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Coming back from Cali

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - It's not supposed to rain in San Diego.

Or be cold.

Christmas day brought both to "America's finest city."

My father-in-law kept repeating himself. "It doesn't rain here," he said, as the sky vacillated between a light mist and steady rain. It was almost as if he believed that if he said it enough, it would become true. It finally did. Of course, it was the day after we shivered our way around Sea World.

I spent six days on the left coast last week, taking my first extended break from the newspaper world since we started The Mirror almost six years ago. (Of course, by "break" I mean I wasn't in the office. I still had my ever-present laptop with me.)

The trip was the main reason that Miriam and I didn't break out any of our Christmas decorations this year. (So, no, we don't need therapy or counseling, even though Robin Dudley made the kind offer.)

But the break was nice. We flew into Los Angeles, rented a convertible and drove down the coast to San Diego. From there, we played tourists, visiting the zoo, a couple of aquariums and Sea World.

Then, we headed back up the coast to spend a night in Beverly Hills and take in the sights of Hollywood and surrounding areas. (And, yes, we spent part of our time on Rodeo Drive. With my wife on the trip, do you think I really had a choice?)

But here are some things I learned from my trip:

• No matter how cold it is, my wife wants the top down on the convertible. Her solution: Cut on the heater full blast.

• Tacky Christmas displays are not limited to the South. And the rich and famous are not immune to them. Take, for example, the huge mansion on Sunset Avenue near The Beverly Hills Hotel. I'm sure someone in the house had to think the numerous wooden Santa Clauses gallivanting across the front lawn looked great. They were wrong.

• When you read about traffic in Los Angeles and San Diego being nightmarish, they are not kidding. There are a lot of people in those cities, and they all seem to be trying to be at the same place at the same time on a daily basis. Even on Christmas Day.

• Sometimes, stereotypes really are just stereotypes. I landed in L.A. expecting everyone to be rude and aloof. And I was wrong. Time and time again, folks went out of their way to be kind, or accommodate me acting like a bumbling tourist.

Still, I'll file Los Angeles, San Diego and points between as the proverbial places that are nice to visit, but I really don't want to live there. I'll stay right where I am, where the cars don't cost more than my house, the houses don't cost more than my neighborhood and my commute to work is 10 minutes.

And if someone covers their lawn with ornamental Santa Clauses, it blends right in with the neighbors.

Web posted on Thursday, January 01, 2009

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