, he said: “What I did, I did for the worst reason imaginable. Because I COULD.” Those words struck me back then and it made me realize how often that’s precisely the reason we do do things, myself included.
One time we noticed two TV’s in the house being permanently left on, even when no-one was watching. Not a thought is spent on where that electricity may come from or what it causes. But even if you don’t care about shitting on the earth’s surface… wouldn’t a steep electricity bill be an incentive to turn the damn thing off?
Every house comes with a double garage for the two brand new cars. However, one or both will remain parked outside day and night as the garage has been converted into a storage room for second refrigerators, unused bicycles, failing fitness equipment etc.
But not to worry! When your garage is full you can always put more stuff in the numerous self-storage facilities around. Some of them even are climate controlled!
We’re aware that our way of looking at thing may very well be influenced by what we have experienced in Central- and South America over the last years (poverty and no availability of resources), but even when I compare with how my parents have brought me up, things seem rather out of control in this area.