May 4, 2003: Why I’m Glad I Don’t Live In California

Normally this space is reserved for the serious discussion of such burning issues as: Did the airheaded Dixie Chicks think their political views would seem more relevant if they posed nude on a magazine cover? How do money-grubbing Delta executives sleep at night without falling off their wallets? Does anybody really care what Al Sharpton thinks about anything?

Let’s hold those questions for a later time, please. This week, I want us to focus on something positive, like why we are privileged to live in the Great State of Georgia, and not some place like California. That epiphany came to me during our recent earthquake. The quake was a big deal to us. Earthquakes are so frequent in California that they don’t even make the evening news unless San Francisco ends up somewhere in Mexico.

Personally, I like California. It pains me grievously when I think that in addition to enduring earthquakes and irrelevant and self-important show business weenies, the state doesn’t have two dimes to rub together. While our political leaders were working to eliminate a $600 million deficit in our state budget during the recent legislative session, California’s deficit stood at $35 billion and increases at the rate of $21 million a day. Imagine, every 29 days they grow the equivalent of our old deficit. That is faster than we can grow kudzu.

If you don’t find earthquakes and hemorrhaging money a compelling reason not to live in California, you might want to consider this: The Great State of Georgia is famous for the sweet Vidalia onion, Brasstown Bald, plenty of affordable electricity and the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island. California has Berkeley, brownouts, Martin Sheen and mudslides.

Our state song, the hauntingly beautiful “Georgia on My Mind,” is a sacred paean when sung by the legendary Ray Charles and the equally legendary Willie Nelson. On the other hand, California’s most famous song is “California, Here I Come,” which nobody ever sings – particularly Ray Charles and Willie Nelson – because it isn’t a pretty song. Besides, the whole premise is misleading. Who wants to come to a state that is $35 billion in debt and where earthquakes rearrange your furniture twice a week?

Of course, it isn’t all that easy to live in the Great State of Georgia either. We have it so good that we tend to talk out loud about it too much. When we do, people hear about what a great place this is and want to move here. I don’t mean to be ugly, but in my opinion we have already attracted too many outsiders who eat sushi and put butter on their sandwich bread instead of mayonnaise. I firmly believe that God never intended for human beings to eat raw eel and put butter on their sandwich bread – certainly not in the Great State of Georgia.

Maybe we would do better if we shared more of our wealth with our friends in California. They could enjoy our beneficence and we wouldn’t have to worry about them coming here and demanding more sushi bars. A good place to start would be to send them the city of Atlanta. A lot of folks in Georgia would enjoy being shed of Atlanta, and there is no doubt it would raise the quality of life in both states. Before you get too excited, remember that they already have Los Angeles, a city with bad air, sprawl and too many cars. Getting them to take Atlanta off our hands may be a tough sell. If the deal needs a sweetener, we can always throw in Jane Fonda. Nobody deserves an earthquake more. But under no circumstance will we share our barbecue, peaches, peanuts, corn-fried shrimp or Mark Richt. Beneficence has its limits.

Before somebody in California gets their Calvin Klein’s in a wad and tries to break a bottle of overpriced Chardonnay on my head or threatens to make me look at Susan Sarandon before she puts on her makeup, let me hasten to add that despite all its problems, California does have at least one outstanding quality in which the state can take great pride: It isn’t France.