I visited my girl in California last week. I might not love California with my Carolina heart, but you just cannot do some things anywhere but the Golden State.
You cannot hop in a car and drive to Vegas. We attended Zumanity, the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil. I thought it was decent except when a guy wearing horns and slitted contact lenses grunted at my girlfriend while shaking his grapefruit-stuffed Speedo in her direction. I shook back, but nobody noticed because I don't pack my pants with produce.
I played poker at Treasure Island and promptly lost $40. Of course I had to win it back, so we played in downtown Vegas, which I now prefer to The Strip. Downtown had showgirls walking Fremont Street, cheaper blackjack, spray paint artists, $12 steak and lobster, less walking, better poker and people who were friendly in their Camels-and-Schlitz way. Those were my people and that was my place.
On our last day I hit a $100 jackpot with four 7's in the TI poker room.
"Buy us drinks," my table suggested.
"Naw," I said. My girlfriend had been waiting at the pool for awhile. Now I had a story to justify my absence.
We floated around until a middle-aged Florida Gator fan saw my Carolina hat and told me I should have gone to a real school. He said Carolina is snooty and Virginia is Harvard. Whoops-i-daisy. Guess which school doesn't want his daughter. Guess. Guess. I hope she transfers like me and either fixes her old man or divorces him.
You cannot be in an earthquake anywhere but California. I was brushing my teeth on the second floor when I heard a low rumble below. At first I thought someone was bombing my girlfriend's house while we were in it. I thought teaching would kill us, but terrorists were doing it instead. The whole bathroom swayed back and forth for six seconds while I nervously brushed.
I cannot enjoy the Santa Monica beach with my best high school bud and his fiancee anywhere but California. I will be a groomsman in his September wedding. I had to pee at the beach. My friends told me you had to pee in the ocean, but I could not do it because the water was cold. Maybe my prior unshakable training was to blame. Flustered, I hiked a couple miles to the nearest disgusting bathroom.
You cannot be a member of The Price Is Right studio audience anywhere but California. I recommend the show to anyone who has seen it on television at least once. That means everyone. The studio is like a time machine stuck in a groovy 1960s dance party. We did not go on down, but I got on the tape. Watch carefully when the cameras pan to the friends of a small, unsure contestant in a neon yellow T-shirt that says "Dena knows the price." I'll be jumping as high as I can behind them in my favorite hat.
We saw Drew Carey and Bob Barker chatting on the porch of Maggiano's after the show. No, we did not follow them there. They must have followed us.
You cannot go to In-N-Out four times in one week and promise your girlfriend not to tell anyone anywhere but California. This is the best fast-food franchise in the country. The menu is a manageable three items, and they make fresh burgers everyday. I recommend the Double-Double with grilled onions and a chocolate shake.