Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Englanders in California

When not writing, or calling my elected representatives or radio stations, I work as a checker-cashier at the local grocery store.  As one of the job’s perks, I meet people from all over the world (France, Germany, Spain, Brazil), but also visitors and residents from New England. Sometimes I can tell by the accent (no Rs!).
As part of the job, I check ID for alcohol, cigarettes, or cough syrup. Yes, overregulation is alive and straining in California. At least extortionary vice taxes haven’t birthed black markets in the area. Everyone breathes freely in California, so to speak (unlike NYC’s Eric Garner). I have seen a wide array of drivers’ licenses from all over the country, too. Arizona and Nevada top the list. Interestingly enough, I have seen a fair share from the East Coast: New Jersey and Massachusetts, and one from Rhode Island. They get my attention most of all.
Even though California is just as liberal (or worse) than the East Coast,  the migration of mid-Atlantic residents and New Englanders continues to the West Coast. Garden State residents fled New Jersey’s cold weather, dirty atmosphere, and high crime rate. One resident told me that Camden, NJ is worse than Compton! They also don’t like Governor Chris Christie, and they resent how expensive everything is along the New York-New Jersey turnpike.
New Jersey State Flag
I have found that a surprising number of New England transplants have move to the South Bay, by the warm ocean of the Golden State, particularly from Ocean State Rhode Island and Bay State Massachusetts. For New Englanders, California is still a land of golden opportunity (however blunted or tarnished), with (slightly) lower taxes and a (much, much) better climate. Who can blame them for wanting to move here to sunny CA, particularly Torrance, California (birthplace of Clay Pell’s wife Michelle Quan, where no one’s Prius gets stolen). My city boasts the best weather. Never humid, the temperate hovers in the low 70s temperature, and rarely fluctuates. Despite a cold snap a week ago (night-time temps plummeted into the high 30s), the warmth wafted back in, and summer has returned.
Earlier this week, I met three Boston residents in one day alone.
Why else do New England residents move to the South Bay? Some transplants complained about the roads. Others left years ago looking for more opportunity. They talk about James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mafia thug who was hiding in Santa Monica, CA for nearly two decades before getting caught and dragged back to federal court.
The first word from Massachusetts’s residents? “Boston”, since very few people know anything about the state besides its biggest city. I know better, but I understand: Californians like me will say “I live in LA” even though my city is an incorporate suburb, long separated from the Empire of Los Angeles.
A lot of them sound pretty conservative, too, not too happy with big government, bad schools, and the Democracy running things on Beacon Hill. Sometimes, we talk politics. One of them really surprised me, saying that she had voted Democrat all her life, but cast her latest ballot for Republican Charlie Baker: “He’s a numbers guy.” Of course, two-time losing Democrat Martha Coakley was a terrible campaigner. Also, Baker adopted key portions of the Democratic Party platform and eased off some of the Tea Party conservative rhetoric. Bay State conservatives have mixed feelings about the next Governor, fearing more of Romney (socialism-lite)  instead of Calvin Coolidge (freedom with a Presidential flair).
There are many reasons to live in California
Another word out of Massachusetts’ natives? “Patriots”. My favorite team and they are doing so well this year. I hear a lot about Willette Stadium and the playoffs. Go Pats! Go Celtics. Unlike most LA residents, I can’t stand the Lakers.
Rhode Islanders come to the story, too . I get really excited meeting them. I tell them about the writing I do for the New England press. Often, I ask if they know my friends in Warwick or Providence. We talking about Speaker Fox (now resigned, and in disgrace), or the Chafees. And everyone knows Buddy!
The first word out of Rhode Islanders’ mouth to describe their state? Corruption.
Yep. No nice way to put it. “Rhode Island is probably the most corrupt state in the country”, one transplant told me.
A younger Rhode Islander had moved to California a few months ago. I had to check his ID for a purchase. “You don’t see Rhode Island driver’s licenses too often!” I told him. Same for Rhode Island license plates, but he left before I could take a picture. Like me, he had hoped for a Governor Fung and Mayor Buddy.  Another lady joked about Rhode Island’s diminished public integrity. “I just love to talk!” she admitted. She knew Buddy, laughed when I slammed Dr. Dan. Then she told me she was moving back. “I need to go home and take care of my mother.” Often, family is the only tie that binds Rhode Islanders to their home state.
For other New Englanders, though, the warmth and relative ease of California has been too good to pass up. 

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